CNN inside Syria: A bloody mess could get messier
CNN's Ivan Watson reports from a battle-scarred Syrian town where the civilian population has fled.
July 27th, 2012
10:04 AM ET

CNN inside Syria: A bloody mess could get messier

As the months-long violence in Syria engulfs two key cities, Damascus and Aleppo, CNN's Ivan Watson has been traveling through villages in the area. He and the crew are some of the few international reporters in Syria, whose government has been restricting access on foreign journalists and refusing many of them entry. Check out more from CNN inside Syria.

Below is an edited Q&A about what Watson has seen and heard in rebel-controlled towns near Aleppo:

CNN: We're hearing that one community in Syria - the ethnic Kurds - are beginning to take matters into their own hands. They're breaking with the regime. What are you seeing? What are the signs that this could impact the entire conflict?

WATSON: It could definitely complicate matters. The Kurds make up about 10 percent of the population, long-oppressed, even denied citizenship by the al-Assad regime. But they've largely sat out this uprising for about the past 16, 17 months. In the last week, we've seen one of the strongest of the Kurdish political factions, which is closely affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers' Party or PKK, claiming control over a number of Kurdish communities.

Today, we drove through one of those Kurdish villages and went through a Kurdish/PKK checkpoint. They're armed guys with shotguns. They had the PKK flag. The trouble is, the PKK is the sworn enemy of Syria's neighbor to the north, Turkey. And Turkey's prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, issued a threat. He said that if what he considers a terrorist organization sets up mini-statelets along the Turkish border with Syria, then that could give cause for Turkey to intervene militarily into Syria and vastly complicate what is already a great big bloody mess.

More: Faces of the Free Syrian Army

CNN: From the rebels you're with and talked to, do they think this is going to be a long, drawn-out war, or do they see indications that there's been a tipping point and that the handwriting is on the wall, that it might take weeks, might take months, but for all practical purposes, they think they're going to win?

WATSON: It certainly already has been a long, and drawn-out struggle, 17 months, the deaths of at least 15,000, 16,000 people.

Depending on who you talk to, some are very optimistic, particularly after a big bomb went off in Damascus last week and killed four top security chiefs. But the inroads that the rebels made into the capital, Damascus, last week have kind of faded as a result of the very strong Syrian military counterattack.

And now I think the rebels see that Aleppo, the second city, the commercial city, is the linchpin. That's why they're throwing apparently all their manpower in the north of the country into the struggle for control of that city.

More: Syria's 'Street of Death'

CNN: What have you seen in the villages around Aleppo?

WATSON: One town we've been in was utterly devoid of the civilian population. They've all fled. That town is totally battle-scarred. We saw at one point a helicopter circling overhead coming from the direction of Aleppo and definitely making fighters nervous as it circled overhead.

They don't really have the weaponry to battle Syrian government aircraft, though we were shown a surprising amount of heavy weaponry that the rebels have captured. Vehicles with mounted mortars that can shoot 120-millimeter rounds that also have anti-aircraft guns. One fighter claimed he'd shot down a helicopter a couple weeks ago, even captured armored personnel carriers.

These are not the rebels I saw four months ago. These guys now have much heavier weaponry. But unlike Libya, these guys don't go running around shooting their guns off in the air to show off. They don't have enough bullets to do it. They're saving it for the real battle.

With the rebels: Guns, mortars - and mansions

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Filed under: CNN Inside Syria • Syria • World
soundoff (71 Responses)
  1. carbide scribe

    Has anyone from England ever been to salt lake city?
    If Goldman Sachs is moving many important operations there, it can't be the middle of nowhere.

    July 27, 2012 at 10:49 am | Report abuse |
    • Mickey1313

      Ya, it is the middle of no where, and has laxed taxes. that's why there going there.

      July 27, 2012 at 11:34 am | Report abuse |
  2. carbide scribe

    By the way; nice to see mittens foreign policy in Syria is the same as the rest of the world. Hope things get better.

    July 27, 2012 at 10:54 am | Report abuse |
    • Hope


      The people who are providing us this information are risking their lives...

      Show some RESPECT!

      No trolling!

