November 16th, 2011
11:45 AM ET

What's next for Occupy Wall Street?

By Amar C. Bakshi and Mackenzie Sigalos, CNN

Before 1am Tuesday morning, Zuccotti Park was a sea of tents. Over the course of nearly 2 months, the Occupy Wall Street protesters had developed a fairly sophisticated community in the heart of New York City with a library, a convenience store, a first aid tent, and a kitchen at the center of the park that served free food throughout the day.

But according to Mayor Bloomberg and many disgruntled neighbors, the birthplace of Occupy Wall Street was a nuisance and a public health hazard. So early Tuesday morning, police in riot gear stormed the park and evicted the Occupiers.

Similar shutdowns have occurred across America in recent weeks: Oakland, Portland, Burlington, Denver, Salt Lake City, St. Louis and others.

Spending time down in OWS, we asked many people who to talk to for a smart take on the movement, and Hero Vincent’s name came up many times.

Hero came up to NYC from North Carolina on September 17, the first day of the protests. He has been camping out in Zuccotti Park for nearly two months, during which time he was arrested for misdemeanors by the city police on multiple occasions.

We brought Hero into the CNN studios just minutes after the New York Supreme Court decided not to allow the OWS protesters to re-establish camp in Zuccotti Park.

Mayor Bloomberg said: "Protesters have had two months to occupy the park with tents and sleeping bags. Now they will have to occupy the space with the power of their arguments."

But just how essential is a physical space to the success of Occupy Wall Street? Does Occupy Wall Street seek to become a political force like the Tea Party? And what do young people like Hero think of President Obama’s promise of change? We put these questions to Hero in the video above. Let us know what you think in the comments section below.

November 11th, 2011
03:11 PM ET

Bakshi: Interview with Prime Minister of Iraqi Kurdistan

By Amar C. Bakshi, CNN

This week I sat down with the Prime Minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government of Iraq, Barham Salih. Salih has spent his life fighting for Kurdish rights, particularly Iraqi Kurds who suffered brutally under Saddam Hussein. Salih himself was jailed and tortured by Saddam’s henchmen.

The Kurdish people have a long and tormented history. They are one of the largest ethnic groups without a state. After World War I, when great powers carved up the Middle East into nation states, the Kurds, riven by internal strife at the time, did not get a seat at the table. In turn, they did not get a state on the map. Numbering around 30 million today, the Kurds are spread across Iraq, Turkey, Syria, and Iran.

Wary of their aspirations for statehood, authoritarian leaders in the region have cracked down on the Kurds for decades. The most brutal acts of suppression occurred in the late 1980s in Iraq in what is known as the Al-Anfal Campaign. Saddam Hussein systematically killed Kurds, even deploying chemical weapons against them.

After the first Gulf War, the United States and its allies, Turkey and the UK, imposed a no-fly-zone over Iraqi Kurdistan to prevent Saddam from further attacks. This gave Iraqi Kurds a break, and their first experience of self-government. In the 1990s, the Kurds administered their own de facto government, which was officially christened the Kurdistan Region of Iraq after the Iraq War. Since the fall of Saddam in 2003, the region has proven remarkably peaceful and economically vibrant.

With America withdrawing its troops from Iraq this year, now is a pivotal moment for Iraqi Kurdistan. Salih is worried Iran may provoke tensions among Iraq’s ethnic groups to gain greater leverage over the country. Despite the risk of renewed violence in Iraq and the toll of eight years of war, Salih believes the Iraq War was worth it, preferring the “uncertainty of politics and power struggles” to the “certainty of terror” under Saddam.

Salih emphasizes Iraqi Kurdistan’s improving relations with its neighbor, Turkey. He notes that Turkey is investing heavily in Iraqi Kurdistan, despite tension over Turkish incursions into northern Iraq to kill members of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). The PKK is a militant Kurdish nationalist outfit operating in Turkey - designated a terrorist group by the U.S., NATO and the European Union - which has carried out terror attacks against Turkish targets.

Salih will not call for Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad to step down because he does not “want to interfere in the domestic affairs of Syria,” but he insists that Kurds are playing an important role in pushing for reform in Syria.

He acknowledges that Iraqi Kurdistan has its own troubles to deal with – corruption, violence and press intimidation. Salih admits, “We need to do better.”

A video excerpt of highlights is above, and the full transcript is below. Thank you again for submitting questions for Salih earlier in the week


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Topics: Iraq
November 9th, 2011
04:30 PM ET

Richard Perle says U.S. must support Iranian opposition

Richard Perle is a Resident Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. A notable neoconservative, he previously served as Chairman of the Defense Policy Board and Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Policy.  I talked to Perle about the latest International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report in which the agency said it has "serious concerns" about Iran's nuclear program and has obtained "credible" information that the Islamic Republic may be developing nuclear weapons.

