Explaining the Middle East


Mark Hambley, who was our ambassador to Qatar and currently travels widely in the Middle East, has this mordant (if rather sad) summary of the situation re ISIS (now  IS).  It is dated 18 August 2014, and perhaps needs updating.

There seems to be more confusion about who the various players are in the Middle East than is really necessary.  Here is one very simplistic explanation which might help sort out at least the part concerning the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

We support the Iraqi government in the fight against ISIS.

We don’t like ISIS, but ISIS is supported by Saudi Arabia, whom we do like.

We don’t Like Asad in Syria.  We support the fight against him, but ISIS is also fighting against him, and Asad is fighting against the terrorists we want to see defeated.

We don’t like Iran, but Iran supports the Iraqi government in its fight against ISIS. Iraq doesn’t like Syria but Iran does.  Turkey likes us and doesn’t like Asad but it likes Iran, doesn’t like Saudi Arabia, but likes ISIS which has nevertheless seized its consulate and diplomats.

So some of our friends support our enemies, some of our enemies are now our friends, and some of our enemies are fighting against our other enemies, whom we want to lose, but we don’t want our enemies who are fighting our enemies to win.

If the people we want to defeat are defeated, they could be replaced by people we like even less.

And all this was started by us invading a country to drive out terrorists who were not actually there until we went in to drive them out.

We trust this has given you a clear understanding of the situation.

[Published, for unexplained reasons, in the free magazine What’s on round Darlington, Autumn 2014.]