FORMER US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who helped engineer the US withdrawal from Vietnam, said Sunday the problems in Iraq are more complex than in the Vietnam War, and military victory was no longer possible.He also said he sympathised with the troubles facing US President George W. Bush.
"A military victory in the sense of total control over the whole territory, imposed on the entire population, is not possible," Dr Kissinger said in Tokyo, where he received an honorary degree from Waseda University.
The faceless, ubiquitous nature of Iraq's insurgency, as well as the religious divide between Shiite and Sunni rivals, makes negotiating peace extremely difficult, he said.
But Dr Kissinger, who has also advised Mr Bush on Iraq, warned that a sudden pullout of troops or loss of influence could unleash chaos.
Dr Kissinger said the best way forward was to reconcile the differences between Iraq's warring sects with help from other countries.
He applauded efforts to host a conference bringing together the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council and Iraq's neighbours, including Washington's longtime rival in the region, Iran.
His comments came as unexpectedly harsh criticism from Saudi Arabia raised serious questions about the Bush administration's Middle East policy.
Speaking to a summit meeting of Arab leaders in Riyadh last week, Saudi King Abdullah referred to the US presence in Iraq as an "illegitimate foreign occupation".
US officials were dumbfounded by the portrayal of the costly US military operation that President Bush defends as a mission conducted at the request of the Iraq government to help stabilise the country.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice rang the Saudi ambassador to Washington, Adel al-Jubeir, for an explanation of the king's remarks.
But Dr Rice did not take the matter up directly with her Saudi counterpart, Prince Saud al-Faisal, in an apparent bid to avoid aggravating the rift.
Analysts saw Abdullah's tough public stance as part of a move by the Saudi monarch to take the lead of a new pan-Arab movement to counter the rising influence of Shiite Iran.
In Iraq Sunday, a roadside bomb and three car bombs killed 14 people and wounded dozens as Iraq's relentless insurgency and sectarian violence continued, officials said.
Copyright 2007 Associated Press