Steven Simon

Steven Simon is Hasib J. Sabbagh Senior Fellow for Middle Easterns Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Recent Articles

Northern Ireland's Arch Irrelevance

Why comparisons of the Iraq war to the conflict in Northern Ireland reflect only false hope, not reality.

In June, Northern Ireland Secretary of State Peter Hain endorsed a Northern Ireland-style political process for Iraq involving Sunni and Shi'ite leaders. Since taking over as commander of American ground forces in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus too has repeatedly trotted out the British counterinsurgency effort in Northern Ireland as an example of a successful campaign that offers hope for the American enterprise in Iraq, and as support for a long-term military commitment. Recently, he told a U.S. News & World Report journalist that the "Northern Ireland experience" of his British deputy commander was "really quite instructive," and cited that experience to point out that the Iraq challenge could take a decade to meet. It's easy to understand the superficial attraction of the Northern Ireland analogy: It reflects the United Kingdom's undeniably effective blend of hard and soft power, resulting in a historic multiparty peace agreement in 1998 whose previously stalled implementation was...

Riyadh Revisions

Administration policy on Saudi Arabia has lurched from an excessive embrace of the regime to an ill-informed democracy campaign. How can the U.S. and the Saudis play a more constructive role?

In July 2002, a RAND corporation research analyst named Laurent Murawiec gave a briefing on Saudi Arabia to the Defense Policy Board, a blue-ribbon group of former secretaries of defense, chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and an assortment of nongovernmental experts. The meeting was chaired by Richard Perle. Murawiec was one of the itinerant peddlers of the national-security world, an authority on everything and nothing. He was, however, at one with the zeitgeist. His PowerPoint presentation that day began with the conventional wisdom about the Arab world: Centuries of failure had driven Arabs to the depths of despair and the heights of envy; humiliated, with nothing to show for themselves since the golden age of medieval Islam, they had lashed out against the West. He then focused on Saudi Arabia: The country's rule, he said, had been usurped by Wahhabists whose mission in life was to draw blood from the West. "Saudi Arabia," Murawiec explained, "is central to the self-...