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 "Syria"

Degrading Bashar’s Air Power is Possible

by Elliott Abrams

Is there anything the United States can do to slow or stop the recent advances being made by Bashar al-Assad’s forces in Syria, who are getting valuable help from Iranian and Hezbollah troops?

Unfortunately, the message from the Obama administration and from the Pentagon is “no.” From those sources we hear that the only military options are hopelessly expensive and dangerous. CJCS chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey once said 700 sorties would be needed before we even start, to suppress Syrian air defenses, and billions of dollars would be spent. Sen. John McCain has rightly excoriated Gen. Dempsey and the others who are taking this misleading line. Read more »

Syria and the 700 Sorties

by Elliott Abrams

Yesterday the columnist Jeffrey Goldberg reported that Secretary of State Kerry argued, inside the Obama administration, for air strikes on Syrian regime air bases, especially those from which chemical weapons attacks were launched. Here is Goldberg’s account of a Principals’ Meeting last week, after Kerry made his pitch: Read more »

Hezbollah, Syria, and the Brezhnev Doctrine

by Elliott Abrams
During the Cold War the Soviets pronounced the “Brezhnev Doctrine,” under which no state that was in the Soviet camp would be permitted to leave it. This is my topic in an article in the new edition of The Weekly Standard, entitled “The Brezhnev Doctrine, Iran-style.” Now the Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah has enunciated his intentions with great clarity, as the New York Times reports: Read more »

Middle East Diplomacy: Forgetting the Past

by Elliott Abrams

During Secretary of State Kerry’s visit to Moscow, it seems we have proposed an international conference on Syria as a step toward peace there. Here is the BBC version:

Russia and the US have agreed to work towards convening an international conference to find a political solution to the conflict in Syria. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Secretary of State John Kerry announced it would follow on from an Action Group for Syria meeting in Geneva last June. Mr Kerry said they would try to “bring both sides to the table”. Read more »

Syria, Russia, and American Weakness

by Elliott Abrams

On Tuesday, Vladimir Putin showed his contempt for the United States by making our secretary of state wait three hours to see him. It is an unprecedented and unheard-of insult.

But the background makes this insult less startling. Kerry was in Moscow to plead for Russian help in sorting out the administration’s terrible dilemma in Syria. President Obama does not wish to intervene but the humanitarian toll–75,000 killed since he said in the summer of 2011 that Assad must go–and the presence of Iranian and Hezbollah forces in Syria make that position increasingly indefensible. We may not want some sort of proxy war in Syria but Iran and Hezbollah do. And their presence has helped attract some 6,000 Sunni jihadis, whose presence destabilizes not only Syria today but potentially several other countries tomorrow. Read more »

Syria: Greetings From Hezbollah

by Elliott Abrams

Hezbollah’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, spoke about Syria on Tuesday, and it is fair to say that he is not intimidated by American policy. The Nasrallah speech is a reminder that use of chemical weapons is not the only issue we face in Syria; the intervention of Iranian IRGC and Hezbollah troops is another. 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 »

What To Do About Syria

by Elliott Abrams

The continuing, and worsening, crisis in Syria leaves some analysts confused and their writing not very useful. The best guide to what is happening, and what the United States should do, is the writing of Fred Hof of the Atlantic Council. Hof was until last year a key figure in the making of American policy toward Syria, though we can see from his analyses that all too often his excellent advice was rejected by the Obama Administration. Read more »