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Lonely Obama vs. Popular Iran

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A common perception is that under President Barack Obama, America's image has improved, and perhaps its friends have increased. But such claims are unfounded, as the opposite proves to be true.

One would expect the charismatic Obama, with his hand extended to America's friends and foes, to fare better than the confrontational George Bush, with his simplistic views on "either with us, or against us" and his lumping of nations -- wholesale -- in this or that axis of evil.

International relations, however, are about interests, not sweet talk. As Bush went out recruiting allies, and making enemies, Obama lost America's friends while failing to win over enemies.

Apparently, the benevolent Obama failed to impress America's number one enemy, Al-Qaeda.

Between September and December, the group sent a suicide bombers into New York and Michigan. The first was foiled, the second luckily failed.

In Iraq, after losing more than 4,300 troops in battle and spending $700 trillion since 2003, America today cannot find a single politician or group that would express gratitude to Americans for ridding Iraq of its ruthless tyrant Saddam Hussein, and allowing these politicians to speak out freely.

On the contrary, shy of making their excellent backdoor ties with Washington known since they fear Obama will depart Iraq and never look back, Iraqi politicians started expressing dissatisfaction with the United States in public.

In Lebanon, more than one third of its population of four million took to the streets in March 2005, demanding the disarmament of Iran's proxy militia, Hezbollah, and an end to Syrian occupation of their country. The majority of these people were Muslims under the leadership of moderate politician Saad Hariri.

Also in Lebanon, Walid Jumblatt, a tribal chieftain of an esoteric Islamic sect who had been an ally of Iran and Syria for a long time, turned coat, and went live on Al-Jazeera satellite station to say that he was proud to be part of America's plan to spread democracy in the Middle East.

By the time Obama had made it to the White House, support of America's allies in Lebanon waned since Obama was determined to appease their foes in Syria and Iran. Hariri and Jumblatt were forced to abandon their fight for Lebanon's democracy and freedom as Hariri rushed to Damascus to ask his former enemies for forgiveness, while Jumblatt is still begging for audience with Syria's dictator Bashar Assad.

In Iran, for the first time since 1979, the people revolted against their autocratic regime and took to the streets shouting death to the nation's Supreme Leader Ali Khaminei in what came to be known as the Green Revolution.

But Obama's Washington was busy sending one letter of appeasement after another to Iran's tyrants, and accordingly failed to take the side of the Green Revolution for democracy and freedom. When Obama did show support for the Green Movement, it was too little and too late.

Now compare America's friends around the Middle East to Iran's cronies, and you can immediately understand why Washington is in trouble, both diplomatically and on a popular level, while Iran is confident as it marches toward producing a nuclear weapon and expanding its influence across the Middle East.

Since 1981, Iran has been funding its Lebanese ally Hezbollah, never defaulting on any of its pledged payments. Hezbollah went from an embryonic group into a state within a state, boasting a membership of several thousands and maintaining a private army, schools, hospitals, orphanages, satellite TV and a number of other facilities that have won it the hearts of Lebanon's Shiites, and have given Hezbollah an absolute command over them.

Iran has maintained a flow of cash and political support toward Syria for a similar amount of time. Obama has been begging Syria to switch sides and abandon Iran. Judging by the mishaps that always seem to befall America's friends with time, Syria does not seem likely to change, but is rather playing an Obama administration desperate for whatever it can claim as success in its foreign policy.

In Iraq, Iran does not only fund and trains militias and violent groups, but they also fund electoral campaigns of Iraqi politicians, loyal media groups and political parties, thus expanding their influence over Iraq exponentially. Spending thousands more than Iran in Iraq, America has seen its money spent to no or little effect.

The comparison between Iran and Obama's America is simple.

While Tehran never let down an ally, offering them consistent financial and political support, Washington's support of its allies around the world has always been intermittent, due to changes with administrations and an ever swinging mood among American voters, pundits and analysts.

So while Iran has created a mini-Islamic republic in Lebanon, and is on its way to doing the same in Iraq, America has failed in keeping friends or maintaining influence both in Lebanon and in Iraq.

And while Tehran brutally suppressed a growing peaceful revolution for change inside Iran, Washington's pacifism did not win any favors with the Iranian regime, or with its opponents in the Green Revolution.

While Iran knows how to make friends, Obama's America has become an expert in losing them.