Former National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski warns Newsmax.TV that a confrontation with Iran would be disastrous for the United States, lasting for years and possibly devastating America's economy.
“A war in the Middle East, in the present context, may last for years,” Brzezinski, who served in the Carter White House, tells Newsmax in an exclusive interview. “And the economic consequences of it are going to be devastating for the average American.
“High inflation. Instability. Insecurity. Probably significant isolation for the United States in the world scene,” Brzezinski says. “Can you name me any significant country that’s going to be in that war together on our side?
“That’s something no one can afford to ignore,” Brzezinski adds.
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Brzezinski's warning comes as Iran apparently is ramping up tensions in the region. On Wednesday, a bus carrying Israeli youth exploded in a Bulgarian resort, killing at least six people and wounding 27, police and hospital officials said. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called it "an Iranian terror attack" and promised a tough response.
Syria, meanwhile, a close ally of Iran's, appears on the brink of collapse as fighting engulfs Damascus. On Monday, a bomb killed the chief of its security operations — a devastating strike that indicates a serious weakening in the security around President Bashar al-Assad's regime.
As the U.S. fortifies its presence in the Persian Gulf in preparation for a possible showdown with Tehran over its nuclear arsenal and its threats to close the Strait of Hormuz, Brzezinski paints a frightening picture of how the U.S. would be affected by yet another war in the Middle East.
“Rushing to war is not a wise course of action,” he says. “You can always start a war, and you know pretty much what happens when you start it. But you don’t know how long it will last, what its consequences will be – and they will be certainly very costly for the United States.”
Iran recently renewed its threats to close the Strait of Hormuz unless sanctions against it were revoked. Tehran has repeatedly threatened to close the vital oil-shipping channel, through which 40 percent of the world’s seaborne oil exports travel, in retaliation for sanctions placed on its oil exports by Western nations.
“We would open it by force — and we have the power to do it, and I’m fairly confident we would do it,” says Brzezinski, who now is Robert Osgood Professor of American Foreign Policy at the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University in Washington, D.C.. His latest book, released in January, is Strategic Vision: America and the Crisis of Global Power.
“But let’s not be simple-minded about it. We can open it up, but you can be absolutely certain that the costs of oil will skyrocket because it will still be a dangerous passage.
“In effect, the American taxpayer should be ready to pay $5 to $10 a gallon for the pleasure of having a war in the Strait of Hormuz,” Brzezinski explains. “This is another reason why it’s a wise course of action to be prudent and patient. Time’s on our side.”
He concurs with Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak that Iran probably will not have a nuclear weapon for “at least three years or so” — but, regardless, a Tehran with such arsenals is a major game-changer in the region.
“I think some concern is justified, but hysteria and exaggeration are not. Certainly, a nuclear-armed Iran introduces a whole new destabilizing reality into the Middle East.
“On the other hand, several years are several years. A lot can change in several years, including the regime which, if there is no confrontation with the West, is likely to be much more vulnerable to internal pressures for change.
“So we have to take this into account and not rush to war,” he says.
While many world leaders express concerns privately that Iran could make pre-emptive strikes against Israel and the U.S., Brzezinski said the chances of that, right now, are “close to zero.”
“First, their delivery systems are very inefficient — and probably most of them vulnerable to elimination in the course of any attack. And, secondly, one thing you can say about the Iranian regime, it’s not very attractive.”
Then, in a suggestive nod at Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Brzezinski adds: “It shoots its mouth off. It says extreme things, which are actually costly to Iran, but it’s not suicidal.”
Diplomacy is clearly the best weapon of choice now, Brzezinski says.
“A great deal depends on how accommodating the Iranians are in the negotiations — but a great deal also depends on how intelligent we are in the negotiations,” he says. “If the negotiations are designed to humiliate Iran and to put it in some sort of separate box, confining it to a status totally different from all the other signatories of the nonproliferation treaty, then we probably will not get an agreement.”
And he says he would urge President Barack Obama to continue down this road.
“I will advise him to stay on course. Not to be intimidated. Not to be rushed. Time is on our side.
“We don’t have to reach an agreement by some finite date,” Brzezinski adds. “We can take a few months. That’s better than going to war.”
Brzezinski also says in his exclusive Newsmax interview:
Editor's Note: See these other exclusive Newsmax stories:
- Any international response to Iran would, essentially, fall to the United States. “Let’s not kid ourselves. When people talk about taking on Iran by force, they really mean the United States.”
- As U.S. involvement in Iraq nears its 10th year, Brzezinski still opposes it. “We have now an Iraq which is much more vulnerable to Iranian pressure. Saddam Hussein was an odious dictator, but he was also a very effective opponent of Iran. He was also a very effective opponent of al-Qaida. We now have an Iraq that’s unstable.”
- Despite the “War on Terror,” al-Qaida remains a world threat: “We have managed to decimate its leadership. We have deprived it of an open and secure base, which it had in Afghanistan. We have fragmented it. But at the same time, it is still a dangerous and painful reality that segments of al-Qaida, cells of al-Qaida now operate in different parts of the world.”
- The United States, and other countries, remain vulnerable to a terrorist attack. “We have had nine years or more, 10 years since 9/11. Not one significant terrorist act in the United States. We have had terrorist acts in Great Britain. We have had it in other parts of the world — Spain, certainly the Middle East — not in the United States.”
- The United States must take another approach in Syria, rather than demanding that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad step down to end the bloodshed there. “Let’s stop sort of waving the sword and making these threats unless we’re prepared to deliver. I don’t approve of the notion that we should be announcing who should step down from the position of a head of a state unless we are seriously prepared to remove that person. But if we are not, if we are being prudent and careful, then let’s also be careful with how we talk.”
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