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

Washington’s New Agenda Dredges Up Old Opponents

Featured Profiles Independent Women’s Forum The Independent Women’s Forum has a history of opposing virtually every “women’s rights” initiative and supporting a right-wing “pro-Israel” agenda for U.S. Middle East policy. The group attracted headlines recently when one of its senior fellows testified before the Senate that guns, particularly those that can accommodate high-capacity magazines, “make…

Featured Profiles

Independent Women’s Forum

The Independent Women’s Forum has a history of opposing virtually every “women’s rights” initiative and supporting a right-wing “pro-Israel” agenda for U.S. Middle East policy. The group attracted headlines recently when one of its senior fellows testified before the Senate that guns, particularly those that can accommodate high-capacity magazines, “make women safer”—a claim that is directly at odds with independent research on the subject.

Progressive Policy Institute

Since its founding in 1989, the Progressive Policy Institute (PPI) has advocated “market-friendly” economic policies and a hawkish line on foreign policy from within the Democratic Party. Closely associated with the now-defunct Democratic Leadership Council, the group has supported the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, advocated a “get-tough” line on Iran, and backed aggressive Israeli military actions towards the Palestinians. More recently, Politico included the group among a list of think tanks that could “hamstring” President Obama’s nomination of Chuck Hagel to head the Department of Defense. PPI president Will Marshall, a long-time ally of the “Israel Lobby,” has criticized what he calls Hagel’s “instinctual recoiling from intervention.”

Immigration Reform Caucus

The House Immigration Reform Caucus is a mostly Republican coalition of House members that has promoted restrictive immigration policies, sometimes by linking immigration crackdowns to the “war on terror.” Some high-profile members of the caucus, which has been linked to “white nationalist” and “nativist” groups like the Federation for American Immigration Reform, have evoked anti-Islamic themes regarding Muslim and Arab immigrants to justify cracking down on “illegals.” Reps. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) and Louie Gohmert (R-TX), for example, have warned about “Muslim Brotherhood infiltration” in the U.S. government and promoted the widely ridiculed idea that immigrants are having “terror babies” on U.S. soil to secure U.S. citizenship for their “terrorist” offspring.

Bret Stephens

Wall Street Journal “Global View” columnist Bret Stephens has long trumpeted a hawkish right-wing line on the Middle East and Israel. Having suggested in the past that criticism of Israel is not “morally acceptable,” Stephens recently added his voice to the growing chorus of “pro-Israel” figures to accuse secretary of defense nominee Chuck Hagel of anti-Semitism for his past remarks on the influence of the Israel lobby in Washington.

Bipartisan Policy Center

The ostensibly centrist Bipartisan Policy Center has played an important role in shifting Beltway rhetoric on Iran to the hawkish right. In late 2012, for example, BPC “Iran Task Force” members Dennis Ross, Michael Makovsky, and Charles Robb took to the Wall Street Journal to argue that the economic impact of a hypothetical “nuclear Iran” would be more detrimental than an actual U.S. strike on the country. The argument, which was disputed by critics, essentially aimed to provide an economic case for going to war. The report came on the tail end of a year in which the center published a slew of documents devoted to pressuring the United States to “stop the clock” on Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program.

Jamie Fly

In early 2013, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), a likely 2016 GOP presidential candidate, hired Jamie Fly, head of the neoconservative Foreign Policy Initiative and a vocal proponent of bombing Iran, to be his “counselor for foreign and national security affairs.” The appointment prompted one blogger to write: “Despite the neoconservative movement’s ideas being thoroughly out of the mainstream, the neocons remain with us, shaping the U.S. foreign policy debate.”

John Nagl

In late 2012, John Nagl, an important promoter of counterinsurgency strategy (COIN), apparently left behind his career in military policy to become headmaster at a wealthy prep school, prompting one writer to quip: “Today, there is no better symbol for the dramatic failure of COIN, the fading of the COINdinistas and the loss that is U.S war policy in Afghanistan than this week’s news that Nagl is leaving Washington to be the headmaster of The Haverford School, a rich preparatory school (grades k-12) for boys on Philadelphia’s Main Line.”

From the Wires

Israel Votes for More of the Same – And Seeks Change

If reelected Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stays true to his political survivalism, he’ll take his coalition toward the center—but to what end?

Landmark U.S. Immigration Framework Heavy on Border Security

Shifting political winds in the United States have brought immigration reform to the forefront of Washington’s agenda, but some observers worry that a right-wing insistence on more robust “border security” could stymie the deal.

