Different historical conflicting situations reveal how the leadership systems and individual personalities, characters, and egos contributed to the outbreak of wars. It happened during the World Wars, the Cold War, the Indochina War, the Persian Gulf War, and elsewhere. The same was true for Iranian and North Korean nuclear cases. For these particular Iranian and North Korean atomic cases, it is surprising how bilateral talks on initial energy nuclear programs escalated into high-tension conflicts and became decades-long inconclusive multilateral negotiations. The leading factors of these inconclusive negotiations were the superpowers, concerned states’ leadership systems, and the personalities of high-level political leaders. Therefore, it is vital to examine the role of countries’ leadership systems in these two cases, the characters and personalities of leaders who have taken their countries into decades-long hatred, political, and military tension, and how misjudgments and misperceptions have affected history. In the present paper, I will critically reflect on the failure of the countries’ leadership systems in the denuclearization negotiations and the role of individual political leaders in escalating the conflict and complicating the talks. Finally, I will make a few recommendations as alternative ways to manage these high-tension cases.
The Leadership Systems ARE THE CAUSE OF INCONCLUSIVE NEGOTIATIONS OVER NUCLEAR PROGRAMS
Inconclusive negotiations over the denuclearization issue have long preoccupied the Iranian-US-North Korean diplomatic relations. Surprisingly, these negotiations have resulted in high-tension conflicts, which signifies the failure of the concerned countries’ leadership systems.
The US-Iranian Relations: A Collective Leadership Inability to Handle the Denuclearization Deal
The US-Iranian diplomatic relations and denuclearization talks were characterized by Iranian resistance to American pressure on ideological development for both sides, while Americans deviated from the real issue to other issues of human rights and terrorism. Equally, Iran strengthened its authoritarian regime and developed its nuclear program, while the USA promoted and implemented its maximum pressure and sanctions against Iran.
Iranian Authoritarian Regime as a Cause of Difficult Bargain with Americans and Economic Sanctions
In authoritarian political regimes like Iran, where public opinion is absent, the public cannot influence the lifting of sanctions as they inevitably affect the lives of citizens. In other words, in authoritarian political regimes, the public discontent that pushes the leadership to change the policy and influence the lifting of sanctions is often absent. In this respect, economic sanctions are more likely to have a positive impact when people can express dissatisfaction in elections, influencing policy-makers. A typical example is the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, primarily reached because of the 2013 presidential elections. Hassan Rouhani was a moderate leader who pledged to lift economic sanctions .Afterward, sanctions increased and became severe as the leadership strengthened the dictatorship system and confrontation with the USA.
American Leadership’s Failure to De-escalation the Nuclear Conflict
Diplomatic relations between the USA and Iran and negotiations on Iranian denuclearization have always been up and down as the Americans successfully changed their political leaders. However, tensions between the USA and Iran escalated during the Bush administration, putting the two countries on the verge of war. Inspired by his philosophy of defeating and ruling, Bush refused to negotiate with Iran during his entire presidency, even on other issues of such importance as Iraq and Afghanistan. Consequently, the Bush administration created negotiation roadblocks for his successors. Despite extensive outreach, clear strategic beneﬁts, and an unprecedented opportunity for engagement, the Obama administration got stuck in the same confrontational relationship with Iran as that of other American presidents before him. The same happened when the Biden administration could not redress damages caused by his predecessors with Iran .
North Korea, as a country seeking the survival of its regime, wanted a security guarantee from the USA; that way, it could disable and dismantle its nuclear arsenal. Regrettably, successive US administrations have failed to offer and guarantee a security arrangement acceptable to North Korea and have repeatedly walked away from opportunities to strike a deal. The leading cause was the persisting US attitudes of using rhetoric and temporarily suspending the planned negotiations, pervasive approach, ideological posturing, and confrontation over compromise .
Misperception, Distrust, Fear, and Provocation as the Leading Denuclearization Negotiation Factors
How people perceive needs, interests, values, or goals and how they become intense in their minds or interpret them is another source of the conflicts. The negotiations over the denuclearization issue in Iran and North Korea were founded on fear of all sides, distrust, misperception, and provocation at the presidential level. However, negotiators should understand the value of clarifying how they perceive the issues and their internal difficulties or perceptions about another party to limit the escalation of the conflict .
American misperception in the North Korean case marked mismanagement of the crisis for over fifty years by linking military (technological) and political issues when they should have handled them separately. Moreover, an American unwillingness to settle consisted of failure to reciprocate the Korean concessions, collaborate, or validate any positive step Koreans made in the negotiation process. Though some American presidents like Clinton and Obama made significant steps to vitalize the negotiation process, others like Bush and Iranian president Ahmadinejad demonstrated provocative and arrogant behaviors, focused on defeating rather than compromising, which complicated the talks . Simultaneously, Iran continued to declare its anti-Israel ideology and connection to Islamic extremists such as Hezbollah and Hamas .
The USA feared that the North Korean nuclear technology program should threaten the USA itself and the region in general since North Korea could supply atomic weapons or technology to terrorist organizations for self-defense or as revenge after the collapse of the North Korean government .
