Tehran, October 14, 2017: An Iranian man reads a copy of the daily newspaper 'Omid Javan' bearing a picture of U.S. President Donald Trump with a headline that reads 'Crazy Trump and logical JCPOA' (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action)

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Tehran, October 14, 2017: An Iranian man reads a copy of the daily newspaper ‘Omid Javan’ bearing a picture of U.S. President Donald Trump with a headline that reads ‘Crazy Trump and logical JCPOA’ (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action)

Trump last week refused to formally certify that Tehran was complying with the terms of a landmark 2015 pact aimed at controlling Iran’s nuclear program, prompting expectations that the U.S. would be leaving the agreement. Two days later, however, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said Washington would remain in the deal “right now.”

Washington is worried that Iran will “become the next North Korea,” Haley said. “They can’t continue to test ballistic missiles, which will lead to a nuclear Iran,” she recently told ABC. Last month, Tehran said it conducted a successful ballistic missile test.

It’s not readily apparent, though, that Iran could reach North Korea’s level of technological prowess anytime soon. The Iran deal aims to prevent the country from generating the capability to break out whereas North Korea already has a robust weapons and missile program, including a potential hydrogen bomb, explained Paul Musgrave, assistant professor, University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

While Pyongyang has shown little inclination to discuss halting its nuclear ambitions thus far, many now fear the current situation will further dissuade leader Kim Jong Un from pursuing a diplomatic path.

In fact, in the face of U.S. wavering on the Iran deal, the expert community working on North Korea issues “is scratching its head,” Stephan Haggard, visiting fellow at the Peterson Institute of International Economics, said in a recent note. “Why would North Korea return to negotiations if the outcome is subject to endless renegotiation?”

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