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.

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Showing posts for "North Africa"

Tunisia: The Last Hope of the Arab Spring

by Elliott Abrams

The “Arab Spring” has not brought the spread of peace, democracy, and human rights in the Arab world, which was the original hope. Neither Egypt, nor Syria, nor Libya have attained the conditions for which everyone in the United States hoped, nor has reform spread to the Gulf monarchies. But in Tunisia, there is still hope. Read more »

Qatar in Mali: Which Side Are They On?

by Elliott Abrams
French soldiers stand guard in front of charred pickup trucks in Diabaly, Mali, January 21, 2013. (Courtesy REUTERS/Joe Penney). French soldiers stand guard in front of charred pickup trucks in Diabaly, Mali, January 21, 2013. (Courtesy REUTERS/Joe Penney).

In the last decade the influence of Qatar has grown greatly, fueled by its vast oil and gas revenues and by the skill of its leaders. Whether that influence is being used positively, or in ways that comport with American interests, are separate matters. Read more »

Time for Panetta to Visit Paris

by Elliott Abrams

Foreign Policy reports that Secretary of Defense Panetta is in Europe: “The SecDef is wheels up from Lisbon this morning, headed for a day-stop in Madrid and then staying overnight in Rome. In Madrid, he will meet with the crown prince, the president, and the minister of defense, and he will hold his second press conference of the day, Situation Report is told. In Portugal, Panetta visited Air Base Lajes…. Panetta also visited Strike Force NATO, a U.S.-led command in Portugal that conducts maritime security operations.” Panetta is also scheduled to visit London. Read more »

Mali: Vive La France

by Elliott Abrams

The French intervention in Mali deserves American applause and support, and thus far is getting both.

While regarded for many years as one of Africa’s model democracies, Mali had a weak central government and never seriously addressed the north-south regional conflict within the country. That conflict exploded last year, and the timing reflected the return home of Malians who had served in Qadhafi’s forces. They brought arms back with them and quickly overwhelmed Malian Defense Force (MDF) troops and captured most of the north. This humiliation for the MDF in turn contributed to a military coup that has left Mali with an even weaker government–and left it ineligible for American aid. Read more »

Tunisia’s Shame

by Elliott Abrams

The existence of “World Jerusalem Day” is itself a source of shame to all its “celebrants”, for it has now become a day when orgies of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic rhetoric are produced.  In Iran this past week, the day was “celebrated” by President Ahmadinejad with his usual vicious speech about Israel. While the crowd shouted “Death to Israel,” Ahmadinejad called Israel among other things a “cancerous tumor.” Read more »

Obama and Libya: Hold the Triumphalism, Please

by Elliott Abrams

After the death of Muammar al Gaddafi, Administration spokesmen and those journalists who pretty much take dictation from them have been triumphant. This was, they have said, final proof of the exquisite brilliance of Obama policy in Libya (despite the “howling” of critics, to quote David Ignatius). Read more »

The Ground Shifts in the Middle East

by Elliott Abrams

How quickly the ground has shifted in the Middle East. The apparent fall of Tripoli suggests that the Gaddafi regime will not last long, and this must send shivers down the spine of the cousins who run the Assad mafia in Damascus. For once Gaddafi is gone all attention will turn to the remaining Arab despotism, and the opposition to Assad will grow in energy and confidence. Now is the time to turn up the pressure and make Assad fall sooner rather than later, for every additional week means scores more Syrians murdered in the streets of the country. Then attention will have to turn to the next act: the one in which we see, in Tunisia and Egypt, in Libya and Syria, if decent, stable, democratic governments can be built. It now looks as if the Arab Spring was the lead-in to a hot summer for the remaining tyrants. The issue we all face for the winter is what the United States can do to help avoid chaos or repression in those countries as they seek to build new political systems. Read more »

Do the Saudis Have a Brezhnev Doctrine?

by Elliott Abrams

Saudi Arabia has reacted to the Arab Spring by pledging $4 billion in aid to Egypt, and it is expected to help Tunisia as well. Has it become enamored of youthful protests for democracy? The fact that Saudi troops remain in Bahrain, helping crush the movement for greater democracy there, suggests something else is going on. And the invitation from the Gulf Cooperation Council or GCC to Morocco and Jordan to join the group points in the same direction.

My theory is this: for the Saudis, it’s fine if citizens of a fake republic like Tunisia or Egypt demand a real republic with real elections and democracy. But they draw the line at monarchies: kings have to stay in charge. So they lecture the kings of Morocco and Jordan to be careful about too many reforms (if the rumors are correct), and invite them to join the Club of Kings that is the GCC. Presumably financial benefits will follow, so long as the kings don’t play around with any experiments that might give Saudi subjects ideas of their own. And in Bahrain, they put down a revolt that might have brought constitutional monarchy—though admittedly that situation appears far more complex in the eyes of  Saudi royals, as the Bahrainis who would be empowered are Shia whose success might give Saudi Shia unacceptable ideas about their own fate.

Brezhnev explained himself in 1968 as follows in answering claims that after the “Prague Spring,” Czechoslovakia should be allowed to determine its own fate: “the implementation of such ‘self-­determination,’ in other words Czechoslovakia’s detachment from the socialist community, would have come into conflict with its own vital interests and would have been detrimental to the other socialist states.”

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The Defection of Musa Kusa

by Elliott Abrams
Libya's Foreign Minister Musa Kusa addresses the foreign press in Tripoli on March 7, 2011.

Libya's Foreign Minister Musa Kusa addresses the foreign press in Tripoli on March 7, 2011. (Chris Helgren/Courtesy Reuters)

On March 30, Libyan Foreign Minister Musa Kusa apparently defected. The UK Foreign Office statement on Musa Kusa is as follows:

“We can confirm that Musa Kusa arrived at Farnborough Airport on 30 March from Tunisia. He travelled here under his own free will. He has told us that he is resigning his post. We are discussing this with him and we will release further detail in due course.

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