Changing alliances for the DPRK: Iraq in 1968, Iran in 1979

Kim Yong Nam, president of the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly of the DPRK, meets with President Hassan Rouhani of Iran in Sept 2016

On February 8, 1963, as I’ve written on this blog before, the CIA gave “economic assistance” for the coup that day by the Ba’ath Party, thinking this would benefit U$ policy. Because it was against “Prime Minister Abd al-Karim Qasim (or Qassem) [who] enacted a land reform program, constructed a massive urban development for Revolution City…and partially nationalized the oil industry.” However, this is a bit simplistic. As the Ba-ath Party, fully called the Arab Ba’th Socialist Party – Iraq wrote in their report, titled “Revolutionary Iraq 1968-1973,” the situation was a bit more nuanced. While thousands of communists were killed in the February 8 coup, on November 18 there was another coup led by those favoring Nasser in the Ba’ath Party, which the Ba’ath Party described as a “shock…[and] loss of the revolutionary gains and the loss of many Party martyrs who fell while bravely fighting the regressive move.” The Ba’athists were out of power and on February 23, 1966, the Ba’athists in Syria would engage in a “military coup against the national authority of the Party as represented by the National Command…[leading to a] vertical and horizontal split within the Party…[with] psychological, organizational and political effects of such a split…in Iraq,” leading to further schisms. Those who took power in Syria would be Nureddin al-Atassi from 1966 to 1970 (he was the second Ba’ath Party president in Syria, after Amin al-Hafiz who served from 1963 to 1966), then Ahmad al-Khatib (1970-1971), and finally Hafiz Al-Assad (1971-2000) who would soon be followed by his son, Bashar al-Assad. It was 1966 that the DPRK established diplomatic relations with the Syrians. On July 17, 1968, two years after those in Syria took matters into their own hands, Saddam Hussein and Salah Oman al-Ali engaged in a successful coup in the Republic of Iraq. That year, the DPRK would establish diplomatic relations with Iraq.

Three years later, Kim Il Sung talked to a delegation of Iraqi journalists, saying that in the past Korea “was a colonial, semi-feudal society in the past,” having to fight off U$ imperialists, he said they currently had “an advanced socialist system, under which all people work and live a happy life helping each other” with achievements through the leadership of WPK and the people, with a “dedication to the idea of Juche.” In response to a question from one of the journalists, Sung said that the Iraqi people had, by that point, attained “national independence through their protracted arduous struggle against the domination of foreign imperialism,” adding that “antagonism and discord between nations…are advantageous only to the imperialists and simply detrimental to the people.” He also applauded a “peaceful, democratic solution of the Kurd national problem,” and said that the government of Iraq stands “firm in the ranks of struggle against imperialism and colonialism.” Later on in press conference he said that “the Korean and Iraqi peoples are close comrades-in-arms fighting against the common enemy…part of the great unity of the Asian and African peoples against imperialism and colonialism,” while also focusing on a number of other matters like the “expansion of the aggressive war by the U.S. imperialists in Indo-China,” noting that those of Cambodia, Vietnam, and Laos have made Indochina “a graveyard for the aggressors,” while adding that the “Korean people will assist those fighting against U.S. imperialism in Viet Nam, Cambodia, and Laos.” It seems evident why Sung supported the Iraqis despite their problematic history. For one, the Ba’athists, at least openly, had an ideology to “guide for the masses [and show]…the way for unity, freedom and socialism,” and that they were engaging in an “Arab revolution” and differently from in 1963, when the party failed to lead “a revolutionary Party” after this revolution it became necessary to go a different path. As such, “imperialist countries such as the U.S., Britain and other reactionary regimes…mobilized all of their political, technological, material and highly developed informational potential” to bring down their government. Additionally, the party, at the time, dedicated itself to “unity, freedom and socialism in order to rebuild a united, free and democratic Arab society,” with a duty to “achieve a truly democratic, socialist and integrated state which could be the model for the other states in the Arab World… and the Third World,” while strongly fighting “the imperialist Zionist enemy.” Subsequently there was a “decisive move of nationalization” with the government talking country of “65% of the oil producing sector of the national economy” and was basically in “control of 99.75% of the land from which oil is extracted.” They also worked to establish a “progressive front” in the region while making the society as a whole more democratic. It is the fact that the Arab Ba’th Socialist Party declared itself as a “socialist revolutionary Party which considers socialism imperative for the liberation, union and resurgence of the Arab Nation,” that they received Korean support, even through they were just economic nationalists in reality. Some remnants of “socialism” or what can really more actually be called bourgeois nationalism stayed on for years. Washington Post reporter Rajiv Chandrasekaran wrote about this in 2006, noting that the Ba’ath party was broadly based among professionals, that the state subsidized fertilizer, electricity, and gasoline costs, along with varied state-owned enterprises. [1] At the same time, there was “loud and boisterous” stock exchange in Baghdad, which was re-opened by the U$ after the war, a sign of capitalism (not socialism), and obvious presence of a petty bourgeoisie in the country itself, and Saddam consolidated more power for his enrichment, while the population suffered, with his government backed by the imperialists. Of course, after the 2003 invasion, the U$ reversed all these elements, engaging in mass privatization by abandoning “Saddam’s centrally-planned, socialist welfare state for a globalized free-market system” (I’m not sure if it was a “socialist welfare state,” but it wasn’t a state which had privatized industries) and resulting widespread anger by the Iraqi population, thanks to unemployment caused by these horrid policies in this new “capitalist utopia.”

