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Susan Ormiston answers your questions on Syria

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CBC correspondent Susan Ormiston is seen reporting from the streets of Syria. (CBC)

Few journalists have been allowed to operate in Syria since the uprising against President Bashar Assad began in March 2011. Even fewer have gained access as violence intensified in recent weeks.

Susan Ormiston, the London-based foreign correspondent for CBC News' The National, is one of them. We invited the CBC community to ask Ormiston their questions about Syria.

Watch and read her answers below.

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Question from Dr. Wayne Dwernychuk of Parksville, B.C.:

Ms. Ormiston,

Perhaps you will be able to clarify something for me. I have asked Mr. John Baird, our Foreign Affairs Minister, three times to answer my question. I have forwarded my question, and my disappointment in Mr. Baird's apparent refusal to give me some feedback, to Prime Minister Harper, twice. Still no response to my question from either party.

My question: Why has there been no NATO or UN sponsored intervention into Syria for exactly what happened in Libya? Libya was killing its citizens, as is Syria, but nothing is being done to curb the massacre. All I want is some logical, rational reason for the apparent lack of concern in the international community to terminate the slaughter. What is the difference between Libya and Syria?

If you have such a reason that justifies this lack of action on the part of the international community, might I suggest that if you do send me a response, you send a 'cc' to both Mr. Baird and Mr. Harper so they may use the information to perhaps formulate their positions and then be able to respond to a member of their electorate.

Thank you.

Susan's Answer:

Wayne, it's a good question; the answer is complicated. This is not a justification but a look at some of the facts influencing the decision to stay out of a military campaign in Syria.  
First, Syria and Libya are very different scenarios.

Syria has 23 million people, Libya has 4 million. The opposition in Syria is primarily unarmed, untrained and not organized into brigades, as Libya's was. To date the Syrian army is predominately loyal to the government whereas Gadhafi in the end was fighting back mostly with foreign mercenaries. The support still for President Assad is higher than support was for Gadhafi. Military intervention from a strictly strategic view has to have some reasonable prospect of success; analysis indicates in Syria, that does not currently exist. But there are other potent forces at work too.

As you know Libya has oil and was of great interest to many western powers. There is less of interest in Syria. Strategically , a military campaign in Syria would inflame its neighbours, Iran particularly and Lebanon; it appears NATO and the UN are not prepared to take that risk. In sum the Libyan and Syrian landscapes are not comparable even while many believe the political leadership looks the same.

Question from Claude:


I have been following with great interest and admiration your reports and travels to Syria as an investigative reporter.  My question concerns the possibility of getting from Turkey through Syria overland as a tourist on the way to Jordan and/or Lebanon.  Any thoughts?


Susan's Answer:

Hi Claude:

If you can get a Syrian tourist visa, you can travel by road both to Lebanon and to Jordan. The roads are open, there may be a few checkpoints, but they are not in any way targeting tourists.

Question from Charlie Bonifacio in Oakville, Ontario:

Dear Susan,

If Assad is so confident that the uprising is of foreign insurgents trying to topple his government, why doesn't he hold open and free elections to determine the will of the people who he insists support him.

Legitimate, UN monitored elections would confirm the will of the Syrian people, is Assad willing to open that up ?

Susan's Answer:

Hello Charlie:

You ask a good question. The Syrian government tells us they are on a path of reform including rewriting their constitution , writing a law to guarantee the formation of political parties, and a law allowing peaceful protest. There were local elections recently in Syria. But there are no political parties currently and there is no indication President Assad would allow the U.N. to intervene in any way in sovereign elections. As for reform, there is so much mistrust in the country now, many doubt legitimate reform is coming and the opposition is in no mood to wait.

Currently I don't see any give by the Syrian government at all on any U.N. role in Syria, elections or otherwise.

About Susan Ormiston

 Susan Ormiston. (CBC) Susan Ormiston's career spans more than 25 years, reporting from hot-spots including; Afghanistan, Egypt and Libya, Haiti, Lebanon and South Africa. She's also visited many European capitals to cover the ongoing Euro debt crisis.

Ormiston has been awarded three Geminis including "Best Reportage" in 2007 for her work from Afghanistan. She won a Gemini for a web-based Canadian election special called "Ormiston Online."She was also awarded a Foreign Press Award in 2011.

As an interviewer, she has sat down with a wide variety of news-makers including Bill Clinton, Michaëlle Jean, Stanley McChrystal, Christine Lagarde, Celine Dion, Shania Twain, Russell Peters, Sir David Frost, Peter Munk and Dennis Kozlowski.

Ormiston has been a guest host for The National, The Current, As It Happens and on CBC News Network. She's also reported for CBC's magazine programs the Fifth Estate and Marketplace.

Follow her on twitter @OrmistonOnline


Tags: CBC Reporters, protest, World

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