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Think Tank Watch
IRmep closely monitors
powerful think tanks active in Middle East policy formulation and lobbying. Key
areas of IRmep concern include think tank funding concentration, funding from
contractors, embedded ties to lobbying organizations, compromised research agendas and
behind-the-scenes policy promotion efforts. The following research notes, analysis,
and multi-media presentations dive behind the formidable think tank facade to reveal
little known conflicts of interests and realities that jeopardize US policy, credibility,
and human lives in the Middle East.
Indicted former AIPAC Official joins a Think Tank
The government has gone easy on the AIPAC
defendants, and their former employers. An apparent attempt was made by
some in the Justice Department to indict not only Rosen and Weissman,
but AIPAC itself. This was quashed by the chief prosecutor, Paul J.
McNulty – who has since gone on to graze in greener pastures – and the
case was limited from the outset: only Franklin, Rosen, and Weissman
As Grant F. Smith shows in his recent book, AIPAC's organizational
forerunner as Israel's Capitol Hill amen corner – the AZC, American
Zionist Council – was financed almost entirely by overseas sources, i.e.
Israel, and yet was not required to register as an agent of a foreign
government. Particularly fascinating is his original research into the
findings of Senator J. William Fulbright, remembered today as an acerbic
critic of the Vietnam war, who investigated and uncovered financial
conduits running from Israeli government agencies to AIPAC in its AZC
Everybody knows AIPAC is indeed an agent of a foreign government, i.e.
the Israelis. What most don't know, however, is that, unlike all others,
it is exempt from complying with the Foreign Agents Registration Act.
This immunity – the legal genesis of which Grant traces in his
fascinating account – created an opening for the Israeli government and
its various overseas agencies to act with impunity within our borders...More
From Irgun to AIPAC: Israel
Lobby's US Treasury Dept. Follies Hurt America
AIPAC and its associated think tank, the
Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), were
the president for the creation of the Office of
Terrorism and Financial Intelligence unit early in 2004. The Israel lobby also
Stuart Levey who President Bush approved to lead the new unit.
claims to be "safeguarding the financial system against illicit use and
combating rogue nations, terrorist facilitators, weapons of mass destruction
(WMD) proliferators, money launderers, drug kingpins, and other national
security threats." However its actions—and
more important, inactions—reveal it to be a sharp-edged tool forged
principally to serve the Israel lobby.
TFI has taken no actions to undercut
one nexus of money laundering in the Middle East
unveiled in 2005 by Israeli prosecutor Talia Sasson
and exposed by USA Today.
Even mainstream print outlets such as Reuters continue to
wonder aloud why US tax exemptions are offered for
activities. Although Stuart Levey has made
multiple official visits to Jerusalem to liaise with Israeli government
officials, when formally asked under a Freedom of Information Act request to
reveal how TFI was tackling the reported $50-$60 billion laundered from the
US through Israel and into illegal West Bank settlements,
TFI politely demurred.
(PDF) TFI claims that Levey's
US-taxpayer-funded missions to Israel must be kept secret from the American
public in order to comply with the
Secrecy Act, which ironically is an anti-money-laundering law.
This is not to say that TFI is a black box to everyone. Invited guests and
members of WINEP have received
many intimate briefings from TFI officials and consultants—possibly more
than the entire US Congress.
from the book "Foreign Agents"
AIPAC took over Brookings
By targeting and taking over Middle East
policy at Brookings in 2002, Saban and Indyk were able to “leapfrog”
AIPAC messaging from second to last in the think tank market (WINEP had
only 2%) to first place. Taking over Brookings also made it appear to
Americans that there was now an “expert consensus” from “right to left”
on the key Middle East policy issue of the year: the US invasion of Iraq
on weapons of mass destruction pretexts. Brookings
is often portrayed as a “centrist to left think tank” in the corporate
news media. According to FAIR, “Progressive or Left-Leaning” media
citations were a small but important segment of the marketplace of
ideas, but combined with “centrist,” they represented the majority. For
Saban and Indyk, taking over Brookings Middle East policy in 2002
meant penetrating the 63% of the marketplace of ideas that was
generally not beating a drum for war in Iraq.
|Dubai Ports Invests in the US:
Debate How best to scuttle the deal, Disinformation...or Bigotry?
|The British firm
P&O, which manages six U.S. ports among other world holdings, is being sold to Dubai
Ports World (DP World) of the United Arab Emirates. The UAE company would control
management of ports in New York and New Jersey, Baltimore, Philadelphia, New Orleans and
Miami. The sale of the UK company to DP World should be confirmed by a UK court on
March 2, 2006. The sale received approval from the U.S. Committee on Foreign
Investments but has run into a hail of fire from Neoconservatives.
