As the hell of Syria's ongoing and increasingly intractable internal conflict continues to play out, the announcement by newly installed US Secretary of State John Kerry that the US is to step up its support for the Syrian opposition with $60 million in 'non-military' aid should leave nobody in any doubt that the day of western military intervention in the conflict fast approaches.
The British government is also eager to step up support for the Syrian opposition, as attempts to topple the current regime by force shows no sign of succeeding without significant intervention.
At the beginning of January a figure of 60,000 was unveiled as the most up to date and accurate assessment of the number of people killed since hostilities erupted in Syria in early 2011.
The US NGO which came up with this figure, resulting from an investigation into the conflict commissioned by the UN, is called Benetech. Benetech's sponsors, listed on its website, include the National Endowment for Democracy, the Soros Open Society Institute, and the US Department of State.
Regardless, the western media carried the results of Benetech's investigation at the top of its reports and broadcasts without any analysis of their provenance or this particular NGO's sponsors. It speaks to the politically-loaded coverage that has been the norm when it comes to this conflict from the very beginning.
But whether the number killed in the Syrian conflict is 60,000 or not, the thousands who have been slaughtered, the tens of thousands more maimed, traumatised, and/or forced to flee their homes, constitutes a human catastrophe of monumental proportions, one that stands as an indictment of the West's role as an active participant in its support for a polyglot opposition that includes medievalist religious fanatics intent on fomenting a sectarian bloodbath, whose conception of a functioning society involves dragging the country back to the seventh century. In this they are being ably supported by the Saudis and Qataris, those shining examples of democratic values, who have been funnelling weapons and military equipment to them via Turkey.
What cannot be ignored when it comes to the Syrian conflict is its role in the wider geopolitical struggle that is being waged over the future of region between the US and its allies on one side, and Russia and China on the other. It is a conflict over US efforts to maintain a status quo of unipolarity when it comes to global power and influence, with Russia and China increasingly determined to create a multipolar alternative.
The so-called Arab Spring, begun in Tunisia in late 2010, has been hijacked and usurped by western powers which collectively have acted to control and manipulate its trajectory with the aim of maintaining western hegemony over a region first carved up by them after the First World War. Military intervention in Libya, continued pressure being exerted against Iran, continuing support for Israeli efforts to crush Palestinian resistance to its ongoing settler project, support for Saudi aggression in Bahrain, and now Syria - this is the balance sheet of the West's recent history of intervention in the region.
With the tenth anniversary of the war in Iraq upon us, and the litany of carnage and mayhem it has left behind, events in Syria take on an added importance, especially for the current regime in its struggle to prevent what will certainly be Iraq-style sectarian blood-letting should an opposition which includes assorted foreign and domestic jihadists succeed in toppling Assad.
Russia's determination to continue supporting the Syrian regime, which along with Iran and Hezbollah in Lebanon constitutes an axis of resistance to western domination, will now be tested further in light of the US decision to ramp up its support for the opposition. Interestingly, just prior to the US and British announcement of increased aid to the opposition, the Russians were engaged in another effort to initiate dialogue with the Syrian opposition and the Syrian regime, after Assad announced that he is ready to talk to all parties, including armed groups, who want dialogue to end the conflict.
The extent of the violence that is taking place in the country reflects the stakes involved. As already stated, Iraq's fate and the carnage let loose in Libya after the toppling of Gadaffi cannot but be a key motivating factor when it comes to the Syrian army's attempts to crush the insurgency, while the opposition knows that it can effectively leverage the West's support given the primacy of the region to its geopolitical interests.
By this point there should be few who still believe that the West is motivated by any noble motivation of spreading democracy to the Arab and Muslim world. On the contrary democracy, human rights, peace and stability - these are nothing more than age-old canards spouted as justification for the hegemonic policies that have bedevilled the southern hemisphere for generations.
Indeed it would be hard to come up with a better explanation and interpretation of the West's policy towards the Middle East, beginning with Iraq ten years ago and currently ongoing in Syria, than the words spoken by an American major after the destruction of a village during the Vietnam War.
"It became necessary to destroy the village in order to save it."