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History may not quite repeat itself, but the war in Syria — invariably, “the Syrian Civil War” — is eerily similar to the “Spanish Civil War” in the mid-1930s. The latter started as an internal conflict, as did Syria, and then sucked in the major powers, including Great Britain, France, Hitler’s Germany, Mussolini’s Italy, and Stalin’s Soviet Union. The Syrian war features active intervention from Russia and Iran, Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, and Qatar, and increasingly busy action is en route from Great Britain, France, and the United States.
Like the Syrian war, the Spanish Civil War was terribly bloody. As in Syria today, it was sometimes difficult to figure out who was fighting whom, as internal ideological and political divisions were intense (in Spain, these were particularly pronounced on the Left between Communists, Anarchists, and Trotskyites; today in Syria jihadists slaughter each other, boisterously among Sunnis and Shi’ites, and sometimes within the ethnic groups). Weapons, including chemical weapons and new anti-tank guns, were deployed and evaluated. Spain famously provided a testing ground for military tactics and strategy — the Blitzkrieg made its first appearance there. All in all, Spain prefigured the Second World War.