Peter Wehner

1. The Time article asserts that our actions in Iraq have "emboldened" the rulers in Tehran and Pyongyang to obtain nuclear weapons. The implication is that North Korea and Iran would have taken a different path if the Iraq war had never happened.

This argument is contradicted by history. In 2003, the IAEA reported that "Iran has now acknowledged that it has been developing, for 18 years, a uranium centrifuge program, and, for 12 years, a laser enrichment program." In other words, Iran's secret nuclear weapons program predated the war in Iraq by nearly two decades. The IAEA also reported that Iran had produced small amounts of plutonium, generally only associated with nuclear weapons programs, between 1988 and 1992. The programs were secret and only came to light after the uranium enrichment program was exposed by an Iranian opposition group in 2002.

On October 17, 2002, The Washington Post reported "The North Korean government has acknowledged for the first time that it has been secretly developing nuclear weapons for years in violation of international agreements." In December 2002, North Korea expelled IAEA inspectors, removed UN monitoring equipment, and announced that it would restart work at its nuclear reactors and reopen a plutonium processing facility. In January of 2003, North Korea announced that it was quitting the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. In February 2003, North Korea restarted a reactor at its primary nuclear complex.

All of these provocations occurred prior to a shot being fired in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

2. According to Time, the evidence that the Bush Administration is seeing a "strategic makeover" is that the President is now, at long last, "join[ing] multilateral negotiations aimed at defusing the standoffs with North Korea and Iran."

In fact, the United States, China, and North Korea held trilateral talks in Beijing in April 2003 and have had a six-party talks framework in place ever since the summer of 2003. Senator Kerry even campaigned against President Bush in 2004 on the charge that this Administration was excessively multilateralist in its approach to North Korea.

With respect to Iran, it is true the United States agreed to join the EU-3 at the negotiating table earlier this year - but we have been providing coordination, input, and support for the last several years. Throughout the campaign, Senator Kerry once again made the charge that the Bush Administration was relying too much on multilateralism.

The notion that multilateral negotiations is something new with respect to North Korea and Iran is simply false.


Peter Wehner

Peter Wehner, former deputy director to the President, is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

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