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

Iran Hawks and Détente Dead-enders

Josh Block Since taking over the “pro-Israel” lobby The Israel Project in 2012, erstwhile Democratic Party advocate Josh Block has led the organization into a number of sharply partisan battles, including accusing State Department officials of primarily serving the interests of their Arab “clients.” The outburst led one observer to quip, "One would think a…

Josh Block

Since taking over the “pro-Israel” lobby The Israel Project in 2012, erstwhile Democratic Party advocate Josh Block has led the organization into a number of sharply partisan battles, including accusing State Department officials of primarily serving the interests of their Arab “clients.” The outburst led one observer to quip, "One would think a pro-Israel activist might be self-aware enough to not make baseless accusations that others are dedicated to promoting the interests of foreign countries, but one would be wrong."

Center for Security Policy

Since the 2013 election of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, the Center for Security Policy has relentlessly protested any signs of diplomatic rapprochement between Tehran and Washington. “By simply meeting with Mr. Rouhani, let alone by making other, more tangible concessions to Iran’s president, Mr. Obama would confer a legitimacy on the self-professed Iranian con man that is unwarranted,” wrote CSP President Frank Gaffney in September 2013, insisting that Rouhani was less moderate than he appeared to be. Arguing that only the threat of military force could resolve the standoff, Gaffney concluded 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, which have already yielded an interim agreement.

Committee on the Present Danger

The Committee on the Present Danger is a neoconservative Cold War-era pressure group that was re-launched in 2004 to focus on the “war on terror.” Although the group has been largely dormant in recent years, its website continues to plug fear-mongering media stories and op-eds targeting Iran.

Elizabeth Cheney

Liz Cheney, now arguably the most visible advocate of neoconservative foreign policies in the Cheney family, has embarked on an ambitious primary campaign to unseat Republican Wyoming Sen. Mike Enzi. But Cheney's bid is off to a rough start, with the Virginia transplant drawing negative press for lying about the length of her Wyoming residency on a fishing license application and facing accusations of "carpetbagging" in the state to seek office. Cheney has also been forced to temper her strident foreign policy hawkishness to cater to isolationist-leaning Tea Party voters in the state, even expressing opposition to authorizing a U.S. military strike on Syria despite her long record of advocacy for such an attack.

FreedomWorks

The influential Tea Party group FreedomWorks has made lots of headlines in 2013 for its internal rivalries and organizational shakeups. But the group has continued to exercise influence in the GOP, helping to push Republican members of Congress to shut down the federal government over the implementation of "Obamacare" and rallying its members against U.S. intervention in Syria.

Middle East Forum

The Middle East Forum (MEF) is a controversial Philadelphia-based policy institute that is notorious for its extremist rhetoric about Islam and Middle East politics. Through projects and publications like Middle East Quarterly, Campus Watch, and Islamist Watch, MEF sows suspicion about Muslims and Islamist movements and agitates for an aggressive U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East. In 2013, founder Daniel Pipes notably broke with many of his fellow neoconservatives—and much of his own prior work—in arguing that instead of ousting Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, Washington should seek to ensure that the stalemated Syrian civil war goes on as long as possible to maximize the damage the various sides inflict on each other. He also argued that instead of voting to authorize the use of force in Syria, Congress should vote to attack Iran.

Sheldon Adelson

Casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, an important financial backer of right-wing “pro-Israel” groups who has given millions of dollars to Republican political candidates, recently offered his own recommendations for how the Obama administration should negotiate with Iran over Tehran’s nuclear enrichment program. Drop a nuclear bomb in the desert, Adelson said, “Then you say, ‘See! The next one is in the middle of Tehran. So, we mean business. You want to be wiped out? Go ahead and take a tough position and continue with your nuclear development.’”

United Against Nuclear Iran

United against Nuclear Iran is a bipartisan pressure group that aims to foil Iran’s purported “ambition to become a regional super-power possessing nuclear weapons,” chiefly by pressuring corporations to stop doing business with Iran and by developing model sanctions legislation for congressional hawks. Despite the election of moderate Hassan Rouhani in Iran and UANI’s recent decision to tap former Obama arms control adviser Gary Samore as its president, the organization has continued to employ confrontational rhetoric.

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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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Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) is known for his hawkish views on foreign policy and close ties to prominent neoconservatives.


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From the Wires

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The new imbroglio over the INF treaty does not mean a revival of the old Cold War practice of nuclear deterrence. However, it does reveal the inability of the West and Russia to find a way to deal with the latter’s inevitable return to the ranks of major powers, a need that was obvious even at the time the USSR collapsed.


As a presidential candidate, Donald Trump appeared to recognize the obvious problem of the revolving door. But as the appointment of Patrick Shanahan, who spent 30 years at Boeing, as the Trump administration’s acting secretary of defense reveals, little has changed. America is indeed great again, if you happen to be one of those lucky enough to be moving back and forth between plum jobs in the Pentagon and the weapons industry.


Domestic troubles, declining popularity, and a decidedly hawkish anti-Iran foreign policy team may combine to make the perfect storm that pushes Donald Trump to pull the United States into a new war in the Middle East.


The same calculus that brought Iran and world powers to make a deal and has led remaining JCPOA signatories to preserve it without the U.S. still holds: the alternatives to this agreement – a race between sanctions and centrifuges that could culminate in Iran obtaining the bomb or being bombed – would be much worse.


With Bolton and Pompeo by his side and Mattis departed, Trump may well go with his gut and attack Iran militarily. He’ll be encouraged in this delusion by Israel and Saudi Arabia. He’ll of course be looking for some way to distract the media and the American public. And he won’t care about the consequences.


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