Double Agent Stallion is my seventh novel. It is based, in part, on a true story. It focuses on a scheme by Russian intelligence to coerce an American college student into spying for Moscow. The story line:

A Russian master spy, nicknamed the Fisherman, dispatches a sultry young redhead to an American college campus to ensnare a promising student into a compromising position where he’d be forced to spy for Moscow. Early on, he becomes suspicious and goes to the FBI, which persuades him to become a double agent. Many years later, after he’s “proven” himself to his handlers with carefully vetted intelligence, he provides some clever technical misinformation designed to sabotage one of their major weapons programs.

Meanwhile, the redhead falls madly in love with her target, confesses, and they marry and have two children. The FBI, to protect its high value asset against retribution, stages the family’s “death” in a flaming car accident. When inevitably the Russians realize they’ve been snookered, and suspect that the American agent may not really be dead at all, the Fisherman sends a pair of experienced killers to check out the car accident and hunt him down, if he’s in hiding. He and his family are in the witness protection program, with new identities and appearances., but the determined killers manage to track them down anyway. A gunfight ensues.


As the targeted deadline for achieving a nuclear weapons program deal with Iran draws near, Ayatollah Ali Khomenei has just overplayed his hand in what could turn out to be a historic misjudgment.

Presumably believing that President Barack Obama wants and needs a deal more than Tehran does, Khomenei laid down a series of outrageous demands, which he described as “major red lines.” Perhaps he figured that by doing so he would signal to the US and its allies that Iran’s negotiators have their hands tied by the Supreme Leader.

But if a final deal fails to be compleied and the world believes that fault lies with Iran, then the crushing economic sanctions may not only be continued, but perhaps even strengthened.

Recall Obama’s warning to Congressional skeptics that if a deal falls through, there are essentially only two alternatives–either heavy bombing of Iran’s nuclear facilities, and consequently war,or watching as Iran hastily rushes to complete an arsenal of nuclear weapons, destabilizing the region.

But there exists a middle course, whether short term or long, to significantly tighten the economic screws on Iran. It was the pressure of sanctions, after all, that forced Iran into negotiations in the first place.

Regardless of whether the June 30 deadline is observed or extended, if a detailed agreement is negotiated and then rejected by the US Senate, some of those–such as Russia and China–who see advantage in ending the sanctions, would feel free to do so. The blame would then fall at the feet of the Americans.

But Khomenei’s eleventh hour demands raise the prospect that Iran would be blamed for failure to reach an accord. Among them:

First, all US and UN sanctions must be immediately lifted when an agreement is signed, rather than gradually lifted as Iran implements a series of agreed upon steps. This would allow Iran to pocket tens of billions of dollars of immediate economic relief.

There could be no freeze on nuclear research and development. Thus Tehran could continue to plough ahead on more effective, speedier uranium enrichment centrifuges.

International inspection of Iran’s military facilities would be forbidden, making it impossible to verify Iran’s compliance. It is believed that certain military facilities, such as Parchin, have been devoted to developing nuclear missile nose cones.

Additionally, there could be no long term restrictions on Iran’s uranium enrichment. Highly enriched uranium, of course, is not required for nuclear power plants, but rather for nuclear warheads.

The driving hope of the Obama Administration has been that if a cork could be kept in the bottle of Iran’s nuclear weapons program for ten years, maybe Iran would lose its appetite for such weapons as it enjoyed the fruits of unhindered international commerce. But that assumes that Iran’s strategic goal of becoming the hegemon of the Middle East and a world power will somehow disappear over the next decade.

And that would constitute quite a gamble.


This piece also ran in the World Policy Journal blog.


The tentative nuclear framework agreement with Iran is the acid test of President Obsma’s worldvirw that the best way to deal with global adversaries is with rigorous diplomacy, rather than military threats. Before long historians will be in a position to assess the wisdom or fallacy of his judgment.

