By Paul Courson
There has been little improvement in religious freedom worldwide but some positive changes were seen in Turkey and Vietnam, according to an annual State Department survey of nearly 200 countries.
Secretary of State John Kerry, a former U.S. senator who helped push the law mandating the original report 15 years ago, helped announce the findings on Monday in the Annual Report on International Religious Freedom.
"This report is a clear-eyed, objective look at the state of religious freedom around the world. And when necessary, yes, it does directly call out some of our close friends, as well as some countries with whom we seek stronger ties."
Government repression in China, North Korea and Saudi Arabia has kept all three countries on a list the report calls "Countries of Particular Concern."
By Jessica Yellin
President Barack Obama has spent large chunks of the last six months dealing with matters of foreign policy, from Benghazi to Afghanistan to drones.
But the topic won’t be the centerpiece of his State of the Union address Tuesday. Administration officials say he’ll focus instead on jobs and the economy, the topics that still rank as the most important for Americans, according to polls.
While Obama won't spend as much time on foreign policy Tuesday as he does on the economy, that isn't unusual. In his last four addresses to Congress, this president spent an average of seven minutes on foreign policy and an average 22 minutes on the economy, according to analyses from the Washington Post and National Journal.
He will address the ongoing drawdown of the American military presence in Afghanistan, and last week Vice President Joe Biden indicated at a security conference in Munich that Obama could talk about his commitment to reducing the stockpile of nuclear weapons around the world.
The newly re-elected president had a busy morning returning calls to world leaders who had sent messages of congratulations, according to a White House statement.
"In each call, he thanked his counterpart for their friendship and partnership thus far and expressed his desire to continue close cooperation moving ahead," according to the statement.
Not everyone got a call returned by President Obama, mind you. The statement notes the president returned "some" of the messages personally.
Here's a list of who got called: FULL POST
After a long presidential campaign, Barack Obama has little time to savor his re-election victory as a host of world challenges linger. Security Clearance examines some of the key national security issues Obama will have to tackle in the coming months and what the strategy may be now that the election year politicking is over.
Mideast, Iran and North Africa
On his second day in office in 2009, President Barack Obama appointed former Sen. George Mitchell as an envoy to Mideast peace and pledged to work "actively and aggressively" to secure a final peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians.
Four years later, Israelis and Palestinians are father apart from a deal than at any time in the decades-long peace process. And that effort became more difficult with the election of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has made countering Iran's nuclear threat his priority, as well as Palestinian infighting and conditions for restarting talks.
But both parties also blame a lack of U.S. leadership on the issue as a major reason negotiations have stalled. As with previous presidents, a second term could inspire bold moves by Obama to bring the parties back to the table.
One of his most pressing challenges will be curbing Iran's nuclear ambitions. After months of criticizing the Obama administration for not being tough enough on Iran, the Israeli government is now casting Obama's re-election as good for Israel and for dealing with Iran.
By Jane Harman, Special to CNN
Editor's note: Jane Harman is the director of the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington. She served nine terms as a Democratic member of the House of Representatives from California where she served on the Armed Services, Intelligence and Homeland Security Committees. The views expressed here are her own.
In spite of all the hoopla about bayonets and horses during Monday's presidential debate about America's role in the world, Governor Mitt Romney sounded surprisingly like President Barack Obama on the campaign trail four years ago:
"We can't kill our way out of this mess," Romney said. We're going to have to put in place a very comprehensive and robust strategy to help the world of Islam and other parts of the world ... reject this radical violent extremism."
Yes! At last, we have two presidential candidates who believe that playing whack-a-mole will never suffice.
As Obama said when he ran for his first term, America is a country "whose strength abroad is measured not just by armies, but rather by the power of our ideals, and by our purpose to forge an even more perfect union at home."
Both candidates consistently made that case on Monday. While partisans panned the debate - and neither side appears to have gained much of an election bounce - I saw it as evidence that we're that much closer to articulating a much-needed bipartisan vision for projecting our values around the world.
President Barack Obama and his Republican rival Mitt Romney exchanged fire on foreign policy and national security Monday in their last debate before Election Day. With tension in the air and undecided voters at stake, each candidate challenged the other's claims and positions. CNN conducted fact checks on each politician’s assertions. Click on the headlines for more.
President Barack Obama asserted during Monday's presidential debate that it cost the United States less to help oust Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi than it did to run two weeks of the 2003-2011 war in Iraq.
We can attempt a comparison by examining the Defense Department's spending on the two operations.
Although it has been over for nearly a year now, the war in Iraq continued to be a flash point in Monday night's debate between President Barack Obama and his Republican challenger, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
"You say that you're not interested in duplicating what happened in Iraq," said Obama, a Democrat who opposed the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. "But just a few weeks ago, you said you think we should have more troops in Iraq right now. ... You said that we should still have troops in Iraq to this day."
But Romney, who supported the invasion, said Obama wanted to keep U.S. troops there longer - he just couldn't get the Iraqis to go along.
By Adam Levine, CNN
Foreign policy will get increased attention in the two debates left between President Barack Obama and his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, with the final debate set to be entirely devoted to the subject.
The slugfest between the vice presidential candidates highlighted the toughest challenge for the Republican ticket, namely how to differentiate from Obama administration policies. The vice presidential debate left a number of questions unanswered about how each side distinguishes itself when it comes to national security.
Here's a look at a few of those issues.
Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney delivered highly publicized remarks on foreign policy Monday afternoon, two weeks before facing President Barack Obama in a security focused debate. The former governor took every opportunity in his 20-minute speech at the Virginia Military Institute to point out the perceived failures of the Obama administration. CNN conducted fact checks on several of Romney’s assertions to gauge their validity.
Throughout his campaign, Romney has cast himself as an ardent backer of Israel - and, either directly or indirectly, suggested that President Barack Obama hasn't been similarly supportive. Monday was no exception as Romney stated that the relationship between Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu "has suffered great strains" in recent years.
By the CNN Political Unit
Mitt Romney will seek to bolster his foreign policy credentials in a major speech Monday, two weeks before the GOP presidential nominee takes part in a presidential debate focused on security.
In his remarks, set to take place at the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, Romney will argue that last month's consulate attack in Benghazi, Libya, "should not be seen as random acts."FULL STORY
By Jill Dougherty
More than 100 senior executives from dozens of U.S. companies, representing finance, energy, technology and other firms, will travel to Egypt on Saturday as part of the largest-ever trade delegation to the region.
Organized by the Chamber of Commerce through its U.S.-Egypt Business Council, the mission's primary aim is to promote private-sector development and to scout for opportunities and partnerships.
But the delegation will also express U.S. business confidence in Egypt and demonstrate a commitment to the country's long-term economic development.
It will be led by Lionel Johnson, the chamber's vice president of Turkey, Middle East, and North Africa affairs, and Steve Farris, chief executive of Apache Corporation, a private Fortune 200 company with more than $10 billion in investments in Egypt.