CODEPINK denounces Elliott Abrams’ appointment as the next U.S. Special representative for Iran

New Iran envoy Elliot Abrams is one of the most prominent US neoconservative figures and an outspoken critic of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal (Reuters)

CODEPINK  /  August 6, 2020

The appointment of Elliott Abrams to replace Brian Hook as the next U.S. Special Representative for Iran is another low point for the Trump administration’s disastrous policy towards Iran. The dangerous conflict resulting from Trump’s withdrawal from the nuclear agreement will be exacerbated by a man committed to Washington’s failed policies of regime change, including in his present-day position as Trump’s representative for Venezuela.

Elliott Abrams has made a career of lying and committing criminal acts that have led to the death and suffering of innocent people from Guatemala to Iraq. He embraces militarism, covers up for gross human rights abuses, and has a history of supporting authoritarian regimes.

Abrams’ resume includes :

  • In the 1980s, he defended the infamous Guatemalan General Efraín Ríos Montt, whose violent crackdown on the indigenous Ixil Mayan people of Guatemala was so brutal that it was classified as genocide by the United Nations.
  • He denied that the Salvadoran military was responsible for the devastating El Mozote massacre where, in 1981, a U.S.-trained battalion murdered more than 500 civilians, slitting the throats of children along the way. Not only did Abrams deny the massacre and push for continued US support for the notoriously brutal Salvadoran government, but he even claimed in a 1994 interview that “the U.S. administration’s record in El Salvador is one of fabulous achievement.”
  • He is vehemently anti-Palestinian and shamelessly supports Israel. As George Bush’s aide on the National Security Council, Abrams did everything he could to thwart peace negotiations. He repeatedly undercut any U.S. pressure on Israel to stop the building of settlements and cited the Holocaust as justification for Israel’s killings of Palestinians (Jews are “a people who had learned from history what happens to Jews without security”). In 2015, he applauded then-Speaker John Boehner’s decision to invite Netanyahu to address Congress without the approval of President Obama. He lauds Evangelical descriptions of Israel such as the belief that “Israel is connected to the idea that God favors and protects Americans.”
  • In 1991, Abrams pled guilty to withholding information from Congress related to his involvement in the Iran-Contra scandal, the secret and illegal scam in the 1980s to siphon profits from Iranian weapons sales to support the right-wing Contra rebels trying to overthrow the Sandinista government.
  • Abrams was a key supporter of the disastrous invasion of Iraq. In 1998, he submitted a letter to President Clinton encouraging him to depose Saddam Hussein. As Deputy National Security Advisor for Global Democracy Strategy during George W. Bush’s second term, Abrams was in charge of promoting Bush’s strategy of “advancing democracy abroad.”
  • Abrams championed the U.S. overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi in Libya, echoing the tactics used by the neocons for intervention in Iraq.
  • Abrams’ opposition to the Iran Nuclear Deal is epitomized by his attempts to encourage Israel to bomb Iran’s nuclear sites before negotiations became too serious. He expressed concern that Israel’s capacity to impede the deal was “already being narrowed considerably by the diplomatic thaw, because it is one thing to bomb Iran when it appears hopelessly recalcitrant and isolated and quite another to bomb it when much of the world — especially the United States — is optimistic about the prospect of talks.”
  • In January 2019, Abrams was appointed to be the U.S. Special Representative for Venezuela, and used his position to support an attempted coup, quash diplomatic talks, and increase brutal sanctions, even during the pandemic.

Abrams has now been appointed as the U.S. envoy for Iran, managing a situation that is already a tinderbox, with the Iranian people suffering immensely from U.S. sanctions. Rather than receiving this new position, Elliott Abrams should be barred for life from government positions and recognized as the war criminal that he is.

ven amidst catastrophe, Israel’s hypocrisy knows no bounds.

A massive explosion rocked Beirut on Tuesday, killing at least 135 people, injuring more than 5,000 and displacing hundreds of thousands.

The death toll is likely to climb as rescue workers search the devastated Lebanese capital.

The blast left little unscathed, as citizens posted pictures and videos of shattered homes, damaged cars and collapsed buildings across the city.

