December 18th, 2014
11:13 PM ET

Caving to North Korea on ‘The Interview’ sends the wrong message

By Fareed Zakaria

Why does a terrorist threat from North Korea produce appeasement, whereas threats from Islamic terrorists produce courage, defiance and resilience? I suspect it’s because we are fully aware of the barbarism of jihadi terrorists. But we tend to think of North Korea in somewhat comical terms — the odd dictators with their strange haircuts; the weird, synchronized mass adulation in stadiums; the retro-propaganda and rhetoric.

In fact, North Korea is one of the world’s most repressive and brutal dictatorships. Estimates are that it abducted thousands of people from neighboring countries following the Korean War, allowed 1 million to 2 million of its own people to starve in a famine in the 1990s and currentlyimprisons about 100,000 people in labor camps. The United Nations appointed a panel to investigate the human rights situation in North Korea;its report, released in February, paints a picture of a regime that has no parallel in the scale of its systematic cruelty and oppression.

Read the Washington Post column

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Topics: Fareed's Take
December 16th, 2014
06:58 PM ET

A portal to Iran

For more Last Look, watch GPS, Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN

When I went to Tehran in 2011 to interview then-President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, relations with the U.S. were at a low, and distrust between the two nations was at a high. So it was unsurprising that Iran's leader played to type perfectly, spouting nasty rhetoric when he sat down with me.

What was surprising was the stance of the ordinary people – Iranians on the street, in cafes, at my hotel – who expressed an admiration for America and an interest in improving relations across the board.

But not everybody gets the chance to travel to Iran and meet the locals as I did. Well, we found the next best thing. Inside an art gallery in downtown Manhattan sits a large, golden box. It may look like a fancy shipping container, but enter and you'll discover it is actually a "portal" to Iran.

The artist Amar Bakshi, a former GPS producer, set up a web-connected camera in New York and partnered with an artist to do the same in Tehran, enabling face-to-face conversations between people who would not otherwise meet. Despite being 6,000 miles and a world apart, participants can easily slide into conversation with each other about their daily lives. Some even demonstrate their passions, like this dance.

I went into the portal and spoke with several Iranians about their lives and their country and how they see the U.S. Perhaps President Obama and Rouhani should meet this way – call it a diplomatic dance.

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Topics: Iran • Last Look
December 15th, 2014
05:20 PM ET

Zakaria: What the torture report says about American system

Watch "Fareed Zakaria GPS," Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN

By Fareed Zakaria

America was at a disadvantage compared to the Soviet Union, it was said, because it had to operate with its hands tied behind its back, with Congressional interference, media exposure and all the other trappings of a democracy. Moscow, on the other hand, could act speedily, effectively, lethally and in secret.

In fact, the Soviet Union pursued an utterly disastrous foreign policy. It so brutally suppressed its "allies" that by the 1980s, it was encircled by a group of countries in Eastern Europe that had become deeply hostile to it. It pursued an arms race with the United States that by some estimates consumed 10 to 20 percent of its GDP. It invaded Afghanistan and bled itself dry in a war it could not admit it had lost.

All these flaws were the product of a closed system with no checks and balances.

Watch the video for the full Take or read the WaPo column

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Topics: Fareed's Take • GPS Show
December 15th, 2014
04:50 PM ET

Israeli minister discusses two-state issue, Israel as a Jewish state and Jerusalem

Watch "Fareed Zakaria GPS," Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN

Fareed speaks with Naftali Bennett, economic minister in Benjamin Netanyahu's cabinet and the leader of the Jewish Home party, about a proposed Jewish nation state law. Watch the video for the full interview.

OK, I've got to ask you about this new proposed law in Israel, which would specify that Israel is a nation for Jews. That, in a sense, would give being Jewish a kind of privileged status. There are a number of people within Israel, there are a number of American Jewish supporters of Israel who believe that this is a terrible mistake. What do you believe?

It's been distorted. It's really simple. Israel is a democratic state and a Jewish state. It's the state of the Jewish people, of the Jewish nation. Now, we don't have a constitution, but about 20 years ago, the constitution has begun to get formed by piecemeal, by a law-by-law.

So we only have the democratic side legislated. So the idea is that to rebalance it so it's both a democratic state and a Jewish state. We will continue to provide full equal rights to all Arabs in Israel. In fact, I'm...

But what does it mean to an Israeli-Arab who is a citizen of Israel to have in the constitution it say that Israel is, you know, a state principally for Jews, that its character, its identity...

It is.

…is one that they can never partake in.

No, they can partake in it, but they have to understand that if they desire to have their own state within a state, that's unacceptable, because they have 23 countries. The Arabs have 23 states. We only have one. In fact, in the whole world, the Jews only have one state and that's all we need. But it's got to be the Jewish state.