Amar C. BakshiDo you advocate military action against Iran?

It seems to me the preferable course would be to encourage the internal opposition to what is a very unpopular Iranian regime to continue the opposition that we saw so graphically after the last so-called election.

They need help. They are being subjected to unspeakable brutality, murders, disappearances, assassinations, torture and arbitrary arrest. We have not been giving them any significant assistance. We should. FULL POST

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Topics: Iran • Nuclear
Bakshi: Got questions for the Prime Minister of Kurdish Iraq?
Prime Minister of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, Barham Salih. (Getty Images)
November 6th, 2011
12:43 PM ET

Bakshi: Got questions for the Prime Minister of Kurdish Iraq?

By Amar C. Bakshi, CNN

On Monday morning I'll be interviewing the Prime Minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraq, Barham Salih, in CNN's Washington, DC studio. I'd love to relay some of your questions. Let me know what you want me to ask below.

As way of very brief background, the Kurdish people are the largest ethnic group without a state. After World War I, when great powers carved up the Middle East, the Kurds, riven by internal strife at the time, did not get a seat at the table.  In turn, they did not get a state on the map.

Numbering around 30 million today, the Kurds are spread between Iraq, Turkey, Syria and Iran. Their aspirations for statehood have been channeled into a remarkable experiment in oil-rich Northern Iraq, where they administer their own regional government that has proven relatively peaceful and vibrant.

With the U.S. withdrawing from Iraq, the Arab revolts and the rise of Turkey, this is a pivotal moment in the region. The Kurdish people, in many ways, are at the center of it all.

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Topics: Iraq
October 26th, 2011
11:03 AM ET

Bakshi: Rounding up Iran

By Amar C. Bakshi, CNN

There's been a lot of exciting Iran content on GPS over the past week. You can read it all here. But to help guide you, here's a quick run through of what all has been going on:

Last week, Fareed Zakaria traveled to Iran to interview President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Fareed's trip occurred just weeks after the United States accused Iran of plotting to assassinate the Saudi Ambassador to the U.S. and just as President Obama announced the upcoming withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. Fareed considered the former a sign of Iran's militarization and the latter a strategic boon to Tehran.

Fareed was in Iran at a time when its leadership is locked in an internal power struggle with President Ahmadinejad up against Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei. This has led one GPS analyst to ask whether Ahmadinejad will effectively be Iran's last president.

And as the winds of change sweep the Arab World, they seem to stop at Iran's borders. Here are some reasons why there hasn't been an 'Iranian Spring'. But clearly discontent bubbles within.  Just look at this surprising bestselling book in Tehran.

Fareed found Iran surprisingly clean and its urban women relatively liberated. He spoke with analysts in Iran who explained why, despite what Westerners might expect, Ahmadinejad is actually a reformer when compared with the Ayatollah. And Fareed saw the effect of sanctions up close.

The interview with President Ahmadinejad was striking as well.  The President offered a rather unique interpretation of Zionismproposed an odd political experiment and defended his country's soft policies toward Syria. As expected, he denied Iran's nuclear weapons ambitions and condemned the United States for myriad alleged wrongs. And Ahmadinejad argued that NATO's mission in Libya exacerbated the conflict.

We've been paying a lot of attention to Iran over the past few weeks. You can read all our coverage here. In the coming days, we'll be presenting some broader analytical pieces to make sense of it all. I invite you to join us in sharing your impressions and analyses below.

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Topics: Iran
October 25th, 2011
08:50 AM ET

Strangest Herman Cain ad ever

What do you think of this strange ad of Herman Cain's campaign manager lighting up a cigarette?

What are some other strange campaign ads you've seen over the years and around the world? Let us know below.

The Gadhafi family scrapbook
(Courtesy: Michael Christopher Brown. Copyright: 2011)
October 20th, 2011
01:29 PM ET

The Gadhafi family scrapbook

Foreign Policy and Human Rights Watch have put together a pretty remarkable slideshow here. It's a series of never-before-seen pictures and documents from Gadhafi's private homes and state intelligence ministries - collected and re-photographed by Human Rights Watch emergencies director Peter Bouckaert and freelance photojournalist Michael Brown. The pictures represent just a fraction of the 1,000-plus photographs and documents - from meetings with heads of state to private snapshots with the family - that FP will be adding to its online archive.

Check it out here.

