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

Washington’s New Agenda Dredges Up Old Opponents

Featured Profiles Independent Women’s Forum The Independent Women’s Forum has a history of opposing virtually every “women’s rights” initiative and supporting a right-wing “pro-Israel” agenda for U.S. Middle East policy. The group attracted headlines recently when one of its senior fellows testified before the Senate that guns, particularly those that can accommodate high-capacity magazines, “make…

Featured Profiles

Independent Women’s Forum

The Independent Women’s Forum has a history of opposing virtually every “women’s rights” initiative and supporting a right-wing “pro-Israel” agenda for U.S. Middle East policy. The group attracted headlines recently when one of its senior fellows testified before the Senate that guns, particularly those that can accommodate high-capacity magazines, “make women safer”—a claim that is directly at odds with independent research on the subject.

Progressive Policy Institute

Since its founding in 1989, the Progressive Policy Institute (PPI) has advocated “market-friendly” economic policies and a hawkish line on foreign policy from within the Democratic Party. Closely associated with the now-defunct Democratic Leadership Council, the group has supported the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, advocated a “get-tough” line on Iran, and backed aggressive Israeli military actions towards the Palestinians. More recently, Politico included the group among a list of think tanks that could “hamstring” President Obama’s nomination of Chuck Hagel to head the Department of Defense. PPI president Will Marshall, a long-time ally of the “Israel Lobby,” has criticized what he calls Hagel’s “instinctual recoiling from intervention.”

Immigration Reform Caucus

The House Immigration Reform Caucus is a mostly Republican coalition of House members that has promoted restrictive immigration policies, sometimes by linking immigration crackdowns to the “war on terror.” Some high-profile members of the caucus, which has been linked to “white nationalist” and “nativist” groups like the Federation for American Immigration Reform, have evoked anti-Islamic themes regarding Muslim and Arab immigrants to justify cracking down on “illegals.” Reps. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) and Louie Gohmert (R-TX), for example, have warned about “Muslim Brotherhood infiltration” in the U.S. government and promoted the widely ridiculed idea that immigrants are having “terror babies” on U.S. soil to secure U.S. citizenship for their “terrorist” offspring.

Bret Stephens

Wall Street Journal “Global View” columnist Bret Stephens has long trumpeted a hawkish right-wing line on the Middle East and Israel. Having suggested in the past that criticism of Israel is not “morally acceptable,” Stephens recently added his voice to the growing chorus of “pro-Israel” figures to accuse secretary of defense nominee Chuck Hagel of anti-Semitism for his past remarks on the influence of the Israel lobby in Washington.

Bipartisan Policy Center

The ostensibly centrist Bipartisan Policy Center has played an important role in shifting Beltway rhetoric on Iran to the hawkish right. In late 2012, for example, BPC “Iran Task Force” members Dennis Ross, Michael Makovsky, and Charles Robb took to the Wall Street Journal to argue that the economic impact of a hypothetical “nuclear Iran” would be more detrimental than an actual U.S. strike on the country. The argument, which was disputed by critics, essentially aimed to provide an economic case for going to war. The report came on the tail end of a year in which the center published a slew of documents devoted to pressuring the United States to “stop the clock” on Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program.

Jamie Fly

In early 2013, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), a likely 2016 GOP presidential candidate, hired Jamie Fly, head of the neoconservative Foreign Policy Initiative and a vocal proponent of bombing Iran, to be his “counselor for foreign and national security affairs.” The appointment prompted one blogger to write: “Despite the neoconservative movement’s ideas being thoroughly out of the mainstream, the neocons remain with us, shaping the U.S. foreign policy debate.”

John Nagl

In late 2012, John Nagl, an important promoter of counterinsurgency strategy (COIN), apparently left behind his career in military policy to become headmaster at a wealthy prep school, prompting one writer to quip: “Today, there is no better symbol for the dramatic failure of COIN, the fading of the COINdinistas and the loss that is U.S war policy in Afghanistan than this week’s news that Nagl is leaving Washington to be the headmaster of The Haverford School, a rich preparatory school (grades k-12) for boys on Philadelphia’s Main Line.”

From the Wires

Israel Votes for More of the Same – And Seeks Change

If reelected Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stays true to his political survivalism, he’ll take his coalition toward the center—but to what end?

