THE EUROPEAN UNION AND SYRIA: A COMMENT
"The UK and France have won the freedom to supply weapons to Syrian rebel groups after they succeeded in dismantling an EU arms embargo in spite of determined opposition from fellow member states. The two nations prevailed at a meeting of EU foreign ministers that dragged on for more than 13 hours and laid bare deep divisions within the bloc about the merits of intervening more forcefully in a civil war that has claimed more than 80,000 lives. William Hague, the British foreign secretary, said the decision sent “a very strong message” to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad about the need to seek a political solution to the conflict. “While we have no immediate plans to send arms to Syria it gives us the flexibility to respond in the future if the situation continues to deteriorate,” Mr Hague said".Joshua Chaffin, "UK and France win battle to lift EU’s Syria arms embargo." The Financial Times. 28 May 2013, in www.ft.com.
"Reuters) - Russia will deliver an advanced air defense system to the Syrian government despite Western opposition because it will help deter "hotheads" who back foreign intervention, a senior Russian official said on Tuesday. Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov also accused the European Union of "throwing fuel on the fire" by letting its arms embargo on Syrian expire, saying it would complicate efforts to arrange an international peace conference. His remarks toughened Russia's defiance of the United States, France and Israel over the planned sale of precision S-300 missile systems to President Bashar al-Assad's government, which is battling a Western and Gulf Arab-backed insurgency. "We think this delivery is a stabilizing factor and that such steps in many ways restrain some hotheads ... from exploring scenarios in which this conflict could be given an international character with participation of outside forces, to whom this idea is not foreign," he told a news conference. Western experts say the air defense system could significantly boost Syria's ability to stave off outside intervention in the more than two-year civil war that has killed more than 80,000 people. The S-300s can intercept manned aircraft and guided missiles and their delivery would improve Assad's government's chances of holding out in Damascus. Western nations say the Russian arms deliveries could increase tension and encourage Assad. Moscow is standing firm on the sale, despite a trip to Russia by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu this month in which he pleaded with President Vladimir Putin to halt the delivery, and a veiled warning of a military response by Israel".Alissa de Carbonnel, "Russia to send Syria air defense system to deter 'hotheads'." Reuters. 28 May 2013, in www.reuters.com. The almost simultaneous news coming out of Brussels and Moskva demonstrates anew something which this journal has been harping on since the bandwagon urging Western military assistance and or intervention in the Syrian imbroglio came to the fore. Namely that any such Western intervention will invite, in the absence of such intervention being truly massive in scale and scope, countervailing Russian, Persian and Hezbollah intervention in support of the regime of Assad Fils. The above news coming out to-day as well as the news last week that Hezbollah has overtly intervened in the conflict puts paid to the charming idea that any Western or Western-lead intervention in Syria would be a repeat of what occurred in Libya circa 2011. As we can now clearly see that is indeed far, far from the case. Indeed, reading between the lines of the recent Russian statements, it would not be entirely unlikely that an increase in Western military support for the opposition will result in Russian delivery of offensive weapons to the regime in Damascus. Given the fact that it is the regime which is making all the running at the moment on the ground, it seems questionable in the extreme to expect that: i) the proposed Peace Conference next month will result in anything positive; ii) the opposition will indeed be able to overthrow the Baathist regime, while it continues to receive support from its allies. Unless such support ends, or conversely unless and until the scale of Western military intervention (not mind you, mere 'support' but full-scale, Western military intervention) changes dramatically, then a stalemate on the ground in Syria, if not worse will be the result staring us in the face. We can all proclaim how unfortunate or even how horrid this state of affairs is, but the long and short of it, is that there is where the facts lead us to. Only time will tell if a new set of facts on the ground changes the current calculations which seem to favor the regime.