Iran Rising? US Influence Wanes in the Mideast

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JERUSALEM, Israel -- President Barack Obama's foreign policy is coming under fire after signing the Geneva Accords with Iran last month. Numbers of America's traditional allies are asking if the United States is losing its influence in the Middle East. Many experts see a stronger Iran, a weaker America and a region tottering on the brink.

"America doesn't exist anymore in any country as an important power that can influence the stream of events," former Israeli Ambassador to Sweden Zvi Mazel told CBN News. "So we in the Middle East, we in Israel -- as I see in the Arab press because this is my business -- they are confused and they don't believe anymore in American influence in the region."

For decades, American influence acted like a rudder steering events in the Middle East. Like Mazel, many experts now believe the region is losing its way.

"The Middle East lost its compass, you see. In the old times it used to be the Soviet Union and the United States, but now everybody goes in his own direction," Mazel said.

"The perception is that America will not be around here for long and Iran is the coming superpower," Pinhas Inbari, senior analyst with the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, told CBN News.

A major change in U.S. Mideast policy is the attempt to turn Iran from an adversary to a friend.

"It's not completely [a] friend yet, but I'm saying it's on the way to. I believe President Obama sees that there will be a dialogue with Iran, there will be relations with America and Iran will become a good boy, a good student. We don't believe it," Mazel said.

The diplomatic courtship with Iran and the perception of waning U.S. influence is leading to shifting and unprecedented alliances in the region. Since many Mideast nations see Iran as an existential threat, the Gulf States are now considering uniting for their self-defense and both Egypt and Saudi Arabia have reached out to find another ally besides the United States.

"There is now a dialogue between Saudi Arabia and Russia. It doesn't happen every day," Pinhas said. "Can you believe it? Saudi Arabia. Prince Bandar went twice to Moscow lately."

Many now see the Middle East with America in retreat and an advancing Russia.

"Putin is a very happy man. Everywhere where America is going away, he's coming in immediately, immediately," Mazel said.

Mazel warns Russia's comeback in the Middle East is just one consequence of U.S. Mideast policy. He also warns if Iran does get a nuclear bomb, it would be the beginning of a Mideast nuclear arms race.

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