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Lawmakers Begin to Grapple with Syria Question

Updated: Sunday, September 1 2013, 08:33 AM EDT
Members of Congress are grappling with whether to sign off on President Barack Obama's plan to punish Syria for an alleged chemical weapons attack.

The debate over what action, if any, Congress might approve is in its infancy as lawmakers prepare for public hearings next week before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. But the first contours began emerging within hours of Obama's announcement.

Republican Sen. John Cornyn (KOHR'-nihn) of Texas says he doesn't believe Syria should go unpunished for the attack. But, he says, "we need to understand what the whole scope of consequences is." He adds, "What the president may perceive as limited ... won't stop there."

Republican Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina are arguing for a strategy that seeks to end Syrian President Bashar Assad's rule. They've issued a joint statement saying any operation should be broader in scope than the "limited" scope Obama described.

They call the conflict in Syria "a growing threat to our national security interests."

Copyright 2013 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.Lawmakers Begin to Grapple with Syria Question

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The Syrian civil war, (also known as the Syrian uprising or Syrian crisis) is an ongoing armed conflict in Syria between forces loyal to the Ba'ath government and those seeking to oust it. A part of the larger Middle Eastern protest movement known as the Arab Spring, the conflict began March 15th, 2011 with local demonstrations that grew in scope to become nationwide by April 2011.

Protesters demanded the resignation of President Bashar al-Assad, whose family has held the presidency in Syria since 1971, as well as the end of Ba'ath Party rule, which began in 1963.

The Syrian Army was deployed in April of 2011 to stop the uprising, and soldiers fired on demonstrators across the country. After months of cities and neighborhoods being cut-off by the Army the protests evolved into an armed rebellion.

The Arab League, United States, European Union, and other countries condemned the use of violence against the protesters. The Arab League suspended Syria's membership as a result of the government's response to the crisis, but granted the Syrian National Coalition, a coalition of Syrian political opposition groups, Syria's seat on 6 March 2013.

According to the UN, about 4 million Syrians have been displaced within the country and 2 million have fled to other countries.

Syrian government supporters include Russia and Iran, while Qatar and Saudi Arabia are providing material and weapons to the rebels.

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