When issues begin to boil in the Middle East, KGVO News turns to one of the most knowledgeable individuals on Middle Eastern affairs in western Montana, former Ambassador Mark Johnson, founder of the Montana World Affairs Council.

Johnson, just back from a trip to Africa, spoke to KGVO News on Saturday about the drone strike ordered by President Trump that killed Iranian General Qassem Soleimani.

“To put it very frankly, the bottom line is that this was one of the most momentous events that has happened in recent years in the Middle East,” said Johnson. “Soleimani was a very big deal. And people who know a lot more about the situation than I do make the claim that this is a bigger deal than Bin Laden or Al Baghdadi, the founder of Isis.

Johnson provided his view of the now late General Soleimani.

"Soleimani was a ruthless, brutal murderer, although that will probably upset some people," he said. "He created a vast network in several countries, and he was the architect of Iran’s desire to expand its influence into the Middle East. What you have today is the most dominant foreign power in the region, spanning from Afghanistan across the Mediterranean to Lebanon, and that is Iran, and at the heart was Soleimani.”

Johnson said that President Trump needs to quickly communicate with the American people as well as our allies in the Middle East just what his strategy is regarding Iran.

“I think the President has an obligation to go to the American people and lay out in some greater detail what it is exactly that he intends to achieve in the Middle East,” he said. “He has to respond, and therefore he has to have a plan and a policy and critics are accusing him of not having either. That’s being said by people who have no idea what’s going on behind the scenes. It is a valid concern, and I hope the White House will address that, Secondly, I think the U.S. has to go to the allies in the region, such as Saudi Arabia and especially to Israel, because dare I say, Israel is in the cross-hairs, and if there is to be a response and I would not be surprised is the Iranians through their proxies will begin to attack outside the northern border of Syria.”

Johnson provided a telling anecdote regarding Iran and its policy toward the rest of the Middle East.

“I once had an Iranian tell me point-blank to my face that ‘we don’t do our dirty work, we have our proxies do it for us’,” he said. “Things will be happening, but it does not necessarily mean that an all out war will follow, because that would be very dangerous to Iran. The number one objective of the Iranian regime is to survive, and they will do everything they can to ensure that the Islamic Republic will survive, and an all out war would invite instant retaliation and massive destruction.”

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