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
Why it's right to keep talking to Iran
July 19th, 2014
01:57 PM ET

Why it's right to keep talking to Iran

By Brig. Gen. John H. Johns and Angela Canterbury, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Brig. Gen. John H. Johns (USA, ret.) serves on the Council for a Livable World Advisory Board and is a former deputy assistant defense secretary. Angela Canterbury is the executive director of the nonpartisan, nonprofit Council for a Livable World and Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation. The views expressed are their own.

World powers announced late Friday the need for an extension of negotiations as diplomats work to achieve a comprehensive deal on Iran's nuclear program. This is an opportunity we can’t forgo. Diplomacy must be given the chance to succeed, lest we live with the probable consequences of failure: an Iranian nuclear weapon or another disastrous war.

In fact, diplomacy has already yielded results – Iran has met all of its commitments under the Joint Plan of Action, which took effect in January. Since that time, real progress has been made in scaling back Iran’s nuclear program, and intrusive inspections of its nuclear facilities have taken place under a more effective verification regime. These inspections have given the United States and its allies unprecedented insights into Iran’s nuclear facilities. Further, Iran has significantly dialed back its nuclear activity. Its stockpile of dangerous enriched uranium has decreased from 195 kilograms at the outset of the deal to just 4 kilograms in June – a 97 percent drop.

We’ve come a long way toward our goal of preventing an Iranian nuclear bomb. But we need a long-lasting agreement. And to achieve that, we must keep Iran at the table. It’s reasonable that negotiators need more time to settle on the details of what will undoubtedly be an extremely complicated settlement. And Iran’s compliance thus far suggests that its leadership is committed to this process, and that extending the talks offers real hope for success.

Of course, hawkish detractors in Congress can be expected to continue to try to derail the ongoing negotiations by pushing for more unilateral sanctions. But we cannot sanction Iran into abandoning its nuclear ambitions. If that were so, Iran already would have capitulated. After all, sanctions have been an effective tool for getting Iran to the negotiating table. Now we are at the table, and we need to stay there to complete the agreement.

We also cannot allow the negotiations to be hamstrung by unreasonable demands, such as those being made in a letter by Senators Bob Menendez and Lindsay Graham. If we undermine the diplomatic efforts, Iran can be expected to return to its former nuclear activities.

But even more importantly, we will lose the inspections that allow us to monitor those activities. Nothing could be more dangerous. Without inspections, with no idea of how Iran’s nuclear program is proceeding, we will be operating without information essential to our national security.

Not surprisingly, those who pushed us into war in Iraq are calling for military engagement with Iran. After more than a decade of war and so many lives lost – all without truly advancing our national security – this call to abandon diplomacy and a rush to war again are truly implausible. We’ve been down that path before. If there’s one thing we have learned from Iraq and Afghanistan, it’s that military conflicts have unexpected consequences. In the case of Iran, U.S. military action could very likely force Iran’s nuclear program underground and unite Iran’s leaders and people in a dash for the bomb.

The nuclear talks represent a critical opportunity to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran, protect U.S. security, and prevent another war. We must give these talks adequate time to succeed.

Ultimately, what would you choose? Another war, a nuclear-armed Iran, or another four months of talks for the chance for peace and security?

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Topics: Iran
How should Israel respond to Hamas?
July 15th, 2014
09:11 AM ET

How should Israel respond to Hamas?

Fareed hears from Wall Street Journal columnist Bret Stephens and Council on Foreign Relations President Richard Haass about the latest flare-up in violence between Israel and the Palestinians.

Bret Stephens, The Wall Street Journal has an editorial that says the only solution here is to completely destroy Hamas, and The Journal advocates a land campaign, Israel to go back into Gaza with troops, which would inevitably mean there would be some kind of temporary occupation of Gaza.

Stephens: Well, not a full occupation of the Gaza Strip. But what I do think is right is that Israel has to occupy the territory that separates Gaza from Egypt, because what we've found now is that Hamas is firing much more sophisticated rockets into Israel, with ranges that are extending beyond Tel Aviv, up to Jerusalem, and Haifa. And that's unacceptable for any state to deal with that, whether these missiles are accurate and hitting their targets or not. And the problem you have had is that this is now the third time Israel has gone to war since it withdrew all of its settlements and all of it settlers from the Gaza Strip in 2005.

