I'm going to make a couple of ugly remarks here, and before I do I'll preface by saying that I spent five years in Iran; that's where I went to high school, in the school for dependants of Americans.
Further, I have a lot of relatives who are natives of that region (most now living in the US).
Additionally, I'm a native-born American, veteran of the Vietnam War, with a background in Military Intelligence and Special Ops.
All that having been said, though I'm a strong supporter of the War on Terror, and think we absolutely should have gone into Iraq and Afghanistan, and think we should soldier on vigorously, there’s a significant problem that I think hasn’t been addressed if we’re to succeed:
I have said right from the get-go that until we take a truly aggressive and realistic approach -- which in my mind means taking every one of those mullahs and standing them up against a wall and putting a bullet in their heads -- there's no way we'll achieve the dreamed-of Western goal of some kind of true democracy. The clerics have too much influence, are erratic and unpredictable, and don’t share with us the goal of representative democracy as we in the West understand it. Are we willing to take that radical step? Probably not, in which case we may have to throw our weight behind a benign dictator. Someone like the former Shah of Iran: a pro-west, enlightened, non-despotic strongman.
My case on point: the Palestinians hold their first free elections, and whom do they put in power?
The Middle Eastern/Arab culture isn't based on the Mediterranean concept of civilization as we know it, i.e. Greco-Roman. Fortunately, that's where the roots of Western culture lie, within the concepts of Plato, Aristotle, taken forward through the Magna Carta, etc. The Middle Eastern, i.e. Arab culture is based on the nomadic desert tribal conflicts between rival clans scratching out a meager existence from the desert, with Mohammed (a psychotic megalomaniac) trying to impose order on chaos while envisioning himself as a messiah. That's why any vision of a truly democratic Middle East -- in the Western sense of the ideal and with the exception of Israel -- is a delusion.
That's simply the way it is, just like the sun rises in the east.