News / Middle East

    Syrian Military Loyal So Far

    Image made from amateur video released by Ugarit News and accessed via AP TV News on Aug. 8, 2011, shows members of the Syrian military standing near the body of man in the northern Syrian province of Idlib Sunday Aug. 7, 2011. (Contents and date cannot b
    Image made from amateur video released by Ugarit News and accessed via AP TV News on Aug. 8, 2011, shows members of the Syrian military standing near the body of man in the northern Syrian province of Idlib Sunday Aug. 7, 2011. (Contents and date cannot b

    The Syrian government is defying international criticism of its crackdown on a popular uprising, relying on its armed forces to suppress political dissent. Unlike its counterparts during similar unrest in Egypt and Tunisia, Syria's military has given few signs of breaking with the ruling elite.

    Security forces that moved into yet more Syrian towns this week have shown little hesitation in opening fire on civilian areas. President Bashar al-Assad says the troops are acting out of national duty to counter what he calls outlaws, an interpretation of events rejected even by his allies.  

    Despite the ferocity with which the operations are being carried out, opposition to the crackdown is likely among at least some of the military's rank and file. Most foot soldiers are from Syria's Sunni majority, long-dominated by the Assad family's Alawite minority.  

    They are also closer in social and economic terms to the victims of the crackdown than they are to the nation's rulers, with some coming from the very neighborhoods they must now attack. Their officers, however, are disproportionately Alawite.   

    Mourners carry the body of a person during a funeral ceremony in the city of Homs, Syria, in this image made from amateur video released by Ugarit News, August 2, 2011
    Mourners carry the body of a person during a funeral ceremony in the city of Homs, Syria, in this image made from amateur video released by Ugarit News, August 2, 2011

    And according to human rights groups, commanders are willing to use brutal measures to ensure orders are carried out. Witnesses say soldiers who have refused to open fire on civilians have themselves been shot and killed.    

    A few have managed to escape.  

    One of the dozens of deserters who have turned up in Lebanon called on others in the Syrian army to reject the government's commands.   

    But such well-publicized defections are limited.

    "The army in Syria is composed of one million and a half. You cannot talk about 20 cases here and 50 cases there," said Haytham Manna, who is with the Arab Commission for Human Rights.   

    So far no brigade, let alone a division, has turned against the government. Part of the cohesion can be attributed to the command structure. Key positions in the security apparatus are held by relatives of President Assad, including his brother Maher and brother-in-law Assaf Chawkat.    

    It is a style of family rule seen in Libya and Yemen, where similar uprisings have also been met with force. Perhaps more importantly, power is divided under a complex system devised by former President Hafez al-Assad, Bashar's father, to decrease the chance of an internal coup.   

    This has tied security forces far closer to the leadership than, say, in Egypt or Tunisia. In both those nations, the military proved an institution unto itself, and its support of the protest movements was key to the uprisings' success.  

    Nadim Shehadeh, a political analyst at Chatham House, says if Syria's political and military leaders were to fall, they would likely fall together.      

    "I think what you will find is a crumbling of the whole structure because the inner circle are people that are very tight together," said Shehadeh. "But they are also afraid of any defections or any internal coup. So, if anyone is suspected of being capable of such a defection, he would be dead already."  

    But human rights monitor Manna believes its not too late for the military to act independently.

    "The most important thing is a position from the military apparatus as a whole," said Manna.

    Manna argues that the military might be deterred by the prospect of a civil war.   

    But as the military operations continue, hopes of avoiding a broader conflict are fading.

    Follow our Middle East reports on Twitter
    and discuss them on our Facebook page.

    You May Like

    Republicans Struggle With Reality of Trump Nomination

    Despite calls for unity by presumptive presidential nominee, analysts see inevitable fragmentation of party ahead of November election and beyond

    Nielsen's, Sina Weibo Team Up for Closer Look at Chinese Social Media

    US-based rating agency reaches deal with China's Twitter-like service to gauge marketing effectiveness on platform which has more than 200 million users

    Despite Cease-fire, Myanmar Landmine Scourge Goes Unaddressed

    Myanmar has third-highest mine casualty rate in the world, according to Landmine and Cluster Munition Monitor, which says between 1999 to 2014 it recorded 3,745 casualties, 396 of whom died

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Press Freedom in Myanmar Fragile, Limitedi
    X
    Katie Arnold
    May 04, 2016 12:31 PM
    As Myanmar begins a new era with a democratically elected government, many issues of the past confront the new leadership. Among them is press freedom in a country where journalists have been routinely harassed or jailed.
    Video

    Video Press Freedom in Myanmar Fragile, Limited

    As Myanmar begins a new era with a democratically elected government, many issues of the past confront the new leadership. Among them is press freedom in a country where journalists have been routinely harassed or jailed.
    Video

    Video Taliban Threats Force Messi Fan to Leave Afghanistan

    A young Afghan boy, who recently received autographed shirts and a football from his soccer hero Lionel Messi, has fled his country due to safety concerns. He and his family are now taking refuge in neighboring Pakistan. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from Islamabad.
    Video

    Video Major Rubbish Burning Experiment Captures Destructive Greenhouse Gases

    The world’s first test to capture environmentally harmful carbon dioxide gases from the fumes of burning rubbish took place recently in Oslo, Norway. The successful experiment at the city's main incinerator plant, showcased a method for capturing most of the carbon dioxide. VOA’s Deborah Block has more.
    Video

    Video EU Visa Block Threatens To Derail EU-Turkey Migrant Deal

    Turkish citizens could soon benefit from visa-free travel to Europe as part of the recent deal between the EU and Ankara to stem the flow of refugees. In return, Turkey has pledged to keep the migrants on Turkish soil and crack down on those who are smuggling them. Brussels is set to publish its latest progress report Wednesday — but as Henry Ridgwell reports from London, many EU lawmakers are threatening to veto the deal over human rights concerns.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.
    Video

    Video Elephant Summit Results in $5M in Pledges, Presidential Support

    Attended and supported by three African presidents, a three-day anti-poaching summit has concluded in Kenya, resulting in $5 million in pledges and a united message to the world that elephants are worth more alive than dead. The summit culminated at the Nairobi National Park with the largest ivory burn in history. VOA’s Jill Craig attended the summit and has this report about the outcomes.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora