In parts of Syria dubbed "de-escalation zones" by the government, what could yet prove a new regional conflict is escalating fast. Its protagonists, Turkey on one side and the Syrian government with its Russian backers on the other, had only a few months ago looked open to forging a new alliance. Instead, they are now killing each other's troops and are at each other's throats.

This latest installment in Syria's war points to a much broader picture across the Middle East. As the United States pulls back and loses interest, the complexity of regional conflict is escalating quickly. In Syria, Libya and Yemen — but also Iraq and elsewhere — regional powers are becoming locked in sometimes bloody rivalry, pushing in more resources as they struggle to gain the upper hand.

Nowhere has that been more apparent than around the Syrian cities of Aleppo and Idlib this month. Syrian troops backed by Russian air power are clearly hoping to crush the last bastions of opposition resistance, opening up supply routes across the country and to the capital Damascus. Turkey, however, is now pouring its own troops into the region, enraged by the death of 13 of its soldiers to Syrian shelling in the last 10 days.