The Middle East’s cities have become tragic metonyms for the conflicts that plague the region. Aleppo is shorthand for the cataclysmic Syrian civil war, Raqqa and Mosul for the massive showdowns with the Islamic State, Misrata and Benghazi for the various iterations of Libya’s turmoil, and Aden and Taiz for the conflict in Yemen.
Armed conflict has taken a decisive turn toward cities. Urban warfare is not new, but in an age of relentless activity by militias and insurgents, cities are now the staging ground for protracted and brutal conflicts. We are in a world grimly reminiscent of that predicted by Marxist urbanist Mike Davis in 2006, where, “Night after night, hornetlike helicopter gunships stalk enigmatic enemies in the narrow streets of the slum districts, pouring hellfire into shanties or fleeing cars. Every morning the slums reply with suicide bombers and eloquent explosions.”