AFP: US support of Israel’s campaign in Lebanon to crush the Shiite militant group Hezbollah may end up being counter-productive and could empower Iran in its nuclear standoff with the West, analysts say. WASHINGTON, Aug 2, 2006 (AFP) – US support of Israel’s campaign in Lebanon to crush the Shiite militant group Hezbollah may end up being counter-productive and could empower Iran in its nuclear standoff with the West, analysts say.
Several said that rather then dealing a blow to the hardline regime in Tehran, the offensive against Hezbollah, considered Iran’s proxy force in Lebanon, has so far had a reverse effect.
“I think if the mullahs were not opposed to drinking alcohol they would be popping the champagne corks in Tehran these days,” Ted Carpenter, vice president for defense and foreign policy studies at the Cato Institute, a Washington think tank, told AFP.
He said heavy civilian casualties in Lebanon and mounting international criticism of the Israeli offensive have benefited Iran as it seeks to maneuver its way out of the crisis with the United States and other countries over its nuclear ambitions.
“Indirectly, the Iranian government has gained confidence that it can survive any pressure from the US and the rest of the international community,” Carpenter said. “That it might even be able to withstand a military assault by the United States and still end up winning in the long run.”
Vali Nasr, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and author of a new book entitled “The Shia Revival”, said the war between Israel and Hezbollah is not likely to dramatically impact on efforts by the UN Security Council to curtail Iran’s nuclear ambitions but could leave the West in a weaker position when dealing with the hardline regime.
“One of the points of Iran in Lebanon was to make sure that the West understands that it needs Iran and that it cannot isolate Iran out of the region,” Nasr said.
He said Israel’s ongoing offensive in Lebanon has served to highlight the limitations of such an operation and has scuttled US hopes that in addition to crushing Hezbollah, the offensive would further isolate Iran.
“The lesson of Lebanon is that when you bomb somebody you actually make him more popular,” Nasr said. “That could tell you that if you did the same in Iran, you’re actually going to strengthen the Iranian regime and there is no guarantee that it will fall either.”
Some analysts also raised the possibility that Washington’s steadfast backing of the Israeli offensive in Lebanon could alienate countries such as France and Russia, whose backing is essential in the nuclear standoff with Iran.
“Both look at any interaction with the United States in part through the prism of wanting to make sure the US is restrained,” said Michael O’Hanlon, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington. “They think in terms of creating an alternative model for what they see as a unilateralist world and if the US is acting at the moment in a way in which France and Russia perceive as unilateralist (…) then they are going to be less likely to want to cooperate with us.”
The UN Security Council on Monday adopted a resolution calling on Iran to freeze sensitive nuclear work by the end of the month or face possible sanctions.
Tehran contends that its nuclear program is for civilian purposes but the West believes the Islamic regime is seeking to develop a nuclear bomb.