Mitchell Reports | June 12, 2012
>>> the u.n. peace keeping chief says the syrian conflict has now become a civil war , describing large chunks of syrian cities that are now under control of anti-government rebels. richard engel is nbc's chief foreign correspondent and joins us from cairo. richard, you reported last night that a western diplomat had told you the assad regime may be quote, wobbling. what can you tell us about that and are there indications that the minority around him are beginning to, there are cracks in that support system? are we seeing cracks from russia under increasing pressure and isolated as there have been more and more massacres?
>> reporter: several questions there. i don't think we're seeing cracks with russia and there are reports that russia 's actually going to supply syria with more attack helicopters . i'll get to that in a minute. that could be a very dangerous development. the reason i was told that there are indications that syrian regime is quote, wobbling, is exactly the same reason we're seeing the u.n. today or at least one official from the u.n. saying that there appears to be a civil war in the country. when there is a civil war , it's very hard for the syrian government to command the situation. there are many factions fighting different militia groups in other parts of the country and it is not a classic war situation where you have one side fighting another. the other thing i was told is that yes, there are command and control issues over the syrian armed forces , that assad 's regime is having difficulty moving large numbers of troops across the country, putting them in close contact or in close combat with the opposition because there is a fear that if 1,000 troops enter a city and start coming face-to-face with the opposition, several hundred of them might not come back. that's why syrian troops have been surrounding cities, firing them from the outside to have a situation where you can have syrian forces watching each other so there's no defections. i have also been told in some remote areas like in the golan heights , a place that is not really partisan to the conflict right now, those syrian troops aren't getting supplies, aren't getting paid. transport is an issue. yes, there are cracks but the syrian government still has enough firepower, still has enough militia groups , still has this shabiha that can do a tremendous amount of damage.
>> when we talk about russia , one of the things i have been told as we watch these u.n. security counsel meetings, i'm getting all these messages from other diplomats saying russia is really isolated, under pressure, the evidence of massacre, the attacks on u.n. monitors, u.n. monitors being blocked, that's really isolating russia but now hillary clinton has just pushed back on a russian claim that the weapons that as you point out are still being supplied to assad are somehow unrelated to these protests and are not being used against the rebels and she's basically saying in a conference just now in washington that that's nonsense. so the whole administration diplomacy is rooted in the fact they think they can get russia to finally signal to assad he doesn't have russian support but that isn't happening, is it?
>> reporter: well, russia 's giving very mixed messages. at some stage it's saying that it doesn't mind if the assad regime is removed, that it's not put all of its eggs in the assad basket, but then continues to supply helicopters to the syrian regime and over the last week or so, we have been seeing the syrian regime using helicopters a lot more and the reason i think is because logistically, you can cover quite a bit of area with helicopters. you don't need very many people to operate them. you don't have to have this supply chain and you can inflict a tremendous amount of pain on opposition cities with helicopters. so if russia is saying it's just supplying helicopters for humanitarian reasons, and syria or logistical reasons or whatever reasons, and syria is using them to attack cities that are besieged and cut off, effectively shooting fish in a barrel, then i can understand why hillary clinton and others would be pointing that as a great deal of hypocrisy.
>> to be continued. thanks for checking in, richard. thanks so