WASHINGTON (AFP) — The Bush administration's campaign to isolate Iran and Syria has backfired as the two Middle East hardliners ended up this week sidelining the United States, analysts said.
Supported by Iran and Syria, Hezbollah bolstered recent military gains in a deal with Lebanon's pro-western government while Syria emerged from the shadows with the announcement of indirect talks with Israel, they contend.
For Brookings Institution analyst Ammar Abdulhamid, a Syrian scholar and dissident, both events flow from a broader plan orchestrated by "puppet master" Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader.
"You end up realizing there is a strategy being worked out between Hezbollah, Syria and Iran, and they have actually managed to make quite strong headway in the last few days," Abdulhamid told AFP.
"The Iranians are running the show right now," he added.
Though President George W. Bush's administration may disagree with that, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice late last month mentioned Iran as a threat to Lebanon, the Palestinian territories, Iraq and even in Afghanistan.
Few would dispute that Iran's regional influence has risen since 2003 when US-led forces invaded Iraq, overthrew Sunni leader Saddam Hussein and empowered once downtrodden Shiite Muslims close to Iran.
Some analysts disagreed with Abdulhamid and argued that Iran might ultimately find itself isolated over Syria's talks with Israel, but they all insisted that President George W. Bush's policies have backfired.