War in the Middle East: Take Three

A former British prime minister was once asked what might disrupt his plans, and his response was ‘Events, my dear boy, events.’  By that, he meant that everything could be going along swimmingly, and then, from out of the blue, something could happen that would effectively amount to a game change.

And so it is with the brewing storm in the Middle East, a region on which the US has focused far too much attention, spent too much money, and thrown away innumerable lives, and all for no discernable goal.  Though it’s not actively discussed, at least as of yet, we find ourselves on the cusp of another situation that, under some circumstances, could blow up into the Third World War.  I’m talking about the situations in Syria and Iran.

The Assad regime is desperately clinging to power in Damascus in the face of a growing mutiny across the country.  Syrians in the opposition have been dying there in droves in the past year trying to unseat the current government, and the rate of those deaths has only been accelerating in recent months.  This week, I believe it’ll reach a tipping point, where the country descends into a total civil war, and the world is going to be forced to take sides, with the Assad regime, China and Russia on one side, and the rest of us, trying to figure out how to put together another side.

That’s one front.  The other front is Iran.  Iran, in some ways, presents an even more dangerous situation because there’s no major internal conflict going on there.  Syria is also a client state of Iran, as they receive arms, money and political support to continue their efforts to clamp down on Syrian rebels.  All the while, Iran is trying to develop its nuclear weapons program, much to the detriment of the security of the Persian Gulf region.  Israel is mulling a military strike against the Islamic Republic, and the US is put in the inenviable situation of having to try and referee the situation between two seriously irrational states.

Though it’s an election year, we have to keep our wits about us.  A full blown civil war in Syria, the client state of Iran, the other country that’s threatening to start another full blown conventional war in what is already the most dangerous and unstable region in the world is not a story line, it’s what’s happening as I write this.  It’s tempting to engage in heated rhetoric to rally the troops and feel good about ourselves, but with the outcome so uncertain and with so high a price, I hope sincerely that the coolest heads in the room prevail, and that tensions de-escalate.  With war, we all lose, most of all the inhabitants of the Middle East.  With peace, although it wouldn’t be perfect and we’d still find many things with which we disagree, we’d at least have the chance to solve those problems in a far less bloody, far less expensive manner that wouldn’t threaten to thrown the entirety of southwest Asia into utter chaos.

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