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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Iran’s Ruthless Persecution of the Baha’i Continues

by Elliott Abrams

The vicious persecution of Iran’s Baha’i community continued this past week. A court sentenced 24 Baha’i to prison sentences of up to 11 years. These are heavy sentences even by Iranian standards.

Their crime? Being Baha’i, and nothing more. The court made not even a pretense that they had committed acts of violence or otherwise broken the law. Their faith has been criminalized in the Islamic Republic. Read more »

“Every One Shall Sit in Safety Under His Own Vine and Fig Tree”

by Elliott Abrams

In August, 1790 George Washington visited Newport, Rhode Island. That visit occasioned a famous exchange of letters between Washington and the “Hebrew Congregations of Newport,” in which the Jews of Newport addressed their president–and he replied.

Several sentences from Washington’s letter came to mind today: Read more »

Reassuring, Not Challenging, Iran

by Elliott Abrams

Since the signing of the nuclear deal with Islamic Republic of Iran, that government has treated the Obama administration with contempt. U.S. officials might have hoped Iran’s conduct would improve, but it has worsened. Iran sent more Revolutionary Guard troops to fight in Syria, for example; it conducted two ballistic missile tests in violation of a Security Council resolution; leaders continue to chant “Death to America;” and it has imprisoned more Americans. Read more »

Saving Middle Eastern Christians

by Elliott Abrams

In remarks yesterday from Turkey, President Obama called a refugee policy that singled out Middle Eastern Christians for help “shameful.”

I don’t agree. Middle Eastern Christians (and other minorities, such as the Yezidis) face exceptional violence and discrimination, and deserve special treatment. That is not an argument for barring Muslim refugees, just a realistic assessment of the risks Christians face. I made the argument first in an article in The Weekly Standard a month ago entitled “Why Do We Not Save Christians?” Given the President’s comment that helping Christians would be “shameful,” I wrote in the Standard again today in an article called “Obama’s ‘Shameful’ Policy Toward Middle Eastern Christians.” Read more »

Leopoldo Lopez , John Kerry, and the Uses of English

by Elliott Abrams

In Venezuela, Leopoldo Lopez was sentenced this past week to 13 years and 9 months in prison. Lopez, a successful political leader who threatened the vicious and repressive Venezuelan regime, is Venezuela’s most famous (but not its only) political prisoner. This grotesque sentence follows a grotesque “trial” that violated every definition of due process and fair play. Read more »

Putin in Syria

by Elliott Abrams

Most Americans are aware of the aggressive Russian actions in recent years in Ukraine (seizing Crimea and participating in efforts to destabilize the rest of the country) and Eastern Europe. What is less well known is Putin’s effort in Syria.

A story by Michael Weiss in The Daily Beast tells us what is actually happening, as its title conveys: “Russia Puts Boots on the Ground in Syria.” Not only is Russia arming the Assad regime, but there is now evidence that Russians are on the ground with Assad’s forces actually operating the equipment. Weiss refers to “compelling evidence that Russians have embedded with the Syrian military.” Assad recently told Hezbollah’s TV station that “We have strong confidence in the Russians, as they have proven throughout this crisis, for four years, that they are sincere and transparent in their relationship with us,” and he appears to be right. Read more »

There Goes the International Criminal Court

by Elliott Abrams

The International Criminal Court (ICC) was an experiment. From the beginning its potential success was threatened, as all United Nations-linked bodies are, by the danger of falling into UN Human Rights Council-like obsessions with Israel. Such actions would delegitimize the new ICC, certainly for Americans and anyone else taking a fair look at its activities. Read more »

Iran’s Nuclear Achievement

by Elliott Abrams

The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action is a great achievement for Iran.

In National Review today I write about the nuclear deal, having read it this morning. Given Iran’s weak bargaining position, what is has achieved is remarkable. The structure of sanctions it took decades to build has been destroyed, but there is no end to the Iranian nuclear program. That program will continue, and eventually grow very large. Meanwhile, the arms embargo on Iran will be lifted after five years–the blink of an eye in international politics–and without requiring any change in Iran’s support for terror or its military actions in the region. Read more »

Egypt: Prison by the Numbers

by Elliott Abrams

Question: What do you call an Egyptian journalist who reports numbers about terrorism that differ from those offered by the government?

Answer: a prisoner.

That will soon be the case, when Egypt adopts a new law forbidding publishing “false news or statements about terrorist operations in contradiction to official statements.” There is no parliament in Egypt right now, so all that is needed to turn the draft into law is President Sisi’s approval. The new law would provide sentences of two years in prison. Read more »