Kim Sengupta on Syria - Live coverage - The Independent

Kim Sengupta on Syria

The Independent's defence correspondent answers your queries after several weeks covering the conflict from Aleppo

  • During the past few weeks, The Independent and i's defence correspondent, Kim Sengupta, was at times the only foreign journalist in Aleppo - the focus for the strife in Syria. Back in the UK, he has been answering your questions live.

    Kim's now finished. Thank you to everyone who sent questions, and apologies that there wasn't time to answer them all. Above all, thanks to Kim.

    This blog will be available for a while to review the exchanges.
    8/15/2012 10:31:06 AM
  • BREAKING NEWS: Blast strikes near Damascus hotel used by UN
    8/15/2012 10:40:16 AM
  • TODAY: Burnt vehicles are seen after a bomb exploded at a military site near a hotel used by United Nations monitors in Damascus (REUTERS/Khaled al-Hariri)

    8/15/2012 10:52:48 AM
  • Q. What is the latest situation in Aleppo? Who has the upperhand? #IndySyria - mmusabay (via Twitter)

    A. The situation, as you would imagine, is quite fluid. However, what we have seen in the past few days is that the regime are making their superior firepower tell, especially with air strikes and tanks, and have taken over almost all of Salheddine and are probing into areas which the rebels had captured. The rebels, as you know, lack heavy weaponry. More civilians are leaving, but they are hampered by fuel shortage for their vehicles.
    8/15/2012 11:35:32 AM
  • Q. Are most of the fighters you met in Aleppo actually from the city of Aleppo or are they from other towns in Syria. Also what countries were the non Syrian fighters from. - Desmond Halforty

    A. The fighters were initially from Aleppo, but they were significantly reinforced by fighters from elsewhere in Aleppo Province and also from neighbouring Idlib as the regime reinforced its own forces. I saw very few foreign fighters myself. They are around, but not, I believe in large numbers. Interestingly there was a Libyan guy who headed a largely Syrian unit.
    8/15/2012 11:39:45 AM
  • Q. How closely is Syria's crisis related to Iran's weapons ambitions? - Martin, Essex

    A. The Iranians certainly feel that their enemies, the West, Israel, Saudi Arabia are using Syria to an extent to undermine Iran. I am not sure there is a direct correlation between the Syrian civil war and the Iranian nuclear programme, but the Iranians are strongly supporting Assad. They are also apprehensive about having a hostile Sunni state on their border.
    8/15/2012 11:43:55 AM
  • Q. How hard is it to maintain subjectivity when in a battle zone and your survival depends on one of the sides in a conflict? I'm massively impressed by what you achieved. - Philip, Hampshire

    A. I am afraid that it is not always possible to remain totally objective in such situations. It is very hard to remain neutral when you see civilians being killed and maimed, especially when it appears to be deliberate. We are also affected by an element of Stockholm syndrome, sharing the risks of the guys we are with. Having said that, it is essential that we don't whitewash atrocities committed by the side we are reporting from. Thus I felt it was very necessary to write about summary executions carried out by rebels. We must keep a close eye on how the Alawites are treated in the future.
    8/15/2012 11:50:27 AM
  • Q. What evidence, if any, have you seen of foreign funding and foreign troops? #indysyria - false_dawn (via Twitter)

    A. Funding certainly: the rebels appear to be getting considerable sums of money from abroad, especially the Gulf countries, as well as from the wealthier members of the Syrian diaspora in other countries. There are complaints about exactly what has happened to some of this money. I have seen foreign fighters, as stated previously, but no troops from foreign countries.
    8/15/2012 11:54:07 AM
  • Q. 1. I visited Aleppo a dozen times between 2007 and 2010 - how badly damaged is the city? 2. Is any coherent political organisation emerging among the rebels? if Assad goes who might take over? – Peter Lewis (via Facebook)

    A. Most parts of Aleppo, thankfully, have not been too badly damaged. Salheddine, the main frontline, has been devastated and there is some damage, on a much lesser scale, to the Old City, around Aleppo Castle which is another battle ground. There is no coherent political organisation at present, it seems, to take over. The Syrian National Council is viewed as divided with a long way to go. There is, however, quite lively debates about the future political shape of the country in the towns now in rebel hands.
    8/15/2012 12:26:32 PM
  • Q. What reaction was there from fighters regarding Kofi Annan's resignation, and the role played by the UN, and the £5 million in British non-lethal aid? - John, Brighton

    A.The fighters regarded the Annan plan as dead in the water a long time ago. They do not appear to have much faith on the UN and, increasingly, any peace plan; the feeling is that the military option is the only one left unless President Assad and his circle leave Syria. There was some curiosity about the British aid with questions about how exactly the money would be disseminated and spent.
    8/15/2012 12:31:22 PM
  • Q.Have you any idea what the rebels have in mind in regards to changing how the country is run when they have overthrown Assad? - Stephen Davies

    A. As in Libya, there are various competing schools of thought. There seems to be common ground that Islam should play a key role in public life but there are differences about just how much of the legal code and constituition would be based on religion. This is the case among the various Islamist parties as well. There is also debate about what happens to the Alawites. Most say an accommodation must be found, but there are also those who are adamant that they cannot share the country with them after all that has happened.
    8/15/2012 12:36:25 PM
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