The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

39° Stony Brook, NY
The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman


Five things you should know about Syria

Here is a simple breakdown of everything you need to know about Syria. (PHOTO CREDIT / MCTCAMPUS)

Here is a simple breakdown of everything you need to know about Syria.

The numbers are staggering. In just two years, over 100,000 people have been killed. There are two million refugees, half of them being children. Currently, one-third of the Syrian population is displaced.  Entire cities inside Syria are completely wiped off the map.

Yet these numbers aren’t what grabbed the American people’s attention in these past couple of weeks. It wasn’t even the 1,429 people, many of them children, being gassed to death by chemical weapons on Aug. 21, 2013 that finally got everyone talking.

Instead, it was President Obama’s announcement of a potential strike on Syrian president Bashar al-Assad and his military that gave way to the national discussion of Syria.

Here is a simple breakdown of everything you need to know about Syria. As you weigh in on the debate of intervention, keep in mind these five things:

1)   American Troops Will Not Be On the Ground in Syria

What President Obama is calling for is airstrikes aimed to target the Assad regime, the regime that has mercilessly slaughtered 100,000 of its own people, whose only crime was a call for democracy. Obama is not calling for American soldiers to enter the Syrian Civil War; this has been stated explicitly in the draft currently being reviewed by Congress. The reality of the situation is that in just one strategic strike, the Assad regime and his army will be severely weakened. Their military strength is no comparison to the United States.

2)   Syria is not Iraq

Like most Middle Eastern countries, Syria has its own unique conflict with its own unique history.  So how does it compare to Iraq? Well, it doesn’t, for the simple reason that unlike what we saw in Iraq, there are in fact weapons of mass destruction in Syria. How do we know this? Because Assad unleashed them multiple times this year on his own people. Countless journalists, doctors and even the United Nations inspection team have evidence of this. These chemical weapons attacks have now forced Obama to take action, given his statement last summer about a chemical weapons attack being a “red line.” And essentially, it is how we got here to this debate today.

3)   The United States has an embedded interest in Syria

One thing you’ll hear people say is “the US has no interest in Syria, so we should just stay out of there.” This is a false statement. The United States and its key allies, particularly Israel, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Jordan, all have interests at stake with Syria. Syria is a key regional player in the Middle East, given its strategic location and influence in the region. It is important to remember that Assad gets much of his support from Iran and Hezbollah, and vice versa. If Assad is weakened, Iran and Hezbollah will also be weakened. This is very much aligned with United States interests and security, particularly during a time where Iran is developing a nuclear program.

4)   Supporting the Syrian opposition does NOT mean you are supporting Al-Qaeda

The Free Syrian Army (these are the people fighting to outs President Bashar al-Assad) is made up of everyday, ordinary Syrian citizens, volunteering for the sake of their country. Free Syrian Army General Salim Idris has already assured the U.S. that he and his fighters are in no way affiliated with Al-Qaeda. It is because the U.S. played the “wait and see” game that there is Al-Qaeda presence in the first place. However, extremist fighters make up less than 20 percent of the Syrian opposition. These extremists operate solo, and will most likely find that when Assad is gone, they will have no place in Syria. Al-Qaeda militants are somewhat like a mosquito; they play only a parasitic role within the Middle East. They see conflict, and they infest the region. But in the end, they will only leave a mark on Syria that will at first itch and swell, but will eventually subside. The Syrian people have no tolerance for Al-Qaeda, with or without Assad in power. 100,000 people did not give up their lives to hand over their country to Al-Qaeda.

5) Keep the Syrian people in mind, as they will be the ones most affected by any decision

It is understandable that we as a country are weary of war. But we must also consider the consequences of not taking any action at all. “Hands Off Syria” is merely a slogan of intellectual laziness; it does not aim to solve the conflict. Instead it suggests that people continue to go about their merry way, ignoring the hundreds of thousands of dead Syrian people. Many of these “Hands Off Syria” activists are going as far as to pointing fingers at the U.S., accusing them of another imperialistic plot. Considering that the U.S. has been doing its best to avoid any action in Syria for these past two years, I think we can all see how ridiculous this accusation is. But more importantly, both Syrian refugees as well as the opposition are in full support of U.S. strikes, and have been vocal about it to Western journalists. If anti-war and “Hands Off Syria” activists are true to their word on wanting to support the Syrian people, then they should recognize that a U.S. military strike is what the Syrian people want.

Air strikes targeting Assad’s military bases seem to be the only viable option at this time. Simply continuing to give humanitarian aid is not enough, and eventually, these funds will wear out. The Assad regime has made itself very clear: they will not relinquish power, and as long as they are in power, they will continue to slaughter more Syrians. There will be, of course, a lot of turmoil following Assad’s departure. The Syrian people themselves do not deny this. But why delay the inevitable? Assad must go, and the sooner, the better. Syria will not be able to rebuild itself while he stays in power.

If you truly believe in the democratic foundation that our country, the United States, was built on, then you would help support the Syrian people to do the same. As we saw with our own country, democracy is not an overnight process. We had to fight, just as the Syrian people are fighting. U.S. support could help aid that fight, and should not be dismissed by the American public.