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Topics: Libya • Photos
October 7th, 2011
03:34 PM ET

Nobel Committee Chairman on politics in America and multiculturalism in Europe

Earlier today former Norwegian Prime minister and current chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee Thorbjørn Jagland announced the recipients of the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize. Last month at the United National General Assembly in New York, CNN spoke with Jagland, who is also the Secretary-General of the Council of Europe, a 47-member European organization dedicated to the promotion of human rights and democracy.

CNN: When you look at the United States right now, what do you think of our political structure and how things are working here?

Jagland: It seems to me that the political parties and the political leaders are focusing much more on their own parties and their own personality–how to survive–rather than the interest of the nation. I mean a democracy is in real danger if the political player is putting themselves first and then comes the nation. The purpose of being a political leader should be to serve your nation or serve your local community.


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Topics: Europe
Debate: Has President Obama lived up to his Nobel Peace Prize?
Chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, Thorbjørn Jagland hands the diploma and medal to Nobel Peace Prize laureate, U.S. President Barack Obama during the Nobel Peace prize award ceremony at the City Hall in Oslo on December 10, 2009. (Getty Images)
October 7th, 2011
09:02 AM ET

Debate: Has President Obama lived up to his Nobel Peace Prize?

The following is an excerpt of my interview with Thorbjørn Jagland, Chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, which is responsible for awarding the Nobel Peace Prize. In this section, Jagland speaks about whether Obama lived up to the expectations of the Nobel Peace Prize he was awarded in 2009. The rest of the interview will be published later today covering topics from the tragedy in Norway to Europe's role in Central Asia.

Has President Obama lived up to his Nobel Peace Prize?

Yes, I think so. I’m as convinced as I was when he got it that he deserved it for many reasons. He changed so many things in American foreign policy; During three months’ time, he, for instance and that’s what’s the main reason why he got the prize, namely that he paved the way for new negotiations with the Russian Federation about nuclear arms. If you look at the will of Alfred Nobel that goes directly to what he said that the prize should go to the person that has worked for - he called it reduction of standing armies but in today’s terms it means arm control and disarmament. So President Obama got the Nobel Peace Prize because he paved the way for such negotiations; he said that he was willing to discuss the nuclear shield of Europe and therefore, the Russians were beginning to come back to the table and negotiations started again.

We couldn’t avoid giving the prize to President Obama given the will of Alfred Nobel and what he did on this point. But, there are other things also, which we looked at, for instance, the fact that he started immediately to build bridges to the Muslim world throughout the time.

September 28th, 2011
01:44 PM ET

Debate: Can democracy solve your problems?

There's an interesting article over in The New York Times about how young people around the world are scorning the democratic system:

Here's an excerpt from the NYT article:

Hundreds of thousands of disillusioned Indians cheer a rural activist on a hunger strikeIsrael reels before the largest street demonstrations in its history. Enraged young people in Spain and Greece take over public squares across their countries. FULL POST

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Topics: Debate
The truth about who fights for the U.S.
September 28th, 2011
01:32 PM ET

The truth about who fights for the U.S.

Over in The Wall Street Journal, Ann Marlow debunks the myth that the U.S. military is made up of poorer Americans:

In 2008, using data provided by the Defense Department, the Heritage Foundation found that only 11% of enlisted military recruits in 2007 came from the poorest one-fifth, or quintile, of American neighborhoods (as of the 2000 Census), while 25% came from the wealthiest quintile. Heritage reported that "these trends are even more pronounced in the Army Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) program, in which 40% of enrollees come from the wealthiest neighborhoods, a number that has increased substantially over the past four years." FULL POST

Palestinian leader: Dire consequences if no progress
Senior Palestinian official Dr. Hanan Ashrawi. (Getty Images)
September 23rd, 2011
10:16 AM ET

Palestinian leader: Dire consequences if no progress

Hanan Ashrawi is the executive committee member for the Palestine Liberation Organization. Based on your questions for her, I interviewed her about the Palestinian bid for statehood. Here's a transcript of the discussion:

Amar C. Bakshi: Do you envision full membership to be obtainable within the next week? 

Hanan Ashrawi:  Full membership is obtainable; we might not be able to get it now.  If the U.S. carries out its threat of a veto or of coercing Security Council members to vote against this, they close one day but we’ll find another. We will continue; we will keep trying whether repeatedly going back to the Security Council or going through the General Assembly or going through other means, but ultimately full membership is obtainable because this is enshrined in the U.N. Charter and in all universal rights declarations since the rights of self-determination is something that no country should withhold from other nations.


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