TIME foreign affairs

Quiz: What’s the Right Role for America in the World?

US Secretary of State John Kerry arrives for a signing ceremony for a memorandum of understanding with Tunisian Minister of Political Affairs Mohsen Marzouk at Blair House, the presidential guest house, on May 20, 2015 in Washington, DC.
Mandel Ngan—AFP/Getty Images US Secretary of State John Kerry arrives for a signing ceremony for a memorandum of understanding with Tunisian Minister of Political Affairs Mohsen Marzouk at Blair House, the presidential guest house, on May 20, 2015 in Washington, DC.

Take an interactive quiz to discover what you think America's role in the world should be

In his new book Superpower: Three Choices for America’s Role in the World, TIME foreign affairs columnist Ian Bremmer diagnoses the drift in U.S. foreign policy—and offers a few alternatives for the next President. But where do you want to see the U.S. go? Take this quiz and find out:

 

TIME diplomacy

Obama Offers Gulf Nations ‘Ironclad’ Security Cooperation

President Barack Obama speaks to reporters following the Gulf Cooperation Council-U.S. summit at Camp David on May 14, 2015.
Kevin Dietsch—Corbis President Barack Obama speaks to reporters following the Gulf Cooperation Council-U.S. summit at Camp David on May 14, 2015.

(CAMP DAVID, Md.) — President Barack Obama pledged America’s “ironclad commitment” to anxious Persian Gulf nations Thursday to help protect their security, pointedly mentioning the potential use of military force and offering assurances that a potential nuclear agreement with Iran would not leave them more vulnerable.

At the close of a rare summit at the presidential retreat at Camp David, Obama said the U.S. would join the Gulf Cooperation Council nations “to deter and confront an external threat to any GCC state’s territorial integrity.” The U.S. pledged to bolster its security cooperation with the Gulf on counterterrorism, maritime security, cybersecurity and ballistic missile defense.

“Let me underscore, the United States keeps our commitments,” Obama said at a news conference.

Thursday’s meeting at Obama’s retreat in the Maryland mountains was aimed at quelling the Gulf’s fears of U.S.-led nuclear talks with Iran. Gulf states worry that if Iran wins international sanctions relief, the influx of cash would embolden what they see as Tehran’s aggression in the region.

The president acknowledged those concerns, but said the U.S. believes Iran’s focus would be on shoring up an economy that has struggled under the sanctions pressure.

Obama and top advisers walked the Gulf nations through the work-in-progress nuclear deal in detail during private meetings Thursday. The president said that while the Gulf leaders hadn’t been asked to “sign on the bottom line” to approve the framework, they did agree “that a comprehensive, verifiable solution that fully addresses the regional and international concerns about Iran’s nuclear program is in the security interests of the international community, including our GCC partners.”

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said Arab leaders were “assured that the objective is to deny Iran the ability to obtain a nuclear weapon” and that all pathways to such a weapon would be cut off.

He added that it was too early to know if a final nuclear agreement would be acceptable, saying, “We don’t know if the Iranians will accept the terms they need to accept.”

The U.S. and five other nations are working to finalize the nuclear deal ahead of an end of June deadline.

As if to underscore Gulf concerns, an Iranian naval patrol boat fired on a Singapore-flagged commercial ship in the Persian Gulf Thursday. A U.S. official said it was an apparent attempt to disable the ship over a financial dispute involving damage to an Iranian oil platform.

The incident took place a bit south of the island of Abu Musa just inside the Gulf, according to the U.S. official, who was not authorized to discuss details by name. The White House said no Americans were involved in the incident.

Ben Rhodes, Obama’s deputy national security adviser, said that while the incident did not come up in Thursday’s discussions, it was “exactly the type of challenge” the Gulf nations are focused on.

Al-Jubeir, for his part, said, “The Iranians should not be allowed to get away with it.”

Obama has said he shares the Gulf’s concerns about Iran’s activities in the region. The U.S. has criticized Iran’s support for Hezbollah, as well as attacks carried out by Iran’s Quds Force. In 2011, the Obama administration accused Iran of plotting to kill the Saudi ambassador to the United States in Washington.

Thursday’s summit marked an unusual investment by Obama in his relationship with the Gulf. He rarely uses Camp David for personal or official business, but White House aides hoped the more intimate setting would lead to a more candid conversation with the Arab allies.

Just two other heads of state — the emirs of Qatar and Kuwait — joined Obama at Camp David. Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Oman and Bahrain all sent lower-level but still influential representatives.

As the leaders gathered around a large table in the Laurel lodge, the most notable absence was Saudi King Salman. On Sunday, Saudi Arabia announced that the king was skipping the summit, two days after the White House said he was coming.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef and Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman were representing Saudi Arabia instead.

