Has war inspired global conciliation?
WASHINGTON — Apparently nothing succeeds politically like success militarily. The show of America's awesome firepower in Iraq seems to have induced other "axis of evil" potential adversaries to act, or at least talk, in more conciliatory terms.
In Iran, despite stray US rockets meant for Iraq that killed a boy and injured three other people, President Mohammad Khatami was reported to have said in a closed meeting with officials that "talking with the United States is in the interests of Iran."
An Iranian official, Mohsen Rezaei, secretary of the "Expediency Council," a government group, said America should take "a wiser approach towards Iran," which would include unspecified "rewards." A far cry from the anti-American "great Satan" rhetoric of yesteryear.
North Korea, whose dictator, Kim Jong Il, has been out of the public eye for several weeks, suddenly dropped its demand for direct negotiations with the US about its nuclear program, and said if the US is willing to talk about settlement of nuclear issues, then North Korea "will not stick to any particular format for dialogue."
To which President Bush responded by saying multilateral talks involving North Korea's neighbors "might be coming to a fruition."
Syria is not a member of the "axis of evil," but has been described by White House press officer Ari Fleischer as "a rogue nation." Syria figures constantly in speculation about the next target for preemptive action. The White House denies any intention of taking military action against Syria, but is reportedly planning to impose economic sanctions.
This is because of Syria's alleged chemical weapons program, and charges that it has provided a haven for fleeing officials of the Saddam Hussein regime. Mr. Bush said Syria "needs to cooperate with the United States" and "not harbor any people who need to be held to account."
The Syrian government has denied the chemical weapons charges and denounced the Bush administration for "falsified accusations." A cabinet statement upbraided the US for an "escalated language of threats." But the response was relatively low-key, as rhetoric goes in the Middle East. And the Syrian government said it has closed its border to fleeing Iraqi officials.
As dramatic a shift as any in post-Iraq policy came not from an enemy, but a friend. In anticipation of renewed American peace efforts in the Middle East, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon gave a rare interview to the leading liberal newspaper Ha'aretz. He spoke of "a prospect for great changes in the Middle East" and, for the first time, suggested that these might require Israel to withdraw from some of its settlements on the West Bank. "I know that we will have to part with some of these places," he said.
Relations with major European countries that opposed the Iraq invasion remain troubled, but are being reassessed. France, Germany, and Russia met in a summit in St. Petersburg last Friday. And on Monday, French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin said at a European foreign ministers' meeting, "it is useless to go back to what divided us ... let us turn to the future."
It would be an interesting twist if the diplomatic shock and awe of US warmaking power turned out to enhance its peacemaking power.
• Daniel Schorr is a senior news analyst at National Public Radio.