Sectarian divides within Syria’s military are widening, increasing the number of defections and adding weight to to predictions about the emergence of an armed mutiny, which would pose an even greater threat to the regime of Bashar al-Assad than the mass street protests that have been taking place for months.
Diplomats and military analysts say army cohesiveness is unravelling as the leadership continues to order troops to mercilessly crush their own people in Arab Spring demonstrations. “The crackdown is looking increasingly unsustainable,” one European diplomat told Reuters. “Assad is more unable to rely on the majority Sunni rank and file.”
An armed insurgency, largely military defectors who have sided with the people, has been launched attacks and guerrilla raids on loyal Syrian forces in recent weeks. “The Sunni backlash against him is growing, and we could see a scenario where he will lose the countryside,” the diplomat said.
Over the border into Turkey, these insurgent are being provided safe haven by Syria’s former close ally. Turkey is providing shelter to the commander and his soldiers, the Free Syrian Army, and allowing them to plan and orchestrate attacks across the border from inside a camp guarded by the Turkish military.