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Waiting for a US-Iran handshake

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Senior Iranian military officials viewed the incident as a tactical victory that enabled them to project their power in the Persian Gulf. Beyond the diplomatic accolade of rhetorically outmaneuvering Washington, many Iranian military strategists were elated by their performance in close proximity to US warships, feeling it vindicated their asymmetrical "swarming" strategy whereby dozens of speedboats surround larger, heavily armored boats.

"We're battling might with slight," Alireza said, conveying the euphoria felt in higher ranks.

Iran's diplomatic elites assert that the time has come for their country to lead the region. With oil receipts at a record high, the Middle East's third most advanced military after Israel and Turkey, and unique geopolitical positioning between the energy hotbeds of the Persian Gulf and the Caspian Sea, Shiite-led Iran is at its strategic strongest in 30 years.

At the launching of an Iranian rocket this month, President Ahmadinejad even ventured to say, "We need to have an active and influential presence in space."

What was briefly dubbed the Sunni Axis, designed to counteract the Shiite Crescent, has collapsed in an outbreak of diplomatic overtures by Sunni-majority states Saudi Arabia and Egypt toward Iran. Mr. Ahmadinejad will make his first visit to Iraq in March.

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