"As I've had occasion to note over the past few
years, Dubai is home to billions of mullahdollars, and the black market through which all
manner of illegal arms shipments and money-being-laundered have passed." Michael
"Critics claim that the UAE recognized the Taliban, and al Qaeda used it in
9/11 preparations. " Peter Brookes Heritage Foundation
"From the very beginning in the 1970s, the UAE has been a key source of
financial support for Saudi-controlled organizations like the Islamic Solidarity Fund, the
Islamic Development Bank (IDB)" Alex Alexiev, CSP
Among Neoconservatives, the debate is no longer whether
to scuttle the sale, it's whether disinformation or bigotry
will do the best job. Oddly enough, DP World's record of investing in underdeveloped
ports from Yemen to Romania has played a vital role in kick-starting moribund economies
with desperately needed foreign direct investment. Neocons should hail DP World's
role as an example of how to fight terrorism, conflict and desperation through economic
development. Instead, pundits from Michael Ledeen to Alex Alexiev have reached into
Research Note (HTM)
Mainstream Think Tanks Ignore the Energy Demand Curve
|Their missteps have been heralded
by the simplistic, yet erroneous, drumbeat of supply side mythologies promoted by
mainstream American policy think tanks. Their misconceptions are echoed by politicians
throughout the news media. The core mainstream think tank analysis is threefold. First,
they would have Americans believe that energy prices are primarily a supply side
phenomenon. Second, they propose that the price of Middle East petroleum is too high and
could return to lower levels if only the demands of state owned national oil companies
managing the majority of global production could be reigned in. Finally they postulate
that US energy demand can and should shift away from Arab producers as an effective way to
"fight terrorism". (See Exhibit #2) These fundamentally flawed, and
somewhat racist, arguments put basic economic principles on the defensive by ignoring
demand side factors.
|7/27/2005 The American
Enterprise Institute and David Frum: Policy from the Data-Free Bubble
|Don't ask David Frum about Iraq's
civilian war casualty statistics. This and other data points are only broached
by "Publicists for Jihad." Instead, the former speechwriter
(most famous for coining the phrase 'axis of evil') would rather that you join him in a
make-believe world of moral clarity, that shuns empirical data, causality and real-world
statistics as the dangerous hand-maidens of "moral equivalence."
Frum is upset that British and other newspapers are linking the London tube
bombings with the UK's occupation of Iraq. The true costs of that occupation, in
terms of Iraqi, British and American lives, should not be part of polite civic debate,
according to Frum. Rather, we must "rediscover the reasons we are proud to be
ourselves" for intervening in Iraq in the name of "changing the Islamic
world." Funny, most Americans signed up for the Iraq invasion to rid Saddam
Hussein of weapons of mass destruction.
Frum, and the American Enterprise Institute where he resides, are losing
their edge. By screeching platitudes and slogans instead of facing up to the
numbers, AEI studies and analysis endlessly recirculated through the mainstream
media are losing any veneer of credibility they may have formerly enjoyed. Real
"American Enterprise" is a "by-the- numbers" operation. If Frum
doesn't have the stomach to face reality and crunch the numbers, he should go back to
forging clever marketing slogans to tout monumentally bad policy initiatives. Not
that Americans will be listening a second time around.
|6/2/2005 Middle East Forum
is starting Islamist Watch to combat and marginalize "non-violent
|Swinging Pipewrench: Academics
should Prepare to be "Shunned" for Studying Motives and Movements
|Middle East Forum director Daniel
Pipes has announced a new addition to the McCarthyite toolbox brandished by his
organization. Purportedly a think tank, MEF's core function has morphed into
smearing and marginalizing highly regarded scholars and academics who refuse to toe a
Likudnik line in academia:
is starting Islamist Watch to combat and marginalize non-violent extremists.
