I'll keep this one as short and sweet as possible. As I can see it, World War III is not around the corner. Given that the Russian economy is in such shit shape, I truly doubt that Vladimir Putin is spoiling for a real fight against NATO. North Korea is posturing as usual because...well....it's a totalitarian society, and sabre rattling against rivals constantly and ridiculously is necessary for domestic peace in a non-democratic society. More importantly, and to the point of this entry, there is no favourable outcome to the war in Syria; because in Syria, all roads lead to hell.
As far as I can tell, there are three main outcomes that are possible in this conflict.
The first outcome is the entirely non-starter outcome, which is to punish Assad by letting ISIS win. This should be self-explanatory of why it's a truly terrible idea. It would certainly lead to mass genocide against non-Sunni peoples across the country to an extent that makes the refugee crisis substantially worse, forcing people to choose between being possibly killed by the militaries of foreign countries trying to block their entry, or by ISIS implementing their campaign of genocide that could see entire cities wiped out in their pursuit of ethno-religious supremacism. Further, no doubt that an ISIS government in Syria would primarily concern itself with spreading Islamic jihad to surrounding Arab states, starting a wider regional war that would be increasingly difficult for western powers to stay out of. More importantly, who would western powers support? All nations fighting ISIS? Or more pro-western nations fighting ISIS?
The second outcome is the least predictable. That is....help the Syrian opposition topple Assad and hopefully defeat ISIS. This is not much better of an option than the first one, simply because the Syrian rebels have no real cohesive objective beyond ousting President Assad. For all we can tell, they'll simply replace one Baathist regime with another one. Perhaps something even worse. Perhaps a victory will merely lead to a power struggle in the rebel leadership that breaks out into another civil war. It's absolutely delusional to believe that the toppling of Assad and rebel victory will usher in an era of democracy and non-sectarianism in Syria. I believe that a rebel victory will lead to sectarian violence even worse than the country is facing right now, and probably a vendetta campaign against the Alawites that supported the Assad regime. It's entirely possible that a rebel victory and toppling of the Assad regime could usher in something resembling a transitional government to something resembling democracy....but I highly doubt it. I foresee an attempt at transitional government that becomes derailed and broken by sectarian violence and shifting military allegiances.
The third road isn't particularly lovable either, but in terms of pragmatic foreign policy, it may be the only realistic option for the international community.....let Assad defeat the rebellion. His government is the established force of Syrian politics, and given the chaos of the rebellion, it may be the only shot the West has at restoring order in Syria, preventing a Jihadist government in Damascus, and having Assad turn his guns on ISIS. Did Assad use chemical weapons? I have no idea if it's true. Given the atrocities being committed on all sides, it really makes no difference to me.
I can only judge what i can perceive to be the truth. President Assad is a monster, ISIS are bigger monsters, and the rebels are a wildcard that could swing either way, produce peace and democracy, or chaos and genocide. I can only see the millions of civilians displaced, a country in ruins, piles of rubble being bombed and mixed with other piles of rubble. The priority of the international community at this point has to be an eventual end to the conflict, and rebuilding of the country to end this refugee crisis. We can't get the outcome we want, it's simply not feasible at this point. It's time for the international community to stop tilting at the windmills of idealism and face reality.
When all the roads in Syria lead to hell, the only question is this: which hell can we live with?