Chris Keeley

Charles O. Cecil

A friend of mine, a retired U.S. ambassador, sent this excellent letter to President Obama yesterday.  
Straightforward common sense.
Dear Mr. President:
Just think for a minute—what would happen if the United States abstained when the Palestinian question comes before the UN Security Council in the next week or two?
The resolution would pass. The world would be stunned. The United States would enter an entirely new era in our relations with the Muslim countries of the world. The vision you outlined in Cairo for better relations with the Islamic world would take the largest step forward of your presidency. The United States would once again have regained the high moral ground we so often claim to occupy. The energies loosed by the “Arab spring” would continue to be devoted to their own domestic affairs rather than being diverted into condemning the United States. We are hypocrites when we claim to want justice for the Palestinians but we do nothing meaningful to help achieve this.
On the other hand, if the United States vetoes the Palestinian request for statehood, we will damage our position in the Islamic world—not merely the Arab World—for untold years to come.  We will become the object of retribution throughout the Muslim world, and will give new energy to the lagging efforts of al-Qaida to retaliate against us. I served my country 36 years in the Foreign Service of the United States, ten assignments in ten Muslim countries. I know the power of this issue. Why would we want to give new impetus to anti-American sentiment throughout the Muslim world?
Mr. Netanyahu’s office has issued a statement saying “Peace will be achieved only through direct negotiations with Israel.” You know, and I know, that Mr. Netanyahu has no intention of concluding a just and fair peace with the Palestinian Authority.  His only concern is to continue the inexorable construction of more settlements, creating more “facts on the ground” until the idea of an independent Palestinian state becomes a mere memory of a bygone era. When Israel declared its independence in 1948 it did not do so after direct negotiations with Palestine. If Israel really wants to negotiate with the Palestinians, why would negotiating with an independent Palestinian government, on an equal footing, deter it from engaging in these negotiations?
The Reagan administration launched an international information campaign under the slogan “Let Poland be Poland.” It’s time we let Palestine be Palestine.
Abstain from this upcoming vote. Just think about it.
Sincerely yours,
Charles O. Cecil
U.S. Ambassador, retired
Chris Keeley

(no subject)

Chris Keeley

Chas W. Freeman Jr., “America’s Misadventures in the Middle East,” Foreword by William B. Quand

Chas W. Freeman Jr., “America’s Misadventures in the Middle East,” Foreword by William B. Quandt, 230 pages, paperback, $22.95.

