North Korea vs Iran

Consider this comment that then-CIA Director, soon-to-be secretary of state, Mike Pompeo made last Sunday to Margaret Brennan, host of the CBS News program “Face the Nation.” Pompeo compared the deal Trump hopes to make with North Korea to the bargain Barack Obama and others struck with Iran:


“Most importantly the conditions are very different. The previous administration was negotiating from a position of weakness. This administration will be negotiating from a position of enormous strength with sanctions that are unrivaled against the North Korean regime.”

Many Americans think of these two countries simply as “rogue states,” the surviving two-thirds of George W. Bush’s “axis of evil,” but there are big differences between Iran and North Korea. In fact, Pompeo’s comparison between them isn’t one Trump should want us to make, because North Korea will be a much tougher problem to crack than Iran was — for any president. Why?

  • North Korea already has nuclear weapons. Iran doesn’t.
  • North Korea has enough military power without nuclear weapons to kill millions inside the borders of US allies. Iran doesn’t.
  • Kim likes isolation. His regime’s survival depends on his ability to isolate 25 million North Koreans from the rest of the world. Iran can’t afford isolation, because its long-term stability depends on the ability of Iran’s economy to deliver improved standards of living to the country’s 80 million citizens. That makes Iran much more vulnerable to sanctions than North Korea, because isolation chokes economic growth.
  • Kim will be watching how Trump handles the Iran deal. If Trump shreds it — or keeps threatening to do so — Kim will have reason to doubt he can ever commit to any agreement that Trump, or a future US president, might tear up.

On the latest episode of Bank of America's That Made All the Difference podcast, Ken Burns explores the opportunity to come out of this moment as better versions of ourselves — and reveals whether a film about this year is in the cards.

Listen to the new episode here.

The twin explosions at Beirut's port on Tuesday were so powerful that the aftershocks reverberated as far as the Eastern Mediterranean island of Cyprus, 150 miles away. The specter of fire and smoke was such that many suggested on social media that Beirut had experienced a nuclear blast.

In the days ahead, more details will come to light about why a deadly cache of materials was haphazardly stashed at a port warehouse, and why Lebanon's government failed to secure the site. So, what comes next for crisis-ridden Lebanon?

More Show less

Former Spanish King Juan Carlos I's decision to leave the country after being investigated for corruption has reignited the debate over the future of the monarchy in Spain. Opinions are divided between mostly older Spaniards who defend the institution's role as a symbol of national unity, and the younger generations and nationalist regions who want Spain to become a republic. More than three quarters of the world's countries are now republics, but 44 still have a king or queen as their head of state — among them the 16 Commonwealth countries officially ruled by British Queen Elizabeth II and 5 countries where the sovereign is all-powerful. We take a look at which countries remain monarchies today, and those that sent their royals packing in the post-World War II waves of decolonization and republicanism.

Modi riles up his base: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday set the first stone for a new Hindu temple to be built over the remains of a Mughal-era mosque in Uttar Pradesh state. The site, in the town of Ayodhya, has been disputed for decades by Hindus and Muslims, but the Supreme Court last November ruled, based on archeological findings, that construction of the temple could begin. The ruling dismayed many of India's 180 million Muslims, who worry that Modi — who was accompanied at the ceremony by Mohan Bhagwat, an ultranationalist Hindu activist whose followers helped to destroy the old mosque amid a wave of sectarian violence in 1992 — wants to replace India's secular foundations with his more explicitly Hindu vision of the country's identity. Although months ago Modi saw sizable protests over a controversial new citizenship law that discriminated against Muslims, he has so far proven to be extremely resilient and remains widely popular in India.

More Show less

280 million: Democratic candidate Joe Biden plans to spend $280 million on campaign ads in his battle against US President Donald Trump. Although Trump trails the former vice president by 7 points in an average of national polls, the incumbent has set aside less than half that amount for ads of his own.

More Show less