Syriana – the title of George Clooney’s latest film – is a term used by Washington think-tanks to describe hypothetical realignment of the Middle East.

This is what Stephen Gaghan, the director, has to say about it

"Syriana" was a term that I heard in think tanks in Washington, I believe it referenced the pox "Syriana" but in the fall of ’02 it seemed to stand for a hypothetical redrawing of the boundaries in the Middle East. For my purposes, I thought it was just a great word that could stand for man’s perpetual hope of remaking any geographic region to suit his own needs, a dream that in the case of the Middle East has been going on at least since the time of Caesar in 80 B.C. I also always loved the title “Brazil” for the Terry Gilliam movie and at various times considered calling "Syriana" "Singapore" for no good reason at all, other than it sounds like it could be a meditation on one possibility of what the future could look like. Because I believe decisions we — and by we, I mean our government and the American people — are making right now are going to impact all of us for a very, very long time to come.

Now what does "pox Syriana" mean? Well, it doesn’t mean anything. It’s a typo, it should have been "pax Syriana". The typo is the translator’s sworn enemy; it may lead her to scratch her head, do endless research on the Internet, hypothesize as to whether this is an allegory for an epidemic, involve the whole of her office, gathered and perplexed around her screen, as she doubts her understanding of the English language, until someone in the far left corner pipes up with "Couldn’t it be "pax Syriana"?"…