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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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 »

Ignoring Human Rights in Cuba

by Elliott Abrams

President Obama proudly announced the restoration of diplomatic relations with Cuba today–after a week of additional arrests on that island.

Here’s the most recent story: “Police arrested Emilio García Moreira and Alexander Veliz García, along with 10 members of the Ladies in White and 12 other activists on the their way to speak with Cienfuegos bishop Domingo Oropesa Lorente.” Read more »

The Non-Existent Progress in Bahrain

by Elliott Abrams

The Obama administration has decided to resume military aid to Bahrain, or more exactly to dispense with the limits on such aid that had been imposed after the 2011 crackdown there.

One can make a national security case for doing this. Given the security situation in the region, terrorism, the role of Iran, the Fifth Fleet headquarters in Bahrain, and other factors, it is possible to argue that the United States does not have the luxury right now of considering internal matters in Bahrain–such as repression. In announcing the resumption, the State Department did say this: “Bahrain is an important and long-standing ally on regional security issues, working closely with us on the counter-ISIL campaign and providing logistical and operational support for countering terrorism and maintaining freedom of navigation.” Read more »

Chemical Warfare in Syria Continues, Unpunished

by Elliott Abrams

In September 2013 the Obama administration congratulated itself on an agreement, brokered by Russia, that supposedly ended the use of chemical weapons in Syria. For the killings by using sarin gas Syria’s president Assad was not punished in any way, but he was supposedly going to turn over all his CW and the possibility of a recurrence was thus ended. Read more »