Tehran, too, has suffered a loss of prestige. As patrons of Hezbollah, they are today seen in the Middle East as being complicit in an act of stupidity that has brought ruin on an Arab nation. And Iran's failure to aid her Shia allies in battle with Israel exposes them as something less than heroic Islamic warriors of Tehran's propaganda.
Indeed, the perceived impotence of Iran to aid Hezbollah, while Bush was giving Israel a free hand in Lebanon, may force Iran to show it yet has power to damage U.S. interests. Public denunciations of Israel by the U.S.-backed, Shia-dominated regime in Baghdad may be an indicator of where Iran intends to exact payback.
Syria's Bashar al-Assad seems to be the lone beneficiary of the war, if there are any. Though an accused enabler of Hezbollah, Syria is emerging as the only party that can ensure that rockets from Tehran do not reach Hezbollah through the Bekaa Valley.
If at the time of truce Hezbollah's Katyusha arsenal has been depleted, and the Lebanese Army and a NATO force are to be moved into the border region with Israel, Syria's cooperation in blocking Iran's resupply of Hezbollah is essential. Realizing this, Condi Rice has indicated a willingness to talk with Damascus. The question will then become: What is Syria's price for cooperation?
The answer is apparent. Syria has long sought a reopening of negotiations with Israel on the return of the Golan Heights, and a resolution of the Palestinian question by a return to land for peace.
Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert, however, abandoned that road in favor of a unilateral withdrawal from Gaza and unwanted parts of the West Bank, and annexation of all the rest, including all of Jerusalem and her distant suburbs. If Israel refuses to discuss the Golan with Syria, or to negotiate with a Palestinian Authority led by Hamas, it is hard to see any negotiated end to this Middle East crisis.
With its devastation of Lebanon, its blockade of the West Bank and Gaza, and its determination to destroy the Palestinian Authority, Israel is creating failed states on three borders. How this serves Israel's or America's interests is difficult to see.