Controversy stirs anew over Saudi textbooks with Obama set to visit
March 25th, 2014
08:55 PM ET

Controversy stirs anew over Saudi textbooks with Obama set to visit

President Barack Obama's trip to Saudi Arabia this week comes amid accusations the State Department has hidden the results of a study that concludes textbooks in the Kingdom remain rife with Islamic extremism.

Since the September 11, 2001, attacks, successive U.S. administrations have attempted to curb Saudi indoctrination of students through hateful extremist material in its textbooks.

In addition to teaching the material to its own students, Saudi Arabia runs academies in about 20 countries, which use some of the same texts.

The Kingdom has repeatedly claimed that it has revised its textbooks.


February 23rd, 2014
05:37 PM ET

Analysis: U.S. and Russia playing chess or blood sport?

By CNN Foreign Affairs Reporter Elise Labott

President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin went to great lengths to portray their phone call Friday as evidence the two leaders were working together to stabilize the situation in Ukraine.

Absent were the accusations they traded the past two months over the future of the former Soviet republic.

The Obama administration continues to dismiss the notion of a new Cold War with Russia. But the louder their protests, the more apparent the chill has become.

It was on display Saturday in widely differing characterizations of a telephone conversation between Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, after news broke that Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych left the capital because of what he described as a "coup."

February 19th, 2014
05:46 PM ET

Obama condemns Ukraine violence, warns of consequences

By Elise Labott and Tom Cohen

President Barack Obama condemned the violence in the Ukraine, saying Wednesday the United States expected the government to show restraint against protesters and warning there would be consequences for excessive action.

Later, the United States said it would won't issue visas for 20 senior members of the Ukrainian government and others responsible for the violent crackdown this week in the capital of Kiev, a senior State Department official told reporters on a conference call.

That development came as the Ukrainian government and the opposition announced a truce to allow for negotiations to restart with the aim at stabilizing the situation, the official said.

In Mexico for a summit with the leaders of Canada and the host country, Obama said that "we're going to be watching closely and we expect the Ukrainian government to show restraint, to not resort to violence in dealing with peaceful protestors."

December 10th, 2013
08:02 AM ET

A brief but important handshake between Obama, Castro

By Jill Dougherty

Arriving on stage at FNB stadium in Johannesburg to pay tribute to Nelson Mandela, President Barack Obama shook hands with dozens of other world leaders, pausing briefly to grasp the hand of Cuban President Raul Castro.

It was a moment of high symbolism. More than 50 years after the Cuban Revolution, the United States and Cuba still do not have diplomatic relations.

The President has eased some of the economic embargo and travel restrictions that the administration of President George W. Bush strongly enforced, but relations still are tense. Cuba continues to imprison an American citizen, Alan Gross, who was arrested in 2009 on charges of attempting to destabilize the Cuban government.

American imprisoned in Cuba pleads for U.S. help
December 3rd, 2013
11:29 AM ET

American imprisoned in Cuba pleads for U.S. help

By Michael Pearson

Please, Mr. President, don't leave me behind.

That's the gist of former U.S. subcontractor Alan Gross' plea to President Barack Obama in a letter on the fourth anniversary of Gross' imprisonment in a small military prison cell in Cuba.

In the letter, Gross - convicted by a Cuban court of "acts against the independence or territorial integrity of the state" - says he spends 23 hours a day in a small cell with two other inmates, is in poor health and is largely cut off from the outside world.

"With the utmost respect, Mr. President, I fear that my government - the very government I was serving when I began this nightmare - has abandoned me," wrote Gross, a former subcontractor for the U.S. Agency for International Development. "Officials in your administration have expressed sympathy and called for my unconditional release, and I very much appreciate that. But it has not brought me home."

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Filed under: Alan Gross • Barack Obama • Cuba
What did Obama mean on Iran?
September 24th, 2013
03:59 PM ET

What did Obama mean on Iran?

By Elise Labott, reporting from the United Nations

So what did President Barack Obama mean when he said he was instructing Secretary of State John Kerry to negotiate a deal with Iran on its nuclear program?

Basically it’s to show that the United States is ready to play ball.

Senior administration officials said it wasn't to indicate a new initiative, as negotiations with Iran are already technically already taking place.

Instead, it was meant to show an increased emphasis and importance the president is putting on improved relations.

September 10th, 2013
08:01 PM ET

President Obama asks Senate to delay military strike vote, senator says

(CNN) - As a Russian proposal to strip Syria of its chemical weapons began to take shape, the White House eased off the gas on Tuesday in its drive for congressional approval to strike the Middle Eastern country.

President Barack Obama asked Senate Democrats to delay voting on authorizing military action in Syria while the diplomatic process works itself out, according to senators in a meeting with Obama.

A White House official told CNN that during his meeting on the hill, the president said that his administration would spend the days ahead pursuing this diplomatic option with the Russians and U.S. allies at the United Nations.

Russian Ambassador worries use of force in Syria could “ruin” US relations
September 6th, 2013
05:43 PM ET

Russian Ambassador worries use of force in Syria could “ruin” US relations

The Russian ambassador to the United States said any use of American military force against war-wracked Syria could carry serious consequences and hoped such an outcome would not ruin already tense relations.

While things are difficult between Washington and Moscow, Sergey Kislyak said in Washington that ties have not plunged to Cold War depths – yet.

“They’re not in good shape,” Kislyak said at an appearance in Washington for the Center for the National Interest.

How a military strike on Syria might unfold
A U.S. Navy Destroyer launches a Tomahawk missile
August 31st, 2013
12:32 PM ET

How a military strike on Syria might unfold

By CNN's Barbara Starr and Jennifer Rizzo

The U.S. military could execute a strike against Syria very quickly, if it's ordered to, according to Pentagon sources.

President Barack Obama is still debating a limited strike after Syrian regime forces allegedly unleashed a brutal chemical attack against civilians and rebel forces earlier this month, killing at least 1,429 people, according to Secretary of State John Kerry.

Before any missiles start flying, the president would issue an "execute" order for operations to begin.

Syria Opinion: Obama is mulling the least bad option
August 30th, 2013
10:35 AM ET

Syria Opinion: Obama is mulling the least bad option

Aaron David Miller, vice president and distinguished scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, says Obama apparently has chosen the middle option on Syria (between doing nothing and the McCain option of pushing for regime change). The result is one of the most widely telegraphed military assaults ever by Washington and a situation in which the president seems to be in a corner, forced to take action or risk being considered ineffective. It’s the least bad option, Miller says.


Filed under: Assad • Barack Obama • Security Brief • Syria • White House
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