Vali Nasr makes some very shaky assertions in his op-ed on Iran:
But America would be naïve to assume that Iran is negotiating from a position of weakness. To the contrary, Iran has come out of the Arab Spring better positioned than any of its regional rivals [bold mine-DL], and the turmoil in Syria, its ally, has paradoxically strengthened it further. Witness Mr. Rouhani’s statements that distinguished Iran from its Arab neighbors and asserted that it was uniquely positioned to broker a resolution.
No doubt the Iranian government would like everyone to believe that it has benefited from the Arab uprisings more than any other, but there’s not much reason to believe it. Iran is in a unique position in the Syrian conflict because it is the only regional government on Assad’s side. Its position is certainly unique, but it is one that puts it at an enormous disadvantage throughout the rest of the region. Iran isn’t benefiting from its role in Syria. Frittering away its resources in a costly effort to shore up Assad has not made Iran stronger than it was in 2011. As Nasr notes, the sectarian nature of the conflict has undermined Iran’s influence with predominantly Sunni countries. Meanwhile, Iran has seen at least some of its regional rivals gaining considerable influence in Libya, Egypt, and now in Syria where they had previously had much less clout. Even if they are quarreling with one another in the process, they are exploiting regional unrest more effectively and at much lower cost to themselves than Iran. Iran does have significant influence in Iraq, but that predates the uprisings and cannot easily be replicated elsewhere.