Opinion: Intractable mess of ever more surreal Middle East crisis

Benajamin Netanyahu meeting Vladimir Putin

Netanyahu traveled to Russia to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin, concerned that the new Russian military contingent on the ground in Syria, boasting armor, naval infantry, sophisticated air defenses, unmanned surveillance drones and no less than twenty eight combat aircraft, might end up accidentally clashing with the Israeli Defense Forces next time they bomb the Lebanese Shia militant group Hezbollah’s fighters and perhaps those new Russian-manned surface-to-air missile batteries might shoot down Israeli Air Force planes. One could argue it is purely military expediency but it also looks decidedly like proverbial chickens coming home to roost.

Israel, like the West, was all too happy to sit on its hands when Bashar al Assad started butchering his own people wholesale, which today has wrought the refugee crisis and together with arguably the most disastrous strategic blunder of Western power in the modern age, the decision to invade Iraq in 2003, has also brought us the specter of ISIL. And after Syria withdrew from Lebanon, in just as cynical a way, in both the Likud and the Israeli Labour party, as well as in the command echelon of the IDF, Jerusalem tacitly but very clearly endorsed the regime in Damascus as the guarantor of regional stability in the Levant. Let us not forget either that Israel enthusiastically endorsed invasion in 2003. “Not our problem?” It is now, Mr. Netanyahu. Not the Arabs, not Iran, not the West, not Russia, not China and indeed not Israel come out clean in this shabby affair. We have all been complicit in helping to bring the Frankenstein monster.


And matters only become more bizarre in the Middle East dance of death and strange bedfellows. Now that the IDF is going to be cooperating with the Russian military in Syria, how does that stack up morally, given al Assad’s murderous regime could not survive without Moscow’s military aid, not least the Syrian Air Force which still gives the weak-chinned optometrist from hell a clear advantage on the battlefield and in slaughtering civilians en masse? So by six degrees of separation a devil’s advocate can make the case that Israel is now all the more a tacit ally with Damascus and ironically at least sitting on the edge of the bed, if not fully under the covers, with it’s arch nemesis Iran, who al Assad can also not do without.

And that the IDF bombs Hezbollah, Iran’s client and another vital ally to the Syrian regime, is not stranger than the just as counter-intuitive reality of Turkey bombing the Kurds, the only reliable and proven bulwark against ISIL, in no small part, like other radical Sunni groups fighting both ISIL and the butcher in Damascus, empowered by Turkey, our NATO ally and our lovely Wahhabi friends from Saudi Arabia (busy fomenting another humanitarian disaster in Yemen) and the Gulf Cooperation Council, who are not lifting a finger to help the refugees while the European Union keeps fumbling divided and incoherent on the same matter. But then across the border in Baghdad, the US, Iran and Russia are all de facto allies propping up the ever crumbling Iraq, with its nearly useless army and far more capable and utterly terrifying, bloodthirsty sectarian militias who are racking up a record of atrocities not unlike ISIL.


Confused yet? It’s like Kafka is scripting the playbook of the nightmare. And what a pity George Orwell isn’t with us, what a field day his pen and incisive mind would have. Ah but there is an apt word to describe the situation… “Orwellian”. And war is messy and imprecise, how long before a Russian anti-aircraft SAM battery accidentally knocks down an IDF fighter plane or a Turkish jet kills some US Special Forces advisers, Washington now admits are on the ground with the YPG Kurdish fighters inside Syria? Then what? Let me quote that great thinker George W. Bush: “This foreign policy stuff is pretty difficult.” Come to think of it, pity Stanley Kubrick is no longer with us either. We are witnessing Dr Strangelove Part Two. There is no end in sight and it is nobody’s finest hour.



Christopher Patrick Kline is an independent international journalist and visiting lecturer in multimedia conflict journalism at Kaunas Technical University.

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