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Larry Wilkerson: Senators Graham and McCain represent a strong opposition backed by Israeli lobby looking to knock down Iran as a regional power

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JESSICA DESVARIEUX, TRNN PRODUCER: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Jessica Desvarieux in Baltimore.

We’re picking up our conversation where it left off with Larry Wilkerson. We’re discussing the neoconservative strategy in the region, particularly looking at Senator Graham, as well as Senator McCain.

Now joining us is Larry Wilkerson to discuss all this.

So, Larry, what is the actual strategy for neoconservatives in the region?

COL. LAWRENCE WILKERSON, FMR. CHIEF OF STAFF TO COLIN POWELL: I think that what you have is acolytes, disciples, if you will, of the extreme right wing in Israel, led by Netanyahu at the present time, working towards what has always been laughed at, really, by realists in the world and others, an ultimate strategy of the right wing in Israel to build a greater Israel. We’re not just talking about the West Bank and Jerusalem; we’re talking about eventually Jordan, much of Syria, the Sinai, and so forth being the greater Israel.

And the way you do this is you destabilize the Arab nations around Israel. They’re doing quite well with Lebanon right now, with the Syrian refugees pouring in; been doing really well with Jordan, with Iraqi refugees first, now Syrians adding to Jordan’s instability.

But what they want is they want no Iraqs, no Syrias, no Egypts, for that matter, and eventually no Saudi Arabias, and ultimately, too, no Irans that’s cohesive, that’s got a national purpose, that’s large, fields major military forces, and can threaten Israel.

So the way you do that is you divide and conquer. You get them into condition like Syria is in now, in a civil war, and you wind up with little statelets afterwards, and you don’t have a big, huge Arab country capable of doing all the things big countries can do.

And ultimately what you have is you have Israel as the hegemon in the region, and a much greater Israel, and you have all these Arab countries fighting amongst themselves and broken up into little pieces that constitute no threat towards Israel.

I would hasten to add that what you’re going to get coming out of those little pieces, however, is what we got on 9/11, what we got in Australia, or, rather, on their tragic day when they lost so many citizens in Bali, or as in Spain. What you’re going to have is you’re going to have enhanced terrorist capabilities all over the world, spawned in this massive area of conflict, which is conducive to Israel’s security, allegedly, but which in reality, because we’re really leaving the time of conventional armed forces waging battle on huge battlefields–what we’re into, I think, is a time of the Thirty Years’ War, where we’ve got all kinds of little princes running around in fiefdoms and fighting and so forth and husbanding their resources. And the principal means of attacking states like the United States or like Russia, for that matter, or any of the bigger countries is going to be terrorism. And this would be the spawning ground for it. So I don’t see this as being a fulfillment that’s positive. I see this as being a very dangerous situation that these people like Graham, like McCain, like Netanyahu and others are trying to foment in the Middle East so that they allegedly produce better security and a greater territory for Israel.

DESVARIEUX: So if I’m hearing you correctly, Larry, are you essentially saying that Americans and Israelis, at the end of the day, the threat that Iran poses–I know people always talk about the nuclear program, eventually having the capability to create a nuclear arm–is really at the forefront of their concerns? But at the end of the day, is it really about what Iran represents and Iran being such a big player in the region and that’s really what’s at stake here?

WILKERSON: You’re absolutely correct. Let’s just look at who the hegemon in the Gulf was for 26 years when their leader was our guy, the Shah. We counted on the Shah. We counted on Iran to keep the peace in the Gulf for 26 years, from 1953, when we overthrew Mosaddegh and install the Shah, to 1979, when the Shah finally fell.

And we didn’t do that because we were dumb. Iran was the natural hegemon. They had the military, they had the geography, they had the national cohesion, they had the economy, they had everything that made them the natural hegemon. None of that has changed. None of that has changed at all.

So what this nuclear business is is camouflage for a struggle over hegemony in the Gulf. Is it going to be Saudi Arabia leading the Gulf Cooperation Council with the United States behind it? Is it going to be Israel from a slightly further distance with the United States behind it? Or is it going to be Iran without the United States behind it, a sort of a rogue nation but nonetheless the hegemon in the Gulf? That’s the contest that’s going on right now.

And Israel’s strategy–and I must hasten to add this is not Israel’s strategy in and of the state of Israel; it is Netanyahu and the extreme right wing in Israel’s strategy–is what you might call the greater Israel strategy. They do not want two states living side by side in peace. They do not want a peace agreement, period. What they want is a greater Israel forged more or less, and then defend it by military might. That would include part of Syria, more, probably, than the Golan Heights, as I said before, Jordan, the Sinai, and so forth. This is the greater Israel.

And in order to achieve this, they want to see the Arab states around them collapsing and fighting like Syria is now and winding up with something that doesn’t look like a formidable state afterwards that can field a formidable military. So this is a pretty astute strategy when you think about it, except for one thing, as I pointed out before: I don’t think they’re going to get what they want. Powell used to say, Colin Powell used to say, be careful what you wish for; you might get it. Well, that’s the admonition I would give to these people.

DESVARIEUX: Okay. Well, thank you so much for joining us, Larry.

WILKERSON: Thanks for having me, Jessica.

DESVARIEUX: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.


DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.

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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.