As pro-Assad militias keep committing more massacres and opposition forces keep their wrangling, army defectors are getting more organized and have launched what could be the armed phase of the revolution. In some protest communities, defecting officers seem to be emerging as de facto leaders in the political sense as well.
The rise of the defectors has been a slow process. For a variety of logistical reason, it took them long to get their act together, but over the last few weeks, they seem to have gotten their act together. Even though, they seem to have a long way to go before they can mount major operations inside the country, because of limited funds and support from external sources, the sympathy they have found in certain communities, especially in parts of Homs, Hama, Idlib and Deir Ezzor provinces, has allowed them time to organize and strategize. In cooperation with local figures, they seem to be now meshing with the local leadership responsible for the Revolution. No, we are not talking here about the Local Coordination Committees, the Syrian Revolution Coordinators’ Union or the Syrian Revolution General Commission, or even the just established Revolutionary High Council.
The local leadership referred to here, and which, in some communities where the violent crackdown was too intensive is beginning to build a symbiotic relation with army defectors, is comprised of the loose networks that actually gave birth to the LCCS, the Union, the Commission and the High Council, without wholeheartedly embracing them. Why? Because leadership of these groups is heavily influenced by input from traditional opposition figures and activists whose internecine bickering have compromised the ability of the networks to become more organized and inclusive, a development that affected their credibility on the ground. The street by now knows that the opposition is unreliable, and that major figures in the army and security will not defect, and that the best that can be achieved at this stage is to maintain the daily momentum of the protest movement until a miracle happen, even if that miracle is, for some, foreign military intervention.
Meanwhile, Assad’s security forces have managed to score a few “victories” over the last few weeks by killing and detaining a few of the most active protest leaders. But the emergence of the defectors might soon compensate for that, even as it ushers a new phase in the revolution. The protesters are unlikely to carry arms themselves, but they will provide a sympathetic and nourishing environment for the defectors to operate in: mini safe-havens of sorts. With this ongoing development, the Syrian Revolution is entering a new phase, one that requires the international community to play closer attention to the situation lest it devolves beyond control.