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Commentary Last Updated: Jan 4th, 2007 - 01:08:31

Iran should name a street after Bush
By Linda S. Heard
Online Journal Contributing Writer

Aug 30, 2006, 00:40

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If US President George W. Bush ever found time between biking, jogging, tree-felling, sleeping and ordering around British Prime Minister Tony Blair to read the papers, he may have said "a curse on British intellectuals" or, at least, a more colourful Texan version.

There he was thinking he was a good fairy sprinkling democracy and freedom all over the Middle East, while trying to wrest the region from "evildoers," when the Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House) puts a major spoke in the wheel.

In a report, titled Iran, Its Neighbours and the Regional Crises, Chatham House's high-profile team of analysts conclude, "Iran has been the chief beneficiary of the war on terror in the Middle East." Oops!

Their reasoning boils down to this: "The wars and continued weaknesses in Afghanistan and Iraq" have strengthened Iran by knocking out two of Iran's major adversaries, the Taliban and Saddam Hussain's Ba'athist regime.

Moreover, Iran has "successfully cultivated relations with its neighbours, even those Arab and Sunni states which fear its influence," goes the report.

The report goes on to suggest that Iran holds more sway over Iraq than the United States and at the same time has consolidated its relationship with Syria, Turkey, Russia, India, Pakistan and China. Its authors omitted Venezuela.

"Iranian influence is seen as posing a strategic threat" to the US "and with the escalation of the nuclear issue and Israel's conflicts with its neighbours, even an existential threat to the US's own influence and hegemony across this key region," it concludes.

Put simply while the US has bungled in Afghanistan and Iraq by failing to deliver promised security and prosperity, thereby alienating local populations, Iran has used "politics and culture to pursue its strategic interests."

No wonder Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has a spring in his step nowadays. After all with enemies like the Great Satan, who needs friends?

The US has done half his job for him by not only getting rid of his sworn foes but also being instrumental in pushing up the price of petrol, thus swelling Tehran's coffers.

So much so that Iran can afford to pepper its land with nuclear reactors and uranium enrichment plants, export sophisticated military hardware to its mates and re-house 15,000 Lebanese families.

According to a recent Egyptian poll, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is the third most popular figure in the Middle East after Hezbollah's Hassan Nasrallah and Khalid Meshaal, the leader of Hamas.

Basking in his newfound popularity, Ahmadenijad is reaching out to his fans via his own Internet blog and seemed to relish being interviewed by CBS veteran correspondent Mike Wallace.

The fact is the Bush administration has made a mother of all messes in this region but like an entrepreneur on the edge of bankruptcy who is psychologically unprepared to cut his losses, the leader of the dwindling free world is doing ostrich impressions.

Less safe

For starters, the "war on terror" has been a mega failure with the world a far less safe place today than it was five years ago. And judging by the erosion of civil liberties and human rights in both the US and Britain, the "terrorists" have won.

Oh, how they must be laughing up their sleeves watching British and American mothers having to taste their babies' milk at airports or planes being diverted because a woman had the audacity to smuggle a jar of face cream on board. Wake up people! This is madness. As for the democracy nonsense, there's a civil war playing out in democratic Iraq, although we're not supposed to call it that.

Democratic Palestine is being starved and strangled by those very powers that provided impetus for free and fair elections. And democratic Lebanon was abandoned by its US backer when it faced off against Israel, which is still being billed as "the region's only democracy."

It's hard to see what Bush and his born-again mentors have gained from any of this. I used to think that one of their main goals was to protect poor little Israel at least until its eventual annihilation as a prelude to the Second Coming. Now I'm not so sure.

Indeed, due to its scrap with Hezbollah, apparently planned in cahoots with Washington last spring, Israel has never been so vulnerable.

How about oil? Is the US benefiting from Iraq's? Not likely since oil fields and pipelines are regularly blown up and in any case, America only receives a minor portion of its oil from the Middle East. Furthermore, maintaining up to 135,000 troops in Iraq is keeping the country firmly in the red.

This series of abject failures has been too much for the neocons. Many have defected to write a litany of mea culpas. Others are blaming the White House for its faulty management. One of the most notable, poor old Bernard Lewis, warned Iran was preparing for an apocalyptic "end of time" that it would trigger by attacking Israel on August 22. Well, we're still here but is he all there?

And so dear emailing detractors, including Ed, a regular who recently forced me to reach for the Kleenex when he vowed never to darken my inbox again, if you can convince me that Bush's policies have positively influenced this region and reduced the terror threat, I promise to join Bill O'Reilly's fan club. Now there's a challenge for you.

Linda S. Heard is a British specialist writer on Middle East affairs. She welcomes feedback and can be contacted by email at

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