September 5th, 2014
12:21 AM ET

Why they still hate us, 13 years later

By Fareed Zakaria

Watching the gruesome execution videos, I felt some of the same emotions I did after 9/11. Barbarism is designed to provoke anger, and it succeeded. But in September 2001, it also made me ask, “Why do they hate us?” I tried to answer that question in an essay for Newsweek that struck a chord with readers. I reread it to see what I got right and wrong and what I’ve learned in the past 13 years.

It’s not just al-Qaeda. I began by noting that Islamic terrorism is not the isolated behavior of a handful of nihilists. There is a broader culture that has been complicit or at least unwilling to combat it. Things have changed on this front but not nearly enough.

It’s not an Islam problem but an Arab problem. In the early 2000s, Indonesia was our biggest concern because of a series of terrorist attacks there after 9/11. But over the past decade, jihad and even Islamic fundamentalism have not done well in Indonesia — the largest Muslim country in the world, larger in that sense than Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Libya and the Gulf states put together. Or look at India, which is right next door to Ayman al-Zawahiri’s headquarters in Pakistan, but very few of its 165 million Muslims are members of al-Qaeda. Zawahiri has announced a bold effort to recruit Indian Muslims, but I suspect it will fail.

Read the Washington Post column

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August 31st, 2014
03:31 PM ET

Does Iraq need a second Sunni Awakening?

By Fareed Zakaria

What are the strengths of the Islamic State? I posed this question to two deeply knowledgeable observers – a European diplomat and a former U.S. official – and the picture they painted is worrying, although not hopeless…

…The Islamic State’s military strategy is brutal but also smart. The group’s annual reports – yes, it has issued annual reports since 2012 – detail its military methods and successes to try to impress its backers and funders. The videos posted online of executions are barbaric but strategic. They are designed to sow terror in the minds of opponents, who when facing Islamic State fighters on the battlefield, now reportedly flee rather than fight.

But the most dangerous aspect of the Islamic State, this diplomat believes, is its ideological appeal. It has recruited marginalized, disaffected Sunni youths in Syria and Iraq who believe they are being ruled by apostate regimes. How to handle this challenge?

The American, a former senior administration figure, counsels against pessimism. The Islamic State could be defeated, he said, but it would take a comprehensive and sustained strategy, much like the one that undergirded the surge in Iraq…

…The two observers agreed on one central danger. The temptation to gain immediate military victories over the Islamic State could mean that the United States would end up tacitly partnering Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria. This would produce a short-term military gain against the Islamic State but it would be a long-term political disaster. “It would feed the idea that the Sunnis in Iraq and Syria are embattled, that a Crusader Christian-Shiite alliance is persecuting them and that all Sunnis must resist this alien invasion,” the European diplomat said. “The key is that Sunnis must be in the lead against IS. They must be in front of the battlefield.”

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

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August 29th, 2014
12:43 AM ET

A second Sunni Awakening?

By Fareed Zakaria

What are the strengths of the Islamic State? I posed this question to two deeply knowledgeable observers – a European diplomat and an American former official – and the picture they painted is worrying, although not hopeless. Defeating the group would require a large and sustained strategic effort from the Obama administration, but it could be done without significant numbers of U.S. ground troops.

The European diplomat, stationed in the Middle East, travels in and out of Syria and has access to regime and opposition forces. (Both sources agreed to speak only if their identities were not revealed.) He agrees with the consensus that the Islamic State has gained considerable economic and military strength in recent months. He estimates that it is making $1 million a day each in Syria and Iraq by selling oil and gas, although U.S. experts believe this number is too high in Iraq.

The Islamic State’s military strategy is brutal but also smart.

Read the Washington Post column

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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 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 11th, 2014
12:56 PM ET

And now for the good news

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

By Fareed Zakaria

Wherever you look these days, the world seems like it’s on fire.

New hot spots like Russia and Ukraine are competing with the old ones like Gaza and festering conflicts like those in Syria and Iraq – especially Iraq – are getting much worse. Even Afghanistan, which seemed in better shape than the other places, had a setback this past week.

So, is there any good news out there? In fact, there is. Some of the most important countries in the world are making remarkable progress, affecting at least 1.5 billion people. FULL POST

August 7th, 2014
10:37 PM ET

Global success stories

By Fareed Zakaria

Wherever you look these days, the world seems on fire. New hot spots like Russia-Ukraine are competing with old ones like Gaza. Festering conflicts like those in Syria and Iraq are getting worse. Even Afghanistan, which seemed in better shape than the other places, had a setback this week. Is there any good news out there?

In fact, some of the most important countries in the world are making remarkable progress, affecting at least 1.5 billion people. Let me give you the good news.

Indonesia is the largest Muslim country in the world. It has more Muslims than Egypt, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and all the Gulf states put together. It is also crucially located, in East Asia where great power politics and rivalries are heating up. Only 10 years ago, the fear was that Islamic militants were taking over the country and that it was an economic mess and an unreliable crisis spot in the region. The country has defied all skeptics and last month it took a big step forward.

