Martin Indyk

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<youtube size="tiny" align="right" caption="Martin Indyk interview">-YAyQd_tLeM</youtube> Martin S. Indyk is a former AIPAC staffer,[1] a founding director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and the current vice president and director of foreign policy at the Brookings Institution.[2] Indyk is also director of Brookings' Saban Center for Middle East Policy.

Despite his well known affiliation with the Israel Lobby[1] and his Australian nationality, Bill Clinton appointed Indyk as the first foreign-born US Ambassador to Israel in 1995.[3] The issuance of his US nationality had been expedited for his previous appointment by Clinton in 1993 as Middle East adviser on the National Security Council.[4] Due to his employment with AIPAC and his relationships with prominent pro-Israel lobbying institutions and lobbyists, Indyk reportedly told the National Journal's Christopher Madison early in his career that he was working hard to shake the image of being "an arm of AIPAC."[1] Indyk frequently appears in the mainstream media as a "Middle-East expert."


Prior to beginning his career in the US, Indyk completed a masters degree in Jerusalem on International Relations and a PhD in Australia on the role of the United States in resolving the Israel-Palestine conflict.[5]

Indyk has stated that his interest in protecting Israel's security was enhanced by being a student in Israel during the Yom Kippur War (at which time he also volunteered in a Kibbutz).[5]



While working as a visiting fellow at Columbia University in the 1980s, Indyk was recruited by AIPAC.[6] Aside from brief citations of his employment with AIPAC, little is written about Indyk's time with the prominent pro-Israel lobby group as its director of research. Indyk formed the Washington Institute for Near East Policy with other AIPAC officials after allegedly being "dissatisfied because of AIPAC's reputation as a strongly biased organization."[6]

...In late 1984 he began weighing whether to return home or to try setting up a think tank. Then he met Barbi Weinberg.
Weinberg, a former president of the Jewish Federation of Los Angeles and an AIPAC vice president, said in an earlier interview she had always been fascinated with "thinkers and scholars" and had for over a decade privately wrestled with the idea of creating a foreign policy center.

Indyk also reportedly downplays his association with AIPAC:

A biography issued by his own institute describes him as a "professorial lecturer in the Department of Middle East Studies at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies." His official biography does not mention his other position in the U.S., as AIPAC assistant director of research.[1]

WINEP and the Clinton Administration

Indyk cofounded the Washington Institute for Near East Policy in 1985 with the wife of AIPAC Chairman Lawrence Weinberg and former president of the Jewish Federation, Barbi Weinberg.[6] At this time Indyk was AIPAC's deputy director of research, serving under Steven Rosen.[7] Born in the UK to a Jewish family and raised in Australia, Indyk was reportedly granted US nationality in an expedited manner to serve for the Clinton Administration in the early 1990s.[8] Indyk joined Clinton's administration as director for Middle East affairs on the National Security Council and later represented the United States as ambassador to Israel twice (1995-97 and 2000-01).[9]According to Mearsheimer and Walt, during the Clinton administration, Middle Eastern policy was largely shaped by officials with close ties to Israel or to prominent pro-Israel organizations. This included Indyk, Dennis Ross, and Aaron Miller:

These men were among Clinton’s closest advisers at the Camp David summit in July 2000. Although all three supported the Oslo peace process and favoured the creation of a Palestinian state, they did so only within the limits of what would be acceptable to Israel. The American delegation took its cues from Ehud Barak, co-ordinated its negotiating positions with Israel in advance, and did not offer independent proposals. Not surprisingly, Palestinian negotiators complained that they were ‘negotiating with two Israeli teams – one displaying an Israeli flag, and one an American flag’.[10]

Juan Cole discusses the importance of Indyk's background when considering his policy recommendations during his time with the Clinton Administration:

Martin Indyk, an Australian close to Israeli policy circles, had in the 1980s, and early 1990s served as the founding director of the Washington Institute for Near Easy Policy, the think thank of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), a major lobbying organization. With that background, Indyk became influential in the Clinton administration and successfully advocated "dual containment" of both Iraq and Iran. This policy depended on economic boycotts and the deployment of U.S. military might in the Gulf, mainly American overflights of Iraq from Prince Sultan Air Base in Saudia Arabia. Obviously, Israeli security was on Indyk's mind as he pressed this unrealistic idea in Washington.[11]

Brookings and Saban Center

Indyk is currently vice president and director of Foreign Policy at the Brookings Institution and was director of the Saban Center for Middle East Policy until 2009 when he was replaced by Kenneth Pollack. Indyk reportedly advised Israeli-American multimillionaire, Haim Saban, to establish the Saban Center when Saban informed Indyk that he wanted his "own" think-tank. Prior to this Indyk had been working at WINEP but joined Saban's center shortly after Saban contributed an initial sum of 13 million dollars for the think-tank's establishment.[12]


According to prominent scholars John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, the Saban Center harbors undeniable pro-Israel biases:

