US President-elect Donald Trump has spoken frequently of his interest to work with Russia to fight IS, and he suggested he is inclined to cut US support for Syrian rebel groups that oppose Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. By contrast, the... Obama administration, while avoiding direct escalation against the Assad regime and its Russian and Iranian backers, has steadfastly refused... cooperation with the Assad regime and has said it believes he lost the legitimacy to govern Syria.

science diplomacy—whereby experts collaborate scientifically to address common problems and build constructive international partnerships—has more potential than is often recognized. Science diplomacy can of course help countries solve on-the-ground challenges and improve standards of living for their citizens. But it can also lay groundwork for improving relations in a region often defined by tension (if not outright conflict) through functional, scientific cooperation that is less politicized.

Qatar’s monarchy has displayed a canny ability to play both sides of the Middle East’s divide, welcoming leaders of Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood along with U.S. Air Force generals and American college professors. And its channels to various Islamist groups — while causing alarm — often have turned the kingdom into a crucial U.S. partner for back-channel diplomacy and securing the release of hostages.

Israel and Turkey have reached a preliminary agreement to begin restoring full diplomatic relations ... The two countries would ... discuss building a pipeline to bring natural gas from Israel to Turkey ... Russia is a major supplier of natural gas to Turkey, and Mr. Erdogan’s government has been looking to reduce its dependence on Moscow ... A deal with Israel could restore one of Turkey’s most important relationships, which the United States once relied on to help maintain regional security

Lebanon is currently home to roughly 1.1 million Syrian refugees. With only about 4.5 million citizens, there were roughly 23 refugees for every 100 citizens of this small country in 2014. Unlike Turkey or Jordan, which also host huge numbers of Syrians, Lebanon has also refused to construct formal refugee camps, hampering efforts to properly house the new arrivals or provide them with humanitarian aid

describing the Syrian quagmire as a proxy war implies that the conflict is mainly about larger fissures in the region, especially the rift between Sunni and Shiite, Saudi Arabia and Iran ... But that phrase gets tossed around too carelessly and comes with some dangerous myths ... Proxy wars do not miraculously extinguish themselves without some measure of bottom-up attempts to make peace among local fighters or a fundamental shift in the conflict’s balance of power on the ground.

John Kerry ... will meet ... with leaders from Russia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Jordan to discuss options for restarting the process of bringing a political resolution to the situation in Syria ... "Everybody, including the Russians and the Iranians, have all said there is no military solution, so we need to get about the effort of finding the political solution," Kerry said. "This is a human catastrophe that now threatens the integrity of a whole group of countries around the region."

The embattled prime minister of Malaysia, facing mounting political turmoil and a parade of inquiries at home and abroad into a sovereign wealth fund that he oversees, is now coming under the scrutiny of American investigators as well.

The reestablishment of ties between the U.S. and Cuba comes weeks after President Obama announced a “new chapter” between the two countries and an imminent plan to reopen the embassies. Diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba have been frozen since January of 1961 ... the response at the ceremony on Washington, D.C.’s Embassy Row also gestured at the complexity of the history as well as the issues that remain unresolved between the two nations.

But now China is rolling out its largest infrastructure development project in Pakistan through a flurry of investment deals worth $46 billion, building on Beijing’s vision of a new Silk Road connecting the world’s largest economy to different parts of Europe, the Middle East and other parts of Asia...As China assumes a larger political role in Pakistan, it wants to act as a moderating influence.