On September 22, 1980, Iraq, led by Saddam, invaded Iran, leaded by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. The war, which drained the national coffers of Iraq, putting the country “tens of billions of dollars into debt,” in a war which lasted almost 8 years to August 20, 1988. [2] Years later, in 1991, he would invade Kuwait (apparently with U$ permission), resulting in “debilitating United Nations sanctions” which cut off “Iraq from the world.” In the Iran-Iraq war, from 1980 to 1988, Canadians, Danes, Egyptians, East German revisionists, Hungarians, Polish, Qataris (initially), Romanians, Singaporeans, Sudanese, UAE, Yugoslavian revisionists, Saudis, Kuwaitis, and Jordanians supported the Iraqis and no others. However, there were a number of individuals who gave arms to both sides: the Soviet revisionists (arms to Iran covertly), Austrians, Chinese revisionists, French imperialists, the West Germans, Italians, Japanese, Portuguese, South African racists, Spanish, Swiss, Turks, the U$ imperialists (to Iran covertly as uncovered in the Iran-Contra scandal), and UK imperialists. There were a number of others that directly gave to Iran: the Ethiopians, the Belgians, the Argentinians, reportedly the Zionists (covertly to establish more influence), Netherlands, ROK, Libyans, Pakistanis, Syrians, Swedish (covertly), and the DPRK, last but not least. This is no surprise since in 1982, the latter had extended its “international solidarity to the revolutionary state of Iran to fight in the war against Western-backed Republic of Iraq” while the Koreans had established relations with the DPRK in 1973, while the Shah was still in power, but relations was not fully forged until after the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran, five years after Hafiz Al-Assad had visited Pyongyang himself. During the ensuring war, the DPRK would become a “major supplier of arms to Iran” and it would have a “history of cooperating on missile technology” with Iran as one website reported. As one might imagine, this makes it no surprise that Iraq cut off “diplomatic relations in October 1980,” with the Koreans following suit by continuing their alliance with Iran for the next 38 years to the present-day and never again re-opening diplomatic relations with Iraq. As the war raged between Iran and Iraq, the weapons from Korea flowed in so much that the country “accounted for 40% of all Iranian arms purchases.” One commentary by a Zionist, Kenneth R. Timmerman, with parts within the text about the Koreans being an arms conduit for other countries removed as it makes them seem to be a colony of the Chinese or Soviets when they are not, reported in the late 1980s that

…The North Koreans produce a certain amount of T-54/T-55 tanks and other equipment under license from the Soviet Union. They also continue to purchase large quantities of weaponry from both the USSR and the People’s Republic of China…The first delivery [to Iran]…through North Korea occurred in October1980…the next major deal, for an estimated $1 billion, was negotiated…by North Korea…in exchange for cash and 2 million tons of Iranian crude oil. The equipment was of Chinese origin, and was most likely taken from existing Korean inventory. Deliveries are said to have occured in stages over the1981-83 period, and included 150 T-62 main battle tanks, 400 artillery pieces, 1000 mortars, 600 anti-aircraft cannons, and 12,000 machine guns and rifles…an additional 300T-54/T-55 Korean-built tanks should be added to the list. Weapons deliveries from North Korea were worth $800 million in 1982 alone…Since then, Iran is said to have refused large quantities of locally-produced North Korean equipment, due to its poor quality…[In August 1983] the North Koreans sent 300 military advisors to Tehran…Soviet willingness to supply military assistance, training, and weapons to Iran was codified by a pair of military agreements signed with the Iranian government in July 1981….These agreements resulted in the arrival of some 3000 Soviet advisors in Iran, the building of new ports and military airfi[e]lds by Soviet and North Korean technicians, and the construction of the largest Soviet listening base outside the Warsaw Pact

