The Crisis in Syria Demystified

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If you're confused about what's going on in Syria, don't worry you're not alone. That's why NewsChannel 7 went on the hunt collecting answers to your most commonly asked questions.

Where is Syria? Why are the people of Syria fighting? What role does the United States really play in the situation? These are just some of the questions people have concerning this complex conflict.

First, Syria is a country in the Middle East located on the eastern banks of the Mediterranean Sea bordered by Israel, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Turkey.

For the answers to the rest of your questions, NewsChannel 7 sought the help of two UW Stevens Point professors. Professor Edgar Francis IV, who teaches Middle Eastern history, shed some light on the Country's complicated past and why they're fighting today.

"People will hear about the secretarian conflict, but that is by no means the cause," Professor Francis tells NewsChannel 7.

Instead, the two year old civil war is actually a product of the dictatorship's violent response to what started as peaceful protests against Bashar al-Assad. Professor Francis says he can only see two possible outcomes in this case. One in which Bashar al-Assad's dictatorship remains intact resulting in no political change or one in which the opposition gains control. But, even then, political upheaval would remain the name of the game.

"All they agree on right now is that they want Bashar al-Asaad out of power," Professor Francis explains.

So what can the U.S. do to fix the problem? Political science professor Dennis Riley says the answer is nothing. So why bother with the strike? The answer, to send a message to Assad and his supporters that the use of chemical weapons and all weapons of mass destruction will not be tolerated.

"We're sort of hoping that somehow if you say to the Iranians we're not going to let him do this, that they will take the message [like] we won't let you do this," Professor Riley says.

With Congress set to vote on the Syria resolution next week, Professor Riley says both action and inaction will have serious consequences.

If the U.S. does take military action in Syria, Professor Riley says that although it's hard to predict how Assad will respond he foresees two possible endings.

"One, we just go slowly down a road until all of the sudden we turn around and the only way to extricate ourselves is to send in troops. The only way to affect the outcome is to send in troops, which no one wants to do, not even the President. So there are those that think that's the logical conclusion, that think that's where that will end up and others that say no, it will just end up futile."

If the U.S. does not go through with the strike, Professor Riley says we run the risk of sending the message that we're not willing to back up all the things that we say. A consequence, which in his opinion, is far less severe than if the U.S. were to go through with the strike.

Now the question is, how will congress vote? Professor Riley predicts the Senate will approve the resolution, but the House remains the wild card.

"He's going to lose a lot of votes on both sides and the leadership, the Republican leadership in the House, has said they're with him," Professor Riley says adding "But they've also said they won't do anything to affect the vote. So, usually when the speaker and the majority leader want something to pass, they twist some arms and they said they will not twist arms."

Even though President Obama says he has the authority to launch a strike without Congressional approval, Professor Riley highly doubts the Commander and Chief will feel comfortable going ahead and taking that step.

"I don't think he wants to be in a position where he takes the full responsibility because if the downside comes, that's going to be stuck on him politically in the short term and historically in the long term.," Professor Riley explains.

Debates on the resolution are expected to begin September 9th.

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