Contrary to the belief of some here that US influence is waning in some parts of the ME, like Iran ....here's a news story to the exact contrary. http://www.latimes.com/world/la-fg-us-iran-20130912,0,1520818.story?track=rss&utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+latimes%2Fmostviewed+%28L.A.+Times+-+Most+Viewed+Stories%29 U.S. and Iran are edging toward direct talks The Syrian crisis has put the two nations back on speaking terms, though behind the scenes for now. By Paul Richter September 11, 2013, 6:15 p.m. WASHINGTON — Signaling a possible thaw in long-frozen relations, the Obama administration and the new leadership in Iran are communicating about Syria and are moving behind the scenes toward direct talks that both governments hope can ease the escalating confrontation over Tehran's nuclear program. President Obama reportedly reached out to Iran's relatively moderate president, Hassan Rouhani, through an exchange of letters in recent weeks. The pragmatist cleric is scheduled to address the United Nations General Assembly on Sept. 24, and after years of the United States cold-shouldering his ultraconservative predecessor, U.S. officials say it's possible they will meet with Rouhani on the sidelines. Beyond that, U.S. and Iranian officials are tentatively laying the groundwork for potential face-to-face talks between the two governments, the first in the rancorous 34 years since radical students seized the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and founded the Islamic theocracy. Diplomatic relations have been broken ever since. Both governments have issued conciliatory public statements in recent days that suggest a new willingness to scale back the tension. Obama suggested in four TV interviews this week, for example, that Iran had played a constructive role in pushing Syrian President Bashar Assad to refrain from using chemical weapons. Iran is one of Syria's closest allies and supplies conventional arms to Assad's forces, so Rouhani may have considerable leverage in the Russian-led effort to disarm Syria of its toxic weapons. "You know, one reason that this may have a chance of success is that even Syria's allies, like Iran, detest chemical weapons," Obama told CNN. "Iran, you know, unfortunately was the target of chemical weapons at the hands of Saddam Hussein back during the Iraq-Iran War.... And you know, I suspect that some of Assad's allies recognize the mistake he made in using these weapons and it may be that he is under pressure from them as well." Washington and Tehran have exchanged private messages about the civil war in Syria, according to Iran's new foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, although he didn't reveal the substance. Analysts say Iran is trying to avoid having the Syrian chemical weapons crisis damage prospects for a potential resolution of Tehran's nuclear standoff with the West.