August 19th, 2014
11:31 AM ET

U.S. living in the past over Cuba

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

By Global Public Square staff

Remember last December when President Barack Obama shook hands with Cuban President Raúl Castro at Nelson Mandela's memorial service, and got a lot of criticism for it? In truth it didn't signal any sort of a real rapprochement between the United States and Cuba. The Cuban rapprochement of note is a different one – with Vladimir Putin, who recently made the long trip to Havana.

While there, Putin forgave about $32 billion worth of debt that Cuba had accrued from the former Soviet Union decades ago and that Russia had inherited – that's 90 percent of Cuba's outstanding debt to Moscow.

In addition, Russian officials recently confirmed that Cuba has also provisionally agreed to reopen a spy post. This eavesdropping facility, 150 miles off the coast of Florida, allowed Russia to spy on the United States until it closed in 2001. (Putin denied claims that he's reopening the listening post in Cuba, but many experts doubt his denial).

What in the world is going on? FULL POST

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Topics: Cuba • What in the World?
How Russia sees Ukraine conflict
August 18th, 2014
04:58 PM ET

How Russia sees Ukraine conflict

By Tatiana Darie

Tatiana Darie, a recent intern with GPS, speaks with Russian journalist Ilya Barabanov, special correspondent for Kommersant and winner of the Peter Mackler Award for Courageous & Ethical Journalism. The views expressed are his own.

You’ve been reporting from eastern Ukraine and along the Ukraine-Russia border. What do Russians think is going on there?

Actually, there’s a civil war going on at the moment, I think that would be an appropriate description of what is happening there right now. At the moment, the Ukrainian army is continuing its anti-terrorist operation, which was launched in April. These past days they have been getting closer to Luhansk and Donetsk.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, and many in the West are convinced, that this is actually a conflict between Ukraine and Russia.

You know, we can have a long discussion about what kind of support Russia is providing to the armies of these self-proclaimed republics in eastern Ukraine, but there’s a clear terminology for this. And while the Russian army isn’t officially taking part in this conflict, I think it’s not worth talking about a Russia-Ukraine conflict. I’ve read some articles published by some international human rights and humanitarian organizations such as the Red Cross, and to my understanding, they have the same assessment of the situation. Obviously, Russia is offering political support to these militias in Luhansk and Donetsk, but that doesn’t change the facts on the ground. We're talking about an armed conflict on Ukrainian territory in which Russia is not, at least officially, participating.

You’ve talked toboth locals and rebels in the region. What have you found? What are they fighting for?

I think this story had several phases. The first phase began last spring, right after the events in Kiev, around April, when they took over public buildings in Donetsk and Luhansk. Back then, this looked like a political strategy that the family and supporters of the fugitive former President Viktor Yanukovych used, to take control of the situation in the country.

The second phase occurred in early May after the events in Odessa, just ahead of the so-called referendum in Donbass and right after the launch of the Ukrainian army’s anti-terrorist operation. Then it appeared that these republics were receiving some kind of support – some people voted in the referendum and a good amount of the people, though we cannot know for sure how many, joined the separatist forces. FULL POST

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Topics: Russia • Ukraine
August 18th, 2014
11:03 AM ET

What Middle East moderates?

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

By Fareed Zakaria

Over the last decade, the United States helped organize Iraq's “moderates” – the Shiite-dominated government – gave them tens of billions of dollars in aid and supplied and trained their army. But, it turned out, the moderates weren't that moderate and they turned authoritarian and sectarian. Sunni opposition movements grew and jihadi opposition groups, like ISIS, gained tacit or active support from the population.

This is a familiar pattern throughout the region.

For decades now, American foreign policy in the Middle East has been to support “moderates.” Great, the only problem is there are actually very few moderates. The Arab world is going through a bitter, sectarian struggle that is, “carrying the Islamic world back to the dark ages,” says Turkey’s President Abdullah Gul. In these circumstances moderates either become extremists or they lose out in the brutal power struggles of the day. Look at Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Libya and the Palestinian territories. FULL POST

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Topics: Fareed's Take • GPS Show
August 16th, 2014
07:08 PM ET

Should U.S. have intervened in Syria?

Fareed speaks with Shadi Hamid, a fellow at the Brookings Institution's Center for Middle East Policy and the author of Temptations of Power: Islamists and Illiberal Democracy in a New Middle East, about the rise of ISIS. Watch the full interview on "Fareed Zakaria GPS," this Sunday at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN.

You see Syria as much more central here, correct?

Yes. I mean the rise of ISIS is tied more to the Syrian civil war. And Bashar al-Assad is really the root cause of the problem, in many ways. You had peaceful protesters in 2011. They were being shot down. And then more and more Syrians took up arms.

