Donald Trump is a deceptively conventional US president of the 21st century. Elected to unpick his nation’s entanglements in the Middle East, he has served to deepen and extend them. What most separates him from his immediate predecessors is his lack of an alibi. George W Bush had terrorist atrocities to avenge, even if he avenged them with a fiasco or two. As for Barack Obama, the Arab spring dawned and then darkened over the course of his tenure. It required an answer.

No external shocks of comparable size have forced Trump’s hand. What has brought the US to its present showdown is, as well as Iranian goading, the paradox of his own world view.

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