Fact sheet: Bush's 'axis of evil'
In his first State of the Union speech Tuesday night, President Bush said his goal was "to prevent regimes that sponsor terror from threatening America or our friends with weapons of mass destruction." He singled out Iraq, Iran and North Korea, claiming these states "and their terrorist allies constitute an axis of evil arming to threaten the peace of the world."
The United States must act against these regimes by denying them the "materials, technology and expertise" to make nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and provide them to terrorists, Bush said.
"All nations should know: America will do what is necessary to ensure our nation's security," he warned, although he did not give specifics as to what actions that pledge might entail.
All three nations Bush identified quickly and vehemently condemned his comments.
STATUS: Since 1998, the Iraqi government has barred U.N. weapons inspectors from examining sites where some suspect that nuclear, chemical or biological weapons are made and stored. The United Nations has said it will lift sanctions against the Middle Eastern country -- in place since Iraq's invasion of Kuwait and the ensuing Gulf War in 1991 -- only if inspectors can verify that Iraq has dismantled all its weapons of mass destruction. In an editorial this month in a state-run newspaper, Iraq again denied it has or is developing such weapons.
RESPONSE TO BUSH'S SPEECH: "This statement of President Bush is stupid and a statement that does not befit the leader of the biggest state in the world," Iraqi Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan said Wednesday.
STATUS: U.S. officials have long accused communist North Korea of developing biological and nuclear weapons. Officials in Pyongyang repeatedly have declined U.S. offers for talks and inspections to determine whether North Korea produces weapons of mass destruction. North and South Korea signed an accord in 1991 not take up nuclear arms against each other, and South Korean President Kim Dae-jung has urged U.S. and North Korean officials to resume talks. But in December, North Korea warned Washington that it will build up its military might to counter what it called a "strong-arm policy" towards the communist state.
RESPONSE TO BUSH'S SPEECH: "It is again the United States which is threatening the Korean people with nuclear weapons," a government spokesman told the state-run Korean Central News Agency on Wednesday.
STATUS: A U.S. intelligence report released earlier this month projected Iran will likely possess missiles capable of reaching the United States by 2015. In the same vein, U.S. intelligence officials claim Iran is trying to develop the material and expertise to produce nuclear, chemical and biological weapons -- and the means to deliver them. The State Department has also raised concerns regarding Russian-Iranian cooperation in military and nuclear energy matters.
RESPONSE TO BUSH'S SPEECH: "We condemn the American accusations and think the world no longer accepts hegemony. We think Mr. Bush would do better by providing proof of his allegations," Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi said Wednesday. "He should know that the repetition of such allegations is not going to help him."
How did Iraq, Iran and North Korea respond to the September 11 terrorist attacks? (Full story)
What part has Iran played in Afghanistan -- before, during and after the recent U.S. military intervention? (Full story)
What relation do these states have to al Qaeda and other "terrorist organizations" as identified by the U.S. State Department? (Full story)
What is the United States' next target in the war on terrorism? (Full story)
What actions, beside military strikes, could the United States take against Iraq, Iran or North Korea?
What evidence does the United States have that these countries possess or seek to possess weapons of mass destruction? (Full story)
How do other nations view Iraq, Iran and North Korea?
George W. Bush: U.S. president
Colin Powell: U.S. secretary of state
Donald Rumsfeld: U.S. secretary of defense
Kamal Kharazzi: Iranian foreign minister
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei: Iran's hard-line spiritual leader and most powerful political figure
Mohammad Khatami: Iran's recently re-elected president, whose efforts to implement reforms have been challenged by hard-liners associated with Khamenei
Saddam Hussein: Iraqi president
Tariq Aziz: Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister
Kim Jong Il: "Dear Leader" of North Korea, heading its political and military apparatus
Kim Dae-jung: South Korean president
Kofi Annan: U.N. secretary-general
Bush's statements Tuesday were the some of the harshest by an American president against another nation since Ronald Reagan labeled the Soviet Union an "evil empire" in March 1983. Despite the president's strong words, most experts believe Iran and North Korea will not face direct U.S. military action anytime soon. Iraq, given its weak international position, longtime enmity against the United States and concerns about its program to produce weapons of mass destruction, is more of a question mark.
War on terror: What's next after Afghanistan?
January 17, 2002
In editorial, Iraq denies weapons program
January 13, 2002
Nuclear inspectors arrive in N. Korea
January 15, 2002
Nuclear review urges more reliance on precision weapons
January 10, 2002
Administration mulling future fronts
November 28, 2001
CIA: Iran aggressively seeks weapons of mass destruction
February 3, 2000
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