So the Iran Deal was bad but North Korea was good?

Ben Cobley: If Senator Joni Ernst is “excited about the opportunity” of a denuclearized North Korea, why does she not feel the same way about a denuclearized Iran? -promoted by desmoinesdem

“If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.” – Nelson Mandela

In my previous writing about the Iran Deal, I called out Senator Joni Ernst on her hypocrisy regarding President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the deal. I also called into question her understanding of diplomatic affairs and the consequences they have on the people of Iowa, the safety of our troops around the world and the future of a G-Zero world under President Trump.

Whether or not Ernst read my piece is unclear, but she seems to have doubled down on her ignorance with her comments on the Singapore Summit.

When I woke up this morning, I checked my morning briefs from a few of the major news sources like CNN/Fox News and the Eurasia Group (a geopolitical risk-strategy group based in New York City). I do this most mornings.

As I suspected, the summit was exactly what I thought it would be – a dog and pony show with zero tangible solutions or apparent endgame. To be honest, I am not shocked whatsoever because of two main factors.

1) Trump went into this event with zero diplomatic experience and zero research or preparation (his own admission). I’m guessing here, but I imagine he has zero understanding of the multiple “false” actions North Korea has made towards denuclearization dating back to the mid-1980s.

2) These types of high-stakes negotiations take years to reach fruition. Why Trump, his administration or Republicans in Congress thought this summit would amount to anything more than a 30-minute reality tv episode is beyond me.

So after looking over the transcripts of the document that both North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un and Trump signed and reading more about other international players either directly or indirectly involved, I find myself spellbound by the support of Congressional Republicans. This trip, from the highly choreographed handshake in front of a dozen American and North Korean flags (a sight I didn’t think I would ever see), the additional photo ops in the garden and so on, were nothing more than fodder for the likes of Sean Hannity and Steve Doocy (who grew up in Algona – just in case you didn’t know).

We can take a substantial look at the Iran Deal vs. what has come so far from the Singapore Summit and spot considerable differences in what Republicans consider “progress.”

We had concrete concessions from Iran: centrifuge limitations, uranium stockpile depletion, and third-party expert inspections that would ensure the letter of the deal was followed. These are all well-investigated facts that regardless of your political leanings, are substantiated. In return for those concessions, we limited sanctions and released funds frozen against the Iranian government. That is how diplomacy and functional negotiations work.

So far, the North Korea situation looks nothing like the Iran Deal. No concessions by North Korea that I can see. Please point something out to me if I am missing it. The only two things we have seen is the closure of Punggye-ri, a facility that was rendered nearly obsolete because of recent nuclear testing that damaged the structural integrity of the mountain it sits under. And the return of the remains of U.S. citizens who have passed on.

Each of these things is important, but I do not believe they create an equal playing field in light of the other major human rights violations and international crimes committed by North Korea under Kim Jong-Un and his predecessor.

Much more work needs to be done, and unfortunately, the tides of history are not on Trump’s side. His early celebration rings less of a Nobel Peace Prize and more of Leon Lett in Super Bowl XXVII prematurely gloating as he ran towards the end zone before having the ball stripped away and denied the touchdown.

(I am aware that the Cowboys ended up winning that game anyway. I believe we very well could be headed towards a nuclear deal with North Korea. But with Trump’s lack of diplomatic experience compounded by the fact that he is on a time limit–presidents only get eight years–I think this celebration is premature.)

This leads me to my next point. People tend to forget that it took seven years after President Richard Nixon went to China for relations to normalize with Beijing. Many in the United States need to revisit that fact, because this process will be a much longer and heavier lift than anyone in this administration believes. The questions I pose to Republicans in Iowa (like Ernst) and those around the country are:

1. Do you think Trump can prove me wrong and get this deal done before he leaves office? The odds are against him, but we should all share the goal of denuclearization of North Korea.

2. Are you concerned that Trump’s lack of experience and knowledge might lead him to give too much away before achieving tangible concessions for the U.S.?

3. Are Republicans hinging this plan on the idea that Trump will be succeeded by another Republican who can carry on the deal to fruition?

I would be very interested in hearing answers to these questions from Republicans in Iowa – especially leaders in the Iowa GOP.

Judging by Ernst’s statement on the Singapore Summit, I fear she has not thought about those questions or the implications the answers hold. Via Radio Iowa’s O.Kay Henderson:

Senator Joni Ernst says she is “excited about the opportunity” President Trump’s summit with North Korea’s leader presents.

“We have faced a nuclear North Korea for quite a while now. That’s something we don’t want to face, and so the president is attempting to address that,” Ernst said this weekend. “Now, it’s a two-way street. The North Koreans have to want to play as well, and so we hope that Kim Jung Un [sic] will step up to the plate.”

If Ernst is “excited about the opportunity” of a denuclearized North Korea, why does she not feel the same way about a denuclearized Iran? She expressed concerns about Iran holding up their end of the deal, with no tangible evidence. Why has she not shown the same concern about North Korea?

Are these the words of a seasoned Congressional leader who has insight into the inner workings of Trump’s process and private talks with Kim Jong-Un?

Or is this merely a junior senator from Red Oak, Iowa playing partisan politics with international diplomacy on a topic she knows next to nothing about?

Either way, Republicans need to decide. If you are for denuclearization of our enemies (an idea that I fully support) – we need to leave red/blue at the door and work as Americans on deals that work, produce tangible results and let experienced diplomats, who have spent years establishing relationships, do their jobs. If not, go ahead and continue to undo anything created by President Obama simply because it was created by President Obama – it’s only going to lead to a harder re-election path in November and beyond.

Ben Cobley is a Senior Digital Strategist at GPS Impact in Des Moines. He studied international relations at the University of Iowa and served as part of the First Infantry Division of the U.S. Army.

About the Author(s)