Reuel Marc Gerecht Articles

Propitiating Iran

A recipe for bad deals.
Feb 01, 2016

American presidents are always emotionally and politically drawn to the plight of American hostages overseas. In his sympathy and paternalism, Barack Obama seems just like Ronald Reagan, who traded Hawk missiles to Iran for the release of Americans held by the Lebanese Hezbollah, the clerical regime’s most successful and obedient kidnapping offspring. Through President Obama's diplomacy, five Americans who were languishing in Iran's prisons can come home. The deal's shortcomings, however, ought to be obvious, as those innocent Americans were traded for seven Iranians and Iranian Americans who were convicted of transferring illicit technology—in some cases dual-use nuclear technology—to Tehran.

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End of the West?

Syria, the Islamic State, and Europe.
Dec 21, 2015

Should the United States militarily defeat jihadist outfits in the Middle East? After 9/11 the answer seemed easy, but after the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, Barack Obama is not alone in arguing that large-scale offensive campaigns against radical Muslim movements aren't worth the cost. Even if the president's go-slow approach is actually more likely to provoke more terrorism, is it the sensible policy for America? And can Western governments actually defeat the Muslim radicals who live in the West and are a nightmare for domestic intelligence services to find, let alone stop? These questions are as much about Europe as the Middle East.

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An Iraqi Abroad

Ahmad Chalabi, 1944-2015.
Nov 16, 2015

Before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, my friend Ahmad Chalabi would often carry fat tomes about America’s occupations of Germany and Japan. An Iraqi exile after 1958 who lived mainly in London and Georgetown and maintained an off-and-on, love-hate relationship with Western intelligence agencies, he was blessed with a voracious, curious, and sensitive mind. He had a prodigious memory, too, and was well-schooled beyond mathematics, in which he held a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago. But knowledge ultimately failed Chalabi.

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Victory Without Soldiers?

The futility of soft power in defeating militant jihadists
Oct 26, 2015

With the war in Syria becoming ever more complex and murderous, it’s worthwhile to revisit a guiding principle of Barack Obama: The use of American military power is likely to do more harm than good in the Middle East, and even in the region’s violent struggles, soft power is important, if not decisive, in resolving conflicts. If Islamic militancy is to be defeated, better ideas, advanced by Muslims, backed up if necessary by Muslim soldiers, must be the principal means. 

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Our Iranian Interlocutor

Ali Khamenei’s dark obsession with Jews and Israel
Sep 28, 2015

Antisemitism has never been an easy subject for America’s foreign-policy establishment. Read through State Department telegrams and Central Intelligence Agency operational and intelligence cables on the Middle East and you will seldom find it discussed, even though Jew-hatred—not just anti-Zionism—has been a significant aspect, if not a core component, of modern Arab nationalism, Islamic fundamentalism, and what usually passes for critical thought among sophisticated Arab elites. 

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How Will We Know?

The coming Iran intelligence failure
Jul 27, 2015

One might think that after the last Iraq war Democrats would be wary of allowing intelligence to dictate policy. Yet that is effectively what Barack Obama has done with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action signed in Vienna on July 14. The agreement with Iran is strategically premised on the notion that greater commerce will transform the virulently anti-American, antisemitic, terrorism-fond, increasingly imperial Islamic Republic into something more pleasant. Tactically, the agreement depends on Western intelligence against the Iranian nuclear target.

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Transformational Diplomacy

Can a nuclear deal change Iran?
Jun 08, 2015

Many supporters of an Iranian nuclear agreement believe that a deal could help to moderate, even democratize, Iranian society. Barack Obama’s constant allusions to the transformative potential of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action for U.S.-Iranian relations suggest that he believes an agreement, which would quickly release tens of billions of dollars to the Islamic Republic and reintegrate it into the global financial system, would improve the clerical regime’s behavior.

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Violent Extremist vs. Holy Warrior

The consequences of the president’s linguistic dodge
Mar 09, 2015

Is Barack Hussein Obama wrong to avoid appending “Islamic,” “Muslim,” “Islamist,” or even “jihadist” to the terrorism that has struck the West with increasing ferocity since the 1990s? This question has at least two parts: Is the president historically correct to do this? And is he politically smart to do it? 

