I have not included links to news stories or other documents here because there are millions of pages to read, with daily updates, if you are so inclined. Instead the videos below will provide a quick overview of the history, the factions in the region and the underlying issues.
The first video, from "In a Nutshell" looks at Iraq, Syria and the rise of ISIS. This video focuses primarily on the role of Iraq and was made in 2014 and so is a bit out of date.
The second video, from Vox, focuses more in the Islamic State itself and where the group came from (with additional information about Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria.)
The third video, also from Vox, is titled Syria's war: Who is fighting and why looks at the various groups within Syria as well as regional players to try to help you make some sense about what all the fighting within Syria is about and what the various combatants hope to accomplish.
The fourth and fifth videos, from Test Tube News, look at who the Sunni, the Shia and the Kurds are and what the difference between them is for anyone who needs a refresher.
The five videos, totalling about 23 minutes won't make you an expert but they should provide you with enough information to know whether the politician or pundit you are listening to has anything worthwhile to say on the subject.
, by Justin Beach