If you are having a hard time understanding exactly what is going on in Syria, where Syria is or why it is important to us here in the United States, you are not alone.

Most people do not understand it – including many of the people who will have to give a final vote on whether President Barack Obama should attack Syria or not.

So here is a little bit of help understanding the crisis in Syria in a FAQ’s format that I hope will help you.

Where is Syria?

Syria is a country in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea. If you want to compare it to somewhere in the US, it’s a little smaller than South Carolina but filled with a lot more people; at last count 22 million. Syria is very diverse in terms of ethnicity and religion, but most Syrians follow the Sunni branch of Islam.

What is going on in Syria? Is there a war going on right now?

Syria is in the middle of an extremely violent civil war, meaning Syrians are fighting other Syrians. The fighting is between current government forces led by President Bassar al-Assad (referred to as the “Assad Regime”) and rebel forces who are groups of citizens of Syria who have taken arms to protect themselves against the government.

How did this all start and why are people in Syria killing each other?

The killing started in April 2011, when peaceful protests rose up to challenge the Assad Regime (a dictatorship) running the country. The government responded in the worst way. Activist were killed. Then, the Assad Regime started kidnapping, raping, torturing and killing activists and their family members -including a lot of children – and dumping their mutilated bodies by the sides of roads.

Eventually, civilians started shooting back at the Assad Regime security forces, and that is how the rebel (citizen) forces were born. There are multiple groups of rebel (citizen) forces. (Imagine groups of people from different neighborhoods each forming their own groups; that’s what rebel groups are).

Why is the United States involved in a civil war going on in Syria?

The United States isn’t involved. We were never going to get involved in the civil war in Syria until the people of Syria were gassed with chemical weapons, which is believed to be at the hands of the Assad Regime. The world got together in 1925 for the Geneva Convention to ban chemical weapons so it is President Obama’s position that the world needs to condemn the Assad Regime for using them.

As a part of the United Nations – an organization of independent states (countries) formed in 1945 to promote international peace and security – when there are international problems you can’t get away from the fact that the United States is a super power, and whenever anything is going on in any country in the world, they look to America for resources, money or military help.

Will Obama launch a military strike against Syria?

Not sure. President Obama said he wants the U.S. to take military action against Syria for the use of chemical weapons, period. The president thinks Syria’s chemical attack poses a serious danger to America’s national security, because it threatens our Middle East allies (Israel, Turkey, etc.) and could lead to more chemical attacks in the future. So, he sent the decision to Congress (the Senate & the House of Representatives) to vote on whether or not to strike. That’s what all the coverage is about lately – can President Obama get the votes to strike.

Why do we keep hearing about Russia?

Oh yeah, Russia is Syria’s most important ally. Moscow blocks (by votes) the United Nations Security Council from passing anything (like a military strike) that might hurt the Assad Regime, which is why the U.S. has to go around the U.N. if it wants to do anything.

Russia sends a lot of weapons to Syria making it easier for the Assad Regime to keep killing civilians.

If President Obama gets the votes to strike, will a military strike work?

That’s the big question. The military strike would be on the location that intelligence believes the chemical weapons are located. Some say a military strike could totally backfire. The United States is a big ally of countries like Israel and Turkey and the danger is these countries could be dragged into the crisis as a way for Syria to retaliate against the United States. Many others believe this would be the start of a war between the United States and Syria.

So when can we expect military action?

Don’t know. First, President Obama has to get the votes from Congress. If he does, he will strike and we will watch what happens next. If he does not get the votes, he does have the authority as president to strike anyway but I’m not sure that would be a good idea.

One important note: President Obama has said an attack is not time-sensitive and could come this week, months from now or even later.

What should we be doing as Americans?

Watch the coverage, and stay tuned to what is happening. If you want to follow the votes and want to voice your opinion in order to influence the votes, call your Congressmen and tell him what you think and how you want him to vote.


To find your Congressman, go to http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/ OR to speak to a GA US Senator go to http://www.isakson.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/email-me for Senator Johnny Isakson and http://www.chambliss.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/email for Senator Saxby Chambliss.

I’ll be back with more updates as they happen. Hope this helps!

Mo Ivory, CBS Local


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