A U.S. military strike against Iran to prevent Tehran’s mullahs from getting a nuclear bomb would be “the height of strategic madness” because it could escalate rapidly into a regional war, award-winning journalist Arnaud de Borchgrave tells Newsmax.
There is a “50-50 proposition” that the escalating violence in Syria, where President Bashar Assad is waging a bloody crackdown on anti-regime protesters, could spill into other parts of the Middle East and beyond, de Borchgrave said.
“When you look at the connections between Syria and Iran and Syria and Russia — in fact, one of the main beneficiaries of Russian arms deals today is indeed Syria, so you’ve got a lot of players with a lot of stake — clearly, that could lead to an unraveling throughout the region,” he said in the exclusive Newsmax.TV interview.
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De Borchgrave, a Newsmax contributor who also is editor at large at United Press International and The Washington Times, is director and senior adviser at the Transnational Threats Project at the Center for Strategic & International Studies.
He believes the talks scheduled to resume next month between Iran and six world powers will drag on for a few months but inevitably break down without progress in the West’s bid to prevent Iran from building a nuclear bomb.
“The Iranians are not about to give up their nuclear capability,” de Borchgrave said.
That capability is not a recent ambition, he said, noting that the Shah of Iran, long before his 1977 ouster, “told me back in 1972 that Iran was going to become a nuclear power.”
It’s important to recognize that Iran considers itself surrounded by nuclear powers — Russia, China, Israel, India and Pakistan are all its neighbors, plus there is also the United States, he said.
Once negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program fizzle out, de Borchgrave said, the United States, Israel, and Western allies probably will consider launching a military strike. That would be a “grave mistake,” he said.
“It would be the height of strategic madness to bomb Iran if you know what is going to trigger, which is an upheaval throughout the Middle East, and you’ll see oil at $300, $500 [a barrel], the sky’s the limit,” he said.
And Iran doesn’t rely on its nuclear program to defend what it sees as its interests.
“Iran has formidable asymmetrical retaliatory capabilities up and down the whole Gulf and, of course, with Hamas and Hezbollah,” de Borchgrave said.
Regarding Afghanistan, de Borchgrave said he does not believe that the formal charging of Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales with 17 counts of murder will do anything to reduce Afghan resentment of the United States. Bales is accused of gunning down 17 civilians, mostly women and children, in a massacre that followed U.S. troops’ inadvertent burning of copies of the Quran, Islam’s holy book.
“I think tensions will continue running high for the duration of the war,” de Borchgrave said. “After all, you have an overwhelming majority of Afghans who just want to be left alone right now.”
He believes the Taliban are just biding their time, waiting until U.S. and NATO forces withdraw from Afghanistan.
“Everybody knows we’re getting out so at the end of 2014 it’s curtains for the U.N. and NATO efforts,” he said. “When you know that in advance, obviously you are planning for the post-engagement phase, as was the case in Vietnam.”
Meanwhile, al-Qaida is using the Internet to reboot its strength since U.S. Navy SEALs killed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden in May, de Borchgrave said. He pointed to the case of Mohamed Merah, a self-proclaimed jihadist French commandos killed last week after he killed three French soldiers and three children and a rabbi at a Jewish school.
“These people are recruited through the Internet,” said de Borchgrave, adding that there are thousands of pro-al-Qaida sites.
“These kids watch on the ’Net all the time, and they see all this propaganda, and it appeals to them,” he said. “They are looking for action.”
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