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February 14th, 2012
05:00 AM ET
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Abrams: Turning point in Bahrain
Editor's NoteElliott Abrams is former senior director for the Near East and deputy national security adviser handling Middle East affairs in the George W. Bush administration. He is now a senior fellow for Middle East studies at the Council on Foreign Relations​, where he writes the blog Pressure Points.
By Elliott Abrams​CFR.org
Today, February 14,  is the anniversary of the date when demonstrations began in Bahrain last year.  No events connected to the so-called “Arab Spring” have been as depressing as those in Bahrain.
The tiny country (only slightly larger than the City of New York) was long viewed as a peaceful and enlightened place, but by the actual Spring of 2011 Bahrain was mired in sectarian divisions, security force violence, and errors and excesses by the government and the opposition, all worsened by the presence of foreign troops from other Gulf Cooperation Council nations. In the end, dozens were killed and communications between the Sunni government and royal family and the Shia majority had broken down.  On February 11, this past Saturday, there were more demonstrations and police used tear gas to break some of them up. FULL POST
Post by: Elliott Abrams
Topics: Bahrain

King Hamad bin Issa al-Khalifa of Bahrain. (Getty images)
November 25th, 2011
10:07 AM ET
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Abrams: Last chance for Bahrain
Editor's NoteElliott Abrams is former senior director for the Near East and deputy national security adviser handling Middle East affairs in the George W. Bush administration. He is now a senior fellow for Middle East studies at the Council on Foreign Relations​, where he writes the blog Pressure Points.
By Elliott Abrams​CFR.org
The report this week by the international commission on Bahrain represents the royal family’s, and that nation’s, last chance.  If the conclusions of the report do not lead to compromise and reform, the future holds instability, violence, and in the end the demise of al-Khalifa rule.
The existence of the report does great credit to King Hamad.  When has an Arab government called for a truly honest international assessment of its handling of the most difficult moments of its rule?  When has it accepted a report that accuses it of abuse of prisoners, lack of due process, and torture?  The King pledged earlier this year that the commission would have a completely free hand, and he was as good as his word.
The picture drawn by the commission is grim, for as one reads the 500-page document it becomes very clear that the problem was not misconduct by individual officers but a wide pattern of Sunni official abuse of Shia citizens. That conclusion has not been accepted by the government, but it is unavoidable when one sees the magnitude of the abuses. FULL POST
Post by: Elliott Abrams
Topics: Middle East
November 23rd, 2011
09:13 AM ET
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Abrams: The GOP candidates and the 'Israel Pledge'
Editor's NoteElliott Abrams is former senior director for the Near East and deputy national security adviser handling Middle East affairs in the George W. Bush administration. He is now a senior fellow for Middle East studies at the Council on Foreign Relations​, where he writes the blog Pressure Points.
By Elliott Abrams​CFR.org
With the exception of Ron Paul, every one of the Republican candidates on the stage at Constitution Hall is a strong supporter of the alliance between the United States and Israel. In Tuesday night’s debate as in previous outings, they stated in compelling terms their understanding of why the friendship and cooperation between Israel and our country is of great value to us. For the most part they did not blink at the possibility of a military strike on Iran as a last resort and as an outcome preferable to permitting Iran to become a nuclear weapons state.
To these necessarily conditional statements–conditional because the precise situation months or years down the road is course unclear, and will depend in large part on what actions the United States takes in the interim–Mitt Romney added a specific promise. He would, he said, make a visit to Israel his first foreign trip. FULL POST
Post by: Elliott Abrams
Topics: 2012 Election • Israel
October 24th, 2011
05:00 AM ET
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Obama and Libya: Hold the triumphalism, please
Editor's NoteElliott Abrams is former senior director for the Near East and deputy national security adviser handling Middle East affairs in the George W. Bush administration. He is now a senior fellow for Middle East studies at the Council on Foreign Relations​, where he writes the blog Pressure Points.
By Elliott Abrams​CFR.org
After the death of Moammar Gadhafi, Administration spokesmen and those journalists who pretty much take dictation from them have been triumphant​. This was, they have said, final proof of the exquisite brilliance of Obama policy in Libya (despite the “howling” of critics, to quote David Ignatius​).
I would hold off on the triumphalism, for the Obama approach had many flaws. FULL POST
Post by: Elliott Abrams
Topics: Libya • Military

