January 16, 2019

The Middle East is Heating Up. Trump is Unprepared

“After a monthslong stretch of merely sporadic violence and simmering tensions, the Middle East seems on the verge of another fiery eruption, and there are no outside powers with the interest or leverage to douse the flames.

The smoke is starting to billow from three well-worn hot spots.

First, there is Idlib province in northern Syria, on the Turkish border, home to 3 million civilians—half of them refugees displaced by war from other parts of the country—and roughly 70,000 anti-regime rebels, many of them jihadis. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has vowed to wipe out all anti-regime forces in air and ground campaigns that will unavoidably kill thousands of civilians, a fact that hasn’t bothered him in previous assaults. His allies, the Russians and Iranians, say they will help, and in fact the bombing has begun.

Meanwhile, Turkey has set up watchtowers within Idlib and warned Assad against an incursion, saying that crossing into Idlib would constitute a “red line,” though it’s unclear what that means. At the same time, the Turks have closed their border to refugees or jihadis who are seeking to flee the impending mayhem.”

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