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Elliott Abrams testifies during the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Tuesday, August 4, 2020. (Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

Trump Blasted for Naming 'War Criminal' and Iran-Contra Convict Elliott Abrams as Iran Envoy

"Elliott Abrams has made a career of lying and committing criminal acts that have led to the death and suffering of innocent people from Guatemala to Iraq."

Jake Johnson

Following the resignation Thursday of State Department Iran envoy Brian Hook, President Donald Trump named as his replacement current special representative for Venezuela Elliott Abrams, a notorious warmonger and supporter of Latin American death squads who was convicted in 1991 of withholding information from Congress during the Iran-Contra scandal.

"Like most Trump appointees, he is not fit for the position, and will continue to hurt U.S. interests by enacting a failing strategy that will only succeed in spreading chaos and misery."
—Sina Toossi, National Iranian American Council

Abrams will now serve in both roles simultaneously, alarming anti-war groups who say someone with a record as blood-stained as his "should be barred for life from government positions and recognized as the war criminal that he is."

"From El Salvador to Guatemala, Nicaragua to Panama, Elliott Abrams' life's work has been defined by the worst impulses of U.S. foreign policy: embracing war, ignoring gross human rights abuses, and supporting horrific authoritarian regimes," said Stephen Miles, executive director of Win Without War.

Abrams' appointment as special envoy to Iran comes days after he confirmed during a Senate hearing that he is still "working hard" to topple Venezuela's democratically-elected President Nicolás Maduro. Sina Toossi, senior research analyst at the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), warned that the Trump administration's installation of Abrams as the top U.S. diplomat to Iran shows the president and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo are "doubling down" on their push for regime change in Iran as well.

"Like most Trump appointees," said Toossi, "he is not fit for the position, and will continue to hurt U.S. interests by enacting a failing strategy that will only succeed in spreading chaos and misery."

In a statement late Thursday, anti-war group CodePink provided a snapshot of Abrams' views and record dating back to his time in the Reagan administration:

  • In the 1980s, he defended the infamous Guatemalan General Efraín Ríos Montt, whose violent crackdown on the indigenous Ixil Mayan people of Guatemala was so brutal that it was classified as genocide by the United Nations.  
  • He denied that the Salvadoran military was responsible for the devastating El Mozote massacre where, in 1981, a U.S.-trained battalion murdered more than 500 civilians, slitting the throats of children along the way. Not only did Abrams deny the massacre and push for continued U.S. support for the notoriously brutal Salvadoran government, but he even claimed in a 1994 interview that "the U.S. administration's record in El Salvador is one of fabulous achievement."
  • He is vehemently anti-Palestinian and shamelessly supports Israel. As George Bush’s aide on the National Security Council, Abrams did everything he could to thwart peace negotiations. He repeatedly undercut any U.S. pressure on Israel to stop the building of settlements and cited the Holocaust as justification for Israel's killings of Palestinians (Jews are "a people who had learned from history what happens to Jews without security"). In 2015, he applauded then-Speaker John Boehner's decision to invite Netanyahu to address Congress without the approval of President Obama. He lauds Evangelical descriptions of Israel such as the belief that "Israel is connected to the idea that God favors and protects Americans."
  • In 1991, Abrams pled guilty to withholding information from Congress related to his involvement in the Iran-Contra scandal, the secret and illegal scam in the 1980s to siphon profits from Iranian weapons sales to support the right-wing Contra rebels trying to overthrow the Sandinista government.
  • Abrams was a key supporter of the disastrous invasion of Iraq. In 1998, he submitted a letter to President Clinton encouraging him to depose Saddam Hussein. As Deputy National Security Advisor for Global Democracy Strategy during George W. Bush’s second term, Abrams was in charge of promoting Bush's strategy of "advancing democracy abroad.” 
  • Abrams championed the U.S. overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi in Libya, echoing the tactics used by the neocons for intervention in Iraq.
  • Abrams' opposition to the Iran Nuclear Deal is epitomized by his attempts to encourage Israel to bomb Iran's nuclear sites before negotiations became too serious. He expressed concern that Israel's capacity to impede the deal was "already being narrowed considerably by the diplomatic thaw, because it is one thing to bomb Iran when it appears hopelessly recalcitrant and isolated and quite another to bomb it when much of the world—especially the United States—is optimistic about the prospect of talks."
  • In January 2019, Abrams was appointed to be the U.S. Special Representative for Venezuela, and used his position to support an attempted coup, quash diplomatic talks, and increase brutal sanctions, even during the pandemic.

"The dangerous conflict resulting from Trump's withdrawal from the nuclear agreement will be exacerbated by a man committed to Washington's failed policies of regime change," CodePink said. "Elliott Abrams has made a career of lying and committing criminal acts that have led to the death and suffering of innocent people from Guatemala to Iraq. He embraces militarism, covers up for gross human rights abuses, and has a history of supporting authoritarian regimes."


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