Dick Cheney
Former US Vice President Dick Cheney talks to the audience at the Arab Strategy Forum in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Monday, Dec. 9, 2019. Image Credit: AP

Dubai: Former US Vice President Dick Cheney warned Monday that "American disengagement" in the Middle East will benefit only Iran and Russia, indirectly criticizing President Donald Trump's pledges to pull forces out of the region.

While stressing that he's no longer in government, Cheney's comments in Dubai cut to the core of several policies taken by Trump, including the sudden withdrawal of US forces from Syria.

The former vice president mentioned Trump by name only once in praising him for pulling out the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. But Cheney's backing of a muscular military response in the Mideast starkly contrasts Trump's promises to pull America from what he calls the Mideast's "blood-stained sands".

"Russia is always on standby to fill power voids. That is how it happened that Russian troops swept in when the US left northern Syria," Cheney told the Arab Strategy Forum. "To sum up that still-unfolding story: nobody will remember it as our finest hour.''

Cheney said that, as well as other challenges from extremist groups like al-Qaida and the Daesh group, show "inaction can carry even greater risk than action.''

"There are some deeply malign forces at work in the broader Middle East, as well as disturbing influences from outside,'' Cheney said. "Disengagement is just another term for leaving all the power to them.''

On Iran, Cheney alleged that ``the mullahs in Tehran want most of all to acquire nuclear weapons.'' However, the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency says Iran stopped any organized nuclear weapons research in 2003 and Tehran insists its program is for peaceful purposes, even as it begins breaking limits of the deal.

Cheney called NATO "the most-formidable alliance in history.''

"This post-war system has been so fundamental that it has hardly mattered year to year which political parties were in power,'' the former vice president added, leaving unmentioned Trump's criticism of the alliance.