The Syrian civil war is about to heat up some more as the outside players get involved.
According to my sources, the Israelis had just about convinced Vladimir Putin to delay shipment of Russia's sophisticated S-300 anti-air missile systems to the Assad regime in Syria when the EU surprised the Russians this morning with an announcement that they were ending a previous arms embargo on the al-Qaeda and Muslim Brotherhood rebels and extending economic sanctions on Syrian leader Basher Assad's government.
Within hours, the Russians announced they were shipping the S-300s to Basher Assad.
To show you how feckless and unthought out this was, here's a sample of Brit rhetoric from al-Guardian:
Downing Street has refused to say whether MPs will be given the chance to vote on any decision to send arms to Syria following the EU's decision to lift its arms embargo, the Guardian's Andrew Sparrow reports:
The prime minister's spokesman stressed that the government had not taken a decision to arm the Syrian opposition in the light of the EU decision, and indicated that Downing Street hoped that the threat of arms being supplied would persuade the Syrian government to enter negotiations.
Asked whether Britain would arm the rebels, the spokesman said: "The prime minister's view is that it is right that we have the flexibility to respond if [Bashar al-Assad's] regime refused to negotiate. What we are doing is sending a signal, loud and clear, to the regime."
Syrian peace talks are planned for Geneva next month and the spokesman indicated that Britain wanted the Syrian government to participate.
"What we need is a transitional regime [for Syria] that is supported by both sides, including the [opposition] Syrian National Coalition," said the spokesman. As part of that process, Assad would have to go.
As for France, French foreign ministry spokesman Philippe Lalliot said France could potentially send arms to the opposition before the embargo expires on Aug. 1, but said 'it had no immediate plans to do so.'
So...they're not actually shipping arms to the Syrian rebels, but they've announced they might..and that somehow is going to facilitate peace talks, which the rebels are against anyway! You simply couldn't be more clueless.
Meanwhile, Putin isn't waffling. He's responding to this lukewarm nonsense as a red line and is shipping the Syrian regime the tools they'll need to prevent America, the UK or anyone else from establishing a no fly zone like they did in Libya.
As for the Israelis, they're not at all happy at the likes of the EU wrecking what was some carefully worked out diplomacy on their part. Unlike the David Camerons,John McCains and other useful idiots, they understand that the rebels are dominated by al-Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood and are no friends to the West.
But on the other hand, they don;t want the Syrians (and by extension, Hezbollah) getting the S-300s. So they issued a clear warning to Putin that if the S-300s are shipped top Syria, they're going to take action. And they're definitely not kidding.
The last time Putin shipped S-300s into the Middle East, the Russian Ship Arctic Sea was mysteriously hijacked en route to Iran, the S-300s were removed and disappeared and it was Israel's Mossad who told the Russians where they could find their ship, which had been boarded by a mysterious group of men posing as narcotics agents off the coast of Sweden some days earlier.
I'd be very surprised if the Mossad wasn't likewise watching any current shipment of S-300s like hawks.