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.

The Pope’s Sad Trip To Cuba

by Elliott Abrams Thursday, March 29, 2012
Pope Benedict XVI meets former Cuban leader Fidel Castro in Havana March 28, 2012. (Courtesy REUTERS/Osservatore Romano) Pope Benedict XVI meets former Cuban leader Fidel Castro in Havana March 28, 2012. (Courtesy REUTERS/Osservatore Romano)

The most significant statement made during Pope Benedict’s trip to Cuba this week was that made by the government minister in charge of economic reform, Marino Murillo, who said “In Cuba, there will not be political reform.”

He’s right, although that is a truth too many people wish to obscure. The Castro regime took the occasion of the Pope’s visit to sweep up dissidents in a wave of arrests. None of that was surprising, but the Pope’s failure to advance the cause of freedom is sad indeed. The photos of him with Fidel and Raul Castro can only have demoralized those struggling and suffering for freedom in Cuba, for the Pope refused to meet with any dissidents at all. Moreover, his remarks were so carefully phrased that, according to press reports, most Cubans did not view them as a call for freedom–whatever the Pope’s intent. Read more »

Abandoning Syria

by Elliott Abrams Thursday, March 29, 2012

With 9,000 Syrians dead and the Assad regime increasingly isolated and under political, moral, military assault, it appears that the Obama Administration has made its choice: it is abandoning efforts to force the end of that regime.

The plan developed by Kofi Annan is a life-saving development for Assad, as it guarantees months of diplomatic wrangling while Assad methodically murders his way to victory. Town after town, neighborhood after neighborhood may be bombed and reduced to rubble, the death toll may double or triple, but there will be endless meetings in nice hotels in Europe and the Middle East. We can see that future right now, in stories like this: “Syria accepted a cease-fire drawn up by U.N. envoy Kofi Annan on Tuesday, but the diplomatic breakthrough was swiftly overshadowed by intense clashes between government soldiers and rebels that sent bullets flying into Lebanon.” A few more months of this is all that Assad needs. Read more »

Bravo Senegal!

by Elliott Abrams Monday, March 26, 2012
Senegalese people wait for a polling station to open in the second round of the presidential polls, in the capital Dakar March 25, 2012. (Courtesy REUTERS/Finbarr O'Reilly) Senegalese people wait for a polling station to open in the second round of the presidential polls, in the capital Dakar March 25, 2012. (Courtesy REUTERS/Finbarr O'Reilly)

Yesterday Senegal went to the polls and struck a powerful blow on behalf of democracy in Africa and in the Islamic world.

President Abdoulaye Wade has held power for twelve years, and changed the constitution to permit himself to run for another term. But giving credit where it is due, he did not award himself another term; he gave himself another chance. The people of Senegal went to the polls on February 26 in the first round of elections and denied Wade the majority he needed to escape a far more difficult second round. That round occurred yesterday (March 25) and, with all his opponents uniting behind former prime minister Macky Sall, Wade was defeated. Read more »

Syria: Stopping the Shopping

by Elliott Abrams Friday, March 23, 2012
Syria's President Bashar al-Assad and his wife Asma vote during a referendum on a new constitution at a polling station in a Syrian TV station building in Damascus February 26, 2012. (Courtesy REUTERS/SANA) Syria's President Bashar al-Assad and his wife Asma vote during a referendum on a new constitution at a polling station in a Syrian TV station building in Damascus February 26, 2012. (Courtesy REUTERS/SANA)

There is something pathetic about the new sanctions adopted by the EU today against Syria. Here is what was done, as explained by the Telegraph of London: Read more »

Lady Ashton’s Remarks

by Elliott Abrams Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Lady Catherine Ashton, the EU’s foreign minister, is supposed to solve diplomatic crises, not create them. But her remarks about the killings at a Jewish day school in Toulouse have created a storm.

