Syria crisis: danger awaits in rush for influence on crowded battlefield

The Guardian | : It’s debatable when the world last found itself in such a perilous situation – and there are disturbing echoes of the eve of the first world war

As UN secretary general, it is António Guterres’s increasingly frequent duty to warn the major powers they are rushing towards catastrophe. On Friday, on the eve of the US-led airstrikes, it was the former Portuguese prime minister’s turn once again to raise the alarm at the latest of a series of deadlocked security council sessions on Syria.

“The cold war is back with a vengeance and a difference,” Guterres said. The difference is that it is no longer cold. American troops are already a grenade’s toss away from Russians and Iranians in Syria, and this weekend, missiles and planes from the US, UK and France flew at the Syrian regime.

“The mechanisms and safeguards that existed to prevent escalation in the past no longer seem to be present,” the secretary general said. It is debatable exactly when the world last found itself in such a perilous situation. Perhaps the 1983 missile standoff in Europe, when a Nato exercise, Able Archer, almost triggered a panicked nuclear launch by the Soviet Union.

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