By mid 2013, more than two years into a bloody conflict, it is quite clear that the army has not fractured on sectarian lines. They have held together as a national force, very clear that they are facing sectarian and often foreign opponents.
The entry of
So when commentators claim the Syrian conflict is becoming 'increasingly sectarian', they are simply paying more attention to Muslim Brotherhood arguments and ignoring the fact that, across the region, secular nationalism remains an important force.
The 'elephant in the room' in this discussion has been the
big powers: the
But this discussion has been about the Syrian Arab Army, criticisms of which seem particularly absurd coming from those western countries whose armies spend much of their time invading and occupying a variety of foreign countries, most of them oil-rich, supposedly for the good of the local populace.
Cynics suggest that arbitrary national boundaries and entities created by the colonial powers have no value. However, hundreds of thousands of young Syrians put their lives on the line every day to defend a nation that gives them identity, education, and a range of shared institutions. I suggest that deserves some respect.
The Syrian Arab Army has been vilified by those very same regimes that arm the foreign jihadis and the local sectarians. Yet despite the relentless attacks, this army has held together and is showing strong signs of resuming control of their own country, in service of a secular and socially inclusive state. If that is not the legitimate function of a national army, I don't know what is.
Basma Atassi (2011) 'Free Syrian Army grows in influence ', Al Jazeera, 16 November, online: http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2011/11/20111116154829885782.html.
BICOM (2013) 'Amos Gilad: Al-Qaeda threat not as serious as Syria-Iran-Hezbollah axis', 2 April, online: http://www.bicom.org.uk/news-article/13169/.
Ghaith Abdul-Ahad (2012) ' 'The people of
Muhammad Riyad Al-Shaqfa (2011) 'Muslim Brotherhood Statement about the so-called "Syrian Revolution"', on The truth About Syria, Muhammad Riyad Al-Shaqfa is the General supervisor for the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood, statement of 28 March, online at: http://truthsyria.wordpress.com/2012/02/12/muslim-brotherhood-statement-about-the-so-called-syrian-revolution/.
Pew Research Centre (2013) "The World's Muslims: religion, politics and society', Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, April 30, online: http://www.pewforum.org/Muslim/the-worlds-muslims-religion-politics-society.aspx.