Syrian War Timeline and Events

August 2013-March 2013

General Background

Background Timeline from March 2013- August 2013

Political Cartoon Analysis

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This cartoon specifically focuses on the fact that while the Assad’s regime and the rebels are fighting each other, they are also killing civilians, and often indirectly and at random. They may get stuck in the middle, and have no option but to face death. These people are not wanting to fight or get involved, but rather they are still negatively affected by the fighting.

Simply, the cartoon shows two sides of a castle randomly throwing bombs and weapons out of their windows in an effort to destroy the other. They are not aimed in any sort of fashion, but rather it appears that they are simply chucked out and hoped to explode on target. A spray and pray in other words. While some the weapons hit their targets, the majority of them fall to the bottom and end up killing civilians.

The artist uses methods such as labeling, and exaggeration. One side of the castle is labeled as Assad’s army, and the other is labeled as the Free army. In the middle at the bottom, there is a congregation of civilians caught in the crossfire of the two armies. If you want to understand the cartoon, you need to know the current situation of Syria, and the conflicts that take place daily. The fighting between the two armies is deadly, and many people have died as a direct result of the war.

News Analysis

The article “U.N., U.S. Call for Urgent Probe of Syria Chemical Attack Claim” written by Lauren Smith- Spark and Samira Said sheds light on the investigations of the U.N. and U.S. regarding the use of chemical weapons The title, although lengthy, gives a clear explanation or highlight of what the rest of the article will be about. The use of the word ‘urgent’ indicates that the article is portrayed as a very serious matter. However, the use of the word ‘claim’ does not support the idea of urgency. Claim essentially means an “assertion of the truth” (dictionary), implying that there could potentially be different versions of a certain event. Accompanying the article were over 200 pictures with captions. After viewing the first few, it seems that it does not directly correlate to the article’s idea of the use of chemical gases. It mostly displays the aftermath of airstrikes, bombings, and attacks through destroyed cities and dead bodies. It would be very beneficial if the authors had included a visual component that was related to the article’s content.

There is a very specific structure regarding the order in which information is placed. It starts off by stating the main idea of the article, which is that the U.S. and U.N. are going to carry out a serious investigation to determine whether or not Assad used chemical weapons on his people. It continues to give further information about the attacks and the number of deaths due to it, as well as mentions that a video showed proof of the attack. It then shifts over to the U.S.’s actions, and how Obama is not able to “conclusively determine” (CNN) if chemical weapons were used without completing a thorough examination. After that, a few of the U.N.’s spokespeople share their ideas and opinions along with the reactions and opinions of other countries such as Russia, China, Turkey, and Israel. By putting a small part about the U.S. at the beginning versus the end, this leads readers to believe that Obama is doing everything he can to help, yet it is not adequate. Structure-wise, it would have been better if the international reactions were placed towards the beginning to give an overview of each country’s opinions towards the usage of chemical weapons. It would also be useful if the U.S. and U.N.’s paragraphs or parts were somehow connected together to give the reader a sense of the two collaborating to end the use of chemical weapons.

The content of the article is very clear and is delivered in a straightforward manner. It not only contains information about the chemical weapon allegations, but it provides quotations from both the U.N. spokespeople and the U.S. officials. Compared to the information about the U.N., the amount of information about the U.S. included is drastically lower. From this article it seems that the U.N. senses the criticality of the matter more than the U.S. While the U.S. senior defense said that “the military continues to refine options for Syrian to be prepared for whatever the president might request down the line” (CNN), the U.N. believes that immediate actions must be taken, even if chemical weapons are not to blame. Navi Pillary, the U.N. Commissioner for Human Rights said, "Whether or not chemical weapons were in fact used, it seems that once again in Syria many civilians have been killed in flagrant contravention of international law." As for the other countries, they exhibit a variety of different opinions. Russia and China, who are supporting the Assad regime, denied any accusations, and France, who supports the U.N.’s ideas, will not interfere in Syria. Turkey also supports the U.N. while Israel is shocked as to why the U.N. isn’t doing more. "Nothing practical, significant, has been done in the last two years in order to stop the continuing massacre of civilians carried out by the Assad regime," he said. "I think that the investigation of the United Nations is a joke” (CNN).

Towards the end of the article, it goes out into a broader view of what the violence in Syria has caused. By putting the general overview of the Syrian Civil War near the end, how does it affect the rest of the article? In other words, what was the purpose in doing so? Also near the end, the U.N. again gives their opinions about the chemical weapons issue and essentially concludes the article. This indicates that the article is biased; it is clearly evident that it is in favor of the U.N. Why did the article portray more opinions and ideas from the U.N. rather than representing both the U.S. and U.N. ideas equally? Had the article been in favor of the U.S.’s ideas and opinions, would that have altered its structure or information?

Map Analysis

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This map focuses on known areas and rebel movements in August 2013 in Syria. The purpose of this map is to demonstrate where the fighting was occurring in Syria and who was controlling the major cities and areas at that time.

The mapmaker uses a darker shaded tan color to indicate where the fighting is occurring. Then they used red circles to show where the Anti-Assad Rebel Groups were controlling the territories, blue circles to show where the Kurdish militias were controlling the territories, black circles for the Government-controlled areas, and a multi-colored circle for the divided areas.

However, the mapmaker does not always portray what he or she meant to portray because it says that the divided cities are not proportionally shown for who was winning that fight. Therefore a city could look as though it was equally held or controlled by the Government and Anti-Assad Rebel Groups, such as in Homs, but that was not the case. Also, the shading is not as specific as it could be.

Open Ended Questions

  1. What different types of methods are being employed by both the Assad regime and the Free Syrian army in order to combat one another and how is it affecting the civilians?
  2. What actions can be taken to stop the civilian casualties?
  3. What can civilians do to stand up to their government and why is it important that they do so?
  4. What do you think is the best way for the civilians to fight back against Assad and the free Syrian Army?
  5. Where or who is supplying Assad with chemical weapons such as sarin?
  6. From the news article, is Pillay indicating something else when he says that the U.N. is going "to examine the site of the alleged attacks without any delay"?
  7. Why is Assad showing no regard when it comes to the deaths of many Syrians?

Danny A, Khadeeja Shive, Spencer Torok, and Chris Durns