David Ignatius (Continuación)

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 »

Demonstrators in Tel Aviv on Saturday call for the release of Israeli hostages held in the Gaza Strip. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP/Getty Images)

Israel and Hamas are close to a hostage deal that would free most of the Israeli women and children who were kidnapped Oct. 7, according to a high-ranking Israeli official. The agreement could be announced within days if final details are resolved, he said.

“The general outline of the deal is understood”, the Israeli official explained in an interview Monday, requesting anonymity to discuss the sensitive subject. The tentative agreement calls for Israeli women and children to be released in groups, simultaneously with Palestinian women and young people held in Israeli prisons.

Israel wants the release of all 100 women and children taken from Israel, but the initial number is likely to be smaller.…  Seguir leyendo »

Palestinians evacuating to the southern Gaza Strip, make their way along Salah al-Din Road in Bureij on Saturday. (Haitham Imad/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

The line of desperate Palestinian civilians stretched for hundreds of yards along Salah al-Din Road on Sunday as they moved away from the shattering violence toward what they must hope will be a safer place in southern Gaza.

It was dead quiet as the line stopped and started. The only sound was occasional shellfire in the distance. Every 50 feet or so, you could see someone with a white flag. People trudged forward with sacks containing whatever they could carry from their homes. I counted five wheelchairs. I saw one bed on wheels bearing someone too young or infirm to walk.…  Seguir leyendo »

Protesters hold up placards with the faces of some of those believed to be being held hostage by Hamas at a London rally Thursday. (Leon Neal/Getty Images)

A first step toward easing the horrific war in Gaza emerged Thursday in an ornate, white-domed palace here, where Qatar’s prime minister hosted the spy chiefs of the United States and Israel. Hours later, the White House announced a daily four-hour pause in the fighting to allow humanitarian relief — with hopes of a hostage exchange to come.

It was a moment that brought a glimmer of hope after agonizing secret diplomacy that has taken place over a month of fighting — a process in which the tiny, energy-rich emirate of Qatar has played an outsize role. The meeting here brought CIA Director William J.…  Seguir leyendo »

People wave the Palestinian flag during a protest in the West Bank city of Ramallah on Oct. 18. (Yuri Cortez/AFP/Getty Images)

The Palestinian people are an abstraction to many Americans amid the horror of the Gaza war. They see a cruel terrorist face in Hamas. They see the faces of desperate, innocent victims in the thousands of civilians caught in the crossfire.

To sketch a more personal portrait of Palestinian life, I can recount a chain of experiences that began more than 40 years ago, when I briefly lived in a Palestinian village in the West Bank. What I saw there, in visits over four decades, helped give me a deeper appreciation for the Palestinians’ yearning for dignity and respect — universal aspirations that we cannot forget now when so many civilians are endangered by war.…  Seguir leyendo »

A convoy of army vehicles advances near Sderot, in southern Israel, on Monday. (Thomas Coex/AFP/Getty Images)

“Get the big ideas right”. That’s the fundamental conclusion of “Conflict”, a new history of warfare since 1945 by retired Army Gen. David Petraeus and Andrew Roberts. And it applies emphatically to Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza.

Israel’s biggest idea in this war — its overriding mission — is to destroy the military and governing power of Hamas. That’s surely a correct goal; most Arab analysts recognize the menace of Hamas as clearly as the Israelis do, although they might not say it out loud. But there are other big ideas, too, starting with the need to avoid unwise actions that expand the war, arouse international opposition and leave Israel more vulnerable.…  Seguir leyendo »

Israeli tanks head towards the border with the Gaza Strip on Friday. (Ariel Schalit/AP)

A paradox of war is that it can open the way, after tragic suffering, to the kind of fundamental realignment that can bring a durable peace. That was apparent to President Franklin D. Roosevelt at his January 1943 meeting in Casablanca to plan strategy for a conflict whose savage bloodletting was only beginning.

Roosevelt told British Prime Minister Winston Churchill that to eliminate the power of their adversaries, the Allies must seek their unconditional surrender. “It does not mean the destruction of the population of Germany, Italy or Japan”, Roosevelt said, “but it does mean the destruction of [their] philosophies … based on conquest and subjugation”.…  Seguir leyendo »

Firefighters clear rubble at a destroyed shop and cafe on Thursday in Hroza, Ukraine. A Russian missile strike killed at least 50 people in the village. (Diego Fedele/Getty Images)

On a day when a horrific Russian missile strike killed more than 50 people in a grocery store and cafe in eastern Ukraine, a visitor asks a top official in her sandbagged office here how her nation can survive this brutal, exhausting war.

