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Elliott Abrams

Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies

Expertise

U.S. policy in the Middle East, Israel-Palestinian affairs, democracy promotion, human rights policy, U.S. foreign policy.

Featured Publications

All Publications

Op-Ed

The US Can Still Help Save Syria ó and Iraq

Author: Elliott Abrams
Standpoint

After the 20th century's list of events of mass murder — from the Ukraine famine of the early 1930s and the Holocaust in the 1940s, to the Balkans wars and the Rwanda genocide of the 1990s — the cries of "never again" and the assertion of a "responsibility to protect" gave some hope that mass killing would not recur in the 21st century. Then came Darfur in the new century's first decade, and now Syria in the second. Mass killing has very clearly not been eliminated, nor has the "international community" developed a response that will avert it or bring it to a quick end.

See more in Syria; Iraq; Peace, Conflict, and Human Rights

Op-Ed

The Man Who Broke the Middle East

Author: Elliott Abrams
Politico

The Middle East that Obama inherited in 2009 was largely at peace, for the surge in Iraq had beaten down the al Qaeda-linked groups. U.S. relations with traditional allies in the Gulf, Jordan, Israel and Egypt were very good. Iran was contained, its Revolutionary Guard forces at home. Today, terrorism has metastasized in Syria and Iraq, Jordan is at risk, the humanitarian toll is staggering, terrorist groups are growing fast and relations with U.S. allies are strained.

See more in Middle East and North Africa; Peace, Conflict, and Human Rights

Op-Ed

Israel Gets No Credit From Obama for a Year of Moderate Settlement Construction

Authors: Elliott Abrams and Uri Sadot
Washington Post

President Obama recently complained about "aggressive" settlement construction by Israel, but the facts are otherwise. The new statistics show that Israel is building energetically in Jerusalem and in the blocs it will obviously keep, and slowing construction in smaller settlements beyond its security barrier in areas that may someday be part of a Palestinian state. Elliott Abrams and Uri Sadot explain.

See more in Israel; Peace, Conflict, and Human Rights

Ask CFR Experts

What is the U.S. position regarding the legality of Israeli settlements?

Asked by James Hurt

The U.S. position has fluctuated over time. In the Reagan years, the United States said the settlements were "not illegal." The Clinton and George H.W. Bush administrations avoided the legal arguments but criticized the settlements frequently. President George W. Bush called the larger settlement blocs "new realities on the ground" that would have to be reflected in peace negotiations.

Read full answer

See more in Israel; Peace, Conflict, and Human Rights

Current Projects

Middle Eastern Studies Roundtable Series

Staff: Elliott Abrams, Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies
May 2009—Present

Conflict in the Middle East has been near the top of the American foreign policy agenda for a half century. Through discussions with academic experts and especially with current and former government officials, this roundtable series aims to inform the debate surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as well as other challenges facing the region. These roundtables discuss developments in the region and the goals and impact of U.S. actions, with an eye to deepening understanding of the Middle East and analyzing how to make U.S. foreign policy more effective.

Recent Activity from Pressure Points

CFR Events

General Meeting ⁄ New York

NY Town Hall: Middle East Update

Panelists:

Elliott Abrams, Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies, Council on Foreign Relations, Isobel Coleman, Senior Fellow and Director of the Civil Society, Markets, and Democracy Initiative, and Director of the Women and Foreign Policy Program, Council on Foreign Relations, Steven A. Cook, Hasib J. Sabbagh Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies, Council on Foreign Relations, Robert M. Danin, Eni Enrico Mattei Senior Fellow for Middle East and Africa Studies, Council on Foreign Relations, Ray Takeyh, Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies, Council on Foreign Relations

Presider:

Richard N. Haass, President, Council on Foreign Relations
July 22, 2014 12:15-12:45 p.m. - Lunch
12:45-2:00 p.m. - Meeting

This meeting is on the record.

Listen

General Meeting ⁄ Washington

Iran: The Nuclear Challenge

Speakers:

Elliott Abrams, Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies, Council on Foreign Relations, Robert M. Danin, Eni Enrico Mattei Senior Fellow for Middle East and Africa Studies, Council on Foreign Relations, Richard A. Falkenrath, Shelby Cullom and Kathryn W. Davis Adjunct Senior Fellow for Counterterrorism and Homeland Security, Council on Foreign Relations

Presider:

Robert D. Blackwill, Henry A. Kissinger Senior Fellow for U.S. Foreign Policy, Council on Foreign Relations; Editor, Iran: The Nuclear Challenge
June 7, 2012 6:00-6:30 p.m. - Dinner Reception
6:30-7:30 p.m. - Meeting

This meeting is on the record.

ListenWatch

Symposium

Session One: Prospects for Democracy

Speakers:

Elliott Abrams, Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies, Council on Foreign Relations, Michael Willis, Director of Middle East Centre and H.M. King Mohammed VI Fellow in Moroccan and Mediterranean Studies, St. Antony's College, University of Oxford

Presider:

James M. Lindsay, Senior Vice President, Director of Studies, and Maurice R. Greenberg Chair, Council on Foreign Relations
March 29, 2012 - March 30, 2012 10:00-10:30 a.m.

This meeting is on the record.

ListenWatch

Bio

Elliott Abrams is senior fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) in Washington, DC. He served as deputy assistant to the president and deputy national security adviser in the administration of President George W. Bush, where he supervised U.S. policy in the Middle East for the White House.

Mr. Abrams was educated at Harvard College, the London School of Economics, and Harvard Law School. After serving on the staffs of Sen. Henry M. Jackson and Daniel P. Moynihan, he was an assistant secretary of state in the Reagan administration and received the secretary of state's Distinguished Service Award from Secretary George P. Shultz. In 2012, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy gave him its Scholar-Statesman Award.

Mr. Abrams was president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, DC, from 1996 until joining the White House staff. He was a member of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom from 1999 to 2001 and chairman of the commission in the latter year, and in 2012 was reappointed to membership for another term. Mr. Abrams is also a member of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council, which directs the activities of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. He teaches U.S. foreign policy at Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service.

Mr. Abrams joined the Bush administration in June 2001 as special assistant to the president and senior director of the NSC for democracy, human rights, and international organizations. From December 2002 to February 2005, he served as special assistant to the president and senior director of the National Security Council for Near East and North African affairs. He served as deputy assistant to the president and deputy national security adviser for global democracy strategy from February 2005 to January 2009, and in that capacity supervised both the Near East and North African Affairs and the democracy, human rights, and international organizations directorates of the NSC.

He is the author of four books, Undue Process (1993), Security and Sacrifice (1995), Faith or Fear: How Jews Can Survive in a Christian America (1997), and Tested by Zion: the Bush Administration and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict (2013); and the editor of three more, Close Calls: Intervention, Terrorism, Missile Defense and "Just War" Today; Honor Among Nations: Intangible Interests and Foreign Policy; and The Influence of Faith: Religion and American Foreign Policy.

Languages:

French (fluent), Spanish (fluent)