The Islamic government in neighbouring Iran watched with trepidation in March 2003 when U.S.-led troops stormed Iraq to overthrow Saddam Hussein’s regime and start remaking the political map of the Mideast.
In retrospect, the Islamic Republic could have celebrated: The war has left America’s longtime nemesis with profound influence in the new Iraq and pushed it to the apex of power in the region.
Emboldened by its new status and shielded by deep oil reserves, Tehran is pressing ahead with its nuclear program, daring the international community to impose sanctions. Iran is a Shiite Muslim nation with an ethnic Persian majority, and the blossoming of its influence has fuelled the ambitions of long-repressed Shiites throughout the Arab world.
At the same time, Tehran has tightened alliances with groups such as Hamas, which recently won Palestinian elections, and with governments in Damascus and Beijing.