The Obama Nobel Peace Prize is seen as inappropriate by many Arabs, who are angry about the surge of US troops into Afghanistan and a stagnant Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
Saudi Arabia, a close US ally, has switched from a policy of isolation toward engagement. Some hope the warming could bolster US Middle East peace efforts.
In a push for progress, three heavy hitters from the administration – Mitchell, Gates, and Jones – visited the region this week.
US envoy Mitchell was in Egypt Thursday, and arrives in Damascus Friday. Syrians hope for a new rapprochement under an Obama administration.
Syrian diplomats say Damascus is serious about making peace, and hope Washington will lean on Israel's new government.
It's about Iran, Iraq, and Israel. The two foes planned to meet in Riyadh Wednesday to solidify Arab unity amid regional volatility.
Israeli forces struck two United Nations schools in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, killing at least 34 people, as international call for an immediate cease-fire grew.
Syria is the prime suspect in former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri's assassination. But many say an international tribunal could cause it to turn away from engaging with the West and Israel.
The weekend bombing that killed at least 17 people was the worst of its kind since Syria's battle with the Muslim Brotherhood in the 1970s and 80s.
Damascus is seeking an arms deal with Moscow, a move that would bolster its position in the Middle East.