Nearly a decade after the U.S. invaded Iraq, former National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski tells Newmax.TV that he still considers the move a tremendous foreign policy blunder.
“Absolutely,” he told Newsmax in an exclusive interview. “We have now an Iraq which is even more vulnerable to Iranian pressure. Saddam Hussein was an odious dictator, but he also was a very effective opponent of Iran.”
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On March 19, 2003, nearly 200,000 troops from the U.S., Britain, Australia and Poland invaded Iraq and toppled Hussein’s regime. Major combat operations occurred over 21 days, culminating with the capture of the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, by U.S. forces.
Hussein, who had been president since July 1979, was captured by U.S. forces on Dec. 13, 2003. He was tried by an Iraqi Special Tribunal and convicted of crimes against humanity in November 2006. He was hanged the next month.
Brzezinski, whose latest book is Strategic Vision: America and the Crisis of Global Power,
had long criticized the Iraqi invasion, saying that it could eventually lead to war with Iran.
“Are we on the brink of a war with Iran?” Brzezinski asked. “Hopefully not, but perhaps so. And that’s about as vague as my answer has to be given the circumstances.”
These circumstances include a stronger Iran that is amassing nuclear weapons – and an Iraq that has been greatly weakened by war and internal strife, he said.
“We now have an Iraq that’s unstable, in which conflicts with the Sunnis and the Shiites are a daily reality,” Brzezinski said. “It is a country which is vulnerable to Iranian pressure and very combustible. If the Syria situation gets out of hand, we could see the spread of the conflict get also to Iraq.
“And if I may add, what about thousands of Americans who died? Tens of thousands of Americans who were wounded and approximately 100,000 civilians killed in the course of the hostilities that we started. It’s not a very attractive calculus.”
Brzezinski also is cautiously optimistic about the success of the overall “War on Terror.”
“What has happened to al-Qaeda is somewhat encouraging, but only somewhat. 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-Qaeda, cells of al-Qaeda, now operate in different parts of the world,” Brzezinski said. “In that sense, there is still a continuing risk although, knock on wood, I would hazard the guess that something on the scale of 9/11 is no longer within its reach.”
When asked whether democracy ever will come to the volatile Middle East, Brzezinski responded, “Not necessarily and not quickly. Eventually, maybe.”
“Eventually, the world manages to maintain some degree of stability. It’s going to become gradually more decent, more self-governing, more responsible – in terms of human relationships.
“But that is a slow process,” he added. “At this stage, and I’ve said this repeatedly, when people who are already applauding the Arab Spring as the onset of democracy in the Arab world, I say: ‘Wait a minute. It could be Arab Winter before too long.’ ”
The uprisings in the Arab world since December 2010 – which have toppled dictatorships in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen – reflect “populism, with populist movements, self-assertion of the masses.”
“But they are not necessarily imbued with Democratic principles or an understanding of constitutionalism,” Brzezinski said. “It’s a slow process, but Egypt is somewhat promising right now. This may not be the case elsewhere.”
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