After a long pause, First Deputy Prime Minister Yulia Svyrydenko answers: “We have no choice. It’s an existential war. That’s not just a word. For our partners, it’s an option whether to help us or not. Even for Russia, the war is an option. But for us, there is no option”.

Svyrydenko, who is also the economy minister, describes her plans to keep the country functioning through a long, enervating fight: loans to start businesses and draw refugees home; subsidies for farmers to clear mines from fields; war-risk insurance to encourage foreign investment.…  Seguir leyendo »

Armenians rally in Yerevan on Thursday following Azerbaijani military operations against Armenian separatist forces in Nagorno-Karabakh. (Karen Minasyan/AFP via Getty Images)

It was Mao Zedong who said that “political power grows out of the barrel of a gun”. That harsh lesson certainly applies to the long-running battle between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the contested territory known as Nagorno-Karabakh — where Azerbaijan this week imposed its sovereignty by force of arms.

For Armenians, who live in the long shadow of the 1915 Ottoman genocide, the plight of an estimated 120,000 ethnic Armenians in Karabakh has been haunting. Lacking the military power to rival Azerbaijan — and without protection from Russia, the United States or even Armenia itself — the Karabakh Armenians were forced to surrender in two days.…  Seguir leyendo »

Members of the Wagner Group stand on the balcony of the circus building in the Russian city of Rostov-on-Don on Saturday. (Roman Romokhov/AFP/Getty Images)

On Wednesday, a plane believed to be carrying Yevgeniy Prigozhin, the leader of the mercenary Wagner Group, crashed in Russia. According to Russia’s Ministry of Emergency, all 10 people on board were killed.

Prigozhin made global headlines in June, when he took over a regional capital in Russia and sent a column of soldiers to Moscow. He called off the apparent coup in the making on the same day, sending his forces back to their barracks. He had seemingly struck a deal with Russian President Vladimir Putin — but, as many commentators pointed out, that did not mean he was safe from reprisal by Russia or efforts to bring him to justice internationally.…  Seguir leyendo »

People walk near the Central Business District during evening rush hour in Beijing on Aug. 14. (Andy Wong/AP)

The latest news from China is ominous. A range of indicators suggests that Beijing is facing economic headwinds. Growth has failed to meet expectations. Foreign investment is sagging. The ever-crucial housing market is soft. Companies and government institutions are struggling under mounds of debt. On Thursday, the giant property developer China Evergrande filed for bankruptcy. On top of all this comes news that the economy has entered deflation — raising fears of a downward spiral of the type that crippled mighty Japan in the 1990s.

What does it all mean? We asked our columnists to weigh in.

Sebastian Mallaby: Demographics are destiny

The deep cause of China’s economic slowdown — and the strongest reason to believe it will be lasting — is its demographic collapse.…  Seguir leyendo »

Ukrainian soldiers walk near buildings damaged by a Russian military strike in the eastern Ukrainian city of Vuhledar on Friday. (Alex Babenko/Reuters)

As the Ukrainian military grinds forward in a costly summer offensive that hasn’t yet produced a breakthrough, there’s a palpable frustration in Kyiv and in Washington. Maybe it’s a useful moment to recall one of Ukraine’s hidden strengths. Biden administration officials called it the “porcupine strategy”.

Here’s how I paraphrased one White House official’s description of the challenge ahead in January 2022, a month before Russian President Vladimir Putin launched his full-scale attack: “How can the United States and its allies help Ukraine become a porcupine — a prickly, stubborn nation that would be hard for an invading Russian army to digest?”…  Seguir leyendo »

A Ukrainian national flag is seen alongside the NATO emblem in central Kyiv, Ukraine, on July 11. (Valentyn Ogirenko/Reuters)

An Israeli friend remarked the other day that optimists and pessimists die the same way, but optimists live better. In that spirit, let’s take a look at the situation in Ukraine.

A gloomy mood has been gathering this summer about the war. Partly, it’s a matter of perceptions: The Ukrainian counteroffensive has been advancing more slowly than many in the West had hoped, even though Ukraine is maintaining its deliberate strategy of patience; and the NATO summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, was contentious, despite a pro-Ukraine commitment by the alliance that continues to deepen.

The discontent is understandable but wrong. The middle of a conflict always tests people’s nerves.…  Seguir leyendo »

António Guterres, secretary general of the United Nations, speaks in Geneva on July 6. (Johannes Simon/Getty Images)

Russia might be reeling from an “armed mutiny” at home and a botched invasion of Ukraine, but that hasn’t stopped it from pushing a plan for centralized United Nations oversight of the internet. An unfortunate new wrinkle is that Moscow’s approach appears to be getting some support from U.N. Secretary General António Guterres.

