Clare Lopez is a former CIA operations officer and long-standing right-wing activist with ties to a number of hawkish policy institutes. She is a senior fellow at the neoconservative Center for Security Policy (CSP), vice president of the Intelligence Summit, a senior fellow at the Clarion Project, and a former executive director of the hawkish Iran Policy Committee.
Central to Lopez's geopolitical views is her strong demonization of Islam. "Shi'ite and Sunni are doomed to internecine combat over the centuries because both Islamic sects are bound to an ideology based on dominance, not good faith mutual concessions or participatory collaboration," she wrote in a 2013 attempt to explain sectarian violence in the Middle East. "The name of this power-obsessed ideology is Islam." She added, "With assassination, banditry, genocide, hatred-of-other, polygamy, rape, pillage, and slavery all divinely sanctioned in scriptures believed to be revealed by Allah himself, the world is not likely to see an end to Islam's 'bloody borders' or 'bloody innards' any time soon."
By her own account, Lopez's paranoid and conspiratorial view of Islam is self-taught. "The federal contractor I was working for [after 9/11] really didn't understand anything about who this enemy was," she told the National Journal in May 2014. "So I decided to teach myself." She has declared that even President George W. Bush was "obviously confused and mistaken when he called Islam a 'religion of peace' the day after 9/11."
Along with many of her colleagues at CSP and Clarion, Lopez is a vocal proponent of the notion that the U.S. government—and in particular the Obama administration—has been infiltrated by Islamic extremists tied to the Muslim Brotherhood. She is the author of a conspiratorial 2013 Gatestone Institute report alleging the group's involvement in a decades-long plot to infiltrate the U.S. government and spread "Sharia law" in North America through "front groups" like the Muslim Students Association and the Council on Islamic-American Relations, among other mainstream U.S.-based Muslim organizations.
Lopez claimed in the report that Muslim Brotherhood infiltrators may have convinced the Obama administration to provide backing to early Arab Spring uprisings, which she referred to as an "Islamic Awakening" that was "greenlighted" by a 2009 speech Obama made in Cairo. "The driving force of the so-called 'Arab Spring' is a resurgent Islam, dominated by the forces of al-Qa'eda and the Muslim Brotherhood," Lopez asserted, dismissing the historic enmity between the Brotherhood and al-Qaeda as well as the widespread regional reaction against political repression and economic stagnation. "Energized as Islam may be at this time, however, without the active involvement of the United States to help arm, fund, support, and train the region's Islamic rebels, it is questionable whether they could have gotten this far, this fast." She went on to argue that "the takedown of U.S. national security defenses from within was critical to the current Middle East-North Africa (MENA) campaign to re-establish the Caliphate and enforce Islamic Law (shariah)."
Though Lopez traced the purported "infiltration" as far back as the George W. Bush administration, she argued that the Brotherhood had achieved particular success under Obama. "Under the Muslim Brotherhood-influenced Obama administration," she wrote, "U.S. policy has undergone such a drastic shift in the direction of outright support for these jihadist movements—from al-Qa'eda militias in Libya, to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, and both al-Qa'eda and Muslim Brotherhood-linked rebels in Syria—that it is scarcely recognizable as American anymore." Lopez, who joined the so-called "Citizens Commission on Benghazi" that same year, would later describe the 2011 U.S. intervention in Libya as "the place and the time that the United States and the Obama administration formally switched sides in the Global War on Terror."
Lopez has accused the Obama White House of "trying to be even-handed between the Shiites and the Sunni, especially with the Muslim Brotherhood clamoring in their ear." She has wildly claimed that the Obama administration orchestrated the Arab Spring to make sure that North Africa goes to the "Sunnis: al-Qaida and the Muslim Brotherhood" and the Persian Gulf "goes to Iran."
Lopez has also breathlessly claimed that during 2011-2012, under the "request, pressure and urging of the Muslim Brotherhood," the U.S. government "removed hundreds of pages of presentations, PowerPoint presentations, curriculum and the instructors" on Islam-related topics.
She has alleged about the supposed Muslim Brothers who have infiltrated the U.S. government: "They're very smart. These guys are not camel-jockeys with towels on their heads. These are sophisticated operators. This has been going on for more than 1,300 years."