The White House and Saudi officials insisted the king was not snubbing Obama. But there are indisputable signs of strain in the long relationship between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia, driven not only by Obama’s Iran overtures but also by the rise of Islamic State militants and a lessening U.S. dependency on Saudi oil.

Among the other issues discussed at the summit were the U.S-led campaign against the Islamic State, the fighting in Syria, and the intractable conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.

The Saudis are also particularly concerned about the situation in Yemen, where Houthi rebels with ties with Iran have ousted the U.S.- and Saudi-backed leader.

For more than a month, a Saudi-led coalition has tried to push back the Houthis with a bombing campaign. A five-day humanitarian cease-fire went into effect Tuesday, though the pause in fighting was at risk amid a series of violent incidents.

TIME diplomacy

Kerry Arrives in Russia for Putin Talks Amid Ukraine, Syria Tensions

U.S Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, left, watch as members of the United States and Russian delegations place red flowers at the Zakovkzalny War Memorial in Sochi, Russia
Joshua Roberts—AP U.S Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, left, watch as members of the United States and Russian delegations place red flowers at the Zakovkzalny War Memorial in Sochi, Russia, on May 12, 2015.

The top U.S. diplomat plans to test Putin's willingness to push pro-Russia separatists in Ukraine to comply with a ceasefire agreement

(SOCHI, Russia) — U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is in Russia to meet President Vladimir Putin with an eye on easing badly strained relations over conflicts in Ukraine and Syria.

Kerry laid a wreath at a World War II memorial in the Black Sea resort city Tuesday before holding talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. Later, he was to meet Putin on the brief visit, his first to Russia since May 2013 and the advent of the Ukraine crisis.

The top U.S. diplomat plans to test Putin’s willingness to push pro-Russia separatists in Ukraine to comply with an increasingly fragile ceasefire agreement, according to U.S. officials traveling with him.

Kerry will also seek to gauge the status of Russia’s support for embattled Syrian President Bashar Assad, whose forces have been losing ground to rebels, and press Moscow to support a political transition that could end that war, the officials said.

In addition, Kerry will make the case to Putin that Russia should not proceed with its planned transfer of an advanced air defense system to Iran.

Kerry’s trip comes at a time when relations between Washington and Moscow have plummeted to post-Cold War lows amid the disagreements over Ukraine and Syria.

In a sign of the considerable strains, the Kremlin said Monday that the Putin meeting was not confirmed, although U.S. officials insisted it was. A senior State Department official brushed aside the non-confirmation of the meeting from the Russian side, saying tersely, “We usually don’t go to Sochi to see Foreign Minister Lavrov.”

On Tuesday morning, the Kremlin finally confirmed that Putin will meet with Kerry.

Putin’s spokesman welcomed Kerry’s decision to travel to Russia. “We have repeatedly stated at various levels and the president has said that Russia never initiated the freeze in relations and we are always open for displays of political will for a broader dialogue,” Dmitry Peskov told journalists in Sochi.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry had previewed the talks by blaming Washington for the breakdown in relations.

“The Obama administration chose the path of scaling back bilateral relations, proclaimed a course of isolating Russia on the international arena and demanded that those states that traditionally follow the lead of Washington support its confrontational steps,” it said in a statement.

Ukraine’s crisis, it said, “was largely provoked by the United States itself.”

The rhetoric hardly augured well for a breakthrough on any of the many issues dividing the U.S. and Russia. Nevertheless, both sides stressed the importance of trying to work through some of the rancor that buried President Barack Obama’s first-term effort to “reset” ties with Moscow.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest acknowledged the “complicated” relationship between the former foes, but insisted they could cooperate on “interests that benefit the citizens of both our countries.”

Much hinges on violence decreasing in Ukraine, however.

The Western-backed government in Kiev continues to be embroiled in a sporadic conflict between government and separatist rebel forces in its eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk despite a cease-fire agreement sealed in mid-February. Russia was party to that deal; although the U.S. was not, one State Department official said it is important for Putin “to hear directly from the United States that we are firmly committed to (its) implementation.”

Western nations say Russia supports the separatists with arms and manpower, and even directs some battlefield operations — all claims Moscow denies. In return, the Russians bristle at Washington’s provisions to Ukraine of military assistance in the form of hardware and training.

Diplomats in Moscow and Washington are at odds over a range of other issues.

Russia last month announced it would lift a five-year ban on delivery of an air defense missile system to Iran, drawing a hasty rebuke from the United States.

The White House said the missile system would give the Islamic republic’s military a strong deterrent against any air attack. The Kremlin argues that the S-300 is a purely defensive system that won’t jeopardize the security of Israel or any other countries in the Middle East.

