The Big Why Not

Today's whirlwind begins where it so often does, in the Middle East. To help fog the air, StrategyPage reports on Syria:

Fierce fighting continues in Aleppo as the army seeks to regain lost ground and generally take advantage of the continued fighting between ISIL and other rebel groups. The high level of fighting all over Syria has kept the weekly deaths at over a thousand. Most of the dead are combatants but at least a third have been civilians. The situation in Syria is increasingly chaotic. The only constant is the continued unity of the Assad coalition (the Syrian security forces plus thousands of Hezbollah gunmen and even more ethnic militias). The rebel coalition continues to fragment since a civil war broke out among the rebels at the beginning of the year. This was initially a war between ISIL and all the other rebels. Now it has become a bewildering chaos of shifting alliances between ISIL and al Nusra (a largely Syrian Islamic terrorist group) factions (who will sometimes still units to fight Assad forces) with the secular rebels the biggest losers.

Then PJM's own Richard Fernandez, who wants to know whose side Obama is on:

To understand the behavior of the dog, one might refer to the remarkable New York Times info-graphic detailing the bewildering alliances ranged for and against ISIS. The United States is listed as being allied with the following and opposed in some respects with the following:

● Iran

● the Gulf Monarchies, including Saudi Arabia

● Turkey and the Iraq Kurds

● the Kurds and the Maliki government

● the Gulf Monarchies and the Sunni insurgents

In what must be the understatement of the year, the NYT says: “the major players in the Iraq and Syria crisis are often both allies and antagonists, working together on one front on one day and at cross-purposes the next.” This may also be known as “leading from behind”, since the one entity the US is not listed as supporting is itself.

We're witnessing in real time the breakdown of three things.

First is the 1648 Peace of Westphalia, which established the rights of the nation-state as we've known them since. That treaty might also have been one of the catalysts for the European (later, also American) imperative to fit the square pegs of Africa and the Middle East into the round holes of Euro-style nation-states. Our wars in the Middle East, from 1914 through Iraq, have shown just how easy it is for Western armies (this definition includes Israel) to defeat Arab armies in the field. What the success of IS/Caliphate has proven beyond any doubt is the fragility of the Arab nation-state.

Occupy France, she remains France. Germany survived a half century of being divided against itself by two cold-warring camps. But absent a Western guarantor, Iraq isn't worth the paper her borders were drawn on.

That paper of course was the First World War's secret Sykes–Picot Agreement between Britain and France, dividing the postwar Middle East into new spheres of influence between the two imperialist powers. Sykes–Picot is also in full breakdown mode. It defined what came to be known as the British mandate in Palestine and Iraq, and French control of Syria. The only non-Arab state in that area, Israel, is the only one not dead (Iraq), dying (Syria), or worried about a deathly contagion (Jordan).

It should be noted that Czar Nicolas II gave his assent to Sykes–Picot, and that the Czar Vlad must be rubbing his hands at its demise.