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US International Relations

US-Middle East Relations

Project: US International Relations
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CIA manager David Blee files a report warning others at the agency about the situation in Iran. Blee, who has some experience in Middle Eastern affairs (see (1967)), cautions that the US knows little about Iranian leader Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, in particular his stockpiling of military equipment. [Los Angeles Times, 8/18/2000]

Entity Tags: Central Intelligence Agency, David Blee

Timeline Tags: US confrontation with Iran, Misc Entries

Category Tags: US-Middle East Relations

A team of Pakistani scientists working under A. Q. Khan enriches a small quantity of uranium for the first time. Pakistan is enriching uranium in order to build a nuclear weapon, but will apparently not produce weapons-grade uranium for another three years (see (March-April 1981)). [Armstrong and Trento, 2007, pp. 98] The enrichment was performed using a P-1 centrifuge. Khan reveals that he has accomplished this to his wife Henny on April 4, 1978, so presumably it first happens some time shortly before this or on this day. The next day, Khan sends a memo on the enrichment to Ghulam Ishaq Khan and Agha Shahi, Pakistan’s ministers of finance and foreign affairs. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 51]

Entity Tags: Ghulam Ishaq Khan, Agha Shahi, Abdul Qadeer Khan

Timeline Tags: A. Q. Khan's Nuclear Network

Category Tags: Nuclear Nonproliferation Efforts, US-Middle East Relations

Albert Wohlstetter, the ideological father of neoconservatism (see 1965), arranges a meeting in Istanbul bringing together 13 Americans, 13 Turks, and 13 Europeans. Wohlstetter’s protege, Richard Perle, is possibly present. The policies discussed at the meeting later become the basis of the Turgut Ozal administration’s pro-American policies in Turkey (see September 1980) (see December 1983). [American Enterprise Institute, 11/22/2003] Wohlstetter, a professor at the University of Chicago, is a mentor to Perle and Paul Wolfowitz. [Think Tank, 11/14/2002] He sees Turkey as “a US staging post for Middle East contingencies and as a strategic ally of Israel.” [Evriviades, 1999]

Entity Tags: Paul Wolfowitz, Albert Wohlstetter, Richard Perle

Timeline Tags: Neoconservative Influence

Category Tags: Neoconservatives in Foreign Policy, US-Israeli Relations, US-Middle East Relations

Neoconservatives Albert Wohlstetter and his protege, Richard Perle, work within the US and Israeli defense establishments to promote Turkey as a key US and Israeli strategic ally (see 1979). This effort is in part motivated by concerns raised by the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Perle and other officials in the Reagan administration play a key role in promoting an alliance between Israel and Turkey. [Evriviades, 1999; Foreign Policy Research Institute, 9/1999; Nation, 8/23/2002] This alliance is also strongly supported by “conservative Jewish-American groups working with the Turkish legation in Washington and a number of prominent Turkish-American businessmen with business and blood connections with Turkish Jews in Istanbul and those who had settled in Israel.” [Evriviades, 1999]

Entity Tags: Reagan administration, Albert Wohlstetter, Richard Perle

Timeline Tags: Neoconservative Influence

Category Tags: Neoconservatives in Foreign Policy, US-Middle East Relations, US-Israeli Relations

National Security Council officials, led by NSC Director Robert McFarlane, Deputy Director John Poindexter, and senior NSC official Oliver North, develop a two-part strategy to topple the regime of Libyan dictator Mu’ammar al-Qadhafi. The plan is dubbed “Operation Flower,” with its two components called “Operation Tulip” and “Operation Rose,” respectively. Operation Tulip would be a covert CIA strategy using Libyan exiles to move into Tripoli and overthrow al-Qadhafi in a coup d’etat. Operation Rose proposes a joint US-Egyptian military campaign against the Libyan government. Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger considers the entire idea “ludicrous,” as do his deputy Richard Armitage and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. However, CIA Director William Casey orders his deputy, Robert Gates, to study the idea. When the CIA produces Gates’s report favoring the idea, the Pentagon develops a military plan deliberately designed to scuttle the idea. The proposed US-Egyptian deployment, the Pentagon strategy says, would require six divisions and 90,000 US troops. Gates says the strategy looks “a lot like the [World War II] invasion of Normandy.” He registers his opposition to such a huge operation, warning that many American citizens as well as US allies would oppose any such overt military campaign. State Department officials concur with Gates’s analysis, and the US ambassador to Egypt, Nick Veliotes, says he believes Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak would want nothing to do with the idea, in part because Mubarak has little confidence in the US military’s willingness to fight for an extended period of time, and so it would leave Egyptian forces to fight alone. Although Poindexter and other NSC officials continue to push the plan, even proposing it to an unimpressed Mubarak, no one else in the Reagan administration supports it, and it is never implemented. [Wills, 2003, pp. 172-175; Foreign Policy, 10/22/2010]

Entity Tags: Richard Armitage, Mu’ammar al-Qadhafi, Joint Chiefs of Staff, John Poindexter, Hosni Mubarak, Caspar Weinberger, National Security Council, Reagan administration, Nick Veliotes, US Department of Defense, Oliver North, Robert M. Gates, Robert C. McFarlane, William Casey, US Department of State

Category Tags: Diplomacy and Geopolitics, US Foreign Policy, US Interventions, US-African Relations, US-Middle East Relations

Secretary of State James Baker tells President Bush that Israel has to negotiate with the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Two weeks later, Baker urges Israel to withdraw its troops from the Palestinian territories it occupies in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Israel must, he says, “lay aside, once and for all, the unrealistic vision of the greater Israel.” Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, the right-wing leader of the Likud Party, is furious (see April 6, 1989). [Unger, 2007, pp. 113]

Entity Tags: George Herbert Walker Bush, Palestinian Liberation Organization, Yitzhak Shamir, James Baker

Category Tags: Diplomacy and Geopolitics, Israel/Palestine Conflict, US-Israeli Relations, US-Middle East Relations

Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir tells an audience at the neoconservative American Enterprise Institute that he would refuse to comply with the Bush administration’s request to withdraw its troops from the Palestinian territories it occupies in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Trading land for peace—i.e. returning the Palestinian lands Israel conquered in the 1967 Six-Day War in return for political recognition and a promise of peace—“is a deception,” Shamir says. “If we leave, there will almost certainly be war.” [Unger, 2007, pp. 113]

Entity Tags: Bush administration (41), Yitzhak Shamir, American Enterprise Institute

Category Tags: Diplomacy and Geopolitics, Israel/Palestine Conflict, US-Israeli Relations, US-Middle East Relations

Israel’s ambassador to the US, Itamar Rabinovich, tells the influential US lobbying group the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) that Israel is prepared to make territorial concessions to the Palestinians as part of the soon-to-be-signed Oslo Accords (see September 13, 1993). The AIPAC members are stonily silent; soon after, AIPAC president Harvey Friedman calls Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Yossi Beilin “a little slimeball” for helping make the land-for-peace deal. Though Friedman is asked to resign from AIPAC over his remarks, his message is clear: AIPAC is not so much pro-Israel as it is pro-Likud and in favor of that party’s hardline policies. Both the Israeli and US governments support trading land for peace, but US neoconservatives, and many members of Israel’s Likud Party, despise the policy. One of the most prominent US neoconservatives, Douglas Feith, currently a member of Rabinovich’s staff, is asked to leave his position because of his vocal opposition to the peace process. [Unger, 2007, pp. 121]

Entity Tags: Douglas Feith, American Israel Public Affairs Committee, Itamar Rabinovich, Harvey Friedman, Yossi Beilin

Category Tags: Diplomacy and Geopolitics, Israel/Palestine Conflict, Neoconservatives in Foreign Policy, US-Israeli Relations, US-Middle East Relations

The famous handshake between Rabin and Arafat, with Clinton symbolically bringing the two together.The famous handshake between Rabin and Arafat, with Clinton symbolically bringing the two together. [Source: Reuters]President Bill Clinton presides over the historic signing of the Oslo Accords, an overarching peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinian people. Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin has agreed to give up large swaths of Palestinian territory Israel has occupied since 1967 in return for a Palestinian commitment to peace. Rabin is loathe to actually shake hands with his Palestinian counterpart, Yasser Arafat, in part because he knows the gesture would inflame extremists on both sides of the issue. But Clinton insists, and the two sign the accords and, symbolically embraced by Clinton, indeed shake hands. Clinton will later write, “All the world was cheering [the handshake], except the diehard protesters in the Middle East who were inciting violence, and demonstrators in front of the White House claiming we were endangering Israel’s security.” Those demonstrators include Christian fundamentalists, neoconservative ideologues, and Orthodox Jews. “Every grain of sand between the Dead Sea, the Jordan River, and the Mediterranean Sea belongs to the Jews,” says US evangelist and Moral Majority co-founder Ed McAteer. “This includes the West Bank and Gaza.” [Unger, 2007, pp. 121-122]

Entity Tags: Ed McAteer, Yasser Arafat, Yitzhak Rabin, William Jefferson (“Bill”) Clinton

Category Tags: Diplomacy and Geopolitics, Israel/Palestine Conflict, US Foreign Policy, US-Israeli Relations, US-Middle East Relations

Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the Knesset.Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the Knesset. [Source: Neuhaus Nadav / Corbis Sygma]During the first Knesset debate on the Oslo peace accords (see September 13, 1993), Likud party chairman Benjamin Netanyahu, a close ally of US neoconservatives and Christian fundamentalists, compares the accords to British attempts to appease Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler before World War II. Referring to British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, he shouts at Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, “You are worse than Chamberlain.” Netanyahu is so aggressive in part because he has the public and private support of influential US neoconservatives and Christian fundamentalists. “I was ambassador [to the US] for four years of the peace process, and the Christian fundamentalists were vehemently opposed to the peace process,” Israeli ambassador Itamar Rabinovich will recall (see July 1993). “They believed that the land belonged to Israel as a matter of divine right. So they immediately became part of a campaign by the Israeli right to undermine the peace process.” Netanyahu’s outburst on the floor of the Knesset is a deliberate part of this strategy. [Knesset Homepage, 2003; Unger, 2007, pp. 136]

Entity Tags: Itamar Rabinovich, Shimon Peres, Benjamin Netanyahu

Category Tags: Israel/Palestine Conflict, US-Israeli Relations, US-Middle East Relations

Newly elected Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (see May 29, 1996) flies to Washington, DC, to visit one of his strongest political supporters, neoconservative Richard Perle. Perle is the chief author of a new strategy proposal called “A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Security in the Region” (see July 8, 1996). In essence, Perle’s policy proposal is an update of fellow neoconservative Paul Wolfowitz’s Defense Planning Guide (see February 18, 1992), which had so horrified Clinton and Bush officials. But Netanyahu is clearly pleased with the proposal. After meeting with Perle, Netanyahu addresses the US Congress. Quoting extensively from the proposal, he tells the lawmakers that the US must join Israel in overseeing the “democratization” of the Middle East. War might be a necessity to achieve this goal, he warns. While the “Clean Break” authors are primarily concerned with Iraq and Syria, Netanyahu takes a longer view. “The most dangerous of these regions is Iran,” he says. [Unger, 2007, pp. 145-148]

Entity Tags: Clinton administration, Bush administration (41), Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, Benjamin Netanyahu

Category Tags: Diplomacy and Geopolitics, Israel/Palestine Conflict, US-Israeli Relations, US-Middle East Relations

