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The Enduring Middle East Strategic Framework Begins to Emerge as Iran Surges, and the US Resiles

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The lingering impact of August 3, 2010, clash on the Israeli-Lebanese border lies in the greater context of, and wider strategic dynamics in, the Middle East. These aspects were highlighted by HizbAllah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah in his speech later that day.

See Defense & Foreign Affairs Special Analysis, August 4, 2010: Clash on Israel-Lebanon Border Holds Potential for Strategic Escalation.

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Overall, the issue dominating the overall situation in the Middle East is the reaction by the local powers to the emerging new grand strategic reality: namely, the demise of the United States as the dominant regional power. This is a dramatic reversal of a concentrated US policy of more than half a century.

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Back in the Autumn of 1956, the US intentionally undermined the strategic posture of two of its closest Cold War allies, Britain and France. In the late-1960s, the US capitalized on the British unilateral withdrawal from the Persian Gulf and the active Soviet interceding in the Arab-Israeli conflict in order to consolidate the US role as the dominant Western, and later global, power in the Middle East.

This posture endured even after the US betrayed its close ally -- the Shah of Iran -- and permitted the rise of the Islamic Republic in the late 1970s. Consequently, however, the US has had to intensify its direct involvement in regional crises, culminating in the US active war-fighting in and against Iraq. Come August 31, 2010, the US will be abandoning it all with the disengagement from Iraqi security affairs and the beginning of a year-long withdrawal.

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Led by an assertive and determined Iran, the aspirant powers of the region cannot wait to fill the void that is already emerging as the US is disengaging from military operations in Iraq and the Persian Gulf. This strategic posture is aptly demonstrated by the US Barack Obama Administration's explicit abandonment of the twin-pillars of the US regional posture -- Israel and Saudi Arabia -- leaving them to cope on their own with a nuclear Iran.

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