At first it was another anti-despot revolt blossoming in the Arab Spring. Soon it became a diplomatic imbroglio involving Arab states, Western powers and the triumvirate of Russia, Iran and China. Last week, Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian despot, labelled it “real war”. Two days later, the Red Cross offered a new label: civil war. But it is also becoming something bigger. It is turning into the battlefield for a mini world war, the outcome of which could affect global politics.

Iranian journalist Amir Taheri says there is an international struggle for power in Syria. President Assad’s brother-in-law Assef Shawkat, a senior defence official, was killed in a suicide bombing in Damascus earlier this morning.

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