Cover of ‘A World Transformed.’Cover of ‘A World Transformed.’ [Source: Bookpage (.com)]Former president George H. W. Bush and his close colleague, former National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft, publish a book entitled A World Transformed. Recalling the 1991 Gulf War (see January 16, 1991 and After), Bush and Scowcroft defend their decision not to enter Baghdad and overthrow the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein, calling it the proper and pragmatic thing to do. They do admit, however, that they were certain Hussein would shortly be overthrown by an internal revolution sparked by the crushing defeat of his military. [New York Times, 9/27/1998]
US Might Still Occupy Hostile Iraq Eight Years Later - “Trying to eliminate Saddam… would have incurred incalculable human and political costs,” they write. “We would have been forced to occupy Baghdad and, in effect, rule Iraq… there was no viable ‘exit strategy’ we could see, violating another of our principles. Furthermore, we had been consciously trying to set a pattern for handling aggression in the post-Cold War world. Going in and occupying Iraq, thus unilaterally exceeding the United Nations’ mandate, would have destroyed the precedent of international response to aggression that we hoped to establish. Had we gone the invasion route, the United States could conceivably still be an occupying power in a bitterly hostile land.” [Wilson, 2004, pp. 314-315]
Younger Bush Disagrees with Assessments - Bush’s son, Texas Governor George W. Bush, preparing for his own presidential run (see April-May 1999), explicitly disagrees with the book’s assessments of US actions during and after the 1991 Gulf War. According to Mickey Herskowitz, the writer working on Bush’s campaign biography, “He thought of himself as a superior, more modern politican than his father and [the elder Bush’s close adviser and friend] Jim Baker. He told me, ‘[My father] could have done anything [during the Gulf War]. He could have invaded Switzerland. If I had that political capital, I would have taken Iraq.” [Unger, 2007, pp. 169]

Entity Tags: Saddam Hussein, George W. Bush, George Herbert Walker Bush, Brent Scowcroft, Mickey Herskowitz, James A. Baker

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

Category Tags: Diplomacy and Geopolitics, US-Middle East Relations

A study by the US Institute of Peace finds that “the Iraq problem” has transformed from “a multilateral conflict between Iraq and the United Nations to a bilateral one between Iraq and the United States.” [Roberts, 2008, pp. 122]

Entity Tags: United Nations, Iraq, US Institute of Peace

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

Category Tags: US-Middle East Relations, Diplomacy and Geopolitics

The Middle East Forum, an aggressively neoconservative and pro-Israeli journal edited by Daniel Pipes, issues a report urging the US to put an end to Syria’s influence in Lebanon, if necessary by military force. The report is cosigned by, among others, Richard Perle and Daniel Pipes. [Middle East Forum, 5/2000]

Entity Tags: Daniel Pipes, Richard Perle

Timeline Tags: Neoconservative Influence

Category Tags: Neoconservatives in Foreign Policy, US-Middle East Relations

Following a conference on the terrorist threat to the US arranged by counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke (see (March 2001)), President Bush receives a classified assessment concerning the threat. It states that Pakistan is one of the countries that represents the “highest risk” of enabling black-market sales of nuclear weapons. However, no significant action is taken based on the analysis. According to authors Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark, Clarke apparently feels “isolated,” as if only he really understands what Pakistan is doing in terms of nuclear proliferation and where it might lead. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 305]

Entity Tags: Richard A. Clarke, George W. Bush

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: Nuclear Weapons Treaties, Nuclear Nonproliferation Efforts, US-Middle East Relations

Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah refuses an invitation to meet with President George Bush at the White House. Abdullah, the de facto leader of Saudi Arabia with King Fahd unable to perform his position due to illness, says: “We want [the US] to consider their own conscience. Don’t they see what is happening to the Palestinian children, women, the elderly, the humiliation, the hunger?” Brent Scowcroft, a close friend of the president’s father and former national security adviser, echoes Abdullah’s concerns, warning Bush that moderate Arab countries such as Saudi Arabia are “deeply disappointed with this administration and its failure to do something to moderate the attitude of Israel.” Scowcroft adds that the Palestinians will not stop their own violence towards Israel without the prospect of a viable Palestinian state. According to author Craig Unger, it is virtually unthinkable that Scowcroft would have publicly spoken so critically of the Bush administration without the approval of Bush’s father, former President George H. W. Bush, so Scowcroft’s statement has, in effect, put the two Bushes at loggerheads. Unger will write, “In effect, in their own constrained fashion, the father and son had drawn swords.” [Unger, 2007, pp. 209-211]

Entity Tags: Brent Scowcroft, Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al-Saud, George W. Bush, George Herbert Walker Bush, Fahd Bin Abdul Aziz, Craig Unger

Category Tags: Diplomacy and Geopolitics, Israel/Palestine Conflict, US-Middle East Relations

President Bush faces a foreign affairs crisis he and his neoconservative advisers (see June 2001) had not anticipated. As promised, Bush had withdrawn from the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and thrown US support wholly behind Israel (see January 30, 2001). Under the leadership of its new right-wing prime minister, Likud’s Ariel Sharon, Israeli troops had attacked Palestinians almost every day since February, killing civilians (including women and children) on a regular basis. Bush responded by blaming the Palestinians in general and Palestinian Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat in particular for the violence. But Bush is nonplussed when the US’s close ally and his family’s longtime friends, the Saudi royal family, publicly criticizes the US for its policy towards the conflict. As author Craig Unger writes, “In just five months as president… Bush had managed to jeopardize a relationship with an oil-rich ally of the United States, at a time when America was more profoundly dependent on foreign oil than ever.” Crown Prince Abdullah, the de facto leader of Saudi Arabia, had even turned down an invitation to the White House the month before (see May 2001). In the months to follow, President Bush’s father, former President George H. W. Bush, will help smooth over tensions between the Saudis and his son, to the great embarrassment of the younger Bush, who doesn’t like the perception that he needs his father to bail him out of anything. [Unger, 2007, pp. 209-211]

Entity Tags: Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al-Saud, George W. Bush, George Herbert Walker Bush, Ariel Sharon

Category Tags: Diplomacy and Geopolitics, Israel/Palestine Conflict, Neoconservatives in Foreign Policy, US-Middle East Relations

Time magazine publishes an article calling Secretary of State Colin Powell the “odd man out” in the administration, adding that his centrist politics make him “chum in the water for the sharks in Dubya’s sea,” particularly Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. One top diplomat, asked to provide an adjective for the phrase, “Colin Powell is a ‘blank’ secretary of state,” replies, “Yes, he is.” A senior administration official says, “I’ve been struck by how not struck I am by him.” Time states, “Powell’s megastar wattage looks curiously dimmed, as if someone has turned his light way down.” When Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz is asked why he took the number two spot in the Pentagon, he replies with one word, “Powell” (see January 11, 2001). (Wolfowitz will later deny making the remark.) Author Craig Unger will write that Wolfowitz’s terse reply “gave the game away. He was there to neutralize Powell, to implement the hard-line neocon[servative] vision.” Time concludes, “Enthusiasm is building inside the administration to take down [Iraq’s] Saddam [Hussein] once and for all,” a policy to which Powell is opposed. [Time, 9/10/2001; Time, 9/10/2001; Unger, 2007, pp. 213]

Entity Tags: Bush administration (43), Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Time magazine, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Saddam Hussein, Colin Powell, US Department of State

Category Tags: Diplomacy and Geopolitics, Neoconservatives in Foreign Policy, US-Middle East Relations

Ann Coulter.Ann Coulter. [Source: Universal Press Syndicate]Conservative columnist Ann Coulter writes an enraged op-ed for the National Review. Reflecting on the 9/11 attacks and the loss of her friend Barbara Olson in the attacks (see (9:20 a.m.) September 11, 2001), Coulter says America’s retribution should be immediate and generalized: “This is no time to be precious about locating the exact individuals directly involved in this particular terrorist attack. Those responsible include anyone anywhere in the world who smiled in response to the annihilation of patriots like Barbara Olson. We don’t need long investigations of the forensic evidence to determine with scientific accuracy the person or persons who ordered this specific attack. We don’t need an ‘international coalition.’ We don’t need a study on ‘terrorism.’ We certainly didn’t need a congressional resolution condemning the attack this week.” Coulter says a “fanatical, murderous cult”—Islam—has “invaded” the nation, welcomed by Americans and protected by misguided laws that prohibit discrimination and “‘religious’ profiling.” She blasts airport security measures that insist on checking every passenger—“[a]irports scrupulously apply the same laughably ineffective airport harassment to Suzy Chapstick as to Muslim hijackers. It is preposterous to assume every passenger is a potential crazed homicidal maniac. We know who the homicidal maniacs are. They are the ones cheering and dancing right now.” She concludes by calling for all-out vengeance: “We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity. We weren’t punctilious about locating and punishing only Hitler and his top officers. We carpet-bombed German cities; we killed civilians. That’s war. And this is war.” [National Review, 9/13/2001] In October 2002, Reason magazine’s Sara Rimensnyder will call Coulter’s screed “the single most infamous foreign policy suggestion inspired by 9/11.” [Reason Magazine, 10/2002]

Entity Tags: Ann Coulter, Sara Rimensnyder

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, Events Leading to Iraq Invasion, Domestic Propaganda, US Domestic Terrorism

Category Tags: Diplomacy and Geopolitics, US and International Terrorism, US-Middle East Relations

Farid Ghadry.Farid Ghadry. [Source: Publicity photo via Committee on the Present Danger]Fariz Ghadry founds the Reform Party of Syria just weeks after 9/11. Though Ghadry wants to distance himself from comparisons to Iraqi exile Ahmad Chalabi, the comparisons are myriad. Like Chalabi, Ghadry is a rich Arab exile who has not been to his native country in decades, but wants to return and rule, or at least be part of the ruling government, of his country. Like Chalabi, Ghadry has deep ties to a number of powerful American neoconservatives. And like Chalabi, Ghadry wants to overthrow the Ba’athist dictator of his native country—in this case, Syria’s Bashir Assad. In the months and years to come, Ghadry will try, with no real success, to build a case for the US to invade Syria, and presumably place him in power after Assad is overthrown (see January 12, 2006). [Slate, 2/7/2005; House Committee on International Relations, 7/7/2006]

Entity Tags: Farid Ghadry, Ahmed Chalabi

Category Tags: US-Middle East Relations, Neoconservatives in Foreign Policy

Reverend Franklin Graham.Reverend Franklin Graham. [Source: Trinity Broadcasting Network]Reverend Franklin Graham, the son of renowned televangelist Billy Graham, decries Islam as a “wicked religion” that calls for “the killing of non-Muslims or infidels.” Graham says, referring to the 9/11 attacks: “We’re not attacking Islam but Islam has attacked us. The God of Islam is not the same God. He’s not the son of God of the Christian or Judeo-Christian faith. It’s a different God and I believe it is a very evil and wicked religion.” Asked to clarify his statement, Graham reiterates his position, saying: “I don’t believe this is a wonderful, peaceful religion. When you read the Koran and you read the verses from the Koran, it instructs the killing of the infidel, for those that are non-Muslim.… It wasn’t Methodists flying into those buildings, it wasn’t Lutherans. It was an attack on this country by people of the Islamic faith.” American Muslims challenge Graham’s statements. Ali Akber, a North Carolina Muslim who has worked to bring Jews and Muslims together, says Graham’s words are “spreading hatred. It is the same God. We just don’t worship the same way. We all believe in God and charity and worshipping and not doing any evil.” Imam Hassan al-Qazwini of the Islamic Center of America adds, “Islam never teaches hatred, Islam never teaches terrorism.” The White House distances itself from Graham’s remarks, issuing a statement that says the president “views Islam as a religion that preaches peace” and adding that the terrorists do not represent what Islam teaches. Newsweek religion editor Ken Woodward says: “Obviously, Mr. Graham is tone deaf in this respect. He’s certainly not his father’s son in terms of discretion.” [Unger, 2007, pp. 257; Islam Online, 11/27/2007]

Entity Tags: Billy Graham, Ali Akber, Imam Sayed Hassan al-Qazwini, Ken Woodward, Franklin Graham

