The Former Syrian prime minister who defected, Riad Hijab, says President Bashar al-Assad’s government is on the verge of economic and moral collapse and controls no more than 30 percent of the nation’s territory. The government says that is far from the truth.
Journalists are not allowed to roam freely in Syria, so to get a perspective of what is happening on the ground, VOA’s Susan Yackee spoke with Abdul Omar, a British-based Syrian activist, who has contact with opposition forces in Syria.
Authority of the regime ‘undermined at best’
“The country is at the verge of collapse economically; state institutions do not function. If we were in Syria right now – if we were to jump into a cab and drive a few kilometers outside of Damascus – you would find the authority of the regime is undermined at best. There is no authority in this regime; it only controls wherever it has tanks or airplanes.”
‘A fight for survival’
“The international community is a victim of exactly what it used to accuse Assad of: Being out of touch with the reality on the ground. Well, the international community is out of touch with what’s happening on the ground. We talk about sanctions – economic sanctions imposed by the U.S. last week – [but] these are not going to change what’s happening. People are being killed. There’s a fight for survival on the streets of Syria. The international community decided to take a step back and to observe what is happening and to leave civilians and Syrians at the hands of a dictator who is well-armed and prepared to do anything to remain in power.”
‘Talk of intervention…is probably out of date’
“At this stage, talk of any degree of intervention similar to that in Libya is probably out of date. Syrians themselves would not accept it. What we must do now is to support the Free Syrian Army rebels and what they are doing. Right now they are extremely vulnerable to attacks from the sky; airplanes and helicopters continue to bombard them. We should at least provide them with the means to defend themselves and to defend the land and the country in which they walk from these atrocities.”
Listen to more of Abdul Omar’s insights on the Syrian opposition (3:30):
Susan Yackee is anchor and producer of VOA's audio podcast, Middle East Monitor. She has been a reporter in the Washington area for more than 35 years and regularly interviews newsmakers and analysts in DC and around the world. Susan works in television, radio and social media.