“We’re concerned about the Russians … pushing their authoritarian digital agenda in every forum around the world”, explained a senior Biden administration official in an email. “It’s global and relentless, and when we step back even a little bit, they fill that void”. He said the State Department has conveyed its “legitimate concern” about a U.N.…  Seguir leyendo »

In this image from video, a man sits atop an armored vehicle in Rostov-on-Don, Russia, on Saturday. (AP Photo/APTN) (AP)

President Vladimir Putin looked into the abyss Saturday and blinked. After vowing revenge for what he called an “armed mutiny”, he settled for a compromise.

The speed with which Putin backed down suggests that his sense of vulnerability might be higher even than analysts believed. Putin might have saved his regime Saturday, but this day will be remembered as part of the unraveling of Russia as a great power — which will be Putin’s true legacy.

Putin’s deal with renegade militia leader Yevgeniy Prigozhin is likely to be a momentary truce, at best. The bombastic rebel will head for Belarus, in a deal brokered by his pal President Alexander Lukashenko, in exchange for Putin dropping charges against him and his mutinous soldiers, according to Kremlin spokesman Dimitry Peskov.…  Seguir leyendo »

A Ukrainian soldier covers his ears while firing a mortar at Russian positions on the front line near Bakhmut in the Donetsk region of Ukraine on May 29. (Efrem Lukatsky/AP)

It was bracing that Ukraine launched its counteroffensive against Russian invaders as we celebrate the anniversary of the 1944 D-Day landings this week. This assault could turn the tide of the battle for Ukraine, just as the Allied assault on the Normandy beaches altered the trajectory of World War II.

Military campaigns are rarely all or nothing, but this one comes close. If Ukraine can drive back an already shaky Russian army, it stands a chance of forcing Moscow to bargain for an end of its failed invasion. But if Ukraine fails, it would be a bitter blow to the country’s weary population and could endanger continued support from some restless NATO members.…  Seguir leyendo »

A Ukrainian serviceman stands next to the antenna of a Starlink satellite-based broadband system in Bakhmut, Ukraine, on Feb. 9. (Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP/Getty Images)

Even as fighting rages on the ground in Ukraine, Russia continues to wage a long-term battle for control of what Kremlin officials call the “information space” of internet communications.

Moscow’s campaign to throttle information is shameless. It launched its latest denunciation of the West’s supposed “coercive measures” in internet technology this month, as it was jailing Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich on a bogus espionage charge, and sentencing democracy activist and Post contributing columnist Vladimir Kara-Murza to 25 years in prison on treason charges.

Russia knows that information is power. In addition to muzzling debate at home, it has attempted to seize the digital high ground internationally through the United Nations and its agencies.…  Seguir leyendo »

A Yemeni stands in a cemetery for people killed in the war on April 10. (Yahya Arhab/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

Let’s talk about ending ugly wars. No, not the one in Ukraine, at least not yet. But those in the Middle East. Here’s a brief inventory, and it shows why American diplomacy remains essential in this vexed part of the world.

The Yemen civil war, one of the cruelest this century, appears to be inching toward a stable settlement — thanks to tireless mediation by U.S. envoy Tim Lenderking and concessions from Saudi Arabia, a country that Americans (often for good reason) love to hate. Yemen could still reignite, but after a year of quasi-truce, the Saudis deserve some credit.

National security adviser Jake Sullivan, after a phone call last week with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, “welcomed Saudi Arabia’s extraordinary efforts to pursue a more comprehensive roadmap for ending the war and offered full U.S.…  Seguir leyendo »

Ukrainian forces during a training session with Soviet-era tanks on April 4 in the Zaporizhzhia region of Ukraine. (Heidi Levine for The Washington Post)

James J. Angleton, the CIA counterintelligence chief who was a walking definition of the word “eccentric”, once confided to me that it didn’t matter whether a spy was a double agent or a triple agent, as long as you knew the difference.

I was 29 years old at the time, recently assigned to cover intelligence for the Wall Street Journal, and frankly, I had no idea what Angleton was talking about. But his meaning becomes slightly clearer as we consider the recent leaks of U.S. military intelligence regarding the Ukraine war.

Were these documents disclosed by the Russians to expose Ukrainian weakness and shatter morale, as seems most likely to the analysts I contacted?…  Seguir leyendo »