Frederic C. Hof

  • Slowing Down the Train

    One thing to be learned from the uproar following the recent out-of-Syria presidential tweet is that “ready, aim, fire” makes just as much sense in government as it does on the firing range. By most accounts, US President Donald Trump is now where he should have been two weeks ago: in the “ready” phase, consulting with his national security team on the implementation of a strategy aimed at killing ISIS (ISIL, Daesh, Islamic State) in Syria and keeping it deadby preventing the pseudo-caliphate’s chief recruiting officer—Bashar al-Assad—from taking over liberated eastern Syria. But the round fired before aiming may yet prove fatal. Syrian Kurds—the core of the anti-ISIS coalition ground combat force—are now imploring the Russians (a) to get them a good deal from the Assad regime and (b) make the regime abide by it. “Fire, aim, ready” has spooked the Kurds. Fearing abandonment by Washington, they may well abandon the fight against ISIS.


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  • Our Greatest Hits for 2018

    As we look back at the tumultuous year for Syria in 2018, it's sadly ending with the withdrawal of US troops and an unclear US-Syria policy moving forward. The implications of this policy are likely far reaching. Time will tell what the damage will be and how the conflict will continue to evolve. Below we have listed our top viewed articles of the year. By far, the most viewed is the one penned by our outgoing director, Ambassador Frederic C. Hof as he moved on to other scholarly pursuits teaching at Bard College. Thankfully, he's continued writing and our viewers and center are grateful for it. 

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  • Pushing the Kremlin Line on Syria

    In an interview during the evening of December 20, 2018 with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, Stephen Miller (adviser to US President Donald Trump) offered the following piece of commentary: “ISIS is the enemy of Russia, ISIS is the enemy of Assad, ISIS is the enemy of Turkey. Are we supposed to stay in Syria for generation after generation, spilling American blood to fight the enemies of all those countries?” One-for-three isn’t bad in baseball, but to claim ISIS (ISIL, Daesh, Islamic State) is the enemy of Russia and the Assad regime is to parrot the Kremlin’s false propaganda line. Were Miller better prepared he might have added Iran to the ISIS faux enemies list. Or perhaps the deletion was deliberate. But even as is, the Miller statement must not be the position of the United States. 


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  • James Mattis: Leading by Example

    The resignation letter of Secretary of Defense James Mattis should be required reading for current and future senior officials of the US executive branch. Without so much as a hint of insubordination or disrespect for the commander-in-chief, he has made it clear that his 40+ years of service to country have instilled within him values not compatible with those of President Donald J. Trump.  Consistent with his record of service, he has chosen the path of honorable exit.  In this administration he will likely be alone.

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  • Hof quoted in US News & World Report on Mattis resignation


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  • Act in Haste, Repent at Leisure

    An American president impetuously overrules his national security team with a sudden decision on Syria; one that pleases the Kremlin, undermines US policy, and damages his own credibility. Essentially unmoored to the national security apparatus over which he presides, the president—strongly influenced by the views of a foreign leader—thinks he knows best in any event. Acting without deliberation and with the thinnest of consultation, the president unintentionally but decisively rewards a murderous Syrian regime, gratifies the external supporters of that regime, and broadcasts a message of weakness and inconsistency to enemies—including Islamist extremists—of the US around the world.

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  • Trump's Syria Decision Poses More Questions Than Answers

    If true, reports that US President Donald J. Trump is ordering the prompt withdrawal of US military forces from eastern Syria could upend his administration’s Syria strategy and hand a thoroughly unearned victory to Iran, Russia, and the Assad regime. The White House has just released the following statement:

    “Five years ago, ISIS was a very powerful and dangerous force in the Middle East, and now the United States has defeated the territorial caliphate. These victories over ISIS in Syria do not signal the end of the Global Coalition or its campaign. We have started returning United States troops home as we transition to the next phase of this campaign. The United States and our allies stand ready to re-engage at all levels to defend American interests whenever necessary, and we will continue to work together to deny radical Islamist terrorists territory, funding, support, and any means of infiltrating our borders.”


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  • Syria, Israel, and the Golan

    In mid-November 2018, the United Nations General Assembly voted overwhelmingly for a resolution demanding, among other things, “that Israel withdraw from all the occupied Syrian Golan . . .” With only Israel and the United States voting “no,” 151 members of the General Assembly told Israel to withdraw from territory occupied since June 1967 and (in effect) to do so in the midst of civil strife that has all-but-wrecked Syria, leaving a murderous regime propped up by Iranian-commanded militias to preside (in name) over much of the wreckage. The “yes” voters communicated not only callous disregard for Israel’s security, but cold contempt for the suffering of millions of Syrians at the hands of a rapacious regime.

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  • Raed Fares: In Remembrance

    For days I’ve been trying and failing to write something about the violent and unjust passing of a good man—Raed Fares—and his colleague, Hammoud al-Jneid. In nearly eight years of witnessing Syria being eaten alive by a rapacious regime and by criminal sectarian “rebels” supported by regional states, nothing has been more demoralizing and deflating than these murders. Those who admired Raed Fares and saw in him the future of Syria now must choose: Permit all hope and effort for a successful, peaceful revolution to follow him and his colleague into the grave; or allow the example of Raed Fares to inspire renewed and unceasing work to bring about the Syria for which he gave his life.

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  • Frederic C. Hof’s Remarks on Syria at the World Affairs Council

    Below are remarks Ambassador Frederic C. Hof gave yesterday at the World Affairs Council of Greater Reading in Pennsylvannia regarding the continued importance of Syria policy and the role of the United States in the ongoing conflict.

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