Martin Indyk, an Australian-trained academic and former deputy director of research for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), helped found WINEP in 1985. In 1982, following his position as Australian deputy director of current intelligence in the Middle East, Indyk started to set up a research department for AIPAC. Because of his affiliation with AIPAC, Indyk felt his research wasn't being taken seriously and so started WINEP to convey an image that was friendly to Israel but doing credible research on the Middle East in a realistic and balanced way" Indyk would go on to become an American citizen, U.S. diplomat and its ambassador to Israel.
Washington Institute for Near East Policy
last updated: October 15, 2012
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The Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), a spin-off the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, is an influential beltway think tank whose members have advocated a host of hawkish, “pro-Israel” policies over the years. It is considered a core member of the “Israel lobby,” a constellation of policy shops and advocacy groups devoted to pushing an Israel-centric U.S. agenda in the Middle East. Many of WINEP’s current and former scholars have been closely associated with neoconservatism, and the organization has generally been supportive of the “war on terror” policies pushed by representatives of groups like the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) and the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
Iran and Syria
Iran and Syria have long been at the center of WINEP’s work, with the group’s scholars promoting a host of aggressive U.S. policies towards these countries, which often dovetail with the goals of other hawkish “pro-Israel” campaigns.
An exemplary WINEP event was its September 2012 briefing advocating U.S.-Israeli cooperation to prevent “an Iranian nuclear breakout.” At the briefing, WINEP research director Patrick Clawson raised eyebrows by appearing to suggest that the United States manufacture a situation that would require Washington to take military action against Iran in the event that negotiations over its nuclear program failed. “I frankly think that crisis initiation is really tough,” Clawson said. “And it’s very hard for me to see how the … president can get us to war with Iran.” He then went on to recount a series of incidents in American history—like the Gulf of Tonkin incident and the attack on Pearl Harbor—that gave U.S. presidents the justification needed to go to war. He ended by saying, with a note of sarcasm in his voice, “So, if in fact the Iranians aren’t going to compromise, it would be best if somebody else started the war.”
Observers noted that Clawson, instead of debating the merits of military intervention or its potential impact, narrowly focused on drumming up ways to force the United States to intervene. Quipped retired colonel and former intelligence officer Patrick Lang: “Isn't this kind of thing somehow a violation of federal law?”
WINEP managing director Michael Singh weighed in on the nuclear standoff between the United States and Iran in an October 2012 op-ed for the Washington Post. Echoing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s 2012 speech to the United Nations—in which the Likud Party prime minister called for the body to set a “red line” that it would not allow Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program to cross—Singh called for the Obama administration to revise its own “red lines” on Iran, arguing that merely opposing Iran’s acquisition of a nuclear weapon was inadequate. “It is up to the Obama administration to suggest a red line that better meets U.S. objectives as well as the criteria of enforceability and credibility,” Singh wrote. “And when it comes to credibility, the United States has undermined itself on multiple fronts — by rewarding Iranian defiance with better offers at the negotiating table, by enforcing sanctions reluctantly and by allowing senior officials to speak out publicly against the military option that the president insists remains ‘on the table.’”
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