The next phase of a seven-year conflict has begun.
Consider the stunning events that have occurred in the last three weeks alone: Last month, Turkey, with Russian approval, launched a military offensive in northwestern Syria against Kurdish fighters it views as terrorists and America views as counterterrorism allies.
Last week, the United States killed numerous Russian mercenaries who were advancing on a U.S.-Kurdish base in eastern Syria.
Last weekend, Israel intercepted an Iranian drone in Israeli airspace and struck Iranian and Syrian military targets in Syria, prompting Syria to shoot down an Israeli fighter jet and Russia to reportedly pressure the Israelis into holding their return fire—for the time being at least.
This isn’t just another spasm of violence in a seemingly never-ending war.
This is about confrontation between the world’s two largest military powers, America and Russia; between two NATO members, America and Turkey; and between sworn enemies, Israel and Iran.
“There is something different about this,” said Faysal Itani, an expert on the Syrian conflict at the Atlantic Council. “It’s never been as much of an international war as it has now become. … I know it’s always been portrayed as that, but that was never really true.”
“We’re moving from the Syrian Civil War to the Syrian War,” just as Lebanon’s civil war morphed into an international contest over Lebanese territory in the 1970s and ’80s, argued Andrew Tabler, a Syria-watcher at the Washington Institute.
Photo credit Khalil Ashawi / Reuters