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 "Persian Gulf"

The Case of the Phony Fatwa

by Elliott Abrams

It’s common knowledge that Iran’s “Supreme Leader,” Ayatollah Khamenei, has issued a fatwa banning the possession of nuclear weapons.

This “fact” has recently been cited by President Obama and by Secretary of State Kerry. In his speech to the United Nations General Assembly in September, the President said
Read more »

Due Process in Bahrain?

by Elliott Abrams

A week ago, a Bahraini “National Safety Court” sentenced a group of doctors and nurses to lengthy sentences for their activities in February and March. Eight doctors got fifteen-year sentences for what they and their defenders said was simply tending to demonstrators who had been injured. These sentences and others suggested that the royal family had decided to forget about compromises and seek only to crush dissent. Read more »

The Successor to Prince Saud?

by Elliott Abrams

An interesting royal decree from Saudi Arabia this past week suggests who may finally succeed Saud bin Faisal as foreign minister.

Saud, son of the late King Faisal (who ruled 1964-1975) has been foreign minister for thirty-five years. Appointed at the age of thirty-four, he is the world’s longest-serving foreign minister and a sharp player. But now Saud is ill (Parkinson’s among other ailments), and has several times asked to retire. There has for years been a guessing game as to who might succeed him: his brother, Turki, former Saudi Intelligence chief and once their ambassador to Washington? But Turki did not get good reviews back home for his performance here, and does not have the reputation his older brother enjoys. The current ambassador here, Adel al-Jubeir? But he is not a member of the royal family, which has been a prerequisite. Might the job be given out as part of succession deal among the rival clans in the royal family after the death of King Abdallah (who is eighty-seven years old according to official accounts but may be older, and is also not in perfect health)? Read more »

Can Bahrain Save Itself?

by Elliott Abrams

The first real glimmers of positive news emerged from Bahrain in the last two days. The king lifted the state of emergency on June 1. He then called for “all necessary steps to prepare for a serious dialogue, comprehensive and without preconditions” that would “start from July 1,” and sent the interior minister to meet that same day with opposition parties. Those parties have now responded positively; the main group, al Wefaq, said it “welcomes the appeal from King Hamad for a serious, comprehensive dialogue based on the principle of national consensus.” Read more »

Bahrain: Bad to Worse

by Elliott Abrams

Not so long ago Bahrain was considered one of the more liberal Arab states. No longer.

The situation in Bahrain is deteriorating further, despite occasional government claims that things are stable and even improving. The most recent proof is the Bahraini treatment of the human rights officer at the U.S. Embassy, Ludovic Hood, who is being forced to leave the country after a vicious campaign against him. The story is told in a recent Miami Herald item entitled “U.S. Yanks Diplomat From Bahrain After He’s Threatened.”  The U.S. diplomat was the target of anti-Semitic slurs and his address was published in a web site tied to the Bahraini government, a sure effort to intimidate. 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.”

Read more »