By Fahad Nazer, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Fahad Nazer is an analyst at JTG, Inc. and a former political analyst at the Embassy of Saudi Arabia in Washington, DC. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, CNN, Foreign Policy and Al Monitor, among others. You can follow him @fanazer. The views expressed are his own.
The uproar surrounding a recent Human Rights Watch statement on Saudi Arabia’s new terrorism laws is just the latest example of the tensions that have emerged in the country between liberalism and religious moderation on the one hand, and social conservatism and religious extremism on the other.
In the statement, issued late last month, the group warned that Interior Ministry regulations include “sweeping provisions” that “authorities can use to criminalize virtually any expression or association critical of the government and its understanding of Islam.” Specifically, it noted Article 1, which covers “Calling for atheist thought in any form, or calling into question the fundamentals of the Islamic religion on which this country is based.”
Unfortunately, such measures simply serve to highlight the disconnect between the conciliatory policies the government has adopted towards religion in its relations with the outside world, and the still strict policies implemented within the kingdom. And, with the tug of war between ultra conservatives and those who understand the dangers of doctrinal rigidity showing no signs of abating, one thing is clear – Saudi Arabia is being pulled in two quite different directions.
By Fareed Zakaria
“China’s ability to postpone a crisis might lead the powers-that-be to prefer the option of adjustment delayed. That could prove a huge mistake,” argues Martin Wolf in the Financial Times. “Growth cannot be sustained by increasing indebtedness indefinitely. Reform and rebalancing are essential. From what I heard at the China Development Forum last month the Chinese authorities understand this. Indeed without these reforms, their plan for liberalizing the capital account could be lethal. China can avoid a financial crisis. That is a boon, though it also risks reducing pressure for reform. Yet reform must come – and the sooner the better.”
“There are still plenty of diehard anti-Castro figures in Washington. But calling the arguments they marshal threadbare is unkind to threads,” argues The Economist. “Cuba does not threaten American security. It is playing a constructive role in the peace process between Colombia’s government and the FARC guerrillas. Its political system is nasty and undemocratic, but it is buttressed, not undermined, by the embargo. (The reverse is true of the standing of the United States in Latin America.) Waiting for the Castros to die makes no sense when Venezuela’s crisis presents an opportunity now to cement the process of liberalization in Cuba.”
For more What in the World watch Sundays at 10 a.m. & 1 p.m. ET on CNN
When I heard about the shooting at Fort Hood last week, one thing stood out to me: the alleged shooter – 34-year old Army Specialist Ivan Lopez – was being treated for mental health issues.
Mental health issues – many believed to be caused by duty in Afghanistan and Iraq – are a scourge upon our military. In 2012, a record 350 soldiers killed themselves. That’s more than died on the battlefield. And between 2008 and 2010, nearly two-thirds of all suicides in the United States military involved firearms.
One former military heavyweight whom I talked with last year, former Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Chiarelli, said “enough”:
You're a general. You're an army man. You've spent your life around guns. You're comfortable with them. You know they can be used responsibly. But you also feel that when people are at risk in terms of mental issues, it’s very dangerous for them to have access to guns.
Chiarelli: It is very dangerous for them to have access to guns. I believe that…I would be very, very careful in not underestimating the impact of 13 years of war on an all-volunteer force. I think we were seeing, in those suicide numbers, some of the effect of repeated deployments and high stress and trauma…”
…What do you say to those who say, well, there is the Second Amendment and that's why you can't go much further with your efforts?
Chiarelli: I don't buy that. I don't believe the Second Amendment was put in place to take a person who is at high risk for hurting themselves, and put in their hands a weapon that in an impulsive moment, at a time when they're not thinking straight, they can end their life.
Watch the video for the full What in the World.
By Russ Carnahan and Michael Shank, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Russ Carnahan was a U.S. Representative from Missouri and a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. He is now a partner at Carnahan Global Consulting, a consultancy that also advises firms in the energy sector. Michael Shank is associate director for legislative affairs at the Friends Committee on National Legislation, the advocacy arm of Friends (Quakers) in the U.S. The views expressed are their own.
At the heart of the ongoing crisis in Ukraine is the question of energy independence and energy security. We’ve witnessed this before in previous violent conflicts – whether in the Middle East, Central Asia or North Africa. Energy wars are real and they will continue to dominate our geopolitical agenda for the coming years unless the United States and its allies decide to act.
In discussions with our European Union counterparts in Berlin and Warsaw in the past month – as part of a U.S.-E.U. transatlantic dialogue on, among other salient topics, the annexation of Crimea – energy was very clearly at the core of this conflict. There was also consensus that the present moment couldn’t be a more historic opportunity to ensure an energy transition happens – and soon – lest more wars be fought, more territories acquired, or more people literally left out in the cold. The urgency of this effort cannot be overstated.
