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Iran draws line in the sand in Syrian desert

Iran stakes claim in eastern Syria; Saudi move against Hamas; Qatar risks confrontation in the Gaza Strip.
Forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad take positions in the Badia, in the southeast Syrian desert, in this handout picture provided by SANA on June 13, 2017, Syria. SANA/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, CONTENT, LOCATION OR DATE OF THIS IMAGE. - RTS16TU2

Taking sides in eastern Syria

Ali Hashem writes, “The war for the Syrian Desert is in fact a war for the heart of the Middle East. The Iranian-led coalition in Syria is racing against the US-backed forces there, as both seek to defeat the Islamic State (IS), the group that has shaped the face of the region for the last four years. It is a war in the desert to draw a line in the sand, some might say, or a war to draw a line across borders and connect four capitals: Tehran, Baghdad, Damascus and Beirut. Hence the battle is between two different regional and international agendas, with each side viewing the other as the real threat after the defeat of IS in Iraq’s Mosul and Syria’s Raqqa.”

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