Lopez's embrace of conspiracy theories about the U.S. government has occasionally run afoul of her allies. In 2013, for example, Lopez was reportedly fired from the neoconservative Gatestone Institute for promoting a controversial book by the right-wing author Diana West—who claimed (among other things) that the U.S. alliance with the Soviet Union against the Nazis was due to a Communist infiltration of the U.S. government. According to one account, Lopez's work was generally "well received" by Gatestone founder Nina Rosenwald, but Rosenwald was pressured to fire Lopez over her "choice of books to promote." Although she is no longer listed as a senior fellow, as of mid-2014 Lopez's writings and biography were still available on the Gatestone website.
A former CIA officer, Lopez has also expressed support for expansive foreign and domestic surveillance programs. In 2014, she coauthored a CSP report with fellow CIA alum Fred Fleitz arguing against the mild curbs on bulk intelligence collection proposed by the Obama administration after former NSA contractor Edward Snowden revealed domestic surveillance programs that federal judges said were likely unconstitutional. While civil libertarian critics lampooned the modest reforms proposed by the White House as "window dressing," Fleitz and Lopez claimed that they would "seriously undermine U.S. intelligence capabilities and could damage American national security."
In the aftermath of the 2013 Boston marathon bombing, Lopez gave several interviews in which she advocated increased surveillance of American Muslims, implying that agitation by Islamic activists had stifled such efforts in the past. "As terrorism expert Clare Lopez, a senior fellow at the Clarion Fund, emphasized to me following the Boston bombing," wrote a columnist for the Philip Anschultz-owned Washington Examiner, "the FBI and local police need to be more aggressive in gathering intelligence in places that people like the [bombing suspect] Tsarnaevs gather, including mosques. The New York police were doing a great job in this regard until Muslim special-interest pressure groups got them to back down. Lopez contends that the FBI is now trained to avoid that sort of operation."
Lopez has made similarly sensationalistic claims with respect to purported Iranian influence in Washington. At CSP, she produced a 2009 study alleging that a "complex network of individuals and organizations with ties to the clerical regime in Tehran is pressing forward in seeming synchrony to influence the new U.S. administration's policy towards the Islamic Republic of Iran." In various writings, Lopez has accused Iran of complicity in everything from the Lockerbie bombing to the 9/11 attacks, alleging that only the "protection" of the "U.S. leadership" has prevented Iran from being charged for crimes against humanity.
Echoing other efforts by "pro-Israel" hawks to counter arguments about the influence of the "Israel Lobby" in the United States, Lopez claimed in her study that there was a "de facto partnership" between groups like the National Iranian-American Council and the Council on American Islamic Relations, which she said "must arouse deep concern that U.S. national security policy is being successfully targeted by Jihadist entities hostile to American interests." (For more on efforts to argue the existence of an "Arab Lobby," see Samer Araabi, "The Real Middle East Lobby," Right Web, November 24, 2010.)
Lopez concluded: "To be sure, efforts at influencing U.S. decision-making are common among a host of legitimate interest groups, including many foreign countries. But in this context, where the guiding force behind such influence operations emanate from the senior-most levels of a regime like Iran's—which holds the top spot on the State Department list of state-sponsors of terror, makes no secret of its hatred and enmity for the United States and its ally, Israel, and acts in myriad ways to support those who have assassinated, held hostage, kidnapped, killed and tortured American civilians and military personnel over a 30-year period—such operations must be viewed with serious concern."
Lopez has also claimed that the Obama administration seeks to make Iran the "nuclear power hegemon of the entire Persian Gulf region." She denounced the July 2015 Iran nuclear deal as supposedly obligating "the U.S. to both 'assist' and 'encourage' (not to mention 'defend') the Iranian regime's nuclear weapons program."
In 2005, Lopez and Kenneth Timmerman founded the Iran Policy Committee (IPC), an organization that promotes regime change in Iran. IPC advisers have included a host of well known hawks, such as Raymond Tanter, Paul Vallely, Thomas McInerney, Chuck Nash, and Bill Cowan. IPC is a part of small cadre of U.S.-based organizations that have vigorously promoted the Iranian exile group the Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK), which for many years was on the State Department's list of proscribed international terrorist groups. IPC has been tied to a number of other advocates of Middle East intervention, including Ahmed Chalabi and the Iraqi National Congress.
According to her bio on the CSP website, Lopez "began her career as an operations officer with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), serving domestically and abroad for 20 years in a variety of assignments, acquiring extensive expertise in counterintelligence, counternarcotics, and counterproliferation issues with a career regional focus on the former Soviet Union, Central and Eastern Europe and the Balkans." The bio also says that Lopez worked for a time in the State Department's Bureau of Diplomatic Security and has been a program manager for Hawkeye Systems, LLC.