October 22nd, 2014
06:27 PM ET

A power shift in global oil dynamics

For more What in the World watch Sundays at 10 a.m. & 1 p.m. ET on CNN

By Global Public Square staff

Since the financial crisis of 2008, the global economy has been in slow motion. As a result, commodity prices have fallen dramatically. But there was one great puzzle – the price of oil had continued to go up, up, up.

In 2007, before the crash, oil cost $72 a barrel on average. By 2012, Brent Crude was trading at over $111 a barrel on average, a second year of historically high levels, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Well, now the trend has turned. Prices have dropped, dramatically. Last week, Brent oil, the global benchmark, fell to about $80 a barrel, nearing a four year low.

Why?

Well, today the world is awash in oil. There's too much supply and too little demand. The world's largest and second largest economies are probably the most responsible. That would be the United States and China. The China piece of this story is fascinating. FULL POST

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Topics: Energy • What in the World?
October 21st, 2014
04:39 PM ET

How big a threat does ISIS pose?

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

Fareed speaks with Admiral James Stavridis, former supreme allied commander at NATO and author of The Accidental Admiral, and Daniel Benjamin, a former coordinator for counterterrorism at the State Department and now director of The Dickey Center for International Understanding, about the threat posed by ISIS. Watch the video for the full interview.

Jim, it does feel like they've got their hands full, ISIS that is, between Iraq and Syria and all the forces that are battling them.

Stavridis: I think that this is a kind of a short-term/long-term set of constraints for us.

In the short-term, I completely agree, they've got their hands full. They've got Peshmerga coming from the north, they've got Iraqi security from the south, they've got bombing in the west. They're very busy. They're going to be in the middle of a three-front war very soon.

Long-term, there's not only, as Dan mentioned, I think ultimately the threat to the homeland – they have said they intend to fly the black flag of ISIS over the White House, I don't know how more direct they can be. But it is long-term. FULL POST

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Topics: GPS Show
October 21st, 2014
04:16 PM ET

What I'm reading: Is Libya better off without Gadhafi?

By Fareed Zakaria

“Gadhafi's death was a landmark, but three years later, it cannot be convincingly called a good one…is as much of a mess as ever,” writes Adam Taylor in the Washington Post. “In a confusing, chaotic situation, fighting is split among Arab nationalists, Islamists, regional militias and more. Recently, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates have intervened militarily, while the country's largely impotent government-in-exile was forced to hold its meetings onboard a car ferry.”

“Given such a situation, it’s not unreasonable to wonder what might have happened if Gadhafi hadn't died.”

“Erdoğan continues to insist that there is no difference in his mind between the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) and the PKK: To the Turkish President, they’re all terrorists. Evidently, however, the American position is shifting,” writes Michael Rubin in Commentary. “Obama has insisted that he approve every military operation in Syria. This is why the recent airdrop of supplies to Kobane is so important: That airdrop directly assists the PYD, YPG, and the PKK. In effect, Obama is now aiding a group that his State Department still designates a terrorist group.”

“In reality, that designation is probably long overdue for a review if not elimination.” FULL POST

October 20th, 2014
05:59 PM ET

Expert: Some good news on Ebola fight

Fareed speaks with Peter Piot, director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, who co-discovered the Ebola virus.

You worry about the fact that this could spread in the very large, very congested cities in Africa, for example, in Nigeria. And at that point, this could really spread like lightning.

Well, first of all, the three countries that are affected are being totally destabilized, not only in terms of people who are killed by Ebola, their families, the orphans that now are coming up because the parents die, but the economy has come to a standstill. People are massively dying from other diseases that are normally treatable, like malaria, or women die while giving birth because hospitals are abandoned or are full with Ebola patients.

So that’s a very, very destabilizing factor. And that's going to go in its impact beyond Ebola.

Now the big question will be, will this spread to surrounding countries? The good news is that both Nigeria and Senegal have been able to contain a number important cases. In Senegal, there wasn’t even any secondary case. In Nigeria, there were a number of people who were infected and died, but it has not given rise to an outbreak in Lagos, after all, a city of more than 20 million people, or in Port Harcourt. FULL POST

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Topics: GPS Show • Health
October 20th, 2014
10:36 AM ET

Revisiting my 'Roots'

Watch 'Roots', a CNN special, this Tuesday at 9 p.m. ET/PT.

