January 15th, 2012
05:25 PM ET

Robertson: Stalemate in Syria

Will repression work for Assad in Syria? What does life feel like in Damascus? Can the military maintain power? How can it fund its activities? Is civil war on the horizon?

Nic Robertson got into Syria and talks to me from Damascus about what he sees.

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Topics: Syria

soundoff (35 Responses)
  1. j. von hettlingen

    Nic Robertson might be right that Bashar al-Assad could hang on to power for a little while. He has the feared military and other security forces behind him and some support among the civilians. Yet he has the world against him. The ruler of the Gulf state of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani urged Arab countries send troops into Syria to stop government forces killing civilians. It is the first time an Arab leader has publicly called for military intervention in Syria. Qatar was one of the driving forces that toppled Gaddafi's regime and it is determined to flex its muscles again.

    January 15, 2012 at 6:27 pm | Reply
    • john

      you forgot to mention that assad also has the Chinese and more so the Russians. I wonder if Quatar would be the first to send tropps to Syria?
      I think not. Just talk. Without Nato nobody over there is going to get in the middle of that because unlike the rest of the Arab spring , they are going to get shot back at with weapons of no mercy.

      January 15, 2012 at 8:06 pm | Reply
      • j. von hettlingen

        Apart from Iran and the Hezbollah in Lebanon, its natural allies, Syria has no support in the region. Russia benefits from the amenities on the Syrian coast for its navy and will veto against any resolution in the Security Council, but it wouldn't send troops to help Assad. China's interest in Syria is insignificant.

        January 16, 2012 at 4:04 am |
  2. Amjad

    Where do I begin with this "analysis". The army hasn't defected en mass because there is no where to defect to. Countless numbers of soldiers have been murdered by the security forces for refusing to take part in the oppression. If Robertson wants to know why senior officers don't effect, he should learn about the case of Colonel Hussein Harmoush, the first colonel to defect. His family was all but wiped out by the regime in his home town of Idlib, his house demolished and even his inlaws murdered. Not even Qaddafi went that far.

    As to Assad's recent appearances, it was meant to prop up the faltering Alawite community. Alawites in Homs and other hotspots feel that the regime has abandoned them, and they are exhausted from events.

    Robertson is the perfect example of how dangerous it is to try to analyze anything when the only information you have to go on is what the regime is willing to show you. The idea that the Syrian rank and file soldier is well paid is laughable to anyone who lives in Syria.

    January 15, 2012 at 7:10 pm | Reply
    • Hura

      I totaly agree with you Amjad! I will add just to help Fred and Nic understand why the army did not defect... The high rank and most officers 90% are Allowyit who are part of the regime, and you don't expect any of them to defect!! that all, simple. A few who are Sunni fall into different categories first and most important is fear from the regime who will demolish anything related to that officer (exactly as it happened to Harmosh officer). Economy has nothing to do with any of the defection. The Regime just allow you to go where they know you get nothing, period. Thanks.

      January 18, 2012 at 5:06 pm | Reply
  3. Amjad

    Also, far from having cause to feel confident, people are asking how is it, that despite Assad having the entire resources of the state, Iran, Hizbollah and Russian assistance, he is nowhere near to being able to crush the revolution. Assad had everything a tin pot dictator could dream of; a compliant army, veto cover at the UN, a proxy government in Lebanon and and allied government in Iraq and Iran. And yet despite all these advantages, he finds himself in a "stalemate", as Robertson described the situation.

    As to the power cuts in the capital, Robertson shouldn't assume that what he sees in the five star hotels he stays at is typical of the country or even the capital. The country at large is very much suffering under prolonged power cuts, sometimes as much as 12 hours a day.

    January 15, 2012 at 7:23 pm | Reply
  4. B

    for all you hand wringing ultralefties, always opposed to war, tell me, how do you reason with a tyrant such as this? More people have died in Syria in 6 months than have American troops in both our iraq and afghan campagins... Whats your opening argument with this world class goon?

    January 15, 2012 at 7:42 pm | Reply
    • John Strekal

      Wow, I suspect a little situational ethics, here. The Red Cross estimated that 500000 Rwandans were killed in the early 90's how come we didn't intervene there?

      January 15, 2012 at 7:51 pm | Reply
      • john

        not only did we not intervene , we didn't care. Several countries need to take a long look at themselves for that.

