And the Winner Is...?
The Christian Science Monitor cites a report from Chatham House arguing that by eliminating two of Iran's chief regional rivals, Iraq and the Taliban, the U.S. has allowed Iran to jump to the front of line in the ongoing Middle East power struggle:
Consequently, Iran has moved to fill the regional void with an apparent ease that has disturbed both regional players and the United States and its European allies. Iran is one of the most significant and powerful states in the region and its influence spreads well beyond its critical location at the nexus of the Middle East, Turkey, the Caucasus, Central Asia and South Asia.
I can't for the life of me figure out why any of this is surprising. A group very similar to the Taliban in terms of worldview will almost certainly eventually govern Afghanistan, and the notion that democracy would flourish in Iraq--a nation torn by ethnic and religious division--was preposterous on its face.
The end result of this madness was always going to be either chaos, which ultimately benefits Iran, or a Shi'ite dominated Iraq overseen by an authoritarian strongman, also a boon for the Iranians.