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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Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush has confirmed that he is actively considering running for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination. While he holds some “centrist” views on domestic policy, Bush—an alum of the Project for a New American Century—appears inclined to pursue his brother’s hawkish foreign policy prescriptions, like threatening military action against Iran and doubling down on his support for the 2003 invasion of Iraq. “A lot of things in history change over time,” he said during a CNN interview. “I think people will respect the resolve that my brother showed, both in defending the country and the war in Iraq.”
Ron Dermer, Israel’s ambassador to the United States, is a close confidant of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and a former U.S. citizen who is closely tied to the Republican Party establishment. Dermer recently received attention for his role in organizing a controversial speech by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Congress. The surprise announcement of Netanyahu’s speech 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. Said one observer: “In almost any other case, such bad faith and duplicity would lead a host country to ask that an ambassador be withdrawn.”
Zuhdi Jasser is a Muslim-American pundit who is close to a number of far-right, anti-Islamic organizations. Founder of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, Jasser’s efforts to smear the work of Muslim-American civil society organizations spurred one observer to comment: “So how is it possible for someone who claims to be a devout Muslim to be an active participant in helping the promotion of anti-Islam sentiment? Therein lies Dr. Jasser’s value to this multi-million dollar machine—to play the role of the ‘good Muslim.’”
The Republican Jewish Coalition, the hardline “pro-Israel” lobbying outfit supported by Sheldon Adelson, has vocally promoted efforts by Congress to derail U.S.-led negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program. With a view to the next presidential election, RJC’s executive director Matthew Brooks recently attacked Hillary Clinton’s stance on Iran: “For four years Hillary Clinton proved to the world that her foreign policy judgment and skills are clearly lacking. Now, former Secretary Clinton fails to realize that after exhaustive negotiations with Iran, rewarding them with more time is a catalyst to empower and embolden the Iranian regime further.”
Michael Gerson, the conservative op-ed columnist for the Washington Post and former Bush speechwriter, has pushed for a more aggressive stance from President Obama on foreign policy, lambasting Obama’s purported “lead from behind” doctrine in a recent op-ed. “Recent history yields one interpretation,” wrote Gerson. “If the United States does not lead the global war on terrorism, the war will not be led. But still [Obama] refuses to broaden his conception of the U.S. role in the Middle East.”