Others, relying on Timmerman and some other sources, note that in 1985, Iran says it will finance the “North Korean missile program in exchange for missiles and missile technology,” the same year that the country received R-17 Elbrus (Scud-B) missiles from the Libyans and Koreans. Additionally, that year, work on the Mushak-120 missile in Iran, “reportedly begins with assistance from China, North Korea, and others at a Chinese-built factory near Semnan,” while in the summer, “Iran approaches both North Korea and China looking for ballistic missiles and missile technology.” More than this, Hashemi Rafsanjani, speaker of the Iranian Parliament (from 1980-1989) signs a deal, that year, worth $500 million, to “receive North Korean missiles based on Soviet Scud designs” from the Koreans, while he also visits China and the DPRK “to establish military cooperation.” As a result, the Koreans agree to “give Iran HN-5A SAMs, and to help in building an assembly site for them” and they also “offer aid to build production factories for the HN-5A and the HQ-2, to engage in technology transfers for Iran’s missile program, and to assist in the building of an assembly site for the missile that is the same as the North Korean Scud-Mod.” From 1985 to 1988, the DPRK receives 240 Scud-B missiles from the Soviets, and 100 are “re-sold to Iran,” further showing their solidarity. By March 1986, Iran is receiving arms from the DPRK, Libya, and Syria, even paying the Koreans over the next five years (1986-1991) money in “oil purchase debt” for the weapons they had purchased. Beyond this, the “Defense” Intelligence Agency (DIA) of the U$ declared that

the Middle East has been the major market for North Korean arms, with Iran and Libya making most purchases. Sales to Iran peaked in the early 1980s at the height of the Iran-Iraq war…The weapons North Korea exports include large quantities of munitions, small arms, artillery, multiple rocket launchers, tanks, armored personnel carriers, air defense artillery, SCUD-B short-range ballistic missiles, and some naval craft…North Korea presents itself as a fellow revolutionary struggling with constraints of relations with the superpowers…During the Iran-Iraq war, North Korea trained Iranian gunners to operate the Chinese mobile surface-to-air system and the Iranian Revolutionary Guards in unconventional warfare techniques

In another part of the same report, the DIA declared that “the current size, organization, disposition, and combat capabilities of the North Korean Army…maintains North Korea’s territorial integrity and assists in internal security, civic action projects, economic construction, and a variety of agricultural programs.” Then there’s the New York Times article in 1987 declaring that the DPRK was involved in arms trafficking to Iran, serving as a conduit for the soviets. [3] With all these claims, it is hard to know how much or what the Koreans sent to Iran. A trade register showing the DPRK as the supplier and Iran as the recipient noted that between 1982 and 1987, the following weapons were delivered:

  • 200 self-propelled MRLs (multiple rocket launchers)
  • 150 tanks
  • 6 MiG-19 fighter aircraft
  • 200 towed MRLs
  • 480 towed guns
  • 4000 anti-tank missiles
  • 3 patrol craft
  • 20 anti-ship missiles
  • 20 self-propelled guns
  • 100 R-17 Elbrus short-range ballistic missiles

That may be the most accurate you can get on support Korea lent to the Iranians. Also consider the Special National Intelligence Assessment in 1985 which declared that there were 50-100 Korean advisers, T-62 tanks, SA-7 surface-to-air missiles, antitank missiles and launchers, small arms, field artillery, mortars, rockets, and naval mines from the Koreans in the country at that time. They also outlined, in varying other documents how the Koreans were arming the Iranians, to the chagrin of the imperialists.

Kim Il Sung and other Koreans come to Iran in May 1989 in Pyongyang, before the Supreme People’s Assembly, with his late son, Ahmed Khomeini, saying that going to the DPRK was “a decent thing to do” as noted in the YouTube video of the meeting of these two individuals. The video also shows other scenes from Khamenei’s visit to Pyongyang the same year.

Such support was re-paid in 1989 when then Iranian President and later Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, met with Kim Il Sung in Pyongyang. Before the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Saddam reportedly “sought to acquire Rodong missile systems from North Korea” and sent a “$10 million down payment from Baghdad,” but Iraq never “received any missiles or missile technology from the deal” showing that the Koreans would not abandon their solidarity with the Iranians against imperialism, clearly knowing what side Saddam was on, the side of repression and global capitalism, not national liberation. Since that time, the two countries have not restored diplomatic relations, even after “the Iraqi population of around 33 million has only been subject to short periods of relative peace as competing interests struggle for control” since the 2003 invasion as Oxfam declared. There were a number of mentions of Iraq on the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for the DPRK but these were in reference to “depleted uranium shells seriously affecting human health and the environment” used by U$ imperialists in Iraq, forms of U$ war which could be used to bring down “the social system of the DPRK,” the false pretenses of such imperialists to “overthrow legitimate governments in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya,” and noting that “the U.S. deleted Iraq and Libya from the list of “state sponsor of terrorism” that gave in to its pressure [and] it also deleted Cuba,” showing that the “the label of “state sponsor of terrorism”” is just an imperial tool that can be attached or removed at “any time in accordance with its interests.”

