The narrative is set. One the one side are the aging Sunni autocrats, on the other side are the Shi'ite autocrats who are in an alliance of convenience with protesters in Egypt. And on both sides, like a ping-pong ball being swatted back and forth, is President Obama, as noisy and nearly as comical.

Whatever happens next is fraught with peril for Washington. If Mubarak survives, it will have been in spite of Obama, and the influence of Washington over its Sunni allies will have fallen to unplumbed depths as the old strongmen openly defy the former Strong Horse in Washington. If Mubarak is overthrown, the Muslim Brotherhood and Iran will have scored a signal triumph and threaten to set the dominoes to falling. Either way Washington's diplomatic position in the region will be in a shambles.

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