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Analysis: U.S. Pivots on the Axis

Council on Foreign Relations

March 1, 2007
Prepared by: Michael Moran

Back in 2002, shortly after George W. Bush coined the term “Axis of Evil” in his state of the union message, a hue and cry went up from some quarters about the wisdom of lighting so many new fires while the one being fought by U.S. troops in Afghanistan still burned so bright. Lawrence J. Korb, a former Reagan defense official who was then CFR's director of studies, argued “by broadening the objectives of the conflict to ‘rooting out evil’ in the world, Bush risks undermining his original goal and has taken on a war no nation can win.”

Many foreign policy experts on both sides of the American political fray long ago concluded the quarantine imposed on diplomatic contacts with nations Washington viewed as “rogues” had become counterproductive. In the past month, however, the opening of new, groundbreaking contacts with members of the infamous “Axis”—Iraq, Iran, North Korea—look like a climb down (Telegraph) to some, and not just those on the left. On North Korea, bilateral talks the administration promised it would never hold occurred in January. They produced a tentative deal on at least part of that nation’s nuclear arsenal in February that bore a distinct resemblance (NY Review of Books) to the deal the Clinton administration struck in 1994.

Elsewhere, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice this week nonchalantly announced she would attend a meeting of Iraq’s neighbors which will include the foreign ministers of Syria and Iran (FT). In another less-publicized shift in December, President Bush received a radical Shiite Iraqi political leader, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, at the White House, extending an official welcome to a politician trained and backed by Iran and in command of Iraq’s largest Shiite militia group.

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Copyright 2007 by the Council on Foreign Relations. This material is republished on GlobalSecurity.org with specific permission from the cfr.org. Reprint and republication queries for this article should be directed to cfr.org.

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