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‘Israel is Obama’s fall-back plan for Syria’

Pepe Escobar
Pepe Escobar
Pepe Escobar is an independent geopolitical analyst. He writes for RT, Sputnik and TomDispatch, and is a frequent contributor to websites and radio and TV shows ranging from the US to East Asia. He is the former roving correspondent for Asia Times Online. Born in Brazil, he's been a foreign correspondent since 1985, and has lived in London, Paris, Milan, Los Angeles, Washington, Bangkok and Hong Kong. Even before 9/11 he specialized in covering the arc from the Middle East to Central and East Asia, with an emphasis on Big Power geopolitics and energy wars. He is the author of "Globalistan" (2007), "Red Zone Blues" (2007), "Obama does Globalistan" (2009) and "Empire of Chaos" (2014), all published by Nimble Books. His latest book is "2030", also by Nimble Books, out in December 2015.
Those who think Israel carried out strikes against Syria without consulting the US should ‘go back to kindergarten’. Obama’s strategy of different tactics only has one aim – which is not peace in Syria, Asia Times correspondent Pepe Escobar says.

In a space of less than three days Israel has bombed Syria twice. Escobar believes this to be a deliberate provocation involving multiple players, and says the biggest mistake Syria (or Iran) could make right now is to carry out any type of retaliatory action. He explains why in an interview with RT.

RT:The U.S. said Israel is justified in its concerns over the Hezbollah threat. So wasn't making a move to defend itself the right thing to do?

Pepe Escobar: Let’s recapitulate. First of all, this is an act of war and a provocation at the same time. Why happening now? It starts with Chuck Hagel, Head of the Pentagon’s tour in the Middle East and Israel a few days ago. Remember that Chuck Hagel was against arming Syrian rebels, and then he changed his mind and said that rebels actually used chemical weapons in Syria with no evidence. At the same time rebels start losing ground inside Syria. The Syrian army has been making advances in the Homs corridor these past few weeks. And at the same time we also know that all these divergent strands of the Free Syrian Army - they are basically the one that are really fighting on around jihadis.  Obama cannot arm jihadis in Syria, period. So what is his fallback plan: a kind of mini shock-and-awe. But would the US start a shock and awe in Syria? No. It’s by proxy. It’s via Israel. This is what Hagel and the Israelis were discussing only a few days ago. 

RT:So, you are saying Israel has gone ahead with this with US blessing? It did not act alone?

PE: If anybody believes that anything Israel does in the Middle East it does not consult the Americans, you should go back to kindergarten. It does not work like this in the real world.  They did it because they were consorted with the Obama administration which is in a bind at the moment. They cannot intervene directly in Syria. They know that the support for the so-called rebels and all their different strands is going nowhere, because they are likely retreating instead of advancing. So, Israel with this provocation they are waiting for a response either from Syria, or from Hezbollah, or better yet – from the point of view of the Obama administration and Israel – from Iran. So if Iran and Syria don’t do anything for the moment, they just wait. This will be seen as it is, just a provocation. But if there is the slightest bit of response, from either Syria or Iran, this will be the perfect pretext for what? A mini shock-and-awe against Syria.

RT:What sort of a response are you expecting from Syria? It surely can’t just choose another conflict bearing in mind circumstances at the moment. Iran would really respond militarily to what happened in Syria? 

PE: Exactly! That’s the point. The hardliners in Washington and Israel are expecting exactly that – a non-measured response from Iran. It’s not going to happen. The Iranians might calibrate their response for months from now in fact… different targets. Maybe not even in the Middle East. Israelis interest outside of the Middle East. The Syrians, they are moving some of their missiles to the northern part of Syria. You don’t know what they are going to do about it. 

RT:How dangerous is this situation now? Is this really a sign of what everybody was really worried about – a sparking of a regional conflict?

Yes, absolutely. And in fact this proves how desperate this so-called coalition of the willing …US, Brits, France, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey are with what is going on inside Syria. They were expecting Bashar al-Assad government to collapse in a few months. But it has been two years and it is still in place. There are no major defections. They still control the business classes in Damascus and Aleppo. It is still there and could fight for a long time. And they want a quick resolution, so they use Israel as a proxy. It’s the perfect foil. And they can blame Israel in fact, the Arabs. The Arab league which nowadays is an annex of NATO, they are blaming Israel. But Saudi Arabia is into it as well. Because the US, the Saudis and the Israelis they are actually arming rebels as well, they see that it is going nowhere. Ok. Let’s activate plan B. Let’s start bombing Syria and see if they respond. The damage caused by an Israeli strike according to SANA. Israel carried out a pre-dawn air strike near Damascus on May 5, targeting Iranian missiles destined for Lebanon's Hezbollah in the second such raid on Syria in three days, a senior Israeli source said.(AFP Photo / SANA)

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.