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 a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.
A “non-partisan” policy institute that claims to defend democracies against “militant Islamism,” the neoconservative Foundation for Defense of Democracies has become an influential base of hawkish advocacy, especially 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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Randy Scheunemann is a well-connected Washington lobbyist and neoconservative activist. A former director of the Project for the New American Century, Scheunemann is also well known as the foreign policy adviser charged with counseling the neophyte Sarah Palin for John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign. Scheunemann’s influence on Palin resurfaced in 2014 when Palin claimed to have predicted back in 2008 that Russia would invade Ukraine if then-Sen. Obama were elected president. “Do you think those were actually [Palin’s] own thoughts,” wondered one critic, “or ones crafted by John McCain’s top foreign policy advisor, Randy Scheunemann, a neocon who was both a paid lobbyist for Georgia and supporter of Ahmed Chalabi, the Iraqi charlatan who helped Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney gull the American people into a misbegotten war?”
Ruth Wedgwood, a SAIS professor and vice chair of the neoconservative Freedom House, is a staunch defender of the "war on terror” who has supported controversial policies that encroach on civil liberties and human rights, including military tribunals, indefinite detention of terrorism suspects, and the PATRIOT Act. Wedgwood has accused Iran of developing nuclear weapons and expressed support for the MEK, a controversial Iranian dissident group long considered a terrorist organization by the U.S. government and likened by its critics to a cult.
Dennis Ross, a controversial former diplomat who served in the Obama administration before retreating to a “pro-Israel” think tank, is a vocal Democratic advocate of leveraging the threat of war to exact concessions from Iran over its nuclear program. Recently, Ross linked the issue to the crisis in Ukraine, arguing that the Obama administration should retaliate against Russia for its intervention in Ukraine in order to placate Israel and Saudi Arabia—foes of Iran who, according to Ross, “believe that the U.S. is increasingly reluctant to act in the face of regional challenges”—even if it means ending Russian cooperation in international negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program.
Amoretta Hoeber is a military consultant and a former Reagan defense official who has opposed international agreements to ban chemical weapons. She currently heads AMH Consulting, a Maryland-based firm that advises companies seeking military contracts. During the Iraq War, Hoeber lent credence to the false accusation that Saddam Hussein was stockpiling chemical weapons—without mentioning that her own firm had secured a contract to remove them.
Weekly Standard editor William Kristol seems nostalgic for the Cold War. During a recent appearance on ABC, he lamented that President Obama didn’t seem to show proper reverence for that “war” when he argued that Syria and Ukraine are not pieces on a “Cold War chessboard.” Kristol said, "So, look; it's nice for President Obama to say it's not a Cold War chessboard. I don't know why he says that with some disdain. That was not an ignoble thing for us to play on that chessboard for 45 years. We ended up winning that Cold War." He added, "And I do think Putin thinks he's playing chess. He thinks he's playing even a rougher game than chess and we have to be able to match it.”