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Syrian Conflict: Making Sense of an Unholy Mess

If you’re trying to figure what’s really going on in Syria and why there are so many different players involved, then you’re not the only one.

Part of the confusion is what’s occurring in the skies over the war-torn nation, with air forces from multiple countries conducting combat missions for different reasons. See the video above for a quick rundown on who-is-who in the air at the moment.

Most recently, the Russian Air Force’s entry into the fray, on the side of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, has added another layer to an already brutal conflict. According to UN figures, the war has killed 250,000 people thus far.

Maybe you’re thinking Russia’s increased military involvement could end this mess. Maybe, maybe not. But the concern from the West is that it will only escalate the conflict, and could also spark an international incident.

Either way, Russia’s actions in Syria have definitely changed the conflict’s dynamics.

“In the new Syrian reality, all options are bleak, geopolitics reigns supreme, and negotiating positions are being marked out by cruise missiles,” wrote James Brown, from the U.S. Studies Center at the University of Sydney, for The Australian.

“Like it or not, Russia has changed the facts on the ground and redefined the terms of any possible grand bargain,” he stated.

To find out why Russia is supporting Assad’s regime, see this 90-second video here:

The Turks have already been upset by Russian aircraft entering its airspace, and NATO has said it will defend its Turkish ally.

“NATO is ready and able to defend all allies, including Turkey, against any threats,” NATO’s Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters, according to Reuters.

“NATO has already responded by increasing our capacity, our ability, our preparedness to deploy forces, including to the south, including in Turkey,” he said.

The Russians say their intrusions into Turkish airspace were accidental.

Some commentators say Russia’s entry into the conflict is symptomatic of Washington’s relative inaction in Syria. Others point out that Russia’s actions have made the West appear impotent, handing Russian leader Vladimir Putin with a propaganda victory.

But the whole adventure could backfire on Putin.

“Backing Assad to the bitter end is a strategy that is likely to suck Russia deeper into a war it cannot afford with an economy shrinking 4 percent a year,” said an editorial piece by The Guardian.

On top of its airstrikes pummeling forces opposing Assad, Russia has also conducted rocket strikes on rebel targets in Syria from its warships in the Caspian Sea. See video about that below:

The U.S. has said that four of these missiles fired from the Caspian Sea fell short and landed in Iran, a claim that Russia denies.

Russian aircraft have also been conducting airstrikes to support a massive land offensive by forces loyal to Assad against rebel groups, which include the brutal Islamic State jihadists, also known as ISIS and ISIL.

But Russia has also been accused of predominantly targeting non-ISIS forces.

“Greater than 90 percent of the [Russian] strikes that we’ve seen them take to date have not been against ISIL or al-Qaida-affiliated terrorists,” said U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby on Wednesday, according to The Guardian.

The other rebel groups include those who are supported by the U.S., Saudi Arabia, and others. Plus in the mix are the Kurds, who are in the north of the country. Meanwhile, Iran and Lebanon’s Hezbollah are also supporting Assad. For more on who is fighting and why confusion reigns supreme, see this video:

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