NPR’s Deborah Amos reports on Syria from front lines


We are “two and a half years into” the Syria war, “and not even half way” through, says Deborah Amos, veteran National Public Radio Middle East correspondent, who has covered the brutal conflict that has killed 100,000 Syrians, and made almost 2 million refugees. “Everyone has to get used to that.”

The conflict’s battle lines have shifted in recent months, suggesting Syrian regime forces are moving to carve out a “little Syria,” and ensure its access to supply lines in Lebanon, Amos said in a telephone interview with Al-Monitor Friday (August 2) during a break in the United States.

“What you've got now” is a battle between regime and rebel forces “for roads and access,” Amos said.  “It used to be for checkpoints and military installations. But now, the regime has to be sure it has access from Lebanon into Syria.” The rebels, meantime, “focus on access to Jordan and Turkey.”

“This is what the war’s about now,” Amos said, describing the virtual four “walls” of Little Syria as including Homs to the north, Palmyra to the east, the Lebanese border and coast to the West.

The road to the Geneva 2 peace conference may be long, Amos said, observing neither side wants to go to talks when the other side has the upper hand, but is unlikely to negotiate when strong. “So nobody is willing to negotiate.”

“I think Bashar [Assad] has changed his definition of winning,” Amos mused, noting his recent proclamations of the past weeks, joining of Instagram, and visit to Dariya, which his forces have not been entirely able to take from rebels. Continue reading

US military team in Jordan to help with Syria crisis

A US military team has been deployed to Jordan to assist the key American ally manage the refugee flow and instability from the Syrian conflict next door, the Pentagon has acknowledged.

A U.S. defense official, speaking to the Associated Press, said some “100 military planners and other personnel stayed in Jordan after attending an annual May exercise and several dozen more have flown in since,” the Associated Press reported Wednesday.

The US military task force operates out of a US-Jordan military base north of Amman.

The task force, led by a senior American officer, is “now largely focused on helping Jordanians handle the estimated 180,000 Syrian refugees who have crossed the border and are severely straining the country’s resources,” the New York Times reported. Its mission “also includes drawing up plans to try to insulate Jordan …from the upheaval in Syria and to avoid the kind of clashes now occurring along the border of Syria and Turkey.”

The US official “stressed that the team is not there to fight, but rather for contingency planning on a number of issues including how to handle the flood of Syrian refugees in Jordan and creating a buffer zone to protect the ally in the continuing crisis,” the AP report said.

Jordan’s King Abdullah dissolved parliament October 4th to make way for the country’s first post-Arab spring parliamentary elections, due to be held early next year. Continue reading