Donald Trump Needs 'Similar' North Korean Diplomacy With Iran, Says Expert Praised by President

President Donald Trump should avoid a military confrontation with Iran and embrace diplomacy not unlike he has done with North Korea, according to an expert recently praised by the U.S. leader.

In a tweet Monday, Trump cited an op-ed published a day earlier by Fox News, where the Center for the National Interest's Senior Director of Korean Studies Harry J. Kazianis argued: "In my opinion the President has done more good on the Korean issue in the last year and a half than President Obama did in eight years. If you look at the strides they made during the Obama years, which advocated strategic patience-they stuck their head in the sand."

"Thank you!" Trump tweeted after quoting the above passage, followed by a shout out for the analyst.

Speaking to Newsweek shortly after, Kazianis offered some further advice on how the president should handle Iran, where mounting tensions came close to igniting military action earlier this month. The expert advised that Trump should adopt a policy that was "similar" to North Korea, "but with a twist."

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North Korean supreme leader Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump walk inside the demilitarized zone (DMZ) separating South and North Korea, June 30, in Panmunjom, South Korea. After heated tensions in 2017, Kim and Trump came together in hopes of peace, but U.S. ties with Iran only worsened. Dong-A Ilbo/AFO/Getty Images

Trump made history on Sunday by becoming the first sitting U.S. president to enter North Korea, accompanied by supreme leader Kim Jong Un on the other side of the heavily-fortified demilitarized zone that separates the two Koreas, still technically at war. As nuclear negotiations between the two sides stalled, the two appeared to remain friendly during their third face-to-face encounter, but there was a time not so long ago when they were threatening one another with nuclear destruction.

Trump and Kim turned a new leaf in early 2018 and prepared for an unprecedented meeting, just as the White House backed out of another landmark nuclear-related commitment. Last May, Trump announced he was pulling the U.S. out of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and would begin reimposing sanctions despite Tehran's compliance with the agreement and lasting support for the accord from fellow signatories China, the European Union, France, Germany, Russia and the United Kingdom.

Beijing and Moscow have already dismissed Washington's restrictions and the European parties announced Friday that a special trade vehicle designed to avoid U.S. sanctions had been launched. Tehran welcomed the move but said it was "not enough" to stop it from exceeding the embattled nuclear deal's uranium enrichment levels.

"The challenge for Trump is he inherited a flawed nuclear agreement," Kazianis told Newsweek. "While it did keep Iran's nuclear aspirations in a box for 15 years, nothing stopped them after the deal ended. Also, Iran has no restrictions on building advanced missiles. Tehran could always build long-range missiles and then mate them to a warhead later on."

He added: "The president made in my view the best choice among many bad choices. In killing the deal. Now he needs to use sanctions and pressure to try and forge ahead a new deal—and that won't be easy."

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Abbas Araghchi (2ndR), political deputy at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Iran, and Helga Schmid (2ndL), Secretary General of the European Union's External Action Service (EEAS), take part in a meeting of the Iran nuclear deal's joint commission attended by the E3 2 (China, France, Germany, Russia, United Kingdom) and Iran on June 28 at the Palais Coburg in Vienna, Austria. The group announced that a special trade channel has been opened to allow limited dealings between Europe and the Islamic Republic. ALEX HALADA/AFP/Getty Images

As the Trump administration upscaled its "maximum pressure" campaign, led largely by Iran hawks in the form of White House national security adviser John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, tensions in the Middle East have reached a boiling point. The U.S. has blamed recent attacks against oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman on Iran and, in response to the Revolutionary Guards' downing of a U.S. spy drone that they claim breached Iranian airspace—something disputed by the Pentagon—Trump ordered airstrikes against military sites in the Islamic Republic, only to suspend the order at the last minute.

The president later said he felt the estimated 150 Iranian casualties from such an attack would not be "proportionate" to the downing of an unmanned device, though he increased sanctions and warned of potential force in response to future incidents.

Asked if he supported such strikes against Iran, Kazianis told Newsweek, "Absolutely not. I am completely against the kind of regime change wars that have nearly bankrupted our nation. We should do all we can to try and persuade Iran peacefully. A war with Tehran could cost countless lives and trillions of dollars."

Kazianis has offered similar cautions against prospects of a conflict with nuclear-armed North Korea, which he recently estimated had "enough fissile material for as many as 65 warheads" in a conversation with Vox. He told Newsweek "that Trump needs to put denuclearization at the end of a long process that seeks to engage with Pyongyang and transform the relationship," still marred by the 1950s conflict in which the U.S. and its allies backed South Korea against North Korea and its Sino-Soviet partners.

"That means first ending the Korean War, the opening of liaison offices and more," Kazianis told Newsweek. "Once we do that, once we show that we can have a working relationship based on trust then we tackle the hardest issue of denuclearization. That must come at the end. If we think more about changing the relationship than obsessing about nukes. If we do that then we can actually achieve something historic."

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White House national security adviser John Bolton (L) and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (R) listen as President Donald Trump speaks in the Oval Office February 7 in Washington. The two men were driving forces behind Trump's "maximum pressure" approaches to both Iran and North Korea. Win McNamee/Getty Images

The U.S. and Iran have a simiarly long-troubled past, marked by the 1979 Islamic Revolution that overthrew a monarchy reinstalled in 1953 as part of a CIA-orchestrated coup. The four decades since have seen varying degrees of hostility between Washington and Tehran, but the two managed to come together to sign the nuclear deal that Defense Priorities think tank fellow Daniel DePetris told Newsweek was "likely finished, even if the Europeans are trying to scramble for ways to save it."

"More important in my mind is the administration's broader maximum-pressure policy, which has failed to result in Iran changing its behavior or coming back to the table for a better deal," DePetris said. "Realists have predicted from Day 1 how Iran would respond to Washington pushing them in a corner, and it wouldn't be through capitulation but rather more bellicosity and confrontation. We are seeing this play out as we speak. Realists have gotten it right all along."

DePetris argued that Iran is "not a direct national security threat to the U.S. as "it can't compete with us economically, geopolitically, or militarily" and was "best left for the region to handle, which it's more than capable of doing." On both North Korea and Iran, he said "maximum pressure is failing to accomplish the objectives its proponents have laid out" and "Trump needs to close his ears to people like John Bolton and Mike Pompeo and start listening to those counseling a pragmatic approach."