Former presidential adviser Elliott Abrams tells Newsmax that Israeli-Palestinian peace talks being arranged by Secretary of State John Kerry "will not go anywhere" — and predicts Israel could strike Iran in just six months.
Abrams also says he opposes imposing a no-fly zone in Syria, and supports the administration's decision to suspend delivery of fighter jets to Egypt, saying the Egyptians "need bread" more than jets.
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Abrams served in the State Department under President Ronald Reagan and as special assistant to the president and deputy national security adviser for global democracy strategy under George W. Bush. He is now a senior fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.
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In an exclusive interview with Newsmax TV, Abrams said of Kerry's getting the Israelis and Palestinians to agree to restart peace talks, "They’ve gone back to the table mostly as a favor to Secretary Kerry and because they don’t want to be blamed.
"Frankly, these talks will not go anywhere. Israel's not going to go back to those '67 [borders]. Talks may start, and I hope they don't break down quickly, but I don't really see the basis for getting to a peace agreement here. I don't know why Secretary Kerry is optimistic about this."
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has recently suggested that time is running out to stop Iran's nuclear ambitions. Asked if he foresees an Israeli military action in the near future, Abrams responds: "I wouldn’t say the near future but the Israelis are determined to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon.
"We're going to have some negotiations in August with this new Iranian president and the Israelis realize time is running out. So if the United States cannot prevent Iran from moving steadily forward toward a nuclear weapon, the Israelis will strike maybe within the next six or nine months," Abrams says.
Abrams also said suspending delivery of four F-16 jets to Egypt is "the right thing to do. For one thing, our law says when there's a coup, when the military removes an elected president, we should suspend aid. And there was a coup — the military in Egypt threw out a president.
"We may not have liked him. He may have been unpopular. But it was still a coup so we need to follow our law," Abrams says. "And whatever the Egyptians need now, they need bread, they need oil, they need economic reform, they don't need more F-16s."
U.S. Army Gen. Martin Dempsey says the Obama administration is deliberating whether to use military power in Syria and to perhaps impose a no-fly zone.
But Abrams says: "I'm not in favor of a no-fly zone."
"The amount of people and planes and money that it takes, and the risks that we would run, are very great and it doesn't do what you're trying to do," said Abrams. "You're trying to stop this kind of terrorist activity by the Assad regime but a lot of the damage is done by artillery, when they fire shells into neighborhoods and apartment houses and homes. That wouldn't be touched at all by a no-fly zone."
As to whether Dempsey should be reconfirmed for a second term as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Abrams says: "I'm really concerned about Gen. Dempsey because the way he's handled Syria has been really unacceptable.
"He suggests we have no options, everything we'll do will get us into an Iraq-type war, will cost billions, there's nothing we can do. Those are policy questions and the things he's been saying have really tied the president's hands and been meant to tie his hands and that's inappropriate for the military. The policy should come from the civilians," Abrams says.
The National Security Agency’s phone records and data gathering program, revealed recently by NSA contractor Edward Snowden, has survived a legislative challenge in the House.
"I'm glad it has," Abrams says of the vote.
"I really side with those that think the invasion of privacy here is minimal because they're not listening to the content of the calls, they're just seeing the numbers. We need it if we want to avoid another 9/11-type tragedy.
"We're all concerned about invasions of privacy but the invasion here would be if some guy in a federal office were listening to your phone calls. That is not happening. This is just computers gathering the numbers and trying to see relationships among the numbers," Abrams says. "I don't think people should be so worried about this and we have really good testimony from former counterterrorism officials that this helps keep us safe."
President Barack Obama was critical of President Bush's policies on terrorism, but some say his record in fighting terrorism reflects the same approach he campaigned against. For example, he’s expanded the drone strikes program as well as the phone records and data program, and he hasn't closed Guantanamo Bay.
"It is accurate to say there is a [Bush-Obama] continuum because the threats did not change on Inauguration Day in 2009, and what President Obama has found out is that a lot of the things he said during the campaign were just wrong," Abrams tells Newsmax.
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"What he's finding out is that we need to do many of these things. He has expanded the drone program and kept Guantanamo Bay open. So this is a continuum that shows that some things are above and beyond politics."
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