Times reporter Patrick J. McDonnell on his trip to Syria

Weeks of fighting has left the Syrian town of Qusair in rubble.
(Nabih Bulos / Los Angeles Times)

The Times’ Beirut bureau chief, Patrick J. McDonnell, has just returned from seven days in Syria.

He was on an official trip, so he spent his time in government-held areas. He wrote about the government’s recent victory in the former rebel logistics hub of Qusair, the continuing clashes in Homs and the mood among loyalists of President Bashar Assad in the capital, Damascus.

Foreign Editor Mark Porubcansky caught up with him by phone before he left and asked for his impressions of the country after two years of war.


We also asked readers to send us their questions for McDonnell. You can hear his answers below.

Porubcansky: You’ve now been on the road quite some time. I wanted to get a general sense of what impressions you have of the government-controlled countryside in Syria.

Porubcansky: You were just in Qusair, less than a week after the city was recaptured by government forces and their allies from the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah. What did you see there? It was quite clearly heavily damaged in the fighting. Did the government win back anything there other than a large pile of rubble?

Anthony Mills, deputy director of the International Press Institute in Vienna, tweeted several questions for McDonnell.

@latimesworld #Syria Has Hezbollah’s active forceful involvement tipped the balance? Is this another Nasrallah gamble paying off? — Anthony Mills (@AAMills) June 8, 2013

@6number6 @latimesworld Do you think there will be a winner and a loser when this is eventually over, or a failed, broken state? — Anthony Mills (@AAMills) June 8, 2013

We also heard from:

How sophisticated is the U.S. arsenal possessed by the rebels?Find out the source of their weapons?Any Russian troops? @latimesworld — Cathy Alterman (@CuriousLemming) June 7, 2013


Offensive reported on key Syrian city of Aleppo

U.S. imposes sanctions on Hezbollah ‘ambassadors’

Killing of Syrian youth for ‘blasphemy’ fuels tension in Aleppo

Twitter: @alexzavis