President Donald Trump’s potential meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has drawn a great deal of attention in Tehran. Iranian media outlets and analysts debate how the historic summit could impact US policy vis-à-vis the Islamic Republic. Many articles, particularly in reformist publications, warn that a possible thaw in Washington-Pyongyang relations would help the Trump administration to pursue a more assertive policy against Tehran.

“It appears that the White House is beginning negotiations with North Korea so that, by addressing one of the two serious challenges it is facing, it can concentrate more on the logistics of the Middle Eastern region rather than North Korea. For America, the Middle East and Iran are far more important that North Korea,” wrote Shafaqna daily. Another article in reformist Shargh daily echoed a similar warning, arguing that any agreement between Washington and Pyongyang will embolden the Trump administration to confront Iran. The article added that Iran will also top the agenda of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman during his upcoming trip to the United States, and urged the Rouhani government to defuse tension with Washington before it is too late. Donya-e Eqtesad also wrote that Trump’s meeting with Kim Jong Un will have implications for the Iran nuclear deal.  

In contrast, an article in Fars News Agency, which is affiliated with the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps, downplayed the significance of Trump’s meeting with the North Korean leader. It said that Trump resorted to diplomacy because Washington has no other viable option to address North Korea’s growing nuclear and missile arsenal.

Comment: Media reports suggest that, if all goes as planned, President Trump will meet the North Korean leader before the end of May. This would be in the wake of the Trump administration’s May 12 deadline for extending the nuclear-related sanctions on Iran. President Trump said in January that he would not continue sanctions waivers unless US Congress and European powers fix the deal’s loopholes. Tehran has so far rejected all of Washington’s demands such as limiting its ballistic missile activity and changing its regional posture.  

On March 10, the Wall Street Journal quoted former and current Western officials as saying that if the meeting with Kim goes ahead, Trump is more likely to terminate the Iran deal. While some analysts warn that killing the Iran deal would discredit the US and discourage Pyongyang to make a similar deal with Washington, others say being firm on fixing the Iran deal will send the right signal to the North Korean leader that Washington does not blink.

Iranian leaders closely watch the latest developments between Washington and Pyongyang, and any potential agreement between the United States and North Korea will also sharpen the debate inside Tehran about how to deal with the heightening tension between the Trump administration and the Islamic Republic.