You have this pattern of recurring violence. I don't think, in the long run, that's a smart and acceptable strategy, to allow Hamas to remain in Gaza with a power base. Obviously, you can't eradicate it entirely, but you can eradicate it as an effective fighting force and as a political entity. And, by the way, one of the beneficiaries of that kind of action would be Fatah, would be Mahmoud Abbas, because what I think Hamas is trying to do, I think the strategy here is to gain the upper hand in intra-Palestinian politics by attempting to start a third intifada.

Is it a smart strategy to start a land campaign? It would cause a lot of international consternation, to say the least. FULL POST

Why the U.S. should keep talking with Iran
July 10th, 2014
08:01 AM ET

Why the U.S. should keep talking with Iran

By Zachary Keck, Special to CNN

Editor's note: Zachary Keck is managing editor of The Diplomat and a monthly columnist at The National Interest. You can follow him @ZacharyKeck. The views expressed are his own.

As the July 20 deadline for a deal over Iran's nuclear program approaches, it seems increasingly unlikely that Tehran and the P5+1 will reach a comprehensive agreement. Indeed, Iran has already signaled its willingness to extend the talks for another six months as outlined in the interim agreement, and President Barack Obama should therefore begin to prepare Congress for this reality as soon as possible. The U.S. has too much to lose by rejecting this offer. And fortunately for the administration, the case for extending the talks is an easy one to make.

To begin with, the U.S. has nothing to lose by agreeing to an extension. Despite the unconvincing arguments of its critics, the interim accord heavily favored the U.S. and its allies. Under the agreement, Iran agreed to freeze its nuclear program, as well as rollback its most dangerous elements. Equally important, Tehran agreed to intrusive inspections to demonstrate its compliance with the agreement.

In return, Iran received roughly $7 billion in sanctions relief spread across the six month period. At the same time, the P5+1 refused to lift the sanctions regime, which costs Iran an estimated $5 billion per month. Iran therefore continues to lose billions of dollars every month the negotiations drag on. All this means that even if extending the talks doesn't result in a comprehensive agreement, it will still freeze Iran's nuclear program and continue to squeeze it economically.

FULL POST

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Topics: Iran
We've seen this Iraq movie before
July 2nd, 2014
11:48 PM ET

We've seen this Iraq movie before

CNN speaks with Fareed Zakaria about the latest developments in Iraq, and what role the United States might play. This is an edited version of the transcript.

Has the conflict basically come down to just holding Baghdad? Is it all won or lost in that city?

Well, that's a hugely important issue – whether you lose the capital or not. But Baghdad is now essentially a Shia city. It used to be mixed, but Sunnis have been driven out. Of course, there are still many, many Sunnis, but it's mostly a Shia city and has become part of the Shia-dominated government's stronghold.

So, the reason that the Iraqi government lost lots of territory is that locals were, if not sympathetic to the insurgents and sympathetic to ISIS, then they were pretty anti-government. That's not true in Baghdad, and the army will fight it – a Shiite core that will fight there. But it only reinforces what is the central element here, which has now turned into a sectarian civil war.

FULL POST

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Topics: Iraq
Will Pakistan finally tackle the Taliban?
June 13th, 2014
03:44 PM ET

Will Pakistan finally tackle the Taliban?

By Daniel Markey, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Daniel Markey is a senior fellow for India, Pakistan, and South Asia at the Council on Foreign Relations and the author of No Exit from Pakistan: America’s Tortured Relationship with Islamabad. The views expressed are the writer’s own.

On Wednesday and Thursday, U.S. drones fired missiles in Pakistan’s tribal areas on the border with Afghanistan for the first known strikes since late December. In the wake of this week’s two terrorist attacks on Karachi’s airport, the drone strikes mean one of two things. Either Pakistan’s leaders have finally decided to launch a long-awaited military offensive in North Waziristan, the home base of the Pakistani Taliban (TTP), or U.S. officials have grown so frustrated with Pakistan’s dithering that they decided to take the fight into their own hands.

Let’s hope that Pakistan has finally decided for war. The next six months offer what is likely the best – and quite possibly the last – chance for Washington and Islamabad to work together against a terrorist group that threatens the peace in Pakistan, has extended its operations into Afghanistan, and would undoubtedly attack the United States if ever given the chance.