The Strive to Resist the United States’ Negotiation Pressure Tactics
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reports revealed that Iran could produce enough fissile materials for its nuclear assets .This Iranian atomic progress signaled a total failure of the American negotiation system when it opted for using military deterrence and instilling fear in the counterparts of being attacked. It also proves that a developing country can survive and resist the superpowers’ pressure, including military and economic force tactics, external sabotage, and sanctions. In doing so, Iran did not stop expelling inspectors, jeopardizing control systems, or resuming prohibited activities .
The USA made a wrong decision in withdrawing from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) because it enabled Iran to improve its nuclear facilities. Consequently, Iran has developed over 3000 kilograms of enriched uranium, ten times the JCPOA allows. After all, Iran was limited to 300 kilograms of low-enriched uranium . Iran ended up owning 500 kilograms of 20 percent uranium and more than 120 kilograms of 60 percent uranium . These data signal the results of Iranian resistance against American maximum pressure and its ideology of fighting the wrong cause.
Decades-Long Inconclusive Denuclearization: All Blames to the Leadership Systems
Beforehand, I must recall that North Korea survived fifty years of American sanctions, including a complete ban on all financial transactions between the two countries . This long and challenging period complicates diplomatic negotiations unless diplomatic actors change the game’s rules. Shockingly, different American leaders kept threatening sanctions, which would inevitably cause North Korea to resist any American threat.
Negotiating over Ideology Instead of Denuclearization
Negotiations of nuclear programs in Iran and North Korea became ideological negotiations or red communism versus Western imperialism fights. Americans claimed they feared that Kim Jong-II would provide nuclear weapons or technology to terrorists; Americans used that claim as a propaganda trick rather than a real problem . Therefore, I can infer that the American policy of destroying Kim Jong-un’s regime could be the cause of providing nuclear weapons or technology to the terrorists as an act of revenge.
Worse than that, this ideology complicated the negotiations over the nuclear program because each side believed to be correct and that the other side was not only wrong but did not even have the right to exist. Worse again, intervention and involvement by China, Russia, Japan, and South Korea rendered the negotiations impossible since all players were culturally and politically different . In this process, the brutal reaction of Kim II-Sung in response to the US threats of imposing tough sanctions against North Korea caused him to decide not to strain with the rest of the world, especially the USA, while continuing nuclear research in the country .
From Direct Bilateral to Multilateral Negotiation Frameworks
As Washington has shifted from a primarily bilateral (during the Clinton Administration) to a mostly multilateral framework (during the Bush and Obama Administrations) for addressing North Korea, the centrality of China’s role in dealing with Pyongyang has become increasingly pronounced. The inevitable involvement of China was because North Korea depended on China’s economic aid and diplomatic support for its survival .
In that sense, I applaud Obama’s enthusiastic attempts to address nuclear weapons and arms control, especially by signing agreements with Russia. After his commitment to work toward a world free of nuclear weapons in April 2009, Obama took steps to further that goal, including a new nuclear arms reduction treaty with Russia , convening a global leaders’ summit to secure stockpiles of nuclear materials, and releazing a recent Nuclear Posture Review that outlines new U.S. guidelines on the use of atomic weapons .
Precipitating on Sanctions: An American Leadership’s Wrong Move
The North Korean case is one culminant example signaling the wrong American leadership approach by precipitating sanctions. North Korea has also been heavily sanctioned, but this policy instrument has been ineffective, counter-productive, harmful to human life, and caused regrettable political and economic insecurity among the civilian population. Despite these sanctions, North Korea continued to test nuclear missiles . Human rights violations became terrible, which pushed the UN Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to recommend that the North Korean case be referred to the International Criminal Court .
The Impact of American “Maximum Pressure” Ideology
As I emphasized earlier, fear, distrust, and misperceptions had been the leading factors in the Iranian-US-North Korean diplomatic relations. For the North Koreans, the invasion of Iraq in 2003 by Americans  had been a memorable lesson for any developing country. The same was true for North Korea when negotiating with Americans under threats and pressure. The fear that the Iraqi invasion experience created in the Korean leaders made them consider that they would accept negotiations for the only interest of the regime’s survival .
From this view, I understand that despite their acceptance to negotiate, North Koreans would weigh every step very carefully and could be cautious about making any concessions that could make them more vulnerable. In other words, north Koreans were unsure if negotiations with Americans were actual since they learned from Iraq that Americans use negotiations as an international relations tool to use later on the failed talks as a pretext to attack the other side . On the other side, Americans believed North Korea was using negotiations to buy some time to improve its nuclear weapons .
THE ROLE OF INDIVIDUAL POLITICAL LEADERS IN COMPLICATING THE NEGOTIATION PROCESS
In the section above, I discussed the role of leadership systems in complicating the denuclearization negotiations and escalating the conflict altogether. Conversely, individual leaders at the presidential level and the generals played a regrettable role in these deplorable negotiation situations. Their misperceptions, impulsivity, beliefs, fear, and hatred pushed them to mislead the entire leadership system and make decisions that ravaged many people’s lives. Their acts and behaviors consisted of verbal provocation, resisting any peaceful alternative, and making harsh decisions to increase the other side’s tension.
