By INU Staff
INU - James Carafano, Deputy Director of the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies at The Heritage Foundation, told Asharq Al-Awsat, “I believe that the Iranians will soon discover that they have stretched themselves thin in the region and they will be confronted with a wall of opposition.”
He was referring to Iran’s expansionist ambitions in the Middle East, which he believes will be met with regional and international opposition. He explained that the priorities of the current US administration first lie in ensuring Europe’s security, next in the sta-bility and security of the Middle East, and finally, preventing a third world war due to North Korea.
In his first interview with the Arab press, he said that Washington is concerned with “removing the black flags fluttering over Mosul and Raqqa and what to do with Iran.” Speaking about US ties with the Arab Gulf, Carafano said, “We are not trying to take control of the region. We, as partners, want a region that is more secure.”
Washington will focus on political and economic development and support of the vari-ous players in the region, Carafano believes. “This is where the crisis with Qatar is significant,” he said, adding, “At the end of the day, the US is not trying to isolate Qatar … but there should be greater unity over the security of the Gulf States.”
“Ties between the US and Qatar are a reflection of our ties with Pakistan, with which we have a very important strategic relationship. There are sides inside Pakistan and in its military institution who are not only working against US interest,” Carafano said, “but against Pakistani ones as well. We call this ‘tough love’.”
“The US will not stop having ties with Pakistan, but we will be clear over what we have differences over and we are pressuring them to do things that are not only good for us, but good for them as well. This ultimately helps everyone,” he continued.
“This is an exact copy of the type of relationship that binds us to Qatar. We will be clear and straight over the differences between them and us. I believe that being straight al-lows us to be confrontational. We will pressure the Qataris to implement not just what is in the interest of the US, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, but what will in the end benefit Doha,” he stated. “This requires constant contact. There will be days when we smile to each other and others when we will be tense, but we will keep on monitoring the situa-tion and hold people accountable for what they said they will do.”
“I would like to be clear that we are not trying to take over the region as in the end we are not the guarantors of the region’s security, but we are partners to countries that want a more stable region, through providing job opportunities to the people so that they may have a future. We are not doing this because we are good people, but be-cause a peaceful Middle East means a better United States,” he declared.
When asked if the US to set up another military base in a Gulf country, in addition to the one in Al Udaid in Qatar, Carafano responded that “expanding bases is difficult and cannot be implemented on short notice.”
He acknowledged that Washington was to blame for the US withdrawal from Iraq. Carafano also acknowledged that Washington committed errors in its policy towards Syria, “We have contributed to the instability in the region. We are not rectifying issues because the situation is bad, but because we have an interest to reach peace in the region. How will we do that? I said that we will be good partners to a number of regional countries because we have a common goal.”
Discussing the Mosul victory against ISIS, he stated that Iran is a living a “great illu-sion” because it believes that the road has been cleared for them to expand further in the Middle East. Asked if the US will allow it to expand its power, Carafano replied, “No, I believe that this is a disaster, which means we are replacing one problem with anoth-er. I assert that the US will remain, and strongly, in Iraq.”
He added, “We want a stable Iraq, but it is unrealistic to believe that we will purge all Iraqi regions from Iranian influence. We cannot however stand aside and allow it to become an Iranian affiliate. This will result in a catastrophe for the Iraqi people. They did not get rid of Saddam Hussein to be ruled by someone in Iran. Allowing Iran to have an open road from Iraq to Syria that reaches the front doors of Jordan and Israel will be a major destabilizing force in the region. I assert that this will not happen and we will not allow it to happen. I will not be surprised if military presence is once again re-stored in Iraq and even at the request of the Iraqis themselves.”
“The Iranians have expanded too much and they back Shi’ite militias, the Syrian re-gime and the Houthis, Hamas and ‘Hezbollah.’ As soon as the funds that have flowed from the nuclear deal dry up however, it will not be able to do any of that. They have not made economic reforms and the majority of the money was wasted in corruption. I believe that the Iranians will soon discover that they have stretched themselves thin and they will be faced with a wall of opposition,” he continued. “This will be like Poland advancing on Moscow. The Iranians are exposed and this is a major error that they are committing. This approach is not sustainable. This highway may work in theory, but it will not be transformed into reality because the Americans will not stand idly by. Nei-ther will Turkey, Israel and the Arab Sunnis of course.”
“Israel will stand against a conflict,” Carafano stated, when asked if southern Syria will turn into a US-Iranian confrontation zone due to the Popular Mobilization Forces’ ef-forts to cut the border between Syria and Iraq to allow an Iranian presence there.” He added, “I don’t think the Iranians want this confrontation either. If the world looked the other way, Tehran will be able to do whatever it wants, but in the current situation, the Iranians cannot fight and they do not want to start a third world war. No one wants it …. They are pressuring vital interests of US allies in the region, specifically Jordan and Israel, so no one will allow them to achieve their strategy.”
Asked about the feasibility of an “Arab NATO”, he explained that, “It may be achieved one day, but after all of these threats and dangers have been eliminated.”
He revealed that the US has been aiming, “and for a long time now,” to set up regional missile defense infrastructure for the Gulf Cooperation Council to confront Iran.
He was also asked what Washington’s long-term stance on the country is, and replied, “Honestly, the US does not care and is not focusing on Syria. It is not asking about its future beyond providing stability in Iraq and then the stability of Jordan and protecting Israel and finally defeating ISIS and al-Qaeda. It is true that we do not like regime head Bashar Assad and would like to see him go, but we will not waste our time in finding a way to change the regime in Damascus.”
“If I were to guess, Syria is headed towards ‘Balkanization’ similar to what happened in Yugoslavia at the end of the Cold War. Division in Libya will not however improve the situation. Iraq as a united states will also remain better. I greatly admire Kurdistan and think it will be more secure as part of a united Iraq, not as an independent country. I think the Libyans prefer a united Libya and the Iraqis prefer a united Iraq. I do not how-ever believe that anyone will feel safe in a united Syria, which is why it will be ‘Balkan-ized’,” Carafano stated.
He talked about the role the US can play in curbing the Syrian regime’s ambitions and forcing it to respect ceasefire agreements. He said it is necessary for Washington to keep its forces there to “interact with the region. This will limit Iran’s influence in desta-bilizing the region and help find a solution for refugees to return to their homes. It will also provide space for Egypt and Jordan to work in Syria and Iraq and ease the threat of international terrorism.”
Carafano concluded, saying, “I believe that the US contribution in destroying terrorism confirms that the terrorists can be defeated. The humiliating defeat of ISIS has been achieved and it did not take place under the American flag, but by locals. The people fought for their country because they do not want the likes of ISIS. It has been rejected by the people because terrorism is not the way of the future.”