The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

The Abrams appointment

Sigh. I think Praktike said it all.

I'd like to add a little context from my personal archives, which some people not familiar with who Abrams is mind find useful.

I remember when I first found out about Abrams -- he was visiting Cairo as head of a controversial US delegation of US religious freedom, I broke the story about his past in the Cairo Times and it was subsequently picked up by a lot of Arabic press including Al Hayat (Abrams had been in political exile until then, and therefore would not be known to most non-American journalists, especially those who don't report from the US.) This is what I wrote then:

Let bygones be bygones
Commissioner Elliot Abrams of the US Commission on International Religious Freedoms (USCIRF) has had his share of bashing from the Egyptian press for his stances towards Palestinians and his praise of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. In an explanation of their boycott of USCIRF, Egypt's leading human rights organizations list his heading of the delegation as one of the grounds for boycott. Abrams, they say, "has expressed his general contempt for Arab peoples and is support of the Israeli hostilities towards the Palestinians."
But if Abrams' current track record does not bode well for his attitude towards Arabs, his history puts even more into question his position at the head of USCIRF. Abrams was one of the major US government figures involved in the Iran-Contra scandal that rocked the Reagan administration during the 1980s. Named in 1985 assistant secretary of state for inter-American affairs (ARA), Abrams was given the delicate task of continuing to provide Nicaragua'a anti-communist contra rebels with covert assistance, contravening US congressional guidelines. His participation in the affair included raising money to help the contras through illegal sales of weapons to Iran with the aid of Israel, and soliciting funds from Saudi Arabia and Brunei.
The report of independent counselor Lawrence Walsh, who investigated into Iran-Contra, puts Abrams in the center of the affair. "Independent Counsel was prepared to present a multi-count felony indictment against Abrams to the Grand Jury for its consideration in early October 1991," the report says. "Abrams, through his counsel, was invited to consider a plea of guilty. Before an indictment was presented, Abrams entered into a plea agreement on 7 October 1991, and pleaded guilty to two counts of withholding information from Congress."

Later, Abrams was appointed as national security advisor. This is part of my story on that appointment:

The right-wing man for the job
He covered up for Latin American terrorists, was convicted for lying to Congress about it, thinks Jews should embrace Christian fundamentalists as fellow supporters of Israel, and is a stout admirer of Ariel Sharon. Now, Eliot Abrams is also US President George W. Bush's top adviser on the Arab world and the peace process.
Although he began his Washington career as a Democrat, the Harvard-educated Abrams switched over to the Republicans under the Reagan administration. He eventually became involved in the Iran-Contra scandal as one of the State Department's key advocates of a policy supporting right-wing dictators against leftist (and potentially pro-Soviet) movements in Latin America.
Nicaragua's Contras--essentially a right-wing terrorist group--were supplied, with Abrams and other Reagan administration officials' as well as Israeli help, with funds obtained from the illegal sale of weapons to Iran. He pleaded guilty to charges of lying to Congress over the affair in 1987, but was pardoned by President George Bush senior in 1992.
More recently, he has served as the director of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, a right-wing think tank that aims to "clarify and reinforce the bond between the Judeo-Christian moral tradition," from which he wrote editorials that, among other things, compared Ariel Sharon to the wartime British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. He also encouraged Jews not to marry non-Jews in his book Faith or Fear: How Jews Can Survive in Christian America, in which he also advocates closer relations between Jews and evangelical Christians, particularly over Israel.

So these are the people who are going to win the "hearts and minds" of Arabs?

Update: See what Islam Online has to say about it.