“Testings on Bikini Atoll commenced within days and U.S. officials ordered families out of their homes to a more distant island. It was the start of a series of tests that would end up spreading nuclear fallout across the region. Within several years, islanders were suffering from thyroid cancers and a slew of other illnesses that researchers quickly determined were linked to nuclear testing. While the U.S. finally ended its nuclear tests in 1958—after detonating 67 bombs that vaporized entire islands and left deep craters in others—horrifying birth defects cropped up for decades.”
“More serious reckoning with that legacy took decades. Under a deal hammered out in the 1980s, the U.S. allowed residents of the Marshall Islands, as well as those of Micronesia and Palau, to relocate to the United States under what’s called the Compact of Free Association. The agreement also promised them access to health coverage through the American safety-net health program Medicaid—a pledge that collapsed a decade later, an incidental casualty of Newt Gingrich and Bill Clinton’s sweeping welfare reform package in 1996, which excluded the islanders from a list of Medicaid-eligible groups.
“I’m not sure whether we’ll ever know whether it was intentional to remove the [island] communities from Medicaid or just something folks missed,””
“the Marshallese who lived through the nuclear tests, which ended in 1958, have largely passed away, with the average life expectancy on the islands reaching only 63 for men and 67 for women. Their children and grandchildren, inheritors of the toxic legacy, have looked for new homes as the islands face old problems like radiation and emerging crises like climate change.
Pockets of islanders have since cropped up in the continental United States, with large populations in Hawaii and Arkansas and smaller circles in places like Oklahoma, Oregon and Dubuque, Iowa. And they bring their illnesses with them.”
“Kim Jong Un didn’t give up his nuclear weapons. Negotiations stalled. North Korea resumed testing with 22 missile launches and counting, including a new submarine-launched missile with a range of about 2,500 km. And North Korea, in December, resumed engine testing at a test facility near Tongchang-ri. Kim ended the year with a speech in which he announced that he would no longer abide by the moratorium on nuclear and missile testing, that North Korea would “shift to shocking actual actions to make [the US] fully pay,” and would soon reveal a “new strategic weapon.”
Yet US officials are still arguing that these threats are little more than bluster and that Kim will soon enough yield to pressure. On January 7, a State Department official asserted that there had been a “significant reduction through the year of North Korean activity, missiles, tests, and all the rest of that stuff” and that “will continue … because the US has taken a solid stand and demonstrated strength and insistence that the agreements be adhered to.”
US officials, of course, said the same thing about Iran. When a State Department official was asked if he thought Iran would retaliate after the assassination of Qassem Soleimani, the official said, “No, I don’t.” When reporters pressed the issue, he said: “I’m just saying that weakness invites more aggression. Timidity will invite more aggression,” and “we’re speaking in a language the regime understands.” That was on January 3. Less than a week later, Iran fired more than a dozen ballistic missiles at US targets in Iraq.
US officials were also skeptical that Iran would respond to Trump withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal, arguing that Tehran would simply agree to a “tougher” deal. Under the agreement reached by President Obama, the world lifted sanctions in exchange for Iran agreeing to limits on its civilian nuclear energy program that would help reassure the world that Tehran was not building a nuclear weapon.
When Trump reimposed those sanctions, Iran responded by abandoning those limits one by one. Iran has not completely abandoned the agreement: It is still allowing the International Atomic Energy Agency to monitor its nuclear programs, remains a non-nuclear member of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, and has offered to return to compliance if the US removes the sanctions again.
But what Iran has not agreed to is the better deal that Trump’s supporters promised was just around the corner.”
“It is remarkable that, across the board, Trump’s strategies of pressure and bullying have resulted in no tangible agreements — no deal with Kim Jong Un, no meeting with Iran’s leaders, and no arms control deals with either the Russians or the Chinese.”
“Washington’s bipartisan military-first approach to foreign affairs broadcasts to bad actors worldwide that U.S. intervention is always at hand and that a nuclear arsenal is the only sure deterrence against it.
North Korea has affirmed this logic explicitly. “History proves that powerful nuclear deterrence serves as the strongest treasure sword for frustrating outsiders’ aggression,” a state-run media editorial declared in January 2016. Neither Iraq’s Saddam Hussein nor Libya’s Moammar Gadhafi, both deposed and killed with U.S. involvement, could “escape the fate of destruction after being deprived of their foundations of nuclear development and giving up undeclared programs of their own accord,” the editorial continued. North Korea’s Kim Jong-un is visibly determined not to follow in their footsteps.
For all its imperfections, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)—better known as the “Iran deal”—presented an opportunity to break this pattern. Unfortunately, that opportunity is gone following Trump’s withdrawal from the agreement in 2018. After the Soleimani strike, Tehran announced its own exit from the plan and, with that, its intent to proceed with nuclear research and development at will.”
“According to Zarif, Iran will continue to allow the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the international nuclear watchdog organization, to review its nuclear research, and would be willing to rejoin the agreement if sanctions against it are removed.”
“Last July, the Iranian government made it clear it planned to stop adhering to some elements of the nuclear deal by stockpiling more low-enriched uranium than the agreement allows.”
“The Iranian government announced it would no longer adhere to limits imposed by the 2015 nuclear deal in the wake of national outrage over the US’s assassination of one of the country’s top officials, Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani”