The Middle East is now arguably more unstable than it has been at any time over the past century. A great deal of what has brought the region down in this 21st century is ascribable to two pulverising events: the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the turmoil unleashed by the chain of Arab uprisings from 2011. These earthquakes smashed Iraq and Syria into pieces, and uncorked the evil genie of the age-old Sunni-Shia schism within Islam, with the modern champion of each sect, Saudi Arabia and Iran respectively, facing each other in proxy wars across the region. A terrifying ingredient has been added to this already lethal mix: the tendency of leading actors to over-reach, in a Middle East that seems to have no mechanisms of restraint, but no lack of incitement in the era of presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin. Four examples spring to mind, in a region spoilt for choice: Saudi Arabia, Iran, Israel, and the Kurds. Islamic State (IS), prioritised as the region’s number-one secur...

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