Our presumption was that the days of Russian power in the Middle East were over. But today Russia has more influence from the north-east corner of the Mediterranean through to Iran than ever before. None of this is due to Putin’s genius. It is due to our follies.The solution?
What all this amounts to is a twin-track strategy. Continuing with military action, while recognising that it will have little effect beyond illustrating to Putin that there are limits to his room for manoeuvre; but shifting our main effort to regional diplomacy, where we can now best outflank him. Then we can begin the task that we all know must be done one day – laying down the basis for the political solution without which Syria and its tortured people can never have peace.