Read the Washington Post column

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August 4th, 2014
11:58 AM ET

Will Putinism triumph?

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

By Fareed Zakaria

When he first came to power in 2000, Russian President Vladimir Putin seemed a smart, tough, competent manager, someone who was determined to bring stability to Russia, which was in free fall at the time, reeling from internal chaos, economic stagnation and a default in 1998. He sought to integrate Russia into the world and wanted good relations with the West, asking Washington for Russian membership in both the World Trade Organization and even in NATO.

Over time, however, Putin established order in the country and control over society. He also presided over a booming economy, as oil prices quadrupled under his watch. So he began creating a repressive system of political, economic and social control to maintain his power.

As he faced opposition, particularly in the parliamentary elections of 2011, Putin recognized that he needed more than just brute force to defeat his opponents – he needed an ideology of power. The crucial elements of Putinism are nationalism, religion, social conservatism, state capitalism, and government domination of the media. They work in tandem to sustain Putin's popularity…

…The success of Putinism ultimately will depend a great deal on the success of Putin and Russia under him. If he triumphs in Ukraine, turning it into a basket case that eventually comes begging to Moscow, he will look like a winner. If, on the other hand, Ukraine succeeds outside of Russia's orbit, leaders like Victor Orban might regret having cast their lot with a globally-isolated Siberian petro-state.

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

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Topics: Fareed's Take • Russia
July 31st, 2014
11:37 PM ET

The rise of Putinism

By Fareed Zakaria

When he came to power in 2000, Putin seemed a tough, smart, competent manager, someone who was determined to bring stability to Russia — which was reeling from internal chaos, economic stagnation and a default in 1998. He sought to integrate Russia into the world and wanted good relations with the West, asking Washington for Russian membership in the World Trade Organization and even NATO. His administration had technocrats who were Western liberals, well versed in free markets and open trade.

Over time, however, Putin established order in the country while presiding over a booming economy as oil prices quadrupled under his watch. He began creating a repressive system of political, economic and social control to maintain his power. As he faced opposition, particularly in the parliamentary elections of 2011, Putin recognized that he needed more than just brute force to defeat his opponents. He needed an ideology of power and began articulating one in speeches, enacting legislation and using his office to convey adherence to a set of values.

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July 28th, 2014
12:24 PM ET

EU the world's great no-show

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

By Fareed Zakaria

On Ukraine, Europe has always been a step behind, internally conflicted, and unwilling to assert itself clearly and quickly. Those same qualities have been on display ever since the shoot-down of Flight 17…

…It's really difficult to have your voice heard and feared when you both speak softly and carry a twig. The problem is now being described by some as European cowardice and appeasement. But it is better explained by an absence of coherence among 28 very different countries, a lack of strategic direction, and a parochial inward orientation that hopes the world's problems will go away.

The result nevertheless is a great vacuum in international life with terrible consequences.

If we look back years from now and wonder why the liberal, open rule-based international order weakened and eroded over the years, we might well note that a crucial problem was that the world's most powerful political and economic unit – the European Union – with a population and economy larger than America's, was the great no-show on the international stage.

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

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July 24th, 2014
09:28 PM ET

The EU is the world’s great no-show

By Fareed Zakaria

If Europe was trying to move Ukraine into its camp, it should have been more generous to Kiev and negotiated seriously with Moscow to assuage its concerns. Instead, Europe seemed to act almost unaware of the strategic consequences of its actions. Then when Russia began a campaign to destabilize Ukraine — which persists to this day — Europe remained a step behind, internally conflicted and unwilling to assert itself clearly and quickly. Those same qualities have been on display following the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17.

The European Union still has a chance to send a much clearer signal to Ukraine, Russia and the world. It could demand that Russia pressure the separatists to cooperate fully with the investigation of Flight 17 and allow the Ukrainian government — which Moscow recognizes — to take control of its own territory in eastern Ukraine. It could put forward a list of specific sanctions that would be implemented were those conditions not met within, say, two weeks.

Read the Washington Post column

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July 20th, 2014
05:15 PM ET

How West should handle Russia

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

By Fareed Zakaria

The actions of the pro-Russian forces, who it appears shot down a civilian airliner, might seem at first glance to be crude and unsophisticated. But in one sense they're on the cutting edge. They represent something we see all around us these days – the democratization of violence.

Let me explain.

For most of history, the side with the bigger army usually won a conflict. But over the past few decades a different pattern has been emerging – the power of asymmetrical warfare. Look at the pro-Russian separatists, or Hamas or Hezbollah or the insurgents in Afghanistan or Iraq, and you will see attacks that are cheap compared with the massive response then launched by traditional armies.  FULL POST

Topics: Fareed's Take • Russia • Ukraine
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