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

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American Israel Public Affairs Committee


“AIPAC’s grip on Democrats is loosening as younger and more progressive activists flex their political muscles,” was the hopeful view of former AIPAC employee, MJ Rosenberg in early 2019. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee is one of the more influential foreign policy lobbying organizations in Washington. It promotes hawkish pro-Israel policies that are often, but not always, in line with Israeli government policies. They officially endorse a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and an aggressive stance toward Iran. While there are signs their influence is slipping, they remain a major force in U.S. Middle East policy formation.

Erik Prince


Erik Prince, dubbed by Bloomberg News “America’s foremost mercenary executive,” was the founder of the notorious private military contractor Blackwater and is the sibling of Trump administration Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. Prince recently came under renewed scrutiny after starting a firm that provides security training in China, raising questions about whether he is working against U.S. interests. That concern grew when reports emerged that he had agreed to build a training center in the province where China’s intense repression of Uyghur Muslims was taking place. Special counsel Robert Mueller also targeted him for allegedly working with an emissary from Saudi Arabia and the UAE to help Donald Trump win the 2016 election as well as for helping to establish a clandestine back channel with Russia.

Gina Haspel


Gina Haspel is the first woman to serve as director of the Central Intelligence Agency. Donald Trump appointed her to replace Mike Pompeo in March 2018. Fiercely opposed by some Republicans like the late John McCain because of her role in using torture, Haspel is a darling to many Republican hawks and neoconservatives. She has managed to escape the hostility Trump has shown other intelligence chiefs by laying low, despite reporting views that are just as contrary to Trump’s as those of her colleagues.

Democratic Majority for Israel


According to Democratic Majority for Israel (DMFI) president Mark Mellman, “Israel was once seen as much more of the David in the struggle. Now Palestinians are seen as the more put-upon group.” Established by a network of Democrats, many with close ties the powerful American-Israel Public Affairs Committee, DMFI aims to police the Democratic Party while undermining sympathy for Palestinians and criticism of Israel. After its launch in January 2019, the group immediately attacked several Democrats in Congress for being too critical of Israel, employing sharp criticism including thinly-veiled accusations of anti-Semitism.

Richard Grenell


“At least the Russians make an effort not to be seen to be meddling in other countries’ affairs.” That was the retort that Richard Grenell—Donald Trump’s ambassador to Germany—drew from a German parliamentarian after he boldly stated that he was trying to “empower anti-establishment conservatives” in Europe. Prior to his posting as ambassador to Germany, Grenell was a communications staffer for four of the George W. Bush administration’s ambassadors to the United Nations. Despite being openly gay, he has worked for many leading conservative politicians, and advocates for LGBT equality.

Zalmay Khalilzad


Severe doubts about the January 2019 deal that Zalmay Khalilzad, a State Department envoy in Afghanistan, struck with the Taliban have led observers to question whether we will become known as “the man who lost Afghanistan.” Khalilzad previously served in Afghanistan and Iraq under George W. Bush with mixed results. Although a long-time neoconservative fellow traveller, Khalilzad is sometimes regarded as a pragmatic and moderate operator. Zbigniew Brzezinksi, for instance, described Khalilzad as a “broad-minded pragmatist and insightful strategist.” However, Khalilzad’s long track record of supporting hawkish U.S. foreign policies reveals a predilection for U.S. military intervention abroad, even if he has at times been more supportive of diplomacy than other foreign policy hardliners.

Robert Joseph


Robert Joseph called for President Trump to scrap the Iran nuclear deal and return to a “policy of containment,” ignoring the fact that the George W. Bush administration destroyed that option when it invaded Iraq, an act Joseph was a key participant in. Joseph is now a lobbyist for the Mojahedin-e Khalq-e Iran (MEK),a controversial “cult” that once was on the State Department’s list of foreign terrorist organizations. The MEK has almost no support within Iran’s opposition, which contradicts Joseph’s call for Trump to promote “regime change from within.” A long time advocate for strengthening the U.S. nuclear arsenal, Joseph has come to embrace many of Trump’s policies after being among the “never-Trump” Republicans in 2016.

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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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