THREE ROGUE NATIONS: IRAN, IRAQ, AND NORTH KOREA
"States like these [Iran, Iraq, and North Korea], and their terrorist allies, constitute an axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world. By seeking weapons of mass destruction, these regimes pose a grave and growing danger. They could provide these arms to terrorists, giving them the means to match their hatred. They could attack our allies or attempt to blackmail the United States."
President George W. Bush
State of the Union Address
January 29, 2002
President Bush surprised many people both at home and abroad with his bold identification of "three rogue nations" as a threat to world peace. However, since the attacks of September 11, 2001, the Bush White House has been worried that terrorists might get their hands on nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons. So President Bush used his speech to warn these three nations not to help terrorists. National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice backed Bush by saying that the U.S. would "use every tool at our disposal" to dismantle the threat.
The "Rogue Nation" List
Each April, the State Department publishes a list of nations that sponsor terrorism. These nations are called "rogue nations" by the U.S. because they have are believed to support terrorism with money, weapons, and training. Currently on the list are Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Sudan, and Syria. The United States pressures these nations to stop supporting terrorists by cutting them off from money and supplies. Of those on the list, Libya has been mentioned as a candidate for removal. It has not sponsored an act of international terrorism for more than ten years, and it turned over two suspects in the Pan Am 103 bombing in 1988.
The "Axis of Evil"
President Bush chose his words carefully when he called Iran, Iraq, and North Korea the "Axis of Evil," conjuring up associations with the Axis Powers that the United States fought in World War II. However, unlike the axis of Germany, Italy, and Japan, the rogue nations of 2002 are not formally allied with one another. The one area in which the three countries do cooperate is in missiles. North Korea is one of the worlds largest producers of missiles, and U.S. administration officials claim that Iran has financed North Koreas program in exchange for the finished product. There is evidence that Iraq, too, has bought missile equipment from North Korea. But what is the connection between missile production and purchases and terrorism? There, the evidence is not quite as clear.
- Iraq - U.S. suspicions of Iraq center around Saddam Hussein and his attempt to hide large parts of the country's chemical and biological weapons from United Nations inspectors. It is the only country to use chemical weapons in recent history, killing thousands of Iranians and its Kurdish citizens. U.S. officials believe that Iraq was close to building a primitive nuclear weapon before the Gulf War, and they fear that it may be close to having nuclear capability now. Saddam Hussein has given sanctuary to several terrorist groups and is suspected of sponsoring some terrorist attacks.
- Iran - Iran is considered to be an active sponsor of terrorists, perhaps helping senior Taliban and al-Qaeda members escape from Afghanistan. Iran's religious leader, Ayatollah Ali Khomeini, is believed to have sent a boatload of weapons to Palestinian leader Yassar Arafat that aided attacks on Israel. Iran is thought to be less than a decade away from building nuclear weapons.
- North Korea - This rogue nation is accused of harboring old terrorists, but many experts believe that North Korea is no longer actively involved in terrorist movements. North Korea is considered dangerous primarily because of their active production of chemical and biological weapons and missiles. The country has sold missile technology to Iran and Pakistan.
What Will the U.S. Do?
The State of the Union Address was clearly intended to warn the rogue nations, but even top advisers to President Bush apparently do not agree on what the United States might do next. Unless Iran or North Korea take some unexpected action, the U.S. probably won't take further action, but many speculate that Iraq may be a different story. The Pentagon is still developing its options. To invade, the U.S. would need months to organize regional support, including finding a staging area in a neighboring country. For now, Congress has restored funding to the opposition Iraqi National Congress and is looking for other Iraqi dissenters to support.