President: Rae Chornenky
Editor: Maria Jeffrey

Senate Foreign Relations Committee approves resolution giving president authority to use force in Syria. To read the draft resolution, click here
On the Conflict in Syria and U.S. Involvement, Part 1:
  • Beginning of the conflict; makeup of Syria: The Syrian civil conflict began in 2011, with Syrian opposition forces fighting the Syrian government headed by Bashar al-Assad. Syria is comprised of 74% Sunni Muslims, 16% other Muslims (Alawite, Druze, Shiite), and 10% Christians with some small Jewish communities mostly in Damascus and Aleppo, according to the Congressional Research Service report released in June 2013. Assad is an Alawite, a sect of Shia Islam. 
  • Assad regime: Bashar al-Assad's father, Hafez al-Assad, ruled Syria from 1970 until his death in 2000, when his son took over. Collectively, there has been 43 years of Assad rule in Syria. Because Bashar al-Assad is an Alawite, and therefore a part of a sect of Shia Islam, the Syrian government under his rule has an agreement with Hezbollah, the powerful Shia political movement in Lebanon. 
  • Who is the opposition? The opposition forces fighting against the Syrian government may be united in destroying the Assad regime, but there are different opposition groups motivated by different causes. The Congressional Research Service identified 26 opposition groups and the relations between them in the June report linked above. Chief among the opposition groups is the National Coalition of Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces, which was formed in November 2012 in Qatar. The president is Syrian National Council President George Sabra, who is a Christian. The Syrian National Council is another group that was formed in Turkey in October 2011. It is now largely a part of the National Coalition. The Free Syrian Army is another large opposition group, considered to have a more Islamist focus. The Muslim Brotherhood of Syria is another rebel group, rising again after being crushed by the Assad regime in the late 1970's and early 1980's. 
  • Is there a tie with al-Qaeda and the Syrian rebels? Yes. The al-Nusra Front, a part of the Syrian opposition, is affiliated with and funded by al-Qaeda. On December 11, 2012, the State Department identified the al-Nusra Front as an al-Qaeda affiliated group. There is tension between al-Nusra and the Islamic State of Iraq stemming from an April 2013 announcement by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State of Iraq, that al-Nusra is a direct extension of al-Qaeda in Iraq and that the two groups were merging together. The next month, Abu Mohammad al Golani, the leader of al-Nusra, declared the group's allegiance to Ayman al Zawahiri, the leader of al-Qaeda. Internal disputes notwithstanding, the al- Nusra Front is a branch of al-Qaeda in Syria and a significant part of the Syrian opposition force.
  • On the August 21 chemical attack: In the early hours of the morning on August 21, an estimated 12 areas in the suburbs of Damascus were targeted by chemical weapons. It is estimated that 1,429 people were killed, including 426 children, according to the unclassified summary of the chemical attack released by the U.S. government on August 30. According to the report, the government cannot confirm that the Syrian government carried out the chemical weapons attack, but instead states, "We assess with high confidence that the Syrian government carried out the chemical weapons attack against opposition elements in the Damascus suburbs on August 21....Our high confidence assessment is the strongest position that the U.S. Intelligence Community can take short of confirmation. We will continue to seek additional information to close gaps in our understanding of what took place." It should be noted that Syria has the largest arsenal of chemical weapons in the world, and the Congressional Research Service estimates it would take over 75,000 troops to neutralize that arsenal. 
  • Has it been proven that the Syrian government launched a chemical attack on August 21? No, it has not been proven, and even the Obama administration's summary stops short of saying it can be proven. The report states further, "We assess that the opposition has not used chemical weapons." However, 12 members of the al-Nusra Front were arrested in May 2013 in Turkey with possession of a 2kg cylinder of sarin gas, using it to prepare for an attack. Sarin gas can be used as a chemical weapon, and the victims of the August 21 chemical attack were exposed to sarin, according to the Obama administration's report. UN chemical weapons expert Carla Del Ponte investigated the use of chemical weapons in Syria earlier this year and determined that it was the rebel forces, not the Syrian government, that was utilizing chemical weapons at the time. Carla Del Ponte's investigation contradicts the Obama administration's summary of the August 21 chemical attack, and its assertion quoted above that the rebel forces have not used chemical weapons.      
    BBC News - Carla Del Ponte 'stupefied by Syrian opposition sarin use'
    BBC News - Carla Del Ponte 'stupefied by Syrian opposition sarin use'
  • Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel appeared before a Senate panel yesterday to make the case for limited military intervention in Syria against the Assad regime's alleged use of chemical weapons. According to Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution, Congress shall have the power to "declare war, grant letters of marque and reprisal, and make rules concerning captures on land and water." When pressed by Senator Rand Paul on whether President Obama would act in Syria anyway if he did not receive authorization from Congress to do so, Kerry was unclear: 
  • HEATED: Rand Paul Storms John Kerry, Gets
    HEATED: Rand Paul Storms John Kerry, Gets "Owned" at Syria Military Action Hearing - 9/3/2013

Executive Order Amounts to Grant of Amnesty


         The Obama administration has issued an executive order which appears to be a grant of amnesty by default.  Congress has not passed immigration legislation, but that has not stopped the Obama administration from issuing its own amnesty directives.


          The most recent directive was issued by the president to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials instructing them not to enforce immigration laws in cases where an illegal alien is the primary provider for any minor child, regardless of the child's immigration status, or is the parent or guardian of a child who is a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident.


           In June of last year, the Obama Administration's Department of Homeland Security issued a memorandum instructing U.S. immigration officials how they should "enforce the nation's immigration laws against certain young people who were brought to this country as children and know only this country as home," Heritage Foundation, 8/30/2013. This memorandum essentially served to implement, by executive fiat, major portions of the DREAM Act which has failed in Congress more than 30 times.                


           Of the most recent Obama directive, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) made clear: "President Obama has once again abused his authority and unilaterally refused to enforce our current immigration laws by directing U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents to stop removing broad categories of unlawful immigrants."

Blacks Lag in Economy Despite Obama's Promises


         Having the nation's first black president in office for the past 4 1/2 years has done very little to improve the lot of black Americans, who experienced greater unemployment than whites in the Great Recession of 2007-2009 and a slower recovery since then. Obama himself has conceded that black unemployment, at 12.6 percent nationwide, remains nearly twice the level of white unemployment, The Washington Times, 8/29/13. In addition, blacks lost more wealth as a result of foreclosures on their homes than whites did during the economic housing crisis, leaving them further behind economically.                


          Moreover, programs such as Head Start, with proven records of helping minority children attain education and jobs, are being slashed by Obama's federal budget sequester this year. Many of the programs and protections in the expanded safety net that Obama enacted in his $800 billion stimulus bill in his first months in office have expired, leaving blacks and others without jobs going backward with little to fall back on.


          All signs are that black economic progress has stalled or gone backward in recent years, with little prospect for major change. While black poverty rates stood at less than 20 percent in the 1990's, they have risen up to 28 percent in 2011. Median income for black households has dropped 10.9 percent since the economic recovery according to one critic, Kevin Gray, author of The Decline of Black Politics: From Malcolm X to Barack Obama. " Mr. Gray states, "Obama hasn't done much of substance or impact to ease, let alone end, the depression in the black community." Critics on the right are also pointing out the Obama administration's failures saying, "While Obama can speak beautiful words about Dr. King's legacy, the truth of the matter is that the black community has seen more regression over Obama's presidency than at probably any time since the March on Washington," according to Kevin Martin of Project 21, a conservative black group.

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