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.

Syria, Iran, and American Credibility

by Elliott Abrams Friday, April 26, 2013

The probable chemical weapons use by the Assad regime in Syria and the Obama administration’s handling of this matter have many negative repercussions.

It is certainly wise to look closely at the evidence, for intelligence can be and often has proved to be wrong. But the refusal of the intelligence community (IC) to state a conclusion with absolute certainty cannot always be the best guide to action–or inaction. In the case of the Syrian nuclear reactor discovered by Israel in 2007, the IC told the president that it had “low confidence” that reactor was part of a nuclear weapons program. Why? The reactor was not connected to Syria’s electric grid, so it was obviously not meant to produce electricity. What else could it be? The IC said they could not find, yet anyway, the rest of the program: efforts to build a warhead, for example. Thus the “low confidence” judgment. When asked what they thought the reactor was, they would say “part of a nuclear weapons program.” That was the only logical conclusion. But they could not say it as an official assessment. Once burnt in Iraq, twice shy. That was one reason President Bush did not act against that reactor, leaving any action to the Israelis–who fortunately destroyed it. Read more »

The Emir of Qatar Visits

by Elliott Abrams Monday, April 22, 2013

The Emir of Qatar is visiting the White House tomorrow, one of a series of Middle East leaders who are coming to town (next is the King of Jordan).

I am willing to bet that a White House statement is released noting our close relationship, our friendship, Qatar’s hosting of al-Udeid air base, the World Cup, and Qatar’s helpful role in many regional crises. Read more »

Why Europe Can’t Bring Peace to the Middle East

by Elliott Abrams Saturday, April 20, 2013

Lady Catherine Ashton, the EU’s top foreign policy official, has received a remarkable letter from the “European Eminent Persons Group on the Middle East Peace Process.” This self-selected collectivity might more accurately be called the “Formerly Eminent Persons Group,” inasmuch as the first word describing each one of its members is “Former,” but I suppose that these Formerly Eminent Persons do indeed also represent the views of Currently Eminent European Persons. The letter and its list of signatories are copied below. Read more »

Is Egypt Broke?

by Elliott Abrams Thursday, April 18, 2013

That Egypt is encountering economic problems is no secret, but the gravity of the situation is being underestimated.

We know that the IMF negotiations with Egypt for a loan of $4.8 billion have dragged on month after month, and that the IMF team that was sent to conclude the deal left Egypt without doing so. On the other hand, Qatar and Libya agreed last week to increase aid to Egypt by $5 billion. And officially, Egypt claims to have about $16 billion in reserves. Read more »

Sandmonkey, Egypt, and the IMF

by Elliott Abrams Friday, April 12, 2013

When I began this blog a little more than two years ago, one of the early posts was entitled “Free Sandmonkey.” Sandmonkey is the “nom de blog” of Mahmoud Salem, then Egypt’s most famous blogger, and he had that day in 2011 been “ambushed & beaten by the police, my phone confiscated, my car ripped apar& supplies taken,” as he informed his readers. He continues to be one of the most interesting and persuasive commentators on events in Egypt. Read more »

Natural Gas Changes the Middle East

by Elliott Abrams Thursday, April 4, 2013

Last Saturday (March 30) Israel took a large step toward energy independence, as natural gas from the smaller of its newly discovered Mediterranean gas fields began to flow.

By the end of this decade Israel will not only be supplying its own needs fully, but exporting natural gas to the world market. It will be able to supply itself for at least 50 years and perhaps three times as long–reducing its energy costs, improving its environment, making the cost of production lower, and increasing prosperity and state revenues. This natural gas supply more than replaces what Israel used to receive from Egypt, but Egypt has become an unreliable supplier for Israel (and for Jordan as well). Read more »

The United States and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt

by Elliott Abrams Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Egypt’s situation is in many ways immensely complicated. But in others, it is simple: Egypt’s new government is restricting human rights in ways that no American should ever support. During the Mubarak years we often did support, or show indifference, to violations of the basic rights of citizens, and we should not repeat that error yet again. Read more »