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Arab Spring

Under Assad's grip, uneasy co-existence with former rebels

Former rebel commander Omar Melhem has nearly come full circle.

He was a colonel in the Syrian army when the uprising against President Bashar Assad began in 2011. He defected a year later and joined the armed revolt against the Syrian leader.

Then, when Assad's forces marched into Talbiseh, he was among the rebels who handed over their weapons and agreed to a surrender deal that would allow them to stay in their hometown instead of a life of exile in the country's north.

As the Syrian government reasserts control over opposition strongholds, such co-existence between the military and former rebel fighters like Melhem is now the new reality.

The 51-year-old...