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You probably noticed that Syria dominated headlines last week. World leaders are faced with a decision: how to respond to Syrian President al-Assad’s alleged use of chemical weapons. It is a decision that deeply divides world leaders. President Obama supports military strikes against military targets in Syria and hopes to create a coalition of forces to carry out these strikes. Syria’s allies, including Russia and China, reject military strikes and vow to retaliate should Syria be attacked. And, then there are the countries that urge patience. They encourage world leaders to wait to respond until after the United Nation finishes assessing evidence about chemical weapons and releases its report.
How did we get to this point? To answer that, we must take a step back in time. History’s broad view will help us understand the al-Assad regime, the current situation, and weapons of mass destruction.
2011 to Today—
During the spring of 2011, a rash of uprisings spread across the Arab world. Called the Arab Spring, these uprisings toppled regimes in Egypt and Libya. However, the rebellion against the Assad regime in Syria has become a protracted civil war. View Syria: The Basics, a narrated slideshow and hear about Syria’s culture and how the current conflict began.
Turn to page two of the AP suite of features and explore the current conflict. (Use the menu in the upper left corner to advance to page two.) Scroll down to the section titled Sectarian Divide. Visit each tab in this section and discover more about the phases of the conflict. What do sects have to do with the conflict? Click on the Sects’ Regions section and visit each tab in this section to learn more about how different religious groups influence the conflict.
The rebels and the al-Assad regime are not the only parties interested in what happens in Syria. A host of other countries are interested in the outcome. Scroll down to Political Gridlock to see what other countries have to gain or lose.
Weapons of Mass Destruction—
According to the United Nations’ Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), an arms control agreement that makes it illegal to make, store, and use chemical weapons, all chemical weapons are illegal. 189 countries have signed the agreement; however, Syria is one of five countries that has not signed it. Discover more about the three classes of chemical weapons, and how each affects people.
Reports of a chemical attack against Syrian civilians on August 21, 2013 concerned and outraged world leaders. President al-Assad denied responsibility for the attacks. Instead, he suggested that rebel forces were behind the attacks and that they hoped Assad would be blamed. The United Nations’ Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon, responded to the attacks by saying, “Any use of chemical weapons anywhere by anybody under any circumstances would violate international law. Such a crime against humanity should result in serious consequences for the perpetrator.” The United Nations sent inspectors to Syria to gather and to assess the evidence. What did inspectors look for? Read the BBC article, How to Investigate chemical weapons allegations. View a map of chemical weapons attack sites.
The World’s Response—
With no known target date for the United Nations’ report, world leaders are left divided. Do they respond militarily? Do they avoid military action? Or, do they wait for United Nations’ recommendations? Visit the Associated Press’ suite of features that explore the military options. Scroll down to the first section: U.S. Plans Military Strike. Explore the four tabs to see what military and government sites might be targets of an attack. Watch the short video to learn more about what and from where United States could launch strikes. Scroll down to the next section, Chemical Weapons Attack, for specifics about the August 21, 2013 chemical warfare attacks in Syria. Finally, read the final section, The Intervention Debate, to see where different world leaders stand on the decision to respond militarily.
President Obama and other White House officials have been building support for military retaliation. The President used his weekly address to speak about Syria. Visit the White House site and scroll down to watch President Obama's September 7 weekly address.
On Monday, September 9, the Congress of the United States returns from its hiatus and will consider President Obama’s request for permission to strike Syria. The world will be watching as the White House is pressed to make their case for military action, and to support it with evidence that President al-Assad was behind the attacks.
On Tuesday, September 10, President Obama is schedules to speak to the American public about Syria in a prime time speech. Find out more about exactly when in your TargetNewspaper.