For Mideast, 2018 could be a pivotal year in war and peace

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Will 2018 dampen the fires that rage across the Middle East? Although skepticism is understandable, there is a glimmer of change.

The fight against the Islamic State group is mostly over, and the war in Syria may finally be winding down. The region is transitioning from fighting those wars to dealing with their aftermath — the destruction and dispersal of populations they wrought and the political fallout.

Iran's influence has grown after its proxies were generally successful, and even its nuclear deal with the West remains in place. In rival Saudi Arabia, a youthful new leader is promising long-delayed modernization at home and greater confrontation with Iran in the region.

Donald Trump in the White House adds a mercurial element to an exceedingly combustible brew.