Hassan Hassan: US strikes mark a new turn in Syria and beyond. Destination unknown – The Guardian

Russia has insisted that it opposes any offensive in Raqqa that does not go through Damascus and Moscow. Unlike previous US-led offensives against Isis, the regime positioned its troops near the front lines in Raqqa, as well as between Raqqa and areas controlled by the Turkish-backed rebels in the eastern countryside of Aleppo. So, in this scenario, the regime viewed that the time was ripe for playing rough with the Americans and the use of chemical weapons would be a tool of defiance.

And what if the US was to respond, as it did? Such a scenario counterintuitively serves a fundamental purpose for the regime, which goes to the heart of specific fears by Damascus and Tehran. Such fears arise from a stated plan by the Trump administration, to drive a wedge between Russia and Iran as a way to roll back Iranian influence in the region.

A US escalation against the regime will, instead, widen the distance between Moscow and Washington.

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