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  November 21, 2016

Wilkerson: If Trump Moves U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, War Against Iran Could Come Next

Col. Lawrence Wilkerson and Paul Jay discuss Trump's foreign policy team and whether it's a continuation of policy under former vice president Dick Cheney
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Distinguished Adjunct Professor of Government and Public Policy Lawrence Wilkerson's last positions in government were as Secretary of State Colin Powell's Chief of Staff (2002-05), Associate Director of the State Department's Policy Planning staff under the directorship of Ambassador Richard N. Haass, and member of that staff responsible for East Asia and the Pacific, political-military and legislative affairs (2001-02). Before serving at the State Department, Wilkerson served 31 years in the U.S. Army. During that time, he was a member of the faculty of the U.S. Naval War College (1987 to 1989), Special Assistant to General Powell when he was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (1989-93), and Director and Deputy Director of the U.S. Marine Corps War College at Quantico, Virginia (1993-97). Wilkerson retired from active service in 1997 as a colonel, and began work as an advisor to General Powell. He has also taught national security affairs in the Honors Program at the George Washington University. He is currently working on a book about the first George W. Bush administration.

Photo credit: jasonwain/Flickr


PAUL JAY, TRNN: Welcome to the Real News Network. I’m Paul Jay and welcome to another edition of the Wilkerson Report.

Now joining us is Larry Wilkerson. Thanks for joining us Larry.

LARRY WILKERSON: Thanks for having me.

JAY: So Larry, for those of you who don’t know but if you’re watching the Real News, I’m sure you do. Larry is the former chief of staff for US Secretary of State Colin Powell. He’s currently an adjunct professor at the College of William and Mary. He’s a regular contributor to the Real News.

So Larry, when you look at Donald Trump’s foreign policy ream as it’s being assembled here, you have General Flynn as National Security Advisor. You have Pompeo at the CIA. Still the names in contention at least is Secretary of State. Rudy Giuliani is still apparently in play, John Bolton is apparently in play. Hard to tell how serious either of those are. But I should add Secretary of Defense, it almost looks like it’s done. Mattis, General Mattis.

One thing they all seem to have in common is a visceral hatred of the Iranian government and many of these people are calling for regime change. They all identify Iran, I believe, as the source of terrorist threat against the United States. In fact, Rudy Giuliani said that at the republican convention. Of course, didn’t mention the Saudis or Al Qaeda or anything focusing on Iran.

Are we looking at an administration that’s going to pick up where Cheney-Bush left off, the ambition of one way or another, regime change in Iran?

WILKERSON: Well I certainly hope not. I agree with you that suspicions are strong in that regard. But I would just remind you of a couple things. One, perhaps the most important of all is a multilateral agreement, not a bilateral agreement and that Russia and China are certainly not going to cause arm with our wishes in regard to “tearing it up”. I would dare say that our European allies aren’t either. So, we’re going to be isolating ourselves, not Iran. The idea that we could bring the crushing international sanctions back is just preposterous. We couldn’t. About all we’d be able to do would be to increase our sanctions, particularly banking sanctions which might hurt, indeed probably would hurt. But with the rest of the world operating on a different sheet of music than us, the people being isolated here are the Americans and not the Iranians, so that’s –

JAY: That was to a large extent, the case with the Iraq War. France fought this at the United Nations, the Iraq War that is. Russia was against it, China was against it, really other than Tony Blair in the UK, which gave Bush some cover, which I guess this time, maybe he won’t have, who knows. You may find a European country does the same thing. Perhaps Theresa May and UK does.

WILKERSON: Well the water’s flowed under the bridge in the last 15 years Paul and that water has all carried away with it, American power. American power is receding at a rather rapid rate right now. If you’d been reading Lamoni, Der Spiegel, [Zazie Shimbun], the Financial Times or other newspapers which I do because they’re the only reputable newspapers left in the world. You understand that our allies and friends right now are not only questioning our sanity but our ability to govern ourselves. When that has happened historically, people begin to move in ways that balance the unstable power’s power.

That’s what’s happening in the world right now. China and Russia would flow into anything the United States did to simply tear up the JCPLA in a way that would make their seemingly budding alliance right now just enhanced, more dangerous more difficult to deal with and essentially to continue the diminishment of American power. We can’t keep doing these sorts of things Paul. If we pretend even to be in a way that we’ve been since WWII. Basically multilaterally, basically the leader, that bills and supports organizations like the IMF, the WTO, the United Nations itself and so forth. We can’t just isolate ourselves again and again and again and expect the rest of the world not to do something about it.

JAY: Well that’s all very logical but all the same logic applied toward the Iraq War. These guys come out of this world view that I guess was most clearly articulated in the document project for New American Century which is that make America grate again, they’ didn’t quite use that phrase I don’t think in that document but essentially that was the core of the document. That use American military might to reshape the world and the order of things was regime change in Iraq. Regime change in Syria, and then regime change in Iran. You and I’ve talked about some of the motivations about this before. I think it’s a complex motivation behind this vision. But one of them is the idea of greater Israel. Why is Iran a piece of the puzzle to accomplish a greater Israel and just what is greater Israel?

