Foundation for Defense of Democracies

Foundation for Defense of Democracies
Abbreviation FDD
Formation 2001 (2001)
Type Public policy think tank
Clifford May

The Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) is a think tank based in Washington, D.C., focusing on national security and foreign policy. Its political leanings have been described variously as either nonpartisan[1][2][3][4][5] or neoconservative.[6][7][8][9] FDD holds events throughout the year, including its annual Washington Forum, briefings on Capitol Hill, expert roundtables for public officials, diplomats, and military officers, book releases, and panel discussions and debates within the policy community.



Led by executive director Mark Dubowitz, FDD's Iran research seeks to educate "the public and political elites in both the United States and abroad about the activities of Iran and its Syrian and Hezbollah proxies". FDD says it does this through attacking Iran's "most vulnerable points: its worldwide media operations, its standing in the United States and Europe, its finances, and its efforts to support terrorist activities abroad".[10] Specifically, FDD concerns itself with the Iran's nuclear ambitions, through its Iran Energy Project[11] and Iran's human rights abuses through its Iran Human Rights Project.[12]

In 2008, FDD founded the Iran Energy Project which "conducts extensive research on ways to deny the Iranian regime the profits of its energy sector".[13] The Wall Street Journal credited FDD with bringing "the idea of gasoline sanctions to political attention."[14] FDD's bi-partisan approach to advocating sanctions legislation has earned praise from Congressmen in both parties. Congressman Howard Berman (D-CA) thanked the organization saying "FDD has been one the most committed and creative voices in Washington regarding the Iran nuclear issue and specifically Iran sanctions".[15] FDD's efforts to target the Iranian regime's finances has gone beyond energy sanctions. The organization pushed for sanctions against the Central Bank of the Islamic Republic of Iran and its use of Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) to perform transactions. According to The Wall Street Journal, FDD "has done most of the spadework on the issue".[16]

The Long War Journal

The Long War Journal is a FDD project dedicated to reporting the Global War on Terror launched by the United States and its allies following the attacks of September 11, 2001. Under the direction of FDD senior fellows Bill Roggio and Thomas Joscelyn, this website covers stories about countries such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Syria, and Iraq and follows the actions of al Qaeda and its affiliates.[17] According to the Columbia Journalism Review, "Roggio's greatest service, then, may be the way he picks up where the mainstream press leaves off, giving readers a simultaneously more specific and holistic understanding of the battlefield".[18]


For years, Syria has been a focus of FDD's research because of its alignment with Iran and support for organizations such as Hezbollah.[19] In 2012, as the Arab Spring spread to Syria, FDD launched "The Syria Project" to support dissident efforts in removing the Assad regime.[20] In that effort, FDD facilitated a Skype call between dissidents and U.S. journalists in 2012[21] and produced multiple studies and memos urging U.S. officials to act.[22]


The International Relations Center features a report on the foundation on its "Right Web" website, a program of the left-wing[23][24][25][26][27] think tank Institute for Policy Studies[28] which, according to its mission statement, seeks to "check the militaristic drift of the country". The report states that "although the FDD is an ardent critic of terrorism, it has not criticized actions taken by Israel against Palestinians that arguably fall into this category".[29] It terms the FDD a "prominent member of the web of neoconservative-aligned think tanks", including the American Enterprise Institute, the Hudson Institute and Freedom House.[30]

The political blog ThinkProgress has criticized FDD for "alarmist rhetoric and fear mongering",[31] for example in April 2002 when they aired a 30-second television ad campaign called "Suicide Strategy" that was described by critics as "conflating" Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat with the likes of Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein. As FDD explained it: "a militant Islamic terrorist who 'martyrs' himself by hijacking a plane and flying it into the World Trade Center"—i.e., the September 11 attacks—"is no different from a militant Islamic terrorist who 'martyrs' himself by strapping explosives to his body and walking into a hotel"—i.e., Palestinian suicide attacks.[32]


In 2011, ThinkProgress, a progressive advocacy organization, published FDD's Form 990 documents[33] that revealed where FDD funding came from, from 2001 to 2004. Donors included:[31]

