By Michael Mazza, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Michael Mazza is a research fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. The views expressed are his own.
It’s difficult to know precisely what was behind China’s decision to institute an East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) at the weekend. Chinese claims to the contrary, it is clearly meant to up the pressure on Japan in the two countries’ dispute over the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands, over which the ADIZ extends. Internal Chinese political dynamics may also be at work here; President Xi Jinping, for example, must be benefitting from taking a strong stance vis-à-vis Japan. But whatever the reason for the creation of the ADIZ at this time, Beijing may ultimately regret it – and not only because it increases the likelihood of a violent incident over the East China Sea.
First off, the move needlessly antagonizes Taiwan and South Korea. The fact is that it puts a wrinkle into recently stable cross-Strait relations, as Taiwan also claims sovereignty over the Senkakus (known as the Diaoyutai in Taiwan), and it now has an overlapping ADIZ with the mainland.
The ADIZ is even more surprising in the context of China-South Korea relations, which have looked particularly warm of late. Seoul’s quarrels with Japan over history have been at their worst in recent months, and Beijing has effectively stoked that fire. But China’s new ADIZ overlaps with South Korea’s; covers the disputed Socotra Rock (which both countries claim as within their own exclusive economic zone); and may extend a bit too close for comfort to Jeju Island, where South Korea is building a major naval base. In one fell swoop, Beijing has reminded Seoul that South Korea has more in common with Japan than it normally likes to admit.
By Katherine Zimmerman, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Katherine Zimmerman is a senior analyst at the American Enterprise Institute’s Critical Threats Project, and the author of the recently released report The Al Qaeda Network: A New Framework for Defining the Enemy. The views expressed are her own.
The Obama administration counts Somalia as a success story, but the rising death toll from al-Shabaab’s bloody attack on Nairobi’s Westgate mall is a tragic reminder that U.S. strategy against al Qaeda, claims of success notwithstanding, is not working.
Al-Shabaab no longer controls vast expanses of territory as it once did, but reports of its demise are greatly exaggerated. Dismissed too often as a Somali nuisance, al-Shabaab is more than a local militia; it is part of the growing al Qaeda global network.
The Westgate mall attack is the deadliest terrorist attack in Kenya since al Qaeda’s 1998 truck bombing of the U.S. embassy in Nairobi. Reminiscent of the 2008 Mumbai attack that killed 164, the militants reportedly conducted a two-pronged assault with grenades and small arms, attacking separate floors. As of this writing, they continue to hold an unknown number of hostages. Among the scores of dead are Canadians, Britons, and Frenchmen. Four Americans have been listed as among the wounded.
"Fareed Zakaria GPS," Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN
By Fareed Zakaria
Last March, President Barack Obama spoke about how Syria’s use of chemical weapons would be a “game-changer.” It has, except not quite in the sense that he meant. It has been an event that has confused and confounded the Obama administration. Whatever your views on the larger issues, it’s hard not to conclude that the administration’s handling of Syria over the last year has been a case study in how not to do foreign policy.
The president started out with an understanding that the Syrian conflict is a messy sectarian struggle that cannot be influenced easily by American military intervention. He was disciplined in resisting calls to jump into a cauldron. But from the start he confused and undermined this policy with loose rhetoric, perhaps egged on by some of his advisors and critics to "do something."
So he announced just over two years ago that President Bashar al-Assad of Syria had to go. Now a pundit can engage in grandiose speech. The president of the United States should make declarations like this only if he has some strategy to actually achieve them. He did not.
Watch the full interview on "Fareed Zakaria GPS," this Sunday at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN
Fareed speaks with Peter Beinart, a senior political writer with the Daily Beast, and Bret Stephens, the Pulitzer Prize winning foreign affairs columnist for the Wall Street Journal, about the developments in Egypt.
So, Bret, when you look at what's going on in Egypt, you now have a military coup that it's very difficult to make the case it was a soft coup. And I understand the niceties of the American government not calling it that, but you had the military take over a democratically elected government. You now have the military appointing 17 out of 19 generals as governors. How should we think about this?
