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

David Brooks, “Jihadist Wildfires,” and Other Oddities

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David Brooks 
New York Times columnist David Brooks is known for his at times moderate views on social issues. On foreign policy, however, Brooks has steadily embraced hawkish ”pro-Israel” views; unapologetically supported the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya; and agitated for U.S. intervention in Syria. Recently, Brooks stoked controversy by endorsing the military coup that toppled Egypt’s democratically elected Muslim Brotherhood government, arguing that Egyptians “lack even the basic mental ingredients” for democracy. Quipped one critic, “You were hoping for informed, nuanced commentary on the politics of a Middle Eastern society? David Brooks lacks the mental equipment.”

Rachel Ehrenfeld
Rachel Ehrenfeld is a controversial writer who claims that drug traffickers, leftist regimes, and Islamic terrorists are collaborating in Latin America to finance operations to undermine the United States. Although her research has resulted in libel lawsuits, Ehrenfeld continues to make controversial—even bizarre—claims, including that "jihadists," "Mexican gangs," or "other illegals" may have been responsible for setting wildfires plaguing the state of Colorado.

Richard Pipes 
U.S.-Russian relations continue to cool, but for Richard Pipes, a professor emeritus at Harvard who was a notorious anti-Soviet hardliner during the Cold War, now is the time to cajole Russia into the “Western” fold. Instead of antagonizing the country, writes Pipes, the West should consider dissolving NATO and patiently “convince Russians that they belong to the West and should adopt Western institutions and values.” On the other hand, Pipes has rejected Russian opposition to U.S. efforts to place anti-missile systems close to its borders and has recently supported the work of a host of neoconservative groups, whose scholars have pressed a hard line on Russia.

David Makovsky 
David Makovsky, head of the Project on the Middle East Peace Process at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, has urged moderation between Israel and Palestine even while making military threats against Iran. In a recent op-ed, he wrote that the Obama administration should take steps to once and for all settle the question of whether Iran is hoping to develop nuclear weapons, while making clear that “it is not afraid of talks failing." He failed, however, to assess whether military action could backfire.

Dennis Ross 
Dennis Ross, a controversial former diplomat who served in the Obama administration before retreating to a “pro-Israel” think tank, has apparently grown tired of diplomacy with Iran—although he has also warmed to the idea of an Iranian civilian nuclear program. Ross now advocates that the United States offer Iran's leaders an "endgame," or ultimatum: Iran can have its peaceful nuclear enrichment with strict limits and oversight on Washington's terms, Ross says, or else face imminent war with the United States. Critics say that Ross' ideas "suffer most from their own premises" and could sully any opening for engagement with Iran's moderate new president-elect.

American Enterprise Institute 
Writers based at the American Enterprise Institute, an important source of neoconservative advocacy on U.S. foreign policy, have steadfastly promoted U.S. support for Taiwan. As one reporter discovered recently, this should come as little surprise. Taiwan appears to have been a generous funder to AEI. In 2009, the Taiwanese government gave more than half a million dollars to the think tank, even as some AEI employees were agitating for U.S. arms sales to the country. This fact led one transparency expert to conclude that the organization should be obliged to register as a foreign agent.

From the Wires

New Bid for Mideast Talks after Five-Year Hiatus
Some observers—including former President Jimmy Carter—are optimistic that a referendum could provide popular legitimacy to a potential Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement.

Advocates of Iran Engagement Get Unexpected Boost
Prospects for new unilateral U.S. sanctions against Iran have appeared to dim after the release of a letter, signed by 131 House members, urging renewed engagement with Tehran.

Syria: Rebel In-Fighting Weakens Uprising
Fierce infighting among moderate and Islamist rebel groups, as well as Hezbollah's entry into the war, have boosted the Assad regime in Syria.

Israel Resumes Threats Against Iran as Experts Urge Patience
Intelligence experts and diplomats are urging patience with Iran's new president-elect, even as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and some of his supporters in the U.S. Congress agitate for new threats.

Obama’s Many Middle East Miseries Multiply
From a tightrope act in Egypt to new obstacles in Syria, events in the Middle East have put the Obama administration in a precarious position.