Category Tags: US and International Terrorism, US-Middle East Relations

Neoconservative writers Robert Kagan and William Kristol predict “a wide-ranging war in locales from Central Asia to the Middle East and, unfortunately, back again to the United States,” of which the Afghanistan conflict is merely “an opening battle.” The “unequivocal destruction of the Taliban, al-Qaeda, and Osama bin Laden” are the first steps in a larger conflict that must “spread and engulf a number of countries in conflicts of varying intensity,” requiring US forces to invade “multiple” countries. “It is going to resemble the clash of civilizations that everyone has hoped to avoid. And it is going to put enormous and perhaps unbearable strain on parts of an international coalition that today basks in contented consensus.” Kagan and Kristol say that both the 9/11 attacks and the recent anthrax mailings are likely the work of Iraq, and thus President Bush “ha[s] no choice” but to destroy the Iraqi government of Saddam Hussein. The continued security of Israel is of paramount importance, they write; the US must join with Israel in battling Islamist terrorism in the region by any means necessary. There is virtually no difference between the Taliban and the Palestinian Authority, they write; both must be shut down. Putative US allies such as Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia might object, and may even declare war against Israel. If so, they must be given the same treatment as the Taliban, the Palestinians, and Iraq: overthrow and domination. “With or without a new Arab-Israeli war, it is possible that the demise of some ‘moderate’ Arab regimes may be just around the corner.” [Weekly Standard, 10/29/2001]

Entity Tags: William Kristol, Robert Kagan

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion, Neoconservative Influence

Category Tags: Neoconservatives in Foreign Policy, US Interventions, US-Middle East Relations

Senior State Department official and former CIA analyst Flynt Leverett proposes a new, pragmatic approach to the war on terror. He believes that Middle Eastern terrorism is more tactical than religious: for example, since Syria wants to reclaim the Golan Heights and lacks the military ability to wrest that territory from Israel, it relies on “asymmetrical methods,” including terror attacks, to work for its aims. If one accepts this viewpoint, Leverett argues, one accepts that nations like Syria are not locked in fanatical mindsets, and can be negotiated with. Leverett, with the support of senior State Department official Richard Haass, advises his boss, Secretary of State Colin Powell, to draw up a “road map” to peace for the problem nations of the region—if a nation expels its terrorist groups and stops trying to develop weapons of mass destruction, the US will remove that nation from its list of terror sponsors and open a new era of cooperation with that nation. Powell takes the idea to a “Deputies Meeting” at the White House. The meeting includes Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, the deputy director of the CIA, a representative from Vice President Dick Cheney’s office, and Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley. The neoconservatives—Hadley, Wolfowitz, Cheney’s representative—hate the idea, calling it a reward for bad behavior. Sponsors of terrorism should stop because it is the moral thing to do, they say, and until that happens, the US will not encourage their actions. After leaving the meeting, Hadley writes up a memo that comes to be known as “Hadley’s Rules.” They are simple: if a nation such as Iran or Syria offers assistance on a specific item or issue, the US will take it, but will give nothing and promise nothing in return, and the US will not attempt to build on that offer. Leverett believes Hadley’s memo is preposterous, sacrificing a chance at real progress for striking poses of moral purity. Shortly thereafter, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice offers him a position as senior director of Mideast affairs at the National Security Council; Leverett takes the job with the understanding that the Bush administration must begin real negotiations with Israel and Palestine. [Esquire, 10/18/2007]

Entity Tags: Stephen J. Hadley, Colin Powell, Central Intelligence Agency, Bush administration (43), Condoleezza Rice, Richard Armitage, Flynt Leverett, Office of the Vice President, US Department of State, National Security Council, Richard Haass, Paul Wolfowitz

Category Tags: Diplomacy and Geopolitics, US Foreign Policy, US and International Terrorism, US-Middle East Relations

Some of the weapons found aboard the ‘Karine A.’Some of the weapons found aboard the ‘Karine A.’ [Source: Associated Press / BBC]Israeli commandos seize a freighter, the “Karine A” (or “Karin A”), in the Red Sea 300 miles off the coast of Israel, in an operation dubbed “Operation Noah’s Ark.” Eli Marum, an Israeli Navy operations chief, says the operation took less than eight minutes and did not require a single shot being fired. “The crew was fully surprised,” he says. “They did not anticipate that we would strike so far out into the Red Sea.” Israeli officials claim the freighter contains a large store of Iranian-supplied weapons—including Katyusha rockets capable of destroying tanks, mortars, grenades, Kalashnikov assault rifles, anti-tank missiles, high explosives, and two speedboats—for use by Palestinian fighters against Israeli targets. The Palestinian Authority is forbidden by treaty to own such weaponry. Israel also claims that the captain of the freighter, Omar Akawi, has direct ties to the Palestinian Authority and to its leader, Yasser Arafat. (According to Israeli sources, Akawi claims he is a member of Arafat’s organization Fatah.) Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer tells European Union (EU) authorities that the freighter “was purchased by the Palestinian Authority after September 11” and that “the whole operation was managed and funded by the Palestinian Authority in cooperation with Iran and other sources.” [BBC, 1/10/2002; Guardian, 1/21/2002; Jewish Virtual Library, 2009] “What Iran is trying to do is create another base, besides its base in Lebanon” to threaten Israel, says Major General Giora Eiland, the Israeli Army’s chief of planning. [New York Times, 1/12/2002]
Arafat's Denials - Initially, Arafat denies any connection whatsoever with the shipment, accusing Israel of fomenting a propaganda attack to thwart US-led efforts to implement a cease-fire agreement, and says Israel “fabricated” the whole affair. Ahmed Abdel Rahman, the secretary general of the Palestinian cabinet, calls the operation “an Israeli trap.” Later, Arafat continues to insist that he had no involvement in the affair, but admits that he cannot control “everyone” in the Palestinian Authority. American and Israeli intelligence officials note that the weaponry on board the “Karine A” is similar to that of a “wish list” allegedly drawn up by senior Palestinian officials under Arafat’s direction. [New York Times, 1/12/2002; Jewish Virtual Library, 2009]
Propaganda by Israel? - Some, such as Guardian reporter Brian Whitaker, believe that Israel is using the incident to persuade the EU to stop funding the Palestinian Authority. And, Whitaker notes, Israeli lawmakers and pundits such as former President Benjamin Netanyahu are using the incident to argue that the idea of Palestinian statehood be permanently scrapped. Whatever the truth of the matter, the attempts suffer setbacks when documents show that an Iraqi, Ali Mohamed Abbas, purchased the ship, and other records disprove the Israelis’ claims about the ship’s cargo, which Israel says it picked up in Yemen. It seems clear that the freighter was indeed carrying weapons, but little of Israel’s other claims—they were Iranian in origin and intended for Palestinian use against Israel—are borne out by ascertainable facts.
Hezbollah Connection? - American intelligence sources later speculate that the weapons may have been intended for Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shi’ite militant organization with close ties to Iran, and not the Palestinians. Israel is initially resistant to the idea, but Israeli defense sources later tell Israeli reporters that it was “certainly possible that some of the arms were earmarked for Hizbullah,” though it is certain that most “were clearly bound for the Palestinian Authority.” Whitaker echoes skeptics’ disbelief about the Hezbollah claim, noting that there are easier and more secure methods of delivering arms to Lebanon than a risky sea voyage past Israeli patrol boats. [Guardian, 1/21/2002] Israel names reputed senior Hezbollah security officer Imad Mughniyeh as a key figure in the incident. Mughniyeh has not been heard from for years by Western intelligence, but is wanted by the FBI for his participation in kidnapping Americans in Beirut during the 1980s and the hijacking of a TWA passenger plane. The BBC reports, “Correspondents say the Israeli government has been going to great lengths to convince Washington that the Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat is linked to Tehran and the pro-Iranian Hezbollah, and hence to what it sees as international terrorism.” [BBC, 1/10/2002]
Iranian Connection Unlikely - And the Iranian connection is similarly hard to swallow. Though Israel insists that the arms prove a new and disturbing connection between Iran and Palestinian militants, Whitaker writes, “most non-Israeli observers of Iran ridicule the idea totally, for a variety of historical, political and religious reasons. It also conflicts with the foreign policies adopted by [Iranian] President [Mohamed] Khatami.” He goes on to add: “The trouble with Iran, though—as one Iranian exile remarked last week—is that it has two governments and 10,000 leaders. If you are going to pin blame, you have to determine which one is responsible.” Whitaker is referring to Iran’s religious and secular leaders, who are often at odds with one another, and to the propensity of Iranian leaders from both sides to conduct independent operations without “official” government sanction. [Guardian, 1/21/2002] The New York Times notes: “Iran’s government has dismissed the Israeli accusations. But Iran’s Revolutionary Guards have discretionary funds and access to weapons, and they often run operations independent of the elected government of… Khatami.” [New York Times, 1/12/2002] The “Karine A” incident helps prompt Bush officials to include Iran as a member of the so-called “axis of evil,” disrupting backchannel negotiations between Iranian and US officials (see January 29, 2002).

Entity Tags: Fatah al-Islam, Omar Akawi, Giora Eiland, Hezbollah, Eli Marum, Bush administration (43), Brian Whitaker, Ahmed Abdel Rahman, Yasser Arafat, Hojjat ol-Eslam Seyyed Mohammad Khatami, Imad Mughniyeh, Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, Benjamin Netanyahu, Ali Mohamed Abbas

Category Tags: Diplomacy and Geopolitics, Israel/Palestine Conflict, US and International Terrorism, US-Israeli Relations, US-Middle East Relations

President Bush’s State of the Union speech describes an “axis of evil” consisting of Iraq, Iran, and North Korea. Osama bin Laden is not mentioned in the speech. [US President, 2/4/2002] Bush says: “States like these and their terrorist allies, constitute an axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world. By seeking weapons of mass destruction, these regimes pose a grave and growing danger. They could provide these arms to terrorists, giving them the means to match their hatred. They could attack our allies or attempt to blackmail the United States. In any of these cases, the price of indifference would be catastrophic.” Bush goes on to suggest for the first time that the US might be prepared to launch pre-emptive wars by saying, “The United States of America will not permit the world’s most dangerous regimes to threaten us with the world’s most destructive weapons.” [Vanity Fair, 5/2004] When Bush advisor Richard Perle was asked one month before 9/11 about new challenges the US faced, he replied by naming these exact three countries (see August 6, 2001). Michael Gerson, head of the White House speechwriting team at the time, will later claim that, as Newsweek will later put it, “Bush was already making plans to topple Saddam Hussein, but he wasn’t ready to say so.” Iran and North Korea are inserted into the speech in order to avoid focusing solely on Iraq. The speech is followed by a new public focus on Iraq and a downplaying of bin Laden (see September 15, 2001-April 6, 2002). Prior to the speech, the Iranian government had been very helpful in the US fight against the Taliban, since the Taliban and Iran were enemies. [Newsweek, 2/12/2007] At the time, al-Qaeda operatives had been streaming into Iran from Afghanistan following the defeat of the Taliban. Iran has been turning over hundreds of suspects to US allies and providing US intelligence with the names, photographs, and fingerprints of those it is holding. [Washington Post, 2/10/2007] Newsweek will later say that it is “beyond doubt” the Iranian government was “critical… to stabilizing [Afghanistan] after the fall of Kabul.” But all this cooperation comes to an end after the speech. Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Mohammad Hossein Adeli will later say that “Those [inside the Iranian government] who were in favor of a rapprochement with the United States were marginalized. The speech somehow exonerated those who had always doubted America’s intentions.” [Newsweek, 2/12/2007] In August 2003, reporter Jeffrey St. Clair will write that “the Axis of Evil [is not] an ‘axis’ at all, since two of the states, Iran and Iraq, hate… each other, and neither [have] anything at all to do with the third, North Korea.” [CounterPunch, 8/13/2003]

