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Tracking militarists’ efforts to influence U.S. foreign policy

Featured Profiles

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Since its founding in 2011, the right-wing advocacy group Secure America Now has made a name for itself by publishing biased, wildly inaccurate “push polls” and running over-the-top ads criticizing the Obama administration’s security policies. “This might be the only ad you'll ever see that complains aloud, 'He shut down the black sites!’” quipped one commentator about an ad the group ran in 2012. The organization recently produced a remake of the infamous Lyndon Johnson ad “Daisy,” which wildly accuses the Obama administration of “failing” to stop “the jihadist government of Iran” from getting “a nuclear bomb.” Noting the many factual errors in a website linked to the video, one observer noted, “It’s not surprising, then, that this group would revive an attack ad that sought to portray a presidential contender as dangerously eager for confrontation to attack a president for being too soft.”

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Commentary magazine editor John Podhoretz, son of the trailblazing neoconservative ideologue Norman Podhoretz, has been a strident critic of the Obama administration’s foreign policy, charging the president with “setting the world on a course for nihilistic chaos” and calling him an implacable “antagonist” of Israel. He has also been a staunch critic of Hillary Clinton, once penning a book urging right-wing activists to mobilize against her. However, has recently joined other neoconservatives in taking a more conciliatory approach towards Clinton, praising her for supporting “more aggressive efforts” on Syria and Russia than Obama and separating herself from what he terms “the administration’s disdainful treatment of Israel.”

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United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI) is a bipartisan pressure group that targets corporations that allegedly do business with Tehran in violation of sanctions. A defamation suit filed by the target of one such attack has prompted scrutiny of UANI’s political connections. In a surprise move described by the New York Times as “highly unusual,” the U.S. Justice Department recently intervened to block subpoenas for UANI’s donor list, claiming that it could contain information the U.S. government considered sensitive. Although “American intelligence agencies are prohibited from secretly working with organizations to influence American public opinion and media,” noted the Times, “the court filings indicated close ties between the American government and a group that has proved adept at pressuring the government and corporations to isolate Iran economically.” The news prompted one investigative reporter to uncover ties between UANI’s CEO, Mark Wallace, and billionaire investor Thomas S. Kaplan, both of whom have heavily invested in precious metals mining ventures, which they say could prove extremely profitable in unstable geopolitical environments like the one UANI seems intent on encouraging in the Middle East. 

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Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the controversial visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute who has a history of making controversial statements about Islam, recently argued in an interview with Israel Hayom that in a “fair world” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would get the Nobel Peace Prize. Asked whether Israel should negotiate with Hamas, she said: “Israel is investing everything it has into life on earth. Hamas is investing everything it has into life after death. When Hamas recruits young people, their doctrine is ‘we love death, they love life.’”

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The Atlantic’sJeffrey Goldberg has attempted to cultivate a moderate reputation on Israel-Palestine issues, penning columns criticizing Israel's occupation and settlement of Palestinian territories. However, he has often joined more hawkish factions in defending some of Israel's most controversial actions—including its recent assault on Gaza, which has killed well over 1,000 Palestinian civilians. Goldberg blames these deaths on Hamas. "Hamas is trying to get Israel to kill as many Palestinians as possible," he claimed. "Dead Palestinians represent a crucial propaganda victory for the nihilists of Hamas."

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Cofounded by former vice president Dick Cheney and his daughter Liz, the Alliance for a Strong America is the latest vehicle for the Cheneys’ hardline views on national security and foreign policy. In tones similar to Liz Cheney’s previous advocacy group—the now-defunct Keep America Safe—the new group proclaims a commitment to “reversing President Obama’s policies” and restoring “American power and pre-eminence.” Critics have characterized the group as both a publicity vehicle for the Cheneys and as a rejoinder to the increasingly non-interventionist sentiments of some Republican activists.

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Since taking up the gavel in the House Foreign Affairs Committee last year, U.S. Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA) has made Iran sanctions his number-one priority. Although the U.S. intelligence community has largely concluded that Iran is not currently developing nuclear weapons, Royce has repeatedly accused the country of pursuing nuclear capability and supported tightening sanctions, even when experts have warned that new sanctions could scuttle international negotiations over Iran’s nuclear enrichment program. Royce recently delivered an anti-Iran address to a front group for the MEK, an exiled Iranian opposition group that was long considered a terrorist organization by the U.S. government. In a video message sent to MEK supporters in Paris, Royce likened a potential nuclear agreement with Iran to “trusting the regime that holds the noose in one hand to hold the keys to a nuclear bomb in the other.”

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From the Wires

August, 23 2014

Obama administration officials have strongly hinted that they are considering expanding their intervention against ISIS over the Syrian border.


August, 20 2014

Although the Obama administration has grown skeptical of full-blown military interventions, it has increased its reliance on air strikes and special forces—forms of intervention that are no more capable of influencing political or strategic outcomes than their predecessors.


August, 20 2014

Many of the most egregious violators of international law are not rogue dictatorships but developed democracies like the United States and its allies.


August, 18 2014

Recent polling reveals a degree of public support for the recent U.S. intervention in Iraq, though a majority of respondents also worried that the U.S. would go "too far" in responding to the threat posed by ISIS.


August, 12 2014

Political settlements in Iraq and Syria—preferably ones that depose Nouri al-Maliki and Bashar al-Assad, respectively—would go much further toward stopping ISIS than airstrikes.


August, 12 2014

Despite repeated insistences that it urged Israel to reduce civilian casualties, the U.S. government has systematically played down Israeli abuses and recited Israeli government talking points about the latest war in Gaza.


August, 09 2014

Inside the Beltway, President Obama’s decision to launch a limited military action in northern Iraq has garnered qualified support from across the political spectrum.


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