Frederic C. Hof

  • In Syria, Civilians Again on the Bullseye

    According to a Western physician who returned days ago from a mission of mercy into Syria’s northwestern Idlib Province, no fewer than thirteen hospitals have been successfully targeted by Russian combat aircraft; three of them had previously declared their geographic coordinates to the United Nations. Thus far, Russia’s hospital offensive and the Assad regime’s barrel bombings have reportedly killed dozens of civilians and put 150,000 terrified people on the road. Provided the regime of Bashar al-Assad refrains from using chemical weapons, it seems very unlikely that anyone will lift a finger to protect Syrian civilians and, by extension, defend the West.
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  • The Growing Russian Challenge and What Should Be Done About It

    All around the world, Russia is increasingly asserting itself, propping up dictators, and, in some instances, posing a direct challenge to US interests. Russian President Vladimir Putin held his first-ever meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Vladivostok on April 25. Kim’s visit to Russia, an old ally, came as diplomacy with US President Donald J. Trump has faltered.

    Trump and Putin spoke on the phone for over an hour on May 3. Venezuela and North Korea were among the topics the two leaders discussed.


    We take a look at some areas of confrontation, what is driving Russian interests, and how the United States is responding to this challenge.


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  • In Syria, Trump Claims Victory but ISIS Remains

    US President Donald Trump’s December 2018 tweet announcing the withdrawal of American military forces from Syria has inadvertently invited ISIS (ISIL, IS, Daesh, Islamic State) to resurrect itself. Even though American officials have walked-back the presidential decree, the president himself has signaled no enduring or enthusiastic support for the essential, victory-sealing stabilization of areas liberated from ISIS.


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  • The Folly of the Trump Administration's Proclamations on Israel

    Recently the White House and the Department of State released statements: one proclaiming American recognition of Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights; and the other commemorating the fortieth anniversary of the Israel-Egypt treaty of peace. Each, in its own way, revealed serious leadership dysfunction.


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  • Trump’s Support for Israeli Sovereignty Over the Golan Heights May Hurt Israel

    In a departure from longstanding US policy, US President Donald J. Trump on March 21 tweeted that it was time the United States recognized Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights, a strategic plateau Israel captured from Syria in 1967.


    While there is perhaps more than a touch of politics behind the timing of the tweet—Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is facing charges of bribery, fraud, and breach of trust, is up for re-election on April 9—an actual shift in US policy on this sensitive issue could have serious consequences.


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  • Hof Quoted in The Guardian on Trump Recognizing Israel's Sovereignty over Golan Heights


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  • Annex the Golan, Make Assad’s Day

    A new flurry of reports suggesting Israel may formally annex the occupied Golan Heights is music to the ears of Bashar al-Assad, a mass murderer who would welcome a decisive change of subject from his own criminality to what he will characterize as Israel’s theft of Syrian land. Among the delighted will be Iran and Hezbollah, whose resistance pretentions will be gratuitously elevated above their sewer of transnational terror, drug running, and money laundering. As there is nothing substantive to be gained by Israel through formal annexation and much to be potentially lost, one wonders why its proponents are so eager to do it.


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  • The ‘Caliphate:’ Gone by Tonight or With Us for Decades?

    US President Donald J. Trump’s announcement that ISIS (ISIL, Islamic State, Daesh) “will be gone by tonight” is welcome news.  An important battle in Syria has been won.  But the war will continue.  It will rage throughout the Muslim world until political legitimacy fills vacuums of governance that Islamist extremists will continue to contest; legitimacy that can only come about through the voluntary consent of the governed.  This is a war for the hearts and minds of Sunni Muslims; not buildings and trackless desert.
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  • The Heavy Lift

    The declared top objective of the Trump administration for Syria is “the enduring defeat of ISIS [ISIL, Daesh, Islamic State].” Presumably this means not only killing the bogus caliphate in its physical and ideological dimensions, but keeping it dead. If the presumption is correct, the administration should prepare itself for a heavy and sustained political, diplomatic, developmental, and military lift in Syria; east of the Euphrates River. There is no sign it is preparing to do so. The concern here is that the security of American allies and friends in the region and in Europe will be jeopardized by a half-hearted American effort; that an undead ISIS can threaten North America itself.


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  • Eight Years

    Eight years ago, a very quiet American peace mediation between Syria and Israel was showing promise. Territorial disputes long dividing the parties were being resolved. Security issues key to a genuine peace were being tackled. The fact that months of shuttle diplomacy had not leaked suggested the parties were serious. Had the mediation continued, both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad would likely have faced a choice by year’s end: inform their respective citizenries that mutually agreed terms of peace had been arrived at; or scuttle everything. Alas, we will never know what those choices would have been.


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