Steven Simon

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A monument to an early Soviet Union-era tactical nuclear bomb in Moscow. Maxim Shipenkov/EPA, via Shutterstock

The Biden administration has done an admirable job checking Russian disinformation efforts by disclosing U.S. intelligence assessments of Moscow’s intentions and marshaling unified political support for Ukrainian sovereignty and indirect military support for its defense.

But the administration has spoken out when it might have kept silent about Russia’s implicit threat to use nuclear weapons. In President Vladimir Putin’s speech announcing the invasion, he stated that anyone who “tries to stand in our way” will face consequences “such as you have never seen in your entire history”. He ordered his defense minister to put Russia’s nuclear forces on alert. It may have been implicit, but the threat was clear.…  Seguir leyendo »

An image from the Russian Defense Ministry showing an intercontinental ballistic missile launch. Credit Russian Defense Ministry Press Service, via Associated Press

Last week, President Vladimir Putin of Russia announced the deployment of the Avangard, among the first in a new class of missiles capable of reaching hypersonic velocity — something no missile can currently achieve, aside from an ICBM during re-entry.

Such weapons have long been an object of desire by Russian, Chinese and American military leaders, for obvious reasons: Launched from any of these countries, they could reach any other within minutes. No existing defenses, in the United States or elsewhere, can intercept a missile that can move so fast while maneuvering unpredictably.

Whether or not the Avangard can do what Mr.…  Seguir leyendo »

The Palestine Liberation Organization office in Washington. Credit Saul Loeb/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Are President Trump’s advisers checking his worst impulses? From trade to NATO, we’ve been assured that the “adults” in the White House are working quietly to prevent the president from following through on his often erratic foreign policy proclamations.

In fact, many of those advisers are leaving their own mark on American international relations by amplifying the president’s instincts or, in some cases, using the opportunity to advance their own radical agendas. While we focus on the president’s latest utterances, they have been fundamentally altering the direction of United States foreign policy, from one based on cooperation and leadership to one rooted in punishment and domination.…  Seguir leyendo »

Federica Mogherini, the European Union’s high representative for foreign affairs and security policy, said the E.U. and the rest of the international community would preserve the Iran nuclear deal. Credit Borislav Troshev/EPA, via Shutterstock

After months of swaggering hesitation, President Trump finally announced the United States’ withdrawal from the nuclear deal with Iran, to which Britain, France, Russia, China, Germany and the European Union are also parties. This action tramples on European leaders, who urged Mr. Trump to exercise restraint in the interest of international security and multilateralism.

Federica Mogherini, the European Union’s high representative for foreign affairs and security policy, reacted to Mr. Trump’s announcement with a sharp statement. The European Union and the rest of the international community, she said, would “preserve this nuclear deal.” The question is how. Notwithstanding an abundance of kvetching, European powers have not yet shown Mr.…  Seguir leyendo »

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel on Monday discussing a covert Israeli operation in which documents about Tehran’s nuclear program were smuggled out of Iran. Credit Amir Cohen/Reuters

On Monday morning, Middle East watchers awoke to astonishing news from Israel. A headline in The Jerusalem Post read, “Netanyahu to Address Country with ‘Dramatic News About Iran.’” As the day passed, details remained sparse, but it became clear that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was going to unveil secret evidence of Iranian cheating on the nuclear deal. The timing of the announcement, right after the new American secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, met with Mr. Netanyahu, accentuated its gravity.

Monday afternoon, just a bit behind schedule, Mr. Netanyahu took to the stage next to an enormous screen. The headlines had suggested he would be in his office at a desk or podium to share news of existential importance.…  Seguir leyendo »

Palestinian demonstrators in Bethlehem’s Manger Square on Tuesday. Credit Musa Al Shaer/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

While President Trump has followed in few of his predecessors’ footsteps, his administration has done the expected in at least one respect: It has undertaken a Middle East peace initiative in its first year. Most recent administrations have done the same, and all have failed. Will Mr. Trump do any better?

The specifics of the initiative are still being hammered out, but some elements are clear. Most administrations start with modest proposals to build trust between the parties and then, when these efforts have bred mutual suspicion and disappointment, they propose a framework for an agreement just as the process moves toward collapse.…  Seguir leyendo »

During the months after President Trump’s election, Israel and many of its supporters in the United States cheered as he promised a new, warmer relationship, such as a more lenient approach to settlements in the West Bank and moving the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

But as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel travels to Washington for the leaders’ first official meeting on Wednesday, things have grown cloudier: Sounding like his predecessors, Mr. Trump has said that settlements “don’t help” the peace process, and he has cast doubt on his campaign commitment to move the embassy.

The meaning of Mr.…  Seguir leyendo »

Don’t Intervene in Syria

The cease-fire in Syria that the United States and Russia tortuously negotiated has, like the one before it, fallen apart.

The trouble began when an errant American airstrike killed some 60 Syrian government soldiers. Then, Russia resumed its disingenuous grandstanding and the Syrian government, with Russia’s support, went back to indiscriminately bombing rebel-held areas of Aleppo. On Monday, less than a month after the agreement went into effect, Secretary of State John Kerry announced that the United States would break off talks with Russia on trying to revive it.