        January 15, 2012 at 8:08 pm |
      • yuri pelham

        Read Samantha Powers classic book on how we've ignored multiple genocides over the past century. One well aimed, timely cruise missle shot will transport Assad for a reunion with Bin Laden, Hussein, Qadaffi and Hitler. But I'm firmly opposed to this for it will displease the evil twins Russia and China.... each having killed more than 20 million of their own citizens not that long ago. I am more fond of China for they made me soft flannel pajamas and other garments.

        January 15, 2012 at 9:22 pm |
    • john

      yes quite sad , but no lives should have been lost in Iraq and Afganistan because we should have never been there. Iraq is in as much trouble now as it was 10 years and 6 trillion dollar ago.

      January 15, 2012 at 8:11 pm | Reply
  5. vinny

    I dont want the U.S anywhere near this. We are broke, and these people will only turn around and hate us one day anyway. Let the toothless Arab League do something. The U.N is usless as well. For what its worth, I wish the Syruan people the best of luck. Assad is a piece of trash

    January 15, 2012 at 8:13 pm | Reply
    • Ziad

      Thank you for your support to the Syrian people we are on our own ,But the Internationale community is responsible to stop this genocide that taking place as we speak, we need to do something to stop this murderer . it is a hard time for us all but ...
      YES WE CAN.

      January 15, 2012 at 8:35 pm | Reply
  6. Ziad

    This is Nic Robertson point of view,and it dos"not mean he is right about this and that !!what he saw is only what the
    AL Assad thugs wanted him to see !!! but no matter what they try the End is NEAR, Freedom for SYRIAN IS HERE.
    Down with Al Assad . Down with any one support this Dictator.

    January 15, 2012 at 8:26 pm | Reply
    • Rustam

      JAnas,Do you think Israel suohld get out of the West Bank? Pull out all troops, police, etc.? What about Golan Heights?

      February 9, 2012 at 11:35 pm | Reply
  7. yuri pelham

    We intervened heavily in Iraq total futility on our part. Civil war in 6 months. We helped a bit from the air in Libya... good result re no Qadaffi. Remains to be seen what emerges. So lets see what a hands off policy does re Syria. They have destroyed democracy in Lebanon, killed their president, support Hezbollah the terrorist organization and ally with Iran. So let the show continue. Justice is being done. That having been said I am horrified that they torture and kill children... but far be it from me to criticise Arab culture.

    January 15, 2012 at 9:15 pm | Reply
  8. Mel Courtley

    Ziad, and others who might agree with you: The sad reality is that, while these Arab Spring uprisings may have started as a wish for democracy, they are being hijacked by the Muslim Brotherhood and will lead to more instability and oppression and less freedom in the region. After being the scapegoat for every middle eastern governments' problems, the U.S. has finally decided to stay out of Arab Spring, or support only minimal intervention, as in Libya. Syrians who were hoping to be "rescued" by American, European or even U.N. forces might want to turn to Al-Jazeera for a daily dose of Iranian chants of "Death to America!" for an idea of why Obama, at least, is taking a hands-off approach here.

    I am curious if any Syrians (or Libyans, or Egyptians, or Tunisians) who did truly want a secular democracy really thought through the potential consequences of overthrowing their current governments. What was their a plan of action for dealing with potential Islamist-totalitarian opportunists? Did anyone not consider the history of Iran? Did they consider that living under Shari'a might be as bad or worse than a dictator? It's tragic that the people in many Middle Eastern and North African countries seem to only have options between two evils, but at some point it becomes the responsibility of those who do want democracy and secularism to actually make that happen. A good start might be to reach out to the U.S. and UK and the United Nations of their own accord to ask for some support in building a fledgling secular democracy, instead of setting things up so that the NATO countries are either the bad guys for ignoring a massacre or the bad guys for taking the initiative to meddle in other countries' affairs. Americans, at least, are tired of the double standards other countries hold it to.

    January 15, 2012 at 9:37 pm | Reply
    • Tom Fala

      The Syrian people will prevail. America knows this fact and that why they want to help the Syrian people Mell. America always considers one thing and one thing only. Forget about human rights. Forget about democracy. Forget about right and wrong. There is something called vital interest. I am sure you heard about it. In Syria we are lucky that for once the vital interest of America is with the interest of the people not the regime.

      January 16, 2012 at 12:28 am | Reply
      • Hura

        I have to disagree with you on one part Tom, that the vital interest of US is the Regime and not the people of Syria, and that why you see they did not make any move to help the Syrian as they are hoping for 10 months, that the Regime will survive!!! Sorry all Syrian know this fact!!

