Shim Jae Hoon at PostGlobal

Shim Jae Hoon

South Korea

Shim Jae Hoon is a Seoul-based journalist and commentator writing for a variety of international publications including YaleGlobal Online, The Straits Times of Singapore, The Taipei Times and Korea Herald. He was a correspondent for Far Eastern Economic Review in Seoul, Taipei and Jakarta. Close.

Shim Jae Hoon

South Korea

Shim Jae Hoon is a Seoul-based journalist and commentator writing for a variety of international publications including YaleGlobal Online, The Straits Times of Singapore, The Taipei Times and Korea Herald. more »

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Trust Iran, But Verify

SEOUL - Since when has the CIA been reading the minds of Iranian officials, as opposed to studying hard evidence on the nuclear issue? How do they know if Iran has abandoned its "intention" to build the bomb, given its continuing resistance to third-party inspection? Is it the intention as opposed to the capability that the CIA believes Iran has abandoned? If Iran has really given up the intention of developing a nuclear program, why does it make it so exceedingly difficult for the IAEA to verify those claims, even at the cost of so much hardship for the Iranian nation as it weathers economic sanctions?

The question we ought to be asking the CIA is not so much whether or not Iran has given up on its nuclear weapons program, but rather whether such a hardline militant regime should be allowed to acquire knowledge about nuclear production under the guise of energy generation in the first place. This has been the case with North Korea, where we made the grievous mistake of misreading its capability (rather than its intention) and underestimating the nature of that obsessed regime. The question there was whether or not a regime under control of Kim Jong Il's worldview should be allowed to acquire knowledge to develop the nuclear option - not whether or not he had such a discernible intention. While we were endlessly debating whether he was seriously pursuing a nuclear option (South Korea's President Roh Moo Hyun and his policymakers continued to insist Kim was bluffing, until only a few months before he tested it in October 2006), Kim made it a fait accompli. It would be foolish to think that Iran, too, couldn’t get away with something similar.

The ceaseless wrangling over the Iranian case also underscores the complete absence of leadership on the part of the IAEA to seize this issue and intervene forcefully, rather than leaving it to the Bush administration. IAEA adopted this same hands-off attitude on the North Korean case, and today the North is demanding to be recognized as a nuclear state – whatever that means. I would repeat what President Ronald Reagan used to say: Trust, (or Don’t Trust?) but Verify!

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