The hunt for 'Plan B' on Syria
U.S. Secretary of State Clinton, in Saudi Arabia Saturday, will take part in a Friends of Syria meeting in Turkey on Sunday.
April 1st, 2012
07:00 PM ET

The hunt for 'Plan B' on Syria

By Elise Labott, CNN

Expectations are low for Sunday's Friends of Syria meeting in Istanbul, where representatives from more than 70 nations and international organizations will gather to discuss ways to hasten the ouster of President Bashar al-Assad.

The reason is simple. The most critical piece is missing: Plan B.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has made no secret of her frustration with the opposition Syrian National Council's inability to offer a vision for a post-al-Assad Syria that all Syrians can sign on to. This week, Clinton said the United States would be "pushing them very hard" to present such a vision in Istanbul. FULL POST

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Topics: Syria
September 29th, 2011
02:00 PM ET

The Prime Minister of Lebanon's delicate balancing act

By Elise Labott, CNN Senior State Department Producer

The other night, I interviewed Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati, who was in New York to address the United Nations General Assembly. A lot has been written about Mikati, who was appointed in January. He's been accused of being too accommodating to Syria and Hezbollah (Hezbollah and its allies hold an 18-seat majority in the cabinet he formed in June 2011). For this reason, I fully expected Mikati to skirt any discussion of Hezbollah or the situation in Syria.  Instead, I found him surprisingly candid about the tightrope he is walking - trying to keep the peace between all of Lebanon's many factions.

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Topics: Middle East
July 28th, 2011
01:00 AM ET

U.S. cluster munitions haunt Southeast Asia

By Elise Labott, CNN

This weekend in Bali, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced a series of programs for Southeast Asia’s poorest countries as part the U.S. Lower Mekong Initiative.

The initiative aims to help countries along the Mekong River - Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam - by improving their infrastructure, health and education systems while quietly expanding U.S. influence in the region.

But for Laos, Washington’s forward-looking agenda is held hostage to its prior actions. During the Vietnam War, the U.S. military dropped two million tons of bombs - more ordnance than was dropped in all of World War II. Put another way, one planeload of bombs were dropped every eight minutes, 24 hours a day for 9 years. FULL POST

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Topics: East Asia • Military
July 1st, 2011
05:07 PM ET

The challenge for the 'new' Morocco

By Elise Labott, CNN

Moroccans on Friday approved a referendum on constitutional reforms by more than 98%, the country's interior minister said. Morocco's King Mohammed VI has promised that these reforms will usher in an era of greater freedoms.

I just returned from Morocco, where there is some reason to be hopeful that amid the uncertain course of the Arab Spring, there may be some blossoms of progress.

While I was in Morocco, King Mohammed VI unveiled the new constitution, developed in coordination with a variety of political parties and civil society groups.

The new, elected government that will result from this constitution will be accountable to parliament, have an independent judiciary and provide equal rights for women and minorities.

Now some might call that move a model for how to modernize and hold onto power. FULL POST

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Topics: Middle East • Revolution
June 9th, 2011
03:59 PM ET

Hillary Clinton: The Action Hero

By Elise Labott, CNN Senior State Department Producer

Powerful. Popular. Able to leap between campaign battles and diplomatic landmines in a single pantsuit.

The latest modern day comic book hero is none other than Hillary Clinton, who is being profiled in a new political comic, “Political Power: Hillary Clinton.”

The comic is the latest in a series of profiles published by Bluewater Productions which have featured a diverse group of personalities ranging from President Barack Obama to Lady Gaga.

The 32-page unauthorized comic book is not the first time Clinton has been immortalized in a graphic novel. Clinton was also part of Bluewater’s “Female Force” series, which also includes Michelle Obama, Sarah Palin and her predecessor Condoleezza Rice.’ The 2009 Clinton comic sold 20,000 copies, Bluewater said.

The new issue chronicles the events that lead her to become Secretary of  State, including her eventual support for Barack Obama’s presidential campaign to the detractors of her nomination to her confirmation. FULL POST

May 25th, 2011
10:55 AM ET

Palestinian Rep (Part II) on Hamas and recognizing Israel

After interviewing the Spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, Mark Regev, I sat down with the Palestine Liberation Organization Representative to the United States, Maen Areikat, to get the other perspective.  Here's the second part of that interview where Areikat emphasizes that the Palestine Liberation Organization does recognize Israel's right to exist.

