Sunday, February 21, 2016

Mearsheimer. Transcript. Nynne Bjerre Christensen. University of Chicago Library. DR TV, Deadline. 12 Nov 2015.

1.      Mearsheimer: I think the United States has no strategic interest in Syria. There’s nothing there worth fighting and dying for in the United States.
2.      Bjerre: Do you think that US has strategic interest in Iraq, in Afghanistan?
3.      Mearsheimer: The United States has a strategic interest in Iraq because there is Oil there. The main reason that the United States has a strategic interest in Persian Gulf is one very simple reason: Oil. And the Oil is in places like Kuwait, Iraq, Iran and Saudi Arabia. The reason that the United States is so friendly with Saudi Arabis is because of the Oil. The reason that we went to War against Saddam Hussein in 1991 was because Iraq invaded Kuwait, Kuwait has Oil. But there is no Oil in Syria, there is no Oil in Egypt. These are the two Countries just don’t matter much.
4.      Bjerre: So what does that mean for the way the US should act in Syria?
5.      Mearsheimer: The United States is now deeply involved in the Middle East and in Syria. And the fact is, Although we have no strategic interest in what happened in Syria, there is two reasons that we should get involved in trying to shut this Conflict down. One is that it’s Human Rights disaster. So many People have been killed, so many People have been rendered homeless, we have a deep-seated interest in getting in and shutting this one down for Human Rights reasons. The second reason we should get involved is it’s prouving to be a disaster for Europe. Because, as a result of this conflict, huge numbers of Refugees are flowing into Europe, Europe can’t handle these Refugees, and in fact, there is no end in sight in terms of these Refugees handling Europe, because this Conflict goes on and on and on.
6.      Bjerre: So the fact that the Refugee pressure is putting a pressure on the US immediate Ally, European Union, that changes the US Interest in Syria?
7.      Mearsheimer: I think there is no question that the United States has an interest, it’s not a strategic interest, the United States has a deep-seated interest in helping the Europeans to solve this problem, which by the way the United States in large part created by invading Iraq and creating ISIS and working to facilitate the overthrow of Assad.
8.      Bjerre: But the big question is then whether the military Intervention is the way. It was a disaster in Iraq, it was partly a disaster in Afghanistan. So what is a way forward if the diplomatic means are not enough?
9.      Mearsheimer: The United States is in unlucky position, because the Russians have intervened on behalf of Assad. And what has to be done now, it’s the only plausible solution, is that the United States has to work with the Russians and the Iranians to back Assad, to prop him up, and to see if we can shut this War down by propping up the Syrian Government.
10.   Bjerre: The question is, Can the US and Russia work together in Syria? Does the US understand the Russian interest in Syria?
11.   Mearsheimer: I don’t know. I’m sad to say I think that the United States has an extremely difficult time understanding Russian interest in Ukraine, Russian interest in Syria. We appear always to assume the worst case about the Russians, and we find it very difficult to work with the Russians whether you are talking about dealing with Ukraine or dealing with Syria. So it may very well be the case that the United States in the end is incapable of working with the Russians in Syria, in which case many more Syrians will die, and the problems in Europe with regard to Refugees will get worse and worse and worse and worse.
12.   Bjerre: So you don’t think that Russians actually are capable of solving the problems because Russia do not take this humanitarian interest in Syria, or how do you see it?
13.   Mearsheimer: What the Russians are trying to do is trying to prop up Assad. It looked this summer as if Assad was going to be toppled. Not because of ISIS, but because of al-Qaeda. I believe that the United States was turning the blind eye while Turkey and Saudi Arabia and Qatar were supporting the al-Qaeda Forces that were putting tremendous pressure on Assad. The Russians came in to prop up Assad, and they did, because Assad is an important Ally of Russia, and Russia a Naval Base in Syria. So what Russians are now trying to do is not trying to defeat ISIS over the long-term or defear al-Qaeda over the long term, they’re just trying to make sure that Assad is not toppled.
14.   Bjerre: But the question is then, Do you think that Iran is going to change their stance towards Assad because they made a deal regarding the Nuclear programme and so on. Or do you think that the Russia will continue to protect Assad. Do you think the two major Allies of Syria will continue their Protection of Syria?
15.   Mearsheimer: I think both Russia and Iran are going to support Assad for the foreseeable future. They may at some distant point try to ease him out of Power. But if that happens, that would want him replace with someone who looks a lot like him and is a Shiite, which wil make the Iranians happy, and pro-Russia, which will make the Russians happy. And we, the United States, have to accept that fact.
16.   Bjerre: But do you think it’s possible for the US to change anything in Syria, or will it be Russia and Iran defining the future for Assad in Syria? What role do the Americans have to pay now.
17.   Mearsheimer: From US point of view, we have no strategic interest in Syria, so it doesn’t matter to us whether the Russians or the Iranians have a lot of influence with Assad. Who cares? It just doesn’t matter. What matter to us is We shut this Conflict down for the humanitarian reasons, number one, and two, For Europe, we shut this down for the Refugee problem.
18.   Bjerre: But honestly, you don’t really know whether the US and Russia will be capable of finding a solution.
19.   Mearsheimer: I believe the Russians are capable of working with the United States to find a solution. Will it a perfect solution? No, it will be a messy solution, but it will be a solution. Are the Americans capable of working with the Russians, I don’t know, I’m sad to say.
20.   Bjerre: But tell me finally, What are the Russian strategic interest in working to get in with the US finding the solution in Syria?
21.   Mearsheimer: Because the Russians want to be able to get out of there. The last thing the Russians want to do is to end up in a quagmire. The Russians are playing with fire here. As the United States has learned, any time you put military Forces in the Middle East and you get involved in one of these messy Wars, you can end up getting blood all over yourself. And you noticed the Russians just lost its airliner over the Sinai, and many People think that was an ISIS Operation which is a blowback for intervening on the side of Assad. So what the Russians want to do, and what the Americans want to do, is they want to work together - or this is what they should want to do – to shut this one down.

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