ThinkProgress concluded, "Most of the major donors are active philanthropists to 'pro-Israel' causes both in the U.S. and internationally. With the disclosure of its donor rolls, it becomes increasingly apparent that FDD’s advocacy of U.S. military intervention in the Middle East, its hawkish stance against Iran, and its defense of right-wing Israeli policy is consistent with its donors’ interests in 'pro-Israel' advocacy".[31]

Select publications


  1. Richter, Paul (March 14, 2012). "Chinese bank pulls out of Pakistan-Iran pipeline project". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 14 March 2013.
  2. NPR Staff (October 10, 2012). "Better To Elect Islamists Than Have Dictators?". NPR. Retrieved 14 March 2013.
  3. Guttman, Nathan (January 1, 2013). "Laying Groundwork for Life After Syria's Assad". Forward. Retrieved 14 March 2013.
  4. "Foreign Policy Experts Examine Democracies in the Mideast". C-SPAN. Retrieved 14 March 2013.
  5. Flaccus, Gillian (November 22, 2012). "2 of 4 terror suspects were new Islamic converts". The Associated Press. Retrieved 14 March 2013.
  6. Foster, Peter (February 24, 2013). "Obama's new head boy". The Telegraph (UK). Retrieved 12 March 2013.
  7. "Most Favored Democracy". The American Conservative. Retrieved 2013-03-12.
  8. "The Return of the Neocons". The Daily Beast. Retrieved 2013-03-12.
  9. Jonsson, Patrik (June 11, 2009). "Shooting of two soldiers in Little Rock puts focus on 'lone wolf' Islamic extremists". Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved 13 March 2013.
  10. "Iran Research". Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Retrieved 29 January 2013.
  11. "Iran Energy Project". Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Retrieved 29 January 2013.
  12. "Iran Human Rights Project". Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Retrieved 29 January 2013.
  13. "Iran - Energy". Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Retrieved 29 January 2013.
  14. Editorial (2009-03-25). "Pain Iran Can Believe In". The Wall Street Journal.
  15. "Remarks by Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA)". Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Retrieved 29 January 2013.
  16. Editorial (February 1, 2012). "Swift Sanctions on Iran". The Wall Street Journal.
  17. "About". The Long War Journal. Retrieved 30 January 2013.
  18. Mcleary, Paul (March–April 2008). "Blogging the long war: Bill Roggio wants to be your source for conflict coverage". Columbia Journalism Review.
  19. Badran, Tony. "A Syria in minor key". NOW Lebanon. Retrieved 31 January 2013.
  20. "The Syria Project". Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Retrieved 31 January 2013.
  21. Zuka, Muhammad (February 12, 2012). "A Syrian resistance leader's plea to the world". CNN.
  22. "Project Milestones". Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Retrieved 31 January 2013.
  23. Blumenthal, Sidney (July 30, 1986). "Left-wing thinkers". Transnational Institute. Transnational Institute. Retrieved 2010-11-04.
  24. "Review: Discussion on The Current about minimum wages and executive compensation, January 29, 2007". CBC Radio Canada. June 14, 2007. Retrieved 2010-11-04.
  25. Vermaat, Emerson (January 12, 2009). "Obama's Preferred Future Spy Chief Leon Panetta Supported Communist-Linked Anti-CIA Think Tank". Family Security Matters. Retrieved 2010-11-04.
  26. Soley, Lawrence (September–October 1998). "Heritage Clones in the Heartland". Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting. FAIR. Retrieved 2010-11-04.
  27. Ponte, Lowell (October 14, 2004). "The ABC's of Media Bias". FrontPageMagazine. FrontPageMagazine. Retrieved 2010-11-04.
  28. "About Right Web". RightWeb.
  29. "Foundation for Defense of Democracies - Profile - Right Web - Institute for Policy Studies". Retrieved 2011-08-21.
  30. "Foundation for Defense of Democracies - Right Web Profile - Institute for Policy Studies - Right Web". Retrieved May 1, 2010.
  31. 1 2 3 Clifton, Eli (19 July 2011). "EXCLUSIVE: Documents Shed Light On Those Underwriting The Foundation For Defense Of Democracies". ThinkProgress.
  32. "If We Appease Terrorism, We'll Get More Terrorism". Foundation for Defense of Democracies. April 12, 2002.
  33. "Form 990" (PDF). ThinkProgress. Retrieved 6 November 2014.
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