When it comes to world affairs, US President Barack Obama has a cautious hand. He has shown he would rather wait things out, then react too soon. But lack of US initiative in Syria has serious consequences for the region.
Syria began its descent into civil war in early 2011, when government security forces shot and killed protesters. But if President Bashar al-Assad thought a show of force would end the protests, he was wrong.
The downing of a Syrian military plane by a US fighter jet is the latest - and perhaps most serious - sign of a stepped-up US military role in the war. That could put the United States on a collision course with Russia.
A US-Russia spat over diplomatic property and expelled diplomats threatens to escalate. The Kremlin wants seized property back and the return of its diplomats to Washington.
Tensions between Iran and the US are intensifying over missile tests and sanctions. Tehran has accused Washington of acting against the letter and spirit of an international nuclear accord.
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