Gearing Up for War I

Exclusive: Former CIA Director Michael Hayden says Israel and Iran are on a “short fuse” to military conflict.

ran is pushing israel closer to the brink of war than it has been at any point since Hezbollah attacks in 2006, and the Middle East is on “a reasonably short fuse” to a conflict that will be significantly more destruc- tive than the last one, which left hundreds dead and thousands wounded. That’s the sobering analysis of Gen. Michael Hayden, the former CIA

director, who spoke with Newsmax Senior Editor David Patten about simmering tensions in the region.

ISRAEL Based upon what’s happening in Syria, the Israelis are now being forced to face an empowered, emboldened, on- a-winning-streak Hezbollah, and an even more physical Iranian presence close to the Israeli border. They want to make it very clear that adventurism here would be a very dangerous path. This is now becoming a short fuse

in the region: Hezbollah and Iran on one side, perhaps with a little Russian backing, and then the Israelis on the other. The 2006 war was particularly disastrous — nobody was a winner, and any successor conflict is going to be even worse. But although the Arab-Israeli dis-

pute remains important, it’s no longer the core fracture line in the Middle East. The core fracture line is now Sunni-Shiite, with the Israelis and Sun- nis in a broadly convergent path when it comes to security concerns.

SYRIA President Bashar al-Assad was teeter- ing badly two years or so ago. I talked with friends who were worried about what we would do if we had cata- strophic success, i.e., Assad would fall. Then the Russian intervention, with

Michael Hayden, 73, is a retired USAF four-star general who has served as director of the CIA and the National Security Agency.

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really a modest interjection of combat power, changed the geometry of the battlefield. Now you’ve got what I call the rump of Syria, sort of “Alawi-stan” after Assad, much larger than I ever thought it would be. He is now very dependent on the Iranians, the Rus- sians, and on Hezbollah.

IRAN It’s very complicated. I used to dread questions from President George W. Bush, who wanted insights into how things work there. It was our consen- sus at the agency that in terms of the population, the most pro-American population between Marrakesh and Bangladesh was the Iranians. So one could have the hope that over time the natural tendency of these people to be included in the broader world overwhelms [what] a stale and brutal revolution is trying to impose on them.

A t l a n t i c O c e a n

IRAQ Any Iraqi government is going to have to be aware of the winds blowing from Iran. They’re going to have to tack based upon the prevailing winds of Iran. That does not necessarily mean they become an Iranian satellite. There are core issues between the Iranian state and the Iraqi people. No. 1, one country is overwhelmingly Persian, and the other one is overwhelmingly Arab. And even though they’re both


GEN. MICHAEL HAYDEN Hayden weighs in on the volatile Middle East, telling Newsmax all players have their own agenda.

Shiite [Islam], they’re actually com- petitors within Shiism, making claim as to which country really does have the core holy sites.


I appreciate many things of President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi’s governance — this kind of a new, more-energized Egypt in a diplomatic role. He gave a talk to the faculty at Al-

Azhar University a couple of years ago at which he wagged his finger at them and said, “You people, you theo- logians, are responsible for convincing people that these crazies out here are wrong about our religion.” I give him props for that. But I fear President Sissi is going down the same road that former President Hosni Mubarak went down. He’s become more authoritar-

ian, more autocratic, less transparent, more cracking down of what you and I would call the organs of civil society. All that does is build up opposition, and it drives the opposition into the mosque, because the mosque provides the only relatively safe haven.


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