Entity Tags: George W. Bush, Mohammad Hossein Adeli, Jeffrey St. Clair, Michael Gerson

Timeline Tags: US confrontation with Iran, Complete 911 Timeline, Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

Category Tags: Diplomacy and Geopolitics, Nuclear Weapons Treaties, US-Middle East Relations, US-Korean Relations

Three weeks after the “Karine A” is seized, allegedly filled with Iranian weapons destined to be used against Israel (see January 3, 2002 and After), President Bush names Iran as one of the world’s “axis of evil” nations (see January 29, 2002). State Department official Hillary Mann, who has been facilitating secret backchannel discussions with Iranian officials for over a year (see September 11, 2001 and Fall 2001), later confirms that the “Karine A” incident helped prompt Iran’s inclusion in Bush’s speech. The speech prompts the Iranians to skip the monthly meeting with Mann in Geneva. When they resume their meeting in March, the Iranians, according to Mann, are disturbed by Bush’s characterization. “They said they had put their necks out to talk to us and they were taking big risks with their careers and their families and their lives,” she will recall. [Esquire, 10/18/2007]

Entity Tags: Hillary Mann, George W. Bush

Category Tags: Diplomacy and Geopolitics, Israel/Palestine Conflict, US and International Terrorism, US-Middle East Relations

Crown Prince Abdullah, the de facto leader of Saudi Arabia, flies to Texas to meet with President Bush at his ranch in Crawford. Abdullah has been working to convince Arab leaders to accept a proposed peace treaty between Israel and Palestine (see April 2002), but has had no support from the White House. The course of the meeting is later paraphrased by National Security Council staffer Flynt Leverett, the head of the NSC’s Mideast affairs division. As Leverett will recall, the usually deferential Abdullah tells Bush that he has a direct question and wants a direct answer. Abdullah asks Bush: “Are you going to do anything about the Palestinian issue? If you tell me no, if it’s too difficult, if you’re not going to give it that kind of priority, just tell me. I will understand and I will never say anything critical of you or your leadership in public, but I’m going to need to make my own judgments and my own decisions about Saudi interests.” Bush attempts to stall, telling Abdullah he understands his concerns and that he will see what he can do. Abdullah refuses to be mollified. Standing up, he says: “That’s it. This meeting is over.” Bush retreats to another room with National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of State Colin Powell to discuss Abdullah’s position. Bush returns shortly thereafter and gives Abdullah his word that he will deal seriously with the Palestinian issue. “Okay,” Abdullah says. “The president of the United States has given me his word.” After the meeting, Powell calls Abdullah’s threat “the near-death experience”; Bush, rolling his eyes, says, “We sure don’t want to go through anything like that again.” As Powell later recalls, “It was a very serious moment and no one wanted to see if the Saudis were bluffing.” It is unclear whether Bush is expressing relief or making a sarcastic comment. [Esquire, 10/18/2007]

Entity Tags: Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al-Saud, Flynt Leverett, Bush administration (43), Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, George W. Bush

Category Tags: Diplomacy and Geopolitics, Israel/Palestine Conflict, US-Middle East Relations

Flynt Leverett, the newly named head of Mideast affairs for the National Security Council (see December 2001-January 2002), has worked hard for the last months to persuade Bush administration officials to consider a proposal by Saudi Arabia for a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. The proposal, originated by Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Abdullah, calls for “full normalization” of relations between Israel and Arab nations in exchange for Israel’s “full withdrawal” from the occupied territories. Abdullah promised that he can persuade all the Arab nations of the region to sign off on the accords. But even with concessions insisted upon by the Israelis, the Bush administration refused to consider the deal. Even after Abdullah persuaded every nation of the Arab League to sign his proposal, the White House refused to listen. In April, Secretary of State Colin Powell, accompanied by Leverett, travels to the Middle East to negotiate an end to an Israeli siege of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat’s compound. Powell believes he has authorization from the White House to explore what are called “political horizons,” diplomatic shorthand for peace negotiations between Israel and Palestine. Powell and Leverett use the Saudi proposal as a springboard for discussions. On their final day in the Middle East, Leverett, with a group of senior American officials, is trying to hammer out Powell’s final speech when a telephone call from the White House short-circuits the procedure. On the other end, Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley tells Leverett: “Tell Powell he is not authorized to talk about a political horizon. Those are formal instructions.” Leverett responds by telling Hadley it is a bad idea to abruptly stop negotiations. As he later recalls the conversation, Leverett tells Hadley, “It’s bad policy and it’s also humiliating for Powell, who has been talking to heads of state about this very issue for the last 10 days.” Hadley retorts: “It doesn’t matter. There’s too much resistance from [Defense Secretary Donald] Rumsfeld and the VP [Dick Cheney]. Those are the instructions.” Powell is furious at the instructions. “What is it they’re afraid of?” he demands. “Who the hell are they afraid of?” Leverett responds, “I don’t know sir.” Powell will later recall, “I had major problems with the White House on what I wanted to say.” [Esquire, 10/18/2007]

Entity Tags: Donald Rumsfeld, Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al-Saud, Bush administration (43), Colin Powell, Stephen J. Hadley, Flynt Leverett, Yasser Arafat, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, National Security Council

Category Tags: Diplomacy and Geopolitics, Israel/Palestine Conflict, Neoconservatives in Foreign Policy, US-Middle East Relations

The King of Jordan, Abdullah II, visits Washington to discuss the Israel-Palestinian peace process. Abdullah’s visit comes on the heels of Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah’s earlier visit, where he threatened to break off discussions with the US if President Bush refused to deal seriously with the matter (see Spring 2002). Though the Saudi leader seemingly shook up Bush with his unusually direct insistence on American action, Bush appears surprised that the Jordanian king is also concerned with the issue. Bush listens politely to Abdullah’s appeal, and says that the king’s idea of a “road map to peace” sounds reasonable. National Security Council official Flynt Leverett, the head of the NSC’s Mideast affairs division, promises Abdullah that such a “road map” will be drawn up by the end of 2002. No such proposal is ever completed; neoconservatives in the Defense Department (Donald Rumsfeld and Douglas Feith), the Vice President’s Office (John Hannah and Lewis “Scooter” Libby), and the NSC (Elliott Abrams) continue to oppose the idea, calling it nothing but a reward to the Palestinians for “bad behavior” (see December 2001-January 2002). Only if Palestine rejects terrorism and implements democracy will the US enter into negotiations, they insist, regardless of what promises Bush has made. [Esquire, 10/18/2007]

Entity Tags: Office of the Vice President, Donald Rumsfeld, Bush administration (43), Abdullah II ibn al-Hussein, Douglas Feith, Lewis (“Scooter”) Libby, Elliott Abrams, George W. Bush, US Department of Defense, Flynt Leverett, National Security Council, John Hannah

Category Tags: Diplomacy and Geopolitics, Israel/Palestine Conflict, US-Middle East Relations

The Reverend Jerry Vines.The Reverend Jerry Vines. [Source: Thomas White]Reverend Jerry Vines, pastor of a large Baptist church in Florida, denounces Islam as being responsible for the 9/11 attacks, and criticizes America’s propensity for “religious pluralism” as making the nation vulnerable to further attacks as well as causing other social ills. In his statement, made to an audience at the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), Vines insults Islam and its founder, the Prophet Muhammed: “They would have us believe that Islam is just as good as Christianity,” Vines says. “Christianity was founded by the virgin-born son of God, Jesus Christ. Islam was founded by Muhammad, a demon-possessed pedophile who had 12 wives, the last one of which was a 9-year-old girl.” Muslims do not worship the same god as Christians do, he adds: “And I will tell you Allah is not Jehovah, either. Jehovah’s not going to turn you into a terrorist.” White House press secretary Scott McClellan says after Vines’s remarks that President Bush “believes Islam is a religion that teaches peace. The president believes in religious tolerance and respects people of all faiths.” The day after Vines’s incendiary remarks, Bush addresses the SBC meeting via satellite to extol Baptists’ tolerance, praising their “extraordinary influence” on American history and saying, “Baptists were among the earliest champions of religious tolerance and freedom.” Vines’s remarks echo earlier attacks on Islam by other prominent evangelicals, including Franklin Graham (see October 2001). Other evangelical Christians, including the Reverend Jerry Falwell, rush to support Vines’s remarks, but Jewish leaders and mainstream Protestant groups join American Muslims in denouncing the remarks. Abraham Foxman, the director of the Jewish Anti-Defamation League, calls Vines’s remarks “deplorable,” and says such inflammatory language is “not surprising coming from the leadership of the Southern Baptist Convention, which has a track record of denigrating and delegitimizing other religions.” [Washington Post, 6/20/2002]

Entity Tags: Jerry Vines, Abraham Foxman, Anti-Defamation League, Jerry Falwell, Franklin Graham, George W. Bush, Scott McClellan, Southern Baptist Convention

Category Tags: US-Middle East Relations

A secret CIA report that says North Korea is enriching “significant quantities” of uranium and this is happening with Pakistan’s help (see June 2002) is withheld from some officials at the State Department. The report, which was drafted for the White House, is classified top secret sensitive compartmentalized information, and is not provided to the State Department’s Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA), although it is highly significant for their work. Norm Wulf, the ACDA’s deputy assistant director, will suspect that John Bolton, the under secretary of state for arms control, is involved in the withholding. Wulf will say that before Bolton arrived at the State Department in 2001, intelligence about North Korea’s enrichment program and links to Pakistan had been piling up on his desk for three years. However, by 2002 Wulf thinks that he is not getting all the information he should. “I became less and less trustful of the evidence and the more clever people who saw it in its original form. Between the raw intelligence and me were several filters. There were hostile relations between Bolton, his staff, and the non-proliferation bureau.” Authors Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark will say that the CIA report “had to be buried” because administration officials “only wanted Congress to focus on Iraq, as this was where [they] were determined that US forces should go. All other threats, especially those greater than Iraq, would have to be concealed, defused, or downplayed.” [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 336-337] The CIA report will be revealed in the press in early 2003, just before the Iraq war begins. [New Yorker, 1/27/2003]

Entity Tags: US Department of State, Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, John R. Bolton, Catherine Scott-Clark, Adrian Levy, Norm Wulf

Timeline Tags: A. Q. Khan's Nuclear Network

Category Tags: Nuclear Nonproliferation Efforts, US-Korean Relations, US-Middle East Relations

National Security Council official Flynt Leverett, the head of Mideast affairs and the prime proponent of a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians in that organization (see December 2001-January 2002 and April 2002), confronts his boss, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, over the Bush administration’s continued lack of progress on such negotiations, and over its repeated broken promises to Arab heads of state (see Spring 2002 and Summer 2002). Leverett has fielded a furious phone call from Jordan’s Foreign Minister, Marwan Muasher, who has just been told by Rice that all negotiations over the so-called “road map to peace” are at an end. “Do you have any idea how this has pulled the rug out from under us, from under me?” Muasher demanded. “I’m the one that has to go into Arab League meetings and get beat up and say, ‘No, there’s going to be a plan out by the end of the year.’ How can we ever trust you again?” Leverett demands an explanation from Rice. She tells him that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has called for early elections, and he asked President Bush to put all negotiations on hold until after the elections. Leverett, unable to swallow his indignation any longer, retorts: “You told the whole world you were going to put this out before Christmas. Because one Israeli politician told you it’s going to make things politically difficult for him, you don’t put it out? Do you realize how hard that makes things for all our Arab partners?” Rice remains impassive. “If we put the road map out,” she says, “it will interfere with Israeli elections.” Leverett replies, “You are interfering with Israeli elections, just in another way.” Rice concludes the discussion, “Flynt, the decision has already been made.” Leverett, disgusted with the lack of sincerity towards the negotiations and with the impending Iraq invasion, will quit the NSC in March 2003. [Esquire, 10/18/2007]