New Iranian President; Same Old US Approach 
By reflexively calling to maintain or increase sanctions on Iran, Washington commentators are helping to sully any opportunity to open a dialogue with Iran's newly elected president, even as the U.S. faces regional challenges in Syria and Afghanistan that could be mitigated by cooperation with Tehran.

Egyptian Army’s Firepower Overwhelmingly US-Supplied 
Military coup and the violent repression of demonstrations notwithstanding, the Egyptian army continues to receive arms and assistance from the United States.

Afghanistan Faces Slim Chance of Post-Occupation Peace Deal 
A new report argues that because of disarray in Washington and decentralization in the Taliban, efforts to broker an agreement between the Taliban and the government of Afghanistan ahead of the planned U.S. withdrawal in 2014 are likely to fail.

Pro-Israel Advocates Push for Continued Aid to Egypt 
Some neoconservatives and other "pro-Israel" advocates in the United States are insisting that Washington maintain its close ties with the Egyptian military, despite the latter's involvement in toppling Egypt's democratically elected Islamist government.

The Meaning of Rouhani 
The surprise landside victory of Iranian moderate Hassan Rouhani restored the faith of many Iranians in their electoral system, but it also spoke to disillusion across the political spectrum with the country's isolated status and stagnant economy.

Letters

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Mitt Romney, former governor of Massachusetts and two-time failed presidential candidate, is a foreign policy hawk with neoconservative leanings who appears set to become the next senator from Utah.


Vin Weber, a former Republican congressman and longtime “superlobbyist” who has supported numerous neoconservative advocacy campaigns, has become embroiled in the special prosecutor’s investigation into the Donald Trump campaign’s potential collusion with Russia during the 2016 presidential election.


Jon Lerner is a conservative political strategist and top adviser to US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley. He was a key figure in the “Never Trump” Campaign, which appears to have led to his being ousted as Vice President Mike Pence’s national security adviser.


Pamela Geller is a controversial anti-Islam activist who has founded several “hate groups” and likes to repeat debunked myths, including about the alleged existence of “no-go” Muslim zones in Europe.


Max Boot, neoconservative military historian at the Council on Foreign Relations, on Trump and Russia: “At every turn Trump is undercutting the ‘get tough on Russia’ message because he just can’t help himself, he just loves Putin too much.”


Although overlooked by President Trump for cabinet post, Gingrich has tried to shape affairs in the administration, including by conspiring with government officials to “purge the State Department of staffers they viewed as insufficiently loyal” to the president.


Former Sen Mark Kirk (R-IL) is an advisor for United Against Nuclear Iran. He is an outspoken advocate for aggressive action against Iran and a fierce defender of right-wing Israeli policies.


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From the Wires

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Other than the cynical political interests in Moscow and Tehran, there is no conceivable rationale for wanting Bashar al-Assad to stay in power. But the simple fact is, he has won the war. And while Donald Trump has reveled in positive press coverage of the recent attacks on the country, it is clear that they were little more than a symbolic act.


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The reality is that the Assad regime is winning the Syrian civil war, and this matters far less to U.S. interests than it does to that regime or its allies in Russia and Iran, who see Syria as their strongest and most consistent entrée into the Arab world. Those incontrovertible facts undermine any notion of using U.S. military force as leverage to gain a better deal for the Syrian people.


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An effective rhetorical tool to normalize military build-ups is to characterize spending increases “modernization.”


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The Pentagon has officially announced that that “long war” against terrorism is drawing to a close — even as many counterinsurgency conflicts  rage across the Greater Middle East — and a new long war has begun, a permanent campaign to contain China and Russia in Eurasia.


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Revelations that data-consulting firm Cambridge Analytica used ill-gotten personal information from Facebook for the Trump campaign masks the more scandalous reality that the company is firmly ensconced in the U.S. military-industrial complex. It should come as no surprise then that the scandal has been linked to Erik Prince, co-founder of Blackwater.


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As the United States enters the second spring of the Trump era, it’s creeping ever closer to more war. McMaster and Mattis may have written the National Defense Strategy that over-hyped the threats on this planet, but Bolton and Pompeo will have the opportunity to address these inflated threats in the worst way possible: by force of arms.


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We meet Donald Trump in the media every hour of every day, which blots out much of the rest of the world and much of what’s meaningful in it.  Such largely unexamined, never-ending coverage of his doings represents a triumph of the first order both for him and for an American cult of personality.


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