David Ignatius is a syndicated columnist for The Washington Post, writing on global politics, economics and international affairs.

David Ignatius

David Ignatius

Kirkuk A Key To Kurdish Stability, State

Kirkuk A Key To Kurdish Stability, State

February 13, 2015

From the roof of his office here in Kirkuk, Iraq, Gov. Najmaldin Karim can see this multiethnic city laid out below. He points toward the Sunni suburb of Huwija about 15 miles west, which is controlled by the Islamic State. Two weeks ago, the extremists staged a ferocious assault there that almost broke through the defense lines.

  • America's Good Fortune Buoys Superpower

    February 6, 2015

    Niccolo Machiavelli, perhaps the shrewdest political philosopher in history, believed that great events were shaped by luck — or "fortuna" as he called this unpredictable force of life. The same actions might produce success or failure, depending on the whims of the goddess Fortuna.

  • Obama Trade Deal Attracts China, Republicans

    January 30, 2015

    Strange bedfellows of 2015: As the Obama administration pushes toward a major new trade agreement in Asia this spring, it is developing two unlikely allies — Chinese officials abroad, who are signaling that they want in, and Republicans in Congress, who appear willing to support what would be one of President Barack Obama's biggest successes.

  • Saudi Arabia's Royal Family Plots Survival

    January 23, 2015

    Saudi watchers have been talking about the transition from King Abdullah for a decade, but now that the moment has arrived, its consequences are as hard to predict as ever.

  • Obama's Foreign Policy Coming Together

    December 19, 2014

    The nadir for President Obama's foreign policy was probably last April. His Republican critics were calling him "weak" and "indecisive" after Russia's invasion of Crimea. A deflated Obama responded meekly that sometimes the best a president can do is to hit "singles" and "doubles."

  • Torture Report Neglects Congress' Failures

    December 12, 2014

    The Senate Intelligence Committee's report on the CIA's use of torture was immensely valuable. But it should have addressed Congress' own failure to oversee these activities more effectively. By giving lawmakers a pass, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., weakened the very process of accountability her report was meant to enhance.

  • Answering The Call Through National Service

    November 28, 2014

    At Thanksgiving, Americans think about the spirit of community that animates the country at its best. But in a year characterized by so much political and racial discord, you have to wonder whether the communal quilt is fraying at the edges.

  • Islamic State's Brutal Strategy To Take Iraq

    November 21, 2014

    A centerpiece of President Barack Obama's strategy for defeating the Islamic State is mobilizing tribal fighters to join the Iraqi military in retaking Anbar and other Sunni-dominated provinces. But new research shows the jihadists have been working since 2009 to gut the very Sunni tribal leadership on which Obama's rollback depends — making the U.S. campaign much more difficult.

  • Obama Wins Deals With Confident Chinese

    November 14, 2014

    The photograph on Tuesday from Beijing was as carefully arranged as a display of Ming china: Presidents Barack Obama and Xi Jinping discussing the world's business as they walked, side by side, across a bridge with ornate, brilliantly illuminated guideposts.

  • Emerging Iranian Official Could Bridge Factions

    October 31, 2014

    An intriguing new figure is gaining prominence in the Iranian government just as regional conflicts in Iraq and Syria intensify and nuclear talks with the West move toward a Nov. 24 deadline.

  • Steadily Losing Iraq To The Islamic State

    October 24, 2014

    Jalal al-Gaood, one of the tribal leaders the U.S. has been cultivating in hopes of rolling back extremists in Iraq, grimly describes how his hometown in Anbar province was forced to surrender this week to fighters from the Islamic State.

  • With Ebola, A Real Fear Is Panic Itself

    October 17, 2014

    Richard Preston, whose 1994 book "The Hot Zone" brought the Ebola virus terrifyingly alive for readers, once described how, during his research, his biohazard suit had ripped open, exposing him to a potentially fatal toxin.

