With Syria's crackdown on democracy activists now in its seventh month, serious questions have begun to arise over the extent to which a militarized faction of the protest movement may, or may not, be able to mount an armed revolt against the government of President Bashar al-Assad.
Reports this week honed in on a group of recently defected Syrian military soldiers and officers calling themselves the Free Syrian Army. While the group has created a presence online, according to Joshua Landis, the author of Syria Comment, a leading English-language blog on Syria, it now faces a true test in attempting to grow beyond that during the weeks ahead.
"The problem they face is that the Syrian army is very strong," Landis, who also teaches Middle East studies at the University of Oklahoma, told Trend Lines on Tuesday. "Sure," he said, "there have been a number of defections of Sunni recruits and a number of officers up to the rank of colonel, but they face an extraordinarily difficult job of fielding a credible army because they have had to flee the country."