President Bush has authorized an aggressive program aimed at impeding Iran's influence all around the Middle East, including in Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories.
Friday, the Washington Post reported Bush's authorization of a new, more intensive policy that allows for more stringent measures against Iran. This includes, primarily, the authority to capture or kill Iranian agents active in Iraq, a story Bush and other US officials did not deny. However, the new policy extends far beyond Iraq.
The Post reported that the new plan is part of a wider US strategy aimed at destroying Iranian influence from Afghanistan to Lebanon, as well as to hinder Iran's nuclear program. In this context, the plan addresses known terrorist entities within the sphere of Iran's influence, such as Hizbullah.
According the Post, during the Lebanon war, senior US officials concluded on the importance of exposing the connection between Iran's nuclear plan and its extensive assistance in arming, training and funding terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda, Hizbullah and insurgent militias in Iraq.
As part of the new plan, US intelligence has now begun covert operations against Hizbullah. It is also focused on weakening Tehran's funding chain to Hizbullah and to various Palestinian terror organizations.
The Post also reported that the White House ordered an extension of what is known among the intelligence community as the "Blue Game Matrix", a list of potential operations to be taken against Hizbullah.
In his State of the Union Address Tuesday, Bush mentioned Hizbullah, referring to it as "second only to al-Qaeda in the amount of American lives it has taken" and condemning its attempts to sow turmoil and undermine the existing Lebanese government.
Reuters contributed to this report