America's traditional Middle East allies, having run out of patience with President Barack Obama's policy in Syria, are now reaching out to a resurgent Russia — even though it is bolstering the very dictator so many of them have pushed to leave power.

Some in Washington see the new ties as a threat to U.S. interests, especially because the U.S. has worked since the 1970s to keep Russian influence out of the Middle East. But the Obama administration sees an opportunity. The State Department is now quietly encouraging U.S. allies to engage with Moscow, as part of Secretary John Kerry's quest to win Russian support for a political process in Syria.

Kerry is the main U.S. official still arguing for cooperation with Russia to start peace talks that could resolve the Syrian civil war. But the Russian response has been consistently to rebuke Kerry's offers. Since Kerry began his latest diplomacy push in the spring, the Russians have sent tanks, bombers and soldiers to Syria. The Russian air force has focused its bombing on the U.S.-backed opposition instead of the Islamic State, the terrorists whom Kerry believes present a common enemy for Russia and the U.S.