Editor’s note: Michael Doran reviews America’s Great Game, by Hugh Wilford, a book that examines the role of a front group created by the CIA in 1951 to promote an anti-Zionist view of the Middle East and weaken American support for Israel.
Kim Philby, the British turncoat who spied for the Soviet Union, described Kermit Roosevelt as “a courteous, soft-spoken Easterner with impeccable social connections, well-educated rather than intellectual, pleasant and unassuming as host and guest.” Theodore Roosevelt’s grandson, Philby thought, was “the last person that you would expect to be up to the neck in dirty tricks.”
Roosevelt, who headed the CIA’s Middle East division in the Eisenhower administration, is best remembered today for engineering the coup that toppled Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddegh in 1953. But in “America’s Great Game,” Hugh Wilford reminds us that Roosevelt was also deeply involved in the Arab world. Indeed, he was the agency’s foremost “Arabist.” The term usually refers to State Department regional experts who were the intellectual, and often biological, descendants of American missionaries in the Arab lands. These officials were fiercely anti-Zionist, convinced that American support for Israel was a strategic blunder of the first order. This was because, as Mr. Wilford writes, they believed “in the overriding importance of American-Arab, and Christian-Muslim, relations.”
AAPI Heritage Month: Safeguarding Asian American inclusion and belonging
President López Obrador's extension of the term of Supreme Court chief Arturo Zaldívar is part of his strong effort to recentralize power in the Mexican presidency and hollow out the independence and power of other Mexican institutions. His other moves to bend the justice system to his will include a reform that lowered the salary of judges but did not improve the quality of prosecutors and his unwillingness to allow an independent selection of the attorney general, with López Obrador himself retaining the power of appointment. His latest move with the two-year extension of Zaldívar’s term is especially worrisome. Zaldívar is also the president of the powerful Federal Judiciary Council. The council appoints and dismisses judges, sets career advancement rules and disciplines judges. Zaldívar will be setting the council’s and, thus, the whole judiciary’s, agenda and priorities for two years. This allows López Obrador to influence how courts will rule in cases regarding the executive branch, what cases they take up and the legality of new policies. These moves are taking place when the effectiveness of the judiciary in Mexico remains limited and deeply concerning. The attorney general’s office has proven weak, unwilling to take up key cases such as against the suspects in the brazen attack on Mexico City’s security minister, Omar García Harfuch—an event that symbolized the impunity with which Mexican criminal groups operate. Mexico’s justice system showed itself equally meek and disappointing in inadequately investigating the alleged complicity of former Mexican Defense Minister Salvador Cienfuegos and dismissing the case, potentially the most significant case of corruption and criminal collusion charges against a high-ranking Mexican official in two decades. A decade and a half after Mexico initiated its justice system reforms, 95 percent of federal cases still go unpunished. President López Obrador has scored some points, but the already precariously weak rule of law in Mexico, and thus the Mexican people, will suffer.