      July 27, 2012 at 12:27 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Hope

    Assad... the man who would become king:

    Let my people go!

    July 27, 2012 at 11:10 am | Report abuse |
  4. Hope


    Did the folks who lived here (see picture) have guns, too?


    July 27, 2012 at 12:21 pm | Report abuse |
  5. who are YOU

    To tell ANYONE ANYTIME what tosay?
    I'll speak on whatewver the HECK I want to.

    July 27, 2012 at 12:32 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Hope

    YOU'll soon find out...


    July 27, 2012 at 12:41 pm | Report abuse |
  7. banasy©

    War doeesn't determine who is right – only who is left.

    Please refer to my post made about this time last year.

    July 27, 2012 at 12:42 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Philip

    (yawn) Wake me when Syria's civil war brutality approaches our own, OR what ours was during our own civil war. ty

    July 27, 2012 at 1:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hope

      Wake up, Dear... Stay awake.

      July 27, 2012 at 1:11 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Hope

    So you were, what, posting your displeasure with the protestors last year?

    Sorry to break the news to ya, but most people were supporting them. Who, if you don't mind me asking, do you support, Assad (the mighty slave master)?

    July 27, 2012 at 1:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      Is your name Rawr?
      Did I stutter?

      July 27, 2012 at 1:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hope

      Lastnight you did!


      Kinda reveals your opinion, with out saying a thing.


      July 27, 2012 at 2:06 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Philip

    Wake up? Huh? This Syrian civil war hasn't approached anything near the carnage and brutality of our own civil war, let alone the way our own government executes suspects these days.

    July 27, 2012 at 1:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hope

      That was then, with musketeers. Today, they fight untraditiinally. Not man to man or face to face...

      WAKE UP!

      July 27, 2012 at 1:39 pm | Report abuse |
  11. saywhat

    Well @Hope how well do we know this 'mighty slave master' may one ask? How many of us lived or worked in Syria or how many Syrian friends do we have here/ Do we even know where Syria is situated?
    And where are we getting this sudden gush of love for the Syrian people? As a norm we hate and detest these Middle Eastern muslims ,all muslims as I gather from the blogs everywhere.
    Forgive me if I appear sarcastic. Not directed at you but to the general scheme of things.

    July 27, 2012 at 1:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hope


      Don't tell me you hate muslims... Are they THAT much different from us? We have our own terrorists, and they've not detoured us.

      (KKK, IRA, Nazi, Skinheads, Neo-Nazi, SSS, Mc Fay, Black Panthers, White Supremists, the Cartel...

      July 27, 2012 at 1:48 pm | Report abuse |
  12. saywhat

    Being naive is not harmful but to a point as our friend @oliver appeared yesterday.
    Believing that govts including our own have milk of human kindness writing their agenda is being naive beyond that point.
    People to them matter in the least.
    We'll and have been propping up and pampering dictators, rulers, royals and oppressive regimes for ever who toe our line and serve our agenda. We'll keep them and get rid of those that don't serve us. To heck with the people.
    Regime change in the name of freedom,democracy, liberty blah blah is a big laugh.

    July 27, 2012 at 1:28 pm | Report abuse |
  13. saywhat

    Thanks @Philip
    Hope you are enjoying your morning.

    July 27, 2012 at 1:39 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Hope


    I'm sorry, but I don't see people laughing. In fact, I see no one, at all. Don't you wonder what happened to them? Please, read the headline again.


    July 27, 2012 at 1:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • saywhat

      That was my point@Hope.
      People don't matter to the powers that are fueling the violence. Are people happy in Iraq, Afghanistan,Pakistan?
      Egypt where there was real people power and popular revolt that replaced the regime is still struggling because the remnants of the regime, the military wouldn't let go. Thanks to us.
      People don't matter, why would they be happy?

      July 27, 2012 at 2:41 pm | Report abuse |
  15. donny

    its sad that this is going on over there..i just hate to see the kids get killed . or even see this war. but i guess they use to it.sad

    July 27, 2012 at 2:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hope


      I think there's more in the mix, than war:


      I hope the Kurds can turn, turn, turn...


      Where's Queen Bea and The Hague?

      July 27, 2012 at 7:07 pm | Report abuse |
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