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A basic primer on the Syrian Crisis

4:35 PM, Sep 7, 2013   |    comments
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(AP file)

(WXIA) -- The Syrian civil war, which led to the current Syrian crisis situation, has its origins in the Middle Eastern Arab Spring movement, which began with demonstrations in the Syrian capital of Damascus in March, 2011.

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Many of the protesters demanded the resignation of Syria's president, Bashar al-Assad, who has led the nation since July, 2000. Al-Assad's family has led Syria since 1971. The protests also said they wanted the end of Syrian rule by Ba'ath Party, which has ruled the nation since 1963. The Syrian regime has close ties to Iran and Russia. They also have support from Hezbollah and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).

FULL COVERAGE | Syrian Crisis

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The Syrian Army was dispatched to end the uprising, which led to soldiers firing on demonstrators. The protests evolved into armed rebellion against the Assad-led government.

Multiple factions opposing the Syrian government emerged, most notably the Free Syrian Army and the Syrian Islamic Liberation Front. Both organizations enjoy support from France, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United States. The Mujahideen also opposes the Ba'athist government of Assad, but also has the support of al-Qaeda forces in the region.

On Friday, President Obama said the Syrian regime posed a threat to global peace, and that given its use of chemical weapons - noted as weapons of mass destruction - that they should be punished for their actions. The president said he would take his case to the American public in a prime-time speech scheduled for Tuesday evening.

The use of chemical weapons is against international law, and considered a war crime.

"I want people to understand that gassing innocent people, delivering chemical weapons against children is not something we do," Obama said. "It's prohibited in active wars between countries. We certainly don't do it to kids."

The US says the Assad regime gassed about 1,400 people to death - including more than 400 children - in a rebel-controlled neighborhood on August 21.

Officials in Iran spoke out on Thursday, saying that the arrogance of the United States would lead the nation to pay a steep price.

Iran's Ayatollah Khameni said the US has no right to make "humanitarian claims" given their track record in Iraq, Afghanistan and at the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Hezbollah released a statement Thursday, its first official statement since the ramp up to any potential American air strike in Syria.

"These threats fail to conceal the true objectives of this strike aimed at mobilizing Israeli (strength) in the region in an attempt to impose the Western colonial grip," the statement, which was read by parliamentarian Hassan Fadlallah.

Iran goes on to say that they will attack American interests if the US proceeds with plans to strike Syria.

Ahead of any military strikes in Syria, the United States has instructed non-essential personnel at the US Embassies in Turkey and Lebanon to leave those two nations.

Both Turkey, which lies to the north of Syria, and Lebanon, which is immediately to the west of Syria, have been on the receiving end of thousands of refugees fleeing the military action already taking place in Syria. Those numbers are expected to grow even larger if the United States moves forward with potential military strikes.

As opposed to past military debates in the United States, individuals on opposite sides in this debate are not split down party lines. Many Republicans and Democrats both have a strong opposition to military action, while a number of individuals from both parties support the president's call for military strikes in Syria.

Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel have both testified before House and Senate committees regarding any military action in the region. The full bodies of both the House and Senate are set to debate the measure next week.

Members of both the House and the Senate are hearing from constituents, many of whom are expressing their anger at those members who are in support of military action in Syria. There is open speculation among talk show hosts and commentators that many Americans are war-weary after years of military action in Iraq and Afghanistan, and that many Americans see any type of action in Syria as threatening to embroil the nation in yet another war in the Middle East.

This week, President Obama met with a number of world leaders while attending the G20 fiscal summit in St. Petersburg, Russia, and many of those leaders also are opposed to military action in Syria. The UK's House of Commons voted last week in opposition to Prime Minister David Cameron not to act along with the US or any other nation regarding military action in Syria. German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande were also opposed to action in Syria. Russian President Vladimir Putin, an ally of the Assad regime, is strongly opposed to any military action in Syria.

Friday, the White House released a joint statement from the US, Australia, Canada, France, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Turkey, the UK and the US condemning the use of chemical weapons against civilians in Syria in the strongest possible terms, and noting that an international response is needed.

The United Nations, which is also on record as opposing any sort of military action in Syria, has already sent weapons inspectors to determine if chemical weapons were used against civilians in Syria. Preliminary tests indicate the presence of chemical weapons residue in locations where missiles and other weapons impacted.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon says there should be a political solution to the problems posed by Syria. Despite this, he says any chemical weapons attack is a war crime and should be treated as much.

Nations/Factions:
Syria (Assad Regime)
Syrian rebellion (Syrian opposition groups & Mujahideen)
United States 
Israel - sits to the southwest of Syria, and has fears that any backlash will be sent their way.
Al Qaeda - Working in opposition to the Assad government with Hezbollah and other terror-based groups
Hezbollah - Working in opposition to the Assad government with Al Qaeda and other terror-based groups
Arab League - Syria has been suspended from the Arab League since November 2011, as a result of its actions during the civil war.
Iran - Iran has said they will attack US assets in Iraq and elsewhere in response to any provocative action on Amerca's part.
Lebanon - Has received thousands of refugees from Syria
Turkey - Has received thousands of refugees from Syria

Players:
Bashar al-Assad - Syrian president
Obama - US President
Putin - Russian President
Ban Ki Moon - UN Secretary General
David Cameron - UK Prime Minister

Sub-players:
John McCain - (R-Arizona) - US Senator, member of the Senate Armed Services Committee
Nancy Pelosi - (D-Ohio) - US House Minority Leader
John Boehner (R-Ohio) - Speaker of the US House
John Kerry - US Secretary of State
Chuck Hagel - US Secretary of Defense
Bashar Ja'Afari - Syrian ambassador to UN
Angela Merkel - German Chancellor
Francois Hollande - French President

Issues:
Use of chemical weapons against civilians by Syrian regime
Perceived American aggression by Syrian regime and others in Middle East 
Hundreds of thousands of refugees entering Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey

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