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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Ray Takeyh is an Iran-hawk who has recently migrated from the Council on Foreign Relations to the neoconservative Hudson Institute. Takeyh has been a vociferous critic of the Obama administration’s diplomatic efforts aimed at peacefully resolving the Iranian nuclear dispute, framing a potential agreement as the “most advantageous path to nuclear arms” for Iran and arguing for a “revamped coercive strategy” against the country.
Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, notorious for reigning in the rights of workers in his home state, has staked out hawkish positions on foreign policy in advance of his expected run for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination. He has called for the United States to have a “strong presence” in the Middle East, has said he would not rule out U.S. “boots on the ground” in the fight against ISIS, and has said he would “absolutely” reject any nuclear deal with Iran if he becomes president. Walker has also spurred ridicule for saying the “most significant foreign policy decision” of his lifetime was Ronald Reagan’s decision to fire striking air traffic controllers in 1981.
Stephen Hadley, a former national security advisor to President George W. Bush, has advocated a hardline towards Russia in the wake of the 2014 Ukraine crisis. Among his recommendations is for the CIA to covertly arm Ukrainian rebels. He said in November 2014: “If I were in my old job I would be thinking about lethal assistance—yes. But you know this is why you have a CIA, you know this is why you have covert action and I would be thinking—do we want to do it explicitly to send a message to Putin? Or do you want to do it covertly?”
The Washington Institute for Near East Policy recently published a letter signed by former officials from both the Bush and Obama administrations that has been framed as critical of the Obama administration’s nuclear negotiations with Iran. However, the letter, which was also signed by prominent neoconservatives, has been described by one signatory as “very much in line with current U.S. policy.”
Gary Samore, a former adviser to the Obama administration who is now the president of the hawkish United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI), recently signed onto an open letter published by the “pro-Israel” Washington Institute for Near East Policy that several media outlets have framed as a warning from President Obama’s “ex-advisers” about the “Iran nuclear deal.” Samore, however, appears to disagree with this interpretation of the letter, saying in a recent CNN interview: “If you look through the substance of the letter, you'll see that the positions we take on the key unresolved issues are very much in line with current U.S. policy.”