Entity Tags: Condoleezza Rice, Ariel Sharon, Bush administration (43), National Security Council, Flynt Leverett, Marwan Muasher, George W. Bush

Category Tags: Diplomacy and Geopolitics, Israel/Palestine Conflict, US-Middle East Relations

The United States exports arms to 25 countries this year. Of these, 18 are involved in ongoing conflicts, including Angola, Chad, Ethiopia, Colombia, Pakistan, the Philippines, and Israel. Sales to these countries total almost $1 billion, with most it—$845.6 million—going to Israel. More than half of the top 25 recipients are currently designated “undemocratic” by the US State Department’s Human Rights Report. Those countries—including Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, and Uzbekistan—account for more than $2.7 billion in US sales. When countries with a poor human rights records or serious patterns of abuse are also added to the list, 20 of the top 25 US arms recipients, or 80 percent, are either undemocratic regimes or governments with a poor human rights record. [Berrigan and Hartung, 6/2005; Boston Globe, 11/13/2006]

Entity Tags: Angola, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Israel, Egypt, Philippines, Ethiopia, United States, Saudi Arabia, Chad, Colombia

Timeline Tags: US Military

Category Tags: US Foreign Policy, US-Latin American Relations, US-South Asian Relations, US-Middle East Relations

The governments of Israel and the United States are in almost-perfect accord on most issues, according to a Washington Post analysis. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has talked repeatedly of the “special closeness” he has to the Bush administration, and of the “deep understanding” that President Bush and his officials have for Israel’s security and foreign policy needs. He has thanked Bush for providing what he calls “the required leeway in our ongoing war on terrorism” and lauded the Bush administration’s efforts to promote a peaceful settlement between Israel and the Palestinian people. Thomas Neumann, who heads the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA), agrees. “This is the best administration for Israel since Harry Truman,” says Neumann, equating Bush with the first American president to recognize the independent state of Israel. A senior official in the first Bush administration says that Sharon used the 9/11 attacks to cement the bond between his government and the Bush administration. One senior administration official says: “Sharon played the president like a violin: ‘I’m fighting your war, terrorism is terrorism,’ and so on. Sharon did a masterful job.”
Accord with Likud - But the US is not just in accord with Israel; it is in accord with Likud, the hardline conservative political party currently in charge of the Israeli government. The Post writes: “For the first time, a US administration and a Likud government in Israel are pursuing nearly identical policies. Earlier US administrations, from Jimmy Carter’s through Bill Clinton’s, held Likud and Sharon at arm’s length, distancing the United States from Likud’s traditionally tough approach to the Palestinians. But today, as Neumann noted, Israel and the United States share a common view on terrorism, peace with the Palestinians, war with Iraq and more. Neumann and others said this change was made possible by the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and their aftermath.” Bush supporters, particularly evangelical Christians, are “delight[ed]” with the administration’s overt support of Likud policies.
Abandoning Peace Talks between Israel and Palestinians - The downside, the Post notes, is that diplomacy with Israel’s Arab neighbors has come to a virtual standstill, and the Middle East “peace process” praised by Sharon is considered by many past and current US officials as a failure. Clinton administration National Security Adviser Sandy Berger says: “Every president since at least Nixon has seen the Arab-Israeli conflict as the central strategic issue in the Middle East. But this administration sees Iraq as the central challenge, and… has disengaged from any serious effort to confront the Arab-Israeli problem.” Retired Marine General Anthony Zinni, the administration’s special envoy to the region, calls the peace process “quiescent,” and adds, “I’ve kind of gone dormant.”
'Likudniks Really in Charge Now' - Bush has appointed neoconservative Elliott Abrams, a vociferous critic of any peace agreement between Israel and Palestine, the head of Mideast affairs for the National Security Council, signaling his administration’s near-total alignment with Israel in the process. Abrams’s hardline views are supported by, among others, Vice President Cheney, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and Defense Policy Board chairman Richard Perle, Abrams’s mentor, who in 1996 recommended to Israel’s then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that he abandon the Oslo peace accords and refuse to accede to Palestinian demands of “land for peace” (see September 13, 1993). A senior administration official says wryly, “The Likudniks are really in charge now,” using a Yiddish term for supporters of Sharon’s political party. “It’s a strong lineup,” says Neumann. Fellow neoconservative Meyrav Wurmser of the Hudson Institute says of Abrams: “Elliott’s appointment is a signal that the hard-liners in the administration are playing a more central role in shaping policy.… [T]he hard-liners are a very unique group. The hawks in the administration are in fact people who are the biggest advocates of democracy and freedom in the Middle East.” The Post explains that in Abrams’s and Wurmser’s view, promoting democracy in the Middle East is the best way to assure Israel’s security. Like other neoconservatives, they see the overthrow of Saddam Hussein and the establishment of a “democratic Palestine” as necessary for peace in the region. Others who disagree with the neoconservatives call them a “cabal.” The Post writes, “Members of the group do not hide their friendships and connections, or their loyalty to strong positions in support of Israel and Likud.” [Washington Post, 2/9/2003]

Entity Tags: Elliott Abrams, Donald Rumsfeld, Bush administration (43), Benjamin Netanyahu, Ariel Sharon, Anthony Zinni, Thomas Neumann, Sandy Berger, Likud, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, Harry S. Truman, George W. Bush, Condoleezza Rice, Richard Perle, Meyrav Wurmser, National Security Council

Category Tags: Diplomacy and Geopolitics, Israel/Palestine Conflict, Neoconservatives in Foreign Policy, US-Israeli Relations, US-Middle East Relations

Brent Scowcroft, still a member of the Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board even though he is virtually frozen out of any administration dialogue concerning Iraq (see October 16, 2001 and March 2002), tells the National Journal: “During the campaign, [President Bush] made some strong statements about putting more stock in [coalitions]. Clearly, that hasn’t happened.” Ultimately, Scowcroft says: “such a ‘go it alone’ doctrine is fundamentally, fatally flawed.… [I]t’s already given us an image of arrogance and unilateralism, and we’re paying a very high price for that image. If we get to the point where everyone secretly hopes the United States gets a black eye because we’re so obnoxious, then we’ll be totally hamstrung in the war on terror. We’ll be like Gulliver with the Lilliputians.” [Unger, 2007, pp. 292]

Entity Tags: Brent Scowcroft, George W. Bush, Issuetsdeah

Category Tags: Diplomacy and Geopolitics, US and International Terrorism, US-Middle East Relations

The US ambassador to the UN, neoconservative John Bolton, reassures Israeli government officials that after invading Iraq, the US intends to, in author Craig Unger’s words, “take care of Iran, Syria, and North Korea.” [Unger, 2007, pp. 290]

Entity Tags: John R. Bolton, Craig Unger

Timeline Tags: Iraq under US Occupation

Category Tags: Diplomacy and Geopolitics, US-Israeli Relations, US-Middle East Relations

Libya announces that it is giving up its unconventional weapons and ballistic missile programs in response to recent negotiations with the US and Britain. Thousands of nuclear reactor components are taken from a site in Tripoli and shipped to the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee. Later examination shows that the Libyans had made little progress towards developing any sort of nuclear program. Nevertheless, it is a significant breakthrough in the Bush administration’s relations with Muslim nations considered to be inimical to Western interests.
'Scared Straight'? - Bush administration officials declare that the Libyan government “caved” under American pressure and because of the US-led invasion of Iraq; because Libyan leader Mu’ammar al-Qadhafi had approached the US shortly before the invasion of Iraq, it is plain that al-Qadhafi had been “scared straight” by the belligerent US approach to Middle Eastern affairs. In 2008, author J. Peter Scoblic will call that characterization “useful, if wishful.” The threat of a Libyan WMD program was sketchy at best, regardless of Bush officials’ insistence that the US had forced the disarmament of a dangerous foe. But, Scoblic will write, the Libyan agreement serves as “a retroactive justification of an invasion whose original rationale had become increasingly dubious.” The Libyan agreement also “seemed to prove that conservatives could solve rogue state problems in a morally pure but nonmilitary way—that they did not have to settle for containment or the distasteful quid pro quo that had characterized deals like Clinton’s 1994 Agreed Framework with North Korea (see October 21, 1994). They could simply demand disarmament.”
Negotiating Disarmament Since 1999 - The reality of the Libyan agreement is far different from the Bush interpretation. Al-Qadhafi’s government has for years wanted to get out from under UN sanctions imposed after Libyan hijackers bombed a Pan Am flight over Lockerbie, Scotland in 1988. Since 1999, the US and Britain have been negotiating with Libya, with the ultimate aim of lifting sanctions and normalizing relations. President Clinton’s chief negotiator, Martin Indyk, said that “Libya’s representatives were ready to put everything on the table” during that time. Bush officials, after an initial reluctance to resume negotiations, were reassured by Libya’s offer of support and assistance after the 9/11 attacks, and resumed discussions in October 2001. Al-Qadhafi himself offered to discuss disarmamement with the British in August 2002. Negotiations opened in October 2002. With the Iraq invasion looming, the Libyans held up further negotiations until March 2003; meanwhile, Vice President Cheney warned against striking any deals with the Libyans, saying that the US did not “want to reward bad behavior.” The negotiations resumed in March, with efforts made to deliberately keep State Department and Pentagon neoconservatives such as John Bolton and Paul Wolfowitz in the dark “so that,” Scoblic will write, “administration conservatives could not sabotage a potential deal.” The negotiations were led by the CIA and MI6. (Bolton attempted to intervene in the negotiations, insisting that “regime change” in Libya was the US’s only negotiating plank, but high-level British officials had Bolton removed from the process and gave al-Qadhafi reassurances that Bolton’s stance was not reflective of either the US or Britain’s negotiating position.)
Pretending that Libya 'Surrendered' - After the deal is struck, administration conservatives attempt to put a brave face on the deal, with Cheney saying: “President Bush does not deal in empty threats and half measures, and his determination has sent a clear message. Just five days after Saddam [Hussein] was captured (see December 14, 2003), the government of Libya agreed to abandon its nuclear weapons program and turn the materials over to the United States.” Administration officials insist that there had been no negotiations whatsoever, and Libya had merely capitulated before the American display of military puissance. “It’s ‘engagement’ like we engaged the Japanese on the deck of the Missouri in Tokyo Bay in 1945,” one administration official boasts. “The only engagement with Libya was the terms of its surrender.” And Bush officials claim that the Libyans gave up their weapons with no terms whatsoever being granted them except for a promise “only that Libya’s good faith, if shown, would be reciprocated.” That is not true. Bush officials indeed made significant offers—that the US would not foment regime change in Libya, and that other “quid pro quo” terms would be observed.
Thwarting Conservative Ideology - Scoblic will conclude: “Left unchecked, the administration’s ideological impulses would have scuttled the negotiations. In other words, for its Libya policy to bear fruit, the administration had to give up its notion that dealing with an evil regime was anathema; it had to accept coexistence even though al-Qadhafi continued to violate human rights. Libya is thus the exception that proves the rule.” [Scoblic, 2008, pp. 251-255]

Entity Tags: US Department of Defense, John R. Bolton, J. Peter Scoblic, Clinton administration, Central Intelligence Agency, Bush administration (43), Martin Indyk, US Department of State, Mu’ammar al-Qadhafi, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, UK Secret Intelligence Service (MI6)

Category Tags: Diplomacy and Geopolitics, Nuclear Nonproliferation Efforts, US-Middle East Relations

