Sputnik: How would you characterize the situation surrounding Syria right now, with Western nations having warned that they are prepared to strike Syrian government forces?
James O'Neill: I think it's extremely dangerous, not only because of the threats to strike the Syrian forces, which they have no legal foundation for doing so, but there is also a very grave risk that they will encounter both Russian and Iranian forces. Russia, in particular, and also Iran for that matter, made very clear that they will not sit idly by while their forces are attacked and troops possibly killed by American airstrikes.
Particularly when you bear in mind that these threats are based upon an allegation that the Syrian government is going to use chemical weapons "again," when we know without a shadow of doubt, that on the previous occasions when this allegation has been made that the allegation was entirely false. There were chemical attacks set up by the terrorist groups themselves with a specific aim of encouraging the Americans, British and French and now it seems the Germans, to intervene on their behalf. So I think the situation is extremely dangerous.
Sputnik: There is a point of view that the Americans are actually poised to prolong the Syrian war. Who would benefit from that?
James O'Neill: The Americans. I don't think it's a point of view, they have stated quite explicitly within the last few days that they have no intention of leaving Syria. They've warned against their forces being attacked, they've shown that when the terrorist groups have been attacked by the Russians and their Syrian and Iranian and Hezbollah allies, they have reacted to protect those very groups. So I don't think the Americans have got the least intention of leaving, it was always their intention to stay. This has simply become obvious in the last few days, but nobody should be really surprised by that.
Sputnik: What are their primary motives?
James O'Neill: Oil is the primary motive and control of the oil fields; also to try to block Iranian influence in the region, to undermine Russia's growing influence in the region, to counteract the role of Syria as a future and very important partner in the Chinese Belt and Road initiative — some of the routes will go through Syria to Europe. So, there is a whole combination of motives that are all based primarily on American self-interest.
The views and opinions expressed by the speaker do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.