To be clear, when it comes to energy security and energy independence, anything that’s got a valve on it and has to be transported thousands of miles across borders decreases a country’s capacity for stability. That pipe – whether carrying oil or gas – is a target for acts of sabotage, political and physical. In 2009, for example, Russia turned off the spigot to gas exports to Ukraine, leaving the country out in the cold in the dead of winter. The Keystone XL pipeline in the U.S. is proving similar in serving as a political target, whether erroneously or accurately.
By Aakanksha Tangri
As Indians begin heading to the polls in the largest election in history, GPS intern Aakanksha Tangri explains what’s at stake, who the key players are, and what the election means for ties with the United States.
It will be the world’s biggest exercise in democracy. As India heads to the polls from Monday, some 814 million people will be eligible to vote in a general election that will be broken down into nine phases at over 900,000 polling stations across the country. Indeed, the final votes won’t be cast until May 12, before they are all counted on May 16.
The election pits the ruling Indian National Congress’s Rahul Gandhi against Narendra Modi, the candidate of the main opposition Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party. But despite the storied history of his family name, Gandhi is widely seen as the underdog against the current chief minister of Gujarat.
The United Progressive Alliance (UPA) coalition government, led by the Indian National Congress, swept to power in 2004 under the leadership of Sonia Gandhi, who surprised many by declining to take up the post of prime minister, instead calling on respected former Finance Minister Manmohan Singh to take the helm of government. But despite putting together a comfortable majority in a second consecutive election victory in 2009, a stalling economy, numerous corruption scandals and a perceived lack of direction left many Indians craving a change this time around.
Fareed speaks with Carlotta Gall, ‘New York Times’ reporter and author of ‘The Wrong Enemy: America in Afghanistan, 2001-2014’, about the future of Afghanistan.Watch the full interview this Sunday at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN.
What do you think Pakistan's role will be once we start pulling out? They're going to try to fill that vacuum, probably.
I think it's already clear that they're determined to see a resurgence of the Taliban. They're supporting them. They're encouraging them. There's been a spate of attacks. Just now, I was just in Kabul two days ago. We had a suicide bombing almost every day that I was there in the last week. And that's all coming from Pakistan. The madrassas have closed, you know, and they're all going in.
And that's clearly what needs to be looked at very strongly, because the Pakistanis have not finished their war. And what they want is, through a proxy force, to dominate affairs in Afghanistan. And they're still going to continue...
And that proxy force is the Taliban, for the Pakistanis?
The Taliban, yes, and actually al Qaeda has shown there they were protecting and hiding bin Laden. And al-Zawahiri, who's taken over from bin Laden, is head of al Qaeda, he's in Pakistan. And I have a passage in the book which shows that they certainly, in 2005, they were hiding him, the Pakistani government.
Do you think the Pakistani government knows where Zawahiri, the head of al Qaeda, is?
Watch "Fareed Zakaria GPS," Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN
By Fareed Zakaria
For those of you tired of the coverage of Malaysian Airlines Flight 370, I want you to try an experiment.
When you're with a group of friends – whose eyes might roll over when you even bring up the issue – ask them what they think happened to the plane. Very quickly you will find yourselves in the midst of a lively discussion – with many, different, competing theories, each plausible, each with holes.
The plane was hijacked, someone will say. But then why were there no demands? It was an accident, someone else will say. But then why were there no distress signals? This mystery of what actually happened is at the heart of the fascination with this story. And the mystery has now morphed into an ever increasing number of conspiracy theories about what actually happened that fateful day last month when the aircraft disappeared.
There are YouTube clips suggesting that aliens are involved, blog posts accusing the Iranians of hijacking the plane, and many who believe that the passengers and crew are still alive, perhaps on an island somewhere – like in the television show "Lost”.
Watch "Fareed Zakaria GPS," Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN
On GPS this Sunday: Afghanistan holds an election Saturday. But is the violence that has already been witnessed a sign of what's to come? Will the poll really change anything? And what will happen to the Taliban and terrorism as American troops leave?
Fareed convenes a panel including Richard Haas, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, Peter Beinart, a contributor to Atlantic Media, New York Times reporter Carlotta Gall and the Wall Street Journal's Bret Stephens. They will also be discussing developments in Ukraine and the Middle East.
Later, Fareed sits down with Michael Lewis, author of Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt. He says Wall Street is rigged and that some traders have an unfair advantage. Is he right?
Also, in the wake of the Fort Hood shooting this week, GPS will introduce you to an Army general with a potential solution to the problem of mentally unstable soldiers with guns. And we will tell you why he can't get his way in Washington.