Stephens: Look, first of all, it's a problem with no good solutions. You have in Egyptian politics a kind of a zero-sum game. I mean, efforts by Senators McCain and Graham, by the administration itself to try to finesse a power sharing agreement between the military and the Brotherhood, have clearly failed. The Brotherhood aims to topple the military; the military understands that it's in a kind of death match with the Brotherhood and is going to exert itself forcefully, and as we've seen this week, violently on the Brotherhood to stop them.
The question is, can we help? Can we show the military that it’s in their own interests to have a political process that if it doesn’t quite include the Brotherhood, doesn’t suppress them as violently. Because the government, especially General Sisi, will not be doing themselves favors with the rest of the Arab world – certainly not with Europe and the United States – if protesters continue to be massacred in the streets. So how do you soften those blows?
By David Meyers, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: David Meyers worked in the Bush White House from 2006 to 2009, and later for Senator Mitch McConnell. His work has appeared in the Jerusalem Post, The Washington Times and The Diplomat. The views expressed are his own.
Reports last week suggested U.S. President Barack Obama might be considering cancelling an upcoming summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin over Moscow’s handling of the Edward Snowden saga. But while President Obama would be right in cancelling the meeting, he should do so regardless of the outcome of Snowden’s asylum application. After all, Putin has given him plenty of reasons to do so already.
For years, the Russian president turned prime minister turned president again has been waging an aggressive attack against freedom and democracy in Russia. He's imprisoned numerous law-abiding opposition figures, rigged elections, and crushed meaningful public dissent. He's also persecuted minority groups, including signing into law a troubling vague and broad law designating “homosexual propaganda” as pornography, and has presided over a system where the wealthy can increasingly literally get away with murder.
At the same time, Putin has helped Bashar al-Assad continue the slaughter in Syria (a conflict that has already claimed more than 100,000 lives), and shielded Iran as it races towards a nuclear weapon and continues to back terrorism.
By Bruce Stokes, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Bruce Stokes is director of global economic attitudes at the Pew Research Center. The views expressed are his own.
In the fifth year of the Obama presidency the United States’ image remains strong around the world compared with the last years of the administration of President George W. Bush. Still, pro-America sentiment is slipping.
The decline is in no way comparable to the collapse of U.S. standing in the first decade of this century. But the “Obama bounce” in the global stature of the United States experienced in 2009 is clearly a thing of the past. And this gradual erosion of support is, in part, due to the diminishing popularity of U.S. President Barack Obama himself in some nations.
In 28 of 38 nations, half or more of those surveyed express a favorable opinion of the U.S., according to a new poll by the Pew Research Center. This includes more than half those surveyed in seven of eight European countries, including three quarters in Italy, two thirds in Poland and 64 percent in France. Only in Greece does just 39 percent of the public say they have a favorable view of Uncle Sam.
By Ali Vaez, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Ali Vaez is the International Crisis Group’s senior Iran analyst. The views expressed are the writer’s own.
The history of Iran-U.S. relations is littered with missed opportunities. The Obama administration should make sure that the victory of a moderate president in Iran doesn’t become another one.
Sending a letter of congratulation to the new president on his inauguration day – August 3 – would be a positive first step. Conservatives in Tehran will have to bite their tongues, remembering Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s congratulatory note to Obama in 2009. Republicans in the U.S. Congress, meanwhile, will have a hard time accusing the president of somehow endorsing Iran’s faulty electoral process, given that most U.S. allies in that region don’t even hold elections.
But more important than recognizing the legitimacy of a political process in which well over half of Iran’s population participated is signaling to Iran’s leadership that Washington is willing to find some sort of common ground moving forward. This could, for example, include reversing the U.S. objection to Iran attending the Geneva 2 conference on the future of Syria, a move that could be justified by Tehran’s new political face.
