Arms Threats Now on Three Fronts ; as the US Readies a Reply to Iraq's Weapons Report, Concern Also Shifts to Growing Nuclear Threats in Iran and North Korea

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Every nation on President Bush's "axis of evil" list is now challenging the United States on the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

Thus at a time when it wishes to focus on Saddam Hussein, the administration is having to conduct something approaching a three- front diplomatic antiproliferation war.

From Iraq to North Korea to Iran, each "axis" nation presents a different kind of problem. Each will require a different prevention approach.

The White House is likely to take a hard line with Iraq, a mixed threats-and-blandishments tack with North Korea, and a softer political stance with Iran.

Whatever their success, the world may have reached a crucial point in its decades-long effort to keep the genie of WMD capped in its bottle. "Things are becoming more tense all around and we may not have a choice to concentrate on Iraq exclusively.... That really does stretch everybody but nevertheless, that is the way the world is playing it out," said Sen. Richard Lugar (R) of Indiana, incoming chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, at a recent Monitor breakfast.

Some experts worry that the unfolding of a series of slow-motion crises could cause the US to lose focus on the war against terrorism. The US military is no longer large enough to fight two regional wars at one time, they say. The time of senior officials only stretches so far.

But Yale historian John Lewis Gaddis, writing in the current issue of the journal Foreign Policy, says that many successful strategies have violated the one-adversary-at-a-time rule. The US successfully fought both Germany and Japan in World War II, for instance. The cold war involved militarily deterring the Soviet Union while building up the economies and confidence of Western Europe and Japan.

In these instances the fronts were different, but the enemy was the same, writes Mr. Gaddis: authoritarianism and the conditions that produced it.

"The Bush administration sees its war against terrorism and tyrants in much the same war," according to Gaddis.

On its primary worry, Iraq, the administration this week appeared to be consolidating its evidence for a final push to convince the UN Security Council that Mr. Hussein's massive arms declaration isn't worth the paper it is printed on.

There are reports that the US will send the UN a detailed report, complete with rebutting intelligence, as early as tomorrow. While officials won't confirm this publicly, they have begun speaking out about the declaration in more forceful terms. …


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