Syrian Unrest Hits Close to Home

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By Jamie Weissman

At times, it can seem impossible to listen to the news and not hear about death and destruction throughout the world, as exemplified by recent controversy about Syrian President Bashar al-Assad using chemical weapons against his own people and igniting unrest in the Middle East in the process.

In March 2011, two protests broke out in Syria: one in its capital, Damascus, and the other in Daraa. In response, security officials shot a number of protesters, igniting even more unrest.

Throughout that year, clashes between al-Assad’s government and citizens continued, prompting President Obama to call on the Syrian leader to step down. Two years later, the Syrian president has done anything but that.

In April 2013, the United Nations was informed of credible evidence that proved chemical weapons were being used against rebel forces in Syria. Today, as the United States determines details of how to intervene, the continuing struggle in Syria has left more than 110,000 people dead since March 2011. Now, many are left to wonder how the crisis will affect the surrounding region.

“The Middle East is obviously dangerous with funding of weapons coming from all over,” said sophomore American Studies major Lauren Mishan. “You have to be careful because there are a lot of terrorists in Syria now, and it can spill over to Israel.”

For Mishan, who has family from Syria and family living in Israel, the situation rising in the Middle East is unsettling. As the international community decides how to intervene in Syria, concerns about a nuclear program in Iran have many worried about how two countries with such destructive potential could impact Israel.

“I think that what is going on in the world regarding Syria and Iran will have an effect on Israel,” Mishan said. “With the Iran nuclear issues being discussed, it sort of looks like Iran will be allowed to have nuclear weapons, which is not good.”

Junior kinesiology major Sara Schankerman agreed: “Syria having possession of chemical weapons is very threatening to Israel,” she said.

Despite the major security risk, a New York Times article titled “Israel Continues to Sound Alarm on Iranian Overture” said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is not backing down from the threat.

“We will not be fooled by half-measures that merely provide a smoke screen for Iran’s continual pursuit of nuclear weapons,” Netanyahu said. “And the world should not be fooled either.”
Although the Israeli government seems to be taking a more defensive stance on the uncertainty of weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East, Schankerman believes it could be a severe situation.

“If Syria destroys their weapons, that would be good for Israel,” she said. “I think the government is hopeful, but they know they have to be realistic – it could be very dangerous for them.”

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