A murdered Saudi journalist. A scrapped Iran nuclear deal. The two events alone have undone years of diplomacy in the Middle East, testing old alliances and shaking up the regional balance of power, analysts say.
In another turbulent year for the tinderbox region, Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad appeared ever more powerful and Washington's promised Israeli-Palestinian peace plan seemed ever more elusive.
Meanwhile, Russia, buoyed by its 2015 intervention in Syria to prop up Assad, has steadily asserted itself as a key powerbroker in the Middle East, stepping into a diplomatic void left by what observers see as a partial US retreat.
US President Donald Trump, however, has staunchly backed Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, a key regional ally who has faced intense global criticism over journalist Jamal Khashoggi's murder in Istanbul's Saudi consulate in October.
Trump has asserted the petro-state's importance as a lucrative buyer of US arms and a bulwark against common foe Iran, but furious American lawmakers appear in no mood to give the prince a free pass over the murder.
Read the full article and more on AFP.