It focuses on legal activities by Islamists in the United States and (to a lesser
Western Europe, Canada, and Australia. Islamist Watch's goal is the
Islamists through exposure of their activities and goals. Our aim is have them
by government, the media, religious institutions, the academy, and the corporate
-Daniel Pipes - 6/2/2005
|Not content to engage in a war of
policy ideas, MEF's new field operations could result in IRS tax exempt status revocation
if too many complaints by targeted professors land on the Tax Exempt/Government
Organization director's desk. As prosecutor, judge, jury and executioner, MEF is
setting itself up for failure as it gropes to identify "non-violent extremists"
to flummox and defame. As the recent FBI sting against AIPAC operatives engaged in
espionage against America proves, when organizations cross the line and begin to engage in
hostile field operations, they are no longer operating within an acceptable non-profit
|The Wahhabis Are Coming! An
AEI Fear & Smear Production 2/16/2005
AEI: US should use "Hard Power" to Curb Wahhabi
WASHINGTON, 16 February 2005--The American Enterprise Institute (AEI) is troubled by Wahhabi
texts distributed to US Mosques that are subsidized by the Saudi government. An expert panel convened at 4PM in the Wohlstetter
Conference Center in downtown Washington DC before a packed crowd of lobbyists, military
consultants and interested members of the public.
The conference title was as provocative as the public persona
of Danielle Pletka, the conference chair. "Saudi
Government Propaganda in the United States: Avowed Ally or Secret Enemy" presented
findings from the Freedom House study titled "Saudi
Publications on Hate Ideology Fill American Mosques". Short on quantitative and statistical analysis,
the study provided rich fodder for panelists to outline a new threat they feel is
descending upon America: "Hate
ideology" texts distributed by the Saudi government.
James Woolsey, former CIA director now Head of Freedom House
and director of consulting firm Booz Allen in Virginia attempted to describe the impact of
Wahhabi Islamic texts in a way pious Christians could understand. It would be the equivalent of the US government
modifying the Lord's Prayer to read "Give us this day, our daily bread, except for
Muslims" and distributing printed copies to churches across the globe, stated Woolsey
Nina Shea from the Center for Religious Freedom admitted that
the study did not attempt to "assess the impact" of religious texts in American
mosques. She then proceeded to read a laundry
list of extracts from Saudi subsidized texts warning Muslims not to take citizenship in
the US, to reject the ways of "infidels" and then excoriated the hubris of
self-appointed religious Saudi Wahhabi authorities ruling on proper ways of Muslims.
Hedieh Mirahmadi, now an AEI scholar, reclaimed her past
Muslim credentials as having raised money for Islamic charities before proceeding. Her most damning assertion was that the Wahhabi
texts distributed to US mosques were a "crude manipulation of text, designed to exert
control over otherwise diverse" and peaceful populations. Her final recommendation was the most hawkish of
all the panel: The US should use "hard power" to confront the Saudi ruling
family which should then somehow "undo" years of "propagandizing" in
the US and around the world.
Some members of the audience posing questions to the panel
objected to the "MEMRI" approach of the
research. There was no statistical sample,
and no quantitative data. The Middle East
Media Research Institute (MEMRI) in Washington, DC practically invented the game of
selective retrieval, whereby after sifting mountains of data, objectionable texts can be
extracted and translated to place their authors in the worst possible light. Others were perplexed by the lack of any sort of
damage assessment. If the alleged "hate
literature" distribution has been going on for decades in America, what were all of
the negative consequences? The panel was
unable to provide answers.
One conclusion is perfectly clear to students of religion. All religions are structured to diminish outsiders
and build a spirit of community through exclusivity.
Perhaps the varied groups congealing around AEI's conference weren't really
interested in the role of religion, or much offended about content Saudi Arabia
distributes to American mosques. Otherwise
they'd have been on the record going after the nefarious "gangsta" rappers
plying the US airwaves and audio CDs with lyrical tales of running drugs, prostitution,
and shooting police. That music genre is a
hundred million dollar revenue generator in the US and far more prevalent than any groups'
The motives lurking beneath the calm waters at AEI
are perhaps more nefarious. Is Woolsey and
the AEI crew now assembling an "Arabian National Congress" to liberate Saudi
Arabia of "Weapons of Misleading Deities? (WMD)?"
Only time and American credulity will tell.
|US MidEast Policy
Formulation Overhaul Project 10/10/2003
|CLASSIFIED: AEI's Contributions from
|Top tier policy think
tanks formulating and advocating Middle East policy directly influence US defense
spending, future theatres of conflict, and the profits of defense contractors. As
merchandise exports to the Middle East plunge, high technology and other fruits of US
industry increasingly enter the market atop precision guided munitions, unwanted by the
market, and paid for by US taxpayers.