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Topics: GPS Show
December 13th, 2014
11:44 PM ET

Israeli minister: Iran doesn't need one centrifuge

Fareed speaks with Naftali Bennett, the economic minister in Benjamin Netanyahu's cabinet, about Iran's nuclear program. Watch the full interview on GPS this Sunday at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN.

Iran - you have said that you thought a bad deal would lead to war, but a good deal could lead to peace. So the question is, do you regard the deal that is under discussion as a good deal or a bad deal?

From what we can tell, the area where they seem to be at right now is that Iran would go from about 19,000 centrifuges to somewhere in the range of between 5,000 and 7,000 or 8,000 centrifuges. Is that a sufficient reduction which would lengthen the lead time before Iran could potentially do something which can make them produce weapons grade uranium?

That's a very bad deal. Iran doesn't need one centrifuge. Canada has nuclear energy. Spain has nuclear energy. Switzerland has nuclear energy and they don't enrich uranium. You don't need to enrich uranium in order to use nuclear energy. You enrich uranium in order to produce a bomb. That's why the U.N. Security Council came out with six consecutive resolutions that they should have not one centrifuge.

And suddenly we're caving in to their whims, especially when Iran is on the floor. They're under a significant economic pressure. It's working. So when something works, you don't let it up. Quite the contrary. That's the point in negotiation where you insist, and, in fact, reinforce the sanctions. And we just want one simple thing – no enrichment within Iran. You can have all the nuclear energy you want for any peaceful uses, but no enrichment so you can't acquire a nuclear weapon. FULL POST

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Topics: GPS Show
December 13th, 2014
11:25 PM ET

Will Senate Committee report incite greater anti-Americanism?

Fareed speaks with Moazzam Begg, a former detainee at Guantanamo Bay, about the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee's report on torture. Watch the full interview on GPS this Sunday at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN.

Do you believe that the release of this report will incite a certain, a greater degree of anti-Americanism among radicalized youth in the Middle East, for example?

I don’t think so, no. In fact, I think what it will do is that it would suggest that at least America’s attempting to be open, at least it’s trying to make some confessions in public.  I know that there’s no sense that there’s going to be any prosecutions, but at least America’s come clean and is setting a record, a standard, for other countries to follow.  We know there are at least 54 countries involved.  What did Britain do? What did Pakistan do? What did Syria do? What did Egypt do? All of these countries, they also now have a template to follow.

And let’s remember that people were already being dressed in orange suits and executed in Iraq in 2005 and in 2014. And this was well before any of these details came about.

The fact is that the occupation of Iraq, of Afghanistan, the torture program, was well known all around the world.  Everybody was talking about it.  So I don’t think there will be any particular reaction to this specifically because of this release.

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Topics: GPS Show
December 13th, 2014
10:56 AM ET

On GPS Sunday: Discussing the Senate Intelligence Committee's torture report

Watch "Fareed Zakaria GPS," Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN

On GPS this Sunday: Fareed starts with a panel discussion on the revelations from the Senate Intelligence Committee’s torture report. Did Congress know about everything the CIA was doing? He speaks with Jane Harman, a then-member of the House Intelligence Committee and now president of the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington.

Fareed will also hear a perspective on whether the techniques outlined in the report were justifiable from John Yoo, a former official at the Department of Justice and author of the widely discussed "torture memos."

Also giving his take, former Jordanian Foreign Minister Marwan Muasher discusses whether the Senate committee’s report will damage U.S. standing around the world, especially in the Arab world.

Then, Moazzam Begg wants an apology. He was held in U.S. prisons and says he was abused and witnessed torture. What's his response to the report? Fareed asks him.

Plus, the man who might be Israel's next prime minister? Fareed speaks with Naftali Bennett, the economic minister in Benjamin Netanyahu's cabinet and the leader of the powerful "Jewish Home" party. He explains why he is adamantly opposed to a two-state solution.

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Topics: GPS Show
December 11th, 2014
11:36 PM ET

Ex-DoJ official: Senate report examples 'very troubling' if true

Fareed speaks with former Justice Department official John Yoo about the Senate Intelligence Committee's report on CIA interrogation methods. Watch the full interview on GPS this Sunday at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN.

Forced rectal feeding, agency officials threatening to rape the mothers of prisoners, people with broken limbs being forced to stand for hours and hours, deprived of sleep for up to one week. Doesn’t that strike you as torture?

Well, those are very troubling examples. They would not have been approved by the Justice Department – they weren't approved by the Justice Department at the time. But I have to question whether they’re true because I can’t take at face value the committee’s report because there were no Republicans involved.