For the past couple of months, CNN correspondents and anchors, including me, have been doing deep reporting on a topic that's rather foreign to most of us. That topic is ourselves, our family histories, where we came from. In short, our roots. It was something that didn't come naturally to me at all, but in the end it was fascinating.

You know, I'm curious about the world and about how it works and about what's going on politically and economically and technologically around the world. I'm not that curious about where I specifically come from. I'm just one guy among the billions of people on earth, and I have never until this project, never, ever looked into it in any way one way or the other. I came to America and I naturalized and now I'm an Indian-American.

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Topics: GPS Show
October 18th, 2014
11:29 PM ET

The problem with the U.S. strategy in Syria

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

By Fareed Zakaria

For any strategy to work in Syria, it needs a military component and a political one. The military one – a credible ground army – is weak. The political one is non-existent.

The crucial underlying reason for the violence in Iraq and Syria is a Sunni revolt against governments in Baghdad and Damascus that the Sunnis view as hostile, apostate regimes.

The political solution, presumably, is some kind of power-sharing arrangement in these two capitals. But this is not something that the United States can engineer, certainly not in Syria. It tried it in Iraq and, despite 176,000 troops on the ground, tens of billions of dollars, and David Petraeus' skillful leadership, the deals he brokered started unraveling within months of his departure, well before American troops had all left.

The only strategy against ISIS that has any chance of working is containment – bolstering the neighbors who are willing to fight militarily and politically, neighbors who are threatened far more than the United States is. They include, most importantly, Iraq then Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and the Gulf States. The greatest challenge is to get the Iraqi government to make serious concessions to Sunnis so they are recruited into the fight, something that has not happened so far.

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

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Topics: Fareed's Take • Syria
What's behind Boko Haram 'truce'?
October 18th, 2014
03:48 PM ET

What's behind Boko Haram 'truce'?

By David Cook, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: David Cook is an associate professor in the Department of Religion at Rice University and the author of Understanding Jihad. The views expressed are his own.

News that the Nigerian Salafi-jihadi group Boko Haram may have agreed on a truce with Nigeria’s government, after some four years of warfare, could be welcome news in one of West Africa’s most violent conflicts. But it remains to be seen whether this truce will actually materialize, whether it is merely an election ploy for Nigeria’s embattled president, Goodluck Jonathan, and most crucially whether it will bring about the release of numerous captives taken by Boko Haram during the past year.

Boko Haram has its roots in a quietist Salafi movement that was originally located in the bush of northern Nigeria that taught withdrawal from society and an extreme rejection of state-run (and Western-influenced) education – rejection not characteristic of other West African Salafi movements. After its charismatic leader Muhammad Yusuf was murdered by Nigerian security forces in July 2009, Boko Haram went underground, re-emerged under the leadership of Abubakar Shekau by 2010, and since has become the dominant force in three northeastern Nigerian states (Borno, Yobe and Adamawa).

While prior to 2014 Boko Haram was able to project force over a considerable section of northern and central Nigeria (including operations in the capital Abuja, at  the Armed Forces Command and Staff College, near Kaduna, and inside the important northern city of Kano), its tactics changed to mass slaughter at the beginning of the year. Estimates of the numbers killed during the past 10 months range up to 5,000, more than the total during all previous years combined. It is apparent that Boko Haram’s strategy has been to clear out large sections of northeastern Nigeria, attacking its usual targets: Christians, educated people at universities and colleges, government and military targets, and any foreigners in the region. Even more worrying has been the tendency towards kidnappings of women and girls. FULL POST

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Topics: Africa
October 18th, 2014
02:32 PM ET

Analyst: There’s been a lot of hyperventilation about the ISIS threat to U.S.

Fareed speaks with Admiral James Stavridis, dean of the Fletcher School at Tufts University, the former supreme allied commander of NATO, and author of The Accidental Admiral, and Daniel Benjamin, a former coordinator for counterterrorism at the State Department, about the threat posed by ISIS. Watch the full interview Sunday at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN.

Daniel Benjamin, you’ve written that you believe that the ISIS threat to the United States, and I think to the West, is being exaggerated. Why don't you explain?

Benjamin: Correct, Fareed. I think that there’s been a lot of hyperventilation about the threat. I think over the long-term, the safe havens that have been established in Iraq and in Syria do pose a significant challenge for the United States. But right now, this conflict is primarily about Sunni versus Shia. This is an insurgent force. It is not a terrorist force, first and foremost, although they use terrorist tactics locally against their enemies.

