David Ignatius

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Palestinians gather on May 19 in the hope of obtaining aid delivered into Gaza through a U.S.-built pier. (Ramadan Abed/Reuters)

In Gaza City last November, I watched thousands of Palestinian civilians slowly march south from their shattered homes toward what Israel promised would be food and shelter in Rafah.

Now, with Rafah a military target, many of those Palestinians are again on the move fleeing conflict — their plight nearly as desperate as before. Israel, prodded by the United States, must fulfill its repeated promises to provide adequate humanitarian assistance — so that the next phase of the war in Gaza doesn’t become an even deeper tragedy.

Helping civilians ought to be the easy part of this terrible conflict. But more than seven months into the fighting, supplies of food, medicine and other essentials are still woefully inadequate.…  Seguir leyendo »

National security adviser Jake Sullivan at the White House on May 13. (Demetrius Freeman/The Washington Post)

Tell me how this war ends. From the beginning, that has been the agonizing question with the Gaza conflict. After seven horrific months, a resolution is still some way off. But some clarity is emerging about the shape of a possible endgame.

The parameters of an eventual conclusion to the war became more evident after a trip to Saudi Arabia and Israel this past weekend by national security adviser Jake Sullivan and his deputy for the Middle East, Brett McGurk. The conversations they had there were outlined to me by knowledgeable sources.

The U.S. officials haven’t drawn a road map; it’s more like a set of traffic signs and speed limits.…  Seguir leyendo »

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant talks on May 1 with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken at the Kerem Shalom border crossing with Gaza in southern Israel. (Evelyn Hockstein/AFP/Getty Images)

It’s time for Israel to begin building a Palestinian security force in Gaza that can provide stability there after the political power of Hamas is broken, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said in a blunt briefing this week.

“The idea is simple”, Gallant told me. “We will not allow Hamas to control Gaza. We don’t want Israel to control it, either. What is the solution? Local Palestinian actors backed by international actors”.

Gallant’s frank comments mark a turn in the Israeli government’s debate about governance and security issues in Gaza, known by the shorthand phrase “the day after”. His views are widely shared by the defense and security establishment but opposed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his right-wing coalition.…  Seguir leyendo »

An antimissile system firing as seen from Ashkelon, Israel, on Saturday night after Iran launched drones and missiles toward Israel. (Amir Cohen/Reuters)

After six frustrating months in Gaza, Israel finally won a decisive victory against its adversaries by blunting Iran’s all-out missile attack Saturday night with an astonishing display of high-tech military prowess.

“A good defense is the best offense” is a truism in sports. Israel demonstrated that this precept might apply to modern warfare, as well. In neutering an Iranian barrage — which included more than 100 ballistic missiles, 150 drones and 30 cruise missiles — Israel showed that in combat, the shield can be as powerful as the sword.

“It was a worst-case scenario in what Iran launched, but a best case in terms of the outcome”, Brett McGurk, the Middle East director for the National Security Council, said in an interview.…  Seguir leyendo »

An excavator clears rubble after an Israeli strike this week on the Iranian Consulate in Damascus, Syria. (Firas Makdesi/Reuters)

The Biden administration is using every diplomatic and military tool to contain what officials expect will be an imminent Iranian reprisal attack against Israel — in the hope that U.S. pressure can keep the conflict from escalating into a regionwide catastrophe.

Call it “the guns of April”. Though this is hardly a conflagration on the order of World War I, it’s a moment that eerily evokes the dynamics of summer 1914, when a war that every power sought to avoid suddenly appeared inevitable, with consequences that no one could predict. Officials hope that any exchange between Iran and Israel will be short and contained — and won’t draw in other powers.…  Seguir leyendo »

A Ukrainian soldier launches a reconnaissance drone near the town of Bakhmut in Donetsk region in March. (Oleksandr Ratushniak/Reuters)

On the computer screen, you can see the thicket of Russian jammers and antiaircraft missiles that obstructs a simulated Ukrainian drone attack from “Launch Site Alpha”, near Kherson, to “Target Site Oscar” in Russian-occupied Crimea.

The menacing images I watched here were sketched using signals captured by sensors from land, sea, air and space. The Russian air-defense systems appeared as towering cylinders, miles wide and thousands of feet high. The electronic warfare jammers look like jagged fences of cross-hatched lines. The system also captured weather, wind speed and ground obstacles like tall buildings.

Ukrainian drone operators can instantly map a safe route to the target using this system, which was developed for them by the U.S.…  Seguir leyendo »

Emergency personnel scramble atop the rubble of a building next to the Iranian Embassy in Damascus, Syria, which was struck by Israel on Monday. (Louai Beshara/AFP via Getty Images)

Monday illustrated the spectrum of outcomes we have seen from the Israel Defense Forces: astonishing precision in targeting some of Iran’s most toxic commanders at a secret meeting in Damascus and appalling sloppiness in an apparently accidental strike on a humanitarian team in Gaza.

That’s not a good formula. And it helps explain the agony of this war for Israel and its adversaries alike.

