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  • 5 things to know about Syria


  • Here are five things to know about the situation in Syria.



     
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  • Here are five things to know about the situation in Syria.

    1. First and foremost, where is Syria?

    It’s in the Middle East, specifically, in Asia, bordering Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea to the west, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south and Israel to the southwest.

    2. What did Syria do to make the U.S. and its allies upset?

    The government of Bashar al-Assad purportedly used chemical weapons against its own people, resulting in the deaths of somewhere between 350 people (according to British intelligence) or 1,300 (according to opposition leaders). Some have called evidence of the attacks scanty, but the U.S. and the U.K. have said there is undeniable evidence. The attack took place in mid-August in a suburb of Damascus.  

    3. Why did the Syrian government attack its own people?

    A civil war has been raging in the country since February 2011, and according to U.S. media accounts, more than 100,000 people have been killed in the conflict. The attack is another in a string of salvos by the government against the opposition (rebels have attacked government forces as well). The civil war began when anti-government graffiti - reading “The people want to topple the regime” - was painted on the walls of a school, schoolchildren were arrested and allegedly mistreated, and protests turned violent. Syria’s leader, al-Assad, has been in charge since 2000, when his father died.  

    4. Why do the U.S. and its allies care now, as opposed to when the civil war was in its beginnings?

    Last year President Barack Obama said that "a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized." British Prime Minister David Cameron recently echoed those sentiments about Syria crossing a line: "The use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime is a serious crime of international concern, as a breach of the customary international law prohibition on use of chemical weapons, and amounts to a war crime and a crime against humanity. However, the legal basis for military action would be humanitarian intervention; the aim is to relieve humanitarian suffering by deterring or disrupting the further use of chemical weapons."

    5. What next?

    U.N. investigators are in Syria investigating and plan to finish by Saturday and then file a report with U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. England initially seemed prepared for a strike, but after lawmakers there voted down intervention, Cameron said his country wouldn't take part. Most U.S. lawmakers don't want a strike, but the Obama administration appears to be leaning that way. U.S. warships have been deployed to the region. Further complicating the issue is that Russia and Iran have vowed to prevent an attack against Syria, its ally. China also is an ally of Syria. Russian warships are in the same waters as the U.S. destroyers.

    Sources: CNN, USA Today, Washington Post, BBC  

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