Sputnik: So do you see Moscow’s request that non-Syrian forces keep away from the border with the Golan Heights as likely staving off a larger confrontation between Iran and Israel, after all, Moscow has pretty heavy influence over both.
John Steppling: These stories are leaked, all of these contradictory stories, this being one of them, stuff about Iran and Israel conversing in a hotel, and the associate deputy of Mossad is there, all of these things it’s hard to place too much importance on these stories. The bigger question is because Syria stands in as a kind of symbolic theatre of activity for what is a much wider conflict that is growing. The US has targeted Iran, whether they really intend to have a war with Iran is another question but it doesn’t seem that its actually possible and the same could be said for Israel. It really can’t afford a direct war with Iran. All of these things are taking place through proxies.
Sputnik: We’ve heard an interesting report that a hushed exchange took place recently at a hotel in Jordan between Israeli and Jordanian officials. Both allegedly agreed – to everyone’s surprise – to avoid hostilities in Syria’s southwest. What do you think explains this seeming keenness to come to an agreement for both parties?
John Steppling: It’s interesting, I don’t know. But there was another story that I think is perhaps related to this in an indirect way and that was that there was apparently a kind of counter-coup against Mohammad Bin Salman in Riyadh, and he, according to whatever report you read, was wounded or was not wounded, and this was a story that was squashed in Western media. It just didn’t get circulated at all. What’s behind that? I think that the US sees the Saudis as a very unreliable partner right now. But my question is, who was behind the original coup that consolidated this power for Mohammad Bin Salman? I don’t know. There’s a lot going on that we just don’t know about so this story of the Iranians and the Israelis coming to this surprisingly quick agreement, I don’t know, it strikes me that the vulnerability and the desperation of the United States right now in all of these matters, they’re stretched very thin.
Sputnik: We know that the Syrian army is soon likely to move toward that same southwestern region, which is one of the last rebel-held areas in the country, but the US has said that it will take action – whatever that may mean – if president Assad disturbs the Russia-US-Jordan brokered ceasefire there – do you think the US is likely to react, and if so, how so?
John Steppling: It’s a good question. We have Mad Dog Mattis and John Bolton, the evermore invisible John Bolton, and Mike Pompeo who’s an evangelical Christian and dominionist, I mean these people are crazy and are fanatical – that shouldn’t be minimised. But do I think there will be a massive response? No. There’s already been a substantial US mission creep, in quotation marks, since Trump took office, so I don’t know. What will the Syrians do exactly? They will probably be very pragmatic as well. I think that the broader issue is economic and is Europe. It’s how independent are the NATO countries going to be or not be regarding these new US diktats – that to me is the big question right here.
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