Indeed, there are a lot of striking and disturbing resemblances between the ongoing conflict in Syria and the 1914 crisis that resulted in the First World War, Pillar emphasizes in his article for The National Interest.
"The prospect of the Syrian conflict remaining unsettled for years and thus providing many opportunities for it to grow into something bigger is the starting point for spinning out escalatory scenarios. But some more specific attributes of that conflict have greater and more disturbing similarities to the 1914 crisis. One is the multiplicity of players, from outside as well as inside Syria and the region, who perceive themselves as having a stake in the conflict," the CIA veteran elaborates.
To complicate matters further, the perception about stakes is closely related to the tendency to regard the war in Syria as part of a greater conflict between large coalitions.
"This view amplifies the perceived stakes ever further and also brings into play a sense of obligation to friends and allies," the expert remarks.
Unsurprisingly, Saudi Arabia and Turkey are trying to use the crisis to their geopolitical advantage, by making every effort to drag the US and NATO in the Middle Eastern conflict.
"The potential for Turkey dragging the United States into bigger trouble is made all the greater by its status as a party to the North Atlantic Treaty," the CIA veteran stresses.
As a result, the international community is now inclined to see Riyadh and Ankara as nothing less than troublemakers and part of a problem in the Middle East.
"The Turkish-Russian line of conflict, which underlay multiple Russo-Turkish wars across several centuries, could be at the center of escalation and expansion of the Syrian conflict. If so, there would be shades again of World War I, in which the Russian and Ottoman Empires were on opposite sides," the expert underscores.
The Syrian Arab Army, backed by the Russian Air Forces, is close to liberating Syria's largest city of Aleppo. In this light an opportunity to free Daesh's stronghold Raqqa also emerges for the Damascus-led forces.
"The everlasting Sunni 'Islamic Caliphate' in Syria doesn't look so everlasting any more. Is this why the Sunni Saudis have suddenly offered to send ground troops to Syria? And why the Turks are so flustered? I doubt if anyone is weeping in Shia Iran," Fisk emphasizes.
The journalist echoed Pillar's concerns regarding weird resemblances between the current conflict in Syria and the beginning of the First World War.
He warned that NATO member Turkey may unleash a new world war by launching a ground operation in Syria: "…we'll find ourselves in another Gavrilo Princip moment — and we all know what happened in 1914."
"It is a reason to give high priority to efforts to secure ceasefires and to realize that tamping down this still-local war is more important than prosecuting the war to obtain a particular local result," Pillar underscores.
Meanwhile, the US and Russia have finally agreed on a Syria ceasefire starting on February 27.
"The United States and Russia, as co-chairs of the ISSG [International Syria Support Group] and ISSG Ceasefire Task Force, announce the adoption on February 22, 2016, of the Terms for a Cessation of Hostilities in Syria attached as an Annex to this statement, and propose that the cessation of hostilities commence at 00:00 (Damascus time) on February 27, 2016," the official statement reads.
The decision has received high praise from the international community.