By Ambreen Shabbir
One down, two to go! It has been more than a decade now since the former US President, Bush Jr. used the term, ‘axis of evil’ to describe ‘rogue states,’ i.e., Iraq, Iran, and North Korea at the 2002 State of the Union Address and vowed to take action against them. These states proved to be a huge threat to world peace, he had assessed. According to him, a preemptive strike was the only option for the US in response to the threat posed by these states. Now that 15 years have passed since the US commenced its war on terror, but the world, especially the US, is still entangled in the impasse it was in years ago. After investing too much in this war, has the goal been achieved yet?
Have the ‘rogue states’ become the ‘good guys’ yet? Facts tell that they have not. The perceived threat to the world peace that the US is concerned for persists. It can be considered that Iraq is done now as there was a military operation there. But, the ISIS presence of ISIS in Iraq has led to the creation of another different and complicated problem. On a positive note, the country has stayed resilient to the threat of ISIS. A chunk of the country is under ISIS control, but the government along with the US forces is fighting to get the land back.
Nevertheless, the axis of evil was about the states that are engaged in sponsoring terrorism and building weapons of mass destruction endangering the world peace. These states were Iran, Iraq and North Korea. As mentioned earlier, a war was commenced to tackle one state, Iraq but it spawned another challenge to world peace, only bigger. So, let’s talk about the other two.
The Age Old Iranian Dilemma! As for Iran, the situation had been much alleviated ever since the Iran Nuclear deal turned up but under the new regime in the US, it is being reconsidered. President Trump has left a little doubt now that he would decline to certify that Iran is complying with the direct obligations under the agreement. He is required to do so after every six months to get the deal going. So, the deal seems to be dangling in the midair. Now, after the missile tests conducted by Iran, to expect a détente seems like a big foolery.
The economic sanctions lifted as a result of the deal can be levied again after this situation. It is worth mentioning here that the decertification alone would not mean the abrogation of the agreement; the US president has suggested abrogating the agreement for many times, nonetheless. The precarious situation in the context of the deal and the missile tests would cause the US to be entwined in the same old problem that it has been facing since 1979.
So, what are the policy options for US regarding Iran? The recent policy of containment by imposing sanctions and isolating Iran is not proving fruitful and the other options, i.e., use of force and détente are also not practical.
The use of force implies here to get the back of dissident elements who would overthrow the theocratic government. For this, the Iranian society is not ripe as there is no dissident group strong enough to fight the government. Also, the populace would not be supportive of a forced regime change because Iranians do not see their government as a problem; they did not consider it an issue even at the peak of the international sanctions. Also, détente cannot be even considered as an option with the Trump administration being stringent towards Iran and Iran enhancing its missile system further. However, things can me much better if both sides decide to talk. Iran pledged to stall its development of nuclear capabilities once; it can do that again if it is promised something that it wants, i.e., economic rapprochement. The US is in a position to do that, and it would be much better than hurling threats.
Coming to the North Korean crisis, the predicament is also real and is becoming grave with every passing day. The country has been enhancing its nuke capabilities all this time. It has developed missile programs and has claimed to have conducted hydrogen bomb test becoming its 6th nuclear test. Not only the country has been making such claims but also has been threatening to use its weapons. The US has responded to these threats with saying that North Korea is begging for war. These fiery exchanges are not the only thing to worry. Both countries are practically flaunting their power.
The situation is leading the world to nuclear Armageddon. Part of the axis of evil or not, North Korea has a reputation for unpredictability and an unpredictable nuclear state is no friends with world peace. This is the most pressing issue that needs to be dealt with on urgent basis. Retaliating to the threats by the US, the way it is being done is no help in keeping the mushroom cloud at bay. A pragmatic, as well as a balanced narrative, is something needed high time here.
But the first thing that needs to be done: TALKS. It would give an idea at least, for what North Korea wants. It can open doors for settlement of the issue. Economic prosperity is something North Korea has forgotten the meaning of and this can be offered in turn for acting sanely. However, there still would be a risk of violation as Pyongyang has no good reputation regarding this. But, this move can at least push away the looming mushroom cloud a bit farther.
Ambreen Shabbir is a graduate of International Relations from Quaid-i-Azam University, she can be reached at <firstname.lastname@example.org