The relation between the DPRK and Iran has been ironclad since the 1980s. After all, in May 1979, Kim Il Sung sent Khomeini a telegram congratulating him on the “victory of the Islamic Revolution,” and on June 25th of the same year, Khomeini met with the “DPRK Ambassador Chabeong Ouk in Qom,” on what was the “29th anniversary of the aggression of U.S. troops against the meek nation of Korea” to which “Khomeini replied in kind, calling…for the expulsion of American troops from South Korea.” [4] The Jewish Virtual Library, which is highly Zionist, says with alarm that “Iran is North Korea’s principal customer for weapons and technology, and it has been the site of a number of missile tests carried out on North Korea’s behalf. North Korea may have sold one of its most sophisticated missiles, the Nodong…to Iran…North Korean experts are also believed to have helped Iran with its centrifuges.” While most of this is likely poppycock, it does say that even the Zionists are afraid of the Koreans. These same people consider the Koreans part of the “anti-American Middle East axis” (of Syria and Iran) and that the Korean relationship with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) has existed since 1983. In years since the 1980s, the Koreans worked to help fortify Iran, even though they likely did not smuggle in “missiles in pieces” as Zionists declare, instead creating “friendship farms” in each country in 1996, farms which hold “cultural exchanges, commemorations of Khamenei’s visit to North Korea, and commemorations of Kim Il-Sung and Kim Jong-Il” every year. By the 2000s, some Iranian officials, “concerned with Iran’s integration into the global economy expressed alarm,” said the DPRK was a negative example. Take for example, the former chief of the IRGC and Secretary of the Expediency Council, Mohsen Rezaee, who said that if Iran followed “a reactionary stance internationally and a policy of developmental stagnation domestically,” it would do no better than the DPRK. Even with this, relations remained strong, with a visit in 2007 by Iran’s deputy foreign minister to Pyongyang “as negotiation with its officials for studying and developing bilateral relations” continued, with both countries signing a “plan for exchanges in the cultural, scientific and educational fields.” In 2012, a scientific and technological cooperation agreement was signed between the two countries, showing that they are dedicated to strong relations. The next year, the Iranian Parliament approved Mohamed Hasan Nami as communications minister, a person who holds a degree from Kim Il Sung University in state management, and images showed that “Iran maintains a seven-building embassy compound in Pyongyang, at the center of which stands the first mosque in North Korea.” Then, in February and September 2014, Javad Zarif, the Iranian Foreign Minister, met with “high-ranking North Korean delegations in February and September 2014.” Even so, there was some evidence of “growing distance and diverging trajectories” which bourgeois analysts said would “eventually cause Iran to see its friendship with North Korea as a liability,” claiming it has little to offer the Iranians, leaving behind a “relationship that once thrived on friendship farms and mutually admiring founding leaders.” However, as recent developments show, this observation was short-sighted. After all, if one Iran-hater, Amir Taheri, is right, the Iranians adopted tactics, used by the Koreans during the Great Fatherland Liberation War (1950-1953), during the Iran-Iraq War, with Khomeini’s “resistance economics” loosely based on Juche ideology. [5]

In 2017 and 2018, relations between Iran and the DPRK have become even stronger. In May 2017, Choe Hui Chol, the vice-minister of Foreign Affairs, met with the Iranian ambassador in Pyongyang, Seyed Mohsen Emadi, with Chol mentioning the “eye-opening successes being made by the DPRK in bolstering the Juche-based rocket force under the energetic guidance of…Kim Jong Un” and he hoped that the “traditional relations of friendship between the two countries” begun by Iranian leaders and Kim Il Sung “would grow stronger in conformity with common interests of their governments and peoples.” In response, Emadi thanked Chol for his comments, adding that the “traditional relations of friendship, provided by the preceding leaders of the two countries” is “favorably developing” under the care of Kim Jong Un, adding that both countries should strive for closer cooperation “in the international arena including the UN and expand the bilateral relations of friendship and cooperation in politics, economy, culture and other fields.” [i6] The following month, Kim Yong Nam sent a message of sympathy to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressing “deep sympathy and condolences to the Iranian president and through him to the victims and bereaved families” for terrorist attacks. He added that two countries should strengthen cooperation “in the struggle to oppose all forms of terrorism and ensure world peace and stability.” The same month, officials of the Foreign Ministry, Ministry of External Economic Relations, Korean Committee for Cultural Relations with Foreign Countries, and the General Bureau for Affairs with Diplomatic Corps visited the Iranian embassy in Pyongyang, expressing “deep sympathy and consolation to the victims of the incidents and their bereaved families and reiterated the consistent principled stand of the DPRK government against all forms of terrorism.” Later on that month, the Indonesian Ambassador in Pyongyang, Bambang Hiendrasto, hosted a reception at the Taedonggang Diplomatic Club, “on behalf of embassies of member states of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation(OIC)…as regards the end of Ramadan” with Choe Hui Chol present, along with “ambassadors of Indonesia, Syria, Iran, Palestine and Egypt and charges d’ affaires ad interim of Nigeria and Pakistan, OIC member states, and embassy officials and their families.”

