The international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement represents a “strategic threat” to Israel, said former CIA chief David Petraeus Monday. Speaking to British writer Emma Sky about his experiences as commander of the American forces in Iraq in 2007 and 2008, he weighed in on the nuclear framework agreement with Iran, as well.
Paraphrasing Charles Dickens, Petraeus said Israel was experiencing “the best of times and the most worrisome of times.,” The Times of Israel quoted him as saying. Israel is economically robust, is maintaining quiet on its borders, and has virtually eliminated suicide bombings in recent years by constructing a security barrier. However, the persistent conflict with the Palestinians is causing Israel to become isolated by Western countries.
“You see growing worries about the possibility of a so-called ‘international intifada,’ the boycott, divestment and sanction moves. That may be coming back to a strategic issue that has to be resolved at some point,” he told Sky.
A former four-star general, Petraeus resigned his position at the Central Intelligence Agency in 2012 after his affair with biographer Paula Broadwell, to whom he leaked classified documents, became public. He was sentenced by a North Carolina Federal court to two years’ probation and charged with a $100,000 fine.
Petraeus had words of praise for the nuclear framework agreement reached April 2 between Iran and the P5+1 powers. In his estimation, the agreement has the potential of rolling back Iran’s military nuclear program. However, he cautioned that the accompanying lifting of sanctions has the potential to empower Iran in ways that could be dangerous to the region.
“The lifting of sanctions will mean that Iran will have vastly more resources. It will be reconnected with the global economy…it’s going to have a lot more resources to pursue mischief around the world and that concerns me,” he said. He cited the Islamic Republic’s damaging influence in Iraq, Syria and Yemen as example.
Petraeus was immensely critical of the execution of America’s 2003 invasion of Iraq. He noted a lack of “nuanced knowledge” of local political and social structure prior to engagement. He also criticized the rush to replace existing governing structures with new ones in a process known as the de-Ba’athification of Iraq. The protracted process left Iraq “in a state of disarray that persisted for quite a long time” and alienated its Sunni population.
“Using existing organizations whenever possible is an imperative,” he said.
“When contemplating a major endeavor…we really ought to ask…‘will this operation or policy take more bad guys off the street by its conduct or implementation than it creates?’ If the answer is that it’s going to create more bad guys than it takes off the street, you probably ought to sit underneath a tree until that thought passes.”
“But if we could answer that question honestly,” he continued, “we wouldn’t have fired the Iraqi military without [them] knowing what their future was; we wouldn’t have done de-Ba’athification without an approved process for reconciliation. These policies created tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of Iraqi men whose only incentive was to oppose the new Iraq rather to support it, at a time when we most wanted everybody to support this new endeavor. We of course ended up fighting a huge number of them over time.”
Nevertheless, engagement in the Middle East is the right policy in Petraeus’s opinion. To do otherwise is to invite Iran to further entrench itself in the region.
“We have to engage and lead regardless of how war-weary we are,” he said.