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

War hawks double down on doomsday criticism of the Iran deal

The Heritage Foundation

The Heritage Foundation, one of America’s largest and most influential conservative think tanks, has ceaselessly advocated for militaristic U.S. foreign policies. Its scholars and experts have denounced the Iran deal and called for the next president to “abrogate the agreement.” They have also pushed for more “U.S. commitment and forces” in the fight against ISIS. A trove of Heritage emails leaked in 2015 revealed that the organization accepts donations from a litany of anti-Muslim and anti-Obama conspiracy theorists.

CUFI Action Fund

CUFI Action Fund is the lobbying arm of Christians United for Israel (CUFI), a right-wing Christian Zionist advocacy organization. The Washington Post’s neoconservative blogger Jennifer Rubin writes that CUFI Action is trying “to do for Israel what the NRA does for Second Amendment rights.” CUFI Action lists one of its “central objectives” as being “opposition to a nuclear Iran.” Its executive director wildly claims that the Iran nuclear deal was the "biggest capitulation in the history of Western diplomacy."

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen

Uber-hawk Rep. Illeana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) has used characteristically hyperbolic rhetoric to denounce the Iran deal, calling it “madness” and saying it “simply defies logic.” She has teamed up with neoconservative and Islamophobic figures like Frank Gaffney to lambast the deal, telling Gaffney in a recent interview that she hopes his Center for Security Policy can “communicate clearly and in an articulate manner to your listeners what this deal means to them.”

John Hagee

Controversial Christian Zionist pastor John Hagee promotes the idea that the four lunar eclipses, sometimes referred to as “blood moons,” that occurred in 2014 and 2015 portend the arrival of a “world-shaking event.” He has sought to link end-times prophecy to the Iran nuclear deal, which he likens to the United States sticking its “finger in the eye of God.” Regarding the “four blood moons,” he said recently: "The evidence is very clear scripturally that God controls the sun, moon, and stars. And that God is sending us a signal through the sun, the moon, and the stars. The question is, are we listening?"

Paul Ryan

Since the defeat of the Romney-Ryan ticket in the 2012 presidential election, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) has taken to regularly criticizing the Obama administration’s foreign policy, deriding it as “weak and indecisive” and arguing that Obama should take more “action” abroad. He has also opposed the Iran deal and called for Congress to “strengthen sanctions regimes” on Iran, a move most experts believe would derail the agreement and put the United States on a dangerous path of escalation with Iran.

Gary Bauer

Gary Bauer is a Christian Zionist leader and former Republican presidential candidate who has a track record supporting neoconservative advocacy campaigns. President of the rightwing group American Values and a board member of the Emergency Committee for Israel, Bauer also heads the recently launched lobbying arm of Christians United for Israel, the CUFI Action Fund. Bauer has proclaimed that “anybody in either party” who supports the Iran deal is handing their “career in public life … over to the not-so-tender mercy of the mullahs of Iran.”

Ed Royce

Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA) is a staunch foreign policy hawk who is regarded by some on the right as a “model of the modern major foreign policy leader.” An opponent of the Iran nuclear deal, he said earlier this year that it would be a “good idea” for Congress to pass an Authorization for the Use of Force resolution on Iran, which would allow the president to launch military strikes against the country. During the recent fight over the Iran deal in Congress, Royce introduced legislation in the House aimed at preventing the agreement from being implemented.

Ron Dermer

Israeli ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer has spurred controversy for his hyper-partisan approach to diplomacy and deep ties to rightwing factions in the United States. After Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was reelected in March 2015, prominent voices in the United States and Israel called for Dermer to be replaced. One member of the Israeli Knesset exclaimed that Dermer “risks the state of Israel.” Dermer recently called the Iran deal a “disaster of historic proportions.”

Michael Flynn

Michael Flynn, a retired U.S. Army lieutenant general, has become a prominent Obama administration critic and darling of rightwing punditry since stepping down as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency last year. He claims that the Iran nuclear deal will bring “nothing but grief,” lead to “the elimination of Israel,” and help initiate a “large regional war.” Army colleagues have harshly criticized Flynn for making statements that are out of line with his standing as a former military leader. Said one colleague: “[A]ll of us in uniform are taught from the beginning that we swear an oath to … not to get involved in policy and politics.”

Paul Vallely

Retired Maj. Gen. Paul E. Vallely is a former military analyst for Fox News who is notorious for having received talking points from the Donald Rumsfeld-led Pentagon before making media appearances as a supposedly independent analyst. At a recent “pro-Israel” rally against the Iran deal, Vallely wildly stated that the agreement is "treacherous" and that "aiding and abetting" Iran is a "treasonous offense." In recent years, Vallely has also absurdly proclaimed that he is willing to lead a coup against the U.S. government. Quipped one observer: “Obviously a man willing to lead the military in a sort of coup d'état against a duly elected president cannot be reasoned with, about any matter.”

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Haim Saban is a media mogul and major donor to the Democratic Party known for his hardline stance on Israel and opposition to the Iran nuclear deal.


Eli Lake is a columnist for Bloomberg View who has a lengthy record of advocating for aggressive U.S. foreign policies towards the Middle East.


Brian Hook is the director of policy planning and senior policy advisor to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and is the head of the Iran Action Group.


Josh Rogin is a journalist known for his support for neoconservative policies and views.


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