Elliott Abrams (Getty Images)
October 12th, 2011
12:20 PM ET
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How should the U.S. respond to alleged Iranian plot?
Editor's NoteElliott Abrams is former senior director for the Near East and deputy national security adviser handling Middle East affairs in the George W. Bush administration. He is now a senior fellow for Middle East studies at the Council on Foreign Relations​, where he writes the blog Pressure Points. This is his First Take, reprinted with permission of the Council on Foreign Relations​.
By Elliott Abrams​, CFR.org
The news of an Iranian plot to commit an act of terror in Washington, DC should put Iran back at the top of the U.S. foreign policy agenda. The indictment is for an elaborate conspiracy backed by the Quds Force - the part of Iran's Revolutionary Guards charged with acts of terrorism overseas. This appears to be a well-financed and official effort, not the action of one or two individuals disconnected from Tehran.
Iran has often seemed an afterthought in Washington recently. (In President Obama's speech to the U.N. General Assembly last month, Iran got three sentences.) That must change now, in the face of this plot to kill the Saudi ambassador right in the heart of the nation's capital. What is more, had the plotters used an explosive device as they planned, many others, including U.S. citizens, would likely have been killed or wounded. FULL POST
Post by: Elliott Abrams
Topics: Iran • Saudi Arabia • United States
September 22nd, 2011
05:17 PM ET
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Shane Bauer's ingratitude
Editor's Note: Elliott Abrams is a senior fellow for Middle East studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, from which this piece is reprinted. You can read Abrams' blog Pressure Points here.
By Elliott Abrams​CFR.org
In the last year I have written several blog posts about the American hikers imprisoned in Iran, hoping to help keep attention focused on getting them freed. Like every American I was delighted to see them out, finally, yesterday.
But like many Americans, I was not delighted by the statement made immediately by one of the two, Shane Bauer. After thanking the Sultan of Oman for helping get them out, he said this:
Two years in prison is too long and we sincerely hope for the freedom of other political prisoners and other unjustly imprisoned people in America and Iran.
Who exactly are the “political prisoners” in America?
FULL POST
Post by: Elliott Abrams
Topics: Iran

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. (Getty Images)
August 29th, 2011
04:31 PM ET
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How will Assad fall?
Editor's Note: Elliott Abrams is a senior fellow for Middle East studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, from which this piece is reprinted. You can read Abrams' blog Pressure Points here.
By Elliott Abrams​, CFR.org
It is easy to say that with Gadhafi gone, the next vicious regime to fall is that of Bashar al-Assad in Syria.  ‘Tis a consummation devoutly to be wished, but realists and pessimists have rightly asked “how exactly does that happen?”
That’s a fair question, because the Assad regime has yet to crack and none of the previous models—Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya—can work the same way in Syria.  In my view, there are two possibilities that head the list. FULL POST
Post by: Elliott Abrams
Topics: Syria

Settlers walk past a controversial newly built cultural center in Ariel, West Bank. (Getty Images)
August 16th, 2011
03:27 PM ET
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Will Ariel block peace?
Editor's Note: Elliott Abrams is a senior fellow for Middle East studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, from which this piece is reprinted. You can read Abrams' blog Pressure Points here.
By Elliot Abrams
If there is a single issue that explains the failure of Obama policy toward Israel, it is settlements. And this week the Administration once again indulged itself in a knee-jerk reaction that displayed incomprehension in a way that harms U.S.-Israeli relations without doing the slightest bit of good for the Palestinians.
This week Israel announced a plan to construct 277 more housing units in Ariel, a settlement that is a town of 18,000.  The new units are to be constructed in the center of  the town, it was also announced. This is a significant fact, for construction of new units at the edges of the town would mean that the security perimeter would need to be extended to protect the new housing and the people in it. But this will not happen, and Ariel will expand in population but not in land area.  It is not, in the usual Palestinian Authority parlance, “taking more Palestinian land.” FULL POST
Post by: Elliott Abrams
Topics: Israel • Middle East
August 5th, 2011
09:52 AM ET
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Justice in Cairo?
Editor's NoteElliott Abrams is former senior director for the Near East and deputy national security adviser handling Middle East affairs in the George W. Bush administration. He is now a senior fellow for Middle East studies at the Council on Foreign Relations​, where he writes the blog Pressure Points. The following is reprinted with the permission of the Council on Foreign Relations.
By Elliott Abrams​, CFR.org
The trial of Hosni Mubarak began this week. Throughout the world the indelible image of the former president in a cage was printed on page one of a thousand newspapers.
Mubarak was a dictator, and very many Egyptians rejoiced in bringing him to justice. For them, this astonishing turn of events meant that Egypt could change, justice could be done, the mighty could be brought low, the revolution could triumph. For them, seeing him and his two sons in that cage was cathartic. FULL POST
Post by: Elliott Abrams
Topics: Egypt

