LONDON (AFP) – Iran’s influence in the Middle East has been bolstered by the “war on terror” declared by the United States and its allies, a respected British foreign policy think tank said.
“There is little doubt that Iran has been the chief beneficiary of the war on terror in the Middle East,” Chatham House said in a report titled “Iran, Its Neighbours and Regional Crises”.
“The United States, with coalition support, has eliminated two of Iran’s regional rival governments — the Taliban in Afghanistan in November 2001 and Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq in April 2003 — but has failed to replace either with coherent and stable political structures.”
This summer’s conflicts between Israel and the Palestinians in Gaza and between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon have added to that instability, the 50-page report added.
Elaborating on the report, one of its authors, Ali Ansari of the University of St Andrews in Scotland, suggested that Washington rethink its policy towards Iran, which President George W. Bush has declared part of an “axis of evil”.
“The United States needs to take a step back and reassess its entire policy towards Iran and work out, first of all, what does it want and how is it going to achieve it,” he told BBC radio.
“At the moment, everything is rather like putting a sticking plaster on a fairly raw wound and it is not really actually doing much at all.”
In its executive summary, the report said Iran has superseded the United States as the most influential power in Iraq, while “successfully” cultivating relations with Turkey, Pakistan and its Arab neighbours.
“Iran is simply too important — for political, economic, cultural, religious and military reasons — to be treated lightly by any state in the Middle East or indeed Asia,” it said.
Conflict and instability in Afghanistan and Iraq have “further strengthened Iran”, it said, adding: “The US-driven agenda for confronting Iran is severely compromised by the confident ease with which Iran sits in its region.”
Concerning Iran’s suspect quest for nuclear weapons, the report said that its importance in the region “helps explain why Iran feels able to resist Western pressure”.
“While the US and Europeans slowly grind the nuclear issue through the mills of the International Atomic Energy Agency and the United Nations Security Council, Iran continues to prevaricate, feeling confident of victory as conditions turn ever more in its favour.”