We had an opportunity early on, in early 2012, to intervene militarily in Syria. And many of us were calling for that, not just arming the so-called moderate rebels, but targeted air strikes, the creation of safe zones. That what was necessary then. And many observers warned the Obama administration, if you don't do more now, this is going to come to haunt you in the future, that the radicals are going to rise, they're going to gain ground. And that's precisely what's happened now.

And I think in some ways, it's too late. Even if we had the ideal president doing the ideal list of things, so much damage has been done over the last three years. And this is why sometimes, if you keep on waiting, if you keep on dithering, the costs are tremendous.

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Topics: GPS Show
August 16th, 2014
06:42 PM ET

On GPS Sunday: How should U.S. respond to ISIS threat? And, a path to cheap nuclear fuel?

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

On GPS this Sunday: First, Fareed offers his take on the Middle East – and why one of the key tenets of U.S. foreign policy in the region has been fundamentally misguided.

Then, he convenes a panel of leading analysts including Emma Sky, former chief political adviser to the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq and author of the forthcoming book Dove Among Hawks: a Memoir of High Hopes and Missed Opportunities, Council on Foreign Relations President Richard Haass, Shadi Hamid, a fellow at the Brookings Institution's Center for Middle East Policy, and David Kilcullen, a former Australian Army officer and counter-insurgency expert who served as senior adviser to U.S. General David Petraeus during the Iraq War.

Also, if you think relations between the United States and Russia are rough right now, just wait.  Russia intends to soon have a spy station in Cuba again. What in the world?

And, a cheap nuclear power plant that uses nuclear waste as its fuel. Sound like a pipe-dream? Fareed will introduce you to someone who says that she can make it a reality.

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Topics: GPS Show
August 14th, 2014
11:06 PM ET

The fantasy of Middle Eastern moderates

By Fareed Zakaria

For decades, U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East has been to support “moderates.” The problem is that there are actually very few of them. The Arab world is going through a bitter, sectarian struggle that is “carrying the Islamic world back to the Dark Ages,” said Turkish President Abdullah Gul. In these circumstances, moderates either become extremists or they lose out in the brutal power struggles of the day. Look at Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Libya and the Palestinian territories.

The Middle East has been trapped for decades between repressive dictatorships and illiberal opposition groups — between Hosni Mubarak and al-Qaeda — leaving little space in between. The dictators try to shut down all opposition movements, and the ones that survive are vengeful, religious and violent. There was an opening for moderates after the Arab Spring in 2011 and 2012, but it rapidly closed. In Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood had a chance to govern inclusively, but it refused. Without waiting for vindication at the polls, Egypt’s old dictatorship rose up and banned and jailed the Brotherhood and other opposition forces. In Bahrain, the old ruling class is following the example of the Egyptian regime, while the Saudi monarchy funds the return to repression throughout the region. All of this leads to an underground and violent opposition. “Because of the culture of impunity [from the government], there is a new culture of revenge” on the street, Said Yousif al-Muhafda, head of documentation at the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, told Al-Monitor, a news and analysis Web site.

Read the Washington Post column

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Topics: Fareed's Take • Middle East
August 14th, 2014
05:09 PM ET

What I'm reading: What Silicon Valley’s favorite word says about tech priorities

By Fareed Zakaria

"Silicon Valley isn't the only jargon culprit in the corporate world, of course. But tech's semantic tics are more meaningful, because they dictate what kinds of innovations are rewarded and financed," writes Kevin Roose in New York magazine. "Words like 'functional' and 'compatible' were important in the early days of Silicon Valley, when engineers were trying to bring order to messy technological infrastructure. But in the post-iPhone world, it's no longer enough to make something work well; it has to feel good, too. This isn't just a matter of taste—it's a political shift. Emphasizing form over function is a way for designers, who typically sit lower on the Silicon Valley totem pole than their engineering counterparts, to remind executives that their opinions matter.

"The liberal assumptions embedded in American foreign policy put the U.S. at odds with China, and also heighten Beijing's mistrust of Washington's intentions and ambitions. The spiral of animosity that threatens to culminate in a confrontation between the two countries is in large part a creation of American policy," writes Christopher Layne in the Financial Times.

"As China's rises, Washington has a last clear chance to avoid the looming Sino-American conflict. This would entail making real concessions on Taiwan and on China's territorial claims in the East and South China Seas. It would also involve a commitment that Washington would not interfere in China's internal affairs.

"America's political culture – based on exceptionalism, liberal ideology, and openness – is a big obstacle to coming to terms with a resurgent China. So is the fact that the foreign-policy elite remains wedded to American primacy, and refuses to accept that this will inevitably slip away because of the relative decline of U.S. power."



