Wes Clark on the Middle East

August 3, 2007

“This is about human dynamics. It’s about engagement.”

Filed under: Iran, Iraq, Turkey — carolk @ 3:11 am

YearlyKos Q & A – 8.03.07

Audience member: You called for one of the hopes for Iraq to hold together. Serious people in foreign policy thinking, some of them believe that that’s actually one of the impossibilities at this point in terms of Kurdish independence, Sunni-Shia splits, irreconcilable Sunni Ba’athists who are not going to reconcile to Shia dominance, et cetera, et cetera. In terms of split, three-way split versus holding together and what influence we can have internationally in, with the international community for a settlement in that direction?

GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: Well, you have to be careful about the analogies with, with the Balkans. This is not quite like the Balkans. And so, I know a lot of people talk about this. They say, ‘Look, you guys separated, you stopped the war in, in Bosnia. You stopped all this. You separated..’ I-it’s a little bit different. It’s different because the Balkans is not the Middle East. These issues are more complicated. there’s oil involved here. There’s different populations. There’s powerful neighbors who are at odds with each other, and the populations aren’t actually separated. So, you’re right in that there are fracture lines that you can see forming. You know the Shias mostly have the South and they want it. And the Kurds mostly have the North, but they don’t have Kirkuk, and they’re prepared to fight Kirkuk. I don’t know if you saw the, the Bob Novak piece on the weekend that said we’re going to run a special operation inside the Kurdish area to eliminate the PKK guerrillas in combination with Turkish Special Forces. And THAT’ll make us really popular there. (laughter) And, and you’ve got Iran, Turkey.. i-i- This may well be what happens, but I would hate to see the United States propose it and have to worry about implementing it, because it’ll be one more recipe for conflict. There’s no simple mechanistic way out of this. This is about human dynamics. It’s about engagement. It’s about changing people’s minds. It’s about Westernization over a period of time, and it can’t be done in isolation in Iraq. You’ve got to reach out to Iraq’s neighbors.
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“…history doesn’t stop when the last American troop heads down the road to Basra. “

Filed under: Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Lebanon, Syria — carolk @ 3:03 am

General Wesley Clark’s Keynote Speech at Yearly Kos 2007 (excerpts) – 8.03.2007

…I go to the Middle East….And when I travel, they ask me, they say, ‘Well look, you know, the biggest cause of terrorism, the thing that we’re most worried about is that you Americans haven’t done your duty in trying to bring peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

(applause)

And oh, by the way, they get around to mentioning Iraq too. (laughter) Not one of them, not one, no statesman, no scholar, no businessman has come to me and said, ‘What you Americans did in Iraq, you know, getting rid of Saddam Hussein, thank you very much. Come and do it to my country!’

(snip)

But here’s where, here’s where I need your help. We got to get out of there the right way, because unlike Vietnam, when we leave Iraq, we’ll still be left with a whole passel of interests there. We’ll still have concerns about Iranian nuclear potential. We’ll still have worries about Israel and the Palestinians. We’ll still be worried about, yes, the security of the world’s principal supply of oil. We’ll still be worried about our friends in the, in the Persian, in the Arab Gulf who, who are dependent on us for some of their security. We’ll still be worried about Lebanon. We’ll still be worried about terrorists. Those interests won’t go away simply by pulling U.S. troops out. So, we not only have to come out, we have to come out the right way.
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August 1, 2007

“…as long as people are talking and not killing, that’s okay…”

Filed under: Iran, Iraq, Syria — carolk @ 2:42 am

General Wesley Clark on The Young Turks and Air America – 8.01.07

Cenk Uygur: General Clark, we have breaking news that we’d like to share with you and get your reaction on. We just found out that the main Sunni block has quit the Iraqi government, and we know yesterday that Michael Mullen, the new Joint Chiefs of Staff nominee said that if there is no political progress – and so far that there is no political progress – that no amount of troops and no amount of time will make much of a difference. Is this Sunni block withdrawing a big blow to our efforts in Iraq?

GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: I think it’s a tactical blow. This is all part of the game of each side gaining what it can from the current position. That’s why I believe it’s important that the United States take strong measures to initiate a pullback of troops, that we deal with the countries in the region, and then that we slowly proceed to withdraw these forces. Because as long as we’re there, we’re supporting these kinds of antics.

Cenk Uygur: S-

GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: We’re enabling them to pull back, wrestle with their, with themselves underneath the protection of the American soldiers that are on the ground.
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July 26, 2007

“Don’t give the government the opportunity to make the United States the enemy.”

Filed under: Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria — carolk @ 2:51 am

General Wesley Clark on the Charlie Rose Show – 07.26.07

Charlie Rose: Tell me, without doing all the sort of dancing that I might do, say, you know, ‘If you were President what would you do?’ Just tell me what we ought to do.

GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: Got to have a new strategy. The President said he had a new strategy, but he didn’t. He had a new approach militarily on the ground in Iraq. The Iraq problem is part of the regional problem, and you can’t solve Iraq just with military force or just by dealing inside Iraq. Iran’s got a major role and a major voice in the region and inside Iraq. And so, you have to deal with the problem in a coherent way. That means diplomacy, politics and the military. We need to be talking to Iran and Syria and the rest of it, the neighbors of Iraq. We’ve needed, and I’ve been pretty consistent on this for the last three or four years, a regional security forum, a continuing dialog-

Charlie Rose: Okay.

GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: -the ability to harmonize interests.
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July 16, 2007

“I don’t hear the President talking about Ambassador Ryan Crocker. Why don’t we give Ambassador Crocker a chance?”

Filed under: Iran, Iraq, Israel, Syria, Turkey — carolk @ 3:29 am

General Wesley Clark on KARN’s “First News” with Bob Steel, 7.16.07

Bob Steel: Where do you think we are in this war and what do you see as the future?

GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: Well I think we’re in a very very difficult position in the conflict. Obviously our troops are doing a great job over there in the mission they’ve been assigned but they are not going to succeed in this mission without the requisite diplomatic and political efforts in the region, including discussions and dialogue with Syria and Iran as well as Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and so forth. And, this is what the administration has consistently refused to do. So we’ve got to take Iran out through diplomacy. I believe it can be done. If we do that, I think we’ll see a decline in the violence and I think it’s still not too late to expect that Iraq may hold together and you may actually get some stable government. It won’t be any kind of a democracy that…that we recognize and it certainly won’t have our standards of rights and freedoms but it could stop the violence. If we don’t discuss the situation and bring in the neighbors – whether we like them and approve of them or not – what we’re going to see is continuing violence. It’s their home court advantage. They’ve got the advantage on us despite all our technology and the courage of our fighters. It’s not enough; you cannot win it militarily. So that’s what the Congress has recognized and that’s what the administration really doesn’t want to admit.

Bob Steel: Well, in fact the President has said that we need to wait until September and give General Petraeus a full chance here and await his report. But one of the things that struck me was reading my paper over the weekend and seeing that the Iraqis are going to take vacation in August and we’re right here in the middle of trying to implement a policy with the Iraqi government on vacation.

GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: Well you see it’s actually even worse than that because you see when the President says ‘give General Petraeus a chance,’ General Petraeus is a military man. There’s a US Ambassador over there who’s in charge. And he’s in charge of the diplomacy and the politics. I don’t hear the President talking about Ambassador Ryan Crocker. Why don’t we give Ambassador Crocker a chance? Why don’t we give the people of Iraq a chance? This is not a war that can be won with military force but you can lose it militarily, certainly. But you cannot win it without adequate diplomacy and politics.
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July 12, 2007

General Wes Clark’s Testimony Before the House Armed Services’ Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee

Filed under: Iran, Iraq, Israel, Syria — carolk @ 3:28 am

From the text of General Clark’s prepared remarks, 7.12.07

So, the issue isn’t troop strength in Iraq, but rather US national strategy in the region. As of now, it is not too late for that strategy to be significantly altered. The US would have to renounce its aims and efforts of regime changes, pull back such forceful advocacy of democratization, engage in sustained diplomatic dialogue with governments in the region, including Syria and Iran, heed the advice of regional friends and allies like Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the Emirates and Qatar, and work not to isolate Hamas but to reshape it. This new strategic approach to the region must be linked to a deeper, more effective political effort within Iraq to align interests and structures, in order to produce the kinds of compromises necessary to end the civil war there. The tactics, principles and techniques of such a shift in strategy are no mystery. I and many others have for years called for such changes. But it seems all too clear that the leaders in the White House today have not, thus far, even seriously considered such change. They persist in seeking a largely military solution, focusing on troop strength and tactics, and have had the temerity to label a 20% increase in US troops as a “new strategy,” when all along it has been obvious that we have needed perhaps three times the on-the-ground troop presence they directed.

Consequently the “surge” strategy has produced no miracles: some local progress in Baghdad neighborhoods, perhaps, and an accompanying effort, perhaps underwritten by our Saudi friends, against Al Qaeda in Anbar. But the political agreements expected to emerge, miraculously, from the presence of a few more thousand US troops in Baghdad haven’t.
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“We gave Iran and Syria every reason to oppose us.”

Filed under: Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Lebanon, Syria — carolk @ 1:27 am

General Wesley Clark on the Diane Rehm Show, 7.12.07

GENERAL WESLEY CLARK:….I would say this, that you cannot win this war militarily. Everybody says it, including Generals Petraeus and Odierno. So, the question is what is the administration doing to help the men and women in uniform? What are they doing diplomatically? What are they doing politically? The answer is, diplomatically they’ve done very little. From the beginning of the invasion of Iraq, it was known that this administration had plans for regime change throughout the Middle East. Iraq was the first, Syria was going to be the second, Lebanon and ultimately Iran. Those countries viewed their first line of defense as keeping us bogged down in Iraq. So they’ve had an incentive to feed the insurgency. If you don’t deal with that incentive, whatever the efforts of the military, they come to naught because we’re going in a very resistant medium.

