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55 Pictures That Explain Why The U.S. Might Bomb Syria This Month

As Congress gets ready to vote on Obama's proposal to strike Syria, a look at how we got here. WARNING: Graphic images.

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8. Ibrahim Qashoush, a popular protest singer, was found dead, his throat carved out of his corpse.

View this video on YouTube

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Protesters sing one of Qashoush's most well-known songs.

10. As the crackdown continued, the U.S. slapped sanctions on Assad and six of his advisors. In August, Obama made his first call for Assad to step down, saying: "For the sake of the Syrian people, the time has come for President Assad to step aside."

11. Two months later, the United Nations Security Council voted on a resolution to bring new sanctions against Assad unless he halted his crackdown. Russia and China vetoed the resolution, something they would do several times over.

13. Marie Colvin, a legendary war correspondent for The Sunday Times (U.K.), was one of the only journalists in Homs. She was killed when the safe house she was staying in was shelled in February 2012. Here's her last report.

Turkish journalists holding photographs of their colleagues who died in Syria recently. From left: Anthony Shadid, Remi Ochlik, and Marie Colvin stage a protest outside the Syrian embassy in Ankara, Turkey, Friday, Feb. 24, 2012. They protested against the Syrian regime and called on the U.N. and democratic countries to protect journalists working in Syria.

18. This is what the aftermath of an air strike looks like (Warning: graphic images):

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20. Syria, meanwhile, was backed by Iran. Hezbollah, an Iran-backed militant group based in neighboring Lebanon, sent militants to Syria to fight for Assad.

22. Things were splitting along sectarian lines, with the Sunni of the Gulf supporting the rebels, and the Shiites of Iran and Hezbollah supporting Assad (himself an Alawite, a sect of Shiite Islam).

23. That meant Syria wasn't just facing a civil war internally, but also a proxy war more broadly, pitting Gulf states like Saudi Arabia against Iran, with both sides fighting for supremacy in the region.

25. Rebels also committed horrific atrocities. Video emerged showing a rebel eating the heart of a regime soldier.

View this video on YouTube

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26. Information was hard to come by, with journalists facing kidnapping and violence from the regime and rebels alike. American freelance journalist James Foley has been missing for nearly a year.

James Foley in Aleppo, Syria, in July 2012. He is still missing.

NBC chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel (center) with NBC Turkey reporter Aziz Akyavas (left) and NBC photographer John Kooistra (right) after they were taken hostage. They have since been freed.

27. In response to a question on Aug. 20, 2012, Obama said that he would consider the use of chemical weapons in the Syrian conflict, a "red line" that "would change my calculus."

30. UNHCR (the U.N.'s refugee agency) and UNICEF (the U.N.'s children's fund) also estimate that more than 2 million children have been internally displaced within Syria.

32. Obama's "red line" appeared to have been crossed on Aug. 21, 2013 when images of a chemical attack that the U.S. says killed more than 1,400 people in a Damascus suburb flooded social media.

View this video on YouTube

youtube.com / Via buzzfeed.com

This heartbreaking video claims to show a child suffering from the effects of a chemical weapon. (Warning: Extremely graphic)

42. Chemical weapons are seen as beyond the pale.

Flickr: nlscotland

The international community began addressing the horror of chemical weapons in the wake of World War I, when they were first deployed on a mass scale. They were banned by the 1925 Geneva Protocol, to which Syria is a signatory, and by the 1992 Chemical Weapons Convention, to which it is not.

43. But it's not just about chemical weapons. The administration also says they need to enforce U.S. credibility, and also send a message to countries like Iran that weapon of mass destruction are inadmissible.

Hasan Sarbakhshian, File / AP

In the midst of the Syria crisis, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (above) left office and was replaced as Iranian president by Hassan Rouhani. Rouhani, elected in June 2013, once led Iran's nuclear negotiating team and has advocated better relations with the West.

44. Obama has insisted any strike will be limited and involve "no boots on the ground." U.S. warships armed with cruise missiles have been stationed in the Mediterranean.

46. There are already signs of Syrian spillover. In August, twin car bombs hit Shiite mosques in the Lebanese city of Tripoli, killing 42. Sunni militants were suspected.

47. Some, like Sen. John McCain, have criticized Obama's military plan for not going far enough. Others are concerned it could go too far. If Assad is toppled, it is unclear which forces would take over.

50. Indirectly addressing why the U.S. wasn't going through the U.N., Ambassador Samantha Power accused Russia, a permanent member of the Security Council, of holding the body "hostage." Backed by China, it has repeatedly refused to sanction Assad.

51. What has Assad been up to? He's been giving bombastic interviews. He's also been Instagramming.

instagram.com / Via buzzfeed.com

52. He's been Instagramming pictures of his wife too.

instagram.com

heben@buzzfeed.com

Contact Heben Nigatu at heben@buzzfeed.com.

Miriam Elder is the world editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York. Her secure PGP fingerprint is 5B5F EC17 C20B C11F 226D 3EBE 6205 F92F AC14 DCB1

Contact Miriam Elder at miriam.elder@buzzfeed.com.

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