Syria’s history dates back 12,000 years. It played a prominent role in the Bible.
It`s part of the Middle East, a region that’s been volatile for thousands of years. Syria is surrounded by Turkey, Iraq, Jordan, Israel and Lebanon.
Parts of the conflict go back thousands of years, and you could spend years studying the subject.
The most recent flashpoint came during the 2011 Arab Spring. Protests in countries such as Egypt and Tunisia led to changes in their governments.
Similar protests in Syria led to violent government crackdowns on demonstrators. An estimated 100,000 people have been killed in the civil war.
President Bashar al-Assad has ruled Syria since 2000. His father ruled for 30 years before him. Al-Assad is part of a Shia Muslim offshoot, a minority in a nation of mostly Sunni Muslims. His policy is to treat any opposition as terrorists.
It all came to a head when the Syrian government was accused of using chemical weapons against rebels and civilians in mid-August.
It`s not the first time that allegation has been made. A U.N. inspection team traveled to Syria to find out if the government or the rebels used them and why.
Intervention by the U.S. isn’t as simple as it sounds.
Nearby Egypt is in turmoil. Iran supports the Syrian government and is even threatening retaliation against Israel if the U.S. strikes Syria.
The United States’ usual ally in the region, Saudi Arabia, isn’t ready to support a military strike until the U.N. approves.
And Syria has some big friends in the U.N., like Russia and China, both with seats on the U.N. Security Council. Whether they would get their own military involved remains to be seen.