Elliott Abrams

Pressure Points

Abrams gives his take on U.S. foreign policy, with special focus on the Middle East and democracy and human rights issues.

Danger Ahead in Bahrain

by Elliott Abrams Friday, September 19, 2014

It has been a while since I wrote about Bahrain, because I’ve always been hopeful that this or that piece of bad news was transitory and that reason would prevail. I’m losing hope.

The basic situation has been clear for several years: the majority of the population, which is Shia, feels deprived of political rights by the royal family, which is Sunni. There have been several efforts to come up with a compromise, especially after the “Arab Spring” began in 2o11. But as The Economist wrote last December, “Human-rights organisations warn that the situation is deteriorating. Two years after an even-handed report by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry—a laudable effort by King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa—few of its recommendations have been implemented.” That article was entitled “Trouble Ahead: the government is poisoning the well.” Sure enough, the so-called “national dialogue” launched in February 2013 got nowhere and was suspended in January 2014. Read more »

The Obama Speech About ISIS: Giving Himself An “A”

by Elliott Abrams Thursday, September 11, 2014

There is too much one could say about the President’s speech last night to fit in a blog post, but there are a couple of items worth noting.

I was struck by the President’s unacknowledged turnaround on the Syrian rebels. Just weeks ago, the notion that they might be worth helping was a “fantasy.” Here is an excerpt from the Thomas Friedman interview of August 10th, just a month ago. Read more »

Palestine in the Sinai?

by Elliott Abrams Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Several days ago news reports “revealed” a proposal by Egyptian President Sisi to extend the territory of Gaza south into the Sinai. According to the story as Israel Army radio carried it, the area to be added to Gaza is five times the size of the current Gaza. The idea is that this area would accommodate all the Palestinian “refugees,” thus satisfying the demand for a “right of return.” Palestine would consist of this new area and the current Gaza, giving the Palestinians more territory than if the 1967 “borders” were restored. Read more »

What is the Mission of the State Department?

by Elliott Abrams Thursday, September 4, 2014

What is the mission of the State Department, or more precisely what are its core missions?

Diplomacy? Avoiding war? Solidifying alliances? Explaining American policy?

Here’s a new one:

America’s faith communities, including American Muslims, are sources of strength for all of us. They’re an essential part of our national fabric, and we are committed to deepening our partnerships with them. We’re making these efforts to unite religious communities a core mission here at the State Department. Read more »

“Who Won the Gaza War,” and “What Now for Israel?”

by Elliott Abrams Tuesday, September 2, 2014

In the past week I have written a long article and even longer essay on the Middle East situation today.

“‘The Fog of Cease-fire: Who Won the Gaza War” is the cover story in this week’s edition of The Weekly Standard and can be found here. In brief, it seems to me Israel was the winner by most measures, but as we saw with the Lebanon war of 2006 (where most Israelis thought they had “lost” but now believe that conflict has deterred Hezbollah from making further trouble on the border) judgments may change over time. Meanwhile, there is no sense of triumph in Israel, which is already creating political difficulties for Prime Minister Netanyahu. Read more »

Which Side Is UNRWA On?

by Elliott Abrams Monday, September 1, 2014

The war in Gaza has brought UNRWA, the UN agency dealing with Palestinian “refugees,” back into the news– mostly because UNRWA schools were used to shoot rockets at Israel.

The failings of UNRWA were examined here (“Ending UNRWA and Advancing Peace“)  in December, 2011, although today they seem even worse. The UNRWA employees union is under Hamas control, and it’s clear that the staff is riddled with Hamas “activists.” The Israeli commentator and former Knesset member Einat Wilf wrote yesterday that
Read more »

On Attacking the “Islamic State” in Syria

by Elliott Abrams Saturday, August 23, 2014

The threat to the United States and to American interests from the “Islamic State” is now obvious and has been acknowledged by President Obama and his entire administration. The Attorney General and the Secretary of Homeland Security have stated that there is a threat to the homeland, and the President has spoken about the brutality of this group in commenting on its beheading of the American journalist James Foley. Read more »

UN Quiz: Who’s the Prime Minister of Israel?

by Elliott Abrams Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Despite the criticism of the UN’s Goldstone Report, including by Goldstone himself, the UN seems determined to do it again.

Goldstone investigated “Operation Cast Lead,” the war between Israel and Hamas in December 2008 and January 2009, or more precisely he ignored Hamas and investigated Israel. Now the UN Human Rights Council has appointed a commission to investigate the current conflict, and once again Israel alone is to be the target. There will be no investigation of the rocket and mortars fired at Israel by Hamas, nothing about the purpose of the terror tunnels dug by Hamas into Israel, nothing about human shields, nothing even about Hamas’s use of UN facilities as storage sites and launching pads. Read more »