The following month, August, Kim Yong Nam attended the inauguration of Hassan Rouhani in his second term in the Majlis Building in Tehran. Other countries attended as well such as EU representatives, but this showed the connection between the two countries. At his inauguration, Rouhani made a speech, expressing “the stand of his government to develop the economy, strengthen the defence capability, ensure peace and democracy and realize constructive cooperation with the international community” while he also “affirmed that Iran would cope with the U.S. moves for scraping the nuclear agreement with vigilance and make all efforts to ensure peace and stability in the Middle East region.” Nam, attended the inauguration with numerous others such as Choe Hui Chol. At the sidelines of the inauguration, Nam, spoke with Robert G. Mugabe, president of the Republic of Zimbabwe, who was also present, showing they were, at that time, part of the anti-imperialist front. Afterwords, Nam attended “a banquet arranged by the Iranian President.” [7] The same month, Nam talked with Rouhani, noting that “the line of simultaneously developing the two fronts set out by the Workers’ Party of Korea is being implemented…under the guidance of…Kim Jong Un” and outlined the “achievements gained in the struggle for independence.” He also said there needs to be further development of “friendly and cooperative relations between the DPRK and Iran and the Non-Aligned Movement.” Rouhani responded by saying that “Iran-DPRK relations have developed on a very high stage, expressing the belief that the friendly relations between the two countries which have jointly struggled against the U.S. will boost in broad fields in the future.” Earlier on, Nam had met “Speaker of Majlis Ali Larijani and First Vice-President Eshaq Jahangiri of Iran.” Also that month, Pak Pong Ju, Premier of the DPRK, sent a “congratulatory message on Thursday to Eshaq Jahangiri” on his re-appointment as First Vice President of Iran, wishing him “bigger success in his work for the independent development and prosperity of the country and the friendly government and people of Iran happiness and prosperity.” The same day, Ri Yong Ho sent a “congratulatory message to Mohammad Javad Zarif” on his re-appointment as Iran’s foreign minister.

Photos of Iran’s old embassy (right) and new embassy in Iran (left). With photos from Wikimedia for the old embassy in 2011, and for the new embassy, after 2017, from KCNA.

The same month, the murderous U$ imperialists passed a host of sanctions aimed against Russia, Iran, and the DPRK, to which Iran responded by “vowing to pass retaliatory bills regarding the passage of the sanctions bill as a blatant act of hostility against Iran.” More important, a new embassy of the DPRK was inaugurated in Tehran, with “Ebrahim Rahimpour, vice-minister of Foreign Affairs of Iran, personages of the Tehran City Government, friendly organizations, media and different social standings and members of an Iranian construction company,” and numerous Korean officials attending. [8] Cho Hu Chol, at the inauguration said that the “premises of the DPRK embassy were built a new to boost exchanges, contacts and cooperation between the two countries for world peace and security and international justice,” stressing the “consistent stand of the DPRK government to invariably develop the strategic relations between the two countries” which had been “forged and strengthened” by Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il, working with Iranian leaders “in the common struggle for independence against imperialism.” Ebrahim Rahimpour, in his speech, said he was pleased with the new embassy, and noted that “the Iranian people…remember the DPRK’s sincere help and solidarity to Iran when it was in hard times, will fully support the struggle of the Korean people at all times.” The same day, the embassy hosted a reception.

