Past Speaker Highlight: Henry Kissinger on the Middle East

We break it down. You get the facts.

In an article for the Wall Street Journal, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger (Keynote Speaker, 2000 International Citizen of the Year Benefit) describes potential new strategies for the U.S. approach to the Middle East. Kissinger addresses the impact of Russia’s increased presence in Syria and how it affects the West’s presence in the region. Find the full article here.

The WAC Take:

Given Russia’s key role in aiding the Assad regime in Syria, American and Russian approaches to the Syrian conflict have highlighted the transformation of Russian involvement in the Middle East. Despite the absence of a Russian presence in the region for the past four decades, the increasingly chaotic conflict in Syria has bolstered Russia’s involvement and placed Western policy and strategy on Syria in the spotlight.

With U.S. and Western policy at a standstill, Kissinger explains that the West needs a strategic concept and to establish priorities in several principal areas. The first of these relies on the destruction of ISIS, as the U.S. cannot afford for Syria to serve as a “terrorist haven” for the group.

Secondly, Kissinger asserts, the U.S. must assist moderate Sunni forces or external powers in their struggle to retake ISIS-held territory and restore local Sunni rule, rather than enabling Iranian jihadist or imperial forces to do so. Following this non-radical stabilization, a federal structure could be created between the Alawite and Sunni groups, thus reducing the chance for the risks of genocide or chaos.

According to Kissinger, the Iranian nuclear agreement will influence the U.S. approach to Syria after this hypothetical stabilization. First, the U.S. should implement the military assurances in Sunni nations as promised during the Iranian nuclear agreement. Furthermore, the U.S. should be prepared for a dialogue with Iran to ensure that it no longer interferes in affairs outside of its own borders.

Thanks to newly increased Russian involvement, it is time for the United States to reframe its approach to the Syrian conflict. Kissinger’s description of essential focal points highlights the need to assist in restoring organic stability from the ground up.

— Rebecca Retana, WAC Intern