  • Fight With Islamic State Requires Persistence

    October 10, 2014

    What happens when an American plan for limited war against the Islamic State meets the savage reality of combat, as happened this week when the extremists pounded Kurdish fighters just inside Syria's border with Turkey? The cry rose in Washington and abroad for more American military involvement. This is how conflicts that start off contained begin to escalate.

  • Disorganized Proxy War Creates Syrian Chaos

    October 3, 2014

    The squabbling factions that make up the Syrian "moderate opposition" should get their act together. But so should the foreign nations — such as the United States, Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Jordan — that have been funding the chaotic melange of fighters inside Syria. These foreign machinations helped open the door for the terrorist Islamic State to threaten the region.

  • National Intelligence Collection Strained

    September 19, 2014

    The U.S. has made the same mistake in evaluating fighters from the Islamic State that it did in Vietnam — by underestimating the enemy's will, according to James Clapper, the director of national intelligence.

  • Risk-Averse Obama Gets Mideast Plan Right

    September 12, 2014

    President Barack Obama certainly didn't go looking for another war in the Middle East. Indeed, he contorted himself almost to the breaking point to avoid one. But as he explained to the country Wednesday night, he had no choice but to respond with "strength and resolve" to the barbarous Islamic State that is ravaging Iraq and Syria.

  • Obama's Anti-Islamic State Strategy Emerges

    September 5, 2014

    The United States imprudently rushed into war in Iraq in 2003. At least nobody can make that criticism this time around.

  • Saudi Arabia Key Ally Against Islamic State

    August 29, 2014

    With Iraq and Syria ablaze, the oil-rich kingdom of Saudi Arabia seems almost an afterthought. But Riyadh will be a crucial, if quixotic, ally as the U.S. seeks to mobilize Sunni Muslims against the terrorist Islamic State.

  • Obama Taking Right Tack Against Terrorists

    August 22, 2014

    The propagandists of the Islamic State must have imagined that their brutal video of the beheading of journalist James Foley would intimidate and terrorize the world. But people aren't built that way, not in Muslim countries or anywhere else. When they see sadistic, uncivilized behavior, they are disgusted — and angry.

  • Terrorist Islamic State Gaining Strength

    August 1, 2014

    Warnings from U.S. officials about the terrorist Islamic State that has established a haven in Iraq and Syria sound ominously like the intelligence alerts that preceded al-Qaida's attack on Sept. 11, 2001.

  • Kerry Keeps Lid On Afghanistan, Iran

    July 25, 2014

    The world has been so chaotic lately that it was easy to overlook two U.S. diplomatic maneuvers — involving the turbulent nations of Afghanistan and Iran — that avoided what could have been dangerous ruptures.

  • Obama's Foreign Policy Needs Firmer Hand

    July 11, 2014

    In President Barack Obama's sometimes maddeningly cautious foreign policy, you can see him struggling to answer what may be the hardest question of his presidency: How should the United States project power in a disorderly world without making the same mistakes it did in Iraq and Afghanistan?

  • Iran Overplays Its Hand, Creates Instability

    July 3, 2014

    With the sudden rise of the terrorist Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, a little-noted aspect is that Gen. Qassem Suleimani, the supposed strategic genius of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, has blundered disastrously. By overreaching in Iraq and Syria and triggering a violent counterreaction, Iran now faces dangerous instability on its border for years to come.

  • Israel's Peres 'A Dreamer And A Doer'

    June 27, 2014

    At a farewell dinner for Israeli President Shimon Peres here Wednesday night, several of the American guests appeared to approach him with tears in their eyes. This emotional display was a sign of Peres' personal impact on the U.S.-Israel relationship, and the way his departure marks the passing of an era.

  • Road To Stabilizing Iraq Runs Through Iran

    June 20, 2014

    President Obama came nearly full circle on Iraq on Thursday, sending military advisers back to cope with that country's disintegration, as U.S. officials lobbied for replacement of the prime minister that America helped install. These were the right choices, but they were a measure of how badly U.S. policy has gone awry.

