Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Dennis Ross: There is a real risk of escalation

Spiegel-Former United States Middle East envoy Dennis Ross, 57, tells DER SPIEGEL about Tehran's interest in the war in Lebanon and the chances of a lasting solution to the conflict in the Middle East.

SPIEGEL: The Bush administration is convinced that Syria and especially Iran are behind the new escalation. Do you agree?

Ross: I do. Iran wants to be able to create all sorts of problems a long way away from its own borders. Syria sits much closer and here there is a real risk of escalation. If some of the missiles that Hezbollah has, if they were to hit a school and you had a large number of Israeli kids suddenly killed, the impulse to do more than just to hit Hezbollah would be quite high within Israel.

SPIEGEL: It seems that voices in Washington are becoming louder saying we have to deal seriously with Iran now.

Ross: I would say, first of all, what you have is an interesting indicator of real Iranian behavior. They deny what they do, so you can't believe what they say. They obviously have been providing all sorts of advanced weaponry to Hezbollah. You also see they're feeling confident now. If they had a nuclear shield they would become even more aggressive. It would be good now, in fact, to move a resolution in the Security Council. The resolution needs to be serious on sanctions and it can't be minimal sanctions.

SPIEGEL: And with the help of the Arab world which fears the growing influence of Iran in the region?

Ross: For Saudi Arabia to criticize Hezbollah directly and publicly, says they understand that Hezbollah is a tool of Iran.

SPIEGEL: So you see signs that the rest of the Arab world will side with the United States, or maybe even Israel?

Ross: I see a strategic convergence of interest. The Arabs won't act because of Israel. They'll act because of Lebanon. Hezbollah pursued an Iranian agenda at great consequence and at great cost to Lebanon.