Distressing news that never seems to get any less disturbing continues to flow out of Syria. Most news outlets assume – and we at The Middle East magazine are among them – that our readers do not want to see bloodied, headless torsos lying in dusty streets or the remains of disembowelled children swinging from the boughs of trees that line once bustling city streets, now reduced to rubble. Nevertheless, that is exactly what is happening.

In Libya, politicians from a variety of Islamist groups, together with representatives of more liberal factions continue to bicker and fight while rival militias run different parts of the country to suit themselves. At the heart of this power struggle is a toxic mix of politics and ideology, compounded by fraught and frequently unlikely allegiances which are difficult, if not impossible, to decipher.

In Iraq, the situation goes from bad to worse with the news that in Mosul, Takrit, Falujah and elsewhere hundreds of thousands, including government troops, have fled, as the region became deluged by heavily armed jihadists from the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), a splinter group of Al Qaeda, in a show of strength against the government of Nouri Al Maliki.

In more than 30 years of writing about the Middle East I can’t remember a time when things were quite so bad in so many places in the region, at one time.

Sad and ironic then that all this is being played out against a historical backdrop of the centenary of the First World War, as a result of which an estimated 37 million people, including many Muslims, lost their lives. Young men were told then, as they are today – by older more experienced men not quite so keen to get their own hands dirty – that they were fighting for freedom, a just cause, a bright new tomorrow, a land fit for heroes. Yet, despite their sacrifice, I see no evidence that such a land exists anywhere on earth.

Somebody once said that the only unforgiveable mistake is the one from which we learn nothing. Just how many more wars can it possibly take?

Pat Lancaster, Editor

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