You know, investigations in the intelligence committee are traditionally bipartisan and the worst thing, from a lawyer’s perspective, from my perspective, is the committee didn’t interview any witnesses. And so, you have these reports, but they never gave a chance to the very participants, the people being accused, to explain themselves. And so I would want to know more about what happened in any of these cases and to see what really happened. FULL POST

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Topics: GPS Show
December 11th, 2014
10:36 PM ET

Why releasing the CIA torture report will make America stronger

By Fareed Zakaria

The United States made its share of mistakes during the Cold War. But because of a democratic system of contestation, transparency, checks and balances, many of them were exposed early. New administrations could shift policy without losing face. Course correction was routine. Despite the nostalgia that many mandarins have for an old Metternichian model, it is the big, raucous, contentious democracies — Britain and the United States — that have prevailed in the world, not Nazi Germany, imperial Japan or the Soviet Union.

“A case can be made . . . that secrecy is for losers,” the late senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan wrote in his 1998 book on the subject, adding, “Openness is now a singular, and singularly American, advantage.” Closed systems work badly. Open systems have the great advantage of getting feedback — criticism, commentary, audits, reports. The CIA claims that its programs after 9/11 worked very well and suggests that the best judge of this should be itself. The Senate report provides an alternative view with substantial evidence and argumentation. This debate will make the CIA better, not worse. And the revelations of the National Security Agency’s vast espionage will force it to refine its snooping to programs that are effective and justifiable.

Read the Washington Post column

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Topics: Fareed's Take
December 10th, 2014
04:39 PM ET

What I'm reading: Torture report highlights consequences of permanent war

By Fareed Zakaria

“Since at least 1940, when serious preparations for entry into World War II began, the United States has been more or less continually engaged in actual war or in semi-war, intensively girding itself for the next active engagement, assumed to lie just around the corner,” writes Andrew J. Bacevich in the Boston Globe. “The imperatives of national security, always said to be in peril, have taken precedence over all other considerations. In effect, war and the preparation for war have become perpetual. If doubts existed on that score, the response to 9/11, resulting in the declaration of an ambiguous and open-ended global war on terrorism, ought to have settled them.”

“One consequence of our engagement in permanent war has been to induce massive distortions, affecting apparatus of government, the nation, and the relationship between the two. The size, scope, and prerogatives accorded to the so-called intelligence community — along with the abuses detailed in the Senate report — provide only one example of the result. But so too is the popular deference accorded to those who claim to know exactly what national security requires, even as they evade responsibility for the last disaster to which expert advice gave rise.” FULL POST

December 9th, 2014
11:01 PM ET

Estonia's new kind of residency

For more Last Look, watch GPS, Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN

“What's an e-resident?” you may ask. Well, in a ceremony in Estonia, one of the world's most wired countries according to Freedom House, Edward Lucas – a senior editor at The Economist – was given the world's first "e-resident" card by President Toomas Hendrik Ilves last week.

E-residency is not the same as citizenship or legal residency, it is digital residency that gives you special powers. We caught up with Ed Lucas, the new E-Estonian, in his London office so he could show us what he could do with his new e-identity.

You can launch a company in Estonia without having to be there, and utilize the country's financial services. Insert your E-resident card into the smartcard reader attached to your computer, and you can access these services anywhere in the world as if you were physically present, replacing the need to sign things on paper. And, Lucas says, this is just the beginning.

“Just as we have competition between Visa and MasterCard and American Express, we're going to have competition between providers of digital identities. And the one that offers the best combination of security and convenience will come out on top.”

The only downside? At the moment, to get the card you do have to go to Estonia. And winter is not the most delightful season in E-stonia.

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Topics: Last Look
Did CIA go rogue?
December 9th, 2014
08:19 PM ET

Did CIA go rogue?

CNN speaks with Fareed Zakaria about the Senate Intelligence Committee report on the CIA’s use of torture that was released on Tuesday. This is an edited version of the transcript.

What stood out for to you as most significant?

I think the bombshell for me, the one key point, if you will, is that the CIA appears to have run this almost like a rogue operation, in the sense that it significantly underplayed the kind of techniques it was using. If you look at it, they were more brutal and more extensive than they reported to their superiors at the White House, to their superiors in the intelligence community, and to their overseers in Congress. And, to me, the biggest story here is that Congress was misled, the White House was misled, other senior administration officials appear to have been misled. If that's true, what you are portraying is a CIA that in some sense went rogue on this operation.

Senator John McCain commended his democratic colleague and her colleagues. This was a very political process, the Republicans have effectively withdrawn from a lot of this process. Is there a bigger downside to the upside of the transparency

I think McCain very effectively answered the specific question of the danger. Terrorists don't need excuses to go around plotting attacks on Americans. That's what they're doing full time. They've already committed themselves to acts of terrorism against the U.S. So, they don't need an excuse. FULL POST

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Topics: Terrorism
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