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. donny

    they keep killing. want be any one left over there to run the country. the reporters sure got a tuff job .they got more nerve then this o boy does...good luck to them god bless

    July 27, 2012 at 2:11 pm | Report abuse |
  2. jackola

    Remember the old saying: "the devil you know......."

    July 27, 2012 at 2:23 pm | Report abuse |
  3. banasy©

    I accidentally omitted a word.
    I did not say the same word reapetedly in a row.
    What is telling is that one would consider an accidentaly ommited word a stutter.


    For further clarification, please refer to my first post here.


    July 27, 2012 at 2:42 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Bezboz

    Ivan's reporting has more holes in it than Swiss cheese. For example, in rebel celebratory videos shown on youtube, they fire their guns in the air randomly. Even if they are celebrating the slitting of a Baath party-connected doctor or professor.

    It is natural for a person to have sympathy for those he lives amongst but that should not happen to a reporter who is supposed to tell the world the truth.

    Any way, the rebels are not a match and without NATO will not become one. They relied on the Saudi and Qataris promises for billions but apparently they are only getting a fraction of what's promised. To tell you the truth, that is typical of Saudis and Qataris. Ask anyone who ever worked in those countries.

    July 27, 2012 at 2:47 pm | Report abuse |
  5. saywhat

    I don't hate muslims. What I said was that from the blogs here and elsewhere I gather a distinct hate emanating (propaganda bred of course from the fevered minds of Islamophobics)) for muslims and yet we are willing to invade and occupy muslim countries , kill and be killed to 'liberate' them .

    July 27, 2012 at 2:50 pm | Report abuse |
  6. saywhat

    You are missing something here friend.
    The rebels are and have been relying for help on the US and they are getting it. No military intervention yet though.
    Israel,S.Arabia and its Gulf allies are of course arrayed against the regime . There were news that S.Arabia has joined CIA in funneling arms to them thru Turkey. Israel has announced preparedness for invasion.

    July 27, 2012 at 2:56 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Hope

    We can only hope they're happy in the end.
    Maybe it will take Syria to help us learn how
    precious life, really, is... and not to occupy.

    We'll be singing Free at Last, Free at Last...
    Thank God, Almighty, we're free at last.
    Hope they rid themselves of their military.
    If anything has impeded their progress, it's
    the military.


    July 27, 2012 at 3:20 pm | Report abuse |
  8. bobcat (in a hat)©

    I promise to refrain from posting my jokes here, only if you promise to quit post all you flying saucer, pharmaceutical, boy raype crap over and over and over. We get it. That's all you like to talk about.

    July 27, 2012 at 5:42 pm | Report abuse |
  9. saywhat

    The Kurd factor is a tricky one. If Assad is able to win Syrian kurds over to his side by granting them autonomy, that would irritate the Turks no end. And throw a monkey wrench in this mess.
    Demonizing the Syrian regime for its removal may have served to bamboozle the American public as in the past but has not yet served its purpose for Israel-US-Saudi agenda.

    July 27, 2012 at 5:53 pm | Report abuse |
  10. chrissy

    @ banasy, i dont think that is the REAL hope. The real hope isnt a hater, and if it is her she went thru some very dramatic changes!

    July 27, 2012 at 6:17 pm | Report abuse |
  11. bobcat (in a hat)©

    @ chrissy
    How are you doing this evening ? I see where Philip has decided to add me to his list of undesirables. I guess he takes a disliking to anyone who doesn't want to discuss his favorite subjects. Oh thee well, I guess I'll just have to learn to live with it. Although it really leaves me heartbroken that there is actually someone who doesn't like me. Oh whoa is me.

    July 27, 2012 at 6:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hope

      bobcat (in a hat)©


      Everyone loves you...

      Me, too;

      July 27, 2012 at 7:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • bobcat (in a hat)©

      @ Hope

      Well thank you for that. But you did notice the sarcasm in my voice, right ?

      July 27, 2012 at 7:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      It's a very, VERY exclusive club, darlin'!

      July 27, 2012 at 7:58 pm | Report abuse |
  12. dazzle ©

    @bobcat (in a hat)©- Good Evening to you my friend. Don't worry I am probably at the top of the same list you are on. I know you are as "heartbroken" as I am. I could care less who likes me. I just choose not to engage with said individual. Hope your evening is relaxing and that you are not working so hard.
    @Hope- you are right we all love @bobcat.

    July 27, 2012 at 7:36 pm | Report abuse |
  13. chrissy

    lmfao @ bobcat, youre in good company. As for the mole in the crowd, just jealous. And @ hope, what is your deal? And after reading your last post i know its not really hope. And by your obvious dislike of banasy its not hard to guess who you really are!

    July 27, 2012 at 7:49 pm | Report abuse |
  14. bobcat (in a hat)©

    @ dazzle ©

    My evening is pretty serene so far. I've taken a haitus from the training and letting some of my top students administer the punishment for a change. They've tried using my humor to try to break the ice with the new cruits and it's
    hilarious watching them stumble on the punch lines.
    So how are you doing ? Have you finished your shifts and have some well desrved time off now ?

    July 27, 2012 at 7:59 pm | Report abuse |
  15. dazzle ©

    @bobcat (in a hat)©, I'm sure your top students can never replace you with humor. At least you are getting a break but I'm sure you'll get bored soon. I finished my last double this afternoon and got a nap in, so all is good. I now have 2 weeks off until the new semester starts up. I go back in Mom mode on Sunday where T comes home.

    July 27, 2012 at 8:07 pm | Report abuse |
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