Key pundits such as Richard Perle wax rhapsodic with specific technical details and
defense spending recommendations. Yet the question of how much think tanks such as the
American Enterprise Institute (AEI) receive from defense contractors remains a highly
classified figure. It remained elusive even when a key defense industry donor and
the President of AEI were questioned directly by IRmep at an AEI policy event
covered live on C-Span.
"...In the interest of disclosure, and allaying these fears to the American people
now, when defense purchases are so critical, could you give us an idea, and this is as
much for the AEI people as you, how much of the policy research telling us who we should
shoot at and what we should shoot at them with, particularly produced by Mr. Perle, how
much of this AEI policy research is being funded by the defense industry?
Ron Sugar, CEO Northrop Grumman: ...I don't know the
specific numbers....." Full
|IRmep Policy Analysis
|StrobeLite: Jittery Reflections from the Brookings Institution
|ON Tuesday, August 19, 2003 at
11:00 AM, Strobe Talbott, President of the Brookings Institution participated in an online
chat with the Washington Post. IRmep, which has published a great deal lately about
American think tanks in general and Middle East think tanks in particular, was not
invited, but provides annotated comments to our readers that help explain the crisis of
credibility now engulfing Brookings and other formerly vaunted American think tanks.
Exhibit 1 Citations of Think Tanks in Media
(Source: FAIR and IRmep 2003)
Iowa: Any thoughts on the breaking news out of
Baghdad? What are your thoughts on the administration's policies in Iraq?
Strobe Talbott: The continuing violence, including today's and the
earlier bombing of the pipeline, shows that while Saddam is down (and let's hope out) and
Iraqis are vastly freer than they've been for decades, there is a nasty guerrilla war of
attrition underway. I refer you to the day-in-and-day-out good work being done by our
Saban Center for Middle East Policy, which has really dominated the think tank world's
commentary and analysis on Iraq. You'll see in the Center's work some big-picture
explanations of why the post-war has been in some ways more difficult than the war itself.
A crucial question is whether the Bush administration, having gone into Iraq without the
UN, will now be able to bring the UN -- and key regional countries like India -- into the
stabilization and reconstruction phase now underway.
IRmep: The Saban Center for Middle East Policy is a microcosm for
everything that is wrong with most U.S. Middle East policy think tanks. The Center was
created by a $13 million dollar contribution from a single donor, Fox Television executive
Haim Saban to "promote effective US policies in the Middle East". Saban
also funded a center for the study of the American political system in Israel.
The Saban Center would not even qualify for non-profit status were it not connected
with the larger Brookings Institution. The center is directed by Martin Indyk, a former
AIPAC lobbyist who both obtained U.S. citizenship and was later stripped of security
clearances under highly questionable circumstances. If the fate of American
influence in the Middle East depends on thinking from centers like Saban, we are in very
Full Policy Analysis HTML
|IRmep Policy Research Note
Middle East Policy Think Tanks: What Went Wrong?
|America's Middle East foreign
policy think tanks are experiencing a monumental crisis of confidence. Citizens and the
news media are clamoring for ever more information and insight into the region. However,
think tank luminaries formerly hailed as Iraq or Middle East policy experts on broadcast
news networks suddenly have few answers. Many have simply fled the media circuit. With
think tank research frameworks backing America's new preemptive military strategy
increasingly resembling a hopeless dot-com fantasy, the process of American foreign policy
formulation itself is facing increased scrutiny. As Americans look nervously at postwar
Iraq, looming confrontations with Syria and Iran, and staggering Israeli-Palestinian peace
process, never before has solid, credible and relevant research about the region been so
Exhibit 1: Funding
Concentration: Top Three Donors
(Internal Revenue Service and IRmep 2003)
IRmep has identified three core failures
of America's foreign policy think tanks: research funding that is too highly
concentrated, lack of peer review by credible, knowledgeable and independent outsiders;
and highly reactive, tactically driven research agendas with little strategic focus.
Adequately addressing these shortcomings will improve the quality of think tank research
and contribute to future US foreign policy success in the region.
Full Research Note HTML PDF
Policy Formulation Overhaul Project 6/21/2003
Errors of Omission: Martin Indyk and the
Brookings Saban Center for Middle East Studies
With key think tank pundits gearing up for new U.S. military interventions in Iran and
Syria, Americans are becoming increasingly concerned about the architects of U.S. Middle
Eastern policy. Who are they? What are their qualifications and
backgrounds? Where did they come from? In this first of a series of reports,
the U.S. MidEast Policy Overhaul Project examines the Brookings Saban Center for Middle
East Policy, and the center's director, Martin Indyk. This requires a
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