70% of the career soldiers in the Syrian Army are Alawites. The Republican Guard and 4th mech (total 50,000 strong) elite forces both are exclusively Alawite and commanded by Bashar Al Assad’s brother Maher. In effect the Alawites form a dual command structure allowing for total sectarian control over the entire force.
The Syrian army is structured primarily to keep the Assads and Alawites in control and the Sunnis (75% of the population) under rather than fight external enemies. This already became obvious when Hama was destroyed in 1984 but now almost 30 years later only true believers can still see the Syrian army as representative of Syria.
We shouldn’t give these true believers so much credit. Wasn’t it obvious since 1966 that Syria was not an inclusive society? Why do we lend credence to the propaganda flowing out of Tehran, Damascus, Moscow and and Southern Beirut? All these actors are heavily compromised and are knee deep in the dead solely for trying to maintain control.
There’s an excellent relevant analysis of Syria written 2 years ago (may 5th 2011) here http://www.stratfor.com/weekly/20110504-making-sense-syrian-crisis