Former Defense Intelligence Agency analyst Patrick Lang writes that, in his opinion, a “small group of people who think they are the ‘bearers’ of a uniquely correct view of the world… sought to dominate the foreign policy of the United States in the Bush 43 administration, and succeeded in doing so through a practice of excluding all who disagreed with them. Those they could not drive from government they bullied and undermined until they, too, had drunk from the vat.” (Lang correlates the phrase “drunk from the vat” with the common metaphor of “drinking the Kool-Aid,” a particularly nasty turn of phrase sourced from the 1978 Jonestown massacre in Guyana. The phrase now means, Lang explains, “that the person in question has given up personal integrity and has succumbed to the prevailing group-think that typifies policymaking today.”) The result is the war in Iraq, Lang argues, with steadily rising body counts and no clear end in sight.
'Walking Dead' Waiting for Retirement - Lang notes that senior military officers have said that the war’s senior strategist, General Tommy Franks, “had drunk the Kool-Aid,” and many intelligence officers have told Lang that “they too drank the Kool-Aid and as a result consider themselves to be among the ‘walking dead,’ waiting only for retirement and praying for an early release that will allow them to go away and try to forget their dishonor and the damage they have done to the intelligence services and therefore to the republic.” Lang writes that the US intelligence community has been deeply corrupted, bent on serving “specific group goals, ends, and beliefs held to the point of religious faith” and no longer fulfilling its core mission of “describing reality. The policy staffs and politicals in the government have the task of creating a new reality, more to their taste.… Without objective facts, decisions are based on subjective drivel. Wars result from such drivel. We are in the midst of one at present.”
Shutting out Regional Experts - There is little place in Bush administration policy discussions for real experts on the Middle East, Lang writes: “The Pentagon civilian bureaucracy of the Bush administration, dominated by an inner circle of think-tankers, lawyers, and former Senate staffers, virtually hung out a sign, ‘Arabic Speakers Need Not Apply.’ They effectively purged the process of Americans who might have inadvertently developed sympathies for the people of the region. Instead of including such veterans in the planning process, the Bush team opted for amateurs brought in from outside the executive branch who tended to share the views of many of President Bush’s earliest foreign policy advisors and mentors. Because of this hiring bias, the American people got a Middle East planning process dominated by ‘insider’ discourse among longtime colleagues and old friends who ate, drank, talked, worked, and planned only with each other. Most of these people already shared attitudes and concepts of how the Middle East should be handled. Their continued association only reinforced their common beliefs.” The Bush administration does not countenance dissent or open exchange and discussion of opposing beliefs. The Bush policymakers behave, Lang writes, as if they have seized power in a ‘silent coup,’ treating outsiders as political enemies and refusing to hear anything except discussion of their own narrow, mutually shared beliefs.
Using INC Information - Beginning in January 2001, the Bush administration began relying heavily on dubious intelligence provided by Ahmed Chalabi and his Iraqi National Congress (INC—see January 30, 2001). The INC began receiving State Department funds in what some White House officials called the “Information Collection Program.” While the US intelligence community had little use for Chalabi, considering him an unreliable fabricator (see 1992-1996), he had close ties with many in the administration, particularly in the office of the vice president and in the senior civilian leadership of the Pentagon (see 1960s, 1985, and 1990-1991). Lang writes that while the INC excelled in providing Iraqi defectors with lurid, usually false tales, “what the program really did was to provide a steady stream of raw information useful in challenging the collective wisdom of the intelligence community where the ‘War with Iraq’ enthusiasts disagreed with the intelligence agencies.” The office of the vice president created what Lang calls “its own intelligence office, buried in the recesses of the Pentagon, to ‘stovepipe’ raw data to the White House, to make the case for war on the basis of the testimony of self-interested emigres and exiles” (see August 2002). From working as the DIA’s senior officer for the Middle East during the 1991 Gulf War and after, Lang knows from personal experience that many neoconservative White House officials believe, as does Vice President Cheney, that it was a mistake for the US to have refrained from occupying Baghdad and toppling Saddam Hussein in 1991 (see August 1992). Lang calls some of these officials “deeply embittered” and ready to rectify what they perceive as a grave error. [Middle East Policy Council, 6/2004]

Entity Tags: Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Defense Intelligence Agency, Bush administration (43), Ahmed Chalabi, Iraqi National Congress, Thomas Franks, Office of the Vice President, US Department of State, Patrick Lang

Category Tags: Diplomacy and Geopolitics, Neoconservatives in Foreign Policy, US-Middle East Relations

President Bush during his State of the Union address.President Bush during his State of the Union address. [Source: American Rhetoric (.com)]In his State of the Union address, President Bush salutes the Iraqi voters and the US soldiers who made the recent national assembly elections possible (see January 30, 2005). Presenting Iraqi human rights advocate Safia Taleb al-Suharl as his special guest, Bush says that Iraq has finally turned the corner towards peace, democracy, and stability. Iraq is only the first, he continues: the US will foster “democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world.” Dimitri Simes, president of the more traditionally conservative Nixon Center, is aghast at Bush’s words and their implications. “If Bush means it literally,” Simes says, “then it means we have an extremist in the White House (see January 22, 2005). I hope and pray he didn’t mean it.” [White House, 2/2/2005; Unger, 2007, pp. 327]

Entity Tags: George W. Bush, Safia Taleb al-Suharl, Dimitri Simes

Category Tags: Diplomacy and Geopolitics, Neoconservatives in Foreign Policy, US-Middle East Relations

Former director of Israeli intelligence Uzi Arad says that many Israelis were keenly disappointed in the Bush administration’s decision to invade Iraq and not Iran. Arad says: “If you look at President Bush’s ‘axis of evil’ (see January 29, 2002), all of us said North Korea and Iran are more urgent. Iraq was already semi-controlled because there were [UN-imposed economic] sanctions. It was outlawed. Sometimes the answer [from the Bush neoconservatives] was ‘Let’s do first things first. Once we do Iraq, we’ll have a military presence in Iraq, which would enable us to handle the Iranians from closer quarters, would give us more leverage.’” Arad’s words are almost verbatim echoes from three years before (see Late January 2002). [Unger, 2007, pp. 307-308]

Entity Tags: Uzi Arad, Bush administration (43), George W. Bush

Category Tags: Diplomacy and Geopolitics, Israel/Palestine Conflict, US-Israeli Relations, US-Middle East Relations

Former foreign policy adviser Brent Scowcroft, who left the Bush administration after a dispute with neoconservatives (see October 2004), writes an op-ed entitled “Beyond Lebanon,” in which he exhorts the administration to help resolve the crisis in Lebanon. Israel is currently locked in a bloody, debilitating struggle with Hezbollah. Scowcroft writes that a peaceful resolution of that conflict will not only help bring about a peaceful end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but could help stabilize Iraq as well. He writes: “The current crisis in Lebanon provides a historic opportunity to achieve what has seemed impossible. That said, it is too much to expect those most directly implicated—Israeli and Palestinian leaders—to lead the way. That responsibility falls to others, principally the United States, which alone can mobilize the international community and Israel and the Arab states for the task that has defeated so many previous efforts.… This latest in a seemingly endless series of conflagrations in the region just may present a unique opportunity to change the situation in the Middle East for the better for all time. Let us not shrink from the task.” Scowcroft’s arguments are ignored by the White House. [Washington Post, 7/30/2006; Unger, 2007, pp. 341]

Entity Tags: Bush administration (43), Brent Scowcroft

Category Tags: Diplomacy and Geopolitics, Israel/Palestine Conflict, US-Israeli Relations, US-Middle East Relations

Philip Zelikow, who is Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s closest aide, gives a speech asserting that the US must seriously address the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Otherwise, Zelikow says, the US may have trouble securing the support of Arab moderates and Europeans in dealing with the Middle East. The speech seems to be the result of a long discussion of the topic between Rice and former Bush adviser Brent Scowcroft (see October 2004). The counterattack from the neoconservatives in Vice President Cheney’s office, who want nothing to do with any settlements with the Palestinians, is immediate and fierce. Cheney’s office issues harsh condemnations of Zelikow, and neoconservative-friendly newspapers such as the Jerusalem Post and the New York Sun publish news reports designed to undermine Zelikow’s message. Rice refuses to stand up to Cheney on behalf of Zelikow, and the State Department officially repudiates Zelikow’s remarks. Zelikow resigns his post. The neoconservatives’ views on the Israeli-Palestinian issue remain the guiding force behind the Bush administration’s Middle East policies. [Unger, 2007, pp. 8]

Entity Tags: Condoleezza Rice, Brent Scowcroft, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, US Department of State, Philip Zelikow, Office of the Vice President

Category Tags: Diplomacy and Geopolitics, Israel/Palestine Conflict, Neoconservatives in Foreign Policy, US-Israeli Relations, US-Middle East Relations

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice convenes a Middle East peace conference in Annapolis, Maryland. It is one of the few Bush administration attempts to address the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and like the other attempts, the Annapolis conference will bear little fruit. Reflecting on the conference and on the Bush administration’s approach to the conflict in general, national security expert Anthony Cordesman will say: “In reality, a great deal of what Secretary Rice did seems to have been based as much on a search for visibility as any expectation of real progress. The fact was that you did not have to contend with [Palestinian] Chairman [Yasser] Arafat, but you did have to contend with a deeply divided Israel, which was far less willing to accept or make compromises over peace. And with the Palestinian movement, which was moving toward civil war. The United States can only make serious progress when both the Israelis and Palestinians are ready to move toward peace. Setting artificial deadlines and creating yet another set of unrealistic expectations [as is done at the Annapolis conference] did not lay the groundwork for sustained real progress. It instead created new sources of frustration and again made people throughout the Arab and Muslim world see the United States as hypocritical and ineffective.” [Vanity Fair, 2/2009]

Entity Tags: Condoleezza Rice, Anthony Cordesman, Bush administration (43)

Category Tags: Diplomacy and Geopolitics, Israel/Palestine Conflict, US-Israeli Relations, US-Middle East Relations

President Obama says that the US’s battle against global terrorism will be refocused away from Iraq and towards Afghanistan and Pakistan. As the first step in that process, Obama names veteran diplomat Richard Holbrooke as the US’s special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan (see January 22, 2009). In his acceptance remarks, Holbrooke says: “This is a very difficult assignment as we all know. Nobody can say the war in Afghanistan has gone well.… In Pakistan the situation is infinitely complex. I will say that in putting Afghanistan and Pakistan together in the one envoy, we fully respect Pakistan has its own history and its own traditions.” Obama says that the situation remains “perilous” in Afghanistan, and any progress in combating the Taliban-led insurgency will take time. Holbrooke will lead “our effort to forge and implement a sustainable approach to this critical region,” Obama adds. [The Nation (Lahore), 1/23/2009]

Entity Tags: Taliban, Barack Obama, Richard Holbrooke

Timeline Tags: Iraq under US Occupation, War in Afghanistan

Category Tags: Diplomacy and Geopolitics, US-Middle East Relations

President Obama signals a new direction for US policy towards Israel and Palestine by promising to seek a lasting peace between the two warring sides. Obama says the US will always support Israel’s “right to defend itself,” but will also seek an equitable, peaceful solution for the Palestinian people. In conjunction with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Obama names former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell as the administration’s special envoy to the Middle East, and former UN Ambassador Richard Holbrooke as the administration’s special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan. Mitchell helped broker the Clinton administration-led peace agreement in Northern Ireland, and Holbrooke helped write the peace agreement that ended the 1992-1995 war in Bosnia. [Associated Press, 1/22/2009; The Nation (Lahore), 1/23/2009]

Entity Tags: Clinton administration, Barack Obama, Richard Holbrooke, Hillary Clinton, George Mitchell

Category Tags: Diplomacy and Geopolitics, Israel/Palestine Conflict, US-Israeli Relations, US-Middle East Relations

