CIA Veteran Speaks: ‘There’s A Civil War In Iraq And Our Presence Is Contributing To The Violence’

Dr. Emile Nakhleh spent 15 years in the CIA and retired in June as the Director of the Political Islam Strategic Analysis Program, “the intelligence community’s premier group dedicated to the issue of political Islam.” Harper’s Ken Silverstein scored the first interview with Nakhleh since leaving the CIA. Some key excerpts:

On Iraq:

I have come to believe that our presence is part of the problem and that we should begin to seriously devise an exit strategy. There’s a civil war in Iraq and our presence is contributing to the violence. We’ve become a lightning rod–we’re not restricting the violence, we’re contributing to it. Iraq has galvanized jihadists; our presence is what is attracting them. We need to get out of there.

On Bush’s campaign for democracy:

We’ve lost a generation of goodwill in the Muslim world. The President’s democratization and reform program for the Middle East has all but disappeared, except for official rhetoric. … Because of Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, and other abuses we have lost on the concepts of justice, fairness and the rule of law, and that’s the heart of the American idea.

On what to do in Iran:

I think it would be detrimental to our long-term interests to ignore the Iranian reality and let ourselves be blinded by our dislike for the current president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. … The growing influence of Hezbollah, and its leader Hasan Nasrallah, across the region and within the Sunni street, and the growing regional influence and reach of Iran, are two new realities that we should recognize and engage. Iran’s nuclear issue is as much a failure of the nonproliferation approach as it is one of belligerence. Here too, I think, creative policies of engagement are called for and are possible.

Read the full interview HERE.