By Lucian Kim, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Lucian Kim is a journalist who was based in Russia for eight years and chronicled the Moscow protest movement on his blog at luciankim.com. The views expressed are his own.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s euphoria over securing Russia’s joint sponsorship of a Syrian peace conference didn’t last very long. Soon after Kerry’s triumphant visit to Moscow in May, reports surfaced that Russia had made another weapons shipment to beleaguered Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad.
Russia’s open support for the regime in Damascus didn’t stop Barack Obama from trying yet again to get President Vladimir Putin on board at the G8 summit in Northern Ireland this week. The Obama administration is being either naive or delusional in its belief that Russia will ever pull in the same direction over Syria. Putin will back al-Assad to the bitter end.
By Michael O’Hanlon, Special to CNN
Michael O’Hanlon is senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, author of The Wounded Giant: America’s Armed Forces in an Age of Austerity and a former colleague at Brookings of incoming National Security Advisor Susan Rice. The views expressed are his own.
Susan Rice, who President Barack Obama today named his new national security advisor, will do well in her new role. I am confident of that. She will of course face challenges, often on problems where there are no good or easy answers – starting with Syria and Iran. She will be helping a president who is leading a war-weary nation with a nearly trillion dollar deficit and numerous domestic woes that compete for his time and attention, as well as the country’s resources. And the partisan problems in Washington won’t make life any easier.
But in taking on all of this, Rice has a number of strengths. Some are well known – her experience at the United Nations, her expertise on handling Iran and North Korea sanctions issues there (and thus working with Europeans, Russians, Chinese, and others on such problems), her previous service in government. To me, however, one set of strengths stands out as a major and often underappreciated aspect of Rice’s character and personality – the ability to build and lead a team.
‘Beyond the Manhunts: How to Stop Terror’ – a GPS special premieres 10 a.m. & 1 p.m. ET this Sunday
By Jose A. Rodriguez, Jr., Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Jose A. Rodriguez, Jr. is the former chief of the CIA's Counterterrorism Center and head of the National Clandestine Service and author of Hard Measures. The views expressed are his own.
When I first published my memoir Hard Measures, How Aggressive CIA Actions After 9/11 Saved American Lives, a year ago, I got lots of requests to participate in documentaries. I turned most of them down. But I agreed to be interviewed for Greg Barker’s Manhunt because of a promise he made – and kept – to tell the story using only the voices of the people involved in the search for Osama bin Laden. Too many filmmakers and journalists come to this story with their own agenda. They arrive with all the answers and only seek snippets of quotes to bolster the conclusions they have previously made.
Barker took another approach and let the men and particularly the women of the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center explain their reasoning and actions. Viewers hear directly from those who were central to raising the alarm about bin Laden and long before most Americans had heard of him – and those who contributed to bringing down the al Qaeda leader and most of his henchmen.
Reasonable people can and do disagree about the tactics we employed. But no one should doubt the sincerity and motivations of these intelligence officers. Manhunt does an excellent job of illuminating not only the meticulous work done by CIA officers, but also the pressure we all felt to prevent follow-on attacks.
By François Godement, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: François Godement is a senior policy fellow and head of the China program at the European Council on Foreign Relations. The views expressed are his own.
This week’s National People's Congress will complete China’s once-in-a decade leadership change, with Xi Jinping becoming the country’s new head of state. China's partners, and above all Americans, want a China that is a predictable and reliable. After all, huge business interests require stable relations with China. And there is no doubt, China is becoming more powerful – it is not only present in most parts of the world, but has also become a determining factor in the international arena. We would all therefore love to see Mr Xi as a Chinese Gorbachev. But getting to know Xi’s real personality, and his likely style of governing, feels like Kremlinology. And what is emerging is worrying.
Xi is reputedly a charmer with an engaging and easygoing style. His wife is a famous singer, his daughter is quietly studying at Harvard. It is reported that he is even reluctant to embrace a luxurious lifestyle (although this does not appear to prevent some of his relatives from doing so). In public, Xi refrains from making controversial statements – an exception of course being the 2009 remark about the "full stomach" and the "constant finger pointing of Westerners" during a trip to Mexico.