Kissinger pushes Iranophobia, fear of ‘radical empire’ as ISIL declines

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

Henry Kissinger at 94 is still misinforming Washington about Iran. Now he is warning of an “Iranian radical empire” stretching from Tehran to Beirut if Iran is allowed to “fill the vacuum” as ISIL is rolled up– as Jack Moore at Newsweek points out.. Kissinger seems stuck in a Cold War mentality, and still addicted to domino theory, just substituting Khomeinism for Communism.

Kissinger said,

“The outside world’s war with Isis can serve as an illustration. Most non-Isis powers—including Shia Iran and the leading Sunni states—agree on the need to destroy it. But which entity is supposed to inherit its territory? A coalition of Sunnis? Or a sphere of influence dominated by Iran? The answer is elusive because Russia and the Nato countries support opposing factions. If the Isis territory is occupied by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards or Shia forces trained and directed by it, the result could be a territorial belt reaching from Tehran to Beirut, which could mark the emergence of an Iranian radical empire.”

I presume Kissinger thinks the Iranian radicalism here is the ideology of the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, or Khomeinism, which holds that clerics should rule society.

If Kissinger is suggesting that we go slow on rolling up ISIL because it is a check on Iran, that is a non-starter. ISIL blew up Paris and Brussels and Istanbul and Damascus and Baghdad, and it simply must be stopped.

As for the radical empire idea, first of all, that is ridiculous. Lebanon is a multicultural country where Christians, Sunni Muslims, Shiites and Druze shape politics. Even Hizbullah admits that it isn’t a plausible country for Khomeinism.

Most of Syria is dominated by the secular Baath Party. Its alliance with Iran is one of convenience, not ideology. Although the upper echelons of the Baath and the Syrian Arab Army are dominated by the Alwaite Shiite minority, Alawites are esoteric, New Age Shiites without Friday mosque prayers or a seminary-trained clerical establishment. In short, it is the least likely community to support Khomeinism you could imagine. The rest of Syria is Christians, Druze, Kurds and Sunni Muslims– also not likely to be tempted by Twelver Shiite clerical Khomeinism.

Although the majority of parliament in Iraq is Twelver Shiite, most Iraqis reject Khomeinism. They do not want clerical rule. Even the chief cleric, Ayatollah Ali Sistani, rejects clerical rule in favor of parliamentary governance. And Shiites in Iraq are not all-powerful. They need the Kurds and Sunni Arabs. Kurds are Sunnis. So 40 percent of Iraq is Sunni or other non-Shiite minority.

So Iran cannot spread a ‘radical empire’ in these countries because their elites would never accept Khomeinist ideology.

As for alliances of convenience, those existed long before ISIL’s take-over of territory in 2014. They are based on national interest and domestic majorities, something a realist like Kissinger should understand.

Moreover, the US is not in a position to prevent Iranian alliances with Beirut, Damascus and Baghdad. Those alliances have been forged over the past decades, and were strengthened by the threat of ISIL.

Kissinger seems unaware of the possibility that al-Qaeda and other Salafi Jihadi groups could fill the vacuum, as it has in Syria’s Idlib province. Would Kissinger really prefer that outcome?

The former Secretary of State is overly reifying Iranian influence, which is at the level of foreign policy and elite self-preservation in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, all of them multicultural societies where Iranian ideology has no appeal.

Even in Iran, the number of people who still genuinely believes in Khomeinism is vanishingly small, though some hard liners use it for their purposes.

The Kissinger view of Iran and its allies of convenience as a monolith seems to just parrot the hard right Israeli line, of parties like the Likud.

The US did indeed de facto depend on Iran to roll up ISIL, and will need Iran’s help to make sure it does not come back to attack the West again. That cooperation is an opportunity, one that Kissinger wants to throw away.


Related video:

France24: “Iran open to dialogue with Saudis, says top diplomat”

14 Responses

  1. There are two lobbies pushing hard to demonize Iran and possibly even provoke the US into a foolish war with Iran: The Israel Lobby and the Saudi Lobby. Each has its own reasons for their positions but neither has the best interest of the US in mind. They seem to have formed an strange alliance which, of course, even includes trying to destroy Al Jazeer and further censor Middle East news.

    The NYT ran an article the other day intimating that Iran is aligning with theTaliban and possibly Daesh based on info provided by questionable sources. One could see echos of the infamous NYT series by Judith Miller pushing the nonexistent Saddam Hussein WMD to help GW push us into the idiotic Iraq war.

    Trump is salivating at the idea of war with Iran, for God only knows, what reason. And now the aging Kissinger weighs in. The war drumbeat is rolling.

    • That NYT article was credible. It was written by Carlotta Gall, who wrote an excellent book on the Pakistan-Taliban connection, “The Wrong Enemy”.

    • Another group that pushes the demonizing of Iran – the U.S. military industrial complex. Think how many more billions of dollars they make because the U.S. views Iran as the big devil.

