Israelis are now celebrating 75 years of independence – 75 years of self-determination for the Jewish people in part of their ancient homeland which for centuries was ruled by foreign empires. There are not many nations that, as the late Charles Krauthammer used to point out, are “living in the same land, worshipping the same God, and speaking the same language as did their ancestors 3,000 years ago.” But not everyone is celebrating. Islamic Jihad — a terrorist organization funded, armed, and instructed by the Islamic Republic of Iran — recently fired hundreds of missiles at Israel from Gaza, a territory from which Israelis withdrew in 2005. Israelis retaliated with precision strikes targeting Islamic Jihad leaders. For the moment, a ceasefire is in effect. On May 15, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas delivered a “Nakba Day” speech at the U.N. General Assembly. Nakba is Arabic for “catastrophe” which is how he and other enemies of Israel regard Israel’s birth. Abbas said that the U.S. and Britain are to be “blamed” for creating Israel in order to get rid of their Jews, and he claimed that despite Israel’s efforts to excavate under the Al-Aqsa Mosque, which is also the site of what Jews call the Temple Mount, no historical or archeological evidence has been found proving that Jews were present in Jerusalem in the past. In Washington, Rep. Rashida Tlaib staged her own “Nakba” event with help from Sen. Bernie Sanders. And Foreign Affairs, a prestigious American journal, published a long article that also made no attempt to suggest how peaceful coexistence between Israelis and Palestinians might be achieved. The four authors suggest instead that the root of the conflict is, as Islamic Jihad, Mr. Abbas, and Ms. Tlaib would have it: Israel’s existence. The solution – implied rather than stated – is to rip out that root. The consequences of such a policy – not least for the more than 9 million Israelis – were not explored. Elliott Abrams read the article and responded in Pressure Points, his blog. He joins host Cliff May to discuss. Elliott has served at high levels in several administrations. He is currently a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, which happens to be the publisher of Foreign Affairs.
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Ukraine in the Balance: A Conversation with Assistant Secretary of Defense Celeste Wallander
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1:01:24Americans, our elected officials in Congress, and individuals aspiring to be the next U.S. president are debating whether the United States should continue to support Ukraine. Some Republican presidential candidates are arguing against aid for Ukraine, while several others warn that abandoning Ukraine would be a costly mistake. In Congress, Republican leaders of key committees continue to support aid for Ukraine, but a vocal minority faction of the Republican party in the House of Representatives that opposes aid for Ukraine seems to be growing.To complicate matters, Ukraine’s counteroffensive against Russian forces is going more slowly than many hoped, and the battlefield outcome remains uncertain.In short, Ukraine is in the balance and Americans have questions.To get answers, Brad Bowman (Senior Director of FDD’s Center for Military and Political Power, filling in for host Cliff May) is joined by Celeste Wallander. Celeste WallanderCeleste serves as the Biden Administration’s Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs in the Pentagon. Previously, she served in the Obama administration’s National Security Council from 2013 to 2017 as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Russia and Central Asia. She’s a longtime Russia scholar, former professor at Harvard and Georgetown University, and the author of more than 80 publications.
News Bulletin From Iran, 70 Years Late
1:00:34“What’s past is prologue,” Shakespeare informed us. But what if the past is misunderstood? Or misrepresented? What if policy makers are making policies based on false historical narratives?In 1979, host Cliff May went to Iran to report on the revolution that was then underway. Cliff admits that he didn’t know much about the country. But neither did most of his colleagues, reporters from around the world who had parachuted in to cover this big story. He was working on a documentary for PBS which had arranged for him to partner with an Iranian producer. So, at least the producer was knowledgeable, right? Well, yes and no.He was gung-ho for the revolution and an ardent admirer of its leader: the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. In other words, he was not a truth-seeking journalist but an enthusiastic propagandist. So, this turned out to be a challenging assignment for Cliff.All these many years later, Ray Takeyh – the Hasib J. Sabbagh senior fellow for Middle East studies at the Council on Foreign Relations – is trying to understand and reveal the truth about modern Iranian history.He’s well suited to the task: He holds a doctorate in modern history from Oxford University and has served as a senior advisor on Iran at the State Department. He joins Cliff for today's discussion. Also joining: Reuel Marc Gerecht, a former Iranian-targets officer in the Central Intelligence Agency, currently a resident scholar at FDD.
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Guests of the Ayatollah
1:23:13“Hostage diplomacy” is a term you’ll frequently see in the media, but it's a misleading term. What we’re really talking about: Dictators kidnapping and torturing innocent foreign civilians. In some cases, the leaders of free countries pay ransom to get them back. In some cases, the dictators also demand the release of convicted criminals who have been or can be of use to them. In some cases, both simultaneously.The Islamic Republic of Iran is the world’s leading sponsor of terrorism; in 1979, in violation of the most fundamental international laws, its agents seized the American embassy in Tehran and held 66 American citizens hostage — 52 of them for 444 days.The regime in Tehran threatens Israelis with genocide and is providing weapons to Vladimir Putin so he can continue slaughtering Ukrainians for refusing to submit to him; for the crime (in his eyes) of wanting to remain free and independent.The Biden administration has now reportedly approved the release to Tehran of several Iranian criminals along with $6 billion in frozen funds. In exchange, five U.S. citizens are to be released.And that’s almost certainly just part of a broader deal being kept secret from the American people and from Congress — in clear violation of American law.Billions of additional dollars appear to be involved in this deal which will not stop Tehran’s nuclear weapons development program or even seriously delay it.And because you get more of what you reward, expect the hostage-taking to continue.Joining host Cliff May to discuss these topics:Gazalle Sharmahd, whose father, Jamshid or (Jimmy) Sharmahd, a German citizen, was taken prisoner by Iranian agents in Dubai in 2020. She has been tirelessly campaigning for his release ever since and urging the US and Europe to take a tougher line with the Iran’s ruling mullahs.Xiyue Wang is a Chinese-born American scholar who was imprisoned in Iran from 2016 to 2019 after being falsely accused of espionage. Xiyue is a member of FDD’s National Security Network.And Behnam Ben Taleblu is a senior fellow at FDD where he focuses on Iranian security and political issues.
