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U.S.-Iran regional power plays shift

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A further notable event is the recent Arab League-brokered deal in Qatar between Iran-backed Hezbollah and Lebanon's pro-Western government, which ended an 18-month political stalemate on Hezbollah's terms, as well as days of violence that cost 65 lives.

And in Iraq – where the US accuses Iran of exercising "malign influence" by arming and training militants – Iraqi soldiers deployed relatively peacefully into the Baghdad stronghold of anti-US cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. Iran played a role in getting Mr. Sadr's Shiite militia off the streets and ending fierce fighting that left more than 1,000 dead over the past two months.

On the peace track, Israel declared that Syria would have to cut ties with Iran, Hezbollah, and Hamas to regain the Golan Heights, occupied by the Jewish state since 1967. Syria rejected that demand outright, and instead on Wednesday signed a new defense agreement with Tehran.

"It won't be like the Israelis want, which is a complete break. That is completely out of the question [for Syria]," says Mr. Khouri, a former editor of Beirut's Daily Star newspaper. "But an adjustment is very likely, because a Syria-Israel peace will axiomatically mean that a Lebanon-Israel peace will … follow very quickly, and that would have huge implications for Hezbollah's rationale as an armed resistance movement."

Iran offer to United Nations

News of the Syria-Israel talks came as an Iranian offer addressed to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon, dated May 13 and called a "proposed package for constructive negotiations," was made public.

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