The cause of the explosion remains under investigation. Lebanese officials linked it to 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate stored for the past six years in warehouses at the port without safety precautions.

Now, Israel is exploiting the tragedy to erase its own crimes against Lebanon, distract from military occupation and polish its image – a propaganda strategy called bluewashing.

Bluewashing

Israel announced it was offering Lebanon humanitarian aid through diplomatic channels.

“This is the time to transcend conflict,” the official account of the Israeli military tweeted.

On Wednesday evening, Tel Aviv even lit up its city hall with the Lebanese flag.

The breathtaking hypocrisy was not lost on Twitter users who posted notorious images taken during Israel’s 2006 invasion showing Israeli children writing messages on artillery shells before the army fired them into Lebanon.

“Will your gift baskets be signed just like your missiles?” One social media user wrote.

The offers of “humanitarian” aid come from the same country that has killed and injured tens of thousands of Palestinian and Lebanese civilians and regularly threatens to destroy Lebanon’s civilian infrastructure as it has done time and again.

During the 2006 invasion, Israel fired more than a million cluster munitions into the country.

“What we did was insane and monstrous, we covered entire towns in cluster bombs,” an Israeli army officer told the Tel Aviv newspaper Haaretz.

In the course of that war, Israel dropped some 7,000 bombs and missiles, and bombarded all parts of Lebanon by land and naval artillery as well.

More than 1,100 people were killed and some 4,400 injured, the vast majority civilians.

An investigation by Human Rights Watch completely debunked Israel’s claims that the horrifying toll was as a result of “collateral damage” because Hizballah fighters were hiding among civilians or using them as “human shields.”

Human Rights Watch concluded that Israel indiscriminately targeted civilian areas – a strategy known as the “Dahiya Doctrine,” after the southern suburb of Beirut that Israel deliberately flattened.

And Israeli leaders frequently threaten to do it again.

In 2018, for example, Yisrael Katz, a senior member of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, threatened to bomb Lebanon to the “Stone Age” and “the age of cavemen.”

And just days ago, after claiming that Hizballah fighters had attempted to attack the Israeli army across the border, Netanyahu alluded to the 2006 war.

The Israeli leader said on 27 July, that in 2006 Hizballah’s leader Hassan Nasrallah “made a big mistake in testing Israel’s determination to defend itself, and the Lebanese state has paid a heavy price for this.”

“I suggest he does not repeat this mistake,” Netanyahu added – a barely veiled threat to repeat the same massive destruction.

Netanyahu repeated his threats just hours before the Beirut explosion.

Spreading rumours

For maximum propaganda value, Israel is reportedly insisting on keeping Hebrew markings on any aid shipments that might reach Lebanon – although Lebanon is almost certain to reject such aid.

Meanwhile, Israel rushed to spread baseless rumors blaming Hizballah for the blast.

“Following the tragedy in Beirut, Israel has officially offered humanitarian assistance to Lebanon,” 4IL, a propaganda outlet of Israel’s strategic affairs ministry, tweeted.

“This comes despite the evidence the explosion stemmed from a storehouse of Hizballah munitions,” the account added.

Absolutely no such evidence has come to light.

UN sells Israel

Israel regularly violates Lebanese airspace and sovereignty, flying unmanned aircraft and fighter jets over the south of the country and even its capital.

Instead of condemning such violations and calling for justice for the victims of Israeli war crimes in Lebanon, Nickolay Mladenov, the UN’s Middle East peace envoy, lauded Israel for offering aid:

Mladenov appeared to be cynically using the tragedy as an opportunity to advance a political agenda of normalizing regional ties with Israel.

Israel’s Arabic-language propaganda Twitter account continued to put out shameless assertions of “solidarity” with the Lebanese people:

Not everyone was on message, however.

Moshe Feiglin, the former deputy speaker of Israel’s Knesset, celebrated the blast in Beirut as “spectacular pyrotechnics show” and a “wonderful celebration” coinciding with a date Jews mark as a holiday of love.

This is the same Feiglin who during Israel’s 2014 assault on Gaza proposed a plan to “concentrate” Palestinians in border camps and “exterminate” any who resisted, while destroying all civilian housing and infrastructure.

But most Israeli politicians apparently got the memo that these sorts of declarations are not the image Israel wants to send out.

