Key military players in Syria’s civil war

syriaBEIRUT (AP) — A list of key military players in the Syrian civil war:

-Syrian regime: Despite major defections and the loss of significant territory to rebels, the Syrian military remains a potent force against a poorly armed opposition. President Bashar Assad’s inner circle has largely remained cohesive and united, avoiding high-level defections that sapped the strength of other regimes, such as Moammar Gadhafi’s in Libya, during Arab Spring uprisings. Assad’s closest advisers include his younger brother, Maher, who commands forces protecting the capital, as well as the heads of four intelligence agencies that are playing key roles in the government’s crackdown.

-Pro-regime militiamen: Shadowy fighters, known as shabiha, recruited from the ruling elite’s Alawite sect operate as hired muscle for the Syrian regime. They are believed to be carrying out some of the most brutal attacks of the conflict, allowing Assad’s government to deny direct responsibility for them.

-Supreme Military Council: Syria’s main rebel units, known together as the Free Syrian Army, regrouped in December under a unified rebel command called the Supreme Military Council, following promises of more military assistance once a…

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