During Obama’s first campaign for office, Hillary Rodham Clinton described him as “dangerously naive” for asserting that the way to deal with an enemy such as Iran is with “aggressive personal diplomacy.” At the start of his presidency, he offered to “extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.”

That is Obama’s core philosophy. He believed that in the past the US was too inclined to turn to military power to address problems in the world, as in iraq and Afghanistan. He was convinced he had a better way: persistent diplomatic engagement.

In six years in office, however, he has faced one rebuff or misstep after another. Perhaps until now. But the proof of whether the framework with Iran will be effectively spelled out in finite detail and, more importantly, signed and then faithfully observed, remains to be seen. It is a colossal gamble on the President’s part. In all likelihood it will become the touchstone of his historic legacy, one way or the other.

Obama is fond of quoting former President Jack Kennedy: “Let us never negotiate out of fear, but let us never fear to negotiate.”

In his first speech abroad, delivered in Prague,he made clear his foremost concern was nuclear proliferation, even going so far as to advocate a world without nuclear weapons. That helps explain why the negotiation with Iran has been pretty much his foreign policy fixation in office.

And yet, ironically, if Tehran’s frightened neighbors regard the ultimate deal as making Iran a nuclear threshold state, one that could turn a screw and become nuclear capable, the chances are that Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey and perhaps one of the Gulf states will seek nuclear weapons for themselves. And the fractious Middle East could become even more perilous than it is today.

Early on in his presidency, Obama said he wanted to shift the emphasis from the Middle East to the Pacific. But events have conspired otherwise.

Following the so-called Arab Spring, which only blossomed positively in Tunesia, came Egypt’s putsch against the Moslem Brotherhood, the rise of ISIS in Iraq and Syria, and the revolution of the minority Houtis, supported by Iran, in Yemen, with the attendant decision by Saudi Arabja and perhaps Egu[t tp use military force to contest them. The ancient blood feud between the Sunnis and Shiites appears to be rekindling.

Now it’s true that Obama was confronted by two ongoing wars when be came to power–costly and controversial wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Then there arose a secular rebellion in Syria, where Obama rebuffed the entreaties of his top officials to help arm and train the rebels, and Libya, where hr reluctantly agreed with European allies to help oust Mammmar Khadafi, by “leading from behind,” only to subsequently back away and allow a failed state to emerge.

And don’t overlook the effort to “reset” relations with Russia. Whether Vladimir Putin regarded the new American president as a creampuff, who would do nothing significant if he annexed Crimea and invaded eastern Ukraine, remains a matter of conjecture. But obviously Putin did not feel constrained by Obama who offered an open hand, rather than a mailed fist.

No question that Obama’s rose colored worldview is in question. But not yet decided.


William Beecher is a Pulitzer Prize-winning former Washington correspondent for The Boston Globe, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times. He’s a former Asskitant Secretary of Defense and is an adjunct professor at the University of Maryland.

This blog was picked up by the World Policy Institute.


The ham-fisted letter by 47 Republican Senators to Iranian leaders about the negotiation to curb Iran’s nuclear weapons program was from many perspectives ill-conceived and counter-productive. But, ironically, it might serve a very positive and constructive purpose. It all depends on how it is interpreted in Tehran.

From an American point of view, the best face that can be put on the letter was that it was motivated to persuade Iran to offer terms to President Obama that are not only acceptable to him, but also to the Senate of the United States, including members of both parties.

The worse interpretation, pounced on the the White House and some US allies, is that it was a gross attempt to scuttle the arms talks.

The letter argued that the Iranians should be put on notice that if they insist on terms that the Republicans in particular regard as contrary to US national interests, the next president and congress could easily–with the stroke of a pen–vitiate the executive agreement since it would not have the standinding of a treaty..

There is precedent for such action: A controversial arms control agreement with North Korea, negotiated by the administration of President Bill Clinton, was torn up by President George W. Bush on the basis the Pyongyand was blatantly cheating. It was not a treaty either.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatolah Ruhollah Khomeini dismissed the missive as “propaganda.”