MacArthur and Truman’s Military Response to the Failed Negotiations
Beforehand, I must observe that Truman’s doctrine of protecting the free world elsewhere was a pretext to use military forces according to his choice, but I still question the legitimacy and effectiveness of that protection. In achieving his goals, Truman was ready to take responsibility for the most crucial decisions, believing that the right choices lie under the leader’s responsibilities . Like Berchtold’s decision to send an official ultimatum to Serbia,  when negotiations with North Korea failed in 1950, Truman and MacArthur attacked North Korea without recourse to Congress’ approval . In all his declarations and communications, Truman increased the tension and made the war inevitable.
In all this process, the blind trust and admiration that Truman and Secretary of State Acheson had for him caused him to mislead Truman and the entire US system about the Chinese incapacity to intervene in the North and South Korean war in response to the US crossing the thirty-eight parallel. Like Hitler to the Soviet Union in the Second World War,  MacArtur underestimated the Chinese army’s capacity by presuming that they were exhausted by the Manchurian war, not well-equipped, and too late for them to intervene . In doing so, he exaggerated the US army’s capacity while underestimating the Chinese ability to intervene.
The Provocative Acts of Kim Jong-II as the Cause of Maximum Pressure Policy by Americans
North Korea has initiated several provocative acts, including an apparent ruinous attack on a South Korean warship that killed 46 South Korean service members in March 2010 . As the international community took measures to respond to the aggression, pressure was building on China, the North’s sole ally and benefactor, to punish North Korea by enforcing international sanctions or cutting off some aid . In addition to North Korean prevocational behaviors toward the USA since 1994, North Korea’s nuclear program has usually been prioritized above North Korea’s human rights record, missile program, and illicit and criminal dealings.
Korea’s provocations after Obama took office included a second nuclear device test (charm offensive strategy) , expelled US and international nuclear inspectors, and declared it would “never” return to the talks. These Korean behaviors halted progress on furthering negotiations, most significantly in 2009. For Iran, the United Nations Security Council unanimously passed Resolution 1874 in response to the Iranian nuclear test, which outlines a series of sanctions to deny financial benefits to the regime in Pyongyang .
However, an American “strategic patience” policy that essentially consisted of waiting for North Korea to come back to the negotiations while maintaining pressure through economic sanctions and arms interdictions did not work out because it allowed Koreans to control the situation, while fears of further nuclear advances and possible proliferation build .
More than Six Decades of Failed Denuclearization Negotiations: Whose American President’s Responsibility?
Starting in 1954 at the Geneva Conference, the Soviet Union, China, the USA, the United Kingdom, and France gathered to decide the Korean Peninsula and Indochina issues. Surprisingly, the acts and behaviors of US Secretary of State John Foster Dulles of maintaining an intractable position on capitulation from his adversaries, refusing to shake Zhou Enlai’s hand, and leaving the conference early signaled American bad faith negotiations to settle the political issue with both China and North Korea despite the 1953 temporary armistice that both sides signed in the Korean war .
The Kennedy and Johnson administrations did not improve relations between the US and North Korea, which continued to deteriorate after the shooting of the US spy plane by North Korean MIG-21 aircraft over the Sea of Japan, intercepting and capturing a US Navy intelligence vessel . Despite North Korea’s leader Kim Il-sung’s endeavors to reach a peace agreement in replacement of the armistice treaty, these sounded to a deaf ear to successive American administrations, namely Nixon, Ford, and President Jimmy Carter. The situation worsened during President Ronald Reagan and Bush’s administrations because they did not seriously consider negotiating a peace treaty .
Efforts made by President Bill Clinton to achieve a resolution of the frozen Korean conflict were nullified by George W. Bush’s decision to put North Korea on the list of “axis of evil.” Consequently, Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush administrations failed to deter North Korea from developing nuclear facilities and testing nuclear weapons and to keep North Korea from proliferating nuclear weapons technology and materials to states of concern to the United States .
The strategic patience policy under the Obama administration since 2009 that relied on sanctioning and targeting a collapse of the North Korean regime did not generate any promising results but enabled Kim Jong-un to increase his country’s nuclear tests and intercontinental ballistic missile launches, coupled with them with more frequent demands for a peace treaty .The game became difficult for the Trump and Biden administrations because now North Korea is a nuclear state; both administrations did not manage to correct the errors of their predecessors. President Joe Biden adopted a different strategy of seeking a quick return to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and closing the Korean JCPOA deal . In that process, he decided to end the Trump administration’s maximum pressure campaign and remove Iran from the list of foreign terrorist organizations. Despite all these efforts, Iran expanded its nuclear program because by August 2021, Iran was producing uranium metal, a material used to make atomic weapons .
What Should Be Done Alternatively?
When analyzing the conflicting situations, it is inevitable to use the counterfactuals. In that trend, I discussed the role of the leadership systems in the concerned countries and individual political leaders as the factors that escalated the nuclear conflict and rendered the denuclearization negotiations inconclusive. In this section, I will critically reflect on other alternatives, including the best alternatives to the negotiated agreements, that should pave the way for fruitful negotiations or close the denuclearization deal positively.
