Paul Pillar

The Never Ending Libya Nightmare: Civil War, Benghazi and Beyond

Just when one might have thought the mess in Libya could not have gotten worse, it has.  The latest round in the multidimensional chaos that has prevailed since the overthrow of Muammar Qaddafi was initiated by an ex-general named Khalifa Hiftar, who was trained in the Soviet Union, participated as a junior officer in the coup that brought Qaddafi to power in 1969, later broke with the Libyan dictator, and lived for years in the Northern Virginia suburbs of Washington, DC, where he apparently became a U.S.

Iran and Saudi Arabia: Rapprochement on the Horizon?

The Saudi foreign minister, Prince Saud Al-Faisal, has announced an invitation to his Iranian counterpart to visit Saudi Arabia.  This development is unsurprising, and it is welcome.  It follows visits that Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif made a few months ago to some of the other Arab members of the Gulf Cooperation Council.  Rapprochement between Iran and its Arab neighbors is good for the neighbors as well as for Iranians, good for stability in the Persian Gulf, and good for U.S. interests in the region.

A U.S. Policy of Weakness towards Russia?

Over the past several weeks of the Ukraine crisis, there has been much commentary in the United States to the effect that the West and the United States in particular has been letting Vladimir Putin run amok.  The commentary has been a sub-theme in a larger theme about Washington supposedly exuding weakness.  To the extent such criticism has been linked to specific alternative policy proposals, the proposals usually include some combination of being quicker in imposing more extensive sanctions on Russia, making threatening military deployments, and giving lethal military aid to the Ukrainia

Coming to Terms with a Troubled Past

The recent brief jailing and interrogation of Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams in connection with the murder of a Northern Ireland woman 42 years ago was a flashback to the Troubles in Ulster—which are now far enough in the past that they are beyond the living memory of many younger observers and analysts who ordinarily pay close attention to communal conflict and strife.  This case also illustrates a more general problem not limited to Northern Ireland: how to deal with those who have participated in such strife by committing grave offenses (including, but not limited to, terrorism) against th

Facts, Opinions and Hot Air

The National Climate Assessment released this week is a thorough and authoritative report that also really shouldn’t be necessary in telling us what we need to know about the underlying problem.  The problem is that human activity is changing the global climate in major and mostly undesirable ways.  The evidence has long been very apparent, and the evidence is overwhelming.  It includes mountains of data and it includes principles of physics and chemistry.  What this latest report does is to relate real, not just projected, climate change to presen

Intolerance in Sisi's Egypt

There is ample reason to be disturbed, as are Senator Patrick Leahy and some others, about any resumption of military aid to Egypt at this time. Adherence to U.S. law regarding what is supposed to happen to such aid after a military coup is part of the reason. The mass death sentences that have been pronounced lately in Egypt have captured attention but are not even among the leading reasons for tailoring policy toward the regime of Field Marshal Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, because there always has been some uncertainty about how the Egyptian judiciary relates to whoever is in power in Cairo.

Hamas and the Tyranny of Labels

There is little reason for anyone to get very exercised, either with enthusiasm or with dismay, over the latest announced reconciliation between Hamas and the Fatah-dominated Palestine Liberation Organization. After all, such unity agreements between these two entities have been announced in the past and never went very far. Maybe something more will come from this one, but that prior record should put the possibilities into perspective.

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