A new independent American publisher has recently entered the game of trying to educate the American people about the Middle East. The proprietor is Helena Cobban, well-known as a serious journalist, author and blogger ( The new publishing house has its own website (no surprise):
Its first book, released in October if of special interest to readers of The Link: a collection of 23 essays about the Middle East by retired Ambassador Chas Freeman. Other titles planned for the fall of 2010 are by Laila El-Haddad, Joshua Foust, and Reidar Visser, and are about, respectively, Gaza, Afghanistan and Iraq.
The Book
Ambassador Freeman is one of America's most seasoned and thoughtful diplomatists. In March 2009, he became briefly famous when pro-Israel activists raised a furor about President Obama's decision to invite him to head the National Intelligence Council (NIC). Seeking to save the President from embarrassment, Freeman withdrew his name from consideration. Now, with the publication of this book, Freeman has pulled together most of his previous writings about the part of the world that got him into so much controversy in 2009.
America's Misadventures in the Middle East leads off with Freeman's detailed and previously unpublished reflection on Pres. George H. W. Bush's handling of the Iraq-Kuwait crisis of 1990-91. He was U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia at the time; he was thus uniquely placed to see and understand what Washington and key allies were doing in those fateful months. In this chapter, and the one that follows, he reflects on "the American way of war", and in particular on Washington's failure in recent decades to plan for a stable and satisfactory political end-state for the wars it wages. These chapters act as an instructive jumping-off point for the rest of the book, which focuses on Washington's continued pursuit of "the American way of war" in the Middle East of the 2000's.
Parts II and III of the book contain many examples of a fine strategic mind at work. Freeman somberly reflects on the failures at many levels that pulled Pres. George W. Bush into the disastrous decision to invade Iraq. And he stresses, repeatedly, the deleterious impact that Washington's failure to hold Israel accountable for the violent policies it pursued toward its neighbors throughout the 2000's has had on Americans' interests in the Middle East and much further afield.
In Part IV he assesses the impact that America's policy failings in the Middle East have had on its ability to continue leading the world in the same way it did in the half-century following the end of World War II. "Why not try diplomacy?" is the title of one chapter there. But it could be seen as the leitmotif of the whole of Part IV, or indeed, the whole book.
In Part V, Freeman gives us four deeply informed chapters about Saudi Arabia, placing the Kingdom's often misunderstood situation in its own historical context as well as in the context of its relationship with Western and other world powers.
As Professor Quandt notes in his Foreword to the book:
“There is much to learn about ‘old-style’ diplomacy here and much to regret that Freeman’s views seem so “radical” from the perspective of today’s politicized discourse. Readers of this volume will learn a great deal and will appreciate the style as well as the content of these essays... We are fortunate to have these records of his thoughts.”
The Author
Amb. Chas W. Freeman, Jr. hit the headlines in the early weeks of the Obama administration when Director of National Intelligence Adm. Dennis C. Blair named him Chair of the National Intelligence Council, citing his "diverse background in defense, diplomacy and intelligence." News of Freeman's impending appointment met a firestorm of criticism from numerous strongly pro-Israeli commentators, who lambasted him for the view he had often expressed that the U.S. needed to maintain an even-handed stance between Israel and the Arab countries. In early March 2009, Freeman withdrew his name from consideration for the position and issued a statement, laying the blame for the campaign against him on a network of pro-Israel activists.
Previously, during a distinguished government career spanning three
decades, Freeman negotiated on behalf of the United States with over 100
foreign governments in East and South Asia, Africa, Latin America, the
Middle East, and both Western and Eastern Europe. In 2006, he was a
member of the Iraq Study Group.
As Ambassador to Saudi Arabia during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm (1990-91), Freeman led an effort that more than doubled non-military exports to the Kingdom while managing the largest diplomatic mission in the world under the conditions of that crisis. His long involvement with China began with his service as the principal American interpreter during President Nixon's historic 1972 visit to Beijing. In addition to Chinese, Freeman speaks French and Spanish at the professional level, and can carry on conversations in Arabic and several other languages. His final position in government was Assistant Secretary of Defense, responsible for managing defense relations with all regions of the world except the countries of the former Soviet Union. He has received numerous high honors and awards for international negotiation and policy and management innovation.
Chris Keeley

Vima Article

NOVEMBER 14, 2010


American’s dirty laundry out in public

The diary of Diplomat Robert Keely shows the chaos prevalent in the diplomatic service of the United States in Athens before and after the 1967 coup and why the White House supported the colonels

By Stathis Efstathiadis, Athens, Sunday November 14, 2010


The title of this book does not do it justice, as it is entirely uninteresting.  I believe it should have been called “The chaos at the USA Embassy before, during and after the coup” or “Washington’s awkwardness, indifference and mistakes in dealing with the coup”, etc.   Because this is the essence of the 435 pages written in 1972 by Robert Keely, based on his experience as secretary at the American Embassy, where he served during the dictatorship until 1967. This American diplomat, who returned to Greece in 1985 as ambassador, has not written your typical memoir.   He expresses views and evaluations about situations and individuals, setting forth relevant documentation which he would send to “deaf ears”, his supervisors in Athens and Washington. He is revealing about many events of that time, of which we were ignorant or had incomplete knowledge and often emotionally charged.

Ο στρατός και ο Ανδρέας


Keeley is caustic in his assessment of diplomats such as Talbot, Anschutz, Bracken, etc., who were his supervisors at the Embassy.  He is sarcastic about the military and CIA agents, which, he tells us, numbered to about 30 times more than the political section of the Embassy. He becomes exasperated when he learns after the fact that Embassy leadership was not interested in the messages it received regarding an “extra-parliamentary solution” to political issues in the pre-junta era.

