'Israeli led quasi-NATO poses grave danger for the Middle East'
Steinberg added that Israel has basically created a “quasi
NATO” that could within a year be used for “regime change in
RT:Let's start with those reports about the UN peacekeepers being held by rebels. This is not the first time the Syrian opposition has held members of the UN. What do you think of the rebels' tactics?
Jeff Steinberg: Well, the rebels are actually terrorists. Much of the rebel force, particularly in the north of Syria, is made up of people who are overtly associated with Al-Qaeda. There’s the Al-Nusra Front and dozens of other Jihadist organizations. And a few weeks ago al-Qaeda in Iraq announced their corporate merger, if you will, with the Al-Nusra Front.
And these are the dominant fighting forces inside Syria at this point. They receive massive amounts of financing and weapons from Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and other Persian Gulf countries.
The same way that [Russia’s President] Putin criticizes the West for referring to Chechen terrorists as “rebels” and “freedom fighters” – the same is true in Syria. But now, of course, we have Carla Del Ponte – one of the UN investigators into the use of sarin gas – saying it’s the rebels who used the sarin gas and not the Syrian Army.
So, they are terrorists. Therefore, expect the worst kind of terrorist activities and disrespect for any international law or human rights.
RT:What kind of signals do these tactics send to the rebels' foreign backers, such as the US?
JS: It’s a terrible embarrassment for the Obama administration right at this moment, and, of course, for people like Senator John McCain and Senator Lindsey Graham who have been demanding US military action in support of the rebels.
RT:Let's now talk about the escalation between Israel and Syria. In the standoff with the Syrian government, just how much is Israel siding with the Sunni Muslim fighters waging a war against President Assad? Are we seeing a very non-traditional alliance here?
JS: Yes, I think that there’s even talk now about an
alliance being referred to as 4 +1. Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Turkey
and Jordan allied with Israel in a military coalition a kind of a
quasi NATO that would be involved not only in the regime change in
Syria, but preparing later this year or early next for a direct
military action against Iran over yet another claim of weapons of
mass destruction that has no coherence with the reality or the
RT:Israel is now facing the threat of Palestinian
attacks from Syrian territory. Could it have foreseen such
developments when it was carrying out attacks inside
JS: From sources that I’ve had direct contact with inside
Israel – actually inside the Ministry of Defense – all of the
actions that they are taking in Syria right now are ostensibly
directed against Hezbollah, weapon stock-piles are all in
expectation that there will be a general regional war in which Iran
becomes the primary target, the US and NATO countries are joined in
along with Israel. And so the Israelis effectively are taking
preventive or pre-emptive action against possible Hezbollah
retaliation in the context of a larger war.
So, the danger here in the Middle East is very grave. And, of
course, a regional conflict in such a crucial part of the world
could very easily get out of control and go much bigger and worse
than even than even that.