The US and Russia have been fighting a proxy war in Syria for some time, using their military might to aid rebel militia and the Syrian Army, respectively.
Not since the bloody struggle in Afghanistan back in the 1980s has the world witnessed such indirect military confrontation between the old foes. Rebel factions on the ground in Syria are receiving CIA-sanctioned shipments of weapons, particularly TOW anti-tank missiles. President Bashar al- Assad, on the other side, has full military co-operation from Russian aircraft and special forces personnel.
The rebels had some initial successes, using the TOW weapon systems to devastating effect against Russian armor, and for a time it seemed that President al-Assad’s grip on power would wane. But then the Russian air force began operations in the area, pounding the rebels from the air. Rebel militia, lacking any anti-aircraft weaponry, were soon beaten back.
The US-supplied equipment had an unintended consequence, also.
The rising Nusra Front faction used American-made armament to gain footholds across northern Syria. This in turn handed the Russians the justification for their intervention. Under the pretense of ‘fighting terrorism’, Russian aircraft began an indiscriminate bombing campaign that has reduced the city of Aleppo to a heap of ruins, and claimed thousands of lives.
The situation has reached a stalemate, and now the US has officially severed ties with Russia over the heavy airstrikes in Syria in recent days, which many international observers have referred to as ‘war crimes.’ Russian aircraft and cruise missiles have targeted five hospitals around Aleppo, for instance, thus depriving the rebel-held areas of vital medical aid.
Some analysts are also expressing concerns that a more direct military intervention by US forces in Syria could trigger World War Three.
Russian President Vladimir Putin is deliberately provoking an US response through its intervention in the Syrian conflict, and with the rebels on the back foot, Putin has now achieved stronger leverage in Syria, and in the volatile Middle East as a whole.
Yet, if the provocation continues with the intention of eliciting a direct military response, US forces may bypass their proxy allies and launch a limited-scale assault against the Syrian army. This action may trigger a counter-offensive by Russian units, acting in defence of their Syrian allies.
The likely outcome of this scenario would be an all out war between the US and Russia, first on the Middle East theater of war. The hostilities may then spread globally.
A recent ill-fated attempt to broker a ceasefire in the region came to an abrupt halt after a convoy ferrying aid into
besieged areas of Aleppo was attacked by Russian warplanes. Over 20 people were killed, and 18 out of 31 trucks were destroyed. This action signaled the continuation of the fighting, with Russian and Syrian Army leading the charge, carrying out savage bombardment on Aleppo.
The US has now broken off talks with Russia over the situation in Syria, and recalled its negotiators back from Geneva. There is a feeling of steady deterioration in US-Russian relations, to a degree not seen since the Cold War era.