WASHINGTON April 14 —
The rapid collapse of Saddam Hussein's government may have served
as a reality check for the remaining states in President Bush's
"axis of evil," Iran and North Korea.
North Korea now says multilateral talks about its nuclear program
which the United States wants are not a bad idea after all. Iran's
former president, long allied with Islamic hardliners against the
"Great Satan" America, is advocating a referendum on renewing ties
with the United States.
Other countries, too, are feeling the heat.
Syria found itself Monday on the receiving end of stern warnings
against allowing Iraqi leaders to slip across its borders. Secretary
of State Colin Powell said Bashar Assad's government must
"understand its obligations in this new environment," and British
Foreign Minister Jack Straw was blunt as well:
"It is very important for Syria to appreciate that there is a new
reality now that the Saddam regime is gone."
In Israel, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon noted that the war in Iraq
could lead to new opportunities for peace talks there. Sharon's
national security adviser, Ephraim Halevy, said Monday in Washington
that even though Arab leaders might react negatively if "a puppet
regime" is installed in Baghdad, they also have shown greater
willingness over the past year to pursue new paths to peace.
"Saddam's fall and the American military operation's great
success has had a real sobering effect on the Middle East. It's a
wake-up call," said Scott Lasensky, Mideast expert at the Council on
Specifically, Iran and Syria are watching to see if Saddam's
government folded under the sheer force of Bush's pre-emptive strike
doctrine or through a confluence of factors, including some from
within such as a history of aggression, a secret arsenal of weapons
and a support of terrorist activity, Lasensky said.
"If it's in fact a doctrine-driven war, that's even more sobering
for these regimes," Lasensky said. "What the administration should
do is talk more about the exceptional side of this war. Let the
impression of Saddam's defeat sit with these leaders."
Powell indicated Monday that the United States just may do that.
Holding up Syria as an example, he called on all nations in the
region to "review their past practices and behavior" in light of the
dramatic change under way in Iraq.
Iran's former president, Hashemi Rafsanjani, suggested over the
weekend that Iran either hold a referendum or seek a decision from
the Expediency Council advisory panel on restoring ties to the
Danielle Pletka, a Mideast expert at the American Enterprise
Institute, said Assad and Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali
Khamenei, have simply realized the political dynamic in the region
"Leaders that are smart enough to make a rational calculation
about that, I think, have more likelihood of surviving into the
future than those who will not face up to a different world," she
said. "The Middle East is replete with leaders who have not had the
best interests of their people at heart. They should look at the
Iraqi people and worry."
Or, as in North Korea's case, at the war's outcome. According to
South Korea's chief security adviser, the North Korean government
realized that with Iraq neutralized, there was no tactical advantage
in continuing to resist global pressure for inspections of weapons
"This war on Iraq seems to have become a significant opportunity
in deciding the landscape of international politics," Ra Jong-il,
the South Korean adviser, said.
Still, Lasensky said, the Bush administration still must not
leave any of these nations with the impression they could be the
United States' next target.
"If the administration remains captive to their own doctrinal
declarations, and they take America down a path of confrontation
with other states that are not posing a clear and direct threat to
the U.S., they may stumble," Lasensky said. "The right lessons are
that sometimes, the U.S. has to act alone, but that should be the
exception to the rule and not the norm."
|Masoud Barzani, the leader of
Kurdistan Democratic Party, KDP, leaves after an interview at
his headquarter in Salahuddin, northern Iraq, about 20
kilometers (13 miles) north of Irbil, Monday April 14, 2003.
(AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)|
Copyright 2003 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This
material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or