        January 18, 2012 at 5:18 pm |
  9. Tom Fala

    Mr. Zakaria started the segment by saying that " Access to Syria has been extremely limited. But CNN Nick Robertson had found his way in" This is a B.S. statement.
    It is very obvious that Mr. Robertson "found his way in" by applying for a visa. I am from Syria and I know the background where Mr. Robertson was conducting the interview with Mr. Zakaria. It is very obvious that he is a guest of the regime and that he was escorted with Syrian government official throughout his tour in Syria.
    This is to Mr. Zakaria to say that Mr. Robertson "had found his way in" is misleading and playing with words. I used to respect your professionalism!!

    January 16, 2012 at 12:14 am | Reply
    • Amjad

      You are correct. Look in the background, anyone who watches the regime's disgraceful paid satellite hacks will know it. Robertson was talking from the SANA offices, using a SANA satellite link. Apparently, the regime didn't even allow CNN to bring its own satellite equipment.

      January 16, 2012 at 1:13 am | Reply
      • Arun

        Ahmadinejad says Iran will codisner the Russian plan for staged reductions in sanctions subject to certain conditions.

        February 11, 2012 at 8:55 pm |
    • Ahmed

      I agree. The Syrian government started issuing visas for reporters recently. This is very well known. Fareed, update your information.

      January 17, 2012 at 9:26 am | Reply
  10. sjdsh

    Nic is a large part of the problem in the middle east.

    January 16, 2012 at 12:30 am | Reply
  11. omar obeid

    allah syria bashar oh bass. secretly millions love bashar and want to see the devilhood wiped out

    January 16, 2012 at 12:53 am | Reply
    • Hura

      Lett your Bashar not kill ths Syrian people during demonstration and we will see how many millions will be in the street!!! The Syrian want Bashar out!!

      January 18, 2012 at 5:20 pm | Reply
      • Matin

        James Canning says: September 4, 2011 at 1:47 pmNo.Mr. Moussaian still has not garsped the strategic situation.France is irrelevant.

        February 11, 2012 at 11:59 pm |
  12. omar obeid

    ask any secular syrian, millions in and outside the country, they will tell you that the army is doing the killing but not killing inocent people rather fighting so called rebels-linked to saudi arabia devilhood-brotherhood and the americans are supplyng them with money funds and weapons to maintain the fight ti ruin syria. poeple might not like bashar because he represents a thorn in american interest hahahaha good on him but we millions of syrians the silent majority secretly love him and pray that he overcomes this tide and he will and the devilhood will be cleanes inshuallah.

    January 16, 2012 at 12:56 am | Reply
  13. omar obeid

    how can anyone call on international intervention and seek to better his/her country???? look at the examples we have in modern history. people here are naive many north lebanese linked to saad harriri claim to be syrians online seeking democracy, u see the north lebanese linked to harriri party are in need for regime change cause they have nothing i lebanon. tiran and syrian linked parties hold power so its understandable that they claim to be anti assad syrians. the truth is we syrians in the majority love him u only have to look at the syrians outside the country...why would they come out in rally in thousands in support of al assad if they could easily come out in those western countries and say we want freedom??? because they love syria al assad and arabism and love the cause and we wont let fake syrians from lebanese from north lebanon take you readers for dopes.

    January 16, 2012 at 1:01 am | Reply
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    January 16, 2012 at 1:33 am | Reply
  15. Ammar

    Syria and Iran remain the biggest threat to Israel in the region. and a threat to Israel means US and west involvement. the West is looking for any reason to get involved to destroy Syrian infrastructure just like they did in Iraq and render the country useless all this under the umbrella of "human rights". what is happening in Syria currently is fueled by western interest.. it is a complete different situation to that of Egypt, Lybia and the likes.. Our president has our full support and this is demonstrated by the millions that attend in his support. A change in leadership should be an internal issue.. we do not need the west to get involved in our business..

    January 16, 2012 at 7:11 am | Reply
  16. Ammar

    follow me on @tweet4Syria for more on this debate or to interact...

    January 16, 2012 at 7:12 am | Reply
  17. Hahahahahahahahaha

    Towel Heads vs. Towel Heads. It's a win...win situation!!! Hahahahahahahahahaha

    January 16, 2012 at 10:42 am | Reply
  18. Champ

    Glad you mioetnn the problems facing LGBT people in Syria, honour killings are also part of the problem.

    February 10, 2012 at 4:42 pm | Reply

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