Established in 1989, the Council for the National Interest (CNI) is an offshoot of the Washington D.C.-based American Educational Trust (AET), an anti-Israel organization that publishes the academic journal Washington Report on Middle East Affairs. CNI’s founders included Paul Findley and Paul N. “Pete” McCloskey (both former U.S. congressmen), Andrew Killgore (former U.S. ambassador to Qatar), Eugene H. Bird (formerly with the U.S. foreign service), and Richard Curtiss (former U.S. Information Agency chief).
CNI describes itself as “a non-profit, non-partisan grassroots organization advocating a new direction for U.S. Middle East policy.” CNI’s mission is “to restore a political environment in America in which voters and their elected officials are free from the undue influence and pressure of a foreign country, namely Israel.” As CNI Founding Chairman Paul Findley puts it, the organization seeks to “help advance the national interest in the Middle East and at the same time help repair the damage being done to our political institutions by the over-zealous tactics of Israel’s lobby.” “September 11 would not have occurred if the U.S. government had refused to help Israel humiliate and destroy Palestinian society,” says Findley.
CNI enumerates its organizational goals as follows:
CNI seeks to help achieve the foregoing objectives by coordinating its efforts with local and regional activist organizations; making use of “local and national full-page newspaper advertising and email lists to build the organization”; and sponsoring public hearings and seminars on Capitol Hill, for which it attracts big-name speakers such as Ralph Nader and Hanan Ashrawi.
CNI and its sister organization, the Council for the National Interest Foundation (CNIF), maintain close ties with numerous individuals linked to Islamic terror groups. One such person is CNIF Board Member Abdurahman Alamoudi, an open supporter of Hamas and Hezbollah. Alamoudi is currently serving a 23-year prison term for having illegally accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars from top Libyan officials, plotted to murder Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah (on behalf of Libyan President Muammar Qadhafi), and violated numerous tax and immigration laws.
A 1999 CNIF press release shows that during a tour of the Middle East, CNI President Eugene Bird was part of a delegation that met with Nabih Berri (the former head of Lebanon’s Amal terrorist movement), an unnamed “leader in Hezbollah,” and Mahmoud Al-Zahar (a senior official of Hamas). Also in 1999, CNI co-founder Richard Curtiss was the featured speaker at a Jerusalem Festival organized by the Islamic Association for Palestine, which has distributed Hamas communiqués, including a charter calling for jihad against Jews.
The CNI and CNIF websites share the same Internet domain, which registers back to Bayan Elashi and the Richardson, Texas-based Infocom Corporation, of which Elashi was the Chief Executive Officer. According to a Justice Department report, in April 2005 a federal court convicted Elashi and his four brothers “on charges of conspiracy to deal in the property of a specially designated terrorist [Hamas political leader Mousa Abu Marzook] and [of] money laundering. The activities were related to Infocom, an Internet Service provider believed to be a front for Hamas.”
Dr. Laura Drake is another extremist with ties to CNI. In 1993 and 1994, Drake served as the organization’s Director of Research. By 1998, she was Director of the United Association for Studies and Research, described by law enforcement as “the political command of Hamas in the United States.” Speaking in December 2002 at the Islamic Circle of North America’s and Muslim American Society’s Annual Convention in Chicago, Drake voiced her feelings about Israelis: “So now the occupiers are whining to the U.S. that they are being hit back, that they are getting burned once in a while, that the settlers are being set aflame. Let them burn, I say, let them burn.”
CNI has drafted a petition to support an Israel Accountability and Security Act, charging that “U.S. foreign policy continues to turn a blind eye to the continued violations of international law by Israel’s right-wing government.”
As noted earlier, CNI has close ties to the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs (WRMEA), whose content is intensely hostile to Israel. In the 1990s, WRMEA published numerous CNI articles and newsletters; the journal even shared the same office address as CNI for a number of years. Today Richard Curtiss and Andrew Killgore, a pair of self-described “outspoken Arabists,” serve as WRMEA’s Executive Editor and Publisher, respectively.
CNI’s operations are funded mostly by individual donations; it also receives a small amount of foundation support.
CNI rents space in its Washington, DC office to the anti-Israel organization Partners for Peace.
Much of this profile is adapted from the article “Council for Islamist Interests,” written by Stuart Wagner and Elon Granader, and published by FrontPageMagazine.com on August 5, 2004.