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Elliott Abrams as Ghost and in Person

Elliott Abrams’ return to op-ed pages has given me fits. See his WSJ and NYT op-eds. Now the ghost of Iran-Contra is back, although Abrams has now moved from Latin American issues to his real love, Middle East issues, where he is lobbying hard for Israel.

I don’t know how Abrams happened to start in Latin America. I’m guessing he got his job as Assistant Secretary for Latin America at the State Department through the connections of his wife’s father, Norman Podhoretz, the editor of Commentary, the influential Jewish magazine. I’m guessing Abrams would rather have worked on the Middle East then, but Reagan (or maybe George Shultz) was unwilling to give him that important a job. Thus, he ended up with Latin America, where his main job was to assure that the US pursued a very conservative agenda. Those were the days when the Reagan Administration greatly feared that it was going to be invaded by El Salvador or Nicaragua.
It was Abrams’ efforts to shore up right-wing governments in Central America, like the military coup that just took power in Honduras, that led to his involvement in Iran-Contra. It is ironic that Iran and a Central American coup share the top of the news cycle twenty years later. I think things are better in both places, but they still have a long way to go, especially in Iran. I’m not optimistic that significant changes are going to be implemented in Iran as a result of the recent protests. Thinking is changing there, but it will take a long time to bring any concrete changes to fruition, and there is a possibility that things could get worse. There is a lot of talk that on the authoritarian side in Iran, the leadership has moved from being dominated by clerics to being dominated by the military. And the military is back in power in Honduras. The more things change the more they stay the same.
On “Morning Joe” this morning, Mike Barnacle kept asking guests whether the withdrawal of US troops from Iraqi cities meant that a new government that is Saddam-lite might be taking over. The main response seemed to be, “Not now, but who knows what will happen in a few years.” Of course, one of the main effects of the US invasion of Iraq has been the strengthening of Iranian influence there. Fareed Zakaria mentioned last Sunday that nobody was paying attention to what Iranian cleric Sistani was doing in Iraq, where he is currently living in Najaf.
Abrams’ job as Israeli spokesman and lobbyist is, of course, to do all he can to get the Obama Administration to beat Iran about the head and shoulders.

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