Prioritizing Negotiations Instead of Sanctions
As I emphasized above, the North Korean and Iranian situations should be a wake-up call for decision-makers regarding comprehensive sanctions because they enabled them to develop their nuclear program further instead of discouraging it . Said otherwise, economic sanctions cannot be effective if policy-makers have a strong will and believe there are more benefits to continuing the policy than any financial burden that can be placed on them . More specifically, in the case of North Korea’s nuclear development, Kim Jong-un, who had a dictatorial authority to make policy decisions, recognized that the development and possession of nuclear weapons was the most crucial issue for his country’s survival and had not stopped nuclear development despite these sanctions .
Although economic sanctions could hamper North Korea from acquiring necessary materials for nuclear development, it has been able to get these materials and continue its policy by developing on its own, smuggling, and other means of evading sanctions . Additionally, although North Korea lacked the funds necessary for nuclear development, it could get them through cryptocurrency theft in cyberspace . Without a doubt, economic sanctions can not be very effective if loopholes can be exploited by the concerned state, such as in the case of Korea.
The Need for Frank and Objective Negotiation at the Presidential Level
The negotiations over the North Korean and Iranian nuclear programs remained inconclusive and escalated into complex conflicts because of the role of provocation at the presidential level. Therefore, it was necessary to stop political provocation at the presidential level, help calm the tension between Japan and North Korea, and honor the promises (side payments) made by other powers. Additionally, it was crucial to remove North Korea and Iran from the list of sponsors of terrorism, which was an American pretext for creating enemies .
The arms control treaty negotiations are a memorable example of how frank and objective talks at the presidential level can be the engine of conclusive negotiations. In these negotiations, Mikael Gorbachev played a vital role in ending the Cold War, adopting and implementing disarmament programs, and re-establishing the world order. He also prioritized modernization of the economy over military capacity, and his frank collaboration with the UN, the USA, and other superpowers and middle powers played a non-negligible role in implementing the disarmament program .
In these particular Korean and Iranian cases, I agree with Armitage that diplomacy must be centered at the presidential level and closely coordinated with six parties (the United States, Russia, China, Japan, South Korea, and North Korea) to close the nuclear deal and protect the interests of the concerned states and their allies . Therefore, South Korea, Japan, China, and Russia should influence both sides to make unprecedented progress because, in the North Korean case, the US and Japan’s unwillingness to negotiate with North Korea caused the latter to be more resistant and uncooperative . In the Iranian issue, the latter was cooperative and committed to partnering with Britain, France, and Germany (E-3) but was worried about its security after being put on the list of the Axis of Evil by Americans .
Promoting an Unofficial Diplomatic Approach
Negotiating and resolving complex and high-tension conflicts requires particular settings that enable a clear and deep understanding of the causes, active involvement of the concerned parties, and solutions that meet their interests. Uncontestably, I understand that this process requires an immeasurable amount of time and patience for the actors and facilitators, which is difficult for official diplomatic actors. Therefore, an unofficial diplomatic approach could be fruitful in North Korea’s and Iranian nuclear negotiations.
A good example is shuttle diplomacy by former US President Jimmy Carter in June 1994, which made a difference and helped solve the problem. Carter used his informal diplomacy to convince Kim II-sung to freeze the nuclear program and resume negotiations that produced the document known as the “Agreed Framework. ”
Focusing on the Involvement of Private Individuals’ Mediation: The Lesson from Kissinger’s Mediation
The Israeli-Arab conflict is one of the leading examples of the successful involvement of private mediators in complex cases. The Israeli-Arab war had reached an uncontrollable tension because neither side was able to understand the fears of the other. That way, Arabs were so intent on restoring their dignity and regaining lost ground that they believed they had won even though they had lost, and Israel wanted to give them a memorable lesson. The confrontation between the USA and the Soviet Union through the supply of military equipment would end in a direct battle and finally in another world war. That way, Kissinger’s mediation role was critical, and his strategy of avoiding a pro-Israel nor a pro-Arab, but essentially pro-equilibrium, enabled both sides to cool down and agree to meet face-to-face for diplomatic talks . I realize that Americans (through Kissinger) were playing both sides to create a military balance that would induce both parties to accept diplomatic discussions. Kissinger’s approach involved building friendships with critical individuals and calming the tension .
In these particular Iranian and North Korean cases, diplomatic relations and all previous negotiation attempts have already damaged the psychological aspects of both sides, putting tension and the entire world on high alert. Based on the Israeli-Arab example I discussed above, I can infer that there was a need to focus on informal talks involving unofficial diplomatic actors, including private individuals or NGOs.
Involving and Empowering Non-Governmental Organizations
Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) go beyond the works of official diplomats and intermediaries in facilitating complex negotiations. In that process, they create a better historical account of the issues, provide educational opportunities to the parties to better address the problem, and serve as information channels . More particularly, NGOs operate independently from power politics, which increases their trust in the parties in conflict. In short, I can infer that involving and empowering NGOs as intermediaries and mediators in these negotiations over the nuclear weapons projects was essential .
