Like something out of spy fiction, The Times of Israel reports that a serving Syrian diplomat is reportedly passing military intelligence to Israel and the US:
A serving Syrian diplomat, trusted by the Assad regime, has been passing intelligence material to Israel and to the United States, an Israeli TV station reported on Thursday night.
The information that has reached Israel includes details of the means by which Iran has been channeling arms on land and sea via Syria to Hezbollah in Lebanon, Channel 10 News reported.
The intelligence information is being transferred via a reliable intermediary, the report said. Israeli recipients include a minister in the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and a Knesset member with a background in the security establishment, it added.
Though trusted by Damascus, the diplomat is actually a firm supporter of the Syrian opposition, the report said, and his activities are part of wider efforts at contact between Syrian opposition figures and Israel.
The TV report came on the same day as a far more overt display of disloyalty to President Bashar Assad: A Syrian fighter pilot on a training mission flew his MiG-21 warplane to Jordan and asked for political asylum, the first defection of an air force pilot with his plane during the 15-month uprising against Assad.
From the ToI’s item on the defecting Syrian pilot:
The defection is a sensitive issue for Jordan, which wants to avoid getting dragged into the Syrian conflict. Jordan already has taken in 125,000 Syrian refugees, including hundreds of army and police defectors, and Syria is seeking their return.
Syria is one of Jordan’s largest Arab trade partners, with bilateral trade estimated at $470 million last year.
The Syrian regime has been hit with defections before, although none as dramatic as the fighter pilot’s. Most have been low-level conscripts in the army.
n March, however, Turkish officials said that two Syrian generals, a colonel and two sergeants had defected from the army and crossed into Turkey. Also in March, Syria’s deputy oil minister became the highest-ranking civilian official to join the opposition…
Brig. Gen. Mostafa Ahmad al-Sheik, who fled to Turkey in January, was the highest ranking officer to bolt. In late August, Adnan Bakkour, the attorney general of the central city of Hama, appeared in a video announcing he had defected.
In January, Imad Ghalioun, a member of Syria’s parliament, left the country to join the opposition…
Iran is not the only one supporting the Assad regime though. Russia has also been doing its bit to prop up its teetering ally Assad. However the British, in an unusual instance of courageous muscular diplomacy, brought about the halting of a Russian shipment of helicopters to the Syrian regime:
The MV Alaed was about 50 miles off the north coast of Scotland when it changed course, British officials said.
The change came after a British government intervention led the ship’s insurers to withdraw cover for Russian firm that owns the vessel.
The Foreign Secretary told MPs that the fate of the Alead should act as a warning to others considering supplying arms to the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.
“I am pleased that the ship that was reported to be carrying arms to Syria has now turned back apparently towards Russia,” Mr Hague said.
“We have in place a European Union arms embargo on Syria. We discourage anyone else from supplying arms to Syria. We have had discussions with Russia about that specifically.”
Russia is the Assad regime’s last remaining international ally, and Western governments are seeking to increase the pressure on Moscow over its military support for Syria.
Western officials have said the ship was carrying military cargo including Hind-D Mi-25 helicopter gunships.
Security sources said there could be no legitimate reason for the Syrian regime to seek the helicopters.
The Hind is “a truly diabolical device, a fiendish contraption whose only purpose is killing,” said a source.
As well as making public the intervention over what some diplomats dubbed “the ship of death”, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office also disclosed that Mr Hague has told his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, that Russian military supplies to Syria must stop.
I take my hat off to the British government. I never thought they had it in them, certainly not since former Prime Minister Tony Blair left office.