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‘US and Israel aim for Hezbollah in Syria’

The US’s decision to arm Syrian rebels may be due to Hezbollah’s involvement in the conflict, with Washington and Jerusalem seeing it as a chance to counter anti-Israeli actions, author and historian Gerald Horne has told RT.

US President Barack Obama has given the green light to military support for the Syrian opposition after his administration concluded that Assad’s regime had used chemical weapons against rebels numerous times over the last year.

However, Horne, from the University of Houston, does not believe that the US will be able to produce evidence of the use of chemical agent sarin by regime troops, saying that
he doubts such evidence exists.

RT: These claims of the use of poison gas by Assad's forces seem to mean that Obama's “red line” has been crossed and that [Obama] has just pledged to arm the rebels. How far is the White House likely to go?

Gerald Horne:
I am afraid that they are re willing to go quite far. They are under enormous pressure. Former US President Bill Clinton has released a statement criticizing the Obama administration for not intervening more deeply into the Syrian morass. Obama’s former election rival, Senator John McCain of Arizona, just took to the floor of the US Senate saying that arming the rebels is not enough. Presumably, he has called for airstrikes to create a so-called no-fly zone. It seems to me that this is a very dangerous and ominous moment. Particularly since the Sunni clerics have just met in Cairo, Egypt and called for a Holy War against the Assad regime and Damascus. Instead of trying to calm things down, it seems to me that the Obama administration is about to throw fuel on the fire.  

RT: What will this do to the US-Russia-sponsored peace conference in Geneva?

GH: You may have heard that the UN has suggested that everyone is on board for this Geneva conference, except the Syrians. It seems to me that the opposition, the rebels have made clear that they have no interest in negotiating with Assad. As they see it, they will win this conflict on the battlefield, and the Europeans – particularly the British and French – will be sending them more weapons sooner rather than later. And, as they see it, they can win. Though I think that they are mistaken.

Syrian government forces and their Lebanese Hezbollah allies seized control of the border town of Qusair on June 5, 2013. (Reuters / Mohamed Azakir)

RT: Two months ago, Carla del Ponte, the chief UN investigator in Syria, said that she was “stupefied” by the testimony of victims of the Syrian conflict claiming that rebels used the nerve agent sarin. She also said that there was no evidence that the government resorted to this measure. How does this sit with Washington's allegations?

GH: It is in contradiction with Washington's allegations, bearing in mind also that, just a few weeks ago, Turkish authorities found that some rebels residing in Turkey had sarin weapons. It is difficult to say whether these weapons were used, and if so, who used them?  For example, what was the chain of custody that allowed the Obama administration to conclude that it was Damascus and not the rebels? How did those samples get from the battlefield to Washington? How do we know that a renegade soldier in the Syrian military used these weapons precisely to invite an intervention to Washington? There are so many questions. I look forward to seeing the evidence, though I doubt that the administration will be able to provide any.   

RT: Why would Assad resort to chemical weapons when recent reports suggest that he's gaining the upper hand in the war?

GH: I think that one reason the Obama administration is edging towards more direct intervention in Syria is that Assad’s forces are triumphing on the battlefield, not least because of the assistance they are receiving from Hezbollah forces in neighboring Lebanon. This assistance has outraged the Israelis and the Israeli lobby in Washington. As they see it, they would like to see Hezbollah degraded on the battlefield of Syria and, therefore, you see this new call from Washington for military intervention in Syria.  

RT: John McCain recently visited Syria, and, while the administration has shown reluctance to intervene, it has been under domestic pressure to do so. What is pushing the White House to intervene?

You mentioned McCain, who is a de facto leader of the opposition conservative Republican Party. I have already mentioned that Clinton has called for intervention. Last year, his wife, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and then CIA Director David Petraeus, called for stalwart intervention. Interestingly enough, polls show that the US public is against intervention. They see no advantage in arming Al-Qaeda forces, who are the tip of the spear of the rebels. It thus seems that US politicians do not have the best of this argument.