October 17th, 2014
04:52 PM ET

Will airstrikes be enough against ISIS?

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

Fareed speaks with Francis Fukuyama, the American Enterprise Institute’s Danielle Pletka, Foreign Affairs Editor Gideon Rose, and Walter Russell Mead, a professor of international affairs at Bard College, about the Obama administration's strategy for countering ISIS, and whether air power will be enough.

Watch the video for the full panel discussion.


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Topics: GPS Show • ISIS
Zakaria: Iraq's army has collapsed
October 13th, 2014
10:31 PM ET

Zakaria: Iraq's army has collapsed

CNN speaks with Fareed Zakaria about reports over new advances by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. This is an edited version of the transcript.

There is reportedly one base remaining in Anbar Province under Iraqi control. Talking to a general, he said it isn't so significant. You disagree.

It's very significant. It’s not significant militarily, because Baghdad will hold for reasons we can talk about. What's significant here is that it tells you that the Iraqi army has collapsed, that there’s no real Iraqi army. Because those bases where people are giving up, surrendering, these are all Sunnis who don't want to fight ISIS, Sunnis who don't want to fight fellow Sunnis.

What you're seeing is that if you scratch the surface of the Iraqi army, it's a bunch of sectarian militias, and the Sunnis will not fight against ISIS because they don't like the Baghdad government.

They don't have that regard for a nation. It's like a sect nation.

They think at this point the Iraqi government is being run by Shia. And so they in a sense don't like ISIS, but they like the Shia government in Baghdad less. So what we have to come to grips with is, this army that doesn't really exist. FULL POST

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Topics: Iraq • ISIS • Turkey
September 26th, 2014
07:45 PM ET

Zakaria: Turkey key to anti-ISIS strategy

CNN speaks with Fareed Zakaria about the vote in the British parliament, by 524 votes to 43, to authorize airstrikes in Iraq against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

I think many people might have actually thought Britain was already on board for airstrikes in Iraq. We're not talking about Syria. We're talking about Iraq. The significance of this?

It’s very significant, particularly the size of the vote. Britain has been with the United States in almost every military struggle it's had really for decades and decades. But militarily, it's not as significant as you might think.

The crucial issue is the fight between the Syrian Kurds and ISIS that is now taking place very close to the Turkish border. The crucial question becomes, will Turkey get involved? Because if Turkey gets involved, you have a very large country with a very serious army with lots of ground troops that could take on the battle with ISIS.

So far, they’ve been unwilling to do it, for two reasons. One, they're very close to the border, and they worry about ISIS retaliating. But most importantly, there were 49 Turkish hostages that ISIS had. They have been released, and Prime Minister Erdogan said at a meeting that I was at last week that there was no political deal made with ISIS. FULL POST

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Topics: ISIS • Turkey • United Kingdom
September 25th, 2014
06:04 PM ET

Zakaria: Path to political progress in Syria must run through Tehran

CNN speaks with Fareed about Iranian President Hassan Rouhani's speech to the United Nations and Tehran's potential role in tackling ISIS. Watch Fareed's interview with Rouhani this Sunday at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN.

What struck you most about Rouhani’s speech?

It wasn't a particularly interesting or dramatic speech. It repeated themes that the Iranians have been saying for a while. Rouhani has been more forthcoming in interviews he's done – I had an opportunity to do one of them. In those, what becomes clear is the Iranians believe that they can be part of the solution in Iraq, in Syria, with regard to ISIS, even in Afghanistan. But first the nuclear deal has to be achieved. They are putting a lot of hope and a certain amount of pressure on the West to produce a nuclear agreement, a compromise that everyone can live with, and then they say they could be helpful for issues of shared interest, common interests in the fight against ISIS.

Certainly coupling issues that the West, the U.S. does not want to have coupled there. You spoke with him yesterday. He's critical of these air strikes in Syria. What did he tell you?

Well, he's critical of them, but I think it's important to note the criticism is very muted. It's of two forms. One is what you heard in the speech – this is all the West's fault. You invaded Iraq. You created instability. You created a haven for this kind of activity.

