- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 29, 2002

For months now, President Bush has been making clear his view that nations around the world had a choice to make. Either they would be with us or with the terrorists. Some believed, or at least hoped, that this was empty rhetoric. If that perception is not to be proven correct with potentially debilitating repercussions for Mr. Bush's credibility and U.S. security interests in the years ahead those who are now showing themselves to be against, rather than with, us must be held to account.

Topping the list, of course, are the three veto-wielding nations that have long supported Saddam Hussein in the U.N. Security Council, and who are doing so now. France, Russia and China appear determined to block the adoption of a new resolution that would enable the United States to move without delay to compel Iraq's disarmament when (not if) Saddam once again thwarts U.N. inspectors. Unless actually forced to choose, each would prefer to maintain cordial diplomatic and lucrative trade relations with the United States, while preserving a valued client in Baghdad.

It could be that these fair-weather (if not actually false) friends have been encouraged in their intransigence by State Department interlocutors many of whom appear to share Franco-Russian-Chinese hostility to the Bush goal of regime change in Iraq to believe that the president will accede to efforts to dumb-down the U.S.-drafted resolution.

They clearly fancy a diplomatic endgame that will have the chief U.N. sleuth, Hans Blix, going through the motions of inspection over at least the next six-months.

Officials in Paris, Moscow and Beijing well know that if such delay would not completely foreclose U.S. military action, it would certainly defer it until late next year. They may even succeed at last in their efforts to terminate sanctions on Iraq once it is certified (however unjustifiably) to be free of weapons of mass destruction. It is a safe bet that, as soon as sanctions are gone, they will be among the foreign suppliers willing to provide Saddam whatever additional lethal technology and weaponry he desires.

There is a similar risk that Russia and China and even more reliable "friends" like South Korea and Japan may perceive Mr. Bush's temperate stance toward North Korea's nuclear weapons program as an invitation to try to have it both ways: Suffering no costs in their relationship with us even as they continue to prop up and reward the malfeasance of one of the planet's most dangerous regimes.

Then there is the emerging danger emanating from our own hemisphere.

The election this weekend of a radical socialist as president of Brazil may further catalyze trends with the potential to transform a region we have generally taken for granted as comprised almost entirely of democratic friends of the United States into one hostile toward us and hospitable to our international terrorist foes.

A warning about this dangerous prospect was communicated last week to Mr. Bush by one of the most distinguished and respected members of the House of Representatives and chairman of its International Relations Committee, Rep. Henry J. Hyde, Illinois Republican. In particular, Mr. Hyde called attention to what he called a possible "axis of evil in the Americas" forged by Cuba's Fidel Castro, Venezuela's Hugo Chavez and Brazil's Lula da Siva.

Of particular concern is the possibility that the enthusiasm "Lula" has declared for resuscitating Brazil's long-dormant nuclear program could put atomic weapons and ballistic missiles into the hands of this axis and its unsavory friends (for example, Mr. Chavez has established close ties with virtually every terrorist-sponsoring regime and several terrorist organizations, notably the IRA and Colombia's FARC.

Mr. Hyde points out that the United States can begin to counter this metastasizing danger by working with those who are against Mr. Chavez, and with us, in the Venezuelan opposition.

Among the other nations who are making known where they stand are Egypt and Saudi Arabia. The true colors of the former are on display as Egyptian state-controlled television broadcasts nightly during Ramadan 41 segments of a series loosely based on the Russian libel known as the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion." Such incitement to hatred of and violence against our ally, Israel, is incompatible with being a true friend of the United States to say nothing of the enjoying the status of peacemaker and "moderate Arab state" that garners for Egypt billions each year in U.S. tax dollars and advanced weapons.

Saudi Arabia's alignment with U.S. enemies extends far beyond the anti-U.S. and anti-Western propaganda that is also ceaselessly disseminated by the kingdom's government-run media. In fact, for some 50 years, Saudi official circles, royal family and what passes for private-sector institutions have been expending untold sums to promote the state religion a virulently intolerant strain of Islam known as Wahhabism. Washington has long ignored the individual and cumulative effects of such spending on Wahhabi proselytizing, recruiting, indoctrination, training and equipping of adherents who embrace the sect's injunction to convert or kill infidels.

In the wake of terrorism made possible or at least abetted at home and abroad by such Saudi-connected activities, the United States can no longer afford to turn a blind eye to this profoundly unfriendly behavior.

That is particularly true insofar as there is reason to believe that Wahhabi enterprises are giving rise to perhaps the most insidious enemy of all: an Islamist Fifth Column operating within this country.

Fortunately, the United States does have friends, nations that are genuinely "with us" in the war on terror. They include Britain, Israel, Australia, India and Turkey. Each shares, at a fundamental level, our values. Like us, all are, to varying degrees, under assault from terrorist enemies. Like the United States, all face domestic pressure to accommodate rather than confront it.

Still, such nations constitute the core of a coalition of the willing that Mr. Bush has resolved to mobilize to address the threats posed by terrorists like Saddam and his friends. The time has come to do so and, in the process, to make clear who is truly with us and who is prepared, instead, to be with our enemies.

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