When President Barack Obama said this weekend that bombing Syrian targets is the right thing to do, and then asked Congress to approve it, the international crisis took a turn toward a fierce domestic battle.
There are so many moving parts to this complicated story that it can become quite difficult to keep up.
Let this Q&A bring you up to speed on the dizzying developments.
Is the U.S. going to war with Syria?
No -- at least not yet. Even though Obama said he wants to strike Syrian targets after the regime allegedly used chemical weapons on a rebel stronghold last month, he says he wants to wait for Congress' blessing first.
When will Congress decide?
Not anytime soon. Lawmakers won't be back in Washington until September 9. But the Senate Foreign Relations Committee says it'll hold a hearing on Syria this Tuesday.
Can't lawmakers be called in earlier?
They can, for an emergency debate. But Obama said he won't ask for that. Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, says it's fine to wait. According to officials, Dempsey told the president a delay won't jeopardize a military strike.
Will Congress support Obama?
Obama might be able to count on the Senate, where the Democrats hold a slim majority. The question is, will the Republican-dominated House go along? Lawmakers agree that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's alleged use of chemical weapons is a travesty. But they also don't want a repeat of Iraq.
Where exactly does the hesitation lie?
Some, like Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, say the U.S. should act only if there's a clear threat to its national security. Others, like Republican senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, say airstrikes won't go far enough. They want al-Assad removed from power.
Does Obama really have to wait for Congress' green light?
Technically, no. The 1973 War Powers Act allows the president to launch military action, but he must notify Congress within 48 hours. But just because he can doesn't mean he will. "While I believe I have the authority to carry out this military action without specific congressional authorization, I know that the country will be stronger if we take this course, and our actions will be even more effective," he said Saturday. "We should have this debate, because the issues are too big for business as usual."
But didn't he order airstrikes in Libya in 2011 without congressional approval? How is Syria different?
In Libya, the U.S. was backing NATO action. In Syria's case, there's been no U.N. Security Council resolution calling for an intervention. If the U.S. goes in, it would be going in unilaterally.
What's the U.N. saying?
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says he'll go before the Security Council after a team of U.N. inspectors -- who've been on the ground investigating the alleged attack -- presents its report. But it could take the team up to three weeks to analyze the evidence. And even then, it'll only say if there was a chemical attack, not who was behind it.
So would the U.S. really have no foreign support?
British Prime Minister David Cameron called for military action against Syria -- only to have his hopes quashed when lawmakers narrowly voted it down. French ministers will meet Monday to discuss Syria, and hold a debate two days later. "France cannot act alone," its interior minister said Sunday. "We need a coalition."
German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said the time gained waiting for U.S. congressional approval "must be used to reach a common position of the international community within the U.N. Security Council." In another tweet, he said that the results from the U.N. inspectors' visit to Syria "must be sped up."
How do Americans feel?
A poll released last week showed almost 80% of Americans think Obama should get congressional approval first. And after his announcement Saturday, anti-war protests sprouted up across the country -- including one in Los Angeles that drew hundreds.
And what about Syria. How does it feel about all of this?