Belligerents on both sides of Syria’s civil war are positioning themselves for a major escalation of the conflict, including dual advances into the heartland of Islamic State, despite US efforts to broker a nationwide cessation of hostilities by the end of next week.
Just one day after American and Russian officials negotiated the temporary cease-fire plan, foreign governments supporting rebel groups increased their shipments of ground-to-ground missiles to fighters in and around Aleppo, once Syria’s largest city, currently nearly surrounded by Assad government forces.
Any temporary cessation of hostilities or more formal ceasefire will not include Islamic State and the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front.
Saudi Arabia and Turkey confirmed they are preparing to invade Syria on the ground, ostensibly in support of the US-led coalition against Islamic State. And Turkish media stated the military had shelled regime positions in northwestern Syria on Saturday.
The introduction of Saudi and Turkish ground forces in Syria would risk direct confrontation between Turkey and Russia in Syria’s west, between Turkish and Kurdish fighters in its north, and between Saudi and Iranian forces across the nation as Tehran continues its efforts to bolster the Assad regime.