Back in medical school, JB and I were fortunate to meet Bara. Bara was doing some training at Mayo Clinic but was from Syria, and JB actually met him in the Mayo locker room. (Bara had no idea how to open the Master Locks on the lockers so JB showed him and after conversation, invited him to join our family for Thanksgiving Dinner the next day.)
Since that day, we have continued to stay in touch with Bara -- some seasons more than others. We have continued to educate each other on different cultures.
Syria has therefore remained of interest to me. Not only because of Bara, but because of the border it shares with Turkey (as illustrated in this photo below)
As for 6, I really think that the US can do a lot! I understand tat the US doesn't want to be involved physically with yet another war, but there are so many ways where a superpower like the US can help! Examples, and not limited to, are:
supplying the rebels with advanced weapons, or at least allowing other nations (Saudia, Qatar) to do so, implement a no fly zone so Assad regime would stop bombing civilians from the air, multiple infrequent air strikes that could tire the regime.
And last but not least: make sure that Assad doesn't cross the chemical weapon redline again.
And I know you all are worried about extremists getting hold of American weapons! That's a legit point and I do respect that argument, however, I don't know if I ever announced that I was in northern Syria few weeks ago to help with the humanitarian work there! And I can definitely see how extremism can grow under those circumstances! BUT that's where the west can interfere: if you guys arm the moderate groups, they'll grow stronger and eventually they will dominate! How do I know?!? I've seen with my eyes when I was there! People there are desperate !!! They just want someone, anyone , to get them out of the misery!