On the Record

Big Changes in the Middle East: Iraq, Libya and Beyond

Robert Kagan

Editor’s Note: In an interview on This Week in Politics with Christiane Amanpour, Robert Kagan discusses major international changes rooted in the Middle East, including the U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq and the death of Muammar Qaddafi in Libya.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR: Bob, how is this playing in the region, this quite sudden removal [of troops from Iraq]? I know the agreement was to pull them out, but there was meant to be a residual force. How is this playing out in the region?

ROBERT KAGAN: Everyone knows the administration was trying very hard to keep troops in, because why? They’re worried about, first of all, stability in Iraq, but also they’re worried about Iranian influence and the spread of Iran. And that’s how this is going to be viewed in much of the region, especially in the gulf states, other countries in the region who are worried about Iran and worried about American staying power.

And I think, unfortunately, it’s going to be noticed that very shortly after we uncovered an Iranian plot to commit a terrorist act on American soil, very soon thereafter we announced our withdrawal from Iraq, we can explain that any way we want. In the region, it’s going to look like a retreat.

[…]

AMANPOUR: It is the first elections in Tunisia. Libya is being liberated formally today. Where do we think it’s going to go in the Arab world?

KAGAN: Well, I continue to believe that every single one of these dictators or dictators’ families that’s been around for the past four decades is ultimately going to fall. I think Assad is going to fall in Syria. I think the Saudis are going to have to undertake change. And so this is where things are heading. It’s either going to come out in a good way or a bad way.

AMANPOUR: And in the elections, is it going to be Islamist? Or is there a struggle now to define what Islamic democracy is?

KAGAN: Certainly Islamists are going to win. They’re going to win in significant portions in Egypt when those elections are held. But the question is, can Islam make its peace with democracy? And frankly, I think it can. And I think we have to support that process.

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