Abraham D. Sofaer

George P. Shultz Senior Fellow in Foreign Policy and National Security Affairs, Emeritus

Abraham D. Sofaer was appointed the first George P. Shultz Distinguished Scholar and Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution in 1994. Named in honor of former US secretary of state George P. Shultz, the appointment is awarded to a senior scholar whose broad vision, knowledge, and skill will be brought to bear on the problems presented by a radically transformed global environment.

Sofaer's work focuses on the power over war within the US government and on issues related to international law, terrorism, diplomacy, and national security. His most recent books are Taking on Iran: Strength, Diplomacy, and the Iranian Threat (Hoover Institution Press, 2013) and The Best Defense?: Legitimacy and Preventive Force (Hoover Institution Press, 2010).

From 1985 to 1990, he served as a legal adviser to the US Department of State, where he resolved several interstate matters, including the dispute between Egypt and Israel over Taba, the claim against Iraq for its attack on the USS Stark, and the claims against Chile for the assassination of Orlando Letelier. He received the Distinguished Service Award in 1989, the highest state department award given to a non–civil servant.

From 1979 to 1985, Sofaer served as a US district judge in the Southern District of New York. From 1969 to 1979, he was a professor of law at Columbia University School of Law and wrote War, Foreign Affairs, and Constitutional Power: The Origins. From 1967 to 1969, he was an assistant US attorney in the Southern District of New York, after clerking for Judge J. Skelly Wright on the US Court of Appeals in Washington, DC, and the Honorable William J. Brennan Jr. on the US Supreme Court. He practiced law at Hughes, Hubbard and Reed from 1990 to 1994.

A veteran of the US Air Force, Sofaer received an LLB degree from New York University School of Law in 1965, where he was editor in chief of the law review. He holds a BA in history from Yeshiva College (1962). Sofaer is a founding trustee of the National Museum of Jazz in Harlem and a member of the board of the Koret Foundation.

His research papers are available at the Hoover Institution Archives.

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Recent Commentary


To Deter Iran’s Aggressive And Dangerous Actions, US Must Show Strength

by Abraham D. Sofaervia Fox News
Thursday, September 19, 2019

The weekend attack on oil facilities in Saudi Arabia, which Secretary of State Mike Pompeo blamed on Iran Wednesday and called an “act of war,” shows that the Obama administration was delusional to think the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran would curb that nation’s radical and violent policies.


The Best Peace Plan Never

by Abraham D. Sofaervia The Washington Times
Monday, August 6, 2018

President Trump has promised “the greatest” peace plan ever to settle what he concedes is the toughest negotiation of all: Peace between Israel and the Palestinians. The “Trump Peace Plan,” drafted by a team led by Senior Adviser Jared Kushner and Special Envoy Jason Greenblatt, is the most widely discussed peace proposal not yet made. It should stay that way.


How Trump Can Counter Iran: Withdrawal From The Deal Isn't The Answer

by Abraham D. Sofaervia Washington Examiner
Monday, May 7, 2018

President Trump will decide before May 12 whether to withdraw from the Iran nuclear agreement, instead of certifying to Congress that remaining in the deal is in the interests of the U.S.


On Israel, A Resolution To Repudiate

by Abraham D. Sofaervia Investors Business Daily
Friday, December 30, 2016

On December 23, 2016, the United States abstained and allowed the Security Council to adopt Resolution 2334 demanding that Israel stop all settlement activity. This resolution, unlike the 25 or so anti-Israel General Assembly resolutions passed each year, has real consequences.

Analysis and Commentary

U.S. Foreign Policy On The Rocks

by Abraham D. Sofaervia Real Clear Defense
Tuesday, July 12, 2016

The tribunal that has taken jurisdiction over the Philippine suit against China concerning islands and rocks in the South China Sea (“SCS”) is to issue its decision on the merits on July 12, 2016. However well-reasoned the award, it cannot undo the damage caused by the litigation.

Blank Section (Placeholder)Interviews

Abraham D. Sofaer On The Joint Comprehensive Plan Of Action (JCPOA)

featuring Abraham D. Sofaervia United States Senate
Friday, August 7, 2015

Testimony of Abraham D. Sofaer, the George P. Shultz Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution before the Foreign Relations Committee of the United States Senate.

Blank Section (Placeholder)Analysis and Commentary

Why America Needs International Agencies

by Abraham D. Sofaervia Defining Ideas
Thursday, May 28, 2015

These organizations, flawed though they may be, enhance international cooperation and can help solve international security problems.

Blank Section (Placeholder)Analysis and Commentary

Managing the Cyber Security Threat

by Abraham D. Sofaervia Analysis
Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The cyber threat is part of a transnational game, with low barriers of entry, increasing sophistication, increasing cost, and no prospect that any state will be victorious.  The U.S. needs to manage the risk by focusing on those aspects of cyber insecurity that relate to commerce and critical infrastructure, leaving traditional forms of intelligence and military activities unregulated; and by allowing private companies and individuals to use strong encryption or open source software without built-in vulnerabilities. 

Chess pieces

Special: Henriksen, Sofaer, and Schake on the John Batchelor Show

by Thomas H. Henriksen, Abraham D. Sofaer, Kori Schakevia John Batchelor Show
Monday, May 5, 2014

On the eve before a special live taping of the John Batchelor Show at the Hoover Spring Retreat, John Batchelor and Mary Kissel of the Wall Street Journal hosted a special foreign policy discussion featuring Hoover senior fellows Thomas Henriksen and Abraham Sofaer and Hoover research fellow Kori Schake.

Domestic Foundations of American Foreign Policy

Domestic Law and National Security Strategy

by Abraham D. Sofaervia Analysis
Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Abraham Sofaer examines domestic legal constraints, finding that US law has consistently allowed the executive “broad authority to plan for and manage the nation’s security, while preserving in Congress the power to approve, disallow, or take no action on executive initiatives.”