This failure, accompanied by images of suffering in Aleppo, has inspired renewed calls for a tougher American policy in Syria from liberal hawks and traditional conservatives alike.…  Seguir leyendo »

Smoke rises from a U.S.-led coalition airstrike in Kobane, Syria, in 2014. Sedat Suna/European Pressphoto Agency

The State Department “dissent channel” memo on the United States’ policy in Syria, leaked last month, is just the latest expression of a widespread belief in and out of government that American intervention in Syria is necessary and would be successful.
After five years of brutal, grinding war, this view is understandable. The idea of the United States saving the Middle East from itself appeals to liberal hawks and neoconservatives alike. Unfortunately, when that notion has carried the day — as it did in Iraq in 2003 and Libya in 2011 — regional security and stability have worsened. Indeed, in light of Syria’s geopolitical circumstances, intervention along the lines suggested in the memo could produce consequences more dangerous than those of the two previous adventures.…  Seguir leyendo »

To go by much of the commentary about Iraq in recent days, the country is already past the breaking point under the lightning campaign by Sunni insurgents. Reinforced by hardened fighters from Syria and sympathetic communities in northern and western Iraq, the insurgents control much of Mosul, the most important city in northern Iraq, and Tikrit, the home of Saddam Hussein’s clan, and they have laid siege to Samarra, the site of one of Shiism’s most storied shrines. It would be no surprise if the next few weeks brought them to the gates of Baghdad.

But an assault on Baghdad, or even its capture, would be an illusory victory.…  Seguir leyendo »

Egypt’s military leaders have launched an all-out war against the Muslim Brotherhood. American and European leaders have observed this crackdown with a sense of detachment, both because they have few tools to influence the military’s decision-making and because this conflict appears to be an internal matter.

But the belief that this intensifying conflict will play out solely within Egypt’s borders is false. As the violence increases, and the radicalization of Islamists deepens, Egypt’s crisis threatens to add fuel to the ongoing terrorist activity across North Africa and to spawn a new wave of attacks against Western targets just as the anti-Islamist crackdown that began in the late 1970s aided the rise of Al Qaeda.…  Seguir leyendo »

Egypt has entered a dark tunnel, and it is difficult to say when, and in what condition, it will emerge.

Many Americans, in the meantime, are outraged that the Obama administration has not exerted its supposed leverage, in the form of military aid, to pressure the Egyptian army to restore a democratic form of government.

But it is time for some realism about that leverage. A yearly sum of $1.3 billion may seem persuasive, but this money has always been intended to secure foreign policy outcomes, not domestic political arrangements that the United States favors. (The State Department has announced that it will put “on hold” $250 million in civilian economic aid to Egypt; the annual military aid expenditure will remain untouched.)…  Seguir leyendo »


As Muammar el-Qaddafi’s forces continued their assault on rebels in several cities in Libya, the Pentagon began repositioning Navy warships to support a possible humanitarian or military intervention. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reiterated on Tuesday that establishing a no-flight zone on Libya was “under active consideration", though such a move would very likely carried out only under a United Nations or NATO mandate. Meanwhile, opposition leaders debated calling on the West for airstrikes under the U.N. banner.

How far should the U.S. and the international community go in intervening in Libya? What are the risks?

High Risks for Acting Now

Kori Schake is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution and an associate professor at the United States Military Academy at West Point.…  Seguir leyendo »

The scene in Europe last week called to mind the heyday of the IRA in the 1970s or of Algerian terrorism in the 1990s: Buckingham Palace and Trafalgar Square were teeming with police, the Eiffel Tower was repeatedly evacuated, and everywhere, tourists were on edge. The threat, however, involved a newer brand of terrorist: The CIA and its European counterparts warned of an al-Qaeda plot to kill civilians in France, Germany and Britain, and alerted travelers, especially Americans, to be extra-vigilant.

Few operational details were released. But unlike many thwarted al-Qaeda operations of days gone by -- such as the 2006 Heathrow plot, in which several airliners bound from London to America were to be blown up at coordinated intervals -- it was clear from news reports that the European plan called for less spectacular, smaller-scale attacks, perhaps using machine guns to strafe clusters of tourists near public landmarks.…  Seguir leyendo »

While it is not yet certain who organized the attempted car-bombing in Times Square this weekend, the incident marks the domestic introduction of familiar terrorist techniques that may be harder to thwart than those to which the U.S. homeland security apparatus became attuned after Sept. 11.

Terrorism experts are unable to definitively say why Islamist terrorists have not successfully pulled off a large-scale hit on the United States since the 2001 attacks. Some have argued that terrorists' apocalyptic mind-set and religious vision of the "end of days" requires an encore at least as spectacular as Sept. 11. Some theorize that counterterrorism efforts for the time being have rendered terror groups incapable of mounting such an operation, and that they are saving America for a spectacular reprise on the scale of Sept.…  Seguir leyendo »

The Justice Department’s decision to try Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the self-proclaimed mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, in a federal court in New York City has elicited several criticisms. Most are pointless, but one — the idea that it will give a terrorist a platform from which he could stir up support in the Muslim world for his radical views — is well taken.

First, let’s dispose of the straw men. John Boehner, the Republican leader in the House, accused the Obama administration of “treating terrorism as a law enforcement issue” — as though “law enforcement” is an epithet. In truth, the White House’s counterterrorism team is composed largely of the same professionals who battled terrorists under President George W.…  Seguir leyendo »

As the National Intelligence Estimate issued last week confirms, a terrorist haven has emerged in Pakistan’s tribal belt. And as recent revelations about an aborted 2005 operation in the region demonstrate, our Defense Department is chronically unable to conduct the sort of missions that would disrupt terrorist activity there and in similarly ungoverned places.

These are perhaps the most important kind of counterterrorism missions. Because the Pentagon has shown that it cannot carry them out, the Central Intelligence Agency should be given the chance to perform them.

The story of the scrubbed 2005 operation illustrates why the Pentagon is incapable of doing what needs to be done.…  Seguir leyendo »