To understand Northern Thunder, the biggest war games exercise in the Middle East, which is taking place this month, you have to start much further north — above the Arctic Circle. So dangerous has the Syrian civil war become, and so desperate the millions of people displaced by it, that thousands are trekking, often on foot, through some of the most desolate regions of Russia and Sweden, simply to reach safety.

Europeans have their own reactions to this influx of men, women and children. But viewed from the Middle East, this vast movement of humanity is the inevitable consequence of neglecting the Syrian civil war. The conflict has been burning for five years — and to the Middle East’s major powers, particularly Saudi Arabia and Turkey, it is inconceivable for the region that it could burn for five more. READ MORE