Nearly six months into the Gaza conflict, Israel has achieved tactical successes that are gradually degrading Hamas and deterring its Iranian sponsors. It can conduct “targeted killings” of its enemies, at least aboveground, almost at will. Yet the strategic prize of “victory” and regional stability seems as distant as ever.…  Seguir leyendo »

An abandoned car left by fleeing Armenians in the Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan on Oct. 3. (Aziz Karimov/Getty Images)

Azerbaijani television last week showed giant shovels demolishing what had once been the parliament building of the ethnic Armenian breakaway region known as Nagorno-Karabakh. It was a symbolic final blow to an area whose more than 100,000 people have fled, leaving deserted villages and empty streets.

“We are nobody”, said Artak Beglaryan, the former ombudsman of Karabakh and now one of its few public advocates. Like nearly every other Armenian resident of Karabakh, he escaped to neighboring Armenia when Azerbaijani troops took control in September. “It is a ghost country”, said Beglaryan of the rugged, verdant region where he was born.…  Seguir leyendo »

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky at the Munich Security Conference on Saturday. (Wolfgang Rattay/AFP/Getty Images)

The message at the Munich Security Conference last weekend couldn’t have been clearer: Russia is advancing, Ukraine is struggling to survive and the West needs to provide more military assistance now.

“Ukraine is headed for a morale gulch” unless its allies move quickly to bolster support, said Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), who led a bipartisan Senate delegation to the conference. “Russia is up, Ukraine is down”, and the West needs to help Kyiv’s brave soldiers find a way across “the valley of death” until Congress acts to send more weapons, Whitehouse said.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky signaled exactly what he needs — long-range ATACM-300 missiles — during a private meeting with a bipartisan congressional group.…  Seguir leyendo »

Chinese President Xi Jinping walks by Foreign Minister Qin Gang at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on March 13, 2023. (Andy Wong/AP)

For nearly eight months, diplomats around the world have puzzled over the sudden disappearance and firing of China’s foreign minister, Qin Gang. China watchers have shared plenty of speculation, but Beijing has said nothing officially — and even the CIA doesn’t know for certain what happened.

Theories about Qin’s fall from power have focused on his relationship with a Chinese TV journalist named Fu Xiaotian. Qin, though married to another woman, was linked publicly to Fu after she had a child with an unidentified father through an American surrogate in 2022, just before he returned from his post as ambassador to Washington.…  Seguir leyendo »

Ukrainian servicemen fly an unmanned aerial vehicle this week near the front line with Russian forces in Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia region. (Stringer/Reuters)

As top Russian and Ukrainian generals assess the battlefield after nearly two brutal years of stalemated “positional” warfare, they draw the same lessons: Tanks, manned aircraft and traditional maneuver forces are sitting ducks, while advanced drones and digital battle-management systems can have a decisive impact.

Russia has come to realize what Ukraine recognized more than a year ago: This is an “algorithm war”, one where digital intelligence and targeting systems have rewritten the rules of conflict. The “fog of war” experienced by commanders for centuries has cleared. In the newly transparent battlespace, movements by large units are instantly visible and vulnerable.…  Seguir leyendo »

An Israeli army vehicle patrols the border with southern Gaza on Thursday. (Amir Levy/Getty Images)

Let’s try a thought experiment: Imagine the Middle East as a pool table surrounded by a raging fire. The United States, amid this inferno, is about to attempt a complicated three-cushion shot with balls that we’ll call “Saudi Arabia”, “Israel” and “Hamas”.

If successful, this bold stroke could switch on the sprinklers and extinguish the flames. But some of our imaginary balls are explosive. And one more thing: There’s a clock ticking.

This sounds like a daredevil act out of Las Vegas, right? But it makes an apt metaphor for an intense diplomatic push by the Biden administration. Unlikely as it might sound, this high-risk shot might be the best way to put out the raging inferno of the war in Gaza.…  Seguir leyendo »

Displaced Palestinians try to keep warm by a fire on Tuesday at a camp in Rafah in southern Gaza. (Ahmad Hasaballah/Getty Images)

Israel and Hamas are groping toward a resumption of negotiations to trade Israeli hostages for Palestinian prisoners, accompanied by an extended pause in fighting, as well as a sharp increase in aid for desperate civilians in Gaza.

These deadlocked issues are the blood knot in this war. For a traumatized Israel, release of the hostages is a paramount aim. For a Palestinian population on the edge of famine and pandemic disease, a new cease-fire is an existential requirement. For Hamas leaders trapped underground, the deal offers the possibility of political survival.

There isn’t yet a breakthrough. But recent progress in framing issues is the first opening since December in an impasse that has turned Gaza into a nightmare of death and disease.…  Seguir leyendo »

Tribal supporters of Yemen's Houthis protest recent U.S.-led strikes near Sanaa, Yemen, on Sunday. (Khaled Abdullah/Reuters)

The White House has officially designated April as “Supply Chain Integrity Month”. Houthi rebels in Yemen and a dozen other players that can wreak havoc on global logistics don’t seem to have gotten the message.