Oh, Snap, George Shultz Backs Hagel

A letter backing Chuck Hagel for secretary of defense, signed by 13 former cabinet-level officials from both parties, highlights the marginalization of the beltway neoconservatives who have opposed Hagel’s nomination.

Devil Is in the Details for Iran Nuclear Deal

A letter from seven exiled Iranian parliamentarians urges a nuclear deal between Iran and the West based on Iran’s right to peaceful enrichment.

The viral campaign to set a “red line” for Iran

A video calling for unspecified parties to set a “red line” for Iran’s nuclear program has gone viral thanks to the promotional efforts of right-wing, “pro-Israel” interest groups.

Victory Close to Defeat for Netanyahu

Benjamin Netanyahu has won another term as Israel’s prime minister even as his support base seems more tenuous than ever.

Early Reaction: Winners and Losers in Israel’s 2013 Elections

Israel’s centrist parties gained ground in the country’s recent elections, but it’s unlikely to result in any progress on the stalled peace process.

U.S. Public Supports UNESCO, Despite Funding Cuts

A recent poll reveals widespread U.S. support for various UN agencies—including UNESCO, which the U.S. has withheld its support from ever since the agency agreed to recognize the “state” of Palestine.

Obama to Accelerate Handover to Afghan Army

Hinting at the possibility of a more rapid withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, President Obama announced recently that U.S. forces would shift into a strictly training and support role by the spring, leaving primary security responsibilities to the Afghan army.

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Featured Profiles

Paul Ryan (R-WI), Speaker of the House from 2015-2018, was known for his extremely conservative economic and social views and hawkish foreign policies.


On August 16, 2018, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the formation of the Iran Action Group (IAG). It would “be responsible for directing, reviewing, and coordinating all aspects of the State Department’s Iran-related activity, and it will report directly to me,” he stated. Amid speculation that the Donald Trump administration was focused on…


Norm Coleman is a lobbyist for the Saudi Arabian government, chair of the Republican Jewish Coalition, and former senator from Minnesota, known for hawkish, pro-Likud, and anti-Iran foreign policy views.


The millionaire pastor of the Cornerstone Church in Texas, John Hagee argues that U.S. support for Israel will play a “a pivotal role in the second coming” of Jesus. He has also risen to new prominence during the Trump administration.


Michael Gerson, an evangelical Christian who served as a chief aide and speechwriter in the George W. Bush White House, is a conservative columnist for the Washington Post and one of Donald Trump’s harshest critics on the right, calling him an “unhinged president.”


Robert Kagan, a cofounder of the Project for the New American Century, is a neoconservative policy pundit and historian based at the Brookings Institution.


Mira Ricardel, former weapons marketer for Boeing, is the deputy national security adviser under John Bolton. She is a well-known foreign policy hawk who has served in key positions in the administration of George W. Bush and, earlier, in the office of former Senator Robert Dole (R-KS).


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From the Wires

Although a widespread movement has developed to fight climate change, no counterpart has emerged to take on the rising danger of nuclear disaster — yet.


U.S. supporters of Israel are in a bind: public opinion is changing; there are more actors publicly challenging Israel; and the crude, heavy-handed tactics they have successfully used in the past to silence criticism now only aggravate the situation.


As the civilian death toll from Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen grows and the backlash against Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s role in Khashoggi’s murder escalates, former Sen. Norm Coleman’s control of Republican Party campaign purse strings positions him as a key influencer of Republican congressional action, or inaction, in curtailing the increasingly aggressive and reckless actions of Saudi Arabia.


Increasingly, Turkey and Saudi Arabia are positioned as rivals, each with pretensions to Middle Eastern influence or even hegemony. It’s not clear whether they can continue to coexist without one or the other—or both—backing down. This has made it more difficult for the United States to maintain its ties with both countries.


What does President Trump’s recent nomination of retired Army General John Abizaid to become the next U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia signify? Next to nothing — and arguably quite a lot.


The Donald Trump administration’s handling of nuclear negotiations with Saudi Arabia promises to lay bare some realities about security issues and nuclear programs in that part of the world that the administration has refused to acknowledge.


Eminent U.S. foreign policy expert Stephen Walt’s new book critique’s the “liberal hegemony” grand strategy that has dominated U.S. foreign policy since the end of the Cold War.


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