Comment: A terrifying conflagration that keeps spreading

Mourners gather around the coffin of Sarigul Tuylu, 35, a mother of two that was killed in Saturday's bombing attacks in Ankara, Turkey, during her funeral in Istanbul, Sunday, Oct. 11, 2015. (AP Photo/Cagdas Erdogan)
Mourners gather around the coffin of Sarigul Tuylu, 35, a mother of two that was killed in Saturday's bombing attacks in Ankara, Turkey, during her funeral in Istanbul, Sunday, Oct. 11, 2015. (AP Photo/Cagdas Erdogan)

Look at the stories linked to from this page, and you are reading about the manifestations of the widening crisis in the Middle East.

You might say that Chad, subject of the story here, is not in the Middle East and you would be right – it is almost in the heart of Africa.

Ben Lowry News Letter deputy editor

Ben Lowry News Letter deputy editor

But that is the point.

There is now a huge arc of growing instability that stretches far beyond our traditional sense of the Middle East, centred around Israel (where an Israeli air strike in Gaza over the weekend killed a pregnant Palestinian woman and her daughter, aged two).

This wider conflagration stretches from the north of Pakistan, in the east, to as far as Mauritania on the Atlantic coast, in the west, a distance of about 5,000 miles.

It touches Turkey in the north and Nigeria in the south, a distance of almost 4,000 miles.

Not all of the places within those limits are unstable, but many of them are.

Turkey, where I was last month, is hoping not to be pulled into the terrifying chaos.

But what is happening in Turkey shows the mind boggling complexity of the unfolding tragedy. As the story here explains, Ankara hates Assad, but it is also in conflict with the Kurds. All three hate IS.

And this latter anti-IS consensus only touches on the fiendishly complex and bitter battles between Shia and Sunni groups in several countries.

It might all seem far away but the Tunisia terror attacks and the migrant-refugee crisis give indications of how we might be affected.

I sailed from Lesbos to near Izmir, on the other side of the Aegean Sea from the Greek islands that are currently being overwhelmed by people who are fleeing the chaos.

Izmir is a bustling, cosmopolitan and comparatively prosperous place where young people often would love to be part of the neighbouring European Union.

I passed a peace rally in the heart of Izmir that was protesting about the violence in relation to the longstanding Kurdish question. The gathering was similar, on a much smaller scale, to the one just targeted.

Meanwhile, entrance to some Izmir railway stations was only possible after passing a metal detector.

Some commentators have described what is happening now in the wider Middle East as like the Thirty Years War, the complicated and appallingly violent conflict that engulfed much of Europe in the 1600s.

Let us hope such comparisons are exaggerated, but every day it seems more and more as if they are apt.

What can we in northwest Europe do?

No-one seems to know.

If there is western disengagement, things seem only to worsen. But the 2003 Iraq and 2011 Libya interventions showed how military input from us can inflame things.

The 1990s now look like golden years compared to this current chaos, confusion and horror.

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