Strengthening Preventive Diplomacy
Preventive diplomacy could best suit these cases by preventing them from escalating into high-tension conflicts or limiting their spread in the region .I must recall that in both cases, the nuclear weapons programs started as nuclear energy projects but developed and expanded as the negotiations failed, tension became high, spoilers intervened, and more actors intervened while the matter of issue changed. Alternatively, there was a need to maximize the use of early warning systems and, if necessary, persuade the concerned parties to accept a peaceful conflict resolution process. In both cases, the concerned parties should honor their concessions of alternative nuclear energy production and compensation for loss resulting from the cancellation of these projects . Moreover, it was critical to persuade the Soviet Union, China, Japan, South Korea, and some European countries such as Germany, Great Britain, and France to support peaceful and civilian energy production projects and bridge the negotiation gaps.
Concretization of Side-Payments as a Foundation for Fruitful Negotiations
Any fruitful negotiation needs to shift actors’ interests, but side payments can be critical if they resist and stick to their positions despite all persuasive attempts . The latter can be tangible, material, emotional, promise, symbolic, or psychological. I must emphasize that high-context cultures, including North Koreans and Iranians, encourage side payments . In this respect, I understand that once the concerned countries honored their commitment and concessions, it should have paved the way for fruitful negotiations with North Korea and Iran.
The Clinton administration made a tremendous step in continuing Carter’s work by providing some side payments to North Korea. These side payments consisted of five hundred thousand metric tons of heavy oil for electrical energy production, trying to compensate North Korea for the loss of electrical energy that North Korean nuclear reactors would have produced as part of the agreement’s implementation and sending unconditional food to North Korea .
However, it is regrettable that Georg W. Bush rendered all the previous efforts in vain by creating political confrontations with Kim II-sung, putting North Korea on the axis of evil, and insulting his counterpart, the Korean leader . These malpractices by Bush caused the DPRK to threaten Americans by starting its nuclear reactor to compensate for the electricity loss caused by delays in the construction of the promised two light-water reactors .The Bush administration considered any side payment rewarding North Korea for destructive behaviors .From these discussions above, I can deduce that sanctions against North Korea are among American leadership’s mistakes in the communist community because the more the USA applied sanctions, the more communist members increased unity and support among themselves.
Focusing on the Parties’ Best Alternatives in Lack of Agreements
The sections above critically discussed the decades-long inconclusive negotiations and conflict escalation. That way, reflecting on the players’ best alternatives in lack of agreement is critical; these alternatives could go beyond the negotiation process and UN sanctions. Beforehand, I realized that the Iranian BATNA was challenging to predict since it was inconsistent in negotiations about security, Islamic rights, or economic interests over oil and gas.
Parties’ Best Alternatives Would Save Interests in the Failed Iranian Nuclear Negotiations?
Iranian BATNA was to be removed from the list of Axis of Evil, which could reduce its fear of being attacked by Americans. That way, Iran could minimize its resistance against monitoring of its nuclear program, keeping its active role in political stability in the Middle-East through its active involvement in countries like Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, and Syria, which would help them resist Israeli and American threats and its influence of the world financial market through oil and gas . Adversary, the Israeli best alternative was a final agreement that could prevent Iran or Hizballah from establishing a permanent Iranian presence on the Israeli borders to avoid future instability . In that trend, I realized that Iran had no other way to achieve its goals than threatening to withdraw from the NPT, not cooperating, and expelling the IAEA experts. Iran perceived keeping a nuclear program as a vital aspect of the survival of its regime based on experience learned from Pakistan and North Korea. Understanding that the West might try to pressure Iran to desist, Iran sought to reach an agreement granting it nuclear development to some level, forcing the West to accept reality and lift sanctions .
I support the French proposal of updating and clarifying the withdrawal provisions of the treaty by the UN Security Council or NPT parties to preclude a country from calculating that it could not comply with its safeguards and other obligations and then withdrawing without consequences  because when the treaties are difficultly implementable, the party’s last option is to withdraw from it. On the other side, the US BATNAs consisted of reaching an agreement that could enable it to control the financial aid to Iran through the isolation of Iran from the global financial system through the European and Asian bankers . This way, the USA strived to persuade bankers across Europe and Asia to obstruct Iran and North Korea from accessing the world financial system . This alternative enabled export control regimes and counter-proliferation initiatives like the Proliferation Security Initiative, which have helped monitor the flux of sensitive goods and technology from and to Iran.
Unquestionably, the EU-3 alternative was trade and business-oriented because they were against the Iranian nuclear program but sought an alternative that advantaged business opportunities with Iran. The EU-3 did not advance a viable option to a negotiated agreement supported by the IAEA and UN Security Council. Conversely, they used a dual strategy of privileging negotiations while preparing for incremental and reversible restrictive measures . Apart from The EC-Iran Trade Cooperation Agreement (TCA) as well as the EU-Iran Political Dialogue, the EU Commission committed to assisting Iran (counter-narcotics, disaster relief, Afghan refugees’ repatriation, European Initiative for Democracy and Human Rights) if Iran was willing to suspend its uranium enrichment and reprocessing activities .
On the other side, China and Russia had divergent geopolitical, security, and economic interests with other P-5 members but helped Iran avoid harsh measures, another way to protect their interests . It pushes me to infer that this Iranian resistance against drastic measures undermined a hurting stalemate, often presenting an ideal opportunity for actual negotiation and a potential settlement.