Any further delay would be costly. As President Barack Obama announced last month, all but 9,800 U.S. troops will leave Afghanistan by year’s end. That drawdown in military power will also mean reduced CIA operations along the Pakistani border, including the sort of surveillance and drone strikes that would give any Pakistan military operation a greater lethal punch.

FULL POST

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Topics: Pakistan • Terrorism
June 12th, 2014
05:06 PM ET

Time to rethink 'concession' mentality on Cuba

By Ric Herrero, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Ric Herrero is the executive director of #CubaNow, a Miami-based democracy advocacy group. The views expressed are the writer’s own.

Late last month, 44 former high-level U.S. officials and thought leaders, including prominent members of the Cuban-American community, signed a letter to President Barack Obama urging him to revise our Cuba policy to allow Americans to better engage with the island’s growing civil society, particularly its fledgling entrepreneurial sector.

The logic behind the letter is simple: by empowering the Cuban people with more access to U.S. contacts and resources, they can create greater freedoms for themselves.

Unfortunately, that concept appears to be too difficult to understand for those who depend on keeping things just the way they are. Almost immediately, the predictable responses began to flow from a tag team of shrill hardliners in Washington DC and Havana, all trying to protect the status quo.

In Washington, the pro-embargo lobby – or what is left of them – began to mischaracterize the letter as a “concession” to the regime, and cherry picked quotes by some dissidents and exile leaders to make it seem as if there is widespread opposition to increasing support for Cuban civil society.

FULL POST

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Topics: Cuba
Iraq is on a precipice
June 12th, 2014
09:12 AM ET

Iraq is on a precipice

By Michael Rubin, Special to CNN

Editor’s Note: Michael Rubin is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and author of Dancing with the Devil: The Perils of Engaging Rogue Regimes. The views expressed are his own.

Iraq is on a precipice from which it may never recover. The fall of Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, to forces ostensibly from the al Qaeda-affiliated Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), may simply be the tip of the iceberg. What has happened in Iraq increasingly appears not simply to be a binary struggle between government and insurgent, but rather a more complicated problem that may be impossible to fully unravel.

I drove from Tikrit through Beiji to Mosul earlier this year, and into Syria along the same roads ISIS and other insurgents now use. Even then, government control over Mosul was tenuous. Iraqi soldiers at checkpoints on the outskirts of town urged me and my driver to reconsider my trip because Mosul was not safe; they relented only because a local vouched for me. After all, while Tikrit was home to former President Saddam Hussein and his immediate entourage, Mosul was the hometown of much of Saddam Hussein’s officer corps. It still is. As I continued on to the Syrian border, a special security agent at a checkpoint separated me from my taxi driver and another man accompanying us to ensure that I was there of my own free will. A senior security official in Baghdad subsequently told me that was standard protocol. It also reflects, however, the lawlessness of that area.

While Americans focus on the shock of al Qaeda flags over Mosul, Iraqis describe a more complicated scene. One Iraqi reported that insurgents in Mosul told his brother that they were not al Qaeda, but rather veterans of Saddam’s army. Rumors are rife throughout Mosul and Tikrit that Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, Saddam Hussein’s vice president and the most senior official of the previous regime who evaded American capture, has returned from Syria and is leading renewed insurgency.

FULL POST

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Topics: Iraq • Terrorism • Turkey
How to respond to the ISIS threat
June 12th, 2014
12:39 AM ET

How to respond to the ISIS threat

Just a day after overunning Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city, militants from the al Qaeda splinter group the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) gained nearly complete control of the northern city of Tikrit. How should the Iraqi government and United States respond? And what are their chances for success? Leading analysts offer their take on what to look for. The views expressed are their own.

U.S. should deal with Iraq and Syria together

By Brian Katulis, Special to CNN

The astonishing advances of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) across parts of northern and central Iraq has reignited a debate about what the Obama administration should do in Iraq and Syria. For now, the centerpiece of the struggle is sharply focused on how Iraq’s government responds and how countries in the region react.

The first key question is how Iraq’s government, led by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, responds to this assault. Al-Maliki, a leader from a Shia party who has led Iraq for the past eight years, has been accused by his opponents of becoming increasingly authoritarian and not inclusive when it comes to reaching out to people in the Sunni minority community.  Some have gone so far to say that his neglect of the Sunnis created the opening for extremist groups like ISIS to achieve the rapid gains over the past few days.

