On August 6, 2012, President Bashar al-Assad’s prime minister defected, dealing another blow to the Syrian leader’s efforts to preserve his regime. Since the start of the Syrian uprising in March 2011, the strong central authority the al-Assad regime built and institutionalized during four decades has been rapidly crumbling. Yet the factors that made Libya’s uprising succeed—a united and organized opposition, sparse population patterns and a weak army—are absent in Syria. The country becomes more militarized after each passing week, with various, competing rebel groups gaining more leverage and territory—and even reportedly committing their own massacres. For now, the rebels—habitually termed the Free Syrian Army (FSA)—mostly operate independently on tribal and geographic bases, and interaction between them, violent or cooperative, is for the most part relatively rare. Jihadist groups, such as Jabhat al-Nusra, have also definitively entered the fray.
The role and future actions of the milieu of armed groups operating in Syria is sure to affect the shape of the country following the seemingly inevitable fall of al-Assad’s regime. Rebel units number in the dozens. Some are secular, while others call for an Islamic state in Syria. All are vying for weapons and territory. For now, what unites them is their shared goal of defeating the Syrian regime. This mutual interest will likely change if the regime falls