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How Iran's election – and three others – have reshaped Mideast

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The most significant change could come from Iran, which is a strong supporter of Hezbollah and the Palestinian militant group Hamas – both of which Israel sees as threats. Mr. Ahmadinejad has famously said the Jewish state would be "wiped off the map" – part of a hard-line foreign policy that has raised suspicions about the goal of Iran's nuclear program.

"The election in Iran is the most important," says Rami Khouri, director of the Issam Fares Center of Lebanon at the American University of Beirut, "not because of the result, but because of the manipulation. Elections in the Middle East, other than in Israel, are not usually the mechanisms that make policy. They are interesting for reflecting the political culture in which they occur."

The results of the four elections shore up some US goals in the region, while complicating other initiatives.

The Middle East today is largely shaped by the struggle between two opposing camps. Iran, Syria, and allies such as Hezbollah and Hamas make up the "resistance front." The other camp includes the US, Israel, and Arab states such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Jordan – a Sunni trio uneasy about the growing influence of Shiite Iran.

The vote in Lebanon, which is a microcosm of various Middle East forces, was seen as critical in determining the regional balance of power between these two camps. Washington applauded the March 14 bloc's win, but Hez­bollah remains the country's most powerful political force, restricting the bloc's ability to maneuver.

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