China, Russia, Iran and Our Next Move
Byline: Constantine C. Menges
China, Russia and Iran shared with the United States a direct interest in the defeat of the Taliban regime and the al Qaeda network that trained armed groups attacking them. However, following the initial U.S. success in Afghanistan, these three countries will pose challenges to the next steps needed to defeat terrorism.
For years China has courted Pakistan as a means of intimidating India. Along with state visits and investments, China provided Pakistan the means to produce ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons. The recently renewed relationship of Pakistan with the United States, including the end of U.S. sanctions and the nearly $1 billion in U.S. aid, might have loosened China-Pakistan links. But the Dec. 13, 2001, terrorist attack on the Parliament of India by Pakistan-based groups and the subsequent military mobilization by both countries provided China with an opportunity to strengthen further its political-military ties with Pakistan.
While the U.S. called on both India and Pakistan to show restraint and urged Pakistan to act against terrorist organizations, China twice invited Gen. Pervez Musharraf to visit. According to Pakistan, at their Dec. 20-24 summit meeting, China promised support "in all eventualities," meaning war with India, and China declared Pakistan had its "everlasting support."
China also increased the risk of an India-Pakistan war by using cargo aircraft, ships and the Karakorum highway in December to immediately provide Pakistan with components for its nuclear weapons and delivery systems, as well as with new Chinese jet fighter aircraft and other military supplies.
Most likely, the Chinese prime minister's Jan. 13-15 visit to India also included reminders of China's support for Pakistan.
The radical Islamic regime in Iran also has close ties with China. Since the 1980s, China and its partner, North Korea, have sold Iran ballistic missiles and components for chemical and other weapons of mass destruction. Since the 1990s, Russia has also permitted many Russian experts to work in Iran helping to build longer-range ballistic missiles and has provided Iran with nuclear assistance, which both the Clinton and Bush administrations said is aiding Iran's efforts to develop its own nuclear weapons.
The Rumsfeld Commission predicted in 1998 that Iran could have an intercontinental range ballistic missile able to reach the U.S. "within five years." Informed experts believe Iran could have its own nuclear weapons within two years; if so Iran might then be in a position to launch or threaten a nuclear attack directly against the United States as well as Israel.
In December 2001, a senior Iranian cleric publicly threatened to "totally destroy" Israel when Iran has its own nuclear weapons.
The latest annual U.S. Department of State report identifies Iran as "the most active" state supporter of terrorism. Starting in the early 1980s, Iran has provided training, weapons and other aid for Hezbollah and Hamas, Palestinian terrorist organizations attacking Israel. This continuing Iranian indirect war of terrorism against Israel was again revealed only recently when Israel captured 50 tons of weapons and explosives on a freighter, the Karine A. Its Palestinian captain admitted that the Palestinian Authority had obtained the weapons from Iran, and many of the weapons containers bore Iranian markings.
These terrorist supplies included about 3,000 pounds of C-4 explosives, which could be used by suicide bombers against civilians.
A U.S. intelligence report released on Jan. 9 concludes that China will more than triple its force of intercontinental ballistic missile in coming years and that both Iran and Iraq are moving actively toward developing intercontinental-range missiles with help from China and North Korea. …