There is a serious piece of news that we should pay full attention to. The news is that there is a strong inclination within the regular Syrian army to form an armed division of the Alawite sect, comprising of 60,000 fighters supported by some Shiite forces and leaders from the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.
If this is true, and this division is to be formed, then it is a serious omen for the structure of the regular Syrian army, which could slide into an armed sectarian impasse. In turn, one of the largest Arab armies could become fragmented and divided.
It is no coincidence that the national Iraqi army was lured into a similar state during the era of US military ruler Paul Bremer, who fragmented the Iraqi military establishment and hence it transformed into sectarian or ethnic groupings. As a result, the Kurds went to Iraqi Kurdistan, the Shiites joined sectarian fighting divisions and the Sunnis were caught between the regular army, the Baathist forces and the militant al-Qaeda organization. As for the Christian forces, they abandoned the military and Iraq as a whole.
The Egyptian army is the largest Arab army in terms of size and the 10th largest globally, with a naval force that ranks first in Africa and second in the Mediterranean region, and an air force that ranks second in the region after Israel. However, recently it has been forced to divert its attention towards Egypt’s internal situation, and has engaged strongly in the governance of the country and the maintenance of its security.
The role of the Egyptian army used to be to protect the country’s borders and defend its national security, however now it has transformed into the “watchman” looking over all Egypt’s streets to undertake the protection of citizens, control traffic and maintain public buildings and property. It has been forced to shoulder an enormous responsibility.
Egyptian army personnel have found themselves transporting fuel and goods, guarding banks, functioning as paramedics for the injured, and serving as an outlet for the rage of angry protestors.
Hence we have witnessed separate attempts to fragment and undermine the armies of three of the most important military institutions in the Arab world: Egypt, Iraq and Syria.
The division of these institutions will create volatile fragments for many years to come, which will one day prompt us to bemoan our fate and long for the time when our armed forces were united.