Let's talk about the idea of recognition of Israel's identity as a Jewish state. One of our twitter viewers asked: ‘Why hasn't peace been achieved? (Is it) because the Palestinians refused to accept the existence of a Jewish state?’ How do you respond to that? Is this something to be negotiated at the table?

We did recognize Israel's right (to exist). In 1988 the Palestine National Council - the highest legislative body representing the Palestinians in the occupied territories and in the Diaspora - accepted the two-state solution and accepted a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and with Jerusalem as it's capital - 22 percent of what used to be historic Palestine in 1993 after the Oslo Accords. We recognized Israel's right to exist. In 1996 and 1998 we convened the Palestine National Council to reiterate our recognition of the State of Israel.

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May 25th, 2011
01:44 AM ET

Palestinian Rep (Part I): Netanyahu speech 'void of substance'

After interviewing the Spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, Mark Regev, I sat down with the Palestine Liberation Organization Representative to the United States, Maen Areikat, to get the other perspective.  I'll post excerpts of that conversation over the coming hours and days.  Here's the first part of the interview where Areikat calls Netanyahu's speech "void of substance."

What did you think of Netanyahu's speech? How is the Palestinian leadership likely to respond?

I think the speech was completely void of substance - nothing new whatsoever.

Netanyahu tried to project himself as a man seeking peace and instead of talking to the Palestinians about genuinely ending the conflict, he is here in the United States talking to the U.S. Congress, to AIPAC and other pro-Israeli groups. I don't think that will lead to peace with the Palestinian people.

He needs to talk to the Palestinian people; he needs to understand that any formula short of ending the Israeli military occupation and establishing a sovereign, viable, independent Palestinian state is not going to be acceptable to the Palestinians.

If you noticed, he never used the word "sovereign" in describing the future Palestinian state. He mentioned independent; he mentioned viable; but never mentioned sovereign, which tells you Israelis are not serious about ending this conflict. FULL POST

May 25th, 2011
01:33 AM ET

5 areas of Israeli-Palestinian disagreement

By Elise Labott, CNN's Senior State Department Producer

After Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave his speech to Congress today, Foreign Policy’s Josh Rogin and I sat down for a conversation with Netanyahu’s spokesman, Mark Regev. He elaborated on the Prime Minister’s speech.

After talking to Regev, I interviewed Maen Areikat, the Chief Palestinian Representative to the United States.

There are five areas where the two sides are at odds, which could complicate efforts to forge a final peace deal: (1) borders and land swaps, (2) Hamas and recognition of Israel, (3) Jordan Valley, (4) Jerusalem and (5) consequences of the Arab Spring.

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Six themes to watch for in President Obama's Middle East address
Palestinian security forces listen to US President Barack Obama as he delivers a speech at Cairo University, at their headquarters in the West Bank city of Jenin on June 4, 2009.
May 17th, 2011
04:39 PM ET

Six themes to watch for in President Obama's Middle East address

By Elise Labott, CNN Senior State Department Producer

This Thursday around 11am at the U.S. Department of State, President Barack Obama will deliver an address explaining U.S. policy in today’s Middle East and North Africa.

This speech has been planned in some form for months now.  Originally, it was aimed at pre-empting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is coming later in the week and was expected to bring his own proposal for Israeli-Palestinian peace.

But that doesn't seem likely now given all the turmoil in the region. Therefore, President Obama’s speech will more likely paint with broader brushstrokes. FULL POST

America's interests vs. values
March 23rd, 2011
10:45 AM ET

America's interests vs. values

By Elise Labott, CNN Senior State Department Producer

The Obama administration’s ad hoc strategy to the Arab Spring brings to mind the game “whack-a-mole.” With each swing the U.S. takes to respond to the transformational change sweeping the region, new problems pop up pitting American interests against American values.

In Egypt, President Obama eventually threw his support behind the protesters in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, abandoning a 30-year ally and a pinnacle of stability in the Middle East. This caused longtime regional leaders to doubt whether the U.S. was a reliable partner.

Now the U.S. risks critical Arab support for a no-fly zone in Libya by criticizing the government crackdown in Bahrain.

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