The plot just thickened in the contest to shape post-conflict Syria: Russia, Turkey and Qatar have launched a new trilateral "consultation process” to promote a political solution to the 10-year civil war. Crucially, it does not include Iran.

The goal, it would appear, is to pave the way for broader Gulf Arab re-engagement with Syria, and a concomitant marginalization of Iranian influence.

Since the war was effectively resolved in December 2016 when pro-government forces overran opposition-held eastern Aleppo, most of the action has centered around the so-called "Astana process” that began in January 2017, in which Russia, Turkey and Iran have been negotiating over the spoils. But the Iranian involvement effectively kept out the Gulf Arab states, whose financial muscle is essential for the reconstruction of Syria — and whose diplomatic backing is critical to ending the country’s pariah status.