May 29, 2016

Report from Behind the Lines in Syria: An Interview with Dr. Jonathan Spyer


Dr. Jonathan Spyer, GLORIA Center senior fellow, has just returned from Syria where he met with oppositionists, members of the Free Syrian Army, and local inhabitants. Here’s his first interview on his experiences and observations.

Barry Rubin: Dr. Spyer, please tell us about your visit to Syria, what you saw and your impressions.

Jonathan Spyer: Well, I spent a week in Idleb province, traveling between a number of different towns. The most striking aspect was the extent of de facto control that the opposition and Free Syrian Army (FSA) have in this area.  A number of towns are now entirely under their control, with FSA roadblocks at the entrance and the rebel flag flying everywhere.  At the same time, it’s of course clear that the government still has intelligence networks inside the “liberated” towns, and will reconquer them if possible at a later date.

Barry Rubin: Many observers claim that the Bashar al-Assad regime will fall soon. What do the opposition activists think and what is your

Jonathan Spyer: The many opposition activists and fighters that I spoke to seem to be rather torn in their attitude. On the one hand, I heard none of the facile optimism that one heard among some analysts in the first months of the uprising, describing Bashar’s fall  as imminent.  The opposition activists understand that with the support of Iran, Russia, China and Hizballah, the regime can continue for some time to come, even if it is bleeding resources and losing manpower to the rebel army.  The opposition is acutely aware of its own international isolation compared to the regime, and repeat endlessly the call for a buffer zone, and for the beginnings of Western support for arming the FSA.

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About Barry Rubin

Prof. Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center, editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal, and a featured columnist for PajamasMedia at His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan)