Why Qatar could be key to a Gaza ceasefire
July 24th, 2014
11:40 AM ET

Why Qatar could be key to a Gaza ceasefire

By Sultan Barakat, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Sultan Barakat is director of research at the Brookings Doha Center and Senior Fellow at the Brookings Center for Middle East Policy. The views expressed are the writer’s own.

Egypt has long been viewed as a key player in the Middle East peace process – a major Arab country willing to engage with Israel while endeavoring, however begrudgingly, to advance the interests of the Palestinian people. But as the Israeli military campaign on the Gaza strip continues, it is becoming increasingly clear that Egypt’s new government might not be in a position to broker a ceasefire this time around. Indeed, Western powers might find themselves having to look for help from a different partner: Qatar.

Under President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, Egypt has proven more adept at securing the backing of politicians and diplomats in Tel Aviv, Washington and New York for a peace initiative than it has at reaching out to Palestinians. This is especially the case as far as the leaders of Hamas in Gaza are concerned, many of whom only learned of the ceasefire proposal through media reports.

And while Hamas rejected the agreement “in its current form,” Cairo has shown seemingly little interest in genuinely appreciating Hamas’ take on the causes of the conflict or modifying the terms of the proposed ceasefire to address the longer term issues. In fact, Egypt under el-Sisi has attacked the Islamist group as part of its relentless crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood, with former Brotherhood President Mohamed Morsy removed from power and put on trial, hundreds of his supporters killed, and thousands more imprisoned. Over the past year, Hamas has been vilified in both official statements and public opinion, with its members banned from Egyptian soil, the Rafah border crossing between the two countries effectively shut, and hundreds of smuggling tunnels destroyed – blocking the supply of food, fuel, construction material and medicine along with weapons.  FULL POST

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Topics: Egypt • Israel • Middle East • Palestinian Authority
July 23rd, 2014
06:05 PM ET

What I'm reading: Crossing borders

By Fareed Zakaria

“It is one thing for Republicans to decide that they will not be the party of immigration reform, but it is another to decide that they will be the anti-immigration party,” writes Amy Davidson in the New Yorker. “If they do, they will define themselves in opposition to America’s future and, incidentally, to its past – one built by newcomers like the gold prospector from Canada who, in 1876, sailed on a ship around South America and staked a claim that became the town of Oracle. In the short term, there may be benefits, in the form of an energized base, but enjoying them requires a distinct lack of shame.”

“But to understand the root of Hamas's current frustration, one must look not northeast from Gaza, but west. The epicenter of Hamas's growing desperation lies in the policies of the new Egyptian government,” writes Hussein Ibish in Foreign Policy.

“Following the ouster of former Muslim Brotherhood President Mohamed Morsi, the Egyptian military swept into Sinai and the border area with Gaza. They reportedly killed up to two dozen Hamas operatives in Sinai whom they believed were operating in cahoots with insurgent groups, and virtually shut down Hamas's smuggling tunnel network. In the ensuing weeks, as the new government of Abdel Fattah el-Sisi cracked down on its opponents, it treated Hamas as an unindicted co-conspirator in a terrorist campaign in Egypt being conducted by the extremist group Ansar Beit al-Maqdis and, according to the government, the Muslim Brotherhood itself. The Egyptian government sees itself as being at war with the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. Hamas is the Brotherhood group in Palestine. The relationship between Egypt and Hamas is therefore distinctly unfriendly, if not outright hostile.” FULL POST

July 23rd, 2014
02:25 PM ET

Video game, movie ruffling dictatorial feathers

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

To add to the world's tumult, the North Korean government threatened military action last month over an upcoming Seth Rogen and James Franco movie. It's about television personalities recruited to assassinate Kim Jong Un during an interview. Recently, Pyongyang wrote a letter of complaint to the White House requesting that the movie, which they deemed to be "an act of war," be shut down.

While this seems in keeping with Kim Jong Un's usual antics, he isn’t the only dictator to throw this kind of tantrum.

Remember Manuel Noriega, the former Panamanian strongman? He's suing the makers of the videogame "Call of Duty: Black Ops II" from his Panamanian prison cell.

Noriega alleges in his lawsuit that the game portrays him as "a kidnapper, murderer and enemy of the state." Perhaps the videogame designers should have had his character stick to drug trafficking, racketeering and money laundering – crimes he was convicted of in the United States and France.

Oh, and he was also convicted of murder in Panama.

One would think Kim Jong Un has more important things to worry about than Hollywood comedies. We guess Noriega in his prison cell has more time on his hands.

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Topics: Last Look
Time to stand with girls demanding change
July 23rd, 2014
11:05 AM ET

Time to stand with girls demanding change

By Melissa Hillebrenner, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Melissa Hillebrenner is the director of the United Nations Foundation’s Girl Up campaign. The views expressed are her own.

Thursday marks 100 days since more than 200 schoolgirls were abducted from their families and community in northeast Nigeria, a reminder of the horrors and hardships many girls face when trying to get an education. It’s difficult for many of us to imagine what it would be like to be taken from a place that is supposed to be safe. Sadly, this situation is not unique to Nigeria.

In too many communities around the world, girls are criticized for going to school or denied their right to education completely. Worldwide, more than 60 million girls of primary and secondary school age are not in school.

I just returned from a trip to Guatemala, where I met Teresa Vivia, an engaging 16 year-old who lives in the town of Santa Maria Chiquimula. Vivia’s parents both passed away, and she lives with her sister-in-law. She wants to go to school, but had to stop going so she could take care of her nephews and the house.

Lack of access to education is just one barrier facing girls like Teresa Vivia. According to data that UNICEF released earlier this week, "more than 700 million women alive today were married as children. More than 1 in 3 – or some 250 million – were married before 15." Many have to drop out of school to manage household chores, are vulnerable to abuse and are often deprived of the information, tools and services to plan their families. This has tragic consequences: Girls who have children as children face higher risks of complications from pregnancy and childbirth. In fact, these complications are a leading cause of death for adolescent girls in low- and middle-income countries.

FULL POST

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Topics: Nigeria • Women
July 22nd, 2014
10:36 PM ET

Zakaria: Why Europe isn't getting tougher on Russia

CNN speaks with Fareed Zakaria about Europe's response to the downing of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17. This is an edited version of the transcript.

The French continuing with the sale of an advanced warship to Russia. Where is the outrage? Because the responses so far, you're talking about incremental increases in sanctions, still negotiating access to the site – this doesn’t seem to match the enormity of this crime.

You’re right. We’ve seen pretty strong rhetoric coming out of U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power and President Obama. We've seen some of it coming out of the British prime minister, finally, and the Australian prime minister. Very little you notice out of continental Europe, the big powers – Germany, France, even the Dutch – have been remarkably restrained given the enormity of the tragedy here.

And I think that part of the problem here is that Europe has very deep economic ties, very deep energy dependence, on Russia. In the French case in particular, France has always prided itself in being a kind of bridge to Russia. They've always prided themselves on being a big military exporter. The way they think about it, if they didn't do this stuff, the Americans would be dominating the arms industry.

So, there are a lot of national interests that are coming in the way of what you rightly said should be a kind of international response. There should be a sense that the international community is acting, but instead what you're seeing is separate national interests – the French national interests, the German national interests – trumping what should be an international humanitarian interest.

FULL POST

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Topics: Europe • Russia • Ukraine
July 22nd, 2014
04:53 PM ET

What I'm reading: Wild West gun laws fuel border crisis

By Fareed Zakaria

“The role of gun trafficking has been oddly absent in the debate over the gang violence in Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala that, coupled with economic despair, is driving the migrant wave from those three nations, the so-called Northern Triangle,” writes Alec MacGillis in the New Republic. “It’s not as if we’re unwilling to consider any U.S. responsibility for the surge—there’s plenty of talk about the fact that several of the gangs terrorizing the Northern Triangle got their start in Los Angeles, and about the role that U.S. drug policy has played in fueling violence south of the border.”

“Getting less attention, though, has been the U.S. link to the actual weaponry being used in the killings and other crimes that make the three Central American nations among the most dangerous in the world.”

“Income inequality has surged as a political and economic issue, but the numbers don’t show that inequality is rising from a global perspective,” writes Tyler Cowen in the New York Times. “Yes, the problem has become more acute within most individual nations, yet income inequality for the world as a whole has been falling for most of the last 20 years. It’s a fact that hasn’t been noted often enough.”

 

 

Russia on defensive over MH17 tragedy
July 22nd, 2014
01:56 PM ET

Russia on defensive over MH17 tragedy

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

CNN’s New Day speaks with Fareed Zakaria about the politics of the Malaysia Airlines crash, the state of the investigation, and why Russia looks to be on the defensive. This is an edited version of the transcript.

Senator John McCain has told us that the United States needs to do more, the United States needs to lead more, that the president hasn’t done enough in terms of leading and the European allies will follow. He also thinks that the United States and allies need to offer arms, offer weapons to Ukraine in order to regain control of the situation on the ground. What do you make of it?

I listened to the interview closely. I thought it was unfortunate…What struck me about what Senator McCain was saying is that it seemed needlessly partisan. By which I mean he said President Obama should lead, he said he should name Putin specifically and hold him responsible.

President Obama stood outside the White House yesterday and said Putin has a responsibility. He's the person with the most direct control. He and Russia can do something about this. He said the United States should lead with sanctions and Europe will follow. The United States has led with sanctions – the United States has many more sanctions on Russia than any European country, and it has prompted Europeans to do more, as perhaps it will this week.

So, yes, there are areas where the United States could do better. But you know it would help in our dealings with our allies, and with the Russians, if the president seemed to be speaking for the country and had the backing of Congress behind him. And instead, what struck me about this was it was turned into just one more of the kind of unending series of partisan wrangles in Washington. FULL POST

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Topics: Russia • Ukraine
July 22nd, 2014
11:28 AM ET

A rival to the World Bank?

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

By Global Public Square staff

World leaders came together in Brazil last week to celebrate. And no, this had nothing to do with the World Cup. We’re talking about the 6th annual BRICS summit.

The leaders of all the BRICS nations – that is Vladimir Putin, Narendra Modi, Dilma Rousseff, Xi Jinping and Jacob Zuma – all gathered in Fortaleza, Brazil. And on Tuesday they sent a shot across the bow by announcing a $50 billion bank meant to rival the World Bank, and a $100 billion crisis fund to replace the IMF.

It’s clear why they made this move.

You see, these five nations – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – now account for more than 40 percent of the world's population, almost 20 percent of the world's total GDP and 17 percent of global trade. Yes, growth in the emerging markets has slowed recently, but these countries have still become a large enough force in the global system that they want a seat at the table.

FULL POST

Putin 'getting more isolated internationally'
July 21st, 2014
06:02 PM ET

Putin 'getting more isolated internationally'

CNN speaks with Fareed about the downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 and how the West should respond to Russia’s alleged role in assisting pro-Russian militants in Ukraine.

Is Russian President Vladimir Putin getting increasingly isolated, do you think, at this point?

He is getting isolated internationally, though you will notice that many European countries have still been very, very reluctant to confront him directly and to publicly demand that Russia do things. The Malaysian government has not done it. Russia is a big country, it has a United Nations veto, and most importantly, he still has a great deal of support at home.

Remember, the version of events that Russians are hearing is a kind of alternate reality in which they charge that the Ukrainian government is responsible, even though the Ukrainian government doesn't actually control the territory from which the rockets were launched. They claim that the Ukrainian government might have been trying to shoot down President Putin's plane and missed. So, there's a whole fabricated alternate reality, and Putin remains popular in Russia.

So, while he's getting more isolated internationally, it isn't clear that the domestic pressure, which is what he worries about, has risen at all. FULL POST

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Topics: Russia • Ukraine
Zakaria: Russian news in alternate universe
July 21st, 2014
01:45 PM ET

Zakaria: Russian news in alternate universe

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

CNN's New Day speaks with Fareed Zakaria about the downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17, Ukraine’s response and what we might be able to expect from Russian President Vladimir Putin. This an edited version of the transcript.

You’re well aware of what is going on with the politics and the violence in this country right now. As you heard us report, there are reports of civilian casualties as Ukraine says it's trying to take back checkpoints on the outside of Donetsk. Curious timing for them, don't you think, in the middle of trying to deal with MH17. What do you think the strategy is there?

What it could suggest is that the government of Ukraine, the government in Kiev, has begun an offensive to try to take control of this part of Ukraine. This part of Ukraine is not under the control of the government in Kiev. It is under the control of the pro-Russian separatists.

One of the things that the Kiev government has kept insisting on is that they need to get control of their own country. They may have seen this as an opportune moment because the rebels are on the defensive, they understand that the world is watching them and perhaps most importantly their patron, Vladimir Putin, is on the defensive. So this would not be a moment where you would imagine Russia would be sending in advisers, streaming across the border at night, sending in heavy equipment, heavy machinery.

So it may well be that the Ukrainian government decided this is the moment to act, and as you say, these thugs have fled the crime scene, which suggests that they're going to reinforce their comrades in Donetsk itself.

Two questions. If Russia is so in control, why would Vladimir Putin allow this shameful act to go on? And the other question is, a lot of talk from the Western world about how now is the time, now we must press. But there are no representatives from the Western world except the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which is an international monitoring group. Nobody is on the ground. Where is everybody if they care so much?

Great questions. On the second one, as you know, the problem is the place is dangerous, as you have been pointing out. It has been very dangerous until really a few hours ago and my guess is people are trying to figure out exactly when they can go without creating an incident or some kind of violence. FULL POST

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Topics: Russia • Ukraine
July 21st, 2014
11:06 AM ET

Brzezinski: Netanyahu 'making a very serious mistake'

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

Fareed speaks with former U.S. National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski about Israel's military operation in Gaza.

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu on CNN told Wolf Blitzer that the invasion of Gaza was a strategy to demilitarize Gaza, explaining the use of force. But it has been quite a robust use of force…Do you think that it is going to succeed, the Israeli strategy?

No, I think he is making a very serious mistake. When Hamas in effect accepted the notion of participation in the Palestinian leadership, it in effect acknowledged the determination of that leadership to seek a peaceful solution with Israel. That was a real option. They should have persisted in that.

Instead Netanyahu launched the campaign of defamation against Hamas, seized on the killing of three innocent Israeli kids to immediately charge Hamas with having done it without any evidence, and has used that to stir up public opinion in Israel in order to justify this attack on Gaza, which is so lethal.

I think he is isolating Israel. He's endangering its longer-range future. And I think we ought to make it very clear that this is a course of action which we thoroughly disapprove and which we do not support and which may compel us and the rest of the international community to take some steps of legitimizing Palestinian aspirations perhaps in the U.N.

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Topics: GPS Show • Middle East
July 21st, 2014
09:43 AM ET

Krugman: Affordable Care Act coming in 'ahead of expectations'

Fareed speaks with New York Times columnist Paul Krugman about the Affordable Care Act.

You’ve written recently that Obamacare is working. Explain very simply why you make that claim.

There were a bunch of things that Obamacare was supposed to do in its first year. It was supposed to sign up a lot of people through the exchanges, through people buying, essentially, private insurance, but through the government-run exchanges. It was supposed to insure a bunch of additional people through Medicaid. It was supposed to do this without causing a spike in health care costs. It was supposed to substantially reduce the number of people who are uninsured. All of those things have happened.

If you put just about any of the numerical targets for the first year, it's done better than that. It's the most amazing thing that people don't know that, but, you know, after the big problems last fall, everyone was assuming that year one would come in short of expectations. In fact, it's come in ahead of expectations. And it looks very clear that this is a workable policy. FULL POST

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Topics: GPS Show • Health
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