Until recently, U.S.-Saudi relations were at their worst. Today, things differ radically, as Washington returned to regional decision-making on the basis of the bilateral relationship with Riyadh and the moderates in Tehran. Something new is coming to the Middle East that might not be a bad thing, if the leaders concerned make good decisions.
Until now, President Obama's foreign policy appeared to be based more on reason than emotion. However, the rise of ISIL may have cost Obama his equanimity. After promising to strictly limit the mission in Iraq, Washington is preparing to expand the war to Syria. Instead, the administration should push other nations into the lead.
The world's most feared jihadi group, the Islamic State (ISIS), is parlaying its dramatic gains in Iraq into Syria. Already flush with cash and weapons, ISIS stands to receive another, invaluable windfall in Aleppo, Syria's largest city prior to the war. Regime forces there are on the verge of encircling opposition militants. Their success in doing so would benefit ISIS as much as it would Bashar al-Assad, throttling the more moderate rebel enemy both share.
ISIS has effectively shown another way forward: to forget about Damascus and Baghdad for now, forget about the Sykes-Picot borders and create a new political space out of the parts of Syria and Iraq that their capitals do not control--a large and viable political territory with major historic cities, trade routes, oil resources and borders potentially abutting Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Jordan. For now, let's call it Syriaq.
The difference between the Egyptian and Syrian presidential elections this week is that the first has revived Egypt as a leading nation in the regional balance of power, with an Arab decision and Arab support, while the second has taken Syria out of the Arab mainstream and made it a satellite of Iran in the regional balance of power.