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Iran’s Supreme Censor

The evolution of Ali Khamenei from sensitive lover of Western literature to enforcer of Islamic revolutionary orthodoxy
Dec 22, 2014

The Blind Man’s friend:  Don’t suffer because of the past. You censored books for the sake of God. .  .  . What is
it you are taking? 

The Blind Man:  Valium. I’m taking it to forget everything, even God.

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Extending Extensions

The ‘complex’ negotiations with Iran.
Dec 08, 2014

Predictably, President Barack Obama and Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei have decided to extend again the Joint Plan of Action, the interim nuclear deal they concluded in November 2013. Unlike the last extension, which was for four months, this one is for seven months; the “political” parts of the deal, Secretary of State John Kerry assures us, should be done by March, while further “technical and drafting” details may take until July. 

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The Middle East in chaos
Oct 13, 2014

The great medieval historian Ibn Khaldun centered his understanding of history on asabiyya, which is perhaps best translated as esprit de corps mixed with the will to power. In his masterpiece, the Muqaddima, or Prolegomena, the Arab historian saw as the primary locus of asabiyya the tribe—a smaller unit than the ethnic group, and the most powerful military unit in Islamic history until the Mameluks perfected the use of slave soldiers.

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A Muslim Identity Crisis

Rotherham and the failure of multiculturalism
Sep 15, 2014

The massive sexual abuse case in Rotherham, England, has revealed again how awkward and self-defeating the Western response often is to matters that touch on religious identity. Although the independent inquiry led by Professor Alexis Jay is tersely graphic about the 1,400-plus girls, some as young as 11 years old, who were sexually assaulted over several years by organized gangs of mostly Pakistani men, it isn’t detailed about the male predators.

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A Bad Deal

Aug 04, 2014

We are in an odd situation. President Barack Obama is trying to coerce and cajole Iran’s supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, to compromise on his nuclear quest without using America’s only possible trumps: more sanctions and a serious threat of force. These negotiations are unlikely to end well, unless one deems any deal better than the possibility of American preemptive strikes. 

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The Man and the Myth

The many faces of Hassan Rouhani
Jul 14, 2014

Urbi et Orbi, the city and the world, Tehran and the globe. In his turban and clerical robe, softly speaking of peace, Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, resembles a spiritual guide more than a modern politician. Western statesmen, scholars, and journalists have been impressed by the differences between the cleric and his predecessor: Rouhani is everything Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was not—intelligent, eloquent, elegant, sophisticated.

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The Enemy of My Enemy Is My Enemy

No one should mistake Iran for a friend.
Jun 30, 2014

When Ottoman armies marched into Europe in the mid-14th century, Europeans started looking hopefully eastward for enemies of the Turks. Spanish and French kings sent ambassadors to Tamerlane when the last great Muslim Mongol conqueror started marching west. Europeans and Byzantines rejoiced when the Central Asian obliterated the hitherto invincible legions of the Ottoman sultan, Beyazid the Lightning Bolt, at the Battle of Ankara in 1402. When

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Scare Tehran, Please

Apr 21, 2014

Is Barack Obama’s threat of preventive military action against the Iranian regime’s nuclear program credible? Would a one-year, six-month, or even three-month nuclear breakout capacity at the known nuclear sites be acceptable to him? Is he prepared to attack if Tehran denies the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog, entry into undeclared facilities that may be hiding nuclear-weapons research or centrifuge production?

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A Baleful Peace Process

For how many decades will we pursue this diplomatic dead end?
Mar 17, 2014

To be outrageously iconoclastic among the Washington foreign-policy crowd is easy: Just suggest that the Israeli-Arab peace process is not merely pointless but actually damaging to America’s position in the Middle East and bad for both Israelis and Palestinians.

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Negotiating with Ourselves

Obama’s diplomatic march to an Iranian bomb
Feb 03, 2014

Analyzing the Islamic Republic isn’t a guessing game—at least it shouldn’t be. Iranian Islamists’ words and deeds are pretty consistent. Memoirs, speeches, and biographies have poured forth from those who made and sustain the regime. The New York Times and Senator Edward Kennedy may have called Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini an “enigma” and “the George Washington” of his country, respectively, but that was surely because no one at the newspaper or in the senator’s office had read the lectures that the mullah gave in the holy city of Najaf, Iraq, in 1970.