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Topics: Uncategorized
NATO’s crucial summit
August 14th, 2014
03:31 PM ET

NATO’s crucial summit

By F. Stephen Larrabee and Ian J. Brzezinski, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: F. Stephen Larrabee holds the Distinguished Chair in European Security, Emeritus, at the nonprofit, nonpartisan RAND Corporation and served on the National Security Council staff in the Carter administration. Ian Brzezinski is a resident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council and was Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for European and NATO Policy in the administration of George W. Bush. The views expressed are their own.

Just weeks before its scheduled September 4 summit in Wales, NATO is bogged down in bureaucratic wrangling and losing important momentum. Without firm intervention and leadership from the White House, the summit is unlikely to provide the far-reaching strategic vision and initiative that is badly needed in the face of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s attempt to destabilize Ukraine.

To its credit, the Obama administration has pressed its European Allies to do more to reverse the decline of their defense capabilities. Many of Washington’s proposals – including reanimating the goal that alliance members should spend two percent or more of GDP on defense, hold more assertive exercises, make command structure modifications and carry out more realistic contingency planning – are sensible and point the alliance in the right direction. But without a more forceful engagement from President Obama, many of them may never be implemented.

Moreover, there is a real danger that before the summit opens, Putin may succumb to strong nationalist pressures to send Russian regular forces into eastern Ukraine, presenting NATO with another fait accompli on top of its occupation of Crimea. FULL POST

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Topics: NATO
Why U.S. should support independence for Kurds
August 14th, 2014
10:51 AM ET

Why U.S. should support independence for Kurds

By Sen. Conrad Burns (Ret.), Special to CNN

Editor's note: Conrad Burns was a U.S. senator for Montana from 1989 to 2007. The views expressed are his own.

In his first inaugural address, Ronald Reagan laid out his vision for re-establishing the United States as an "exemplar of freedom and a beacon of hope for those who do not now have freedom." This was hardly a new concept in 1981, yet as President Reagan assumed the presidency, the notion that the United States could, and should, serve as a guiding light to help guide peoples and nations in their quest for freedom was much in need of revival.

Today, as headlines are dominated by the growing threat posed by the extremists of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria to Iraq's Kurdish minority and the region, the United States faces a similar crisis of character.

America still serves as a guiding light against the stark backdrop of an increasingly troubled world, but I often wonder if the American people are fully aware of just how brightly this beacon shines or the effect it has on people from all walks of life, from every corner of the globe. It is time we as a nation concentrated our efforts on leading by example and renewing our commitment to helping those that continue to fight for freedom and the right to self-determination. FULL POST

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Topics: Iraq
Why U.S. is wary about intervening in Syria
August 14th, 2014
10:38 AM ET

Why U.S. is wary about intervening in Syria

CNN speaks with Fareed about the latest developments in Iraq and U.S. involvement in the region. This is an edited version of the transcript.

So, aren't these boots on the ground in Iraq? 

You know, they are boots on the ground. But I think in a way that's a kind of weird shorthand that we’ve developed to try to understand whether or not this is an open-ended mission. The really important question is, what is the nature of the mission? You go into a country and say we are going to save the country, restore it to its normal functioning, nation build – those are vast open-ended missions. It's not clear how you would do them. It's not clear how you would ever know you had succeeded.

Here, you have a very defined mission. The idea is to try to save these Yazidis, to perhaps bolster the Peshmerga, the Kurdish forces. That seems to me pretty doable. There is a great danger, and I understand it, a wariness about getting more involved in Iraq. But you don't slip down every slippery slope.

Once they come off the mountaintop, what do we do for the Yazidis?

Where they will go is probably the ones that want to leave will go into Kurdistan, the Kurdish part of Iraq, which is very tolerant, but also very secure, and will become increasingly secure because we are now supplying the Kurdish forces with arms.

Remember, because these guys are an autonomous part of Iraq, the United States wouldn't sell them weaponry, wouldn't give them weaponry, because the idea was that that's violating the central government. You know, we're meant to be giving money to the Iraqi army, not to this group of militias.  Well, we have gotten over that now. The United States is helping the Kurdish Peshmerga. The Yazidis will go there. That's a secure, safe, tolerant place and can be defended.  FULL POST

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Topics: Iraq • Syria
Has Colombia's time come?
August 13th, 2014
02:45 PM ET

Has Colombia's time come?

By Virginia M. Bouvier, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Virginia M. Bouvier is senior program officer for Latin America at the U.S. Institute of Peace and editor of Colombia: Building Peace in a Time of War. The views expressed are the author’s own. 

With violence exploding in Gaza, airstrikes in Iraq, armed groups terrorizing Nigeria, Syrian extremism spilling into Lebanon, and the return of war in Sudan, the cause of peace can seem daunting. Closer to home, however, there is cause for hope.

