President Barack Obama came to power with a not-so-secret plan to reshape the Middle East. His team envisioned a fundamental realignment in the region, with an eye towards resolving a host of longstanding conflicts that made it a global focal point of political instability. A key element of that plan centered on one country: Syria. By reconstituting Washington's relationship with Damascus, the reasoning went, Obama would manage to radiate improvements outward to a host of regional disputes.
Seven months into the Obama administration, Washington's efforts to pry Syria from its tight alliance with Iran and persuade it to start working for regional solutions is well underway. American officials have become regular visitors to Damascus, with the administration still hoping that the strategy will pay dividends. The results so far, however, are far from a resounding success. The much-anticipated harvest of peace remains a mirage.
A reminder of just how difficult it will prove to transform the region came after the disputed re-election of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. As the violence in Iran raged and condemnation of Tehran's tactics poured in from Western capitals, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad declared, "What happened in Iran is a big lesson to the foreigners. I believe the Iranian people's re-election [of Ahmadinejad] is another emphasis of the fact that Iran and Syria must continue the regional policy as in the past."