Russia has a strong financial stake in the survival of the Assad regime. But it also opposes Western intervention on principle – particularly in the wake of NATO's Libya campaign.
Russia said it will soon make a long-delayed Iran nuclear power plant fully operational. The move was part of a deal within Russia to finish the plant while canceling a controversial sale of an advanced missile system to Tehran.
Amid a US-Israel flap, some see an opportunity for Middle East Quartet host Russia to become a bigger player in Israel peace talks. Moscow has strong ties with both Israelis and Palestinians.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu won assurances Monday that Russia will will 'hold off' on supplying Iran with advanced S-300 air defense missiles, but it's still unlikely Russia will back sanctions against Iran, analysts say.
Ties may be fraying: Russia announced another delay in Bushehr, the Iran nuclear plant it is building, and has refused to fulfill a contract to supply advanced missiles.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's trip to Russia marks improving diplomatic ties, and some Russian analysts say President Obama's Nobel Peace Prize is creating momentum for more nuclear cooperation.
Why have there been two, secret high-level meetings between Russian and Israeli leaders? Russia may be getting Israel's help with Georgia in exchange for halting missile sales to Iran.
Obama's outreach to Iran lifts hopes that the US and Russia can find more common ground in their bids to get Iran to curtail its nuclear program.