If al-Maliki can put together a cohesive response that cuts across the Shia-Sunni sectarian divide and the Arab-Kurd split, this would go a long way toward building a more stable political foundation to address Iraq’s dangerous security problems.  These events come just as Iraqi leaders are negotiating a new governing coalition after national elections on April 30.

FULL POST

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Topics: Iraq • Syria • Terrorism
The big winner from Ukraine crisis? China
June 6th, 2014
04:51 PM ET

The big winner from Ukraine crisis? China

By Mark N. Katz, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Mark N. Katz is a professor of government and politics at George Mason University and the author of the recent book Leaving Without Losing: The War on Terror After Iraq and Afghanistan. The views expressed are his own.

It’s still not certain how the ongoing crisis in Ukraine is going to be resolved, but there already appears to be one clear winner: China. That, anyway, is the view of several Russian observers I met with last week when I was in Moscow.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s response to European talk of reducing natural gas imports from Russia no doubt prompted Putin’s recent trip to Beijing and the signing of a mega-deal under which China has agreed to buy a massive $400 billion of Russian gas over a thirty year period.

But while Putin may believe that Chinese support will help him frustrate what he sees as Western efforts to prevent Russia’s re-emergence as a great power, the view among observers I spoke with wasn’t quite so rosy.

For a start, they interpreted the declaration that what China pays for Russian gas is a “trade secret” as a bad sign for Moscow, suggesting that Putin might have been so desperate for a deal that Beijing was able to get him to accept an extremely low price.

FULL POST

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Topics: China • Russia
How U.S. can reinvigorate India defense ties
June 5th, 2014
02:55 PM ET

How U.S. can reinvigorate India defense ties

By Vikram J. Singh and Joshua T. White, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Vikram J. Singh is vice president for National Security and International Policy at the Center for American Progress. Joshua T. White is Deputy Director for South Asia at the Stimson Center. The views expressed are their own.

Narendra Modi’s landslide victory in last month’s Indian general election has raised hopes that the country will break through the policy stagnation of the last decade and advance reforms that can jump-start India’s economy and bolster its standing on the world stage.

Modi’s declared priorities focus heavily on the economy, and the U.S. government should make economic statecraft a central pillar of engagement with India. But Washington should not lose sight of the most successful area of U.S.-India cooperation to date: the thriving defense relationship. Actions taken in New Delhi and Washington now will determine if the two nations can break through a successful but largely transactional relationship toward strategic partnership that delivers for both nations on shared security interests.

On the U.S. side, four priority areas matter most to reinvigorate U.S.-India defense ties:

First, the Obama administration should continue to put forward innovative defense trade proposals, regardless of how responsive Modi’s government appears to be in the near-term. Speaking at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore last month, U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel announced that he would take “an active and very personal role” in what has come to be known as the U.S.-India Defense Trade and Technology Initiative (DTTI), and designated the Department’s Undersecretary for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics, Frank Kendall, as the initiative’s American lead.

FULL POST

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Topics: India • Military • United States
How to stop a repeat of Ukraine crisis
June 3rd, 2014
04:15 PM ET

How to stop a repeat of Ukraine crisis

By Kim Davis, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Kim Davis is co-founder and managing director of Charlesbank Capital Partners, a private equity firm. He is also chairman of the Baltic American Freedom Foundation and a member of the board of Freedom House. The views expressed are his own.

Russian President Vladimir Putin's annexation of Crimea, destabilization of Ukraine and protestations ("threats") about his need to defend Russian speaking populations throughout Eastern Europe have elicited many reactions and analyses.

The most troubling of these reactions have been from observers who believe that NATO's enlargement in the 1990's was wrongheaded and an immediate cause of Putin's belligerent actions. But not only is that suggestion flawed – it also signals a profound misunderstanding of what took place over the past few months. Indeed, any policy based on that kind of thinking will heighten the danger to Russia's non-NATO neighbors and may also increase Putin's adventurism in new NATO countries, especially the Baltics.

Many foreign policy observers favor a tacit, or even explicit, undertaking by the United States and Europe that the West will no longer support further eastward expansion of NATO and the EU as long as Russia agrees to renounce its territorial ambitions. Such a bargain, Finlandization writ large, would be a terrible mistake.

FULL POST

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Topics: Russia • Ukraine
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