Extending the Line of Communication

Dahlia Rizk

Remember reading about the Korean War in your high school history class? Most textbooks and historians date the war from 1950-1953. But it now appears that war isn’t over yet. In a press conference with South Korean president Roh Moo-hyun last weekend, President Bush declared that he would finally “end the war” with North Korea once they have fully renounced their weapons capabilities in a verifiable manner.

The announcement made by Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill that North Korea would open its nuclear facilities for international inspection came as a monumental step in the right direction in solving the decades-old nuclear crisis in the Communist regime, and only a week after top United States and North Korean negotiators met face to face in Geneva.

So what made the Bush administration want to negotiate with one of the members of the ‘axis of evil’? Perhaps there were signals that the Communist regime was finally caving in, growing weaker and losing all support from the international community. But more importantly, maybe the Bush administration realized that direct confrontation was the best way to bring about a resolution that was efficient, conducive to both sides, and to use Bush’s term, ‘verifiable’. With just U.N. sanctions in place, the same results could take at least ten years down the road, ceteris paribus.

This development makes me wonder how likely the U.S. is to talk to another threatening member of the axis of evil, Iran. In recent international conferences regarding Iraq, U.S. and Iranian leaders have avoided each other at best, and thrown diplomatic slander at each other at worst. Now Iran continues to threaten the world order by continuing to develop its nuclear program, even proclaiming that its nuclear facilities should be fully capacitated in just two years.

The Bush administration has been taking a hard-line, no-negotiation policy ever since Iran began its program, and Iran has been growing in nuclear strength ever since. The more weapons it acquires, the more it gains in negotiating power. Even if the Bush administration wanted to talk now, it will prove more difficult than say, three years ago. Putting two and two together, this trend is likely to continue unless the U.S. changes its policy, and realizes that avoiding Iran is by no means punishing it.

Iran is also no North Korea. It is an oil-rich nation that borders Afghanistan, which is headed by a weak regime and seems to be once again slipping into the hands of the Taliban and Iraq, where it is believed to be supporting terror operations and foiling U.S. progress in the region. North Korea is an impoverished nation with no resources to speak of, and is contained in the south by South Korea, a major U.S. ally, and China, a reluctant U.S. ally that has bigger ambitions than siding with a dysfunctional state that doesn’t have too much to offer.

We’ve found that the line of communication can extend from Washington, across the Pacific Ocean, and into Pyongyang. So too, could it, and should it, go in the other direction, across the Atlantic, past the Arabian Peninsula, and into Tehran.