(snip)

GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: I think it’s pretty clear that given the porous border, the proximity or Iran, the cultural relationships, the family relationships, the deep historical and cultural connections, that military interdiction along the border is not going to build an impenetrable fence around Iraq. So, military measures alone aren’t going to insulate Iraq. You’ve got to do diplomacy. You’ve also got to do the heavy lifting of politics. We’ve never put in the kinds of teams we need in the provinces to help government really deliver services so the surge has been sort of a wish list. It’s been more of ‘hey, let’s dump the problem back on the guys in uniform and gals in uniform and then let’s hope that by greater effort somehow like magic the Iraqis will somehow agree.’ The government is made up of factional leaders who have more to gain by continuing to fight and maintain their militias and hold out their options than they do by compromise and the surge has not affected that.
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July 6, 2007

“We have them surrounded. We have the military dominance. Why won’t we talk to Iran?”

Filed under: Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria — carolk @ 1:00 am

General Wesley Clark on CNBC Kudlow & Company, 7.06.07

Larry Kudlow: -do you have any particular disagreements with Joe Liebermen’s approach?

GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: (Laughs) Many, with Joe. First of all, I wasn’t a supporter of the war on Iraq. Secondly, I think we need to find a responsible way out of Iraq. Third, I think we need to be putting a full-court diplomatic effort on Iran to persuade them that they’re much safer and much better off without a nuclear weapon. We’re on a countdown to war, and the kinds of saber-rattling that Joe Lieberman does accentuate the countdown rather than-

Larry Kudlow: General-

GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: -finding a way to a solution.

Larry Kudlow: General, with all due respect, do you, how can you disagree? Isn’t the evidence overwhelming that Iran is operating to finance and arm terrorists in Iraq who are killing American troops? Do you disagree with that?

GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: No, I, I fully agree with that. They- you know, from the beginning, Larry, when we went in there, there were those in the administration that said, ‘Well first, we’re going to handle Iraq. Then we’re going to take care of Syria and Lebanon and we’re going to end up-

Jed Babbin: (sigh)

GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: -going after and getting regime change in Iran. Their first line of defense against the United States is what they’re doing in Iraq. If we want to change that dynamic, we’ve got all the cards. We have them surrounded. We have the military dominance. Why won’t we talk to Iran?
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“It’s time for the United States to begin redeploying.”

Filed under: Iran, Iraq, Syria — carolk @ 12:59 am

General Wesley Clark on Countdown with Keith Olbermann, 7.06.07

Keith Olbermann: That plan that has been, been put forth by General Odom, would the main obstacle to that plan seem to be lawmakers in Congress having the guts to execute it?

GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: Well, I, I think the country’s not quite there yet on the impeachment issue, but I do think that it’s important to get those troops out of Iraq. It’s time for the United States to begin redeploying. We’ve given it four long years. The politics has never come together. This administration won’t do the diplomacy in the region. And it’s left our men and women in uniform out there exposed. Bill Odom’s a strategist. He’s thinking of it strategically, and he says you’re in a situation where you’re only losing more with each passing day…we’ve never had, enough troops on the ground to really do the kind of peacekeeping mission that was required. But even worse than that is the strategic failure, Keith. You know, soldiers expect their leaders to do the hard work of diplomacy and to use the military only as a last resort, because when you use the military, it’s final, people die. The fate of nations hangs on it. It’s much better for the diplomats to work it all out first if they can. Well, this administration didn’t give the diplomacy a real chance to work before the war, and now in dealing with Iran and Syria, it simply refusing to do the diplomacy that’s required. Our men and women, most of all, need the support of good leadership, courageous leadership, in the While House, and they don’t have it.

Full Transcript and Video

July 4, 2007

“They’re encouraging the hardliners in Iran to be able to point to the west and say they’re out to get us…”

Filed under: Iran, Iraq, Syria — carolk @ 3:38 am

General Wesley Clark interviewed by The Texas Blue, 7.04.07

GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: For whatever reason, Vice President Cheney and President Bush refuse to talk to Iran.  They refuse to talk to Syria. They refuse to commit the adequate resources necessary to bring these warring factions in Iraq together politically.  That’s the failure, not a failure of the men and women in our Armed Forces.  It’s a failure of the administration’s political leadership, a refusal to do what’s necessary to help our soldiers on the ground….I think they’ve made up their mind that they’re going for regime change in Iran and Syria, therefore they will not talk to them.  So, it doesn’t matter what the Generals say about needing a strategy.  They tell the Generals, ‘Focus on the military aspect of it.’  But the Generals are responsible for the overall success of the war, and they’re not getting the leadership from Washington, the support from Washington necessary to succeed.
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