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Nov 20, 2013

U.S.-Arab strains hand Russia chance to regain some Mideast clout

DUBAI/CAIRO (Reuters) – Unfamiliar strains between Washington and its Arab allies have given Russia an opportunity to regain some lost influence in the Middle East, capture arms sales from U.S. competitors and enjoy the unusual spectacle of its old rival looking puny.

No one expects Moscow to challenge the United States as the dominant security guarantor in the Gulf. Nor will Washington cede its place as the main outside player in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, Iran’s nuclear dispute or other regional issues.

Oct 23, 2013

Analysis: Saudi move reflects fears U.S. falling for Iranian charm

RIYADH/DUBAI (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia’s warning that it will downgrade its relationship with the United States is based on a fear that President Barack Obama lacks both the mettle and the guile to confront mutual adversaries, and is instead handing them a strategic advantage.

Riyadh is locked in what it sees as a pivotal battle over the fate of the Middle East with its arch-rival Iran, a country it believes is meddling in the affairs of allies and seeking to build a nuclear bomb, charges Tehran denies.

Oct 23, 2013

Saudi move reflects fears U.S. falling for Iranian charm

RIYADH/DUBAI (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia’s warning that it will downgrade its relationship with the United States is based on a fear that President Barack Obama lacks both the mettle and the guile to confront mutual adversaries, and is instead handing them a strategic advantage.

Riyadh is locked in what it sees as a pivotal battle over the fate of the Middle East with its arch-rival Iran, a country it believes is meddling in the affairs of allies and seeking to build a nuclear bomb, charges Tehran denies.

Sep 30, 2013

Driving Iran’s change: Economic threats, strategic opportunities

DUBAI, Sept 30 (Reuters) – Behind Iran’s overtures to
Washington lie pent-up pressures for change – from sanctions and
internal dissent to regional turmoil – that are shaping a rare
chance to end decades of hostility.

For new President Hassan Rouhani, speed is of the essence.

Sanctions are squeezing Iran’s oil exports, economic misery
is palpable, Arab Spring contagion poses a persistent threat and
involvement in Syria’s civil war is a drain on hard-pressed
resources.

Sep 26, 2013

Shabaab finances face squeeze after Kenya attack

DUBAI (Reuters) – Al Shabaab emerged as a regional threat funded by millions of dollars from activities ranging from extortion to taxing charcoal exports, but its attack on a Kenyan shopping mall is expected to provoke a counter-terrorism response aimed at crippling the Somali Islamist group’s finances.

The money is important to al Shabaab, a group whose aims include the wider imposition of Islamic law but whose ability to attract fighters in one of the poorest countries of the world is based largely on its ability to pay them.

Sep 19, 2013

Iran security elite told to shun politics as nuclear talks loom

DUBAI (Reuters) – Iran’s clerical leadership has told security hardliners to stay out of politics, in effect instructing them not to wreck the new centrist government’s attempt to solve an intractable nuclear dispute with West.

If the message to the Revolutionary Guards from Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and new President Hassan Rouhani was meant as an admonition, however, it was a friendly one.

Sep 18, 2013

Hailing “flexibility”, Iran leader commends new nuclear gambit

DUBAI, Sept 18 (Reuters) – Talk by Iran’s Supreme Leader of
“flexibility” days before his government’s debut at the United
Nations General Assembly in New York suggests a new willingness
at the highest level to explore a compromise solution to
Tehran’s nuclear row with the West.

Western governments are intrigued, but wary.

It is unclear how much bargaining room Ayatollah Ali
Khamenei, an unyielding promoter of Iran’s nuclear programme,
would allow his negotiators, whether in secret talks with
Washington or in multilateral dicussions with major powers.

Sep 13, 2013

Kerry, Lavrov meeting U.N. envoy on Syria

GENEVA/DUBAI (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will meet the United Nations special envoy on Syria in Geneva on Friday as they work on a deal that could avert U.S. military action.

Lakhdar Brahimi, who acts for both the world body and the Arab League, was to meet Kerry and Lavrov together at 9:30 a.m. (0730 GMT) on Friday, a U.N. official told Reuters.

Sep 3, 2013

In Mideast, view of US as hesitant superpower sharpens

BEIRUT, Sept 3 (Reuters) – The world’s most powerful man
decides to threaten Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

“We will strike with all our might,” says U.S. President
Barack Obama, depicted in a cartoon in Saudi newspaper Alsharq.

Aug 28, 2013

U.N. inspectors in new Syria mission as West prepares to strike

BEIRUT (Reuters) – U.N. chemical weapons investigators crossed Syria’s front line into rebel-held territory on Wednesday for a second visit to the scene of a poison gas attack that has triggered Western plans for war.

U.S. President Barack Obama and his European and Middle East allies have already blamed President Bashar al-Assad for last week’s killing of hundreds of civilians. But the U.N. experts, who were first allowed to cross the front line by Assad’s forces on Monday, are still engaged in gathering evidence.