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The Independent Institute
Commentary

The Bush Administration’s Iran-Friendly Foreign Policy


Despite growing world outrage, the Bush administration's continued backing of Israel's over-the-top military action in Lebanon can only help Hezbollah and its patron Iran. The administration's foreign policy could not be more pro-Iranian if the White House had become infested with Iranian agents.

Even after the carnage in the Lebanese town of Qana, the administration continues its nonsensical rhetoric about seeking a "sustainable cease fire" in Lebanon as Israeli military action continues. Most casual observers employing any logic would conclude that it would be difficult to determine the sustainability of any ceasefire unless it was first attempted. Obviously, the administration's rhetoric is designed to give Israel more time to damage Hezbollah. Of course, Israel's original and implausible goal was to eradicate Hezbollah without invading Lebanon and becoming bogged down in another quagmire there. Israel has found, however, much like the Bush administration has in Iraq, that guerrilla organizations, especially ones as competent as Hezbollah, are not that easily eliminated. Israel has found Hezbollah's infrastructure and combat skills to be much more formidable than anticipated.

The bombing of Qana has united the previously divided Lebanese and much of the rest of the world against Israel's veiled terrorism. Israel will have even less time to degrade Hezbollah, which is also committing terrorist acts against Israeli towns. Soon world opprobrium will force the U.S. to stop Israeli military action. And the thimble-full of aid the U.S. is offering Lebanon will not win back any hearts for the cause. The paltry $30 million in U.S. aid being offered to that war-ravaged country is like an armed gang busting up someone's business and then leaving them $5 for repairs.

Hezbollah will survive Israeli attacks and its stature in the Islamic world will be elevated. The group's weapons and equipment will be replenished, and a stronger Hezbollah will reflect favorably on Iran, its principal benefactor.

Once again, excessive or unnecessary foreign military action—by Israel or the United States—has benefited Iran. Iran's rise began when the United States took out one of Iran's major adversaries—the Taliban regime—in Afghanistan. Then the ayatollahs in Tehran received another and even bigger gift: U.S. taxpayers funded the destruction of their principal rival—Saddam Hussein's Iraqi regime. Even better for the Iranians, U.S. forces remained to protect what became an Iranian-friendly, theocratically oriented Iraqi government from Sunni insurgents. The quagmire also undermined U.S. leverage in pressuring Iran to forgo its alleged quest for atomic weapons, while the U.S. invasion of neighboring Iraq provided greater Iranian motivation to acquire a nuclear deterrent to a future U.S. attack. The United States needs Iranian help to contain Shi'ite militias and death squads in Iraq. If the U.S. gets too feisty in demanding that Iran get rid of its nuclear program, Iran could give the Shi'ites in Iraq the green light to escalate action to a full-blown civil war. The U.S. invasion of Iraq made it less likely that Iran—fearful of being the target of a similar future U.S. action—would ever negotiate away its nuclear program.

In the eyes of the Islamic world, the U.S. backed Israeli offensive is making martyrs of Hezbollah fighters, which is icing on the cake for the medieval Iranian regime. Thus, U.S. conduct and support of militaristic foreign policies in the Persian Gulf/Southwest Asian region have inadvertently caused the already influential 400-pound Iranian gorilla to grow into an 800-pound monster. With two-and-a-half years left in the Bush administration, even more bungling in U.S. grand strategy may provide enough policy bananas to create an Iranian King Kong.


Ivan Eland is Senior Fellow and Director of the Center on Peace & Liberty at The Independent Institute. Dr. Eland is a graduate of Iowa State University and received an M.B.A. in applied economics and Ph.D. in national security policy from George Washington University. He has been Director of Defense Policy Studies at the Cato Institute, and he spent 15 years working for Congress on national security issues, including stints as an investigator for the House Foreign Affairs Committee and Principal Defense Analyst at the Congressional Budget Office. He is author of the books Partitioning for Peace: An Exit Strategy for Iraq, and Recarving Rushmore.

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