Kissinger on Obama, Iran, and Regime Change

by Jul 1, 2009Foreign Policy0 comments

BBC Newsnight had on Henry Kissinger on June 18. I haven’t found a transcript, but a video excerpt is available. From the BBC website: Former US Secretary of State and National Security Adviser Dr Henry Kissinger talks to Newsnight’s Gavin Esler about how Washington would like to see regime change in Iran, but will not […]

BBC Newsnight had on Henry Kissinger on June 18. I haven’t found a transcript, but a video excerpt is available. From the BBC website:

Former US Secretary of State and National Security Adviser Dr Henry Kissinger talks to Newsnight’s Gavin Esler about how Washington would like to see regime change in Iran, but will not actively push for it.

Esler begins by asking Dr Kissinger if the US taking action to bring about regime change is simply not a viable policy in the 21 Century.

The video introduction says:

The former US Secretary of State and National Security Adviser Dr Henry Kissinger says the US would like to see regime change in Iran, but will not actively push for it.

In the excerpted portion, here’s what Kissinger has to say about the Obama administration and the policy of regime change in Iran.

I think regime change can be supported by the United States, or can be wished for by the United States. I think when the United States attempts regime change by its own actions and becomes a principle party to the regime change, that it has usually backfired.

I am sure that Americans would favor the emergence from the present situation of a truly popularly based government, and it is very appropriate for the President to make clear that that is what he favors.

Now, if it turns out that it is not possible for a government to emerge in Iran that can deal with itself as a nation rather than as a cause, then we have a different situation. Then we may conclude that we must work for regime change in Iran from the outside.

But if I understand the president correctly, he doesn’t want to do this as a visible intervention in the current crisis.

Esler raises his eybrow at Kissinger’s remark about chaning the regime “from the outside” (his emphasis).

Kissinger is known for speaking bluntly, but in somewhat coded language. Notice what he’s saying here, if you decipher it:

Yes, the U.S. does or should have a policy of regime change, but implementing this policy in the past with other countries has backfired when the U.S. role as a principle party to the regime change is known. The U.S. would welcome a legitimate, democratically elected ruler in Iran, but if this doesn’t occur (like if Ahmadinejad wins), then the U.S. will have to work for regime change from the outside, as opposed to from inside Iran. As for changing the regime from the inside, any interference by the U.S. under the Obama administration would be hidden from the public so it doesn’t backfire like has usually occurred when the U.S. more openly attempts regime change.

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