A Syrian Sarajevo?

History is always with us.

We may not be conscious of it and it is fair to say that most people are generally unaware that they are living amid  the debris of a previous epoch.

The current situation in the eastern Mediterranean illustrates this very clearly.

The scramble for the body part of the Ottoman Empire in the aftermath of the Great War was both short sighted and unseemly.

Working under the political cover of the League of Nations Britain and France helped themselves to lands that had been ruled from Istanbul.

The Middle East we have today was fashioned in that period and countries like Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Yemen were created by imperialist design by the man who partitioned Ireland.

All of my lifetime I have witnessed countries in flames that benefited from the Machiavellian cartography of David Lloyd George.

The First World War had an awful inevitability about it, power blocks, an arms race and spheres of influence.

However, it did need a spark to ignite the assembled geo-political tinder.

As in our time the Balkans was a centre of excellence for ethnic strife and political manoeuvring.

The British Empire reached the end of its period in the sun in 1918 as it had required American money to see out the war.

It would the start of a slow decline in the world stage for Britain.

However, it was the catastrophic end to the Ottoman Empire.

There was no NewCo, no denial; it was the end of the imperium based on the Bosphorus.

A new Turkey would emerge under Kemal Atatürk, committed to secularism.

As with the USSR at the end of the Cold War it collapsed more or less overnight throwing its vassal states and satellite territories into chaos.

The ancient hatreds that boiled over in Srebrenica in 1995 were created during the epoch of Istanbul’s hegemony over the region.

It is no coincidence that the Serbs refer to all Moslems as ‘Turks’.

Now as a genuine civil war rages in Syria the people who run the Westminster state have shown that the Imperialist meme is still strong in them.

Even as the British Army sheds more of its strength in redundancies the chaps in oak lined rooms still look at the world map and believe that they matter.

The recent announcement that the chaps from the Bullingdon club will dispatch some Royal Marines Commandos to Jordan for ‘exercises’ suggests that the chaps in Whitehall are slow learners.

What begins with some politicking, but the inexorable logic demands boots on the ground.

It starts with Sykes Picot and ends with Sykes Fairbairn.

The fantasy that ‘regime change’ can be achieved by a few Special Forces and local hired help is one of the follies of the age.

It is self-evident that the Assad regime has people who will fight and die to maintain its survival.

The recapturing of  Qusayr earlier this month by government forces could be a tipping point in favour of the Damascus regime in a conflict that has cost 100,000 lives.

The Syrian state remains a client of Moscow, a relationship that has its roots in the Cold War.

A  resurgent Russia wants her respect back on the global stage and no better place than confronting  the West  on the road to Damascus.

The incident in 1999 in Kosovo demonstrates that, in some sense, the Cold War isn’t completely over.

Putin  has already laid down a marker on this proposed US led adventure.

Assad can also rely on the assistance of Iran and their Lebanese proxies Hezbollah.

In the Blue Corner the UK and USA are assisting the rebels, but only the nice ones…honest!

At the same time Turkey, a member of NATO, is facing the prospect of a civil war along Islamist and secular lines.

That choice seems a particularly troubling one.

A democratically elected theocratic regime that will suppress all manner of freedoms, especially for women or a military junta that  enforce  the personal liberties associated with a western democracy.

It would appear that push is coming to shove in Syria.

President Obama cannot ‘solve’ this one with some drone strikes any more than he can crush the Islamist impulses in Waziristan.

Once more media consumers in the western world are being regaled with tales of evil Arab dictators and WMD.

Thankfully there are sage voices that point to the reality of the situation.

The USA and the UK we are assured will only arm the nice Syrian rebels.

As ever Bob Fisk nails the folly of this latest misadventure.

When Tony Blair, the…err…’Middle East Peace Envoy’  is advocating that the West gets involved then  the jury is no longer out on this flying circus.

There should not be any doubt that the Western powers are now in bed with Holy Warriors in Syria who seem to prefer making war to making love.

This has all the makings of a regional conflict that could draw in global players all that is required is a Hinge Factor.

The fulcrum of the war has been the strategic city of Aleppo.

One of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world being established in 5000BC.

Aleppo was the second city of the Ottoman Empire due to its strategic position between Anatolia and the East.

Before the Voyages of Discovery all silk roads led to Aleppo for millennia.

Now in our epoch it is the Stalingrad of the Syrian Civil War and the rebel forces have encircled the city.

This is where the Assad regime will break the rebellion or be defeated by the insurgents.

All analogies ultimately fail, but somewhere in Aleppo or Damascus there could be a Jihadist Princip dreaming of martyrdom and suddenly chance provides him with the opportunity to ignite the world.

I am not a person of faith, but I pray that I am wrong.

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