  • The U.S. Bet On Maliki Led To Iraq Disaster

    June 13, 2014

    The stunning gains this week by Iraq's Sunni insurgents carry a crucial political message: Nouri al-Maliki, the Shiite prime minister of Iraq, is a polarizing sectarian politician who has lost the confidence of his army and nation. He cannot put a splintered Iraq together again, no matter how many weapons the Obama administration sends him.

  • Fears Of U.S. Global Weakness: Hyperventilating

    June 6, 2014

    When CBS News brought Dwight Eisenhower back to Normandy for the 20th anniversary of the D-Day landings in 1964, you might have expected the former commander of Allied forces to conclude with a triumphal comment. Instead, CBS captured an anguished Eisenhower against the backdrop of crosses at the American cemetery at St. Laurent, ruminating: "We must find some way ... to gain an eternal peace for this world."

  • Obama's Time-Limited Foreign Policy Flaw

    May 30, 2014

    President Barack Obama's measured defense of his foreign policy at West Point on Wednesday made many cogent points to rebut critics. Unfortunately, the speech also showed that he hasn't digested some of the crucial lessons of his presidency.

  • A Good Spy Who Went Beyond The Rules

    May 23, 2014

    What makes a good spy? It's not the flashy qualities you see in the movies, or the "Murder Inc." tactics the CIA has sometimes been ordered to use against terrorists during the past decade. It's something more delicate and human, as explained in a remarkable new biography of one of the CIA's bravest and best officers ever in the Middle East.

  • Long-Term Strategy Key In Syrian Fight

    May 2, 2014

    Syrian rebel commanders had invited me to travel with them inside their country, entering through a crossing point near Rabah al-Sarhan, Jordan, but the Jordanian government emphatically said no. So this account is based on interviews with Syrians I met in Jordan or talked with inside Syria by phone.

  • Chinese Financial Markets Jittery

    April 11, 2014

    China's financial markets seem to be signaling trouble, as a government crackdown on corruption and loose credit begins to bite and jittery local investors scramble for safety.

  • U.S. Increases Covert Aid In Syria

    March 28, 2014

    The Obama administration, stung by reversals in Ukraine and Syria, appears to have decided to expand its covert program of training and assistance for the Syrian opposition, deepening U.S. involvement in that brutal and stalemated civil war.

  • New Leader Struggles With China's Economy

    February 28, 2014

    What Xi Jinping has accomplished over the past year doesn't look like an old-fashioned Communist Party putsch. There aren't red banners in the streets or blaring loudspeakers. But Chinese and Western analysts agree that Xi has achieved a remarkable consolidation of power.

  • U.S. Must Reset Its Foreign Policy Mission

    February 21, 2014

    Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a Minnesota Democrat, was trying to explain recently why her state has remained "internationalist" in its soul, even as it shares the national anger about Iraq and Afghanistan. In Minnesota, she says, "internationalism is not just tolerated, it's embraced."

  • Russian Dissidents Display Olympic Resolve

    February 14, 2014

    Amid the television extravaganza of the Sochi Olympics, I had a chance to visit last week with a Russian whistleblower named Sergey Kolesnikov. Back in 2010, he had revealed what he claimed was a network of corruption that included a billion-dollar palace on the Black Sea allegedly built by wealthy businessmen for Vladimir Putin.

  • Senate Panel: No 'Stand Down' In Benghazi, No Military Saviors

    January 20, 2014

    The Senate Intelligence Committee made headlines last week by reporting that the 2012 attack in Benghazi was preventable. But frankly, we knew that. The deeper message of the bipartisan report was that Republicans in Congress wasted a year arguing about what turned out to be mostly phony issues.

  • Good Strides In Middle East, But We're Not There Yet

    October 4, 2013

    President Barack Obama is approaching one of those moments when a big turn in foreign policy is possible. People can debate whether it's the equivalent of the opening to China or the end of the Cold War, but there's no doubt that this is a time of opportunity — and that, as the old English proverb put it, "there's many a slip twixt cup and lip."

  • U.S.-Iran Deal Offers Opportunity, Peril

    September 20, 2013

    For a weakened but still ambitious President Obama, the biggest foreign-policy opportunity and danger of his presidency rolls into New York next week with the arrival of Iranian leader Hassan Rouhani.