Even as Israel lights up Tel Aviv city hall in a cynical display of support, few Lebanese will forget that almost 14 years ago to the day, Israel was lighting up Lebanon’s skies with missiles and bombs.

Tamara Nassar is an assistant editor at The Electronic Intifada

Ali Abunimah contributed reporting.

y’s home has just been invaded in the middle of the night by a score of soldiers in full battle-dress, armed to the teeth. Accompanying them is a vicious, trained military hound.

The boy and his younger brother are outwardly defiant.

“Take care of the kids,” their father tells his wife as the soldiers take him away.

He is blindfolded, handcuffed and led away into the night by this cowardly gang of thugs who pass themselves off as soldiers.

This scene is not fiction. It happened in the early hours of Thursday morning, 30 July, in occupied Palestine.

The man, who now languishes inside an Israeli dungeon without charge, is Mahmoud Nawajaa.

Nawajaa is not a “terrorist” or even a member of the legitimate armed resistance. He is the general coordinator of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement in Palestine.

The BDS movement which Nawajaa helps to lead is an entirely peaceful, legitimate campaign of resistance against Israel’s illegal occupation and systemic racism.

The 15-year campaign to hold Israel to account with targeted, ethical boycotts, divestments and sanctions has made massive strides. Israel considers it such a threat to its apartheid regime that it dedicates its spy agencies – including Mossad – towards a global campaign of sabotage and dirty tricks to fight it.

Now Israel has also engaged its “soldiers” in this particular war against Palestinian human rights.

It is a typical sign of Israeli weakness and fragility that they felt they needed around 20 soldiers to kidnap this one unarmed man, who posed no threat to their lives.

A decade or so ago, in all likelihood, the Israeli army and secret police would by now have briefed the Israeli press with disinformation intended to smear a non-violent activist like Nawajaa – and most Israeli journalists would have dutifully parroted their line.

On a quick review of Israeli websites the day after Nawajaa’s arrest, they have not even bothered to do that. There is no story about Nawajaa yet published that I can see. To Israelis, he is simply yet another dangerous Palestinian “extremist” who must have done something wrong.

This is a lie. We must pressure our political leaders to demand Nawajaa’s immediate, unconditional release from Israeli detention.

In a press release, the BDS National Committee (or BNC, the coordinating body for Palestinian civil society for which Nawajaa works) explained Nawajaa’s arrest by Israeli occupation forces: “Israel’s regime of military occupation, settler-colonialism and apartheid is desperately trying to terrorise Palestinian BDS activists and their families, after having failed to slow down the growth of the movement. We call on all BDS activists everywhere to further strengthen BDS campaigning to hold Israel accountable.”

Their persecution of Nawajaa is only the latest of many examples of Israel’s constant violations of international law – aided by its US, Canadian and European allies.

The United Nations’ International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid defines the objective conditions in which the term “apartheid” applies. Israel of course qualifies, as a multitude of experts have pointed out for many decades.

Under the convention, the “persecution of organisations and persons, by depriving them of fundamental rights and freedoms, because they oppose apartheid,” is one of the inhumane acts committed to maintaining an apartheid system. Israel is clearly guilty of this in the case of Nawajaa.

While Nawajaa remains in Israeli prison, there is the additional threat to him and the other political prisoners of the coronavirus.

As the BNC further explained in an email rallying international activists to Nawajaa’s defence: “Mahmoud is one of the more than 4,700 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. In the current circumstances, with the COVID-19 virus spreading, mass detention aggravates health and safety risks to all detainees, adding to the common culture of torture and degrading and inhumane treatment of Palestinians in Israeli jails.”

The BNC is calling on the BDS movement’s supporters to write to their governments to demand Nawajaa’s release, mobilise support in local groups, parties and unions, raise awareness on social media (using the hashtags #FreeMahmoud or #LibertadParaMahmoud) and strengthen and escalate our BDS campaigns.

Take inspiration from the fearless example of Nawajaa’s young son – yet another sign that the Palestinian people refuse to give up, go away and die quietly.

Take action: Free Mahmoud Nawajaa!

Asa Winstanley is an investigative journalist living in London who writes about Palestine and the Middle East