On Sunday, June 18, 2017, a plane controlled by the Assad regime's Syrian Arab Air Force was shot down by the United States. This marks another act of aggression of the United States under Donald Trump directly against the Syrian Arab Republic. After spending much of the Presidential campaign touting "America First", Trump has demonstrated that he really is no better than Hillary Clinton when it comes to American aggression abroad. Although President Obama worked with allies against the Assad regime, he never committed U.S. forces to fight against him. Trump's continued aggression directly against the forces of Bashar al-Assad marks a major escalation in the conflict.
The justification for America's actions was that the plane that was shot down was targeting the American-allied Syrian Democratic Forces, while Assad claims that the plane was targeting ISIL. Regardless of who the plane was actually targeting, when the United States carries out attack on the planes of the Assad regime, it acts as the Air Force for ISIL. It is one thing to work with the SDF to take on both Assad and ISIL; it is another to directly engage with the Assad regime, even to protect our allies. Not only does it serve to greatly benefit ISIL, it also serves to anger Russia, Syria's chief ally.
The Syrian military has decreed this an act of "flagrant aggression" while Russia called it "a cynical violation of Syria's sovereignty" and has stated that any U.S.-coalition aircraft west of the Euphrates River will be considered legitimate targets. Additionally, Russia has also shut down the deconfliction channel, the one built to specifically avoid military incidents like these, between them and the US.
In a situation where World War III wasn't an imminent possibility, one country shooting down the plane of another country would be considered an act of war, and would be widely condemned when done in peacetime. However, as alliances and coalitions form internationally over different sides of the Civil War (whether it's Assad's forces, the SDF, other rebels, or ISIL) it appears as if another worldwide powder keg is forming. All it could take is one spark to set it off.
Bashar al-Assad is undoubtedly a dictator, but the US policy of removing dictators has failed miserably. It is what has led to the rise of ISIL in the first place. When a secular dictator is removed, radical Islamists generally want to try and fill the void. The United States constantly claims it wants secular democracy in the Middle East, but still allies itself with the Wahhabist, autocratic Saudi regime. Because, this fight is all about resources. Russia is invested in keeping Assad because thanks to him, Russia has a good warm water port. The United States, however, is more than willing to gamble with Syria's future to ensure that they get benefits from it. It's time to stop using the world as a chessboard. And, it's time to stop bringing the United States that much closer to the precipice of full-scale war.