Henry Kissinger characterizes Syrian war as "ethnic and sectarian conflict," discusses other foreign policy issues at Gerald Ford centennial event

July 1, 2013

"In the American press, [the war in Syria is] described as a conflict between democracy and a dictator, and the dictator is killing his own people and we have to punish him," Henry Kissinger said at the July 19 Ford School Citi Foundation Lecture Series event. "But on the whole it is an ethnic and sectarian conflict. … I have to say, we have misunderstood it from the beginning."

The complete video of the event, part of the Ford School's year-long commemoration of President Ford's centennial, was picked up by the Huffington Post and highlights the former secretary of state's candid commentary on the civil war.

Kissinger also observed that a victory by either Syrian President Bashar al-Assad (who is Alawite, a branch of Shia Islam) or by the rebels (who are primarily Sunni) would be "disastrous," escalating the already volatile ethnic tensions. "If you put either of these sectarian groups in charge," he said, "there will be a bloodbath."

[View complete video of the event]