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

Iran Hawks and Détente Dead-enders

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Josh Block

Since taking over the “pro-Israel” lobby The Israel Project in 2012, erstwhile Democratic Party advocate Josh Block has led the organization into a number of sharply partisan battles, including accusing State Department officials of primarily serving the interests of their Arab “clients.” The outburst led one observer to quip, "One would think a pro-Israel activist might be self-aware enough to not make baseless accusations that others are dedicated to promoting the interests of foreign countries, but one would be wrong."

Center for Security Policy

Since the 2013 election of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, the Center for Security Policy has relentlessly protested any signs of diplomatic rapprochement between Tehran and Washington. “By simply meeting with Mr. Rouhani, let alone by making other, more tangible concessions to Iran’s president, Mr. Obama would confer a legitimacy on the self-professed Iranian con man that is unwarranted,” wrote CSP President Frank Gaffney in September 2013, insisting that Rouhani was less moderate than he appeared to be. Arguing that only the threat of military force could resolve the standoff, Gaffney concluded that Obama “should be open to congressional enactment of an authorization for the use of military force in Iran” —even if such a resolution would wreck negotiations, which have already yielded an interim agreement.

Committee on the Present Danger

The Committee on the Present Danger is a neoconservative Cold War-era pressure group that was re-launched in 2004 to focus on the “war on terror.” Although the group has been largely dormant in recent years, its website continues to plug fear-mongering media stories and op-eds targeting Iran.

Elizabeth Cheney

Liz Cheney, now arguably the most visible advocate of neoconservative foreign policies in the Cheney family, has embarked on an ambitious primary campaign to unseat Republican Wyoming Sen. Mike Enzi. But Cheney's bid is off to a rough start, with the Virginia transplant drawing negative press for lying about the length of her Wyoming residency on a fishing license application and facing accusations of "carpetbagging" in the state to seek office. Cheney has also been forced to temper her strident foreign policy hawkishness to cater to isolationist-leaning Tea Party voters in the state, even expressing opposition to authorizing a U.S. military strike on Syria despite her long record of advocacy for such an attack.

FreedomWorks

The influential Tea Party group FreedomWorks has made lots of headlines in 2013 for its internal rivalries and organizational shakeups. But the group has continued to exercise influence in the GOP, helping to push Republican members of Congress to shut down the federal government over the implementation of "Obamacare" and rallying its members against U.S. intervention in Syria.

Middle East Forum

The Middle East Forum (MEF) is a controversial Philadelphia-based policy institute that is notorious for its extremist rhetoric about Islam and Middle East politics. Through projects and publications like Middle East Quarterly, Campus Watch, and Islamist Watch, MEF sows suspicion about Muslims and Islamist movements and agitates for an aggressive U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East. In 2013, founder Daniel Pipes notably broke with many of his fellow neoconservatives—and much of his own prior work—in arguing that instead of ousting Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, Washington should seek to ensure that the stalemated Syrian civil war goes on as long as possible to maximize the damage the various sides inflict on each other. He also argued that instead of voting to authorize the use of force in Syria, Congress should vote to attack Iran.

Sheldon Adelson

Casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, an important financial backer of right-wing “pro-Israel” groups who has given millions of dollars to Republican political candidates, recently offered his own recommendations for how the Obama administration should negotiate with Iran over Tehran’s nuclear enrichment program. Drop a nuclear bomb in the desert, Adelson said, “Then you say, ‘See! The next one is in the middle of Tehran. So, we mean business. You want to be wiped out? Go ahead and take a tough position and continue with your nuclear development.’”

United Against Nuclear Iran

United against Nuclear Iran is a bipartisan pressure group that aims to foil Iran’s purported “ambition to become a regional super-power possessing nuclear weapons,” chiefly by pressuring corporations to stop doing business with Iran and by developing model sanctions legislation for congressional hawks. Despite the election of moderate Hassan Rouhani in Iran and UANI’s recent decision to tap former Obama arms control adviser Gary Samore as its president, the organization has continued to employ confrontational rhetoric.

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Former Vice President Dick Cheney was a leading framer of the “global war on terror” and a staunch supporter of aggressive U.S. military action around the world.


Mike Pompeo, the Trump administration’s second secretary of state, is a long time foreign policy hawk and has led the public charge for an aggressive policy toward Iran.


Right Web readers will be familiar with Mr. Fleitz, the former CIA officer who once threatened to take “legal action” against Right Web for publicizing reports of controversies he was associated with in the George W. Bush administration. Fleitz recently left his job at the conspiracy-mongering Center for Security Policy to become chief of staff to John Bolton at the National Security Council.


Norm Coleman is chair of the Republican Jewish Coalition and a former senator from Minnesota known for his hawkish views on foreign policy.


Billionaire hedge fund mogul Paul Singer is known for his predatory business practices and support for neoconservative causes.


Keith Kellogg, national security adviser to Vice President Mike Pence, is a passionate supporter of Trump’s foreign policy.


Christians United for Israel (CUFI), the largest “pro-Israel” advocacy group in the United States, is known for its zealous Christian Zionism and its growing influence in the Republican Party.


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From the Wires

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The Trumpian new regional order in the Middle East is predicated on strongman rule, disregard for human rights, Sunni primacy over Iran and other Shia centers of power, continued military support for pro-American warring parties regardless of the unlawfulness of such wars, and Israeli hegemony.


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A comparison of U.S. nuclear diplomacy with Iran and the current version with North Korea puts the former in a good light and makes the latter look disappointing. Those with an interest in curbing the dangers of proliferating nuclear weapons should hope that the North Korea picture will improve with time. But whether it does or not, the process has put into perspective how badly mistaken was the Trump administration’s trashing of the Iran nuclear agreement.


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Numerous high profile Trump administration officials maintain close ties with anti-Muslim conspiracy theorists. In today’s America, disparaging Islam is acceptable in ways that disparaging other religions is not. Given the continuing well-funded campaigns by the Islamophobes and continuing support from their enablers in the Trump administration, starting with the president himself, it seems unlikely that this trend will be reversed any time soon.


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The Trump administration’s nuclear proliferation policy is now in meltdown, one which no threat of “steely resolve”—in Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s words—will easily contain. It is hemorrhaging in part because the administration has yet to forge a strategy that consistently and credibly signals a feasible bottom line that includes living with—rather than destroying—regimes it despises or fears. Political leaders on both sides of the aisle must call for a new model that has some reasonable hope of restraining America’s foes and bringing security to its Middle East allies.


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Congressional midterm elections are just months away and another presidential election already looms. Who will be the political leader with the courage and presence of mind to declare: “Enough! Stop this madness!” Man or woman, straight or gay, black, brown, or white, that person will deserve the nation’s gratitude and the support of the electorate. Until that occurs, however, the American penchant for war will stretch on toward infinity.


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To bolster the president’s arguments for cutting back immigration, the administration recently released a fear-mongering report about future terrorist threats. Among the potential threats: a Sudanese national who, in 2016, “pleaded guilty to attempting to provide material support to ISIS”; an Uzbek who “posted a threat on an Uzbek-language website to kill President Obama in an act of martyrdom on behalf of ISIS”; a Syrian who, in a plea agreement, “admitted that he knew a member of ISIS and that while in Syria he participated in a battle against the Syrian regime, including shooting at others, in coordination with Al Nusrah,” an al-Qaeda offshoot.


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The recent appointment of purveyors of anti-Muslim rhetoric to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom exposes the cynical approach Republicans have taken in promoting religious freedom.


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