Prospects for peace in Colombia are looking better than they have in years. If successful, the current peace process would put an end to an internal armed conflict that has lasted half a century. The conflict has taken the lives of some 200,000 Colombians, forcibly displaced 6 million more (granting Colombia the dubious honor of world record holder for the highest number of displaced), and destroyed countless livelihoods. Peace in Colombia would open a new era for growth and prosperity and contribute to regional stability.

As President Juan Manuel Santos noted in his inaugural speech on August 7, “Colombia’s time has come.”

During his first term in office, Santos opened peace talks with the Colombian Revolutionary Armed Forces (FARC-EP), and earlier this year launched exploratory conversations for peace talks with the National Liberation Army (ELN), Colombia’s second largest armed insurgent group. His campaign for re-election was widely portrayed as a referendum on the peace process, and his victory in June gives him a mandate to finish what he started.


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Topics: Latin America
Middle East set for a great sorting?
August 12th, 2014
10:55 PM ET

Middle East set for a great sorting?

CNN speaks with Fareed Zakaria about Iraqi President Fuad Masum's decision to nominate a new Prime Minister on Monday. This is an edited version of the interview.

Nuri al-Maliki, the current Iraqi prime minister, may not go quietly. He may try to use the forces loyal to him to effectively engage in some sort of coup. What's your analysis?

My own sense is that he won't do that. There are many, many forces within the Iraqi political system that would be very strongly opposed to them. Most importantly, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the chief Shiite cleric of Iraq, has always been clear that Iraq needs to be on a democratic path. You remember early on, when we were watching Iraqi politics begin, Sistani was very clear on the need for elections, for democracy. So I would suspect that he would come out strongly opposed to this. And in that case, al-Maliki's support would collapse.

Indeed, Al-Maliki's support has largely collapsed. What he’s now holding onto is the thin reed that says technically he was meant to be asked first because he's the leader of the largest bloc. That's an academic issue because his bloc, the support, has disintegrated. I would suspect he might mount some kind of legal challenge, but he won’t try to use his position as commander in chief to do what you rightly say would be effectively a military coup.

So let's see what he does in the next few days. Haider al-Abadi, the nominee to be prime minister, is a Shiite. Can he unite the country? There's a Kurdish new president. There's a Sunni speaker. Can this group effectively take Iraq to a position that all of us had hoped it would be at, but clearly has not reached.

That's the million dollar question because what we have focused a lot on is the fact that al-Maliki is the bad guy, he didn't reach out to the Sunnis and, you know, we need change. And that's true. Al-Maliki has been a very sectarian and also somewhat incompetent leader. But there’s a larger sectarian dynamic in Iraq, which is to say al-Abadi is himself a Shiite from the same party that al-Maliki is from. The party is a pretty tough, hard line party. These guys spent most of their time in Iran before, in exile. So they're often somewhat pro-Iranian. They're pretty tough in terms of viewing themselves as Shia first and Iraqi second.

The other positions in the government aren't very important – the speaker and the deputy speaker and all these positions. So what we've seen in the past is, you have a lot of personalities and you have the right ethnic mix, but it doesn't matter because the dynamic of the system is making the Shiite politicians act more sectarian. That makes the Sunnis act more sectarian. The Kurds essentially trying to retain their independence. So I'm not very hopeful.

I think that it might be better. But you have a sectarian dynamic at work in Iraq. If you just look at the people who are guarding these various groups, it's the Shiite soldiers who are essentially guarding the Shiites. The Sunnis are more in the Sunni areas. Even the army, in other words, has fragmented into kind of sectarian units.

So when all is said and done, what Joe Biden and others recommended years ago – some sort of partition if you will of Iraq into a Sunni area, a Shiite area, a Kurdish area – may be the best solution when all is said and done.

I think there's a lot of wisdom there. I think people do need to take a second look at what Joe Biden was suggesting, which was, by the way, to be fair to him, a loose federation. He always understood you couldn't really partition as cleanly because, as you know, the middle of the country, which would be the sort of Sunni land, is actually full of Shias. Baghdad has lots of Shias in it.

So how would you do it? Historically, the way these happen is you have a certain amount of ethnic cleansing. In other words, the Sunni leave the Shia areas. The Kurds are, in any case, pretty much sealed. Maybe there's going to be a great sorting out in the Middle East. It's very sad to see. But think about what's happening. Hundreds of thousands of Christians have already left Iraq, even before these latest strategies. You've seen Christians flee Syria. You're seeing Kurds flee Syria. You're seeing the Sunnis flee out of Shia areas.

In other words, what you're seeing is the end of any kind of polyglot, multicultural Middle East. And what you're seeing is a very stark division where people are moving into their ethnic and religious corners.

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Topics: Iraq
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