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Elliott Abrams: Neo-con and near convict
Many political observers were amazed when Elliott Abrams was appointed by the US administration to head the Middle East desk at the National Security Council.
Last Modified: 03 Jul 2004 15:28 GMT
Elliott Abrams: 'Remarkably under qualified for the job'
Many political observers were amazed when Elliott Abrams was appointed by the US administration to head the Middle East desk at the National Security Council.

Described privately by State Department employees as "a neo-con at birth" and "an American Likudnik", others have been less kind.

The Centre of Strategic and International Studies's own Anthony Cordesman commented that Abrams was "remarkably underqualified for the job" .

Whereas James Zogby, of the Arab American Institute, described his appointment as "a dangerous message to the Arab World".

Dangerous?

Abrams' political career began as assistant secretary of state for human rights in the Reagan era.

But he was indicted in 1991 for presenting false testimony to Congress over the Iran Contra scandal in 1987.

It turned out that Abrams had helped arm the Nicaraguan rebels despite a congressional prohibition.

The scheme involved encouraging Israel to sell US-made weapons to Iran, which in turn secretly sent weapons to the Latin American rebels.

But the diplomat avoided a jail sentence when he pleaded guilty to two lesser offences of withholding information to Congress.

He was awarded a pardon on Christmas night 1992 by the then outgoing president George Bush Snr.

Despite lying to Congress, Abrams became a senior director of the National Security Council for Democracy, Human Rights, and International Operations in South America in 2002.

Within 12 months, his record was clearly impressive enough for him to be appointed chief at the Near East and South West Asia section.

Abrams has been described as an "American Likudnik" and "remarkably underqualified for the job" at the NSC's Middle East Desk

His move came at the expense of three National Security employees who had shown greater even-handedness in dealing with Palestinian issues, according to the British Gulf States Times magazine.

Not even-handed

In the words of The New York Times, Abrams is "a passionate advocate of Israel".

Some of his family members live in Israel, and his wife - Rachel - is the daughter of Midge Decter and stepdaughter of Norman Podhoretz.

Decker and Podhoretz are pioneers of the neoconservative movement, which came into being after the 1967 Arab-Israeli war - largely to justify Israel's retention of occupied Palestinian land.

A prolific writer about Israel and Jews, Abrams' 1997 book, Faith or Fear: How Jews Can Survive in Christian America, criticises intermarriage as a danger to the survival of Jews in the United States.

Abrams opposed the landmark Oslo peace negotiations of 1993 between Israel and Yasir Arafat, arguing that Arafat should not be trusted.

Source:
Aljazeera
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