Three Years: Syria's War the 'Worst Humanitarian Crisis'

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This weekend marks the third anniversary of Syria's civil war. What began as isolated protests against the Assad government has become what some have called the worst humanitarian crisis in modern times.

Early in 2011, while seeds of the Arab spring were germinating, signs of Syrian uprisings -- protests against the country's dictator President Bashar Assad -- began to appear on YouTube.

Those protests would mushroom into a full scale three-year civil war, with staggering costs: more than 140,000 dead and at least a third of the country's 23 million people forced to flee their homes.

Is there any end in sight to the civil war? Tony Badran, an expert on Syria at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, offers more insight, on CBN Newswatch, March 13.

Millions of refugees are now living in camps in Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan.

Syria is rated one of the world's most dangerous places for children and thousands have been murdered.

The war also helped produce chaos in U.S. foreign policy.

"To use potential weapons of mass destruction on civilian populations crosses another line, and that is going to be a game-changer," President Barack Obama said during a joint press conference in Israel last year with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

It resulted in reduced U.S. influence in the Middle East and allied skepticism that America will make good on its commitments.

Assad resurfaced in Damascus this week, a sign he's not overly worried by threats from Europe and Washington.

In the meantime, radical Islamists in the Syrian opposition, some tied to al Qaeda, make life dangerous for Christians and other Syrian minorities.

They held a group of Orthodox nuns hostage for months, recently letting them go after receiving a ransom.

The rebels also have attacked historic Christian towns, targeting churches and monasteries.

In the town of Raaq, they're forcing Christians to convert to Islam, pay a tax, or "face the sword."

Many Christians have died, and thousands, such as Nicholas George, have fled.

"Because of the fighting, everyone in my area was stuck inside their house; they could not buy anything," George said. "It was very dangerous for me even to try to open up my shop."

Diplomats meeting in Europe have tried to forge an agreement between the warring factions, but plumes of smoke rising in Syrian cities signal that an end to the crisis is not at hand.

"If you were a Christian father in Syria looking at your children and their future, and I think you'd want them to get out and not just now for safety, but for the future, too," Elliott Abrams, with the Council on Foreign Relations, said.

"I think you'd be saying, 'Go to Europe, go to America,'" he said.

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John Waage

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John Waage has covered politics and analyzed elections for CBN News since 1980, including primaries, conventions, and general elections. 

He also analyzes the convulsive politics of the Middle East.