The Polish Perspective
51:40Vladimir Putin’s war on Ukraine is illegal, immoral, brutal, and barbarian. And if you agree that there is no good alternative to American leadership of the world’s free nations and those that aspire to be, then it follows that it would be a terrible mistake — strategically and morally — for Americans to turn their backs on Ukrainians who are fighting for their freedom, independence, homeland, and families.Whatever your think, you should be curious about the perspectives of America’s allies — particularly those closest to the conflict.With that in mind, host Cliff May is joined by the Hon. Radosław "Radek" Sikorski, a member of the European Parliament for Poland, who sits on committees for Foreign Affairs, Security and Defense. Also taking part in the conversation is Reuel Marc Gerecht, a resident scholar at FDD. In a former incarnation he was an officer in the CIA’s Directorate of Operations.The Hon. Radosław "Radek" SikorskiHe is currently a member of the European Parliament for Poland, where he sits on committees for Foreign Affairs, Security, and Defense. He’s also a Senior Fellow at the Center for European Studies at Harvard and a Distinguished Statesman at CSIS in Washington. He was Poland’s Minister of Defense from 2005 to 2007, Foreign Minister from 2007 to 2014 and Speaker of the Parliament from 2014 to 2015.Other notable items on his very long resume: He served as a war reporter in Afghanistan and Angola. He was a Resident Scholar at AEI in Washington. Foreign Policy magazine named him one of 100 global policy intellectuals ‘for speaking the truth even when it’s not diplomatic.’
Mexico Is Going South
1:04:12Host Cliff May lived in Mexico in the late 1970s. Back then, there were reasons to believe Mexico was moving in the right direction. That’s no longer the case. Mexico’s narco-cartels are not only growing in power but also making common cause with Chinese Communists. One result: fentanyl-laced drugs are streaming north where they are killing tens of thousands of young Americans annually. Is Beijing’s goal to destabilize Mexico? Does the Biden administration have a Mexico policy? If not, what should that policy be?
“No Freebies For Dictators” and other Abrams Doctrines
1:01:59Elliott Abrams has been in the foreign policy business for a rather long time. Years ago, he served on the staffs of Democratic Senators Henry “Scoop” Jackson and Daniel Patrick Moynihan. He later served in the administrations of Republican Presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. During the Trump administration he served as the State Department’s Special Representative for Venezuela and later, in addition, took on the position of Special Representative for Iran. He left the State Department in January 2021. He’s the author of five books. He’s currently senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. He has a blog called Pressure Points which focuses on U.S. foreign policy, the Middle East, democracy, and human rights. He joins host Cliff May to discuss a number of pressing national security and foreign policy issues.
Ukraine: What comes next?
52:57"It's not a sprint, it's a marathon."That was the reported assessment of a Ukrainian battalion commander recently describing Kyiv's counteroffensive against invading Russian forces. To be sure, the progress of the Ukrainian forces has been slow and the human cost incredibly high.Meanwhile, more than 40 countries — not including Russia — met in Riyadh last weekend to discuss the war. At this point in the war, what are the strategies of the two combatants? Is time on Kyiv's — or Moscow's — side?What U.S. interests are at stake on the battlefield in Ukraine?What happened at the NATO Summit in Vilnius last month?Guest host Bradley Bowman, senior director of FDD's Center on Military and Political Power, poses these and related questions to two leading experts: Retired U.S. Army Lieutenant General Ben Hodges and Retired U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Mark Montgomery.
57:13China’s rulers gaze across the Taiwan Strait and see an island where people are free, prosperous, and choose their leaders. They don’t like that. They insist that the people of Taiwan must be ruled by the Communist Party of China. They vow that this is the future and that they will make it happen through the use of military force if other approaches fail. But that’s not all Beijing wants in the vast region known as the Indo-Pacific. Not for the first time on this podcast, we suggest that you reference a map because we’re going to travel to some far-off and remote lands. Guiding us will be Cleo Paskal, a non-resident senior fellow at FDD who studies and writes about this region and has been sounding an alarm in Congress and elsewhere about Beijing’s plans to undermine America's alliances in the Indo-Pacific — particularly with the small island nations of the region. Joining us for the tour is Jon Schanzer, FDD’s senior vice president for research, who recently returned from a trip to Taiwan and Palau, one of the island countries in the western Pacific that we’ll discuss.
The Game of War: Part I
32:02War games are not entertainments. They are simulations; a way to develop insights into what would happen in an armed conflict – who would prevail and at what cost, should push come to shove. War games test strategies and capabilities. They are a tool for both research and training.Recently, Dr. Ben Jensen and FDD’s RADM (Ret) Mark Montgomery conducted for Congress a war game simulating a conflict between the U.S. and the People’s Republic of China over Taiwan.They join host Cliff May for a special two-part episode to first discuss the concept, utility, and history of war gaming followed by its application in planning for a possible contingency over Taiwan.