The second is rather technical grounds, which is that it's technically not something that can be sanctioned by international law because it doesn't have U.N. approval and it didn't have the Syrian government's approval. He moves off that pretty quickly. He's in favor of battling ISIS – there's no condemnation of U.S. air strikes. I think that they would very much like – the Iranians, that is – to have the United States take an active part in the struggle against ISIS. They just want to make sure they get the nuclear deal.

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Topics: Iran • ISIS
September 25th, 2014
01:32 PM ET

Zakaria: To beat ISIS, it's the politics stupid

CNN's New Day speaks with Fareed Zakaria about U.S.-led military strikes against ISIS, the Obama administration's strategy, and why the politics are so complicated. This is an edited version of the transcript.

This morning, a new round of U.S.-led air strikes targeted about a dozen oil refineries to try and cut off the money that the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria makes through the black market. But we don't know how successful these bombings will be, and we're not really going to know because the coalition isn't on the ground in a meaningful way. And even if they achieve every objective they want to, it's far from over. Explain the complexity of this situation in terms of how you make real change.

Well, you're exactly right. Think about the initial air campaign against the Taliban in Afghanistan, brilliantly successful in Iraq, brilliantly successful in Libya. And then what you have is the ground operation, and most importantly the political operation as it were – who is going to govern these areas? Who is going to take charge? And the problem we face in Iraq – we have an answer, and we have a strategy. The Iraqi army tries to move in, the Kurds move in, you're trying to create a more inclusive Iraqi government. Not there yet, but at least that is the strategy.

In Syria, it is a mess because once you start striking at ISIS, who is going to replace it? Well, the al-Assad government, the Syrian government, wants to be that person. We want the Free Syrian Army, the rebels, the moderate rebels as we call them, to take over. And, guess what? This is a 12-cornered contest. It's going to be very messy.

So, imagine the two-step race here. We have a one-step campaign to defeat ISIS. Then we need to, in our minds, help the Free Syrian army defeat the al-Assad government.

Meanwhile, just to complicate things further, the Iranian government, which has been backing the Syrian regime, is going to fight those free Syrian rebels. I had the opportunity to interview President Rouhani of Iran yesterday, and he said flatly, the Free Syrian Army are terrorists. From Iran's point of view, they really don't make that much distinction between ISIS and the Free Syrian Army. They're going to fight both. FULL POST

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Topics: Iran • ISIS • Islam • Middle East
September 24th, 2014
05:30 PM ET

Zakaria: ISIS policy 'remains somewhat troubling'

CNN speaks with Fareed Zakaria about President Obama’s speech on the threat posed by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria delivered at the United Nations on Wednesday. This is an edited version of the transcript.

Many were surprised that the Obama administration did in fact put together a coalition including five Sunni Arab countries to not only express support, but military support against ISIS. They got involved in striking these ISIS targets in Syria. That certainly is going to put enormous pressure on the rest of the world and friends of the United States to at least voice support for what the U.S. is trying to achieve.

Frankly, I wouldn't mind seeing the United States leading a little bit from behind on this one, which is to say having the Sunni Arab states in the front confronting ISIS, rather than having what ISIS would regard as the crusader capitalist Western Christian power do it.

The issue here, though, is that the strikes are fine, and I think the president will find there's broad support in a campaign against ISIS. There's broad support for the kind of talk about world order. But what's the regional strategy and follow up?

These addresses before the U.N. General Assembly are usually pretty good speeches, well written, there's a whole laundry list of international issues they want to get through, make some points, but then a few days later, certainly a few weeks later, very few people remember what they said. Will this speech be remembered down the road?

I think it will because of that very distinctive piece of it, the call on the Muslim world to cleanse itself of extremism. Very unusual. Many presidents have thought about talking in those terms, but have always been deterred – I know this was a conversation that took place within the Bush White House – because [they] always felt it would seem too anti-Muslim.

But I think it's also important to point out that this was a great speech, the kind Obama gives well. It's Obama as professor. It's a public education speech. It's coherent. It arches over lots of subjects, talks about world order. FULL POST

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Topics: Iraq • ISIS • Syria • Terrorism