president's State of the Union address has shaken the leaders in
Baghdad, Teheran, and Pyongyang and the generals in Russia
and China. Not since President Reagan's "evil empire"
speech have words rung so clear in the defense of freedom. And the
dictators and mullahs did not like it the slightest.
U.S. flag there underscores the geostrategic importance of Afghanistan.
From airbases in Bagram and Kandahar, the U.S. air force has control
over Iranian skies and Central Asian steppes alike. This, and its
new bases in Hanabad, Uzbekistan, and Manas, Kyrgyzstan, will enable
the U.S. to make its warnings against countries that support terrorism
flag flies again over our embassy in Kabul. Terrorists who once
occupied Afghanistan now occupy cells at Guantanamo Bay... America
and Afghanistan are now allies against terror. We'll be partners
in rebuilding the country," Bush said, welcoming Hamid Karzai.
The interim prime minister sat in the place of honor, next to First
Lady Laura Bush.
and North Korea were the three "names named" by the president
as future targets of the American war on terror. "Even seven
thousand miles away, across oceans and continents, on mountaintops
and in caves, you will not escape the justice of this nation."
Bush did not
declare war on these states, but warned them: "My hope is that
all nationals will heed our call, and eliminate the terrorist parasites
who threaten their countries and our own." He heaped praise
on Pakistani ruler Pervez Musharraf as a new American ally in the
war on terror.
While the harshest
words and the longest paragraph dealt with Saddam Hussein's Iraq,
the language on Iran was unambiguous: "Iran aggressively pursues...
weapons [of mass destruction] and exports terror, while an unelected
few repress the Iranian people's hope for freedom." Thus, in
one succinct sentence the president addressed the Iranian nuclear
program built around the Russian nuclear-power reactors at Bushehr,
as well as Iran's robust ballistic-missile program. Many experts
in the West suspect the ultimate goal of these projects is the acquiring
of nuclear weapons.
former Iranian president Hashemi Rafsanjani threatened to use nukes
to eradicate Israel. Iranian revolutionary guards and the Iranian-supported
Hezbollah (Party of God) terrorist organization were involved in
smuggling a shipload of weapons to Yasser Arafat's Palestinian Authority.
Teheran expanded its theater of operations from the Bekaa Valley
and Lebanon, where they project power through Hezbollah, to the
suburbs of Tel-Aviv.
Rice, Bush's national-security adviser, echoed the president. On
Wednesday, January 31, she addressed Iran in a speech to C-PAC,
a conservative political umbrella organization. Dr. Rice said that
"Iran's direct support of regional and global terrorism and
its aggressive efforts to acquire weapons of mass destruction belie
any good intentions it displayed in the days after the world's worst
terrorist attacks in history."
Teheran's reaction was quick and angry: Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi
called Bush's speech "arrogant," saying it constituted
"interference in Iran's internal affairs." Iran opened
air ties with Saddam Hussein's Iraq, and increased its intervention
in Afghanistan by starting broadcasts of its (television) Channel
3 from Tajikistan. According to diplomatic sources in Moscow, it
is likely that Iran asked the Kremlin for permission to broadcast,
and that Moscow agreed, knowing full well that such a step could
draw Washington's ire. Russian generals now blame Russian president
Vladimir Putin for "losing" Central Asia a Russian
backyard since its military conquest in the second half of the 19th
Moscow's dilemma: It would like to have the benefits of a partnership
with Washington, but is reluctant to abandon old allies in Teheran.
The Kremlin wants to keep the proverbial caviar sandwich, and eat
Minister Mikhail Kasyanov, speaking to a friendly American audience
at the U.S.-Russia business council dinner on January 31, said that
Russia is interested in increasing its share of the global oil and
gas market. Asked whether such an increase may take a bite out of
the OPEC market share, Kasyanov smiled broadly and said, "We
are interested in stability. Our country is rich in (natural) resources.
We will be happy to share these resources with our friends."
No wonder commentators
in Moscow and Western Europe would later point out that there was
no official reaction to Bush's speech by the Putin administration.
The Primakov-style, anti-American rhetoric of the past has not resurfaced,
despite some of the recent disagreements in U.S.-Russian relations
(including Moscow's unease about the U.S. bases in Central Asia).
in Beijing are also nervous. The U.S. bases in Central Asia will
be used to contain some of China's territorial aspirations, which
had been expressed in the creation of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization
(SCO, or the Shanghai Six) in June 2001, and in the signing of the
bilateral Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation with Russia in July
2001. But since the Afghan war, America has replaced China as the
primary ally of the regimes in Pakistan, Uzbekistan, and other Central
Asian states, and Russia, too, has moved closer to the U.S.
of the United States's new allies in Pakistan, Central Asia, and
elsewhere will matter, however. Their rulers should not delude themselves
that they are being given a blank check for domestic repression.
The campaign against terrorism brings with it revival of Reagan-like
rhetoric in defense of freedom.
Dr. Rice put
it succinctly: "We are committed to a world of... greater democracy
and greater human rights for all the world's people wherever they
live. September 11 makes this commitment more important, not less.
Because... you know that America stands for something real. It stands
for rights that are inalienable and truths that are self-evident.
It stands for compassion and hope."