Israel hopes to wipe out Hezbollah by destroying Syrian regime
RT: Foreign media reported over the weekend that Israel was behind the attack on Russian missiles in Latakia, what motivation do you think could be for Israel in it?
Tariq Ali: Its motivation, as always, is to show the Arabs, both inside Israel and outside, look this is how tough we are, we can hit any target in the Middle East that we want and no one can do anything about it. That was the aim. The attack on Latakia by the Israelis, if it was them, and the American sources are saying it was, and Israel hasn’t denied it. They haven’t confirmed it but they haven’t denied it. Informal sources in the Israeli press are saying that it was an attack designed to immobilize Russian anti-ship missiles that have been given to Syria. Well, that is an open breach of a country’s sovereignty which the Israelis have done in the past and which they carry on doing. This is a country which is above the law, or considers itself above the law, and it’s United States’ master and European friends will do nothing to stop it.
RT: But it’s obvious that Israel has no right to breach any country’s sovereignty.
TA: Of course, they have no right but they’ve occupied sovereign states, they’ve taken chances on their territory in the case of Lebanon for many years. Hezbollah is like a red bull to the Israelis. It attacks, and the Israelis haven’t been able to wipe it out though they’ve tried. They are now hoping to do it by completely weakening or destroying the Syrian regime. It’s Hezbollah which is at the center of Israeli interest. It is the only group in the Arab world for a very long time which has actually inflicted some blows on Israel, first forcing them to withdraw from Lebanon, and then resisting one of their big attacks and invasions of the same country. So that is what they would like to do, but I think Hezbollah is probably the best armed and the best led liberation movement in the region. So it’s not going to be as easy as their match.
RT: Do you think the US knew beforehand about the Latakia attack?
TA: Virtually everything Israel does is coordinated with the US. You have very close links between the IDF and the Pentagon, this is hardly a secret; their intelligence services collaborate and help each other. So I have very little doubt the Israelis inform the US that they were going to attack Latakia, and the US registered it. Whether they said go ahead and do it formally, I don’t know, most probably they did. This is how Israel functions and the Americans never yet attempted to stop it.
RT: Do you think Israel could go as far as to provide actual help to Syrian rebels?
TA: The Israelis are pursuing their own agenda, they always do. However, they are not dumb, the people in Jerusalem. They know that by doing this and further weakening the regime the Syrian state could break up or be completely destroyed. So they are not unaware of what is happening in that country and indirectly I’d say yes, they are providing help to the rebels.
RT: Are you surprised to learn that Syrian troops allegedly seized chemical weapons belonging to rebels?
TA: No, if it turns out to be true, and I don’t know whether it is or not, it wouldn’t surprise me at all. It’s very clear that the sections of the rebel leadership have been desperate for western military intervention and prepared to go a long way to achieve it. I remember before or just after this sarin gas attack, media emblazoned it across their front pages in some European countries to put pressure on Washington. The fact that Washington then pulled back from going beyond what they’re already doing indicates that they were not convinced. I think the Russian UN ambassador was absolutely right: the West has no proof that sarin gas was being used by the Syrian state. So if the latest claim from the Syrians is true, it’s very serious indeed.
RT: Then the US has to react to that.
TA: No, Washington doesn’t need to react at all. Double standards prevail in international diplomacy, there are very few norms. If it’s not in the interest of the US and its European Union allies to react they won’t react at all. They will not treat the rebels in the same way as they are treating the Syrian state.
RT: A FSA commander has recently been killed by radicals on his own side, now we’re hearing allegations that the rebels are using chemical weapons, surely this has got to change the stance of the West and the US towards supporting the rebels now, hasn’t it?
TA: I should hope so. Certainly, public opinion in the US and in Britain is opposed by a fairly convincing majority to any western intervention in Syria. In senior politicians, including conservative politicians in Britain, have said very clearly that they are not going to support any such venture. Whether President Obama will decide now – he’s been very hesitant till now to go for this – remains to be seen. I’d have thought that the chances for the western military intervention on the Libyan model are becoming more and more remote but I can be wrong.
RT: Let’s just put western interest aside. What about the friend of Syria saying that Lebanon and Iran should not be involved and yet the Gulf Arab states are clearly involved in this.
TA: Well, it’s absolutely true what you say. Both the Saudis and the Qataris have been involved. Both in Egypt by way of backing their favorite horses in that particular race, and in Syria very openly by arming the Salafi groups and the more moderate Jihadi groups. So there’s no doubt that this is indirect military intervention, clearly green-lighted by the US because without their approval it’s very unlikely that these things would be happening. I think that the Gulf States have got American approval to help. Whether they will continue to get this approval remains to be seen.