President Obama and Hisham Melhem, during the interview.President Obama and Hisham Melhem, during the interview. [Source: Al Arabiya / Time]President Obama gives his first interview after assuming the presidency to the Dubai-based satellite broadcaster Al Arabiya. He tells interviewer Hisham Melhem that Americans are not the enemy of the Muslim world, and wants Israel and the Palestinians to resume peace negotiations. [Al Arabiya, 1/27/2009] Melhem, Al Arabiya’s Washington bureau chief, originally believes he was slated to interview the newly named US envoy to the Middle East, George Mitchell (see January 22, 2009). Melhem believed there was some discussion among White House officials on whether it was the right time for Obama to grant an interview to the Arab media. The selection of Al Arabiya is deliberate, as that channel is considered more moderate and Western-friendly than, for example, Al Jazeera. [Time, 1/28/2009]
Intent to Reopen Talks between Israel, Palestinians - Obama intends to resume negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, and says the US will open up new talks by listening to the two sides instead of immediately issuing demands. “[W]hat I told Mitchell] is start by listening, because all too often the United States starts by dictating—in the past on some of these issues—and we don’t always know all the factors that are involved. So let’s listen. He’s going to be speaking to all the major parties involved. And he will then report back to me. From there we will formulate a specific response. Ultimately, we cannot tell either the Israelis or the Palestinians what’s best for them. They’re going to have to make some decisions. But I do believe that the moment is ripe for both sides to realize that the path that they are on is one that is not going to result in prosperity and security for their people. And that instead, it’s time to return to the negotiating table.” The larger peace plan for the Middle East recently proposed by Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah will play an important role in the negotiations, Obama says.
'A Language of Respect' - Language matters, Obama notes. “[M]y job is to communicate the fact that the United States has a stake in the well-being of the Muslim world that the language we use has to be a language of respect,” he says. “[T]he language we use matters. We cannot paint with a broad brush a faith as a consequence of the violence that is done in that faith’s name.”
Restoring Relations with the Muslim World - Melhem asks Obama about tensions between the US and the Islamic world, inflamed by demagogues and extremists on both sides. Obama says: “Well, I think that when you look at the rhetoric that they [extremists]‘ve been using against me before I even took office… what that tells me is that their ideas are bankrupt. There’s no actions that they’ve taken that say a child in the Muslim world is getting a better education because of them, or has better health care because of them.” Obama reminds Melhem, and the viewers, that he lived for a time in Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim country, during his childhood. He learned through his experiences in Indonesia and other Muslim countries that everyone, regardless of differences in culture or faith, has similar hopes and aspirations. “My job to the Muslim world is to communicate that the Americans are not your enemy,” he says. “We sometimes make mistakes. We have not been perfect. But if you look at the track record, as you say, America was not born as a colonial power, and that the same respect and partnership that America had with the Muslim world as recently as 20 or 30 years ago, there’s no reason why we can’t restore that.”
Dealing with Iran - Wrapping up the interview, Melhem asks if the US is prepared to “live with a nuclear Iran.” Obama responds: “I said during the campaign that it is very important for us to make sure that we are using all the tools of US power, including diplomacy, in our relationship with Iran.… Iran has acted in ways that’s not conducive to peace and prosperity in the region: their threats against Israel; their pursuit of a nuclear weapon which could potentially set off an arms race in the region that would make everybody less safe; their support of terrorist organizations in the past—none of these things have been helpful. But I do think that it is important for us to be willing to talk to Iran, to express very clearly where our differences are, but where there are potential avenues for progress.” [Al Arabiya, 1/27/2009]
Responses - In Pakistan, Obama’s interview is widely viewed, and receives what CNN calls “a generally positive response from analysts there.” Islamabad author and journalist Imtiaz Gul says, “It’s a good sign of an attempt to reconcile with the Muslim world, to say America wants to reach out to them and not to consider them as an enemy.” [CNN, 1/27/2009] Egyptian student Omar Youssef, who has joined in protests against the Israeli war in Gaza, says of Obama: “He’s a man of diplomacy and speaks well. Bush, Arab people hate him. But the world needs a man like Obama.” Another student, Ahmed Mahmoud, adds, “Maybe if he can solve the problem between white and black people in America, he can also solve the problem between Arab and Jewish people here.” [Time, 1/28/2009] Melhem, who has long criticized US policies towards the Middle East, later says he was touched by Obama’s conciliatory tone and references to his Muslim roots. “You can feel the authenticity about him,” he says. “The interview was his way of saying, ‘There is a new wind coming from Washington.’ Barack Obama definitely sees the world differently from a man named George W. Bush.” [Time, 1/29/2009] Al Arabiya General Manager Abdul Rahman al-Rashed says: “What he did campaigning in the US he is trying to do in the Middle East, convincing people that he is on their side. He is telling Muslims that he is proud of his Muslim roots. This is being received positively.” And Jordanian news columnist Jamil Nimri writes, “The language of force, conceit, and threat has totally disappeared.” [Time, 1/28/2009] Neoconservative columnist Charles Krauthammer disputes Obama’s implication that the Bush administration treated Islam with any disrespect, saying: “[S]omehow he is implying that somehow the Obama era is a break with the American past. Somehow it is undoing a disrespect of Islam that had somehow occurred under the previous administration.… We have no need to apologize. Extend a hand, yes, but to imply that there was a disrespect of Islam in the last administration, I think is unfair and fictional.” [Fox News, 1/28/2009]

Entity Tags: Al Arabiya, Barack Obama, Ahmed Mahmoud, Charles Krauthammer, Jamil Nimri, Omar Youssef, Imtiaz Gul, Hisham Melhem, Abdul Rahman al-Rashed

Category Tags: Diplomacy and Geopolitics, Israel/Palestine Conflict, US Foreign Policy, US-Israeli Relations, US-Middle East Relations

Former US President Jimmy Carter says that any peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians must include Hamas, the Islamist Palestinian movement that controls the Gaza Strip. “Hamas has got to be involved before peace can be concluded,” Carter says. Israel, which like the US and many Western nations considers Hamas a terrorist organization, is in the midst of a military operation against Hamas. Carter says that previous presidents have been either unable or unwilling to oppose Israel’s supporters in the US, but he has high hopes for George Mitchell, the Obama administration’s new envoy to the Middle East (see January 22, 2009). “The fact is that very few of the presidents have been willing to confront Israel’s forces in the United States, politically speaking,” Carter says. “If you look at US Middle East envoys in the past, almost all of them have been closely associated with Israel, sometimes even working professionally for Israel. George Mitchell is a balanced and honest broker compared to the others.” He continues by noting that any possible reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah, the organization led by Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, has been “objected to and obstructed by the US and Israel.” He hopes the Obama administration will work to bring Hamas and Fatah together. Abbas and Fatah control the West Bank, while Hamas controls the Gaza Strip. President Obama has indicated he intends to institute new peace negotiations between Israel and Palestine, but has reiterated previous international demands that the Palestinians recognize Israel, renounce violence, and recognize previous peace agreements before they can join in any future negotiations. [Al Jazeera, 1/29/2009; Al Jazeera, 1/29/2009]

Entity Tags: Hamas, Fatah al-Islam, George Mitchell, Obama administration, James Earl “Jimmy” Carter, Jr., Mahmoud Abbas

Category Tags: Diplomacy and Geopolitics, Israel/Palestine Conflict, US and International Terrorism, US-Israeli Relations, US-Middle East Relations

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman says that Israel’s new right-wing government will not be bound by a US-backed understanding to work towards establishing an independent Palestinian nation, the so-called “two-state solution.” Lieberman’s remarks outrage many Palestinian leaders, and indicate a sharp divide between the Obama administration and the government of newly elected Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The conservative Netanyahu has long opposed the idea of a sovereign Palestinian state, though he has recently said he supports an agreement towards limited Palestinian self-rule. Lieberman’s speech, described by the Los Angeles Times as “blunt and openly hawkish” and by the New York Times as “blunt and belligerent,” warns against giving concessions to the Palestinians, saying they “only bring pressure and more wars.” “[T]hose who wish for peace should prepare for war,” he adds. “Those who think that through concessions they will gain respect and peace are wrong. It is the other way around; it will lead to more wars.” The 2007 agreement, made at Annapolis, Maryland between then-US President George W. Bush, then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, committed the parties to further “the goal of two states, Israel and Palestine.” Now, Lieberman says: “It has no validity. The Israeli government never ratified Annapolis, nor did parliament.” Palestinian spokesman Nabil abu Rudaineh calls Lieberman’s position dangerous, and recommends that the Obama administration “take a clear position against this policy before things get worse.” Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat says Lieberman has “closed the door on Annapolis and closed the door in the face of the international community.” An Obama spokesman says that the US remains committed to a two-state solution. Lieberman’s statement is contradicted by a warning from Israeli President Shimon Peres that “the majority of countries in the world” back the Palestinian quest for statehood, hinting that to withdraw support for a two-state solution will result in Israel’s isolation. “The outgoing government espoused the vision of two states for two peoples, which was initiated by the American government and accepted by the majority of countries in the world,” Peres states. “It is up to your government to decide the shape of the reality to come.” Netanyahu has privately told Western officials that he, not Lieberman, will set Israel’s foreign policy; Netanyahu gave Lieberman the position because Lieberman’s nationalist party, Israel Is Our Home, is a member of Netanyahu’s rightist coalition government. But Netanyahu’s own foreign policy adviser, Zalman Shoval, says that the prime minister also considers the Annapolis declaration nonbinding. Tony Blair, the former British prime minister now serving as an envoy to the Middle East peace negotiations, says the peace process is in “very great jeopardy.” [New York Times, 4/1/2009; Los Angeles Times, 4/2/2009]

Entity Tags: Saeb Erekat, Avigdor Lieberman, Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel Is Our Home, Obama administration, Tony Blair, Zalman Shoval, Shimon Peres

Category Tags: US-Israeli Relations, US-Middle East Relations

In his biggest break from Bush administration policies to date, President Obama announces his abandonment of Pentagon plans to build a missile defense shield system in Poland and the Czech Republic. During a July Moscow visit, Obama indicated that he would order a 60-day review of the project. The findings since then are said to conclude that Iran’s long-range missile program is progressing more slowly than previously thought; the resulting report also cites US officials’ belief that Iran’s short- to medium-range program poses a more potent and immediate danger. Therefore, the system is to be replaced by other facilities, placed closer to Iran. Obama says that the new approach offers “stronger, swifter, and smarter defense” for the US and its allies. He adds that the move will more readily focus on the threat posed by Iran’s proliferation of short- and medium-range missiles, as opposed to its intercontinental nuclear capabilities. “This new approach will provide capabilities sooner, build on proven systems to offer greater defenses to the threat of attack than the 2007 European missile defense program,” he says.
Russian Reaction - Russia had asserted that the undertaking was aimed against Russia and threatened to deploy short-range nuclear weapons in the Russian region of Kaliningrad, just inside the European Union. However, now it suggests that Obama’s decision will not garner swift or generous concessions on its part, but a foreign ministry spokesman, Andrei Nesterenko, describes the move as “obviously a positive sign for us” while assuring that the decision was unilateral by Washington alone. Nesterenko says that there have been no deals with Moscow on Iran or any other issues. “That would disagree with our policy of resolution of any problems in relations with any countries, no matter how difficult or sensitive they may be.” Recently, however, analysts said that the decision would assist Obama in securing Moscow’s cooperation with a possible new sanctions package against Iran as well as further the president’s desire to reset relations with Moscow after a bleak period under the Bush administration. “Obama has taken a step in the direction of improving US-Russian relations. This will definitely help build a partnership,” Yevgeny Miasnikov, a senior research scientist at Moscow’s Centre for Arms Control, says. “Russia will also now make some concessions, maybe on strategic talks over nuclear arms reduction or maybe over Iran. Moscow will try to catalyze the process of improving US-Iranian relations and will facilitate dialogue between the two sides. I don’t think threatening Iran is the way to solve this problem,” he adds.
Prior Notification to Allies - The night before his announcement, Obama telephoned leaders of Poland and the Czech Republic to tell them he had dropped plans to construct missile interceptors and a radar station in their respective countries, telling them that his decision was prompted by advances in missile technology and new intelligence about Iran’s existing missile capabilities. He said that “updated intelligence” on Iran’s existing short- and medium-range missiles showed they were “capable of reaching Europe,” adding that the US would continue its efforts to end Iranian attempts to develop an “illicit nuclear program.”
Reaction of Poland and Czech Republic - While many Western European leaders cheer the US’s decision, the Czech Republic and Poland express disappointment with the White House’s reversal following six years of intricate negotiations. Senior government sources in the two countries say they will insist that the US honor pledges made last year by the Bush administration to North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allies in exchange for agreeing to the missile defense deployment plans. Former Czech deputy prime minister and Washington ambassador Alexandr Vondra, who was intimately involved in the negotiations, says: “This is a U-turn in US policy. But first we expect the US to honor its commitments. If they don’t they may have problems generating support for Afghanistan and on other things.” According to Miasnikov, the US may now consider ways of mollifying Poles and Czechs, which might include providing Patriot interceptors that are capable of shooting down short- and medium-range missiles. [Guardian, 9/17/2009]