The Houthis are a tribal militia in a faraway country that many Americans couldn’t identify on a map. But they have the ability to disrupt world markets. For three months, they have been sending missiles and drones toward commercial cargo ships in the Red Sea — and, in the process, altering global shipping flows and insurance rates. Reuters reported on Tuesday that just in the past week, risk premiums for ships traveling the area had increased by more than 40 percent.…  Seguir leyendo »

Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks to the media before boarding his plane last week to return to Washington from the Middle East. (Evelyn Hockstein/Pool/Reuters)

Secretary of State Antony Blinken decided to try something different last week on his fourth trip to the Middle East since the Gaza war exploded in October. Rather than stopping first in Israel, as he often does, he began by visiting Arab capitals.

Blinken was hoping to gather some bargaining chips that might persuade Israel to move toward peace, and he got what he wanted from the Arabs. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and other key leaders pledged they would support a postwar reconstruction of Gaza — and normalize relations with Israel — but only if Israel ended the conflict in Gaza and committed to a process for creating a future Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza.…  Seguir leyendo »

Smoke is seen rising over northern Gaza as an Israeli military vehicle patrols the border on Tuesday. (Maja Hitij/Getty Images)

American and Israeli officials appear to see an inflection point approaching in the Gaza war. The next stage could include a revived hostage-release negotiation with Hamas and an accompanying cease-fire lasting as long as several weeks, followed by a gradual pullback by Israeli troops, especially in northern Gaza.

Top Israeli officials have insisted that the war will last “months” longer, but that’s partly to keep Hamas off guard. Israel’s leaders know they need to transition to a new stage in the conflict, not least to allow reservists to leave the front lines and return to their jobs.

Israeli planning is still fuzzy, but officials appear to agree with the Biden administration on the basics: A postwar Gaza where Hamas cannot impose its political will, while other Palestinians, probably drawn from the Palestinian Authority, take responsibility for governance; and a peacekeeping force that has support from key moderate Arab states.…  Seguir leyendo »

Protesters release balloons in Tel Aviv on Tuesday as they call for the release of Israeli hostages being held in Gaza. (Ariel Schalit/AP)

The Israeli-Hamas hostage-release negotiations continue to roll forward, as American and Israeli spy chiefs met Tuesday with a Qatari mediator and discussed a plan for eventual release of all Israelis held captive in Gaza, including soldiers.

The “more for more” logic that has guided the hostage talks so far remains strong for both Israel and Hamas, according to a source close to the negotiations. He explained that although no final commitments have been made, “there is a willingness on both sides” to make a broad deal that would free all Israeli captives in exchange for longer pauses in fighting, release of more Palestinian prisoners and more humanitarian assistance for Palestinians in Gaza.…  Seguir leyendo »

Israeli soldiers on a tank at an army staging area near Israel's border with Gaza on Saturday. (Tsafrir Abayov/AP)

Israel faces an agonizing and probably controversial dilemma ahead: After pausing the Gaza war for humanitarian reasons, how will the Israel Defense Forces start it up again to complete its objective of destroying Hamas’s political power?

Friday’s celebrations of the release of 13 Israeli women and children didn’t mask the concern among senior Israeli officials about what’s ahead in this stop-start war as Israel seeks to recover all 240 hostages and also crush the Hamas forces that hold most of them. “It’s bittersweet”, said one senior Israeli official in an interview on the eve of the hostage release. “I’m thinking of those who will not come out tomorrow”.…  Seguir leyendo »

A billboard at a Tel Aviv museum on Tuesday shows photos of people abducted by Hamas last month. (Abir Sultan/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock.)

A hostage deal between Israel and Hamas will bring joy to the families of the 50 Israeli women and children initially being freed, and a desperately needed four-day pause in fighting for Palestinians civilians trapped in the Gaza war. And it could gradually expand to a broader de-escalation of the nightmare conflict.

The basic idea driving the hostage-release agreement, approved by Israel’s cabinet early Wednesday in Jerusalem, is “more for more”, a formula that’s well known in arms-control negotiations. If Hamas delivers more hostages, Israel would be willing to extend the pause, a senior Israeli official told me. There is no cap on how long Israel might halt its Gaza operations, he said, as Israel seeks eventual release of all captives, including those in the military.…  Seguir leyendo »

Smoke rises during an Israeli military bombardment in northern Gaza on Nov. 15. (Fadel Senna/AFP/Getty Images)

After six weeks of hard combat and a horrific civilian death toll, Israeli commanders see the Gaza war moving into a new phase that will require fewer troops and much less bombing, should result in fewer Palestinian casualties — and that eventually, they hope, will entrap Hamas in its underground maze of tunnels.

Look at a map and you can see a natural ally for Israel — the Mediterranean Sea. Sending Israeli soldiers into the tunnels would be a long and costly fight; bombing the tunnels would be haphazard and might result in even more civilian deaths. But the geographical fact that Gaza borders the Mediterranean might give Israel an advantage in the endgame of this conflict.…  Seguir leyendo »