Permalink | Date posted: September 08, 2011
Reuel Marc Gerecht, a senior fellow at the right-wing Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), and Mark Dubowitz, FDD’s executive director, penned an op-ed in the Washington Post last week calling for the Obama administration to take harsher actions toward the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad, including energy sanctions and “covert action” in support of the Syrian opposition.
Compared to other neoconservative exhortations on Obama’s Syria policy—like John Bolton’s recent diatribe in the New York Post—the tone of the op-ed is comparatively warm and inviting, with the authors concluding that Obama, as “the son of an African Muslim and an American woman who dedicated her life to the Third World,” is “tailor-made to lead the United States in expanding democracy to the most unstable, autocratic and religiously militant region of the globe.”
The authors claim there is a popular opening for western intervention in Syria, declaring that now “demonstrators are calling for foreign intervention,” an apparent reference to a pro-intervention sign captured on film in the hard-hit city of Homs. However, the claim overlooks a great deal of division within the opposition about the desirability of abandoning non-violent tactics or of inviting foreigners into the uprising.
Indeed, the authors deftly sweep aside any concern for the demonstrators in favor of a lengthier exposition on Syria’s “strategic sins against the United States,” among which the authors include the regime’s support for Hezbollah and Hamas, its alliance with Iran and, rather more questionably, its “possible” connection to the 9/11 attacks. “Almost every Arab terrorist group,” they conclude, “spawned in the hothouses of Islamic militancy and Arab nationalism, has had a presence in Damascus.”
Advocates of military-led regime change in the Middle East have long understood the need to stage diplomatic or “non-kinetic” escalations before pushing for military action. With respect to Iran, Gerecht himself wrote toward the end of the Bush administration that diplomacy “is something that must be checked off before the next president [can] unleash the Air Force and the Navy.” This may hold some predictive value for where he ultimately comes down on regime change in Syria, which he has deemed “an easy call.”
John Bolton, the notorious hardliner who served as President Bush’s UN ambassador, is chairman of the “Islamophobic” Gatestone Institute and a senior fellow at the neoconservative American Enterprise Institute.
A purportedly “non-partisan” policy institute that aims to defend democracies from “militant Islamism,” the neoconservative Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) is an influential base of hawkish advocacy on Middle East policy.
Reuel Marc Gerecht, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, has been advocating regime change in Iran since even before 9/11.
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Robert Dreyfuss, Applying the Libya Model to Syria and Iran, The Nation, August 29, 2011.
“You can already imagine the drumbeat from neocons and liberal interventionists,” writes Dreyfuss, “that the United States cannot allow Syrians, or Iranians, to be massacred.”
Liz Sly, Calls in Syria for weapons, NATO intervention, Washington Post, August 28, 2011
Syrian activists are frustrated by Bashar al-Assad’s continued use of violence and hold on power, leading to divisions about the wisdom of armed resistance or foreign intervention.
Josh Rogin, Conservatives suggest Syria next steps, Foreign Policy, August 19, 2011
A letter to President Obama signed by 32 mostly conservative signatories shows FDD’s leadership on the push for new sanctions in Syria, among other more aggressive tactics.
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The American Islamic Congress (AIC) is a controversial Muslim advocacy organization with ties to right-wing and anti-Islamic groups. AIC has received funding from the Donors Capital Fund, a group that the Center for American Progress has described as the “lifeblood of the Islamophobia network in America.” Notorious “pro-Israel” megadonor Sheldon Adelson is also a backer of AIC, along with fellow billionaire Seth Klarman. The group, which also receives government funding, has been accused of serving as a “faithful arm of soft American power in the Middle East.”
Billionaire hedge fund investor Seth Klarman is a prolific funder of an array of rightist “pro-Israel” groups. He has supported The Israel Project, the Middle East Forum, and the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, among other groups. Klarman also invests in Israeli media, having established his own newspaper, the Times of Israel, in 2012. He has bemoaned growing sympathy for the Palestinians, stating: “In the West, ‘Palestinianism’—the notion that an innocent, indigenous people suffers a senseless, cruel oppression by the Jews of Israel (who ought to know better) threatens to become the standard view.”
Ron Dermer, Israel’s ambassador to the United States, has been in the spotlight for his role in organizing—and then failing to properly disclose—a controversial speech by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Congress. The surprise announcement of Netanyahu’s speech, which was first made by House Speaker John Boehner shortly after President Obama’s State of the Union address, spurred widespread criticism, with the White House calling it a “breach of protocol” because it had not been notified of the invitation in advance. One observer, referring to Dermer’s role in the affair, said: “In almost any other case, such bad faith and duplicity would lead a host country to ask that an ambassador be withdrawn.”
David Albright and hisInstitute for Science and International Security are widely regarded as important apolitical members of the nonproliferation community in the United States. However, a growing number of writers and experts have begun criticizing Albright’s work, particularly on Iran, and some of his critics say that he has made inaccurate claims about their work in order to counter their criticisms.
During his recent confirmation hearings, new Pentagon chief Ashton Carter gave “every indication that he would be a hard-liner at the Pentagon and a strong counterweight to administration doves.” He said that he would be “inclined” to send “defensive arms” to Ukraine and would resist efforts to speed up the closure of Guantanamo Bay. After his first trip to Afghanistan as secretary of defense, he announced the United States may slow its withdrawal of troops and keep more troops in the country than previously planned.