The U.S. authorities, whether from the National Counterterrorism Center or from the Department of Homeland Security or from the FBI, have said that they don't know of any plotting against the United States at home and, in fact, there's been very little reporting on any desire to carry out attacks outside of the area.

And let's remember, this is a group that has no carried out a terrorist attack outside of its immediate neighborhood, ever. And that's a major fact. FULL POST

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Topics: GPS Show
October 18th, 2014
01:18 PM ET

On GPS Sunday: Is ISIS threat exaggerated? And why are the markets rattled?

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

On GPS this Sunday: Fareed speaks with Admiral James Stavridis, dean of the Fletcher School at Tufts University, the former supreme allied commander of NATO, and author of The Accidental Admiral, and Daniel Benjamin, a former coordinator for counterterrorism at the State Department, about the threat posed by ISIS.

Next, Fareed speaks with Peter Piot, who co-discovered Ebola, about why this outbreak is so serious, and how the world should respond.

Later, what has gotten stock markets and economists worried recently? The head of the IMF says the world economy is not in a new normal, but a new mediocre. What is happening? Fareed speaks with Martin Wolf, the chief economics commentator at The Financial Times and the author of The Shift and the Shocks: What We've Learned and Still Have to Learn from the Financial Crisis, and Rana Foroohar, Time’s assistant managing editor.

“The European situation looks very bad,” Wolf says. “There's obviously a lot of bad geopolitical news. And there's also, I think, a lot of uncertainty.”

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Topics: GPS Show
October 17th, 2014
04:52 PM ET

Will airstrikes be enough against ISIS?

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

Fareed speaks with Francis Fukuyama, the American Enterprise Institute’s Danielle Pletka, Foreign Affairs Editor Gideon Rose, and Walter Russell Mead, a professor of international affairs at Bard College, about the Obama administration's strategy for countering ISIS, and whether air power will be enough.

Watch the video for the full panel discussion.

 

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Topics: GPS Show • ISIS
October 17th, 2014
04:43 PM ET

What we're reading: Teaching 5-year-olds how to code

By Fareed Zakaria

“The U.S. has managed to cultivate a tech mecca in Silicon Valley in spite of its public-school system,” writes Sam Chambers for Bloomberg. “Because the country invented many of the technologies that are the foundation for today's hottest industry, it's a magnet for the world's sharpest and most ambitious. But the popularity of computing at U.S. high schools has been on the slide in recent years. In 2009, only 19 percent of students graduated with credits in computer science, down from 25 percent in 1990, according to a report from the U.S. Department of Education.”

“The challenges facing the nations of Mediterranean Europe are hard-wired into the structure of the European Union, but Germany has made them incomparably worse,” writes Harold Meyerson in the Washington Post. “Just as the euro has enabled Germany to boost its exports by making them cheaper than they’d be if the country had a currency that reflected the strength of its economy, it has also overpriced exports from the nations of Southern Europe, which cannot devalue their currencies to reflect their economic weakness. Having forfeited the ability to adjust their monetary policy to boost their economies, the Mediterranean nations have also been blocked from stimulating their economies fiscally by the European Union’s prohibition of budget deficits that exceed 3 percent of nations’ gross domestic products. Historically, those budget limits have been amended or waived during downturns, but German Chancellor Angela Merkel has continually insisted that the union impose austerity on nations whose economies required the very opposite: public works projects to boost employment and consumption, not to mention political stability.”

October 16th, 2014
07:20 PM ET

Obama needs to dial back his Syria strategy

By Fareed Zakaria

A U.S. strategy of escalating airstrikes in Syria — even if coupled with ground forces — would wish that the weakest and most disorganized forces in the country somehow become the strongest, first defeating the Islamic State, then the Assad regime, all while fighting off Jabhat al-Nusra and Khorasan. The chance that all this will happen is remote. Far more likely, heavy bombings in Syria will produce chaos and instability on the ground, further destroying Syria and promoting the free-for-all in which jihadi groups thrive.

Critics are sure this policy would have been easy three years ago, when the opposition to Assad was more secular and democratic. This is a fantasy. It’s true that the demonstrations against the Assad regime in the initial months seemed to be carried out by more secular and liberal people. This was also true in Libya and Egypt. But over time, more organized, passionate and religious forces triumphed. This is a familiar pattern in revolutions — including the French, Russian and Iranian. They are begun by liberals and taken over by radicals.

Read the Washington Post column

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Topics: Fareed's Take
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