When it comes to foreign relations with Iran, the United States and Lebanon find themselves at odds. To state it simply, the United States opposes Iran because of its close alliance with Israel and Lebanon supports Iran because of its opposition to Israel. The United States’ and Lebanon’s relationships with Iran have intensified ever since the discovery of Iran’s developing nuclear program. Iran’s nuclear program has polarized the international community into two camps: one of opposition and one of support. While the one of opposition is significantly larger and more powerful, countries such as Lebanon have continued to align with Iran for strategic reasons and because of domestic interests.
Both the United States and Lebanon have a strong commitment to Israel and Iran respectively. The United States’ historical ties to Israel date back to the creation of the state following World War II. Additionally, the United States has continually supported Israel against combative and hostile states in the region who desire to see their extinction. On the other hand, Lebanon’s historic opposition to Israel has moved it to becoming a very close ally of Iran. Iran has seized on Lebanon’s distrust and dissatisfaction with Israel and has constructed close diplomatic and economic ties with the country.
With the potential threat of a nuclear weapon being created out of Iran’s nuclear program, the United States and Lebanon have demonstrated that they will remain obstinate in their opposition or support of the program. United States White House Press Secretary Jay Carney assured “that there is no daylight between the United States and Israel when it comes to the absolute need to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons” (Babb, 2012). The United States has also gone beyond this strong rhetoric and has actually taken covert actions against Iran’s nuclear facilities. In 2006, George W. Bush approved the development of a covert computer worm to infiltrate Iranian nuclear facilities to destroy and delay nuclear development (The New York Times, 2012). In 2008, the computer worm successfully entered the Natanz plant in Iran, the “crown jewel” of the Iranian nuclear program, crashing centrifuges and befuddling engineers (The New York Times, 2012). An upgraded version of the worm continued to crash centrifuges at the plant throughout 2010 (The New York Times, 2012). With this project, the United States accomplished their mission of slowing down Iran’s program. However, delaying the program is only a temporary solution. The United States desires to develop a new strategy, in conjunction with Israel, to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. As proven through strong rhetoric and covert cyber-attacks, the United States in steadfast in their support of Israel and in their complete determination to see that Iran does not successfully create a nuclear weapon.
Likewise, Lebanon has demonstrated their commitment to Iran. While Lebanon has not had as strong of rhetoric as the United States, they have continued to cooperate with Iran on political and economic fronts. Political leaders from the two countries have met frequently over the past several years to discuss bilateral trade and energy policy. In 2011, officials from Lebanon and Iran signed a Memorandum of Understanding to begin cooperating in the energy field (Fulton, 2011). Furthermore, the two countries have continued economic discussions via their Iranian-Lebanese Supreme Joint Committee (Shapria, 2012). Iran is also trying to work closely with Lebanon in the banking sector and other economic regions to help circumvent harsh United Nations sanctions against them (Shapira, 2012). Communication and cooperation between the two countries has continued to grow and it demonstrates Lebanon’s continued commitment to Iran.
Additionally, Iran has extremely close connections with a proxy terrorist group located within Lebanon called Hezbollah. The United States Department of Defense estimates that Iran provides between 100 and 200 million dollars to the group each year (Fulton, 2011). In response to a potential Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear facilities, a top Iranian military official warned that “there will be no need for Iran to launch ballistic missiles at Israel, because all the Zionist cities are within the range of our ally Hizbullah’s Katyushas” (Shapira, 2012). Iran has even amassed missile stockpiles in Lebanon, with the number of rockets and missiles numbering upwards of fifty thousand (Shapira, 2012). These actions are all in an attempt to deter any possible attack by Israel on Iran. Lebanon’s acceptance of Iranian missiles and of Hezbollah’s strong presence within its borders highlights their tacit military commitment to Iran in addition to their economic and political ties.
The United States and Lebanon have demonstrated their unwavering support for their respective allies. However, with the further advancement of Iran’s nuclear program, the relationships between the United States and Israel and Lebanon and Iran will continue to be strained and tested. How do you think the United States’ and Lebanon’s relationship with Iran will change if Iran does develop a nuclear weapon? Do you think that Lebanon’s commitment to Iran will ultimately lead to conflict with the United States?