 Just as he is puzzled by the fact that “it was impossible to convince Greeks that things have changed since Peurifoy’s time”


Αλλά και η αμερικανική πλευρά ήταν εξωπραγματική. But the American side was just as unrealistic. It appeared ready to accept the “solution” of a dictatorship so as to intercept Greece’s course towards communism, with Andreas Papandreou at the helm. The State Department’s Steward Rockwell warned Talbot that “Andreas as a martyr, with the support of the Lambrakis machine fully supporting him, would be a difficult rival” for the U.S.  The Embassy was convinced that only “the army would be able “to limit” Andreas. Months later, Keeley will conclude that “blindness had afflicted all high level American military officers and diplomats in Athens.»  The Embassy had drafted policy towards Greece and was defensive about the prospect of its been subverted by Andreas, writes Keeley.

Keeley affirms that the Embassy and Washington had signals about an imminent coup at least two months earlier. Charilaos Lagoudakis, high level CIA official, is watching for a while the curious activities of a “group of officers, in which some Papadopoulos is participating” and is puzzled when all of a sudden surveillance is interrupted, a fact that causes him to notify his supervisors on February 6 and “something is going on here”.


Keeley believes that the “entire CIA hierarchy in Athens was clueless about the movement of these officers” (“it had turned its attention to the generals”).  In Athens, Nikos Farmakis, the Embassy’s perpetual informant, who had stated in Parliament “I am a fascist”, warns counselor Norbert Anchutz at the beginning of March that it’s not the generals, but rather “his friends the colonels” who are preparing a coup. It’s a given that Ambassador Philip Talbot himself was aware that a “generals coup” was in the making. Constantine himself repeatedly hinted, and on March 29, he specifically wanted to learn “what was America’s position” regarding such a coup. The Ambassador “left Constantine hanging”.  America would react “after the fact and accordingly”, Washington said.


Kollias quivered


There were, however, diplomats in Athens and Washington, who recommended a strong American condemnation of the junta, even after April 21. Malcolm Thompson, former political counselor at the Embassy, finds out that “the silent acceptance of the current (junta) government commits the U.S. to a lost cause, since all dictatorships, inevitably, fall” and suggests its overthrow “even by military action, if necessary”. Talbot, obviously at the urging of, or at least with the tolerance of, Washington, pursues another path.  Five days after the cup, he visits Prime Minister Constantine Kollias -- “his hands trembled when he talked to us”, writes Keeley who accompanied Talbot – and assures him that the U.S. will not interference in Greece’s internal affairs.  Also interesting is what he writes about the royal counter-coup.  He finds it naively planned, the junta knowing beforehand, he wonders why the Embassy or the CIA – “closely connected with KYP” – did not take some measures and he underlines the “lack of cohesion and coordination” of American actions, which reveal that the Embassy could not be informed about Constantine’s moves in Northern Greece because the American General Consul in Thessaloniki – Bill Hamilton – without permission and without informing anyone – had gone hunting in Yugoslavia.





Making a more general assessment, Keeley, having left Greece, insists that the U.S. should have intervened against the junta, silencing those who would view such an intervention as a vindication of the “Brezhnev Doctrine,” emphasizing that the U.S. would intervene in favor of the people, while Brezhnev intervened in Czechoslovakia against the people. And lastly, he deems that the protagonists of the (Greek) melodrama were Andreas and Constantine”.


 “Let’s lift a finger”


Few are the Americans who concerned themselves with the junta and the American policy in Greece before and after the colonels’ coup – most of them superficially and apologetically.  None of them, none that I know of, brought out in public the dirty laundry of the diplomatic corps that served in Athens at the time.

Keeley writes on the basis of documents, notes and presentations he made to his superiors, with documents where he stressed during the first days after the coup, and while Washington kept silent, that “if we just move a finger”, the junta will collapse.  It’s not so much that he cares about the Greek people, and is even less impressed with its politicians.  He figures out, however, and informs his Ambassador in a timely manner that “if there is a dictatorship, we will take the blame” and what’s more, Andreas will . . . . reach the top”.  The U.S. “will find itself out of Greece the institution of the Monarchy would disappear”.

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