Thousands of Syrians have died since the uprising began in March 2011. Several efforts by the United Nations to end the violence have failed. After recent confirmation that the Syrian government used chemical weapons, the United States is providing direct military support to rebels. Read related article.

Total deaths

since March 2011

Total deaths,
by governorates

since March 2011

Arming the Syrian rebels

U.S. military support of Syrian rebels will initially consist of CIA deliveries of light arms and ammunition. President Obama has ruled out deployment of U.S. ground troops and has not decided on implementation of a no-fly zone. Despite pleas from rebel groups, U.S. forces will not supply them with antitank or antiaircraft weapons.

Gen. Salim Idress

Gen. Salim Idriss. (AP)

The shipments will be sent to an umbrella group known as the Supreme Military Council, which is overseen by Gen. Salim Idriss, a Syrian military defector and former military academy teacher. Idriss will act as a conduit of weapons deliveries to various rebel groups. The groups include:

  • Syrian Liberation Front: A separate alliance that wants Islamist rule in Syria but is regarded as moderate and pragmatic.
  • Syrian Islamist Front: Advocates the creation of an Islamic state
  • Jabhat al-Nusra: An offshoot of al-Qaeda in Iraq that the Obama administration lists as a terrorist group.
  • Ahrar al-Sham: Embraces jihadist ideology and supports the imposition of austere, Taliban-like Islamic rule.
Areas in Syria with a rebel presence

SOURCES: via United Nations Institute for Training and Research; Institute for the Study of War; State Department; CIA;; staff reports.

GRAPHIC: The Washington Post. Updated Dec. 22, 2012.