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OPINION EDITOR
Robert Mentzer 715-845-0604 rmentzer@wdhmedia.com

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TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 10, 2013

CRISIS IN SYRIA
W H A T Y O U N E E D T O K N O W

“There are times where we have to make hard choices if we're going to stand up for the things that we care about. And I believe that this is one of those times.”
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA, SEPT. 6, 2013

Weighing military action
Syria has been torn by civil war for more than two years, but the country has now become the center of the world’s attention because of allegations that the government has used chemical weapons against its own people. President Barack Obama has proposed limited military action against Syria. Obama is scheduled to address the nation Tuesday night. Syria maintains largely Russian-built air defenses, but past Israeli bombing raids have demonstrated they can be penetrated.
N KEY:
Chemical sites Missile systems Ground troops Fixed-wing aircraft SYRIAN REFUGEES IN TURKEY: 463,885 April 25, 2013 Alleged chemical weapons attack in the town of Saraqib.
Aleppo Al Safir Saraqib Latakia

A MILITARY RESPONSE
The details of how and when the U.S. military might strike Syria are still unclear. The most likely scenario would be for the U.S. to target Syrian military with cruise missiles launched from ships in the Mediterranean Sea. 1. Launch Missile can be launched from a ship. High above the water, the booster burns out and is jettisoned. 2. Begin flight Wings and other control surfaces fold out, and the motor ignites for cruise.

March 19, 2013 Alleged chemical weapons attack in the Khan al-Asal district of Aleppo by government forces. The Assad government blames the attack on rebels.

Tomahawk cruise missile

Ship or submarine

CYPRUS

Dec. 23, 2012 Alleged chemical weapons attack in Homs, according to Britain and France.
Mediterranean Sea

SYRIA
Hama Homs Palmyra

50 miles

SYRIAN REFUGEES IN LEBANON: 720,341
Damascus

U.S. and Allied action against Syria would likely target the country’s missle launch known missile launchsites and military installations. sites and military installations.

3. Missile navigation It uses global positioning satellites and other technology to guide navigation.

4. At the target Over the target, the missile activates an on-board camera, compares what it sees with a stored digital image and makes any final route changes.

Aug. 21, 2013 Syrian opposition groups claim “poisonous gas” attack by government forces near Damascus, leaving hundreds dead. Syrian government denies claims.

SYRIAN REFUGEES IN IRAQ: 171,984

Sources: Jane’s Weapons Systems, Institute of the Study of War, Federation of American Scientists

ALLEGED CHEMICAL ATTACKS AUG. 21 IN THE DAMASCUS AREA

Douma Arbeen Hammura Zamalka Saqba

Range of Syrian medium-range missiles

SYRIAN REFUGEES IN EGYPT: 111,424

Range of Syrian long-range missiles

SYRIAN REFUGEES IN JORDAN: 519,676

Syria can respond to an air attack with both long-range and medium-range missiles that can destroy enemy missiles. SAUDI ARABIA

Jobar

DAMASCUS
Moadamiyeh Daraya

Ein Tarma Muleiha

Kfar Jisreen Batna

2 miles

Sources: Associated Press and USA Today

FACTS ABOUT SYRIA
Population: Estimated at 22.5 million. Median age: Syria is a young country: The median age is 22.7, and a third of its population is under 14. Area: 71,500 square miles, slightly larger than North Dakota.
Source: CIA World Factbook

History: Though Syria has been independent since 1946, its capital, Damascus, is considered one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. Syria was part of the Ottoman Empire until France acquired a mandate over the area following World War I. After independence, Syria was politically unstable for decades. It united with Egypt for three years, and then separated, re-establishing itself as the Syrian Arab Republic in 1961.

Assad regime: The country stabilized under Hafez Assad, a member of the Ba’ath Party, who led a military coup in 1970 to take control of the government. Following his death in 2000, his son, Bashar Assad, succeeded him.

Religion: About three-quarters of Syrians are Sunni Muslim, and 16 percent are other Muslim branches, including Druze and Alawite, of which the Assads are members. Ten percent of Syrians are Christian.

Economy: Civil war has wracked the economy. The 2012 unemployment rate was 18 percent; it was 14.9 percent in 2011. The 2012 inflation rate was 37 percent; the previous year was 4.8 percent.

Main exports: Crude oil and petroleum products.