Entity Tags: Iran, Andrei Nesterenko, Alexandr Vondra, Barack Obama, Czech Republic, US Department of Defense, Yevgeny Miasnikov, Russia, Poland

Category Tags: Nuclear Nonproliferation Efforts, Other Weapons Programs, US Foreign Policy, US Nuclear Weapons Programs, US-European Relations, US-Middle East Relations, US-Soviet Relations

President Obama tells Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas that “it is past time to talk about starting negotiations—it is time to move forward.” Obama’s meeting with the two Middle East leaders is the highest level of diplomacy of his presidency, although it is reported that expectations for resuming the talks fall short. Obama and State Department officials hoped that the meeting would pave the way for fresh negotiations of an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement. However, during a recent previous meeting, special Mideast envoy George Mitchell was unsuccessful in securing a deal in which Israel would halt West Bank settlements construction in return for the Arab states taking minute steps toward recognition. “Permanent status negotiations must begin, and begin soon,” Obama tells the two leaders, referring to talks on the fundamental issues that divide the parties, such as borders, Jerusalem’s status, and building settlements. The meetings, held at New York’s Waldorf-Astoria Hotel where Obama meets with Netanyahu and Abbas separately before all three meet together, produce no real reconciliation, only an Israeli-Palestinian commitment to send negotiating teams to Washington, along with a general agreement that peace talks should quickly resume. “We knew this wasn’t going to be easy,” Mitchell says, adding that the talks were at times “blunt” with Obama importuning the two to “get things done.” Obama seems to concede that his previous calls for a construction freeze on settlements fell on deaf ears, and says that Israel has offered only to “restrain” its settlement activity. He appears to acknowledge that his early calls for a settlement freeze have fallen on deaf ears. Israel, he says, has only offered to “restrain” settlement production. The restraint on settlement building “is not everything we might have wanted,” says a senior State Department official speaking on condition of anonymity—one of the rules set by the White House before the meetings—but “it’s certainly a significant step.” US government officials try to dispel later impressions that Obama sought to play down the settlements issue, although senior Israeli government officials say they left the meeting with a separate message; the Israeli Ambassador to the US Michael Oren says, “That’s not just the impression, that’s the reality.” An additional senior US official says Obama will not cease to press the settlements issue, arguing that the tentative steps Israel has agreed to extend “far, far beyond what any previous government has ever done to control settlement activity.” [McClatchy Newspapers, 9/22/2009]

Entity Tags: Benjamin Netanyahu, Barack Obama, Michael Oren, George Mitchell, Mahmoud Abbas

Category Tags: Israel/Palestine Conflict, US Interventions, US-Middle East Relations

Following a reassessment by top US Army Allied Commander General Stanley A. McChrystal, and on the advice of Vice President Joe Biden and White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, President Obama reconsiders the military endeavor that might modify US strategy in Afghanistan. The result is a scaling back of political and economic development reforms in the strife-torn zone. During recent television news program appearances, Obama seemed to question the primary assertion that the current US approach is the proper means for achieving the US goal of hunting down al-Qaeda and its close allies.
Scaling Back Military Operations - In what White House officials call a “strategic assessment,” Obama seems to be favoring scaled-down attacks utilizing small Special Operations teams and armed Predator drones, thus averting the need for additional troops, according to US officials and experts. The renewed debate is said to have shocked some, while leaving military officials scrambling to estimate how drastic the changes could be. The shift in the White House position is said to have also come about after Obama ordered 21,000 additional US troops to help with last month’s Afghan national election, a ballot broadly seen as counterfeit. However, Obama has also questioned McChrystal’s counterinsurgency strategy, asking whether it is worth committing extra troops. Reports indicate that the administration might opt for a narrower objective that primarily focuses on disrupting al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and other extremist groups, a strategy that would require fewer than the 68,000 troops presently approved for the war. During a recent appearance on CNN, Obama asked, “Are we pursuing the right strategy?” while on NBC’s Meet the Press, he stated he would only expand the counterinsurgency endeavor if it aided the goal of defeating al-Qaeda. “I’m not interested in just being in Afghanistan for the sake of being in Afghanistan… or sending a message that America is here for the duration,” Obama said. It is unclear how many additional troops McChrystal’s counterinsurgency strategy would require, and the dissenting view advocating a more limited Afghanistan mission not only has been strengthened by Afghan election irregularities but also growing doubts about the war among Congressional Democrats as well as the US citizenry.
'Buyer's Remorse' - During a recent meeting with the Canadian prime minister, Obama signaled that a deeper administration review was in progress. “It’s important that we also do an assessment on the civilian side, the diplomatic side, the development side, that we analyze the results of the election and then make further decisions moving forward,” he said. A defense analyst and regular military adviser speaking on condition of anonymity says the Obama administration is suffering from “buyer’s remorse for this war.” [Los Angeles Times, 9/22/2009]

Entity Tags: Joseph Biden, Al-Qaeda, NBC News, Rahm Emanuel, Stanley A. McChrystal, Taliban, CNN, Barack Obama

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, War in Afghanistan

Category Tags: Diplomacy and Geopolitics, US Foreign Policy, US and International Terrorism, US-Middle East Relations

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tells journalists for the Jerusalem Post that President Obama’s maiden UN speech was “good and positive” for Israel. Netanyahu expresses his belief that Obama’s speech stressed the legitimacy of a Jewish state as well as backing Israel’s right to live in security. He says that Obama’s address urged Palestine leaders to restart peace negotiations. “He said what we have been saying for months, that we need to restart negotiations without preconditions.” In his speech, Obama also addressed threats posed by Iran and North Korea, and spoke strongly against al-Qaeda and terrorism. “All of us, not just the Israelis and the Palestinians, but all of us, must decide whether we are serious about peace, or whether we only lend it lip service,” said Obama. “To break the old patterns—to break the cycle of insecurity and despair—all of us must say publicly what we would acknowledge in private. Nations within this body do the Palestinians no favors when they choose vitriolic attacks over a constructive willingness to recognize Israel’s legitimacy, and its right to exist in peace and security,” he said. “The United States does Israel no favors when we fail to couple an unwavering commitment to its security with an insistence that Israel respect the legitimate claims and rights of the Palestinians. The time has come to re-launch negotiations—without preconditions. The goal is clear: two states living side by side in peace and security—a Jewish state of Israel, with true security for all Israelis, and a viable, independent Palestinian state with contiguous territory that ends the occupation that began in 1967, and realizes the potential of the Palestinian people.” Michael Oren, Israel’s ambassador to the US, says Obama’s reference to Israel as a Jewish state is vital recognition on which “Israel insists as part of any final status deal with the Palestinians.” Oren says that Israel “was gratified to hear the president reiterate US commitment to Israel’s security,” as well as pleased that the president supported a multilateral rather than bilateral means for bringing peace between Israel and its neighboring states. Netanyahu tells Israeli reporters that he “listened very carefully to President Obama’s call to the Arab countries to publicly support moving regional peace forward.” He also praises Obama for expressing his appreciation about restrictions that have been eased between Judea and Samaria in the last few months to improve the quality of living and upgrade the economy for the Palestinians in the region. However, Obama also said in his address that “America does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements,” while simultaneously calling on Palestinians to end provocations against Israel and emphasizing that the settlements issue should not deter talks. [Jerusalem Post, 9/24/2009]

Entity Tags: Benjamin Netanyahu, Barack Obama, United Nations, Israel, Michael Oren

Category Tags: Israel/Palestine Conflict, US Foreign Policy, United Nations, US-Middle East Relations

The US has been conducting airstrikes against suspected terrorists in Yemen, but denying responsibility for them, according to cables provided by the whistleblower organization Wikileaks to the British daily The Guardian. The bombings are being attributed to local forces rather than the US in an attempt not to rile Arab public opinion. The Guardian breaks the story based on a number of cables provided by Wikileaks, which contain damning quotes. In a September 2009 cable Yemeni President Ali Abdallah Saleh told US President Barack Obama’s deputy national security adviser, John Brennan, “I have given you an open door on terrorism, so I am not responsible.” Following a strike that killed multiple civilians carried out by the US, but attributed to Yemenis in December 2009, US Ambassador to Yemen Stephen Seche cabled Washington to say: “Yemen insisted it must ‘maintain the status quo’ regarding the official denial of US involvement. Saleh wanted operations to continue ‘non-stop until we eradicate this disease.’” Just over a week later, Saleh told General David Petraeus, then head of US Central Command, “We’ll continue saying the bombs are ours, not yours.” This prompted the deputy prime minister, Rashad al-Alimi, who was also at the meeting, to joke that he had just “lied” by telling parliament the bombs in Arhab, Abyan, and Shebwa (the alleged al-Qaeda strongholds) were American-made but deployed by Yemen. In addition to the secret bombings, the Yemen-related cables published by The Guardian on this day deal with Yemeni reluctance to meet some US demands, the inaccuracy of some US weapons, large payments to be made by the US to Yemen, the Saudi Arabian reaction to the strikes, poor counterterrorism training for staff at Yemeni airports, Yemen’s unwillingness to share information about Ibrahim Hassan al-Asiri, alleged to be an al-Qaeda bomb-maker, and poor counterterrorist infrastructure in Yemen. [Guardian, 12/3/2010] Before the “war on terror,” the last time the US bombed a country in secret was during the Vietnam War, when the US bombed Cambodia (see March 15-17, 1969). It was a New York Times report on the bombing that was one of the spurs behind President Richard Nixon’s formation of the later-infamous “plumbers” unit (see May 9-10, 1969).

Entity Tags: WikiLeaks, John O. Brennan, Rashad al-Alimi, Ali Abdallah Saleh, David Petraeus, The Guardian, Ibrahim Hassan al-Asiri, Stephen Seche

Timeline Tags: Misc Entries, Domestic Propaganda

Category Tags: US Interventions, US-Middle East Relations

According to a wide-ranging poll conducted by Dartmouth professor Benjamin Valentino, over 89 percent of self-identified Republicans believe that if Iran secures any sort of nuclear weapons, it will use them to attack Israel. Sixty-two percent of self-identified Democrats and over 68 percent of self-identified independents have similar views. Jim Lobe of InterPressService writes that the results are “a rather dramatic demonstration of how effective Israel and the Israel lobby have been in shaping public opinion here, given that US and Israeli experts generally agree that such an attack, while possible, would be highly unlikely.” [Valentino, 6/20/2012 pdf file; Jim Lobe, 6/20/2012; Huffington Post, 6/21/2012]

Entity Tags: Benjamin Valentino, Jim Lobe

Category Tags: Nuclear Weapons Treaties, US-Israeli Relations, US-Middle East Relations

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