It is anyone’s guess whether, if terms can be agreed among the parties, that the Ayatollah will accept it or reject it. Assuming the terms can be agreed, Khomeini now is in a position to blame the Republicans for his rejection.

And Obama in now in a position, should talks fail to achieve closure, to also blame Republican interference, rather than failure on the part of his negotiators to be persuasive at the bargaining table.

In either of these two cases, it might be difficult either for the Senate to impose tougher economic sanctions, or for many trading partners to observe even current sanctions.

However, recall that when President Bush sent forces into Iraq to go after Saddam Hsssein’s supposed weapons of mass destruction, suddenly Iran put all of its nuclear weapons activities on hold, probably fearful that otherwise the US might put Iran next on the invasion list.

So if hardliners in Tehran interpret the Republican letter as an effort to scuttle the talks in order to open the way for a military campaign to destroy all known Iranian nuclear weapons facilities, they conceivably could decide that even a less than ideal diplomatic agreement would be preferable to facing two or three months of heavy bombing by the United States and Israel.

Sure Iran would be in a position thereafter to reconstitute the program it insists doesn’t exist. but only after having suffered colossal damage to the infrastructure that has been built, at a colst of billions of dollars, over a decade or more.

So if Iranian decision-makers, on the assumption that the Republicans might conceivably win the next Presidential election, think the GOP prefers the war option, to what they regard as a bad agreement, it might be advisable for Iran to offer an agreement that is less than ideal from its point of view.

William Beecher is a Pulitzer Prize-winning former Washington correspondent for The Boston Globe, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times. He is also a former Assistant Secretary of Defense and is currently an adjunct professor at the University of Maryland.

This blog was also published by the World Policy Institute.


My sixth novel focuses on Arabella, a beautiful, adventurous young blonde, who was recruited by the FBI. After two boring years of routine assignments,she finally is given an important undercover mission:to infiltrate a Hezbollah terrorist ring being established for the first time in the United States. Hezbollah is based in Lebanon, but is funded and in part directed by Iranian intelligence. She is extensively prepared for the assignment academically and even has her appearance dulled down to be able to get a job as a teaching assistant to a Muslim professor,suspected of being the ringleader.

Being headstrong and determined to succeed in her first major assignment, she takes risks against the advice of her superiors and very nearly loses her life when her cover is blown. But being fast-thinking and resourceful, she manages to help bring down the terrorist cell before it can implement its bloody plans, which could have produced far more casualties than the 3,000 lost on 9/11.

Arabella was first introduced in my fourth novel, NUCLEAR REVENGE. Several readers were so intrigued, they urged me to further explore her character in a future book. Thus ARABELLA UNDERCOVER.


Viewed through a strategic prism, the Israeli military campaign against Hamas in Gaza may be much more ambitious than appears in the public dialogue.

Publicly, the Israelis say they must halt the firing of rockets aimed at their population centers. This requires destroying rocket factories, arms depots and launch sites. An ancillary objective is to demolish tunnels from Gaza that allow gunmen to sneak into Israel, and tunnels from Sinai that allow fresh weapons and key supplies into Gaza.

Were it not for the Iron Dome air defense system, the 1500 rockets that have already been fired from Gaza would by now have caused hundreds if not thousands of casualties.

The Israelis have felt forced to stage Gaza military operations repeatedly but that only buys a respite of two or three years.

They need to attempt a strategic game-changer. Although Israeli leaders do not say so, it appears they may have decided to stay in Gaza long enough to decimate the Hamas leadership and infrastructure so decisively, that the Palestinian Authority might be capable of winning popular control over the Gaza Strip as it already possesses over the
West Bank.

If that could be accomplished, not only would there not be a periodic threat of massive rocket launches, but it conceivably might open the way in time to a two-state negotiated peace settlement.

There are three new factors that have not been in play during previous Israeli campaigns in Gaza.

First, there was the attempted establishment of a unity government between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, which some Western states were beginning to pressure Israel to work with. But the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers, allegedly by Hamas, undermined that prospect, and the retribution killing of a Palestinian youngster helped to trigger the war that is currently underway.

