Military victory is no longer possible in Iraq, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger said in a television interview broadcast Sunday.
In a wide ranging interview on British Broadcasting Corp. television, Kissinger presented a bleak vision of Iraq, saying the U.S. government must enter into dialogue with Iraq's regional neighbors — including Iran — if any progress is to be made in the region.
"If you mean by '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," he said on the BBC's Sunday AM breakfast show.
But Kissinger warned against a rapid withdrawal of troops, saying it could lead to "disastrous consequences," destabilizing Iraq's neighbors and causing a long-lasting conflict.
"If you withdraw all the forces without any international understanding and without any even partial solution of some of the problems, civil war in Iraq will take on even more violent forms and achieve dimensions that are probably exceeding those that brought us into Yugoslavia with military force," he said.
Iraq's neighbors, especially those with large Shia populations, would be destabilized should there be a quick withdrawal from Iraq, Kissinger said.
"So I think a dramatic collapse of Iraq — whatever we think about how the situation was created — would have disastrous consequences for which we would pay for many years and which would bring us back, one way or another, into the region," he said.
Kissinger, whose views have been sought by the Iraqi Study Group, led by former Secretary of State James Baker III, called for an international conference bringing together the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, Iraq's neighbors and regional powers like India and Pakistan to work out a way forward for the region.
He also said that the process would have to include Iran and that the U.S. must enter into dialogue with the country.
Asked if it was time for President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair to change course, he responded: "I think we have to redefine the course, but I don't think that the alternative is between military victory, as defined previously, or total withdrawal."