Just when it seems the Syrian war cannot get more complex, it does. In the skies above the Mediterranean, Syrian missiles shoot down an allied Russian surveillance plane after mistaking it for an Israeli bomber. In the Black Sea resort of Sochi, the Russian and Turkish presidents produce a plan for Turkey to use its control of part of Idlib province to disarm the worst jihadi extremists, including Chechens, Uighurs and other foreigners, as well as homegrown Syrian fanatics.
Two points stand out. One is the proliferation of outside interference in what began in 2011 as a purely Syrian campaign for reform. The other is the central and indispensable role that Russia now plays. On Syria’s south-western flank, it deploys military police near the Israeli-occupied Golan so as to prevent pro-Iranian militias from moving up and provoking Israeli forces. It turns a blind eye to Israeli air attacks on Iranian advisers in Syria. Only now with Monday’s loss of a Russian plane does it give the Israelis a public dressing-down for creating the confusion that led to the missile mistake.