Think tank: Iraq diverted U.S. from major strategic threats

Thursday, May 27, 2004

LONDON The United States has become preoccupied with the ongoing insurgency in Iraq, the The International Institute for Stategic Studies said.

As a result, the Bush administration is deeply divided over a strategy to contain the weapons of mass destruction arsenals of Iran and North Korea, the leading think tank concluded in an analysis..

Therefore, the report continued, the Bush administration has relayed considerable responsibility for efforts to curb Iranian and North Korean WMD to other countries. The IISS said Washington gave the European Union responsibility to negotiate with Iran while China was asked to deal with Pyongyang, Middle East Newsline reported.

"Washington's leverage over both Teheran and Pyongyang has eroded, as the U.S. found itself preoccupied with an increasingly desperate situation in Iraq and as the Bush administration remained deeply divided over policies towards Iran and North Korea," the institute said.

"As a result, the U.S. ceded diplomatic initiative to third parties: to China in the case of North Korea and to Europe in the case of Iran."

The institute, in an analysis for its 2003/2004 strategic survey, said neither Iran nor North Korea has chosen to follow the Libyan example in abandoning WMD, termed a "brilliant" achievement for British diplomacy.

The IISS said that since October 2003 when Iran reached agreement with Britain, France and Germany to accept a more rigorous international inspections regime Iran has refused to suspend its nuclear fuel cycle program.

"Instead, Teheran appears to be taking a harder line, perhaps believing that the U.S. is sidelined by Iraq and the presidential elections and that the Europeans are reluctant to press for sanctions in the Security Council," the institute said.

"For now, the challenge for the EU-3 is whether they can deter Iran from resuming work on its enrichment plant while the IAEA continues efforts to verify Irans nuclear declarations. Also unclear is whether the U.S. will eventually enter into nuclear negotiations with Iran, as it has done with Libya and North Korea."

Copyright 2004 East West Services, Inc.

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