The Best Negotiation Alternatives in the North Korean Nuclear Negotiations
Like in Iran, North Korea’s BATNA was to seek a nonaggression treaty, respect for North Korea’s sovereignty, and the US willingness not to obstruct North Korean economic relations with other countries and relevant international financial institutions. It has reinforced concern for North Korea to negotiate whatever security assurances it could but hold on to at least some form of a nuclear weapons program . In other words, the North Korean BATNA sought a peace guarantee (non-attack by Americans) before anything else, including food. Otherwise, the nuclear program was their only option for survival . Other parties’ ultimate goals seemed a distant dream, such as South Korea and Japan (free riders); they sought the reunification of the entire Korean peninsula as it happened for Germany. If not, their BATNA was to incorporate North Korea into international trade and cooperation, especially into the Korean peninsula’s gas and electricity energy system ,simultaneously to seek a nuclear-sharing arrangement in Northeast or East Asia. Undoubtedly, any best solution for North Korea would also benefit the South.
In the North Korean and Iranian crises, the best alternative for the Russians and Chinese was to reach an agreement that secured their business advantages in the Korean peninsula and border security. Russians were ready to supply gas and electricity in these negotiations if South Korea could help North Korea pay for it. Equally, China planned a gas pipeline into South Korea through the North . On the other side, the US BATNA was to reach an agreement that would make North Korea secure enriched uranium fuel for light-water reactors from outside North Korea. This alternative would give the USA leverage on the fuel supply in case North Korea violated the Agreed Framework because exercising the US influence over the fuel supply would require potential fuel suppliers like China and Russia to coordinate their policies with the USA .
The decades-long negotiations over the nuclear programs in North Korea and Iran failed due to the actors’ fear of being cheated, lack of accurate information or miscommunication between them, misperception of the issues and the parties, impulsiveness, and subjective decisions by the political leaders. These two nuclear technology problems prove the leadership and individual political leaders’ failure to solve the issues peacefully. Additionally, the complex nature of these cases consisted of a combination of political, technological, informational, and emotional difficulties. The common denominator for these cases is a misperception of the parties’ interest, personal biases, the negative role of individual leaders in escalating the problem by direct verbal provocations, failure to learn and change positions, and limited cooperation toward the negotiation process.
The countries’ leadership systems, mainly American and individual political leaders, mark a negative historical memory and constitute a vast field of research. In this paper, I critically discussed how political leaders’ leadership systems and individual personalities contributed to decades-long inconclusive negotiations in North Korea and Iran. However, many other factors contributed to the escalation of the crisis; these include the North Korean missile program, illicit activities, connection with terrorist organizations, and poor human rights records in both countries. These factors have been the pretext for Westerners to justify their intervention and impose their policies.
Considering the impact of these failed negotiations on the concerned states and indirectly on the international community, there is a need for a different approach. Therefore, it is critically important to undertake frank and objective negotiations, especially at the presidential level. That way, any other attempts, including pressure military and economic sanctions, could only worsen the situation. These cases started as bilateral negotiations and turned into multilateral ones with the involvement of Russia, China, Japan, South Korea, Great Britain, and Germany as the conflicts escalated. In that context, these external parties should play a significant role in bridging the negotiation gaps.
Furthermore, these issues have become more complex and polarized than expected; the concerned countries are now officially nuclear. Consequently, fruitful diplomatic negotiations become a distant dream. Alternatively, focusing on informal mediation by involving non-official actors such as private individual mediators, NGOs, and experts is beneficial. Finally, though destroying the Iranian or North Korean nuclear facilities is difficult, I optimistically believe that effective negotiations can alter their prospect and spread. That way, the concerned great powers should honor their commitments, especially by granting security in case of disarmament and providing due side payments.
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Yılmaz, Muzaffer Ercan. “Third-Party Intervention in International Conflicts: Peacekeeping and Peacemaking in the Post-Cold War Era.” Uluslararası İlişkiler 3, no. 11 (Fall 2006) (2006): 25–44.
List of Footnotes
 Amy Howlett, “Getting ‘Smart’: Crafting Economic Sanctions That Respect All Human Rights,” Fordham Law Review 73, no. 3 (2004): 37.
 Trita Parsi, “How the U.S. and Iran Keep Failing To Find a Peace They Both Want,” The Atlantic, January 25, 2012, 3, https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2012/01/how-the-us-and-iran-keep-failing-to-find-a-peace-they-both-want/251853/. Accessed September 19, 2023.
 Maziar Motamedi, “Five Years After Trump’s Exit, No Return to the Iran Nuclear Deal,” May 8, 2023, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2023/5/8/five-years-after-trumps-exit-no-return-to-the-iran-nuclear-deal. Accessed September 19, 2023.
 Michael Pembroke, “How 11 US Presidents Failed to Make Peace with North Korea,” Aljazeera, June 10, 2018, https://www.aljazeera.com/opinions/2018/6/10/how-11-us-presidents-failed-to-make-peace-with-north-korea. Accessed September 19, 2023.
 Dudley Weeks, The Eight Essential Steps to Conflict Resolution: Preserving Relationships at Work, Home, and in the Community, 1st ed. (New York: J.P. Tarcher/Perigee., 1994), 90–91.
 Alexander G. Nikolaev, International Negotiations: Theory, Practice, and the Connection with Domestic Politics (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2007), 206–8.