View Comments (4)
Donate to The Statesman

Your donation will support the student journalists of Stony Brook University. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to The Statesman

Comments (4)

All The Statesman Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • A

    ArafatSep 12, 2013 at 9:05 pm

    I’ve got a novel idea. Let’s do nothing. Let the Muslims deal with their own problems for a change. Let’s let countries like Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait with their endless ocean of money and Western-bought armaments figure it out instead. Surely they – being practitioners of the religion of compassion and peace – will step right up to the plate in our stead.
    OK, you caught me there. You knew I was kidding! You knew what I know which is that there is no answer to these Islamic cesspools. Whatever we do will be discredited and if we do nothing then Syria will become just another country in the endless line of Hell on Earth Islamic countries.
    We cannot save Muslims from themselves. It is like trying to save an alcoholic. Until they are ready to abandon their religion – a religion that emphasizes aggression and violence and sadism – anything we do will simply be a band-aid on a gaping wound.
    Let them go through their DTs on their own. Only then will they be ready for our friendship and help, and only then will we find a way forward together as friends.

  • S

    SamSep 8, 2013 at 7:21 pm

    It seems that “James” above is presenting the rebuttal of the Assad regime on the article, with the usual expected lies and misinformation. Contrary to his claim, the UN inspection team that was mandated to find out if chemical weapons were used in the suburbs of Damascus, has independently verified their use. He mentions Carla Del Ponte that made some irresponsible statements at the time and was reprimanded by the UN for lack of supporting evidence and was relieved from her duties as a result. The story about the arrest in Turkey of “rebel” in possession of “Sarin gas” could not be confirmed (try to Google that!).. And the Assad regime was not winning in the eastern suburbs of Damascus as regime defenders have claimed and was unable to control that area after two years of fighting and that is why it resorted to CW.. And it is not the Saudis or Qatar or some other country that is the root of the problem, but the criminal Assad regime that has chosen the military solution in dealing with the people who have objected to its rule. And the majority of Syrians inside are in favor of foreign intervention to stop their killers. The solution to the Syrian problem is not by ignoring the genocide that the Assad regime is conducting against the Syrian people but by supporting the Syrian people revolution against the bloody dictator.

  • J

    JamesSep 8, 2013 at 2:55 pm

    Although this was published as an op-Ed piece, one should not refrain from using evidence to support his or her claims. The U.N. inspection team was mandated to find out if chemical weapons were used in the suburbs of Damascus, falling short of independently verifying who used the weapons. In May of 2013, Ms. Carla Del Ponte, a Swiss official in the U.N. Commission for Human Rights, published her findings in northern Syria claiming, “We still have to deepen our investigation, verify and confirm (the findings) through new witness testimony, but according to what we have established so far, it is at the moment opponents of the regime who are using sarin gas” (McElroy). In that same month, Turkish officials arrested 12 Syrian rebels at their home along border of Turkey and Syria with “2 kg of sarin” (Burch). So it is clear that the Syrian government is not the only ones in possession of WMD’s in this conflict. The Assad regime also has the myriad of “rebel” groups on the defensive, currently yielding the upper hand. Logically speaking, it does not make sense for the regime to carry out such an abhorrent strike if it has the upper hand, knowing that it would draw Western powers into the conflict. Cui bono? The Islamic governments of Qatar, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia would love to see the minority Shi’ite leader of Syria to fall, expanding the dominance of Sunni Islam in the region. Protests around the world have projected a majority opinion, included those of Syrians, that Western intervention will only exacerbate the situation: the largest protest being that in Vatican City were a mass garnered over 100,000 to call upon the end of war and bloodshed by Pope Francis and petition any future military strikes. Syria is in ruins, as you have said. But our country does not need to share in the bloodshed of innocent Syrians. We do not need to make the same mistake we did in Iraq, where WMD’s were not found. We do not need to to make the same mistake as we did with Afghanistan, arming the mujahideen who became the very same Taliban who despise our country today. We do not need to fuel another Islamic grassroots movement, subordinating the Christians and other minorities who have seen tolerance from this minority leader. I say no to foreign intervention in Syria.

    1) McElroy, Damien. “UN Accuses Syrian Rebels of Chemical Weapons Use.” The Telegraph, 6 May 2013. Web.
    8 Sept. 2013. .

    2)Burch, Jonathon. “Turkey Arrests 12 in Raids on “terrorist” Organization.” Reuters, 30 May 2013. Web. 8 Sept. 2013. .

  • N

    nasro taikhSep 7, 2013 at 9:04 am

    En plus de tout ce qui a était dit sur ce pays , sachez que le régime Bachar a toujours été derrière tous les attentats et complots dans la région ! C’est ce régime qui commis l’attentat contre le cortège de feu Harriri , c’est lui qui a ordonné à un ex ministre libanais de transporter des explosifs ,c’est lui aussi qui était le commanditaire des derniers attentats au nord Liban ! Et tout ça n’est qu’un bout de l’iceberg ! Donc une frappe contre ce régime est plus que nécessaire pour mettre fin au génocide que subissent les syriens et pour la paix dan la région !