“The bigger challenge may well be reconciling the Saudis and the Iranians”

As Secretary of State John Kerry sat down here on Friday to push for a political settlement of the Syrian war, the immediate tension surrounded his dealings with the Russians and the Iranians. But the bigger challenge may well be reconciling the Saudis and the Iranians, longtime rivals who have turned Syria into the main battlefield in a broadening proxy war for dominance in the Middle East. They have more invested in the outcome than any of the other participants in the talks to end the conflict, now in its fifth year. Until two weeks ago, the idea that Saudi Arabia and Iran would sit at the same table was unthinkable. The Saudis outright refused, and the two countries have been accelerating an arms race to assure they prevail not only in Syria, but also in Yemen, Iraq and, less noticeably, in the street uprisings in Bahrain.

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