WILKERSON: I think what we’re looking at in that regard we can better judge how dramatically we’re going to move if president Trump, once he’s inaugurated, carries out his promise to immediately and gets the congress to go along with it, which is not a done deal by any means, to move the capital of Israel to Jerusalem. If that occurs and it occurs rapidly and it’s concurred in by the congress, then we have a whole new deal and I’ll be right with you in regard to going down the hill a lot faster than I had hoped we were.

JAY: Can you explain really quickly for viewers that aren’t familiar with the why it’s so significant moving the embassy to Jerusalem?

WILKERSON: Well first of all, it’s not US policy and hasn’t been for the entire period of US-Israel relations. The formative period in particular being about the end of Eisenhower’s second term for the president. US policy has bene that Jerusalem is basically too volatile to be the capital of either a Palestinian state reconstituted or the Israeli state that the history of Jerusalem is equally powerful with both groups and Jerusalem must therefore be left more or less multinational if you will. That is both countries could claim it for its religious history and so forth. But neither of them could have it as it’s formal capital. That’s been US policy for a long time. Just as it has been a return to the 67 boarders. The right to return for certain Palestinians to be determined and so forth and so on. Trump is proposing and Pence has more or less said that this is going to happen and Bannon and others have reaffirmed it that the two state solution, US policy for some half century is dead. Well if it’s dead, Israel is dead too. Because there’s no way the state of Israel, supported to the nth degree by the United States, not withstanding, there’s no way the state of Israel will endure for another 25 or 30 years if it becomes the apartheid state which it will certainly become as a single state solution as it were to the problem.

JAY: I mean its important to see as we talk about the team that are in Trump’s ear. Clearly one of the most influential persons in that ear is Steve Bannon from Breitbart News. Breitbart News is – I guess most people have heard it by now. It was formed to be a right-wing Huffington Post. But it’s important to know that Breitbart got the idea for it while he was in Israel because he wanted a website that would be absolutely unmitigated support for Israel. The slogan was 4 Israel for Freedom. It was found precisely to advance hawkish Zionist position and that’s the guy Steve Bannon who was running Breitbart News. I guess he isn’t now. When he became the head of the trump campaign – he is now the chief strategist at the white house. The Son and law of Trump, Jared, I always mess up his name, Kushner is it?

WILKERSON: Kushner yea.

JAY: Is an orthodox Jew which doesn’t necessarily mean he’s a Zionist. There are many orthodox Jews who are not.

WILKERSON: No, as a matter of fact, word on the street, and this is word I place some trust in, is that Kushner got with his father-in-law the president-elect and said no way. No way are you going to make that guy a formal member of your team. If you want to make him a councilor or a strategist or something like that you can do that. But no way are you going to make this white supremacist a member of your formal team. I suspect that’s probably accurate.

JAY: Well they’re calling him essentially a co-chief of staff. He’s not that in legal form. That’s the terminology they’re using. At any rate, it seems like a very dangerous team. It also seems like a team that is not target, Iran. At the republican convention, Rudy Giuliani, one of the people being talked about for secretary of state in his speech at the republican convention and this was echoed by Flynn, now national security advisor. The target was Iran. In fact, Giuliani said Iran is responsible for terrorists threats against the United States. Not Saudi Arabia or anywhere else. He doesn’t even mention ISIS and Al Qaeda. It was all focused on Iran.

WILKERSON: Well we’ll see where that goes as I said before on your show. That goes to war with Iran. I don’t think the American people are going to be very supportive of that. One of the things that my students in seminar pointed out today is that we discussed this new Trump team is that they all have about 100 to 180 days and then when they don’t deliver on the many, many promises that are impossible to deliver on that Trump has made to his following, they’re going to be in trouble. They’re going to be in deep trouble. To then say that you’re going to hurl the mighty volunteer force which itself is falling apart around the fact that it can’t even create enough men and women to fill it’s ranks. Iran is going to be a dicy deal with the American people if not a dicey deal with that force too.

JAY: I keep quoting from Project for New American Century where they say the strategy for regime change in Iraq, Syria, Iran, the American people will never go for it, except unless there’s another Pearl Harbor. Of course, they got their 9/11 and I don’t want to be too extremist here or too much hair on fire. I don’t have that much hair to be on fire. But I’d be very wary of some kind of terrorist scheme plot attack that isn’t somehow linked to Iran coming in the next little while.

WILKERSON: Well I wouldn’t put it past the possible but I hope not and I take your point and would emphasize your point that the real problem in the world with regard to ISIS, ISIL, Daesh, Al Qaeda, Al Nusra Front, [inaud.] Taliban in Pakistan or for that matter almost anyone you want to name that is a terrorist group with some manner of global capability does not come out of Iran. The group that comes out of Iran that we have so much problem with is called Hezbollah. And it is a very constrained group. It is aimed at Israel. It is aimed at the defense of the Palestinian territories and Arab territory in general, against Israel.

It does not does not venture outside of that mandate unless someone like the United States locates troops. In Lebanon it looks like it might threaten that mandate. So Hezbollah is not a terrorist organization in the sense that it comes out seeking targets globally or nonsensically, the way ISIS, Daesh, Al Qaeda, and others do. Hezbollah is a focused group, focused on Israel.

Oh well, now you know why we’re concerned about them and why we’re concerned about Iran. But they’re not a group that is anyway fashion or form, aimed at the continent of the United States.

JAY: Alright, to be continued. Thanks very much Larry. Thanks for having me Paul. And thank you for joining us on the Real News Network.


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