Wadah Khanfar: Iran Strike Would Be A 'Disaster' For Fragile Arab Spring


A strike on Iran would be a "disaster" for the Middle East's burgeoning democracies, said Wadah Khanfar, the former director general of Al Jazeera, in an interview with The Huffington Post this week.

"What will happen is a disaster," Khanfar said. "An attack against Iran at this moment in time is first of all going to create new priorities, new alliances, new fears in the region and new complexities. No one can expect what the result will be."

Khanfar, who traveled to Washington, D.C., to discuss the ongoing transformations in the Arab world and his new project, the Sharq Forum, said he worried the fragile Arab Spring could become an unintended casualty of a war because the new, unstable political alignments could find themselves drifting back to old patterns should foreign intervention came into play, especially if Israel became involved.

"It will change a lot of what we see as a success story in the Arab world and in the Middle East," Khanfar said. "For the last few years the Arab world is transforming itself from within ... No one accepts foreign intervention as a tool of change. Then priorities change immediately."

One place Khanfar said some sort of intervention might be essential, however, is in Syria, where he fears the crisis could soon develop into all-out war, particularly as a desperate populace seeks any sort of protection from the assaults of the regime. The longer the world waits to help, Khanfar said, the greater the chances that the Syrians would accept the assistance of militant groups like Al Qaeda.

"The images that we see in Syria, we do not see anywhere else in the Arab world," Khanfar said. "Something has to be done, and I do believe that the delay in doing that might complicate the situation more and create some desperate attempts from the public and from other groups who might be coming and helping, and that is not in the interests of anyone."

Khanfar served as director general of Al Jazeera from 2003 to mid-2011, a tenure that began with the war in Iraq and culminated with some of the most aggressive coverage of the popular democratic uprisings in the Middle East. Last week, the network was awarded a coveted George Polk Award for a documentary about the government of Bahrain's attempts to repress protests, one of the last projects Khanfar managed at the network.

Even with his concerns about the region, Khanfar remains an optimist about the progress of the Arab Spring, particularly in Tunisia, where his new organization, the Sharq Forum, has been working to encourage dialogue among the region's newest stakeholders.

"It is going in the right direction," Khanfar said. "Overall I feel that the Arab world, after decades of marginalization, lack of respect for the human beings in the region, I think now we have a choice; now we have liberated ourselves."

Watch selected excerpts of The Huffington Post's interview of Wadah Khanfar, as well as the full video, by clicking on the player above.

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