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.

Accountability in Bahrain

by Elliott Abrams Tuesday, September 1, 2015

The continuing crisis in Bahrain is leading to bipartisan Congressional efforts to bring American pressure to bear–and to keep the United States away from involvement in repression there.

Senators Marco Rubio and Ron Wyden, a Republican and a Democrat, have introduced S. 2009, which would bar selling or giving to Bahrain materiel that could be used not for national security but for internal repression: “(1) Tear gas, (2) Small arms, (3) Light weapons, (4) Ammunition for small arms and light weapons, (5) Humvees, (6) Other items that could reasonably be used for crowd control purposes.” Read more »

Scott Walker’s Foreign Policy Speech

by Elliott Abrams Friday, August 28, 2015

Gov. Scott Walker gave a major foreign policy speech today at The Citadel, and it contained some points worth noting. I’ll skip over some of the rhetoric and the criticism of Clinton and Obama, which is to be expected in a political contest. (Disclosure: I am not supporting Walker or any other specific candidate for the Republican nomination.) Read more »

“Pantomime of Outrage:” Obama and Syria

by Elliott Abrams Tuesday, August 25, 2015

I’ve called attention to the writings on Syria of Amb. Fred Hof in several blog posts (here’s one). Hof, after a career in the U.S. Army, became the State Department’s resident expert on Syria and the Obama administration’s “Special Adviser” on Syria policy. He left the administration and joined the Atlantic Council, where he continues to write about  Syria. Read more »

Did Mahmoud Abbas Just Resign?

by Elliott Abrams Tuesday, August 25, 2015

There’s a bit of confusion about the recent “resignation” of Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas. What actually happened?

Abbas wears three hats, as his predecessor and mentor Yasser Arafat did: head of the Fatah Party, president of the Palestinian Authority, and chairman of the PLO. Abbas just organized the resignation of ten members of the PLO Executive Committee, including himself, and he resigned as its chairman. The purpose is not to walk away, go home, and retire, but to force a meeting of the PLO’s “legislative body,” the Palestine National Council, to elect a new Executive Committee. This will allow Abbas to push off the Committee individuals whom he doesn’t like or who are political opponents of his. Read more »

Is President Sisi a Bulwark Against Terrorism?

by Elliott Abrams Wednesday, August 19, 2015

There are very few people nowadays ignoring the growing repression in Egypt. Most recently, a new “counter-terrorism” law was imposed this week–but it snuffs out free speech more than terror. Even the State Department denounced the law: “We are concerned that some measures in Egypt’s new anti-terrorism law could have a significant detrimental impact on human rights and fundamental freedoms,” its spokesman said. The new law punishes as a crime the publication of information that differs with the official version of facts about terrorism, which means you agree with Sisi or you go to jail. Read more »

Realpolitik and Human Trafficking

by Elliott Abrams Friday, August 7, 2015

The fight against trafficking in persons has been a human rights policy that works. Laws adopted largely because of pressure from religious groups, especially Evangelicals, were resisted by the usual combination of professional diplomats and realpolitik theorists. But the Trafficking Victims Protection Act was passed in 2000 and has been renewed several times since. It established an Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons in the State Department, and requires annual reports that place countries in several tiers depending on how good or bad the trafficking situation is. Read more »

John Kerry, George Shultz, and the Kerry Visit to Cuba

by Elliott Abrams Thursday, August 6, 2015

Secretary of State Kerry will visit Cuba soon–on August 14.

Since the opening of diplomatic relations and of the Cuban embassy in Washington, what’s been going on in Cuba?

More repression. There were 630 political arrests in June, according to the Cuban Observatory for Human Rights. Jorge Ramirez Calderon, one of the political prisoners released as part of President Obama’s rapprochement with the Castro regime, was notified this week that he is facing a 4-year sentence for “public disorder.” His crime was joining a demonstration for human rights in March. So, while Kerry was celebrating the opening of Castro’s embassy in Washington, the Cuban regime was cracking down harder on the Cuban people. Read more »