The downing of an Israeli warplane by Syrian air defences, after Israel said it brought down an Iranian drone launched from Syria into Israeli airspace, is the sort of lightning bolt that signals the alarming probability of a new regional war spinning out of the vortex of the Syrian civil war. Any new war between Israel and Iranian forces and their allies, will not start now. But all the elements needed to ignite it are in place and on present trends it looks inexorable. The Israeli air force, long the lord of the Middle Eastern skies, is reckoned to have last lost an aircraft in 1982, the year Israel invaded Lebanon at the height of its neighbour’s civil war. This weekend it retaliated with a dozen air strikes inside Syria, including four that it said hit Iranian targets. Starting in 2011, as part of the chain of uprisings optimistically dubbed the Arab Spring, Syria’s civil war has sucked in regional and global actors from Turkey to Iran, and the US to Russia. The intervention on ...

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