- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 10, 2002

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.
For some years, the public congressional testimony of the directors of central intelligence and of the Defense Intelligence Agency has identified Iran and Iraq as countries seeking to develop nuclear, chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction and China, Russia and North Korea as the countries providing them with the most help and supplies.
Rather than cooperating to bring about a constructive post-Taliban government in Afghanistan, Iran has for weeks been providing political and military support to various pro-Iranian groups with the intention of establishing a pro-Iranian Islamic, rather than secular, government in Afghanistan. This resulted in a public warning by President Bush on Jan. 10 that if Iran tries "to destabilize the government [of Afghanistan] the coalition will deal with" it.
Because of Russian President Vladimir Putin's strong cooperation in the first phase of the war on terrorism, against the Taliban and al Qaeda, there had been great optimism about a new era in Russian relations with the United States and the West. While there may well be important opportunities to establish better relations, Russia has continued its pre-September 11 policies on a number of issues where it works with China.
For example, despite Iran's visible support for terrorism after September 11, and the fact that it and Iraq continue to develop weapons of mass destruction, China and Russia have continued providing their military and other support. During Secretary of State Colin Powell's November visit to Moscow, Russia ignored his request that Moscow cease helping Iran develop nuclear weapons.
In December 2001, Mr. Putin said publicly that there should be no expansion of the war against terrorism to Iraq. During the recent India-Pakistan military crisis, Russia said and did very little to mediate or to stand by India as China shipped weapons to Pakistan. This suggests that Russia, which has new strategic alliance treaties with both China and with India, gives more importance to its links with China. Then on Jan, 7, 2002, China convened a meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, its new alliance with Russia and four Central Asian countries. The six issued a communique taking the position that any further steps against terrorism required agreement of the United Nations Security Council, where Russia and China have vetoes.
In his recent State of the Union address, speaking about Iran, Iraq and North Korea, President Bush called those regimes an "axis of evil" and said the United States "will not wait for the authors of mass murder to gain the weapons of mass destruction." This important declaration was followed the next day by the release of a congressionally required CIA report that as in recent years again identified China and Russia as the principal countries providing these three regimes with weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles. This poses an important challenge to President Bush as he meets with President Jiang Zemin in China this month and with President Putin in Russia next May. For this administration, an important but still neglected element of the effort to reduce the threat from terrorism is to define and carry out a strategy that can persuade China and Russia to terminate their dangerous weapons of mass destruction exports. Otherwise, the threat from the Axis of Evil regimes will only grow.

Constantine C. Menges, a senior fellow with the Hudson Institute, was special assistant for national security affairs to President Reagan. His forthcoming book is "2007 the Preventable War: The United States and the Strategic Challenge of Russia and China."

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