Thomas Kaplan—businessman, conservationist, historian, and philanthropist—discusses the Israel-Hamas conflict, the actions of Iran, and what could happen in the region.
Thomas Kaplan is a Franco-American billionaire investor with pursuits that span beyond finance to global politics, cultural heritage protection, wildlife conservation, and the arts. He has been interviewed about these subjects extensively. For this conversation, the focus is the insights he brings regarding the Middle East, where he is a confidant of both Arab and Israeli leaderships and enjoys a track record of forecasting events in the region that is regarded in some circles as highly prescient.
Kaplan was born in New York City, educated in Switzerland, and holds degrees in modern history, including a Doctorate focused on counter-insurgency, from Oxford University. Early in his post-academic life, after predicting Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait more than a year before it occurred, Kaplan made his name applying his geopolitical and historical insights to create high returns from investments in natural resources. Beginning with silver, and then platinum group and base metals, he eventually moved into hydrocarbons. After selling his energy business in 2007, in partnership with sovereign wealth funds, he formed The Electrum Group which invested heavily in silver and gold — earning him the nickname of “Gold’s Evangelist”.
Kaplan is active at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University, where, alongside General David Petraeus and Professor Graham Allison, he established a prestigious fellowship that brings together analysts and practitioners from friendly intelligence agencies to study “applied history”. He supports similar graduate programs at Yale University and the University of Cambridge. With his engagement in the Middle East, Kaplan has also contributed to advocacy groups that reflect his political opinions including Justice for Kurds, which he co-founded with French activist Bernard-Henri Lévy and Emily Hamilton, as well as support for United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI). For years, Kaplan — a self-confessed Persophile — has warned publicly and privately about the ever more dangerous trajectory of Iran’s regional policies. This has included advocating strategies to counter the escalating threat posed to the region by the Tehran regime’s support of Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Gaza, the multiple Popular Mobilization units in Iraq, and the Houthis in Yemen. He is now predicting in this interview that, unless Iran takes an off-ramp, years of neglect in confronting Tehran’s single-minded but misguided focus on Israel’s annihilation will ultimately lead to Iran’s own destruction.
Along with his business achievement in natural resources, his philanthropic contributions too numerous to name, his relationships with leaders in Israel and Arab states, Thomas Kaplan says that of all his endeavors, his greatest passion since his youth is wildlife conservation — particularly preserving the world’s wild cats including leopards, tigers, jaguars, and others. Kaplan and his wife have contributed to numerous organizations devoted to wildlife conservation and together co-founded Panthera, the world’s leading felid conservation organization. It is a focus which explains the visual background during our interview – a critically endangered Arabian Leopard, Homms, whose progeny will be reintroduced into the AlUla region of Saudi Arabia.