"It’s been a battle over who’s going to control Syria afterwards. The whole thing is a proxy war. There’s lots of foreign meddling in Syria," Middle East expert James Paul, former Global Policy Forum Director and UN human rights expert, said.
"The FSA was patched together in late 2011 and early 2012 as a means to convert the national, non-violent opposition to the Assad government into a violent, game-changing kind of deal," Paul said.
However, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar, while sharing Washington’s goal, were supporting a more Islamic fundamentalist grouping that became the Islamic State, Paul explained.
"The United States was bringing in at first battle hardened fighters and veteran regular Syrian army officers into the FSA. I think they were trying to position themselves to take power after Assad was toppled and the Western powers were happy to have such a group," Paul stated.
But the problem was, Paul continued, that the FSA could not recruit many fighters.
"The generals were corrupt and were seldom seen in the front lines. So it was always a weak force. The Islamist fighters have raided their camps and taken their weapons, and they’ve never been a serious presence," Paul concluded.
Geopolitical analyst and StopImperialism.org editor Eric Draitser agreed that the four-year-long US-backed rebellion against President Assad had always contained elements of a proxy war.
"In a sense, it has always been something of a proxy war, though now Russia is directly involved, whereas before it was merely providing military aid and serving in an advisory role," Draitser said.
Moscow, Draitser explained, has clear reasons for wanting to destroy the Islamic State and root out jihadi networks that could pose a threat to Russian national security.
"Naturally, with Chechens as one of the main [ISIL] factions, Russia sees the anti-terrorist operation as an opportunity to rid itself of some of the most dangerous enemies of Russia, while at the same boosting its prestige in the region and the world," Draitser observed.
The United States and its Gulf proxies can escalate the war, Draitser warned, if they chose to supply anti-aircraft missiles like they did against the Soviets in Afghanistan in the 1980s.
Contrary to US claims, Draitser noted, Russia's mission is taking a significant toll on the terror group and much of the ISIL’s infrastructure has already been destroyed.
However, he cautioned, "There's no doubt that the United States, Turkey and the Saudis have coordinated the terrorist war against Syria. If they feel they can cripple Russia by dragging it into a quagmire scenario using terrorism, then they'll certainly do that."
However, Russia was sending a message to Washington that the time of unchallenged US hegemony in both the political and military spheres had passed, and that the world had moved into a multipolar era.