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.

Meanwhile, Back in Iran…

by Elliott Abrams Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Obama administration has bought into what my colleague at CFR Ray Takeyh calls the “Rouhani narrative:” Rouhani is a reformer, Iran is ripe for change and reform, progress is at hand. As in the Cold War days when we were told we needed to compromise to “help the reformers in the Kremlin,” so today we must not be too tough in negotiations lest we weaken Rouhani and his reformist brethren. Read more »

Obama’s “New” Middle East Policy: “Modesty” or Pullback?

by Elliott Abrams Sunday, October 27, 2013

Today’s New York Times carries a remarkable story about the “new” Obama Middle East policy, based on interviews with National Security Advisor Susan Rice. The Times describes the policy as “modest,” but that is not the right word. The policy defines an American abandonment of leadership in the region. Read more »

Against Spying on Foreign Leaders

by Elliott Abrams Friday, October 25, 2013

Reading the news stories about alleged U.S. spying on Angela Merkel’s cell phone, an old memory came to mind.

In the Reagan second term I was Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs, or Latin America. One day my CIA counterpart told me an opportunity had been presented to place a bug in the office of a Latin American president. Would I authorize it? That was above my pay grade, I told my colleague, and I needed to ask my boss, Secretary of State George Shultz. Read more »

Fifteen Years for a Poem?

by Elliott Abrams Tuesday, October 22, 2013

In 2011, with the “Arab Spring” under way, a Qatari poet named Mohammed el-Ajami wrote a poem. It contained this line: “We are all Tunisia in the face of the repressive elite.” He has also criticized, apparently in prose, the presence of American forces in Qatar, writing that  “I hope that change will come in countries whose ignorant leaders believe that glory lies in U.S. forces.” Read more »

Egypt, Obama, Coups, and Law

by Elliott Abrams Saturday, October 19, 2013

When the Egyptian army overthrew Egypt’s elected president on July 13, it was crystal clear that American law required a suspension of aid. This is what the Foreign Assistance Act says:

SEC. 7008. None of the funds appropriated or otherwise made available pursuant to titles III through VI of this Act shall be obligated or expended to finance directly any assistance to the government of any country whose duly elected head of government is deposed by military coup d’e´tat or decree or, after the date of enactment of this Act, a coup d’e´tat or decree in which the military plays a decisive role. Read more »

Cementing Support for Hamas

by Elliott Abrams Thursday, October 17, 2013

At the end of May 2010, Israel seized control of a ship called the Mavi Marmara as it approached Gaza. It intended to violate Israel’s blockade of Gaza, which is meant to stop weapons from reaching Hamas; the ships carried no humanitarian cargo. Israel stopped the ship, but the incident did Hamas some good: the violence and the publicity increased pressure on Israel to loosen the terms of  the blockade. Read more »

The Bush Library’s Freedom Collection

by Elliott Abrams Wednesday, October 16, 2013
One piece of the Bush Institute and Bush Library in Dallas is the Freedom Collection. Here’s the description:

The Freedom Collection pursues the principles of human liberty by documenting the personal stories of men and women who have led or participated in freedom movements. Using video interviews, collected papers and other materials, the Freedom Collection strives to inspire and provide insight to the current generation of freedom advocates, and expands access to information and successful strategies for change. The Freedom Collection reinforces the moral and practical importance of supporting pro-democracy movements and remaining actively engaged in the world. It also preserves history as a tool for scholars, policy makers and students studying democratic movements. Read more »

The Mind of Mr. Netanyahu

by Elliott Abrams Sunday, October 6, 2013

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Washington last week and spoke at the UN General Assembly in New York. I did not speak with him during this visit. Herewith a guess about what he is thinking.


I’m glad to be home but that was a terrific trip. I liked my speech—wolf in wolf’s clothing, wolf in sheep’s clothing, all that was better this time than the visual from my 2012 speech with that little bomb. Of course I liked that speech too (and nobody even noticed that the bomb drawing was exactly the same one in those Danish cartoons of Mohammed that caused riots!) Read more »

Is Israel the “Bad Cop” on Iran?

by Elliott Abrams Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech at the UN put forth Israel’s view of Iran, but Israel is in a tough position.

As I write in Foreign Affairs today, Israelis “do not wish to play the bad cop role in an American game with Iran — and, in fact, the metaphor is misleading. In the good cop/bad cop routine, both officers are on the same team and are carefully coordinating their approaches. In this case, the Israelis fear, the bad cop wants to see the criminals jailed, and the good cop is open to a sweet plea bargain. If that’s what the Iranians get, they will sit back and smile while the United States and Israel end up in a bitter argument.” Read more »