What does the promotion of Bashar Al-Assad to the rank of Field Marshall signify at this stage?
I look at it as a symbolic act that came at the conclusion of a new pact between the Assad family and the upper ranks of the Syrian army, security forces and certain figures of authority within the Alawite community, be they religious or lay. If this is correct, then, this is an ominous development, because it means that the battle lines have been drawn, and that they will straddle confessional lines. Over the last few weeks, the Assads seem to have reorganized the army bypassing the usual structures, in a process that have allowed them to pool their loyalists together under a new command system that allows for easier mobilization. The same process, however, seem to be facilitating the breakup of the army along sectarian lines, which might be why we are witnessing more and more high level defections these days.
The Assads may not have been unaware of this eventuality, but they seem to have resigned themselves to it, and decided that regrouping is more important than keeping the army together, because in their mind sectarian war is coming because they themselves are manufacturing it.
Already clashes between loyalists and free officers are under way, not only in Deir Ezzor and Albou Kamal, but also in the Damascene suburbs of Madaya and Zabadani, where eyewitnesses report that defectors fought on Thursday against security officers and pro-Assad militia leaving 10 dead. In Homs, local residents say, 100 officers in the Military Academy rebelled, 80 managed to escape, after briefly barricading themselves there, but that 20 were killed.
Indeed, silence is killing us, but our dying will be a noisy affair. So, will our rebirth.