Times Correspondent C.J. Chivers on Reporting from Inside Syria

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Syrians inspect damage at the site of a car bomb on the southeastern outskirts of the Syrian capital. Syrians inspect damage at the site of a car bomb on the southeastern outskirts of the Syrian capital. (JOSEPH EID/AFP/GettyImages)

In the lead up to the election it seems we are all buried in the latest polling and punditry. The news has, perhaps at times, pulled us away from the attention given to the recent unrest in the Middle East and in particular, the bloody violence that is still unfolding in Syria every day.

C.J. Chivers, correspondent for our partner The New York Times, has just returned from a reporting trip in Syria. He followed a group of Syrian rebels and the development of military tactics, including the booby trapping of ammunition, while he was there.

"There is a deep fatigue of this war, and something like a hopelessness that a ceasefire or peace can hold," Chivers says. Though there were some hopes of a truce during the Id al-Adha holiday, it seems that sort of optimism was short-lived. One of the tactics now being used by the government is giving booby trapped weapons to the rebel forces. 

"Replicas, if you will, of working ammunition are being made, that explode when fired, and then this ammunition is seeded into the rebels supply sources," Chivers says. Though this sort of tactic may not win battles, it does unnerve the rebels, making them question their weapon sources, and serves as an illustration of the brutality of this war.  

"The problem with these sorts of programs is you can't contain where ammunition flows after its initial distribution," Chivers says. "What you see again and again, in the Middle East and elsewhere, is that ammunition moves almost liquidly around a region, and it lasts longer than the conflicts to which it was brought. So, this ammunition could turn up in any numbers of places or uses in the future, from a shepherd who's trying to cull a pest animal, to a farmer or property owner who owns a weapon for self defense." 

The rebels are a very loose collection of groups, who are disparate and disorganized. And yet, Chivers says, he is confident that eventually, they will succeed in overthrowing the government. 

"The morale is up and down, because war is an up and down affair," Chivers says. "Some days are much worse than others. I would say that there is a very strong sense of purpose, and ultimately a sense of confidence. I believe that the rebels think that the demographics are on their side, and that the momentum is on their side, and that they will eventually unravel this government." 

The question then remains, what will happen after? 

"You don't see that they are going to stop. You don't see that a ceasefire is going to hold." Chivers says that "you have to think that this is probably going to end only in one way, with the government falling at some point. If that's the case, then the question is what it looks like afterward."


C.J. Chivers

Produced by:

Jen Poyant and Elizabeth Ross

Comments [1]

Larry Fisher from Brooklyn, N.Y.

Punch The Clock War...I am always amazed when Cease Fires end... How can the calm that comes with a Cease Fire return to warfare?

Oct. 24 2012 11:59 AM

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