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Foreign Policy

The Takeaway

Israel, Palestine and America's Role in Promoting Peace

Thursday, June 04, 2009

In President Obama's speech at Cairo University, he made it clear that U.S. and Israel have an "unbreakable" bond. He explained how the Holocaust continues to shape Israeli reactions to threats from the Arab world and to anti-Semitism around the world. But he also said it was undeniable that the Palestinian people – Muslims and Christians – have suffered in pursuit of a homeland. For reactions to this portion of the President's speech we turn to Ethan Bronner, Jerusalem Bureau Chief of the New York Times. We also have Professor Peter Awn, director of the Middle East studies program at Columbia University and Noah Feldman, professor of law at Harvard and author of The Fall and Rise of the Islamic State (Council on Foreign Relations).

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The Takeaway

Previewing President Obama's Cairo Speech

Thursday, June 04, 2009

As the president prepares to address the Muslim world from Cairo University in Egypt, The Takeaway previews his speech with two experts on the Middle East: Professor Peter Awn, director of the Middle East studies program at Columbia University and Noah Feldman, professor of law at Harvard and author of The Fall and Rise of the Islamic State (Council on Foreign Relations).

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The Takeaway

Afghanistan: A Woman Parliamentarian Looks Ahead

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Dr. Roshanak Wardak has a lot of ideas for repairing Afghanistan. She was a practicing physician for thirty years, then traded her stethoscope for a role as a member of Afghanistan's parliament. As one of 68 women in the lower house, she works for women's rights and to rebuild the beleaguered nation's infrastructure, especially schools and hospitals. She just testified before the U.S. Congress about her vision for her country and her work with RethinkAfghanistan.org.

Here is Dr. Wardak and others involved in RethinkAfghanistan

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The Takeaway

How Do You Solve A Problem Like North Korea?

Friday, May 29, 2009

South Korea's Yonhap news agency reports that North Korea test fired yet another short range missile today. This would be the sixth missile launch since the North's nuclear test on Monday. Our partner, The New York Times, is reporting this morning that the U.S. may push China to ban North Korean flights through its air space to prevent the transfer and proliferation of nuclear materials. New York Times correspondent David Sanger joins us with a look at the U.S. response to North Korea's rogue behavior. He's also the author of The Inheritance: The World Obama Confronts and the Challenges to American Power.

For more of The Takeaway's coverage of North Korea, click here. For a look at Kim Jung Il, click here.
"The Chinese want to press the North Koreans, but not to the point of collapse."
—New York Times correspondent David Sanger on North Korea

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The Takeaway

Of Homelands and Settlements: Obama and the Mideast

Friday, May 29, 2009

Last week the Israeli Prime Minister met with President Obama. Yesterday, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas took his turn at the White House. His meeting with the president comes as Secretary of State Clinton called on Israel to stop expanding settlements into the West Bank. For more we turn to Daniel Levy, Co-Director of the Middle East Task Force at the New America Foundation in Tel Aviv, Israel. We are also joined by Aleem Maqbool, BBC reporter in Ramallah in the West Bank.

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The Takeaway

Sri Lanka: After War, What?

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

For high quality video, click the "HQ" button.

Yesterday, the Sri Lankan government declared victory in the 26-year civil war against ethnic Tamil rebels. After such a protracted struggle, many Sri Lankans know nothing but fighting; healing the nation will take a long time. Will the thousands who've fled the country come back? Today The Takeaway looks at the Tamil diaspora here in the U.S. We are joined by Ahilan Kadirgamar, a spokesman with the Sri Lanka Democracy Forum, a diaspora network pushing for a political solution in Sri Lanka. He's also a fellow at the Asia Society.

Here's M.I.A., who is probably the most famous Tamil in the world, on the Tavis Smiley show discussing the civil war in Sri Lanka:

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The Takeaway

Join the Team! Obama Sends GOP Governor to China

Monday, May 18, 2009

President Obama has appointed Utah's Republican Governor Jon Huntsman as his Ambassador to China. Many say it’s a politically savvy move that will ensure the moderate Republican Huntsman,a Mormon who co-chaired John McCain's campaign, is out of the running as a candidate for the 2012 presidential election. The Takeaway talks to Alexander Burns, a reporter for Politico.

Here's the President announcing his choice of Jon Huntsman:

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The Takeaway

Afghanistan: Where Superpowers Go To Die?

Monday, May 11, 2009

Twenty years ago, the Soviet Union's military retreated from Afghanistan in disarray. Their bloody nine-year conflict has often been called “Russia’s Vietnam.” Now some Russians see America and its NATO allies heading for a similar destiny. To discuss this alarming possibility is Sergei Khrushchev, the son of the former Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev. (Sergei’s father died in 1971.) Sergei, a fellow in international affairs at Brown University, joins a conversation with the BBC’s Russia reporter Olexiy Solohubenko and James Joyner of the Atlantic Council.

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The Takeaway

In Pakistan, Thousands of New Refugees

Monday, May 11, 2009

Thousands of Pakistanis are fleeing the Swat valley, where the government is intensifying its fight against Taliban militants. The fighting has displaced tens of thousands of civilians who have fled the embattled areas and officials are struggling to deal with the refugee crisis. More civilians took advantage of the lifting of a curfew in parts of the valley on Sunday to escape the fighting and join those already flooding refugee camps. For more we turn to the BBC's reporter in Islamabad Mark Dummett.

To see the BBC's report on the refugee situation in Pakistan, click here.

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The Takeaway

On the Agenda for This Week, from Marcus Mabry

Monday, May 11, 2009

It’s Monday, and we’re taking a look at the agenda for the week ahead: From the Pope's mission to the Middle East to a Senate subcommittee hearing on torture to the Credit Cardholders' Bill of Rights. The Takeaway is joined by our friend Marcus Mabry, the international business editor of The New York Times.

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The Takeaway

Other Countries Don't Share U.S. Fears about Pakistan

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Pakistan is one of the Obama administration's top priorities. The country has its own special envoy, the President has made speeches on its future, and Americans officials have only debated whether Pakistan is a failed state. Concerns over security in the country run so deep that President Obama is meeting with the leaders of Pakistan and Afghanistan today at the White House. But the rest of the world may have more confidence in Pakistan. Jonathan Marcus is diplomatic correspondent for our partner the BBC, and he joins us from London to discuss the global view of Pakistan from the rest of the world.
"There are certainly very strong concerns about stability in Pakistan, but as yet no real alarm bells ringing that Pakistan is likely to go under. But that, of course, isn't to underestimate the scale of the problems involved."
—BBC diplomatic correspondent Jonathan Marcus on U.S. diplomacy in Pakistan

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The Takeaway

Afghan President Karzai heads to Washington

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Afghan President Hamid Karzai arrives in Washington today as part of a series of meetings this week that may determine his and his country's future. Today, President Obama's special envoy to the region, Richard Holbrooke, testifies on the administration’s plans for both Afghanistan and Pakistan. Tomorrow President Obama meets with Karzai along with Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari in talks to stabilize the volatile region. A lot is at stake for President Karzai. His visit comes amid reports of bombs being dropped in the Taliban-controlled region of the country and his selection of a controversial warlord as a vice-presidential running mate. While much is at stake for Afghanistan, there is a lot on the table for the U.S., too. Joining The Takeaway is Ambassador Robert Finn: he was America’s first Ambassador to Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban in 2002. He currently has a dual appointment in Princeton's Department of Near Eastern Studies and the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.
"For Afghanistan, and for our relationship with Afghanistan, the United States should not be supporting a particular candidate. I don't know who's going to win, but Afghanistan has to choose its own leader and not have someone outside telling it what to do."
—Ambassador Randy Finn on elections in Afghanistan

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The Takeaway

The relationship between the U.S. and Pakistan

Monday, May 04, 2009

Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari have plans to visit Washington this week to engage in some tri-party talks about the region. And with the Taliban possibly threatening Pakistan's nuclear arms arsenal, stability the region is of the utmost importance. As part of the strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan that President Obama unveiled last month, he requested that Congress approve billions in additional military and civilian assistance for the volatile nations. In these challenging economic times, is financial aid the only way to stabilize the countries? Before she testifies before the House Foreign Affairs committee, Christine Fair, a senior political scientist for the Rand Corporation, stops by The Takeaway to discuss Pakistan, the Taliban, and the need for U.S. aid.
"If Nawaz Sharif were to come out even more strongly than he has against the Taliban, that would actually be very helpful in trying to get Pakistanis to understand the threat that, quite frankly, really does potentially undermine the security of their state."
—Christine Fair, senior political scientist for the Rand Corporation, on violence in Pakistan

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The Takeaway

State Department critical of Pakistani response to Taliban

Friday, April 24, 2009

In another indication of the gathering strength of the insurgency, Taliban militants have taken control of a gateway district close to the Pakistani capital. The district of Buner, home to almost one million, is just seventy miles from Islamabad and leads to speculation that the Taliban could be making plans for a move on the city. This increases concern that the government is unprepared to fend off the strategic advances of the Taliban. Now, U.S. officials are questioning the government's willingness to take on the insurgents. Both Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have warned of the consequences, Secretary Clinton went so far as to call it an "existential threat". So is Pakistan fighting for its very existence?