It is hard to imagine that a research institute funded by Saban and directed by Indyk is going to be anything but pro-Israel. To be sure, the Saban Centre occasionally hosts Arab scholars and exhibits some diversity of opinion. Saban Center fellows – like Indyk himself – often endorse the idea of a two-state settlement between Israel and the Palestinians. But Saban Center publications never question US support for Israel and rarely, if ever, offer significant criticism of key Israeli policies. Moreover, individuals who stray from the Center’s line do not remain for long, as former NSC official Flynt Leverett’s brief tenure there illustrates.[13]

Moreover, the Brookings Institution's work on the Middle East has degraded since it was transferred to the Saban Center:

Take the Brookings Institution. For many years, its senior expert on the Middle East was William B. Quandt, a former National Security Council official with a well-deserved reputation for even-handedness. Today, Brookings’s coverage is conducted through the Saban Center for Middle East Policy, which is financed by Haim Saban, an Israeli-American businessman and ardent Zionist. The centre’s director is the ubiquitous Martin Indyk. What was once a non-partisan policy institute is now part of the pro-Israel chorus."[14]

Multiple Loyalties

The fact that Indyk is an Australian citizen (who worked and studied in Israel) that later became a US citizen who spent part of his career working for pro-Israel lobbying organizations[10] has led some to question where his loyalties lie. With this in mind it is ironic to note that according to decorated US veteran and former department of defense staffer, Colonel W. Patrick Lang, Indyk personally asked him to register under the Foreign Agent Registration Act while Lang was working for a Lebanese businessman and politician. Lang considers the FARA law an excellent statute:

A possible confusion of allegiances is a perpetual problem in a country still in the process of self-definition. The United States can not afford to have its diplomacy and/or policy formulation reside in the hands of people of unknown associations.

Lang voluntarily accepted the request and writes that it has since been used against him by neoconservatives who take issue with his political commentary even though he is no longer required to be registered with FARA:

This registration later became a great convenience to the neocon brethren who would cite it in calling to complain to editors and network executives about me, my views and/or foreign associations. Whenever they sought to use this "tool" they always falsely claimed that I was a representative of a foreign government rather than an individual. This calumny culminated in Indyk's call to me suggesting that I should admit my "foreign agent" status. I was happy to do so. I de-registered myself several years ago when I stopped working for the overseas principal.[15]

Although Indyk has never been registered with FARA, he has admitted in an interview that his academic career was marked by an intense interest in protecting Israel's security which was intensified during his graduate studies at Hebrew University in Jerusalem during the Yom Kippur War:

That was a kind of a defining moment for me in terms of my search for identity. I sat up at night listening on my radio to the BBC reports of Henry Kissinger flying in to get the cease-fire and from that moment on I became absolutely obsessed about the idea that I too should play some role in trying to make Israel safe, because that would make me safe.[5]

In criticizing Indyk's optimism about the latest round of Israeli-Palestinian "peace talks," former director of the CIA's counter-terrorism centre, Robert Grenier, argues that Indyk is protecting Israeli interests:

The only conceivable explanation for his mendacity, apart from the desire to see his name in print, is that Martin is continuing to promote the type of 'American diplomacy' he championed during his years in the Clinton administration – diplomacy designed to keep pressure off the Israelis while they do whatever they please. Although he doubtless had to make some accommodations along the way in transitioning from an overt lobbyist on behalf of Israel to a foreign-policy apparatchik in the Clinton administration, one always assumed that his basic motives were unchanged. In those years, he had a lot of company, the redoubtable Dennis Ross being most prominent, and most disingenuous, among them. At least Aaron Miller, another of the state department peace-process team members, has had the good grace since his retirement to admit that he and the others saw their role as acting as "Israel's lawyers".
For those of us who watched the process from close range in those years, it was obvious that Ross, Indyk and the others saw their jobs as consisting of a two-part process: Find out what the Israelis want, and then help them get it.[16]

Dual Containment

Indyk is known as the main creator and pusher of the Clinton Administration's "dual containment" policy of Iraq and Iran. As outlined in May 1993 at WINEP and then implemented by Indyk while he was director for Near East and South Asian Affairs at the National Security Council,[10] dual containment advocates containing both Iran and Iraq through economic pressure and displays of US military might, with the ultimate goal of producing conditions that would lead to regime change in Iraq[17] and change Iran's behavior.[18]

Dual containment has been referred to as "essentially an AIPAC policy"[19] for its protection of Israeli interests. During the 1990s Iran and Iraq were the greatest challengers to Israel's dominance in the region and many criticized the policy from all sides of the political spectrum for its negative consequences in terms of American interests. The policy reportedly came about after Israel began expressing concerns about Iran which they claimed was also a threat to the United States. According to Harvard scholars Mearsheimer and Walt, Israel portrayed Iran as a threat in order to cement closer relations between itself and the United States:

The hope was that the Untied States would see Israel as a bulwark against Iranian expansionism, much the way Israel had been treated as a bulwark against Soviet influence in the Middle East...The Clinton administration responded to Israel's entreaties by adopting the policy of dual containment...[and] Robert Pelletreau, the assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs at the time, told Trita Parsi that the policy was essentially a copy of an Israeli proposal.[20]


Dual containment resulted in making the United States an enemy of two countries who were historically hostile to each other (thereby giving them a cause to unite over) and forcing the US to bear the difficult burden of containing both countries while dealing with considerable resistance:

The attemp to keep the two largest Gulf countries in a box left the United States with the problem of where to find a proxy guaranteer of security to the oil monarchies. Over time, the commitment of European allies to dual containment waned because of humanitarian concerns and European corporations' interest in doing with the two countries, and there was a danger that international sanctions on Iraq might ultimately be lifted. It was an impossible situation for Washington.[21]

Academic and academic F. Gregory Gause III outlined the flaws of dual containment in 1994:

The dual containment policy is shot through with logical flaws and practical inconsistencies and is based on faulty geopolitical premises. It is hard to see how either Iraq or Iran could be contained, in the administration’s sense, without the cooperation of its hostile counterpart. American allies in the region and elsewhere have shown no enthusiasm for dual containment, making its implementation highly problematic. Dual containment offers no guidelines for dealing with change in the gulf, and it ties American policy to an inherently unstable regional status quo. Worse yet, it assigns to the United States a unilateral role in managing gulf security issues at a time when the American capacity to influence events in Iran and Iraq is at best limited. The policy could end up encouraging the very results, regional conflict and increased Iranian power, that the United States seeks to prevent.[22]

According to academic and former national security advisor to the Ford, Carter and Reagan administrations, Gary Sick:

I have known Martin Indyk since we were at Columbia together, and I respect him as a professional. But I thought dual containment was a terrible idea from the first time I heard it, and Martin knows it. By emphasizing threats and sanctions above even the most minimal engagement, I think this concept was the origin of many of our worst mistakes and missed opportunities over the past 15 years.[18]



  • Innocent Abroad: An Intimate Account of American Peace Diplomacy in the Middle East (2009), New York, Simon & Schuster

Related Articles


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Grace Halsell, Clinton's Indyk Appointment One of Many From Pro-Israel Think Tank, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, March 1993,(accessed 8 September 2010).
  2. Martin S. Indyk, Brookings Institution (accessed 8 September 2010).
  3. Grant F. Smith, "Israel Lobby Initiates Hispanic Strategy", IRmep, 10 April 2006
  4. Martin S. Indyk, Simon & Schuster (accessed 8 September 2010).
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Leadel Interview, "Martin Indyk", Leadel Website, accessed on 10 September 2010
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Mark H. Milstein, "Washington Institute for Near East Policy: An AIPAC "Image Problem"", Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, July 1991
  7. Jeffrey Goldberg, "Real Insiders", New Yorker, 4 July 2005
  8. Helena Cobban, "Martin Indyk's 'conversion'", 'Just World News' with Helena Cobban, 27 February 2010
  9. Wikipedia, "", Wikipedia, accessed on 13 September 2010
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, "The Israel Lobby", London Review of Books, 23 March 2006
  11. Juan Cole, Engaging the Muslim World, (Palgrave Macmillan 2009) p. 20
  12. Connie Bruck, "The Influencer", New Yorker, 10 May 2010
  13. John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt, The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy, (Penguin 2007) p. 177
  14. John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt, The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy, (Penguin 2007) p. 176
  15. W. Patrick Lang, "The FARA Law", Sic Semper Tyrannis, 6 March 2009
  16. Robert Grenier, "Who does he think he is fooling?", Al Jazeera, 5 September 2010
  18. 18.0 18.1 Laura Rozen's Interview with Gary Sick, "Former NSC Aide on Clinton, 'Dual Containment,' and HRC's 'Obliterate' Iran Remarks", MotherJones, 8 May 2008
  19. Juan Cole, Engaging the Muslim World, (Palgrave Macmillan 2009) p. 138
  20. John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt, The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy, (Penguin 2007) pp. 286-7
  21. Juan Cole, Engaging the Muslim World, (Palgrave Macmillan 2009) p. 20
  22. F. Gregory Gause, "The Illogic of Dual Containment", Foreign Affairs, March/April 1994
  23. Grace Halsell, Clinton's Indyk Appointment One of Many From Pro-Israel Think Tank, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, March 1993,(accessed 8 September 2010).
  24. Brookings Institute, "Martin Indyk", Brookings Institute Website, accessed on 10 September 2010
  25. Council on Foreign Relations, "Martin Indyk", CFR Website, accessed on 10 September 2010
  26. Charlie Rose, "Martin Indyk", Charlie Rose Website, accessed on 10 September 2010