Even if we are dealing with little more than a supposition, the pattern is worrisome. In the beginning of August, world media were full of reports about supplies to rebels of 20 portable anti-aircraft missile launchers from Turkey. Most of the experts not only in Russia, but also in Western Europe and the United States agreed that Turkey could not act alone on such an important matter. Yevgeny Satanovsky, the head of the Moscow-based Institute on Middle Eastern Studies expressed an opinion that Saudi Arabia and Qatar, two greatest enemies of the Syrian government, were behind these shipments, obviously with tentative agreement from the United States and their European allies.
Soon after the August reports, the rebel forces suddenly became much more efficient in downing Syrian army planes and other aircraft used by the government-loyal army. In early September, an ominous statement from the rebels followed, in which the Free Syrian Army’s representative said airfields in Damascus and Aleppo, as well as civilian aviation at large, could become “legitimate targets” for the rebels. He cited alleged use of civilian aviation for supplying weapons to the government forces as the reason.
The Russian foreign ministry condemned this statement of the Free Syrian Army, adding that any attempts to pass these deadly weapons to the Syrian rebels were irresponsible.
“The Syrian armed opposition is now threatening to down civilian aircraft in Syria. This is the result of irresponsible transfer of portable surface-to air missiles to their hands,” said deputy foreign minister of Russian Federation Gennady Gatilov. Vyacheslav Matuzov, the head of the Russo-Arab cooperation group, said the rebels could get their missiles from the arsenals of the now defunct regime of colonel Qaddafi,but this did not make reports about the European origins of some of their weapons less worrisome.
Why would France embark on the dangerous policy of supplying this kind of weapons to the Syrian rebels? Unfortunately, calls to help the rebels in Syria arm themselves were coming from Paris more often than from any other European capital in the last few months. The German daily Die Welt recently reported that the French diplomats several times floated the idea of protecting the rebels in the so called “liberated zones” – from air or by the deployment of an international intervention force in Syria.
In their enthusiasm for the rebel cause in Syria the French outdid Americans. The United States did not go as far France did with Syria. The American officials since summer refuse to comment on newspaper reports about CIA operations with weapons’ supplies for the rebels in Syria, saying vaguely that American help was limited to communication and organization (whatever that means).
However, it is not a secret for anyone familiar with the situation in Syria that the anti-government forces get most of their support from the Turkish city of Adana, located next to the Turkish-Syrian and Lebanese-Syrian borders. It would be quite natural for Saudi Arabia and Qatar – the two countries that are reported by Die Welt to run the base jointly with Turkey – to heed the rebels pleas for help against Syrian aviation – the country’s main protective force in case of a foreign intervention. The forces operating from the base are also reported to seek some help from the neighboring Incirlik base of the American air forces.
Meanwhile, the French public opinion gets ever more critical of such a one-sided attitude of its government to the conflict in Syria. For example, Georges Malbrunot, a journalist specializing on the region and the creator of an award-winning personal blog on it, recently published on this resource of his a personal view of the Syrian drama by Alain Chouet, a former high-placed official in the French General Directorate for External Security (foreign intelligence). Alain Chouet provides some seething critique of the French government’s policy in the region, saying that the Syrian rebels have nothing to do with democracy and threaten the local minorities (Alawites and Christians) with genocide. Chouet also warns against Syria’s repeating the experience of Libya and Egypt. The reason is that in those countries after the “revolutions” “power fell into the hands of the only structured political forces which had survived decades of distatotrship – namely, the Sunni Islamists who had financial support from the petrochemical theocracies os the Gulf” (Saudi Arabia and Qatar being the most active among this sort of countries). Now Egypt and Libya, in Chouet’s opinion, are edging towards becoming theocracies themselves. Is this the future that Europe wants for Syria?