Everything You Need to Know About the Syrian Civil War

The Syrian conflict may be confusing, but we're here to explain the basics.

ByABC News
August 31, 2013, 6:06 PM

Aug. 31, 2013 -- intro: As the United States moves closer to a possible military strike on Syria, an already complicated international crisis is about to get even messier. From how Syria got embroiled in a bloody civil war in the first place to why the U.S. is getting involved now, here's everything you need to know about Syria, but were too afraid to ask.

At just 67-years-old, Syria is a nation that has endured the amount of political strife of a country more than twice its age. Following its independence from France in 1946, Syria quickly fell into a pattern of political instability and military coups for the first few decades of its existence.

The most prominent of these conflicts stemmed from Syria's involvement in the Arab-Israeli War in 1967, during which Syria and its Arab allies were defeated by Israeli forces. The conflict planted the seeds for future animosity to grow between the two countries, while giving way to the rise of nationalist sentiments and concentrated military power.

Continued political uncertainty in the region erupted in 2011 during the Arab Spring, and eventually manifested in Syria as protesters rose in opposition of the reigning Baathist regime.

quicklist:1title:So, who's in charge?text:Dating back to 1947, the Baathist party has ruled Syria for the vast majority of the country's existence (50 years, to be exact). The modern Ba'ath party is identified as a socialist movement and is currently led by Bashar al-Assad, who came to power after the death of his father, Hafez al-Assad.

Although the party has evolved its ideologies throughout its rule, it has maintained significant political power leading into the current civil war.

quicklist:2title:Why are people fighting in the first place?text:The 2011 Arab Spring activism in Egypt and Tunisia inspired Syrian protesters to take to the streets in demonstrations against Assad's regime. Syrians voiced their unhappiness with the stagnant political process and were advocating for democratic reforms.

These protests did not go over well with the government, which responded with extreme measures including the kidnapping, torture and killing of protesters. Government troops began opening fire on civilians, who fired back in response.

Civilian rebel forces then began organizing and arming themselves to combat government violence, which led to government military powers destroying entire neighborhoods and towns. Combined, the rising tensions between the two groups created the current state of civil war.

Recent allegations of the government's chemical weapon use on civilians have prompted the international community to contemplate serious intervention, but that doesn't mean the conflict has been limited to the Syrian population exclusively.

Volunteer rebel fighters from various Middle Eastern countries have joined Syrian rebels in their cause. Some of these foreign fighters joined the action because they want Syria to undergo democratic, political change; others joined because of their personal religious opposition to Assad's secular regime.

quicklist:3title:So the rebels are the Twitter-hacking Syrian Electronic Army?text:No. The Syrian Electronic Army, or the SEA, is a group of pro-government computer hackers and are not officially endorsed by the Assad regime.