The FAQs: Red Lines, Israeli Airstrikes, and Civil War in Syria
What is going on in Syria?
In 2011, during the Middle Eastern protest movement known as the Arab Spring, protesters in Syria demanded the end of Ba'ath Party rule and the resignation of President Bashar al-Assad, whose family has held the presidency in the country since 1971. In April 2011, the Syrian Army was sent to quell the protest and soldiers opened fire on demonstrators. After months of military sieges, the protests evolved into an armed rebellion and has spread across the country.
Wait, what's the "Arab Spring" and the "Ba'ath Party"?
The Arab Spring is the term the Western media has used to describe the various protests, demonstrations, riots, and civil wars that began on 18 December 2010 and spread throughout many countries with predominantly Arab populations.
The Ba'ath Party (short for the Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party) is a political party that began in Syria which espouses Ba'athism, a mix of Arab nationalism, socialism, and anti-imperialist ideologies. Ba'athism calls for unification of the Arab world into a single state. The movement is split into two main factions, one in Syria and one in Iraq (Saddam Hussein was a Ba'athist).
I know the country is somewhere in the Middle East, but where exactly is it located?
Syria, which is about the size of North Dakota, is located north of the Arabian Peninsula at the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea. The country is bordered by Turkey on the north, Iraq on the east, Jordan on the south, and Lebanon, Israel, and the Mediterranean on the west. Its biggest cities are Aleppo (population 2,301,570) and Damascus (population 1,711,000).
Isn't Syria one of the lands mentioned in the Bible?
The modern state of Syria is part of the area known throughout history as Greater Syria. In the Bible the city of Damascus is mentioned 67 times. The road to Damascus was the place of Paul's conversion (Acts 9) and Antioch was the city in which the disciples were first called Christians. (Acts 11:26)
I just heard on the news that Israel bombed Syria. Why is Israel getting involved?
On May 4 and 5, Israeli warplanes bombed an area on the outskirts of Damascus, reportedly to stop a shipment of advanced, long-range, ground-to-ground missiles destined for Lebanon's Hezbollah movement at Damascus International Airport. Hezbollah is a political party and terrorist organization that operates in Lebanon and which receives military training, weapons, and financial support from Iran, and political support from Syria.
What is President Obama's "red line" comment about?
On August 20, 2012 President Obama was asked about reports that Syria was prepared to use chemical weapons against rebels. The President answered,
We have been very clear to the (Bashar al-Assad) regime, but also to other players on the ground, that a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized. That would change my calculus. That would change my equation.
The Obama administration has not defined what level of chemical weapons use would trigger a response or what action would be taken. The most likely scenario is that the U.S. would follow Israel's lead in using airstrikes against military targets and chemical munitions plants.
What is the toll of the Syrian civil war?
To date, estimates range between 70,000 and 120,000 Syrians killed, 130,000 people missing or detained, 1.2 million refugees, and 2.5-3 million internally displaced.