  2. Gradually facts are being revealed and blinkers are falling off most people’s eyes. Saudi Arabia and Israel did not initially create ISIS, but they helped create an insurgency that morphed into ISIS, as part of a plan to topple President Assad and cut the links between Iran and Lebanon and Hezbollah. There has been plenty of evidence, including remarks by former Secretary of State Clinton and Vice-President Jo Biden, to show that Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf Arab states had been financing and arming the Syrian insurgents including some Al-Qaeda affiliated terrorists, but now evidence is finally emerging that shows that the Israeli government has also been supporting the terrorists too. No wonder Saudi Arabia and Israel are becoming close allies. Recently, Wall Street Journal and Newsweek reported that Israel was not only providing medical treatment to al-Nusra Front fighters and other terrorists, but was even secretly paying the salaries of Syrian rebels
    link to

    Now, that ISIS is on the verge of collapse, friends of Israel including Henry Kissinger are getting very worried. Kissinger is just repeating Netanyahu’s assertion about a “territorial belt from Tehran to Beirut”, in defiance of all the facts on the ground, including the recent rapprochement between Saudi Arabia and Iraqi leaders. Since President Trump has come to power, suddenly a whole host of Israel’s friends have become hyper-active and are inciting violence against Iran in the same way that they did against Iraq. Hopefully, most people have learned some lessons from the past.

    • That “belt” you’re referring to is the infamous “Shia Crescent”. It’s been sold to us for years now, and is what this article is attempting to debunk with facts. Somehow, however, the realities be damned.

      I’m reminded more and more of the old “creating your own reality” mindset. While reality can and will bite you on the ass if you ignore it, there is such a thing as a self-fulfilling prophecy and the power of positive (or negative) thinking to impact an inherently malleable world. A particular vision becomes real when the circumstances as perceived by people in the region and around the world are successfully conned. Ultimately it all becomes a matter of salesmanship, and this is clearly what the Usual Suspects are up to here.

      This information about the local religious make-up is doubtlessly sound. And how religions are absorbed by their adherents over time, and how they are interpreted and evolve in response to circumstances, is beyond anyones direct control, as is evident in their histories. Still, evil politicians and misc power-grubbers have always done their best to harness religion’s power to make their own realities. Playing with fire, as it were.

      Who is to say their attitude is any worse than throwing up your hands and saying our futures are a matter of fate? It becomes a rather basic philosophical question of ones mindset re free will and destiny, eh?

  3. Iranophobia is neither rational nor irrational, it’s a tool deliberately applied to serve current US foreign policy. The US is not yet ready to forgo its exceptionalist perspective on the big wide world and some older adherents, like Kissinger, never will, they’ll take it their graves. We should be tolerant, he’s like someone attempting to persuade an obstetrician of a virgin birth. Some arguments it’s simply pointless to get into.

    • The British then USA empire is dying slowly.

      After WW2, instead of the USA just letting the old British and French empires break apart and let the locals figure out their own power structure, the USA essentially took it over as much a it could.

      This is how the USA ended up in Vietnam, Iraq and so many other countries.

      As Nicholas notes well Kissinger was one of the proponents of the USA empire and does not have the ability to examine his original thinking because it would be emotionally painful.

      We definitely need to IGNORE people like Kissinger becuase their mistakes are very, very obvious by now as we deal with the aftermath.

  4. Another factor that you did not mention is that it is unlikely that the Arabs in Iraq and to the Mediterranean are not likely to want to be ruled by the Persians of Iran.

  5. Kissinger should be impressed with Iran’s effective foreign policy–a policy designed for the realist imperative of national security. With a modest defense budget, and having to navigate the world’s superpower, it has enhanced its physical security, negotiated a complex nuclear deal, and built alliances with groups and states that often have popular legitimacy, such as Hezbollah, Hamas and the Houthis. And, all Americans should know the following: “[I]t is wildly inaccurate to describe [Iran] as the source of jihadi terror. According to an analysis of the Global Terrorism Database by Leif Wenar of King’s College, more than 94 percent of deaths caused by Islamic terrorism since 2001 were perpetrated by ISIS, al-Qaeda and other Sunni jihadists. Iran is fighting those groups, not fueling them. Almost every terror attack in the West has had some connection to Saudi Arabia. Virtually none have been linked to Iran.” H/t to a quiz you posted in the past: link to

  6. Ninety-fricking-four?! Is anyone really interested in his opinion? I will say seeing HRC with her arm round him did not help her cause.
    As NW and mc above comment, what he fantasizes is ridiculous and would/could never happen.

  7. Mr. Kissinger, like Mr. Trump need to find something else to do. Kissinger is out of touch and still trying to peddle the same old, same old. Perhaps if we ignore these two old crazies they will find something else to do. Hey we can hope can’t we.

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