What the US is doing in the Middle East, in 3 confusing sentences

The US is caught in the web of contradictions and sectarian strife that is the Middle East.

American warplanes are backing an Iran-led offensive in Iraq, bombing Sunni ISIS militants who are holed up in Saddam Hussein’s hometown of Tikrit. The US has started providing “air strikes, airborne intelligence, and Advise & Assist support to Iraqi security forces headquarters.”

At the same time, Washington is providing “intelligence sharing, targeting assistance, and advisory and logistical support” for Saudi Arabian strikes on Iran-backed Houti rebels who are rampaging across Yemen.

The US officially says that it is backing most Sunni rebels fighting Bashar al-Assad in Syria, but White House policy is actually aligned with the Iran-backed regime as both consider ISIS the largest threat. 

Amid the unfolding chaos, US and Iranian negotiators are trying to hammer out a historic nuclear deal.

A few tweets from this morning illustrate the geopolitical tangle in the region:

Noah Browning, a Reuters correspondent for Israel and Palestine, put it succinctly:

Buzzfeed World editor Miram Elder riffed on what this means for nuclear talks:

And geopolitical expert Ian Bremmer put it all into perspective:

Here’s a map of the sectarian makeup of the region:

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