Syria’s war has entered a pivotal phase, and the moderate rebel factions supported by Washington find themselves besieged on all sides.
Russian airstrikes are pummelling the opposition forces and their civilian supporters in the north, while Kurdish guerrilla fighters and ISIS militants are moving on rebel strongholds.
“It really looks to the Arab world, it looks to anyone who has followed this story for a long time, like a concerted effort among many powers to crush the Syrian uprising,” says Borzou Daragahi, Middle East correspondent for BuzzFeedNews. “Those aspects of the Syrian revolution from five years ago that morphed into an armed rebellion, it looks like an effort to clear those people from their territory.”
The drama is unfolding just days after world powers announced a "cessation of hostilities" in Syria would begin on Friday. Instead, fighting has escalated, and Russian missiles have reportedly hit several hospitals and schools in the north.
Daragahi calls the US response “confused.”
“It looks to people in the Arab world, and especially in large parts of the Sunni Muslim world, like the US gave its tacit approval for this sort of action,” Daragahi says.
Meanwhile, ISIS continues to consolidate power in the areas it holds, while looking for opportunities to move deeper into Aleppo province and central Syria.
Brinksmanship in the conflict appears at an all time high.
“I don't see Saudi Arabia and Turkey and other Sunni Arab countries standing still as these Sunni Muslim rebels are defeated. And I see potentially more weapons flooding into the arena,” Daragahi adds. “You've seen Saudi Arabia deploying fighter jets in Turkey, you've seen Turkey launching high-tech, state-of-the-art artillery at the Kurdish fighters. ... I see a real dangerous stage coming about, where you have all these world powers really angry, really emotional, to some degree, fighting over bits and scraps of Syria. This is a very dangerous game.”