Frequently Asked Questions on Syria

Find an answer to your questions about the crisis in Syria.

1) So, what can you tell me about the U.S.-Russia Agreement?

2) What is Russia and Iran’s involvement with Syria?

3) What led to the use of chemical weapons in Syria’s civil war?

4) What do we know about Syria’s armed opposition?

5) How can the U.S. help end the civil war in Syria?

6) How could U.S. military intervention impact the Syrian war?

7) What can you do to support peace in Syria?

Frequently Asked Questions

1) So, what can you tell me about the U.S.-Russia Agreement?

The U.S.-Russia Framework for the Elimination of Syrian Chemical Weapons is a landmark breakthrough, demonstrating how diplomacy can save lives, focus decisive action from the international community and uphold international norms. The United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution to disarm Syria of its chemical weapons. They detailed a plan for the expeditious accounting, inspection, control, and elimination of Syria’s sizable arsenal of chemical weapons, with a provision for enforcement by the UN Security Council. The process of dismantling and destroying Syrian chemical weapons began on October 6th, 2013.

Given the agreement is limited in scope to focus on the chemical weapons issues, it is important that the U.S., Russia, and other major actors in the conflict seize on this diplomatic momentum to advance a comprehensive political settlement to end Syria’s civil war.

2) What is Russia and Iran’s involvement with Syria?

Both Russia and Iran are important allies to the Assad regime and have provided arms, funds and other support to the Syrian regime. Significantly, Russia put forth, and Iran backed, the original proposal that requires Syria to surrender chemical weapons to international control for eventual destruction, which has been adapted in the UNSC resolution. More recently, Iran’s new president Hassan Rouhani has signaled his interest in restarting diplomatic talks with the United States. Iran and Russia's close ties to the Assad regime in addition to their demonstrated interest in diplomacy with the United States give weight and credibility to the potential for success of a diplomatic solution supported by these actors.

3) What led to the use of chemical weapons in Syria’s civil war?

The Sarin gas attack on a suburb of Damascus has put unprecedented international attention on the vicious two and a half year civil war in Syria. During the Arab Spring of 2011, nonviolent protests calling for an end to authoritarian rule in Syria swelled in numbers and intensity. In response to these largely peaceful protests, the Assad regime unleashed a brutal campaign of repression, and amidst this spiral of violence, scores of armed groups emerged in opposition to the regime, and in opposition to one another. Gross human rights atrocities have been committed on all sides. More than 100,000 Syrians have been killed by the regime and many armed opposition groups and more than 2 million people have fled the country.

4) What do we know about Syria’s armed opposition?

The Pentagon has estimated that the Syrian armed opposition includes 800-1200 militant groups, some as much at war with other groups as they are with the Assad regime.

5) How can the U.S. help end the civil war in Syria?

The U.S. must advance a comprehensive political settlement with all the relevant stakeholders to stop the bloodshed in Syria. U.S. work with the Russian Foreign Ministry on a Geneva II peace process has been laudable, but has not included all relevant stakeholders. IIn addition to the Assad regime, opposition groups, and civil society groups inside Syria, the new summit must include representatives from Syria, Russia, Iran, Jordan, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, UK and France to negotiate a way forward to end the bloodshed, allow unrestricted humanitarian access and find a negotiated settlement to the conflict. The Arab League and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and other non-state actors with potential influence on the Assad regime must also be engaged.

At its heart, the conflict in Syria is a civil war exacerbated by outside actors. Pentagon officials have pointed out that ending the civil war requires a political, not military, solution. In his letter to Rep. Eliot Engel (NY) in late August, Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey wrote: “U.S. military action risks killing more people and has a low probability of effectively deterring the future use of chemical weapons.”

6) How could U.S. military intervention impact the Syrian war?

A U.S. military intervention poses a grave threat to national security because it opens the door for escalation and expansion of war. Upon a U.S. attack, the Syrian regime could retaliate by launching attacks on Israel or U.S. military assets in the Middle East. This has the potential to spiral out to become an open-ended, multi-billion dollar war. Additionally, a U.S. attack would likely play into the hands of the Syrian regime, triggering an outpouring of nationalist support for Assad among Syrians who perceive the regime as their only protection from foreign military intervention. Strikes could also strengthen al Qaeda’s presence in the region by emboldening opposition groups such as Jabhat al-Nusra, which have avowed affiliations with al Qaeda.

7) What can you do to support peace in Syria?

There are four easy ways you can prevent war with Syria:
    1.Call your member of Congress (and follow up your call with an email) asking that they support vigorous diplomatic efforts to end the violence in Syria
    2.Write a letter to the editor (and mention by name your members of congress)
    3.Make a visit to their local office   
4. Support FCNL’s work for a world free of war and the threat of war by making a contribution today.

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