 Nikolaev, 213–17.
 Nikolaev, 192.
 Aaron David Miller, “Opinion: The Big Mistake the US Could Make on Iran Nuclear Talks,” CNN, August 4, 2022, https://www.cnn.com/2022/08/04/opinions/iran-nuclear-talks-united-states-diplomacy-miller/index.html. Accessed September 18, 2023.
 Jane Darby Menton, “What Most People Get Wrong About the Iran Nuclear Deal,” Foreign Policy (blog), May 7, 2023, https://foreignpolicy.com/2023/05/07/iran-nuclear-deal-jcpoa-us-trump-biden-nonproliferation-diplomacy/. Accessed September 18, 2023.
 Frank Barnaby and Nick Ritchie, “North Korea: Problems, Perceptions and Proposals” (London: Oxford Research Group, April 2004), 8, https://www.files.ethz.ch/isn/22160/northkorea.pdf. Accessed September 21, 2023.
 Joaquin Matamis, “A Dangerous Strategy: Examining the Biden Administration’s Failures on Iran” (House Subcommittee on National Security, the Border, and Foreign Affairs Hearing, Stimson Center: Washington, D.C, September 15, 2023), https://www.stimson.org/2023/a-dangerous-strategy-examining-the-biden-administrations-failures-on-iran/. Accessed September 18, 2023.
[13 ]Nikolaev, International Negotiations, 193.
 Nikolaev, 194.
 Nikolaev, 168.
 Nikolaev, 180.
 Mary Beth Nikitin, “North Korea’s Nuclear Weapons: Technical Issues,” CRS Report for Congress (Washington, D.C: Congressional Research Service, April 3, 2013), 3, https://sgp.fas.org/crs/nuke/RL34256.pdf. Accessed September 19, 2023.
 Fen Osler Hampson and Michael Hart, Multilateral Negotiations: Lessons From Arms Control, Trade, and the Environment (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999), 77–83.
 Emma Chanlett-Avery, “North Korea: U.S. Relations, Nuclear Diplomacy, and Internal Situation,” CRS Report for Congress (Washington, D.C: Congressional Research Service, May 26, 2010), 4, https://www.refworld.org/pdfid/4cbd73602.pdf. Accessed September 19, 2023.
 Peou Sorpong, “Why ‘Smart’ Sanctions Still Cause Human Insecurity,” Asian Journal of Peacebuilding 7, no. 2 (2019): 12, https://doi.org/doi: 10.18588/201911.00a092. Accessed May 14, 2023.
 Sarah A. Son, “Chasing Justice: Victim Engagement with Accountability for Human Rights Abuses in North Korea,” Asian Studies Review 44, no. 4 (October 1, 2020): 11, https://doi.org/10.1080/10357823.2020.1734536.
 Peter Boone, Gazdar Haris, and Hussain Athar, “Sanctions Against Iraq: Cost of Failure” (Brooklyn: New York: Center for Economic and Social Rights, November 1997), 11, https://cesr.org/sites/default/files/Sanctions_Against_Iraq_Costs_of_Failure_1997.pdf. Accessed May 14, 2023.
 Nikolaev, International Negotiations, 197.
 Lance Davis and Stanley Engerman, “History Lessons: Sanctions – Neither War nor Peace,” Journal of Economic Perspectives 17, no. 2 (June 2003): 6, https://doi.org/10.1257/089533003765888502. Accessed May 18, 2023.
 King Mallory, North Korean Sanctions Evasion Techniques, Research Report, RR-A1537-1 (Santa Monica, Calif: RAND Corporation, 2021), 36.
 John G. Stoessinger, Why Nations Go to War, 6th ed. (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1993), 52–56.
 Joseph S. Nye, Understanding International Conflicts: An Introduction to Theory and History, 6th ed, Longman Classics in Political Science (New York: Pearson/Longman, 2007), 72–74.
 Stoessinger, Why Nations Go to War, 62–65.
 Nye, Understanding International Conflicts, 102–3.
 Stoessinger, Why Nations Go to War, 69.
 Walter Pincus, “N. Korean Nuclear Conflict Has Deep Roots 50 Years of Threats and Broken Pacts Culminate in Apparent Atomic Test,” Washington Post, October 15, 2006, https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/politics/2006/10/15/n-korean-nuclear-conflict-has-deep-roots-span-classbankhead50-years-of-threats-and-broken-pacts-culminate-in-apparent-atomic-test-span/c4db091a-3526-43cf-b0c5-617ac766772a/. Accessed September 18.
 Chanlett-Avery, “North Korea: U.S. Relations, Nuclear Diplomacy, and Internal Situation,” 2.
 Nikitin, “North Korea’s Nuclear Weapons: Technical Issues,” 9.
 Nikitin, 3–4.
 Pincus, “N. Korean Nuclear Conflict Has Deep Roots 50 Years of Threats and Broken Pacts Culminate in Apparent Atomic Test.”
 Pembroke, “How 11 US Presidents Failed to Make Peace with North Korea,” 3.
 James I. Matray, “The Korean War 101: Causes, Course, and Conclusion of the Conflict,” Association for Asian Studies 17, no. 3 (Winter 2012): 3, https://www.asianstudies.org/publications/eaa/archives/the-korean-war-101-causes-course-and-conclusion-of-the-conflict/. Accessed September 19, 2023.
