Clearing up the Syrian conflict

By Perry Russom

September 18, 2013 Updated Sep 19, 2013 at 12:52 AM EDT

Cortland, NY (WBNG Binghamton) The conflict in Syria has been on the world's stage for the past month, but the country's civil war has been going on for much longer.

The two-and-a-half-year conflict has killed more than 100,000 people and displaced more than a million.

The war sparked in 2011 during the Arab Spring protests that started on the northern cape of Africa and swept into the Middle East.

Syria is described as a "powder keg" home to multiple religious groups that don't like each other.

The civil war stepped into America's spotlight only after the neurotoxin sarin gas attack in late August.

Secretary of State John Kerry said the attack killed more than 1,400 people. He also contends it was Syria's President Bashar al Assad who pulled the trigger.

At SUNY Cortland on Wednesday, a panel discussion was held on whether America should intervening with the Syrian's war.

One topic discussed was debunking some of the common misconceptions about the conflict, among them, that Syria's chemical weapons are a "major issue."

"That's not a major issue," said Alexandru Balas of the Clark Center for International Education. "98,000 people actually were killed using conventional weapons, not chemical weapons. The second (misconception), I think, is that if the United States intervenes by just bombing a few chemical weapons sites, that will solve the conflict, which is not the case."

Since the attack, Syria has agreed to hand over their chemical weapons in a Russian resolution -- a step that wasn't America's first plan of action.

"We consider ourselves a world power," said Matt D'Alesio, a junior at SUNY Cortland. "It should have gone our way, I believe, instead of going in and we're accepting a deal that (Russian President Vladimir) Putin is sending us. I think that just doesn't seem right to me."

President Barack Obama first considered military action against the Syrian state after the sarin attack, but later decided to halt the plan after hearing Putin's plan for peace.

"I don't think America should do anything militarily," said Balas. "(America) should work with Russia, France and the other United Nations member states to find a diplomatic solution."

When the chemicals were used, Syria was not part of the Chemical Weapon Convention. The international convention prohibits the use of the weapons.

Without Syria in the convention, the country never violated international law, but the country could still be pursed for war crimes. Balas said all sides of the Syrian civil war have been committing war crimes, including Assad.

One panelist said American's view on Syria should move beyond the gas attack to a focus strictly on the civil war and protecting innocent lives.