Four years after the United States invaded Iraq, in part to transform the Middle East, Iran is ascendant, many in the region view the Americans in retreat, and Arab countries, their own feelings of weakness accentuated, are awash in sharpening sectarian currents that many blame the United States for exacerbating.
Iran has deepened its relationship with Palestinian Islamic groups, assuming a financial role once filled by Gulf Arab states, in moves it sees as defensive and the United States views as aggressive. In Lebanon and Iraq, Iran is fighting proxy battles against the United States with funds, arms and ideology. And in the vacuum created by the U.S. overthrow of Iranian foes in Afghanistan and Iraq, it is exerting a power and prestige that recalls the heady days of the 1979 Islamic revolution, when Iranian clerics led the toppling of a U.S.-backed government.
"The United States is the first to be blamed for the rise of Iranian influence in the Middle East," said Khaled al-Dakhil, a Saudi writer and academic. "There is one thing important about the ascendance of Iran here. It does not reflect a real change in Iranian capabilities, economic or political. It's more a reflection of the failures on the part of the U.S. and its Arab allies in the region."
Added Eyal Zisser, head of the Middle Eastern and African Studies Department at Tel Aviv University in Israel: "After the whole investment in democracy in the region, the West is losing, and Iran is winning."
Only the shabbiest level of attention was given to the fact that as atrocious as Saddam may have been, he was not just a bulwark against Iran, he WAS the bulwark against Iran and all of his duplicity in regard to WMD had a great deal to do with not letting Iran know what the hell he had.
In their stupidity, Iran has found in its most overtly declared foes George Bush & Dick Cheney the greatest allies it could ever have, and it's greatest supporters. Not only has their overt imperialism and war mongering strengthened the hand and status of an unpopular theocratic regime, it has accomplished strategic interests for them that the Iranians could never have dreamed of achieving.
George Bush, Iran's greatest benefactor.