The great Middle East board game

President Trump has just come to the Great Game with an immense stack of chips. He is about to discover that not everyone is playing the same game. The game he knows best is Real Estate Scam or Monopoly, which is played with money and without regard to geo-political realities. Two hints about his future behavior: he once asked why we have nuclear weapons if we don't use them, and his comment that the US should have kept tie Iraqi oil and may get another chance to secure it.

The other major players are as follows:

President Erdogan's great achievement is that he managed to make enemies of Russia (later he mended that), the US, Iran, the Syrian Government, all different brands of Kurds, some Sunni Arabs, Isis and other Jihadists, as well as a fair percentage of his own electorate. The advantage of this is that he does not owe anyone anything. The disadvantage is he is condemned to play Whack a Mole with his opponents popping up out all over the place - disturbingly also within Turkey.

The supreme leader of Iran comes to the table with the ability to stir up trouble through out the area with disadvantaged and angry Shiites. This is most lethal in Iraq where the majority of the population is Shiite. He also brings to the board a deep understanding of the religious and historical aspirations of the region and a disturbingly sharp intelligence under the mask of religious fanaticism. His game or Tavla or Backgammon, a deceptively simple two-dimensional game with strategic complexities.

President Putin may not be "nice" and may not "play fair", but he is a consummate politician with a complete understanding of the complexity of the board. His game is three dimensional chess: a game in which a lessor opponent may be playing one level, unaware of the other dimensions of the problem. President Trump will be challenged by having such a friend/rival at the table. Someone once described the negotiating principle of Vyacheslav Molotov, Stalin's foreign minister as: "Half of everything of yours is mine, and the rest is negotiable."

The Kurds are everywhere, persistent, and are fighting to the death to reestablish a country that never existed in the past. They have brought their own board for a game they want everyone to play. It presents maximalist demands that no one else is willing to accept. This is the Kurdish version of the region, a board for a much more lethal version of Monopoly. In this game, each player must use pints of blood as counters.

Sunni Arabs make up a large part of the people in the region. They have a long history as brave Bedouin fighters. Their favorite game in all of this is polo, sometimes played with automatic weapons instead of polo sticks. Sadly, their major accomplishment in this game so far is to bat a ball around - with consummate skill, but still in circles.

This summary of the Middle East board game is ironic, not humorous. Unfortunately it reflects reality, and a careful analysis of the dynamics on this complex board may be predictive of the disasters that lie ahead. And what may we expect but disasters with these players?


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