Paul Pillar

Our Hardliners Are Still Helping Iran's Hardliners

The unrelenting urge among American politicians to keep punishing Iran—or more precisely, to be seen supporting steps with that objective—continues to work against sensible statecraft and U.S. interests in multiple respects. One of those respects concerns how measures taken by the United States affect political competition within Iran.

Going All In With Netanyahu

The Republican Party and Republican candidates have been moving over the past few years ever more fully into the embrace of Israel's right-wing government, even more than American politicians in general do. This trend has been apparent notwithstanding the traditional preference of AIPAC, the core of the Israel lobby, to keep its support bipartisan so that its influence on U.S. policy will not be largely dependent on the success of only one U.S. party.

The Legacy of 9/11, 15 Years Later

In thinking about the significance and consequences, a decade and a half later, of the terrorist attacks known as 9/11, it is best to begin with what the attacks did not mean—despite what voluminous commentary ever since the event might lead one to believe. The attacks did not mark a major change in security threats faced by the United States or anyone else. Americans were not suddenly more in danger on September 12, 2001 than they had been on September 10, even though the reactions of many Americans would suggest that they were.

Why Russia is Discrediting American Democracy

According to a front-page story in the Washington Post, U.S. agencies are investigating what they perceive as “a broad covert Russian operation in the United States to sow public distrust in the upcoming presidential election and in U.S. political institutions”. The story is vague and short on details.

Exceptionalism and the Limited Scope of Indispensability

Hillary Clinton gave a speech this week in which American exceptionalism was a major theme. She obviously chose that theme partly because it would appeal to her specific audience (an American Legion convention) and partly because it would enable her to criticize Donald Trump, who has said he doesn't like the term “American exceptionalism” because people in other countries don't like to hear it and feel insulted by it.

Israeli-Arab Relations: Muddling Through by the Sword

It has long been generally regarded, and properly so, to be in everyone's best interests if Israel had normal relationships with its regional neighbors. Normal relations are a condition for commerce and mutual prosperity. Normal relations are the stuff of peace rather than of the repeated wars that have been fought between Israel and its Arab neighbors. We rightly applauded Anwar Sadat when he negotiated a peace treaty and established diplomatic relations with Israel, and we rightly criticized other Arab states for ostracizing Egypt itself after Sadat's initiative.

The Colombia Accord: When Negotiations and Concessions are Necessary

The peace accord between the Colombian government and the guerrilla group known as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia or FARC deserves our applause and our support. It makes possible the end of one of the longest-running wars in the Western hemisphere. The agreement is good news for Colombians, for the hemisphere, and for the principle of peaceful resolution of disputes.

Saving Face in Tehran

Well, that didn't last long, did it? Barely a week after the announcement that Russian warplanes were using a base in Iran to launch airstrikes in Syria, Iran withdrew its permission to use the base. This development underscores how the Russian use of the base did not indicate some new “alliance”, as much commentary suggested. Iranian officials were not using that term. As I wrote after the announcement, Russians and Iranians were still not buddies.

The Cold War Mindset and Counterterrorism

Much of Donald Trump's recent speech on terrorism left one to wonder how what he was proposing would differ from current practices he supposedly was criticizing. Working on counterterrorism with other states including Russia, for example, sounds like what the Obama administration is doing now, including discussing with the Russians ways of combating terrorist groups in Syria.