Press TV has conducted an interview with Jeff Steinberg, with the Executive Intelligence Review in Washington. The following is an approximate transcript of the interview.
Press TV: Are these drills, Mr. Steinberg, a provocation?
Steinberg: Of course they are. The timing is obvious. As your news report just indicated, it is the period immediately leading up to the Iranian elections and of course the United States and South Korea just completed month long exercises in the midst of a crisis with North Korea and it was very obviously intended to be a demonstration of military might and of course the intention is intimidation.
I think, unfortunately, in the case of the Persian Gulf, you do not need to encourage a number of the leading [P]GCC countries led by Saudi Arabia to be looking for a conflict with Iran or with Shiite Islam.
It is already there and for that reason, I think the American staging of these maneuvers with this large group of other countries, at this particular time, is really a needless and obviously very conscious provocation and threat against Iran.
So I think it is highly dangerous and there is certainly absolutely already very high level of instability in conflict in the region.
Press TV: So then Mr. Steinberg, do you think that Iran will play ball? Certainly, this is not the first time the drills that have been carried out by the United States and its allies in the region.
Steinberg: You know, there are people inside the US military including top officials of the US central command who are not in favor of war provocations who are exhausted after the decade long plus experience in Iraq and Afghanistan and they would like to be able to set up a hotline and rules of engagement between the US and Iranian naval forces in the Persian Gulf.
And so, you know, it is a bit more complicated because there are definitely military people who see the danger and would like to walk back from the kind of provocations that could trigger direct military conflict.