Israeili flags flutter near construction of settlements in the West Bank. (Getty Images)
July 21st, 2011
01:22 PM ET
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The settlement obsession
Editor's NoteElliott Abrams is former senior director for the Near East and deputy national security adviser handling Middle East affairs in the George W. Bush administration. He is now a senior fellow for Middle East studies at the Council on Foreign Relations​, where he writes the blog Pressure Points.
By Elliott Abrams, Foreign Affairs
On taking office in 2009, U.S. President Barack Obama put Israeli settlements at the center of U.S. policy in the Middle East. In Washington's view, a complete construction freeze in the West Bank and East Jerusalem became not only desirable but also a prerequisite to Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations.
Previous U.S. administrations of both parties had never taken such a stance, and in fact, there had been years of negotiations (not least at Camp David in 2000 and after the Annapolis meeting in 2007) while Israeli settlement activity continued. But the Obama administration stuck to its demand, and when Israel refused to freeze construction, 2009 and much of 2010 went by without negotiations. This only changed in November 2010, when the White House abandoned the entire approach and began to search for a new one.
This single-minded focus on a construction freeze was clearly a mistake in the sense that it failed: the Israeli government did not agree to a freeze in East Jerusalem. FULL POST
Post by: Elliott Abrams
Topics: Israel • Middle East • Palestinian Authority • President Obama

July 8th, 2011
12:50 PM ET
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What happens when Iran kills American soldiers?
Editor's Note: Eliott Abrams is a senior fellow for Middle East studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, from which this piece is reprinted. You can read Abrams' blog Pressure Points here.
By Elliot Abrams
There must be very few times in American history when a foreign government is accused of killing American troops, and absolutely nothing is done about it.
Every school kid used to learn lines like “Perdicaris Alive or Raisuli Dead,” or “Millions for defense but not one cent for tribute.”  The War of 1812 was fought in large part due to the “impressment” of American sailors by the British, a similar example of denial of freedom that fell far short of actually killing American sailors.
So what are we to make of the following statements by America’s senior military officer, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Michael Mullen?  Reuters reports that at a luncheon with journalists, Mullen said this:
“Iran is very directly supporting extremist Shia groups which are killing our troops. And there’s no reason … for me to believe that they’re going to stop that as our numbers come down….There’s no question they want to influence, and particularly in the south,” Mullen said. “They are shipping high-tech weapons in there … which are killing our people and … the forensics prove that.” FULL POST
Post by: Elliott Abrams
Topics: Iran • United States

May 19th, 2011
05:24 PM ET
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Bush's Freedom Agenda turned out to be right
Editor's NoteElliott Abrams is former senior director for the Near East and deputy national security adviser handling Middle East affairs in the George W. Bush administration. He is now a senior fellow for Middle East studies at the Council on Foreign Relations​, where he writes the blog Pressure Points
By Elliott Abrams​CFR.org
President Barack Obama's Mideast speech was wide-ranging and included some strong elements. The president spoke well about how we view democracy –including not only majority rule but minority rights and the rule of law.
The president's words about Israel's security needs were powerful as well, in essence tying any possible Israeli military withdrawal from the West Bank to actual, demonstrable Palestinian security performance rather than mere promises.
But other parts of the speech were less impressive, and two deserve note. First, the president simply rewrote history when it came to supporting democracy in the Middle East. FULL POST
Post by: Elliott Abrams
Topics: Israel • Palestinian Authority • President Obama • Uncategorized • United States
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