Syrian Army Splits over Deraa Repression

The Syrian regime of Bashar al-Asad’s decision to quell popular protests in Deraa with military force and live ammunition may have begun splitting his army. AP reports eyewitness accounts on Thursday that units of the 4th Army Division, headed by Maher al-Asad (the brother of the president), began firing on the crowds in Deraa. The 5th Division, comprised mainly of conscripts, opposed this step and tried to protect the people. Then the two divisions traded fire with one another!

The split is on a minor scale in an out of the way part of the country, but we social scientists look for signs of cracks in the military when there are attempts to open up the political system, because a divided military can aid the reformers.

The Deraa protesters insist that they are just a youth movement, and deny being Salafis or hard line Muslim revivalists.

Aljazeera English has video:

3 Responses

  1. Excellent news. The question that cannot be asked is, of course, what will happen in the US when the food riots start here.

  2. For the record…this is the most rumor-based post you have ever posted.

    A. Maher is the ‘boogeyman’ of the region.

    B. The 4th Division’s role is regime protection of Damascus. Read history. It ain’t leaving Damascus.

    Please don’t follow the path of Al Jazeera of late and lose all sense of fact checking.

  3. Question for Prof Cole:
    When these dictators sustain their power with an extensive security apparatus, how much autonomy do they have to change or reverse direction, e.g. establish democratic rule, without the consent of the security apparatus? And how much power do they have in running the day to day suppression of revolts?

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