For three bloody years, Russian President Vladimir Putin has proved time and time again that his relationship with Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad is more important to him than winning the world's approval.
A last-minute decision by the United Nations to invite -- and then disinvite -- Iran to this week's widely-anticipated Syrian peace conference threatened to unravel the entire diplomatic effort on Monday. The invitation, delivered by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, exposed a rare fault line between Ban and Secretary of State John Kerry, two close allies who have been working together for months.
The United States and Iran, having clinched a landmark interim deal suspending some aspects of Tehran's nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief, turned their attention this week to addressing the humanitarian crisis in Syria.
Saudi Arabia took the extraordinary step Friday of refusing to take its seat on the U.N. Security Council -- despite pursuing the position for years. It's an unprecedented protest over the council's failure to take firmer action in Syria and Palestine. And it comes at a time of growing Saudi frustration with American-led policies across the Middle East.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met under the steely gaze of Russian leader Vladimir Putin, whose portrait hung over their negotiating table at U.N. headquarters, and hammered out their latest agreement Thursday on a U.N. Security Council resolution to scrap Syria's chemical weapons.