According to the Financial Times, “Speaking to a group of Palestinian children in Brussels on Monday, Lady Ashton mentioned a series of deadly incidents in which children were victims, including the shooting attack in Norway last year as well as that day’s killing of three children and one teacher in Toulouse. According to the text of the speech published on her website, Lady Ashton said: ‘When we think of what happened in Toulouse today, when we remember what happened in Norway a year ago, when we know what is happening in Syria, when we see what is happening in Gaza and different parts of the world – we remember young people and children who lose their lives.’” Read more »

The Disgrace of the UN Human Rights Council

by Elliott Abrams Monday, March 19, 2012

Today the so-called UN Human Rights Council will add to its history of anti-Israel bias and invective by listening to an official spokesman for terror.  The Council is scheduled to hear from Ismail al-Ashkar, a Hamas “lawmaker” whose moderate, peace-loving views are summed up by this Kuwaiti report from his appearance at a protest rally in Gaza in 2010.  There he not only attacked Israel but also the possible participation of the PLO in peace negotiations with Israel: “Ismail Al-Ashkar, a leader of Hamas, addressed the demonstrators, condemning the negotiations as ‘a crime and treason’ against the Palestinian people.” Read more »

Cuba: Another View

by Elliott Abrams Monday, March 19, 2012

The views of my CFR colleague Julia Sweig on Cuba appear in an interview posted on our web site here under the title “The Frozen US-Cuba Relationship.”

Ms. Sweig sees massive changes occurring in Cuba under Raul Castro: “Raul holds the reins… and, domestically, the politics of implementing a fairly wide range of economic and political and social reforms are his priority. In a deal that was coordinated with the help of the Cuban Catholic Church and Spain, he released all of the political prisoners in Cuba. He also is taking a number of steps that imply a major rewriting of the social contract in Cuba to shrink the size of the state and give Cuban individuals more freedom–economically, especially, but also in terms of speech–than we’ve seen in the last fifty years.” Read more »

“Destroy all the Churches”

by Elliott Abrams Thursday, March 15, 2012
Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al-Asheikh, the Kingdom's grand mufti, prays during the funeral of the Saudi woman and her daughter who were killed in Chad, at the Grand Mosque in Riyadh February 6, 2008 (Courtesy REUTERS/Ali Jarekji). Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al-Asheikh, the Kingdom's grand mufti, prays during the funeral of the Saudi woman and her daughter who were killed in Chad, at the Grand Mosque in Riyadh February 6, 2008 (Courtesy REUTERS/Ali Jarekji).

The Middle East Forum reports that

According to several Arabic news sources, last Monday, Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah, the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, declared that it is “necessary to destroy all the churches of the region.” The Grand Mufti made his assertion in response to a question posed by a delegation from Kuwait: a Kuwaiti parliament member recently called for the “removal” of churches (he later “clarified” by saying he merely meant that no churches should be built in Kuwait), and the delegation wanted to confirm Sharia’s position on churches. Accordingly, the Grand Mufti “stressed that Kuwait was a part of the Arabian Peninsula, and therefore it is necessary to destroy all churches in it. Read more »

Palestinians Elections: Postponed Again

by Elliott Abrams Friday, March 9, 2012

“Palestinian elections delayed by Hamas-Fatah bickering,” reads a headline in The National, the UAE English-language newspaper.

This was predictable. Two months ago I wrote in the Wall Street Journal that “Mr. Abbas, who turns 77 in March, doesn’t really want Palestinian elections in 2012, but his options are poor. His United Nations efforts are now dead, for he has failed in the Security Council and backed off after his “victory” of gaining membership in Unesco served only to bankrupt that organization when the U.S. ended its funding. He cannot find serious negotiations with Israel terribly appealing, for he knows that Hamas and other groups would quickly call every compromise an act of treason. So instead of turning back to the Israelis or the U.N., he is negotiating with Hamas, whom he hates, knowing full well that any agreement may lead to elections that Hamas might win. Logic suggests he will happily see the deal with Hamas break down (as the “Mecca Agreement” between Fatah and Hamas did in 2007) so he can postpone the May 4 elections yet again.” Read more »

R2P, R.I.P.

by Elliott Abrams Thursday, March 8, 2012

It was during Kofi Annan’s tenure as Secretary General of the United Nations (1997-2006) that the “Responsibility to Protect” became a major item on the international scene.  That is no feather in his cap, because the urgency of “R2P,” as it came to be called, reflected the various mass murders that had taken place during his watch ( Darfur, 400,000 dead; Kosovo, 800,000 displaced and 12,000 killed) or just before it (Rwanda, 800,000 killed) when he was an Under Secretary General and latterly the Special Representative for the Former Yugoslavia. Read more »