The biggest challenge facing the Middle East is the “potential domination of the region by an Iran that is both imperial and jihadist,” former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger said at a New York City gathering on Thursday.
“[America must] make it clear that we are opposed to a further territorial expansion of Iran and what we are asking of the Iranians is to act like a nation, and not like crusaders,” Kissinger stated in remarks made at the America-Israel Friendship League’s 2016 Partners for Democracy Awards Dinner, where the 93-year-old statesman was the guest of honor. “What we have to see to is that Iran does not achieve such a dominant position that the whole region explodes.”
Referring to the results of Tuesday’s presidential election, Kissinger described Republican Donald Trump’s poll-defying victory over Democrat Hillary Clinton a “revolution against conventional wisdom.”
Looking ahead to the future of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) after Trump takes office in January, Kissinger said a scrapping of the agreement would benefit Iran more than the US.
“I would not have made [the agreement], but we will not get a great deal out of ending it now,” Kissinger noted.
He further explained: “We have already made most of the concessions that we have to make. [And with the agreement in place] the Iranians have to at least stay within [its] technical limits. I think ending the agreement now would enable the Iranians to do more than us.”
Asked about a potential lame-duck Obama administration-led Israeli-Palestinian peace push before Trump’s inauguration, Kissinger replied, “Whatever you think of my answer, Mr. Obama managed to get through nearly eight years without asking me for my advice, so I think he’ll manage without it. But I’ll give you my general view. I think that the end of an administration is not a good time to start a fundamental initiative that then has to be carried out by the next administration…Moreover, there is no great demand for it in the Arab world. The demand in the Arab world I see is for protection against Iran.”
Turning to the war against the Islamic State terror group in Iraq and Syria, Kissinger said, “The question is who is going to be in control of these areas after ISIL has been driven out…If the territories are occupied by Shiite militias, which looks to be the case now, then you will have a Shiite belt from Tehran to Baghdad to Damascus to Beirut. So an American strategic objective should be yes to drive out ISIL, but secondly to replace it with friendly Sunni forces, not with Shiite forces linked to Iran.”
In an interview with The Algemeiner on Thursday, an expert on the Islamic Republic said Iran fears it could be the “big loser” from Trump’s election victory.
“I think the reactions we’ve seen from Iran — the urging of Trump to maintain the nuclear deal, the warning that he can’t roll it back — suggest that they’re worried about the fact that existing US policy, which is very favorable to Iran, could change pretty substantially over the course of the next several months,” Ilan Berman — of the Washington, DC-based conservative think tank the American Foreign Policy Council — said.