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THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 8, 2005
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EDITORIAL

Iraq WMD case emboldens Iran and North Korea

Like the boy who cried wolf, the United States has developed a credibility problem with the rest of the world.

It does not really matter whether President Bush, Vice President Cheney and then-Secretary of State Colin Powell intentionally misled the United Nations, the American people and the rest of the world when they firmly and publicly insisted in 2002 and 2003 that Saddam Hussein had an active weapons of mass destruction development program, or if they were instead persuaded by faulty intelligence. The damage has been done and this country — yes, even the rest of the world — will feel the repercussions for years to come.

Two contemporary cases in point are, not coincidentally, the remaining two axes of evil — Iran and North Korea.

Both are now stepping up their nuclear programs in public, almost defiant, ways. Iran insists its uranium procurement and enrichment program is for peaceful, energy-generating purposes. North Korea is bolder, with Pyongyang reportedly admitting to secretly developing nuclear weapons in violation of a 1994 agreement with the United States.

The European Union is understandably concerned about Tehran's intentions, and has threatened to refer Iran to the United Nations Security Council for possible sanctions. Similarly, Japan, South Korea and China all have a keen interest on Pyongyang's intentions and have pushed for progress in the six-nation talks that also include the United States and Russia.

While the Bush administration continues to demand the renegade countries halt their respective programs, erroneous U.S. assurances about Iraq three years ago have severely hampered its credibility with the rest of the world in general and its negotiating positions with Tehran and Pyongyang in particular.

Iran and North Korea are well aware of the U.S. credibility issue and have been emboldened to step up their respective programs.

That is a frightening and dangerous repercussion of the U.S. intelligence/diplomacy failure in Iraq three years ago.

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