Landmark U.S. Immigration Framework Heavy on Border Security

Shifting political winds in the United States have brought immigration reform to the forefront of Washington’s agenda, but some observers worry that a right-wing insistence on more robust “border security” could stymie the deal.

Oh, Snap, George Shultz Backs Hagel

A letter backing Chuck Hagel for secretary of defense, signed by 13 former cabinet-level officials from both parties, highlights the marginalization of the beltway neoconservatives who have opposed Hagel’s nomination.

Devil Is in the Details for Iran Nuclear Deal

A letter from seven exiled Iranian parliamentarians urges a nuclear deal between Iran and the West based on Iran’s right to peaceful enrichment.

The viral campaign to set a “red line” for Iran

A video calling for unspecified parties to set a “red line” for Iran’s nuclear program has gone viral thanks to the promotional efforts of right-wing, “pro-Israel” interest groups.

Victory Close to Defeat for Netanyahu

Benjamin Netanyahu has won another term as Israel’s prime minister even as his support base seems more tenuous than ever.

Early Reaction: Winners and Losers in Israel’s 2013 Elections

Israel’s centrist parties gained ground in the country’s recent elections, but it’s unlikely to result in any progress on the stalled peace process.

U.S. Public Supports UNESCO, Despite Funding Cuts

A recent poll reveals widespread U.S. support for various UN agencies—including UNESCO, which the U.S. has withheld its support from ever since the agency agreed to recognize the “state” of Palestine.

Obama to Accelerate Handover to Afghan Army

Hinting at the possibility of a more rapid withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, President Obama announced recently that U.S. forces would shift into a strictly training and support role by the spring, leaving primary security responsibilities to the Afghan army.

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Featured Profiles

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), one of the more effective U.S. lobbying outfits, aims to ensure that the United States backs Israel regardless of the policies Israel pursues.


Erik Prince, former CEO of the mercenary group Blackwater, continues to sell security services around the world as controversies over his work—including in China and the Middle East, and his alleged involvement in collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia—grow.


Gina Haspel is the first woman to hold the position of director of the CIA, winning her confirmation despite her history of involvement in torture during the Iraq War.


Democratic Majority for Israel (DMFI) is a pressure group founded in early 2019 that serves as a watchdog and enforcer of Israel’s reputation in the Democratic Party.


Richard Grenell is the U.S. ambassador to Germany for the Donald Trump administration, known for his brusque and confrontational style.


Zalmay Khalilzad is Donald Trump’s special representative to the Afghan peace process, having previously served as ambassador to Afghanistan and Iraq under George W. Bush.


Robert Joseph played a key role in manipulating U.S. intelligence to support the invasion of Iraq and today is a lobbyist for the MEK.


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From the Wires

The Senate on Wednesday passed a measure mandating the withdrawal of U.S. forces from the Saudi/UAE-led war against Houthi rebels in Yemen. The vote marks the first time since the War Powers Act of 1973 became law that both chambers of Congress have directed the president to withdraw American forces from a conflict.


The Trump administration’s failed “maximum pressure” approach to Iran and North Korea begs the question what the US president’s true objectives are and what options he is left with should the policy ultimately fail.


In the United States, it’s possible to debate any and every policy, domestic and foreign, except for unquestioning support for Israel. That, apparently, is Ilhan Omar’s chief sin.


While Michael Cohen mesmerized the House of Representatives and President Trump resumed his love affair with North Korea’s Kim Jong, one of the most dangerous state-to-state confrontations, centering in Kashmir, began to spiral out of control.


The Trump administration’s irresponsible withdrawal from the landmark Iran nuclear agreement undermined Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and emboldened hardliners who accused him of having been deceived by Washington while negotiating the agreement. However, the Iranian government could use the shock of Zarif’s resignation to push back against hardliners and take charge of both the domestic and foreign affairs of the country while Iran’s foreign opponents should consider the risks of destabilizing the government under the current critical situation.


Europe can play an important role in rebuilding confidence in the non-proliferation regime in the wake of the demise of the INF treaty, including by making it clear to the Trump administration that it wants the United States to refrain from deploying INF-banned missiles in Europe and to consider a NATO-Russian joint declaration on non-first deployment.


The decline in Israel’s appeal to Democrats is directly related to the wider awareness of the country’s increasingly authoritarian nature, its treatment of Palestinians, and its reluctance to take substantive steps toward peace. Pro-Israel liberals face a fundamental paradox trying to reconcile Israel’s illiberalism with their political values.


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