Iran Sees Mideast Unrest Working in Its Favor

(Washington Post) Joby Warrick - Since January, Iran has seen its largest regional rival - the government of former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak - toppled by protesters, while the Iranian-backed Hizbullah has strengthened its grip on Lebanon. Saudi Arabia, another regional bulwark against Iranian expansion, is distracted by uprisings on its borders, particularly in Yemen, Oman and Bahrain. Meanwhile, U.S. influence in the region has plummeted with the loss of allies and prestige. Intelligence officials and diplomats predict that the region's emerging governments will be less supportive of U.S. efforts to isolate Iran politically. Already, the Obama administration is having to rethink an Iran strategy that relied on Middle Eastern allies to counterbalance Tehran's conventional forces and prevent cheating on economic sanctions. "Iran has risen by default," said Robert Baer, a former CIA case officer in the Middle East. "Iran sees the influence of the United States waning in the Middle East, and they know that our allies are on wobbly legs and possibly going down." Yet the Iranian government inevitably is vulnerable to the same forces that toppled repressive regimes among its neighbors, said a European diplomat. "The people in the streets are looking toward the West, toward democracy, not toward al-Qaeda or Iran."

2011-03-10 00:00:00

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