Three reasons why Syria's civil war has no end in sight

Player utilities

This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.

Audio Transcript:

Marco Werman: I'm Marco Werman, this is The World. It's been awhile since we checked in with the civil war in Syria. It continues as violently as ever. Just today, a car bomb in Homs killed about 40 people and a mortar attack on the capital, Damascus, killed another 14. Also international investigators agreed today to check out reports of a new chlorine gas attack. That's a snapshot from just one day. But where's the conflict and the country heading? Liz Sly just returned from Syria, she's Middle East correspondent for the Washington Post.

Liz Sly: Syria is headed for more violence for a long time with nobody doing anybody about it and that's what we've basically seen for the past three years and that's what we're probably going to see for the next three years.

Werman: Incredibly, the country is gearing up for a presidential election on June 3rd. How is that even possible?

Sly: Nobody takes this election terribly seriously, I'm not even sure the Syrians take it seriously. It's not an election that will resolve anything.

Werman: One shift, one change I'd like to ask you about: this recent shipment of US weapons to rebels in Syria. It seems like a change because these are lethal weapons being funneled through a third party, is that correct?

Sly: Yes. I was just in Syria, I went there to meet the rebels who had received the weapons and they confirmed to me that they had received these US weapons. We know that they did because they've filmed videos of themselves firing these weapons. US officials have told us that they know about the shipment, they did not oppose it.

Werman: So these weapons were received by a kind of new-ish group of rebels called Harakat Hazm. Tell us about who they are.

Sly: I met their leader actually in 2012, which is partly why I got invited to go and see them. I remember him as one of those early characters who seemed very dedicated, very committed but not extremist, not anti-Western, not sectarian, not extremely Islamist or anything like that, just somebody who really wants to fight for freedom in Syria, as he kept saying to me during the interview we just did. I was quite impressed by the group's sense of order and organization at the camp they showed me because it really did look like they were trying to build something. It was all quite tidy, people were very organized, everybody was very obedient. There was drilling, there were tents. It's hard to say how much was put on for me, for my visit, but at the same time it's not something you really associate with the chaotic rebel scene in Syria.

Werman: Harakat Hazm is led by a former Army officer whose name is Abdullah Oda, but he split away from another group. How can the rebels ever succeed while they have all these divisions in their ranks?

Sly: That's another huge question. One of the things that I kind of wonder now is that this group is now getting some support from America that's become very public now and what are the other rebel groups going to do about that? I had to go alone to visit this group, I was not allowed to take any Syrian guides or ?? with me because they were concerned actually that he would reveal details of what they're doing to other rebel groups, so they didn't really mention the government in that regard. So yes, there's a lot of rivalry, a lot of disunity and it's a huge thing and they've got to overcome it if they're ever to have any hope of succeeding.

Werman: If, in your opinion, the war is just going to drag on in Syria, do you see further shipments of weapons to rebel groups from wherever? At some point, won't there be enough weapons to make a difference?

Sly: What we've seen is that the West has allowed just enough weapons to each of the rebels to stop them from being defeated. If the Western powers are in agreement that Bashar al-Assad must go and they've said so, how confused at the rebels that the US is really helping them? Did you have a chance to talk about that?

Sly: I think if you go and talk to Syrians and go to Syria, people will talk to you about nothing else. They are incredibly embittered. They are just confused and dismayed because they saw the West put on a no-fly zone for Libya and then Syria came along and tried to do the same thing and they've got hardly anything and they just don't understand it.

Werman: Liz Sly of the Washington Post, speaking to us from Beirut where she's just returned to from a reporting assignment in Syria. Liz, greatly appreciate your time, thank you.

Sly: Thank you.