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

Crying Wolf over Iran

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Sen. Mark Kirk

Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) is working hard to subvert the interim agreement between the P5+1 powers and Iran over Tehran's nuclear enrichment program. Speaking to reporters about the recent talks, Kirk echoed Israeli government talking points about Iran's nuclear enrichment program and quipped that moderate Iranians are either "out of bullets or out of money." He has likened Barack Obama to Neville Chamberlain and himself to Galileo, leading one conservative writer to despair that “If this is what passes for foreign policy thinking among top Republicans, the party is in a very bad way."

Elliott Abrams

From his perch at the Council on Foreign Relations, veteran neoconservative ideologue Elliott Abrams has steadfastly advocated launching U.S. strikes on Syria since even before the regime of Bashar al-Assad was accused of using chemical weapons. In Egypt, on the other hand, Abrams has broken with many of his neoconservative allies—and departed from the role he played during the Reagan administration, when he vouched for the human rights records of right-wing regimes receiving U.S. military assistance in Latin America—by arguing that the U.S. should halt its assistance to Egypt’s military following its overthrow of President Mohamed Morsi and its violent crackdown on Morsi’s supporters.

John Bolton

Former UN ambassador John Bolton, a vocal advocate of unilateral U.S. military intervention, continues to call for U.S. strikes on Iran to halt the country's nuclear enrichment program. And although Bolton himself has said he wouldn't vote to authorization U.S. strikes on Syria, he has nonetheless criticized the Obama administration for failing to launch them. Bolton is also increasingly active in the political arena, recently launching an eponymous super PAC and hinting that he is considering a run for president in 2016 to fight back against the increasing libertarian influence on GOP foreign policy.

Eliot Cohen

Eliot Cohen, the unrelenting foreign policy hawk based at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, drew criticism in September 2013 for suggesting that most Americans had no right to be weary of the country's long-running wars. Quipping that they could simply "change the channel" if they didn't like what they saw, Cohen wrote that "for the great mass of the American public, for their leaders and the elites who shape public opinion, 'war-weariness' is unearned cant, unworthy of a serious nation and dangerous in a violent world." Mother Jones blogger Kevin Drum described the tirade as "one of the most offensive columns I've read in a long time" and nominated Cohen for an "Asshole of the Year" award.

Thomas Donnelly

Thomas Donnelly, a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and long-time participant in neoconservative-led advocacy campaigns, thinks that U.S. military power and interventionism are the only guarantors of global stability. An advocate of "fomenting an Afghanistan-style insurgency" in Iran, Donnelly has accused the Obama administration of "moral failure" and "willful negligence" for its reluctance to intervene militarily in Syria's civil war.

Frank Gaffney

Frank Gaffney, director of the hardline neoconservative Center for Security Policy, is helping lead the neoconservative charge against any diplomatic rapprochement between Tehran and Washington, calling the recently elected moderate Iranian President Hassan Rouhani an “Iranian con man” upon whom President Obama would confer “unwarranted legitimacy” simply by meeting with him. Gaffney has argued that only the threat of military force can resolve the standoff with Iran and 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.

Reuel Marc Gerecht

Reuel Marc Gerecht, a senior fellow at the neoconservative Foundation for Defense of Democracies, has advocated bombing Iran for years, once admitting that even his mom thought he’d “gone too far.” He recently wrote that U.S. credibility "is overwhelmingly built on Washington’s willingness to use force" and lamented that the Obama administration's reluctance to intervene in Syria's civil war amounts to "retreat" from the region. Dismissing the supposed moderation of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, Gerecht has also advised U.S. policymakers to "forget diplomacy" with Iran and instead bolster sanctions and military threats.

William Kristol

Longtime neoconservative activist and political gadfly Bill Kristol has recently expanded his list of right-wing talking points, speaking out against comprehensive immigration reform, calling Obamacare worse than Watergate, dismissing rising reports of sexual assault in the U.S. military as a "pseudo-crisis," and defending the broadly unpopular GOP shutdown of the federal government. Foreign policy, nevertheless, remains Kristol’s overriding concern. Earlier this year, he convened a familiar group of neoconservatives and hawks to demand U.S. intervention in Syria and has called for "regime change" in his opinion pieces. Despairing over a possible rapprochement between Washington and Tehran—"appeasement," according to Kristol—he's held out hope that Israel might still attack Iran, christening the hawkish Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu the "leader of the West."

Dennis Ross

Dennis Ross, a controversial former diplomat who served in the Obama administration before retreating to a “pro-Israel” think tank, is one of the more vocal Democratic advocates of leveraging the threat of war against Iran to extract concessions over its nuclear enrichment program. After previously advocating that the U.S. demand an ultimatum with Iran—a diplomatic “endgame” or war—Ross now argues that Washington should continue its current negotiations with Iran, but only if the U.S. is prepared to make “new military deployments” and increase sanctions while it negotiates. He has also been a hawk on Syria, arguing in a September 2013 Washington Post op-ed that if the U.S. fails to strike that country, “the hard-liners in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps and around the Supreme Leader will be able to claim that there is only an economic cost to pursuing nuclear weapons but no military danger.”

Paul Wolfowitz

Veteran Middle East hawk Paul Wolfowitz—a key architect of the Iraq War and a driving force behind George W. Bush’s neoconservative agenda—has emerged as a vocal advocate of intervening in Syria's civil war. Insisting that Syria is "not Iraq in 2003" but rather "Iraq in 1991," Wolfowitz has suggested that Washington can avert a later war in Syria by supporting the country's rebels now, as Wolfowitz says the U.S. should have done for Shia rebels in Iraq in the early 1990s. He asserts that the cause of Syria's rebels "has more sympathy across the Arab world than even the Arab-Israeli issue" and claims that "we would not pay a price for" intervening.

James Woolsey

James Woolsey, a former CIA director and longtime neoconservative activist associated with a host of hawkish policy outfits, is the chairman of the neoconservative Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Woolsey has recently warned against treating Iranian President Hassan Rouhani as a "moderate," scolded Edward Snowden for giving "classified information" to "Mr. and Mrs. America" as well as "people who are enemies of the United States," and called for a "surgical strike" against North Korea to prevent the country from launching an "electromagnetic pulse" (EMP) attack against the United States—a scenario attributed by one observer to the wild imaginations of "cranks and threat inflators."

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


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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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