Foreign Affairs Gets Lost in the Middle East

Foreign Affairs is an illustrious publication. Founded in 1922, the magazine is published by the Council on Foreign Relations. It has published numerous groundbreaking articles and analyses that have literally shaped history, from George Kennan’s famous “X Article” to Richard Nixon’s “Asia After Vietnam” and beyond. It is a publication worthy of respect for its role in broadcasting important debates about foreign policy.

But lately Foreign Affairs appears to be lost in the Middle East. The magazine’s content on the region has been replete with questionable assertions and dubious sources, undercutting its prestigious reputation.

Perhaps most infamously, in October 2023 Foreign Affairs allowed Jake Sullivan, the Biden administration’s national security adviser, to scrub sections of an essay that he had already submitted. In the initial draft, Sullivan boasted that “the Israeli-Palestinian situation is tense, particularly in the West Bank, but in the face of serious frictions, we have de-escalated crises in Gaza and restored direct diplomacy between the parties after years of its absence.”

Sullivan added that when the administration took office, “U.S. troops were under regular attack in Iraq and Syria,” but “such attacks, at least for now, have largely stopped.” In his view, the administration had taken a “disciplined approach” to foreign affairs that “reduces the risk of a new Middle East conflict.”

Of course, such claims were undone by Hamas and other Iranian proxies invading Israel on Oct. 7, 2023, and carrying out the largest massacre of Jewish civilians since the Holocaust. Indeed, Sullivan’s assertion that U.S. troops were no longer under regular attack was false to begin with—dozens of attacks had occurred in the preceding months.

Foreign Affairs removed these embarrassing sections from the online version of his essay, but the print edition, which had already gone out, still contained them. To its credit, however, the magazine did append an editor’s note, pointing out that “before this article was posted online, a passage in it about the Middle East was updated to address Hamas’s attack on Israel, which occurred after the print version went to press.”

It makes perfect sense for Foreign Affairs to publish an essay from Sullivan, the national security adviser. Yet other recent submissions have been more puzzling.

On Jan. 25, 2024, the magazine published an article by Ali Vaez, the director of the Iran Project at International Crisis Group. The timing is noteworthy.

A little more than a week later, two publications, Semafor and Iran International, announced that they had conducted a joint investigation into ICG and its former head, Robert Malley. Malley left ICG to serve as the administration’s envoy for Iran talks.

Iran International reported that “the Iranian government formed an undisclosed alliance with the International Crisis Group during the Obama administration and used the prominent think tank to lobby the U.S. government on its behalf about nuclear issues…the cooperation with Crisis Group was carried out through the Iranian Ministry’s in-house think tank, the Institute for Political and International Studies (IPIS), according to the cache of documents obtained by Iran International and shared with Semafor.” Among other things, IPIS has a history of Holocaust denialism.

Further: “The Crisis Group never made public the agreement it had with the Iranian foreign ministry, and its analysts never mentioned their close ties with Iranian officials.”

In September 2023—before Foreign Affairs published his article—Iran International and Semafor reported that more than 10 Iranian analysts in Western think tanks, including Vaez and his ICG colleague Dina Esfandairy, were “part of an influence network formed and guided by Tehran.

The documents viewed by Iran International and shared with Semafor indicate that talks between IPIS and ICG began in 2014—through Vaez.

Rob Malley, the former head of ICG, reportedly used Vaez to send messages to top Iranian officials, including then-foreign minister Javad Zarif, when Malley was serving in the Obama administration. The Biden administration appointed Malley to be Special Envoy to Iran in January 2021. In June 2023, it was revealed that Malley had been put on leave following the suspension of his security clearance.

Other recent Foreign Affairs contributors have been similarly problematic.

On Feb. 15, 2024, the magazine published an essay by Agnes Callamard, the Secretary General of Amnesty International and a former U.N. Special Rapporteur. In her essay, Callamard depicted Israel’s defensive war in Gaza as uniquely evil. That war, of course, was launched after Hamas and other Iranian proxies invaded Israel, brutally massacring civilians. But Callamard called the war “Israel’s campaign of retaliation” and lambasted the Jewish state as destroying the ”future of human rights.”

Callamard’s rhetoric is unsurprising—she’s an antisemite. As CAMERA’s David Litman, among others, has documented, Callamard has a long history of singling out Israel for opprobrium. Indeed, under her leadership Amnesty employees have argued that the Jewish state shouldn’t exist and authored mendacious and misleading reports accusing Israel of “apartheid.”

Indeed, on October 7—while the Hamas-led massacre was taking place—Callamard accused the Israeli government of “inciting violence” and blamed the Jewish state for “war crimes.” Like the organization she leads, Callamard has a long history of regurgitating Hamas propaganda, including relying on casualty statistics supplied by the U.S.-designated terrorist group.

Soliciting a piece from Callamard on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is akin to asking Osama bin Laden for advice on how to combat terrorism.

Regrettably, other recent essays have been similarly misleading. A Feb. 20, 2024 essay by Marc Lynch and Shibley Telhami, entitled “The Two-State Mirage,” laid much of the blame for the lack of a Palestinian state at Israel’s doorstep. The long history of Palestinian leaders rejecting British, U.S., and Israeli offers for statehood in exchange for peace with a Jewish state was glossed over. As CAMERA has documented on numerous occasions, this history of rejectionism is key to understanding the conflict. It shows that Palestinians leaders have, time and again, refused to accept an independent state if it meant recognizing the right of Israel to exist.

But for Lynch and Telhami this is old hat. In May 2023, the two published an article for Foreign Affairs called “Israel’s One-State Reality,” which similarly ignored the more than a dozen instances of Palestinians rejecting a Palestinian Arab state. Worse still, that article—published less than half a year before Hamas’s genocidal massacre—called for the elimination of the Jewish state. In this, the authors were but echoing Callamard, Iran and its sycophants in the West, and Hamas.

As one of its most eloquent survivors, Elie Wiesel, observed: “The Holocaust did not begin with killing; it began with words.”

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