Abraham D. Sofaer

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

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

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

by 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.

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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.

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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.”

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Analysis and Commentary

Hurt Iran's Hawks, Not Its People

by Abraham D. Sofaervia New York Times
Wednesday, February 26, 2014
Hoover senior fellow Abraham Sofaer on Fox News

Sofaer on Fox News: “Iran can’t be trusted, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t negotiate with them”

by Abraham D. Sofaervia Fox News
Monday, January 13, 2014

Hoover senior fellow Abraham Sofaer discusses the Iranian nuclear deal on Fox News. Topics include the prospect for future sanctions on Iran; the relationship between sanctions and diplomacy; and why considering sanctions in the event the deal is unsuccessful would be a reasonable plan for Obama.

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The Cost of Foreign Intervention

by Abraham D. Sofaervia Defining Ideas
Thursday, December 5, 2013

What is the future of American grand strategy?

Taking on Iran

by Abraham D. Sofaervia Hoover Digest
Friday, October 18, 2013

Between empty ultimatums and threats of overwhelming force lies a diplomatic sweet spot. An interview with ABRAHAM D. SOFAER.

Analysis and Commentary

The UN Should Take Away Ahmadinejad’s Annual Podium Of Hate

by Abraham D. Sofaer, Irwin Cotlervia National Post (Canada)
Thursday, September 27, 2012

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad addressed the United Nations Monday on the rule of law – a cruel parody of law and justice given that Ahmadinejad is himself one of the world’s leading violators of international law and the United Nations Charter