Russian warplanes fly over a US destroyer along the Syrian coast. The US president canceled his trip to Lima for the Americas summit to give himself time to decide what to do in Damascus. Iranian leaders threaten reprisal against Israel after its raid on Tehran’s T4 base in Homs. The ingredients for an outbreak — or rather, a devastating escalation — of the global Syrian conflict are all there.
The next hours will define the contours: Will the White House intervene against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad? Would it be a “symbolic” attack, like the one a year ago at Shayrat air base (where 16 people died, including nine civilians) or something more, able to trigger a vis-à-vis confrontation with Russia.
This would be among the US’s first direct interventions. It has been “indirectly” on the ground since 2011 through the CIA and Pentagon programs of financing and arming opposition groups and creating anti-Assad militias from scratch.