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Last Updated: Sunday, 19 November 2006, 11:11 GMT
US Policy on Iraq
On Sunday 19 November, Andrew Marr interviewed Dr Henry Kissinger, Former US Secretary of State

Please note "BBC Sunday AM" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used.

Dr Henry Kissinger
Dr Henry Kissinger, Former US Secretary of State

ANDREW MARR: President Bush has been in Vietnam. He's been posing under busts of Ho Chi Min.

This is perhaps ironic since his Iraq's troubles are routinely compared to the Vietnam quagmire.

But others argued in some ways if America did have to leave Iraq with civil war still raging the consequences could be even worse than Vietnam.

Who better to talk about this than Henry Kissinger, Nixon's right-hand man once, and an occasional visitor to the White House still, advising the current president.

Now the Kissinger name is of course synonymous with a hawkish America first approach to foreign policy. Some see him as America's wisest post-war statesman, Nobel Peace Prize winner.

Others call him a war criminal. When I spoke to Dr. Kissinger earlier from his home in Connecticut I asked him whether he agreed that the situation in Iraq was a disaster.

HENRY KISSINGER: I think it's a very unfortunate situation. But that doesn't help us, I mean saying that doesn't help us in the process of extricating ourselves, extricating is clearly a word I don't like, or of finding a solution which does not make the situation in the region worse, and worse for all of us, that is the big challenge that we're facing.

ANDREW MARR: And if you, if you were asked by the president what your advice would be about how to pull out, or how to resolve this situation now, what would you tell him?

HENRY KISSINGER: We will have the report of the Baker Commission and my attitude will be that unless it totally violates every principle I believe in, which I don't expect, I think I will give my support to any bipartisan solution that keeps our country together, and that reasonable people have believed wise.

I think we have to separate ourselves from the civil war and we have to move at some early point to some international definition of what a legitimate outcome is. By legitimate I mean something that can be supported by the surrounding states and by ourselves and our allies.

At some point I think an international conference - at some early point an international conference should be called that involves neighbours, perhaps the permanent members of the Security Council and countries that have a major interest in the outcome, like India and Pakistan.

ANDREW MARR: And do you think there might be, it might be necessary to divide Iraq, for Iraq to come apart in two or three pieces?

HENRY KISSINGER: I think that might be an outcome, but it would be better not to organise it that way on a formal basis.

ANDREW MARR: What about the Iranians, Dr. Kissinger, do you envisage any likelihood of Washington opening a new dialogue with President Ahmadinejad given some of the things he's been saying recently again about Israel?

HENRY KISSINGER: I think it would probably be better, first the answer to your question is yes, I believe America has to be in some dialogue with Iran.

But it seems to me the fundamental problem is, does Iran conduct itself as a crusade or as a nation? If Iran is a nation it should be possible to define a relationship in which Iran together with all interested parties contributes to stability in the region, and plays a respected role.

If Iran is a crusade that is trying to overthrow the international system as we know it, which is the way the Iranian president talks, then it will be extremely difficult to come to a negotiated solution. And then down the road some sort of consultation will occur.

ANDREW MARR: Do you think there is any hope left of a clear military victory in Iraq?

HENRY KISSINGER: If you mean by clear military victory an Iraqi government that can be established and whose writ runs across the whole country, that gets the civil war under control and sectarian violence under control in a time period that the political processes of the democracies will support, I don't believe that is possible.

ANDREW MARR: Given that, what would you say to all those people who say well let's bring all the troops home now? What's the downside of a fast and total withdrawal, both by American and by British troops now?

HENRY KISSINGER: Well if we were to withdraw all the forces without any international understanding and without any even partial solution of some of the problems, the civil war in Iraq will take on even more violent forms and the chief dimensions that are probably exceeding those that brought us into Yugoslavia with military forces, all the surrounding countries especially those that have large Shia populations, will be in all likelihood destabilised.

So I think a dramatic collapse of Iraq, whatever we think of how the situation was created, would have disastrous consequences for which we would pay for many years, and which would bring us back in one way or another into the region.

ANDREW MARR: And so that means that one way or another America and her allies in your view have to stay the course?

HENRY KISSINGER: No. I think we have to redefine the course. But I don't believe that the alternative is between military victory as it had been defined previously, or total withdrawal.

The art of leadership now will be to find a course that will protect our values, our interests and the possibility of some progress in the area without simply blindly following a strategy which however reasonable it was when it was adopted, has now brought us to a point...

ANDREW MARR: Has failed.

HENRY KISSINGER: Has failed to achieve the objectives that were defined within a timeframe that our political processes will support.

ANDREW MARR: How much do you think that President Bush, and indeed Tony Blair, have been damaged by what's happened in Iraq?

HENRY KISSINGER: I can't speak for Tony Blair. I think that the Iraq war has certainly damaged President Bush in the last election. He has attempted to define the problem, I think, with great courage. But the situation became more complicated than he originally, than his administration expected, and that has certainly damaged him.

ANDREW MARR: It certainly did - the former US Secretary of State, Dr. Henry Kissinger.


NB: this transcript was typed from a recording and not copied from an original script.

Because of the possibility of mis-hearing and the difficulty, in some cases, of identifying individual speakers, the BBC cannot vouch for its accuracy

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