If you have been listening to the news lately chances are you have heard about the escalating tension in Syria and the heated debate between nations about whether it may be time for other countries to intervene and help the rebels. So what exactly is the crisis that has the entire world up in arms and how did it get to this stage? Read on . . .

It all began in December 2010, when the people of the tiny North African country of Tunisia decided to put an end to years of autocratic rule enforced by their leader Zine El Abidine Ben Ali by staging what is now called the 'Jasmine Revolution'. Their success encouraged the residents of neighboring Egypt to protest with their own 'Lotus Revolution' and oust their leader, President Hosni Mubarak.

The victories gave residents of neighboring countries the courage to stand up to their oppressive regimes and by 2011, there was a tsunami of revolutions going on simultaneously in Algeria, Libya, Yemen, Bahrain and Iran. The upheaval that became known worldwide as the 'Arab Spring' seemed to bypass Syria and Jordan whose leaders quickly tried to quell the rumblings in their countries with some positive changes.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was especially accommodating. He released dozens of political prisoners, announced the formation of a new government and even lifted the state of emergency, that had been used by his regime to suspend the constitutional rights of its citizens for 48 years!

But it was a case of 'too little, too late' - The people had suffered enough and the protests continued first on a regional level staged by small groups and then nationally, as the rebels became more organized and formed a unified opposition.

By 2012, President Assad realized that the revolution had escalated to a full-size civil war, but unlike some of the other Arab leaders, he was not ready to succumb to the wishes of his people and instead, instructed his government to prepare for a long conflict. By the end of the year, most countries in the world had formally recognized the opposition national coalition as 'the legitimate representative' of the Syrian people and even begun offering them humanitarian aid. There was however no talk of helping the rebels fight for their cause with any kind of military intervention.

That sentiment has changed somewhat since allegations that the president sanctioned the firing of chemical weapons in some densely populated areas at 2.30 am on August 21st, 2013, have come to light. According to reports over 1,500 innocent civilians including over 400 children suffocated to death from the deadly gas that was released during the attack.

While US intelligence is asserting that it was the work of the current government, President Assad is denying all responsibility and instead blaming the rebels for the attack. Independent inspectors sent in by the United Nations are currently assessing the situation and should have a report soon. Meanwhile, the alleged attack has started a worldwide debate about whether it may be time to intervene and help protect innocent Syrians against further such atrocities.

US President, Barack Obama and British Prime Minister, David Cameron, are leaning toward conducting limited strikes by firing cruise missiles from naval ships at the government's military command centers. The leaders of Russia and China are completely against the idea. The British Parliament's initial reaction has also been negative.

What happens next is as of now, up in the air. Will the US Congress agree and the British Parliament reconsider its stance to help the rebels? And even if they do, will air strikes be enough or will the countries then be forced to send in ground troops? This is a touchy subject for both nations given the ongoing war in Iraq. Whatever the decision, one thing is for sure - Syria will remain a hot topic for some time to come, so stay tuned, for further updates.

Resources: Latimes.com, BBC.co.uk, telegraph.co.uk