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How Saudi Arabia Is Expanding Its Role in the Middle East

RIYADH—A flurry of activity in the Saudi capital over the last week appears to reflect efforts by King Salman, who came to power nearly a year ago, to instill change at home–and may be a harbinger of the kingdom’s shifting role in the region in 2016.

Saudi Arabia hosted a meeting aimed at unifying the Syrian opposition and convened a gathering of top leaders of the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council.

The former produced a plan to form a commission of the various Syrian opposition groups to prepare for possible negotiations with the Assad regime to end Syria’s civil war. Several efforts to negotiate an end to the four-year-old conflict have fallen apart over divisions between different opposition groups, and there is no guarantee that these latest efforts will last. Another challenge has been the disconnect between Syria’s political opposition figures and armed groups doing the fighting. A semblance of unity among Syrians opposed to Bashar al-Assad has been a key component missing from efforts to negotiate a settlement to the Syrian conflict.

The above excerpt was originally published in The Wall Street Journal.