Secondly, for the first time in history, the Egyptian government is neither neutral toward or actively supportive of Hamas. The new government in Cairo is attempting to obliterate the Moslem Brotherhood and regards Hamas as an offshoot of the Brotherhood and thus an enemy.

And finally, the downing of a Malaysian commercial airliner by a sophisticated Russian surface-to-air missile over eastern Ukraine has understandably taken the focus of the news and world attention away from the bloodshed in Gaza. Who would have imagined that this week’s Sunday New York Times would not have a single story on the Gaza operation on page one?

What that means is that as world leaders and opinion makers argue about what additional economic and diplomatic pressures can be applied against Vladimir Putin to attempt to get him to pull in his horns in Ukraine, there will be considerably less pressure on Israel to cut short its operations in Gaza. Thus it may be afforded more time to try to accomplish its strategic objectives.

Is this the course that Israeli military and political leaders are covertly following? They can’t say so publicly, because if they fall short, the whole campaign would be labeled a serious defeat. But to pursue a game=changing strategy would seem to make a lot of sense.
This blog was also published in the blog of the World Policy Institute.





The Obama Administration’s trade of five of the most senior Taliban commanders at Guantanamo Bay for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl is a national disgrace for a number of reasons.

First of all, he was not a prisoner of war by any normal definition of the term. Disenchanted with the course of the war in Afghanistan, he snuck away from his post in the middle of the night, armed only with a compass to direct him toward enemy .lines. He was not captured in combat, quite the contrary. But instead of treating him as a possible sympathizer, the Taliban decided to hold him as potential trade bait.

It took several years, but the Taliban’s patience has been rewarded. Actual negotiations, on-and-off again, reportedly began three years ago, before finally coming to fruition. One of the six detainees the Taliban originally demanded in exchange died during the negotiations. But the other five have now been freed, with apparently the only limitation being that they stay in Qatar for one year. Presumably in a hotel with room service. After that?  Guess.

The last time a senior Taliban commander was released from Gitmo, Mullah Abdul Qayyum Zakir, he soon showed up back in Afghanistan as director of military operations.

Secondly, there is a reason American presidents have consistently refused to negotiate with terrorists.  Now terrorists around the world may believe that if they capture or kidnap a US citizen, military or civilian, they can hope to trade for high value prisoners.  And at least during the current Administration, they may have a decent chance of success.

Commented National Security Adviser Susan Rice: “When we are in battles with terrorists and the terrorists take an American prisoner, that prisoner is still a US serviceman or woman.  We still have a sacred obligation to bring that person home.”

Was she not aware of the circumstances of Bergdahl falling into the Taliban’s hands? He reportedly deserted his buddies at 3:30 in the morning, leaving his weapons behind. Or was Rice just trying to convince public opinion of the merits of the case, the facts notwithstanding?

Third, what signal does this grossly uneven swap send to Taliban leadership on the eve of the United States pulling the bulk of its troops out of Afghanistan this year, regardless of the situation on the ground?

President Obama says he wants to keep a small residual force in country for another couple of years after that, but it is absolutely clear he wants to wash his hands of the frustrating, costly, bloody struggle. And after American and NATO men and money are no longer an obstacle, the opportunities for the Taliban to return to power, at least over large swaths of the country, appear promising.

Over the weekend, Mullah Mohammad Omar, the supreme leader of the Taliban, broke his normal silence to declare that the prisoner swap brought the insurgents “closer to the harbor of victory.”  Without question it was a celebratory statement.

And, finally, what signal is being sent to those who depend on the United States to be steadfast in their defense if the need arises?

Some may conclude that America is in a state of retreat from global commitments–in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Syria, it Ukraine. Does that invite more assertive or even aggressive challenges, from Russia, from China, from others?

Let us hope that President Obama does not offer to lead a ticker-tape parade through Times Square to welcome Bergdahl back.


This blog was also published by the World Policy Institute.