The month afterwords, September, Rouhani sent a message of greeting to Kim Jong Un, congratulating “Kim Jong Un and the Korean people on the occasion of September 9, the birthday of the DPRK.” In the same message he “hoped that the bilateral relations would favorably develop in all fields through cooperation and joint efforts of the peoples of the two countries.” Around the same time, the daily paper, Kayhan, which reflects the views of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, ran editorials “praising North Korea’s “brave defiance of Arrogance” by testing long-range missiles in the face of “cowardly threats” by the United States” with one editorial even inviting “those who urge dialogue with the US to learn from North Korea’s “success in humiliating the Great Satan.” [238] There were some responses from Western favorites, the reformists, with one of them expressing regret that Iran was asked to “downgrade to the level of “a pariah in a remote corner of Asia,” but even so, Kim Yong Nam came to Tehran on a 10-day visit heading “a 30-man military and political delegation” and was “granted a rare two-hours long audience with Khamenei.”

In October, the next month, relations were still strong. The Iranian Ambassador in Pyongyang, Seyed Mohsen Emadi and his staff members visited the “Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum on the occasion of the DPRK-Iran friendship week” with guests looking around the museum’s rooms while they were briefed on “the fact that President Kim Il Sung led the Fatherland Liberation War to victory,” and Emadi made “an entry in the visitor’s book.” He also wished the “the Korean people bigger successes” under the guidance of Kim Jong Un. Additionally, Emadi and his staff “toured the Tower of the Juche Idea, [and] the Sci-Tech Complex,” while staff members of the embassy “did friendship labor at the DPRK-Iran Friendship Ripsok Co-op Farm in Mundok County.” The same month, Kim Jong Un sent messages to varying “foreign party and state leaders in reply of their congratulatory messages and letters on the 69th founding anniversary of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea” including those from Cuba, Nepal, Maldives, Bangladesh, Syria, Cambodia, Thailand, Pakistan, Palestine, Qatar, Tajikistan, Indonesia, Mali, Belarus, Mali, Guinea, Senegal, Congo, DR Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Algeria, Tunisia, Eritrea, Dominica, Egypt, Iran, and the “co-chairman of the Board of Directors of the Kim Il Sung–Kim Jong Il Foundation…secretary general of the United Nations…and the director-general of the International Institute of the Juche Idea.”

In the last two months of the year, relations were clearly still strong. In November, Kim Yong Nam sent a message of sympathy to Hassan Rouhani on a terrorist attack in the country, saying that “upon hearing the sad news that Kermanshah region located in the west of Iran was hit by earthquake, claiming heavy human and material losses, I express my deep sympathy and condolences to you and, through you, to the victims and their families. I hope that you and your government will recover from the consequences of this disaster at the earliest possible date and bring the life of the citizens in the disaster-stricken region to normal.” The month after, Kim Jong Un received a message from Rouhani which extended “greetings to Kim Jong Un and the Korean people on the occasion of the New Year 2018” and hoped that “global peace, justice and equality would be ensured and violence removed in the New Year.”

Foreigners at prayer in the Iranian Embassy in Pyongyang. Photo by Jaka Parker, published by NK News.

This year, 2018, relations couldn’t be stronger. The imperialists have labeled countries like Iran, China, Saudi Arabia, and the DPRK“states of special concern for religious freedom,” undoubtedly a fake label. At the end of January, in Tehran, the two countries signed a “2018-2021 memorandum on cooperation…in the fields of culture, arts, education, mass media, sports and youth” which was inked by Kang Sam Hyon, the DPRK’s ambassador in Tehran, and “the vice-chairman in charge of international affairs of Iran’s Islamic cultural liaison organization.” [10] The next month, February, the Iranian embassy in Pyongyang hosted “a reception…on the occasion of the birth anniversary of leader Kim Jong Il.” Present at the reception was Kim Yong Dae, vice-president of the SPA Presidium, Thae Hyong Chol, president of Kim Il Sung University, “Kim Jong Suk, chairwoman of the Korean Committee for Cultural Relations with Foreign Countries, [and] Ryu Myong Son, vice department director of the C.C., Workers’ Party of Korea.” Also, Seyed Mohsen Emadi, Iranian ambassador there and his staff members were there. In a speech, Emadi said that “historic relations between the two countries forged by their preceding leaders had been further strengthened thanks to Kim Jong Il,” and he expressed the “will to continue mutual cooperation in line with the desire and aspiration of the two peoples.” Kim Yong Dae added, in his speech that “the Korean people would as ever value the friendly and cooperative relations between the two countries forged in the joint struggle for independence against imperialism, sincerely wishing the Iranian people success in their struggle for ensuring regional peace and stability.” The same month, Kim Yong Nam sent a “message of sympathy” to Rouhani, in “connection with a recent passenger plane crash in Iran, that claimed huge casualties,” saying that he “expressed deep sympathy and condolences to the Iranian president and, through him, to the bereaved families of the deceased.” Also that month, the Iranian embassy “hosted a reception at the Taedonggang Diplomatic Club…to mark the 39th anniversary of the victory in the Islamic revolution of Iran.” Present at the reception was Thae Hyong Chol, president of Kim Il Sung University and chair of the DPRK-Iran Friendship Parliamentary Group, Ri Yong Chol, vice department director of the WPK’s central committee, and Choe Hui Chol, along with other “officials concerned and diplomatic envoys of different countries and representatives of international organizations and military attaches of foreign embassies” in Pyongyang. Around the same time, Kim Yong Nam, “sent a message of greetings…to Hassan Rouhani…on the occasion of the 39th anniversary of the victory of the Islamic revolution of Iran,” in which he noted that “after the victory in the revolution the Iranian people have achieved a lot of successes in the struggle to defend the gains of revolution and build a powerful state while repelling the ceaseless pressure and interference by the hostile forces.” In the same message he expressed “the belief that the good ties of friendship and cooperation between the DPRK and Iran would grow stronger, wishing the Iranian president bigger success in his work for the country’s development and stability and the people’s well-being.”