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Faith-Based Negotiations

When liberals meet mullahs
Dec 09, 2013

O believers, when you encounter the unbelievers marching to battle, turn not your backs to them. Whoso turns his back that day to them, unless withdrawing to fight again or removing to join another host, he is laden with the burden of God’s anger, and his refuge is Hell—an evil homecoming!

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When to Spy on Our Friends

The NSA in Europe.
Nov 11, 2013

It is often remarked that espionage is the second-oldest profession. Written records from Mesopotamia, Egypt, and Iran suggest that spying and civilization sprang up together. In antiquity, spies could be the hidden bureaucrats of tyranny or good governance (a ruler needed to know whether a satrap was cheating the crown and its subjects) or, less often, camouflaged itinerants writing home about the machinations of rival city-states, empires, or barbarian tribes. In modern times, espionage went Orwellian, becoming primarily a tool to buttress police states.

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A Covert Story

It takes a certain intelligence to comprehend the CIA.
Nov 04, 2013

There is probably no harder beat in Washington than intelligence. 

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The New Rouhani

Same as the old Rouhani.
Oct 07, 2013

Assessing contemporary figures on the world stage is tricky business. It takes time to properly reflect on what a man has done, and judgments based on brief acquaintance are often wrong. So it was that in May 1997, lots of Westerners and Westernized Iranians thought that the newly elected president of Iran, Mohammad Khatami, was going to transform the Islamic Republic.

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The Muddle East

Every idea President Obama had about pacifying the Muslim world turned out to be wrong.
Sep 16, 2013

If Congress refuses to support American military action against the Assad regime in Syria, and President Barack Obama declines to strike or strikes meekly, will American power—that marriage of will, resources, and perception—be diminished in the Middle East? If so, will the ramifications be severe? Could President Obama, like Iran-sanctions-supporting liberals and conservatives who don’t want to intervene in Syria, skip this Levantine war and nevertheless come out swinging against the nuke-seeking mullahs of the Islamic Republic?

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The Great Collision

Egypt’s descent into chaos
Aug 05, 2013

For most of those who were so hopeful when the Great Arab Revolt downed the dictator Hosni Mubarak two years ago, the travails of Egypt’s fledgling democracy have been depressing. Many in the West expected the country’s hodgepodge of secularists—the young men and women who were the cutting edge of the demonstrations, first against Mubarak, then against his freely elected Muslim Brotherhood successor, Mohamed Morsi—to do better than they did at the ballot box, where Islamists so far have triumphed.

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Meet the New Mullah

Same as the old mullah.
Jul 01, 2013

The Costs and Benefits of the NSA

The data-collection debate we need to have is not about civil liberties.
Jun 24, 2013

Should Americans fear the possible abuse of the intercept power of the National Security Agency at Fort Meade, Maryland? Absolutely. In the midst of the unfolding scandal at the IRS, we understand that bureaucracies are callous creatures, capable of manipulation. In addition to deliberate misuse, closed intelligence agencies can make mistakes in surveilling legitimate targets, causing mountains of trouble. Consider Muslim names.

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Radioactive Regime

Iran and its apologists
May 20, 2013

Podcast: Reuel Marc Gerecht on Iran's Apologists

Hosted by Michael Graham.
3:18 PM, May 16, 2013

THE WEEKLY STANDARD podcast with contributing editor Reuel Marc Gerecht on his piece on the Iranian regime and its apologists.

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The Unchanging CIA

Technology and spies go well together.
Feb 18, 2013

John Brennan’s nomination to be the next director of the Central Intelligence Agency has sparked another debate about Langley’s priorities and deficiencies. Brennan, the king of drones at his counterterrorist perch in the White House, could accelerate, some critics fear, the agency’s transformation into a high-tech killer elite who no longer apply themselves assiduously to the recruitment and running of human spies.

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Living with Islam

Begin with Western strength and confidence in our principles.
Sep 24, 2012

For close to 1,300 years, Muslims cared little what infidels thought of them. The curious caliph, sultan, vizier, or cleric might engage the arguments of Christians questioning the one true faith, but such disputatious exchanges were made as much out of befuddlement as disdain: Any sensible, well-educated man would obviously see the superiority of Islam over earlier imperfections.

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