Working through Jordan, Britain and France are determined to get arms shipments to the Syrian rebels fighting Bashar Assad – parting ways for the first time with the Obama administration’s objections to this course throughout Syria’s two-year civil war
The two European powers have embarked on concrete step to make this possible..
debkafile’s exclusive military sources reveal that Jordanian Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Mashal Mohammad Al Zaben was secretly flown into Brussels by British military plane Friday, March 14, as 24 European Union leaders led by German Chancellor Angela Merkel voted down the motion put before them by UK Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Francois Hollande to end the bloc’s embargo on arms for the Syrian opposition.
European Council President Herman Van Rompuy said EU foreign ministers will again assess the embargo at a meeting on March 22-23 in Dublin.
Outside the chamber, the Jordanian general sat down quietly with British army and security officials to work out the details of the transfer of British arms through his country, and decide to which Syrian rebel units they would be allotted.
This choice is of paramount importance because President Barack Obama accounts for his objection to letting the rebels have Western arms by the risk of their falling into the hands of Islamist militias, such as the al Qaeda-linked Jabat al-Nusra.
In the twelve years since the US-led NATO invasion of Afghanistan, Britain and France have walked faithfully in step with the United States in their military and intelligence policies towards the Muslim world – although they were not always of one mind. The two European powers’ open pursuit of an independent line on a volatile Middle East conflict is therefore worthy of note.
After the EU summit rejected their demand to lift the arms embargo, Cameron declared: “Britain is a sovereign country. We have our own foreign, security and defense policies. If we want to take individual action, we think that’s in our national interest, of course we are free to do so.”
Blunt defiance indeed from a US ally of a presidential policy on a key international issue. It was in sharp contrast to the accent placed by British leaders and their foreign ministers in recent years on the seamless “special relations” between London and Washington.
President Hollande had this to say: “Assad is not interested in a political solution to the two-year old conflict and Europe cannot be passive as Syrians are slaughtered. We must also take responsibility,” he said.
This was a diplomatic way of saying that Paris had lost patience with President Obama’s wait-and-see policy, which relegates the ending of the bloody Syrian civil war to the diplomatic initiatives of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Hollande was also evening the score with Obama for his failure to rally around militarily when the French launched their expedition in January to rescue Mali from the clutches of al Qaeda-linked Islamist terrorists.
For the British prime minister, the decision was harder. It places his government on the side of Saudi Arabia and the rest of the Arab Gulf emirates. They disapprove strongly of Obama’s attempt to enclose the non-supply of weapons to Syrian rebels in a larger package that would include Iran’s consent to give up part of its nuclear program – a hopeful quid pro quo in support of Tehran’s bid to strengthen its alliance with the Assad regime and the Lebanese Hizballah.
Jordan’s King Abdullah decided to join the Anglo-French decision on arms to the Syrian rebels after he was leaned on hard by Saudi Arabia, which argued that unless al Qaeda was stopped, its territorial conquests would not just cover parts of Syria but Iraq too, bringing the jihadists right up to two of Jordan’s borders.