We then get to more recent news. Iran continues to resist imperialist efforts to isolate it, allying more with the Chinese revisionists, the Russian capitalists, and the socially democratic Syrians, while European imperialists work to appease the orange menace with new sanctions. [11] The Saudis have also been strongly aggressive, doing the errand work for the imperialists as they always do. With the full-throated occupation of part of Syria by the U$, as Stephen Gowans pointed out recently, the Iranians are right to call the U$ foolish, especially in light of Mike Pompeo, neo-con of the CIA who has taken the reins of the U$ State Department from oil man Tillerson, who some thought was “moderate” but actually just engaged in imperial diplomacy. At the same time, varied Iranian minister have survived an impeachment process in their parliament, the country is aiming to launch its first operational satellite next year, and the ICAPP (International Conference of Asian Political Parties), headquartered in the ROK, met in Tehran recently for its 29th meeting. Also there were reports of the Cuban ambassador meeting with Iranian officials, and efforts to increase exports from a refinery run by ROK in the country. The protests, which had some elements with U$ backing, are over, with a massive turnout favoring the government. The Iranian government, defiantly, has said that they will negotiate over their ballistic missiles (which do not have nuclear warheads), with Iranian Armed Forces spokesman Masoud Jazayeri saying that “the condition for negotiating Iran’s missiles is the destruction of the nuclear weapons and long-range missiles of the United States and Europe,” echoed by Rouhani saying that “We will negotiate with no one on our weapons…[our missiles] are defensive and are not designed to carry weapons of mass destruction, since we don’t have any.” This is while Iran has said it was ready for the U$ to quit the nuclear deal and opposes the U$ moving their embassy to the Zionists to Jerusalem, saying they will defend themselves if there is Zionist aggression.

At the same time, there has been some other news. For one there has been some victories, such as the British-drafted resolution on Yemen failing in the UN Security Council, or Rouhani being more relaxed when it comes to headscarves in the country. However, there have been some ruminations of developing a cryptocurrency in Iran to bypass U$ sanctions, which will only benefit the Iranian bourgeoisie. There have also been recent stories about the hidden workings of the British empire (in the past) in Iran and India, along with new findings about the clerical involvement in the CIA-backed coup in Iran against Mohammad Mossadegh or how “Operation Merlin” poisoned U$ intelligence on Iran. Most worrisome is an article in Bloomberg back in February [12] stating that

Iran’s armed forces…must divest from energy assets and other businesses to help save the Persian Gulf nation’s economy, President Hassan Rouhani said. Armed forces…must withdraw from all their commercial holdings, Rouhani said Tuesday…“Not only the Social Security Organization but all government sectors, including banks, have to divest their business holdings, and this is the only way to rescue the country’s economy,” Rouhani said. “Government officials, non-government institutions and the armed forces and others — everyone has to divest their commercial businesses.”…Rouhani’s government, now in its fifth year, has faced unprecedented scrutiny from ordinary Iranians frustrated that their living standards haven’t improved since the nuclear deal…The government needs to reduce its dependence on crude as a source of official revenue and must boost contributions from taxes, Rouhani said…Iran also holds the world’s largest proven reserves of natural gas. Paris-based Total SA signed a deal in July to develop part of the giant South Pars gas field, pledging $1 billion in investment. Total is the only major Western energy company so far to commit to investing in Iran since the easing of sanctions. Within the nation’s energy industry, divestment will focus on downstream petroleum projects including refineries, petrochemical plants and storage facilities…The program will emphasize assets owned by the government or semi-government entities, and Iran will seek to attract foreign companies “with investment, know-how, and equipment”