To help us understand the Pakistani point of view of the Taliban insurgency and the government's reaction, we turn to Ambassador Munir Akram. Ambassador Akram was Pakistan's Ambassador to the United Nations from 2002-2008.

**UPDATE: Pakistani officials and international press outlets are reporting that Taliban militants have begun withdrawing from the Buner district.**
"Pakistan can do without American aid. This is my honest opinion. Whatever money is committed, half the aid comes back to the donors."
—Ambassador Munir Akram on U.S. involvement in Pakistan

Watch Secretary of State Clinton's comments on the situation in Pakistan below.

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The Takeaway

Is advocacy really saving Darfur?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The American public is famously divided on almost every issue: from politics to war to the place of religion in society. But in the past five years there is one cause that has united Americans of liberal and conservative leanings and of Muslim, Jewish and Christian faiths: outrage over the ongoing conflict in Sudan's Darfur region. Since former Secretary of State Collin Powell identified the conflict in Darfur as a genocide in 2004, we've been up in arms and out in the streets, demanding an end to abuses by the Sudanese government. But how much has our advocacy actually achieved? And can we accurately call Darfur a genocide? The Takeaway talks to Mahmood Mamdani, a professor of Government at Columbia University and author of the book, Saviors and Survivors: Darfur, Politics and the War on Terror.

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The Takeaway

Critics wary as President Obama reaches out to Venezuela's Hugo Chavez

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

President Obama is signaling a new era of diplomacy with two Latin American nations long considered troublesome for American interests, namely Venezuela and Cuba. President Obama has called for open dialogue with Cuba and has said that "The policy that we've had in place for 50 years hasn't worked the way we want it to. The Cuban people are not free." Then Mr. Obama engaged with Mr. Chavez in a seemingly friendly way, despite criticizing Chavez's policies and anti-U.S. rhetoric. While some critics have accused Mr. Obama of coddling Venezuela, he dismissed such accusations.

But what are the pros and cons of engagement with these two countries, which were the focus of a very different kind of diplomacy under President Bush? To help answer these questions, we turn to former Ambassador Otto Reich, who was the U.S. Ambassador to Venezuela for President Reagan and a former senior Special Envoy and diplomat under Reagan and both G.W. and G.H.W. Bush administrations.

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The Takeaway

Bringing a war back down to earth

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

When the Obama administration dropped the use of the phrase "War on Terror" earlier this month, it marked one of its most significant foreign policy shifts, according to writer Reza Aslan. Aslan is the author of a new book called The Cosmic War: God, Globalization, and the End of the War on Terror, where he claims the U.S. must win over religious extremists by framing the struggle in earthly, concrete terms.

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The Takeaway

Jordan's King Abdullah visits the White House

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

President Barack Obama is set to meet with King Abdullah of Jordan today. This is his first major meeting with a leader from the Middle East and the leader is not Israeli. It has long been standard practice for U.S. Presidents to meet with Israeli leaders first, before reaching out to their Arab counterparts. Earlier this week Press Secretary Robert Gibbs described Jordan as a close ally and partner of the United States. But is this international friendship worth the risk of appearing to snub the Israeli government? For more we turn to the BBC's Jonathan Marcus.

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The Takeaway

U.S. to boycott international conference on racism over Israel concerns

Monday, April 20, 2009

Washington has confirmed it will boycott a United Nations forum on racism in Geneva because of differences over Israel and the likening of Zionism to racism. The boycott was prompted by concerns that the conference would be a flashback to the initial world summit meeting against racism in 2001 in Durban, South Africa, which critics said served as a platform to bash Israel. Those fears were confirmed when Iran's President just called Israel a 'racist government' at the start of the meeting, prompting Western delegates to walk out. For more we turn to the New York Times' Isabel Kershner, who is in Jerusalem and watching this conference closely.

For more, read Isabel Kershner's article, As U.N. Racism Conference Opens, Israel Recalls Envoy, in today's New York Times.

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The Takeaway

American journalist in Iran sentenced to eight years

Monday, April 20, 2009

Jailed Iranian-American journalist Roxana Saberi has been sentenced to eight years in prison for alleged espionage. President Obama has called for her release, and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has urged the country’s chief prosecutor to fairly examine the case. But Robin Wright, Public Policy Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center, and the author of Dreams and Shadows: The Future of the Middle East, says Saberi may be caught in the crossfire during a period of extraordinary tensions within Iran and between Iran and the US.

For more on this case, watch the video below from the Associated Press.

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