  • Secrecy Conceals U.S. Spy Agencies' Flaws

    August 30, 2013

    One interesting conclusion that emerges from The Washington Post's revelation Thursday of the secret "black budget" for intelligence activities is that the United States doesn't have many secrets anymore — not in the age of WikiLeaks and omnipresent whistle-blowers. It's only because of the forbearance of Post editors that all 178 pages of this top-secret "Talent-Keyhole" document were not blasted to the world.

  • Israel Has Opportunity Amid Region's Termoil

    April 26, 2013

    It's a measure of the relatively quiet time for Israel these days that the sharpest argument at a big national security conference here was between an ultra-Orthodox rabbi who wanted "autonomy" for his fellow believers and secular Israelis in the audience who shouted out denunciations of what one called his "apartheid" plan.

  • Susan Rice Pick Has Great Potential, High Risk

    November 30, 2012

    The Republican assault on Susan Rice is a fabricated scandal, attacking her for repeating CIA talking points, almost verbatim, to explain the Benghazi attacks. The U.N. ambassador's version, even with its omissions, may turn out to be closer to the truth than some of the inflammatory GOP rhetoric.

  • Unifying Syrian Opposition Key

    November 23, 2012

    The Syrian opposition took a big step forward this month by forming a broad political coalition that includes local activists who started the revolution. But the opposition's military command is still a mess, and until it's fixed, jihadist extremists will keep getting more powerful.

  • Obama's Foreign Policy Decisions Coming Due

    November 9, 2012

    On foreign policy, President Barack Obama effectively posted a sign on the White House lawn last summer that said: Come back after Election Day. Now, the moment has arrived and the world's problems are lining up for Obama's attention.

  • Massive Political Changes Loom For China

    November 2, 2012

    As Election Day approaches, it's useful to look at the murky political transition taking place this month in China. It's a reminder of the benefits of America's sometimes chaotic democracy.

  • Overextended U.S. Must Make Choices Or Decline

    October 19, 2012

    As Barack Obama and Mitt Romney prepare for Monday night's debate on foreign policy, they could do some useful last-minute cribbing by reading an article titled "The Risks of Ignoring Strategic Insolvency." It's one of the best summaries I've seen of an urgent problem they should discuss honestly.

  • Too Soon To Judge Egypt's Revolution

    October 12, 2012

    You can see what the Egyptian revolution has achieved, 20 months on, by visiting Menoufia, a rural area of the Nile Delta that was the birthplace of the deposed dictator, Hosni Mubarak: Everything is different outwardly, but beneath the surface, almost nothing has changed yet.

  • Obama Dodging Key Foreign Policy Questions

    September 28, 2012

    It's embarrassing when President Barack Obama's risk-averse refusal to engage foreign policy issues becomes so obvious that it's a laugh line for the president of Iran.

  • U.S.-Iran War Game Reveals Real Danger

    September 21, 2012

    Perhaps it was the "fog of simulation." But the scariest aspect of a U.S.-Iran war game staged this week was the way each side miscalculated the other's responses — and moved toward war even as the players thought they were choosing restrained options.

  • Christians, Muslims Gaining Ground Around The World

    September 7, 2012

    God had a good convention: The Almighty's name was mentioned (albeit at the last minute) in the Democratic platform. And he was invoked no less than 12 times in the Republican platform, in case he is keeping score.

  • Apology Patches Up Tattered U.S.-Pakistan Relations

    July 13, 2012

    Why did it take Washington nearly eight months to apologize for the deaths of 24 Pakistani soldiers? But you know the answer: It's because the U.S. and Pakistan have the most neurotic, mutually destructive "friendly" relationship in the world.

  • How To Step Back From Brink With Iran

    May 25, 2012

    It's a classic case of brinkmanship bargaining: Iran and the West, each seeking to squeeze concessions from the other side, have decided to continue their nuclear negotiations on June 17, a few weeks before a punishing new round of sanctions takes effect.