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.

Posts by Category

Showing posts for "Iran"

Is Israel the “Bad Cop” on Iran?

by Elliott Abrams

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 »

Can Iran Be Stopped?

by Elliott Abrams

Over the last two years many of those–including me–who urged American intervention in Syria have been called various names: neocons, dangerous idealists, adventurers, fools who were forgetting the lessons of Iraq, and so on. But recently alarm has been spreading about developments in Syria, and the Obama administration’s handling of the situation is eliciting more and more criticism from sources usually considered “prudent” or pro-Obama or non-interventionist (and David Ignatius is a good example). Read more »

Iran’s Presidential Candidates: Two Are Terrorist Suspects, One Boasts of Beating Students

by Elliott Abrams

The disqualification of most of the men who sought to run in Iran’s presidential election has left a narrow field distinguished by allegations of involvement in terrorism and repression.

Both Mohsen Rezai and Ali Akbar Velayati are thought to have been involved in planning and approving 1994 attack on the Jewish community’s headquarters in Buenos Aires, an act of terror that killed 85 people. Rezai was the head of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard at the time of the attack and Velayati was Minister of Foreign Affairs. There is actually an Interpol warrant, a “Red Notice,” out for Rezai. Read more »

Rafsanjani: “Moderate” or Terrorist?

by Elliott Abrams

Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani has now declared his candidacy for president of Iran, and many Western media accounts suggest that he is the kind of “moderate” who could radically change Iran’s conduct and its relations with the United States.  The Guardian in London referred to him as “the 79-year-old moderate politician famous for his pragmatism.” The BBC says he is “seen as a moderate.” France 24 calls him “this pragmatic moderate.” The Associated Press refers to him as a “moderate former president.” There are many others examples. Read more »

“Iran’s Lech Walesa” Driven Into Exile

by Elliott Abrams

To be called “Iran’s Lech Walesa” probably very badly hurt Mansur Osanlu, head of the Tehran bus drivers’ union and the best known labor leader in Iran. The regime knows that a free labor movement is dangerous to its hold on power. So it was that Osanlu was jailed by the regime–and now has been forced into exile. Read more »

Syria, Iran, and American Credibility

by Elliott Abrams

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 »

Are Iran Sanctions Working?

by Elliott Abrams

It’s a commonplace to say that sanctions against Iran are tighter than ever and are working. Here’s an example from White House spokesman Jay Carney last Fall: ”We have diplomatic isolation and international isolation that’s unprecedented in history and it’s having a profound impact on both the Iranian economy and the Iranian regime’s internal political structure.” Read more »

Breakfast With the Supreme Leader

by Elliott Abrams

This past week I participated in a conference on Iran convened by the Henry Jackson Society of London and the Foundation for the Defense of Democracy of Washington, DC.

As the executive director of the Henry Jackson Society, Alan Mendoza, put it, “Having breakfast with the Supreme Leader of Iran is not something many people can boast of.  But the account of just such an occasion by Rafael Bardaji – former national security advisor to the Spanish Prime Minister – stood out as a highlight of the HJS Iran conference in Westminster earlier this week. Bardaji relayed to a packed hall his story of the meeting.” Read more »