THE REGISTER

CASE FOR MILITARY ACTION

REASONS TO AVOID ACTION
f the White House wants to get serious about Syria, it is going to have to do better than a handful of missile strikes to punish the regime. The plan out of the Oval Office is just plain bad. 1. It won’t deter the use of weapons of mass destruction by the Syrian regime or others. Syrian President Bashar Assad is in a fight for his life. A modest strike that knocks down a few buildings will not deter him from using whatever means he feels are necessary to survive. On the other hand, the lesson other totalitarian regimes may take away is

U

.S. military action against Syria is warranted to:

1. Re-establish deterrence regarding chemical weapons in Syria. There are reasonable arguments on both sides of this issue. But presidential credibility is on the line, since last year President Barack Obama called the possible use of chemical weapons a “red line.” More important is the need to re-establish deterrence, so that the Syrian regime does not conclude that it has a green light to use chemicals even more widely. 2. Ensure that Iran (and

MICHAEL O’HANLON is a senior fellow with the Center for 21st Century Security and Intelligence and director of research for the foreign policy program at the Brookings Institution.

not cross that red line — perhaps out of conviction that doing so would prompt American military action. If deterrence is working even partially in Iran, we cannot afford to squander it by having Obama’s words on other issues proven hollow. 3. Plus, if Syrian leader Bashar Assad retaliates or escalates, so can we. Assad knows that Obama does not wish to involve the U.S. in another Middle East war. For Assad to escalate is to risk changing Obama’s calculus, perhaps leading to a Kosovo-style air campaign designed to truly help the insurgents win — and displace Assad by force.

I

JAMES JAY CARAFANO is vice president of defense and foreign relations studies at the Heritage Foundation.

won’t take down the regime. Nor will they help stop the violence that has cost 100,000 lives and displaced 2 million people. 3. It is not the best way to protect U.S. interests in the region. The strikes are no substitute for a strategy of working with friends and allies in the region to deal with the humanitarian crisis; block the influence of Iran and Hezbollah; stop the spread of alQaida; and bring an end to the Assad regime. And the U.S. has plenty of friends to work with: Turkey, Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Iraq.

others) don’t get the wrong message about U.S. resoluteness. Obama also has established a red line with Iran: The Iranian regime will not be allowed to develop a nuclear weapon. Even Iran’s previous leader, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, did

that they will need more intimidating weapons to block U.S. interference in their affairs. That makes it more likely they will follow the North Korea model and seek nuclear arms. 2. It won’t affect the outcome of the war. Even the administration acknowledges the attacks

4 QUESTIONS

1

HOW DID WE GET HERE?
Civilian protests in 2011, inspired by prodemocracy uprisings throughout the region, were met with violence and repression by the Syrian government. President Bashar Assad’s regime killed activists calling for his downfall, swept houses, sectioned off neighborhoods and cut off electricity and water, according to protesters. After hundreds of protesters were killed, the United States joined Britain and other members of the European Union in condemning Assad’s tactics. Sectarian supporters and their weapons soon flooded into Syria, intensifying violence on both sides of the civil war. In August 2012, U.S. President Barack Obama said that if Assad unleashed chemical or biological weapons, he would be crossing a “red line” and inviting military action. There have been earlier, unconfirmed reports of chemical attacks, but the U.S. now says it has hard evidence Syria crossed that red line with a chemical attack in the suburbs of Damascus on Aug. 21. The U.S. believes the attack killed at least 1,400 people.

2

WHAT’S IT LIKE FOR SYRIANS?
The civil war has taken the lives of 100,000 Syrians, according to the United Nations. More than 2 million Syrians, half of them children, have fled the country as refugees, according to the U.N.’s refugee agency. Most refugees have streamed into neighboring countries, flaring tensions in Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and Iraq. Inside Syria, the civil war has displaced more than 4 million people.

3

WHAT’S THE EVIDENCE OF USE OF CHEMICAL WEAPONS?
According to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, the U.S. has received hair and blood samples that have “tested positive for signatures of sarin,” a deadly nerve agent first developed in Germany in the 1930s. Kerry noted that the evidence came not from U.N. inspectors but from independent channels. The administration continues to avoid saying there is 100 percent proof of its case against Syrian President Bashar Assad. The Assad regime has denied using sarin and blames the rebels for the attack.

4

WHAT WOULD A U.S. MILITARY STRIKE LOOK LIKE?
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told senators last week that the objective of military action would be to hold Syria’s government accountable for using chemical weapons, degrade its ability to mount more attacks, and deter it and other adversaries such as Iran and North Korea from using weapons of mass destruction. Hagel has said the U.S. has Navy destroyers in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, positioned within range of targets inside Syria. The aircraft carrier USS Nimitz is in the nearby Red Sea. The U.S. also has warplanes in the region. In his appeal to senators, Kerry said, “There will not be American boots on the ground in respect to the civil war.”

Information compiled by Sharyn Jackson, Des Moines Register. Research assistance by Gerard M. Gallucci, diplomat in residence, Drake University.

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