Finally, a Shakespearean tragedy related to Syria...but it's not what you're thinking. This one will actually make you smile.
By Bruce Stokes, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Bruce Stokes is the director of global economic attitudes at the Pew Research Center. The views expressed are the writer’s own.
During the Cold War, the Indian government attempted to position itself between Moscow and Washington by claiming leadership of the Non-Aligned Movement. As Indians head to the polls over the next six weeks, their country again finds itself in a world with two preeminent powers: this time, China and the United States.
And the Indian public is fairly clear where its sympathies lie: with America. Of course, how such attitudes will influence the views of the next Indian government remains to be seen. But, for now at least, there appears to be no evidence of broad anti-Americanism on the sub-continent.
This might come as a surprise to some. After all, the favorable views of the United States came despite the fact that the Pew Research Center survey measuring sentiment was conducted in India in the immediate aftermath of the controversial December 2013 arrest and strip-search of India’s female deputy consul general in New York on charges of visa fraud. Yet by more than three-to-one (56 percent to 15 percent), Indians express a favorable rather than unfavorable view of the United States.
By Nicole Goldin, Special to CNN
Editor’s note: Nicole Goldin is director for Youth, Prosperity, and Security Initiative with the Project on Prosperity and Development at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and director of the Global Youth Wellbeing Index project in partnership with the International Youth Foundation. Follow her @nicolegoldin and @csis. The views expressed are her own.
Brimming with talent and ideas, today’s youth – the largest and most connected generation in human history – are creating a new global reality, and charting an unprecedented course for themselves and their communities. They are defending democracy, promoting peace, and with an enterprising spirit, desperately wanting the opportunity to work hard, build a sustainable livelihood and live up to their potential. Today’s young people are an inspired generation, poised to drive global prosperity and security not only for themselves and their families today, but their communities and nations for generations to come.
But we know demography is not destiny. Their fate may be challenged. The promise in youth is often overshadowed – and in some cases undermined – by absent or ineffective policies, weak systems, poor infrastructure, unsatisfactory education and training, or inadequate investments and avenues of participation that limit the opportunities youth deserve and the world demands.
Fundamentally, however, young people’s needs and aspirations have too often gone largely unnoticed or unheard. Why? One reason is that we simply don’t have a strong enough understanding of how they are doing or feeling.
Fareed speaks with Tina Brown, founder of the Women in the World summit and former editor-in-chief of 'Vanity Fair', about whether having more women in powerful positions will lead to more peaceful societies. Watch the video for the full panel.
The one crucial distinguishing feature it seems to me that is at the heart of this is motherhood. To what extent do you think that shapes a woman's perspective as being different from a man?
I think a tremendous amount because I think that women have that extra nurturing gene, where they're trying to create a world in which their children can flourish. And therefore, they have in a sense more invested in creating a peaceful atmosphere.
It's very interesting at the moment, actually, how there are many women in Pakistan and in the Middle East now who are coming together against the whole question of Islamic terrorism. And there are – Sisters against Extremism is one organization, which is having quite an impact in the Middle East at the moment, which is about women who are getting together and really trying to talk to children about not becoming radicalized, and that are bonding together as women, as sisters, as mothers. And there's that impetus.
Also on the south side of Chicago, you're now seeing mothers bonding together and trying to come together to create programs and create initiatives that actually create more peaceful atmospheres amongst this gang warfare etc that's going on.
So I do think that women are more invested in that. And you saw it in Liberia also when the women came together and wanted to end that civil war. So I think these are the things that you're seeing, and I think you're going to see more and more of it as women rise and really are in charge.
For more Last Look, watch GPS, Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN
Hurricane season won't begin in the Atlantic basin until June 1. But the South Pacific storm season is in full swing. At any point in time, in fact, it is the season for hurricanes, typhoons, or cyclones somewhere in the world. With winds up to an astounding 190 miles per hour, fierce storms can dump more than 2.4 trillion gallons of rain in a day.
At this point the world really has nothing to defend against nature's fury. But a Stanford study says there may be something that could stand in a hurricane's way. Quite literally. It's not some brand new technology or hypothetical machine we are talking about. It's wind turbines.
According to the study, large numbers of wind turbines could slow down the outer winds of the hurricane, decrease wave heights, and cause it to dissipate faster. The authors say 78,000 300-foot turbines off the coast of New Orleans could have reduced Hurricane Katrina's wind speeds by as much as 98 miles per hour by the time they reached land and decreased storm surge by an incredible 79 percent.
Considering the billions of dollars of destruction a single storm can cause, a solution that provides renewable energy, pays for itself – and saves lives. Where can one sign up?