Right Web

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

US Pakistani Ambassador Unknowingly Hosted Neocon Fundraiser

Inter Press Service

Amid putting on a two-and-a-half day conference focused on escalating measures against Iran, a neoconservative think tank held a fundraiser at the residence of Pakistan's ambassador to the U.S., according to an IPS investigation.

The embassy said the think tank, the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), failed to notify the Pakistani embassy that the dinner at the home of Ambassador Husain Haqqani was a fundraiser, or that it was connected to the conference about "Countering the Iranian Threat".

The embassy was unaware even that the conference was occurring, let alone that it featured FDD scholars and fellows who advocate for "ratcheting up" sanctions and pressure, U.S. support for regime change, and even Israeli or U.S. military strikes against Pakistan's ally Iran.

"Pakistan and Iran are brotherly countries and neighbouring countries, brotherly Muslim countries," Imran Gardezi, a spokesperson for the Pakistani embassy, told IPS. "Anything against Iran is unthinkable for us."

"There was no such intention [to host a fundraiser]," he said. "Very frankly, we didn't know about this conference."

FDD disputed that the event was a fundraiser at all.

"[T]his was not a fundraiser," FDD president Clifford May told IPS, also disputing the event's connection to the conference—called the "Washington Forum"—though the dinner appeared on the online schedule before, during, and after the proceedings. The schedule also noted that there was a "minimum $5,000 gift required" to attend, providing a hyperlink to donate.

"We needed to communicate which FDD supporters were invited to the reception," May wrote to IPS in an e-mail. "It was convenient to include that along with information about the Washington Forum because FDD supporters were in town for the Forum."

May added that the link to donate was a reminder to supporters who wanted to raise their donation levels to attend the special event, adding that the process was "routine among think tanks".

However, May did concede that his staff might have failed to notify the embassy about the ongoing conference and its theme.

"It is possible that we did not notify them about the Washington Forum," he said. "No one from the embassy or from Pakistan spoke or participated in the Forum," he added.

May and Haqqani both delivered brief greetings to the gathering of between 40 and 65 major donors, friends (invited at May's discretion, he said) and some FDD staff.

Gardezi, the Pakistani embassy spokesperson, emphasised that Haqqani didn't speak about Iran: "He made no remarks about Iran and there was no mention of Iran."

Pakistan enjoys good relations with Iran.

"The two countries have pretty good relations," said Alireza Nader of the RAND Corporation. "I would characterise their relations as cordial, not warm at all times, but for the most part cooperative on issues like building a pipeline through Pakistan."

"[T]hey've always maintained good relations on the surface," said Iran expert and Columbia University professor Gary Sick. "They do need each other."

"They try to maintain good, business-like relations. Each side will allow a certain amount of trouble from the other because they know they need each other," he added.

The two countries essentially fought a proxy war in Afghanistan throughout the 1990s, but tensions over the war- torn country have since subsided.

"In Afghanistan, there's been much less active rivalry," said Shuja Nawaz, the director of the South Asia Center at the Atlantic Council. "But the Balochistan border still remains a contentious area, for a couple of reasons."

Nawaz, who contributed a chapter to a recent FDD book on Afghanistan and Pakistan, said tensions revolved around Iran's collaboration with Pakistan's archrival India on a road from Afghanistan that runs through Iran to the coast – cutting out Pakistan as a trade route – and the Sunni militant group Jundullah, which Iran alleges is supported by the U.S. and seeks refuge in Pakistan.

Nonetheless, FDD likely ended up holding its event at Haqqani's residence not because of geopolitics, but because of a friendship between May and the Pakistani ambassador.

"I think the ambassador had a personal relationship with this group for quite some time, but I don't know if this would reflect official policy," Nawaz said. "It could well be that this is an unofficial action on his part."

May told IPS that Haqqani was an "old personal friend" from when they were both journalists, and wrote later to IPS in an e-mail that Haqqaini was "a distinguished advocate of democracy and freedom whom I have long had the privilege to know and whom I greatly admire."

Imran Gardezi, the Pakistani embassy spokesperson, corroborated the relationship. "It was just a coincidence that this happened like this because the ambassador has his personal friends," he told IPS.

May noted that the conference itself "passed no resolutions and took no positions".

"At the conference, many policy options were discussed," he wrote in an e-mail to IPS. "There were members of Congress from both parties. There were representatives of the [Barack] Obama administration as well as scholars and experts representing a range of views."

FDD, however, is a neoconservative-dominated think-tank, which does not itself provide the same range of views that were provided at the conference. Several of its scholars and fellows advocate regularly for aggressive and escalating actions against Iran.

Haqqani, for his part, has been associated with other neoconservatives groups. Immediately before his 2008 appointment as ambassador to the U.S., Haqqani was a fellow at the neoconservative Hudson Institute.

Ali Gharib writers for the Inter Press Service and is a contributor to Right Web (https://rightweb.irc-online.org/).

Share RightWeb

Featured Profiles

Nominated for the post of attorney general by Donald Trump, William Barr held the same post under George H.W. Bush, and established a reputation as a staunch conservative and supporter of executive authority.


Pundit Charles Krauthammer, who died in June 2018, was a staunch advocate of neoconservative policies and aggressive U.S. military actions around the world.


Former Weekly Standard editor and current Fox News commentator Bill Kristol is a longtime neoconservative activist who has been a leading right wing opponent of Donald Trump.


Jon Kyl, a hawkish conservative, served in the Senate from 1996-2013 and again in 2018, and helped guide Brett Kavanaugh through his confirmation process.


Paul Ryan (R-WI), Speaker of the House from 2015-2018, was known for his extremely conservative economic and social views and hawkish foreign policies.


On August 16, 2018, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the formation of the Iran Action Group (IAG). It would “be responsible for directing, reviewing, and coordinating all aspects of the State Department’s Iran-related activity, and it will report directly to me,” he stated. Amid speculation that the Donald Trump administration was focused on…


Norm Coleman is a lobbyist for the Saudi Arabian government, chair of the Republican Jewish Coalition, and former senator from Minnesota, known for hawkish, pro-Likud, and anti-Iran foreign policy views.


For media inquiries,
email rightwebproject@gmail.com

From the Wires

Had Washington made an effort after the last time President Trump promised to quit Syria to pursue diplomatic and military channels and prepare the ground for a U.S. departure, we have had something to celebrate.


Although a widespread movement has developed to fight climate change, no counterpart has emerged to take on the rising danger of nuclear disaster — yet.


U.S. supporters of Israel are in a bind: public opinion is changing; there are more actors publicly challenging Israel; and the crude, heavy-handed tactics they have successfully used in the past to silence criticism now only aggravate the situation.


As the civilian death toll from Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen grows and the backlash against Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s role in Khashoggi’s murder escalates, former Sen. Norm Coleman’s control of Republican Party campaign purse strings positions him as a key influencer of Republican congressional action, or inaction, in curtailing the increasingly aggressive and reckless actions of Saudi Arabia.


Increasingly, Turkey and Saudi Arabia are positioned as rivals, each with pretensions to Middle Eastern influence or even hegemony. It’s not clear whether they can continue to coexist without one or the other—or both—backing down. This has made it more difficult for the United States to maintain its ties with both countries.


What does President Trump’s recent nomination of retired Army General John Abizaid to become the next U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia signify? Next to nothing — and arguably quite a lot.


The Donald Trump administration’s handling of nuclear negotiations with Saudi Arabia promises to lay bare some realities about security issues and nuclear programs in that part of the world that the administration has refused to acknowledge.


RightWeb
share