Now, this is troubling. Not because of the work conditions in the country for the proletariat or the supposed “mass and arbitrary detention” and tough “Internet censorship regime” that the CPJ (Committee to Protect Journalists) bemoans. Rather it is that moving away from such state assets is a form of privatization. The Tudeh Party of Iran, which is in exile and did not participate in the country’s elections in the past or recently in 2016, Iran’s communist party as you could call it, dislikes the current government. In a statement on March 1 of this year, they talk about “grand capitalism” in Iran and privatization of factories, which is connected to a statement in January in which they state that Iran has, currently a “system underpinned by neoliberal capitalist socio-economics that has destroyed the productive infrastructure of the country and has driven Iran to unprecedented levels of poverty and deprivation.” Around the same time they released another statement saying that “the way to save Iran is not to replace one dictatorial regime with another kind of dictatorship and tyranny. Our people are striving for a national, popular and democratic republic.” While I am a bit wary of Tudeh as it is an exile, and is not based in the country itself, I think they make good points about the economic system in the country, which is becoming more and more capitalistic.

With all of this, there is still no doubt that the Islamic Republic of Iran, as it currently stands, is resisting U$ imperialist aggression in the region. It is for this reason that the Koreans continue to support it, even though they do not desire a similar government in their country. For the years to come, the relations between the countries will remain strong unless the Iranian leadership capitulates to the imperialists and cuts off relations entirely to appease the capitalist poles of power. If that happens, that would be a sad day for the peoples of Iran and Korea.


Notes

[1] Rajiv Chandrasekaran, Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq’s Green Zone (New York: Vintage Books, 2006), pp 4, 30-31, 40, 47-48, 54, 61, 70, 78-80, 107, 116-118, 122, 124-127, 131, 134, 135, 137, 140-143.

[2] Ibid, pp 125-126.

[3] John Tagliabue, “How $18 Million Got Soviet Weapons To Iran,” New York Times, May 27, 1987.

[4] IranWire, “North Korea’s Deadly Partnership With Iran,” The Daily Beast, Aug 11, 2017; Victor D. Cha and Gabriel Scheinmann, “North Korea’s Hamas Connection: “Below” the Surface?,” The National Interest, Sept 4, 2014; Ariel Nathan Pasko, “North Korea: The Israeli Connection,” BreakingIsraelNews, accessed Feb 7, 2018.

[5] Amir Taheri, “Khomeini or Kim? Khamenei’s Real Teacher,” Gatestone Institute, Sept 3, 2017.

[6] KCNA, “Deputy FM meets Iranian ambassador ” Jun 1, 2017. Pyongyang Times  reprints same article.

[7] KCNA, “SPA Presidium chief attends Iranian presidential inaugural,”  Pyongyang Times, Aug 7, 2017.

[8] KCNA, “New embassy in Iran opened,” Pyongyang Times, Aug 7, 2017.

[9] Amir Taheri, “Khomeini or Kim? Khamenei’s Real Teacher,” Gatestone Institute, Sept 3, 2017.

[10] KCNA, “DPRK, Iran sign memorandum,” Pyongyang Times, Jan 27, 2018.

[11] Also see articles about a Russian firm re-developing Iranian oil fields, a trade zone between Russia and Iran, that Iran will not seek U$ permission to operate in the region, that Iran does not seek domination of any region, and there are efforts to expand Iran-China ties. The Bahrainis have even blamed the Iranians for discord in their country, using them as a scapegoat. Iran says that its main priority is to increase security in the region, as it maintains connections with nearby countries, and is about to inaugurate an “offshore project which will stop flaring gas in the Persian Gulf.”Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei told the Syrian Minister of Awqaf (Religious Endowments) that “Syria is in the forefront of resistance against terrorism, and we are all responsible to support Syria’s resistance. Honorable President Bashar al-Assad played a prominent role of being a great defender and warrior and is highly regarded by its nation and the region…the great powers [US, the Soviet Union, NATO, the Arabs and regional countries against Iran] do not necessarily achieve what they look for…This gives insight, hope and power to the nations. So if we and you and the rest of the resistance groups remain decisive in our decisions, the enemy will not be able to defeat us.” The same was said in two articles in SANA here, here, and here.

[12] Golnar Motevalli and Arsalan Shahla, “Iran Orders Armed Forces to Sell All Energy, Business Assets,” Bloomberg News, Feb 7, 2018.

Advertisements

6 thoughts on “Changing alliances for the DPRK: Iraq in 1968, Iran in 1979

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.