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Syria and U.S Relations

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Armed Conflict in Syria: Background and U.S. Response
Jeremy M. Sharp Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs Christopher M. Blanchard Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs September 6, 2013

Congressional Research Service 7-5700 RL33487

Armed Conflict in Syria: Background and U.S. Response

The popular-uprising-turned-armed-rebellion in Syria is in its third year, and seems poised to continue, with the government and an array of militias locked in a bloody struggle of attrition. Members of Congress and Administration officials are debating options for responding militarily to President Bashar al Asad’s forces’ reported use of chemical weapons in attacks on rebel-held areas and civilians. After the U.S. intelligence community concluded that Asad’s forces used weapons in limited attacks earlier this year, the Obama Administration had signaled a pending expansion of U.S. civilian and military assistance to the opposition. Earlier in the conflict, U.S. officials and many analysts asserted that President Asad and his supporters would be forced from power, but had difficulty articulating how that outcome would take place within the timeframes they set forth. Recent developments suggest that both the opposition and the Asad regime face considerable challenges in their attempts to assert greater control over Syria. Increasingly, analysts have focused on the potential for the regime and its opponents to carve out strongholds and prolong the fighting. Rapid escalation or swift regime change could deal a decisive blow to actors seeking to advance goals contrary to U.S. interests, but it could also further jeopardize the security of chemical and conventional weapons stockpiles and/or lead to wider regional conflict. Opposition forces are formidable, but regime forces, backed by Hezbollah fighters and Iranian and Russian material support, have initiated

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