 Pembroke, “How 11 US Presidents Failed to Make Peace with North Korea,” 6.
 Gregory J. Moore, “America’s Failed North Korea Nuclear Policy: A New Approach,” Asian Perspective 32, no. 4 (2008): 11, https://doi.org/42704651. Accessed September 17, 2023.
 Hong Nack Kim, “U.S.-North Korea Relations under the Obama Administration: Problems and Prospects,” North Korean Review 6, no. 1 (2010): 9.
 Matamis, “House Subcommittee Hearing.”
 “A Dangerous Strategy: Examining the Biden Administration’s Failures on Iran” (House Subcommittee on National Security, the Border, and Foreign Affairs Hearing, Washington, D.C, September 13, 2023), https://www.fdd.org/analysis/2023/09/13/a-dangerous-strategy-examining-the-biden-administrations-failures-on-iran/. Accessed September 18, 2023.
 Michael R. Gordon, “North Korea Eludes Sanctions, Buying Oil and Selling Arms and Coal, U.N. Report Finds,” Wall Street Journal, March 11, 2019, sec. World, https://www.wsj.com/articles/u-n-report-finds-north-korea-eluding-sanctions-11552269431. Accessed May 17, 2023.
 Son, “Chasing Justice: Victim Engagement with Accountability for Human Rights Abuses in North Korea,” 26.
 Mallory, North Korean Sanctions Evasion Techniques, 26.
 Mallory, 21.
 Choe Sang-Hun and David Yaffe-Bellany, “How North Korea Used Crypto to Hack Its Way Through the Pandemic,” The New York Times, June 30, 2022, sec. Business, https://www.nytimes.com/2022/06/30/business/north-korea-crypto-hack.html. Accessed May 17, 2023.
 Nikolaev, International Negotiations, 202–5.
 Stoessinger, Why Nations Go to War, 219.
 Richard L. Armitage, “A Comprehensive Approach to North Korea:” (Fort Belvoir, VA: Defense Technical Information Center, March 1, 1999), 5, https://doi.org/10.21236/ADA385825.
 Nikolaev, International Negotiations, 202–4.
 Nikolaev, 218.
 Nikolaev, 180.
 Stoessinger, Why Nations Go to War, 164–65.
 Stoessinger, 167.
 L. Gordon Flake and Scott Snyder, eds., Paved with Good Intentions: The NGO Experience in North Korea (Westport, Conn: Praeger, 2003), 38.
 Muzaffer Ercan Yılmaz, “Third-Party Intervention in International Conflicts: Peacekeeping and Peacemaking in the Post-Cold War Era,” Uluslararası İlişkiler 3, no. 11 (Fall 2006) (2006): 28.
 Margaret P. Karns and Karen A. Mingst, International Organizations: The Politics and Processes of Global Governance, 2nd ed (Boulder, Colorado: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2010), 305.
 Nikolaev, International Negotiations, 181.
 Nikolaev, 98.
 Nikolaev, 93–95.
 Nikolaev, 181.
 Barnaby and Ritchie, “North Korea: Problems, Perceptions and Proposals,” 4.
 Nikolaev, International Negotiations, 183.
 Nikolaev, 195.
 John W Limbert, “Negotiating with the Islamic Republic of Iran,” United States Institute of Peace, n.d., 10, https://www.usip.org/sites/default/files/resources/sr199.pdf. Accessed October 9, 2023.
 Kenneth Pollack, Unthinkable: Iran, the Bomb, and American Strategy, 2nd Print edition (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2013), 136.
 Pollack, 138.
 James R. Holmes, “Lessons of the Korean War for the ‘Six-Party Talks,’” World Affairs 169, no. 1 (2006): 73.
 Carol Morello, “Asian and European Banks Are Still Shunning Iran — and Tehran Blames the U.S.,” Washington Post, April 11, 2023, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/asian-and-european-banks-are-still-shunning-iran–and-tehran-blames-the-us/2016/05/10/82a5a2c4-138e-11e6-8967-7ac733c56f12_story.html. Accessed October 6, 2023.
 Matthew Bunn, “The Iranian Nuclear Deal: Benefits and Risks” (Oak Ridge National Laboratory, April 2, 2015), 6, https://www.belfercenter.org/sites/default/files/legacy/files/irannuclear-deal32015reduced.pdf. Accessed October 7, 2023.
 BBC News, “UK, France and Germany Create Payments System to Trade with Iran,” BBC News, January 31, 2019, sec. Business, https://www.bbc.com/news/business-47072020. Accessed October 9, 2023.
 Ariane Tabatabai and Camille Pease, “The Iranian Nuclear Negotiations,” in How Negotiations End: Negotiating Behavior in the Endgame, ed. I. William Zartman (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2019), 27, https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108567466.002.
 Holmes, “Lessons of the Korean War for the ‘Six-Party Talks,’” 8.
 Nikolaev, International Negotiations, 198–99.
 Nikolaev, 201–2.
 Nikolaev, 189.
 Morello, “Asian and European Banks Are Still Shunning Iran — and Tehran Blames the U.S.”