The contours of a future Middle East emerge

Iranian cleric walks in front of anti-American wall mural in Tehran
Iran is the wedge driving the U.S. and Russia apart in the Middle East and Tehran’s ambitions could lead to a collision with American and Israeli forces in Syria (source: dpa)
  • Tension with Iran has helped derail an apparent U.S.-Russian peace deal in Syria
  • The escalating “war of words” between Iran and Saudi Arabia could trigger real fighting
  • Kurdistan’s independence referendum is bringing together Iran, Iraq and Turkey
  • The Kurds’ fate could set a template for many other minorities in the region

The United States and Russia appear to have reached a tacit agreement on a solution for Syria. In practical terms, it amounts to a carte blanche for Russian President Vladimir Putin courtesy of the new U.S. president, Donald Trump. On the ground, Russian and Iranian troops can be observed maneuvering close to the sensitive Golan Heights region. In discreet talks with the Russians in Amman, Jordan, Israeli negotiators requested the establishment of safe areas and the withdrawal of all Iranian forces from Syria. Having such an exclusion zone around the Golan Heights would give the Israeli military freedom to intervene quickly if needed without fear of encountering Russian forces. It would also give the Syrian opposition a sanctuary from which to continue fighting President Bashar al-Assad’s regime and the Iranians.

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