On Syria, Russia has defied a chorus of international condemnation to remain allied with Assad.

Following his stop in Sochi, Kerry will travel to Antalya, Turkey, where he will attend a meeting of NATO foreign ministers Wednesday. Kerry will then return to Washington to attend meetings Thursday with Obama and top officials of the Persian Gulf Arab states, who are concerned about the possibility of a nuclear deal with Iran.

TIME diplomacy

John Kerry and Vladimir Putin to Hold Talks in Russia

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the Kremlin in Moscow on May 10, 2015.
Alexander Aksakov—Getty Images Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the Kremlin in Moscow on May 10, 2015.

It will be his first trip to Russia since the start of the Ukraine crisis

(WASHINGTON) — The State Department says Secretary of State John Kerry will travel to Russia this week for talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

It will be his first trip to Russia since the start of the Ukraine crisis, which has badly damaged relations between Moscow and the west, and only his second since taking office.

The State Department said Kerry will meet Putin and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov at the Black Sea resort of Sochi on Tuesday.

After his brief stop in Russia, Kerry will travel to Turkey for a meeting of NATO foreign ministers and return to Washington for a summit of Gulf Arab leaders that President Barack Obama is hosting at Camp David.

Kerry last visited Russia in May 2013.

TIME Pakistan

Ambassadors Killed in Pakistan Helicopter Crash

Two foreign diplomats died in a helicopter crash in Pakistan's mountainous Gilgit-Baltistan region

(ISLAMABAD) — Pakistan’s army says the ambassadors from the Philippines and Norway were killed in a helicopter crash in the country’s north.

The army says the helicopter carrying 11 foreigners and six Pakistanis made a crash landing Friday, killing two pilots and four foreign passengers.

The army’s spokesman, Maj. Gen. Asim Bajwa, tweeted that the MI-17 helicopter made the emergency landing in the northern area of Naltar.

It was unclear what caused the crash.

TIME Iran

Ignore the Noise in Washington and Tehran. An Iran Nuclear Deal Is Still Likely

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei addresses military commanders in Tehran on April 19, 2015,
Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader/AP Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei addresses military commanders in Tehran on April 19, 2015,

Despite the criticisms around the Iran negotiations, a deal is still more likely than not. But the real challenge will be implementation

In his first public comments after the U.S. and Iran settled on a nuclear framework agreement, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei pulled no punches: “The whole problem comes now that the details should be discussed, because the other side is stubborn, difficult to deal with, breaks promises and is a backstabber.”

Critics quickly pointed to the statement as proof that hopes for a final deal are evaporating. But the Ayatollah’s combative words don’t move the needle on whether we’ll get a final deal by the June 30 deadline.

Khamenei is posturing for two separate audiences. His hardline supporters in Iran could undermine his political authority if they believe he is capitulating to the West. The Ayatollah needs to placate this group while his negotiators, led by Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, hammer out a deal behind closed doors. His second audience is the Western negotiators with whom he is trying to drive a hard bargain. Khamenei’s comments put more pressure on them, and sends a signal to his own negotiators not to cede ground.

But Khamenei authorized Iran’s president to appoint negotiators to work out a deal. The Supreme Leader has praised those negotiators via Twitter. The talks couldn’t have progressed this far if Khamenei wasn’t serious about getting a deal done to escape Western sanctions.

In fact, American detractors of the potential deal are engaging in a very similar form of theater. U.S. politicians want to score political points as much as their Iranian counterparts do: congressional Republicans and GOP presidential hopefuls are badmouthing the deal to ding President Obama and gain traction on the biggest global issue of the day. But the reality is that it will be impossible for Republicans to peel off enough Democrats to reach a veto-proof majority and overturn a final deal. The international community favors an Iran deal, and the American public is wary of undertaking military actions that could lead to another Middle East war.

A final deal between the U.S. and Iran remains more likely than not, but it’s not vitriolic tweets that threaten it most—it’s the remaining sticking points between the two sides. How much enriched uranium would Iran be allowed to stockpile? How much will a deal limit nuclear research using advanced machines? At what pace and in what sequence will the West lift sanctions while Iran carries out its end of the bargain?

These are critical and complex questions, but both sides know that they exist, and nothing that has been said from the sidelines in Tehran or Washington has changed that.

Yet even if the U.S. and Iran manage to agree on a final deal, the negotiations won’t end. The devil lies in the details of implementation. What happens if the U.S. discovers in four or five years that Iran is cheating, hiding nuclear weapons work from inspectors? How feasible will it be to punish Iran for undermining a deal, especially once sanctions are peeled back and Iran emerges from international isolation?

Reaching a deal is one thing. Making sure it doesn’t unravel is something else—and something that may be even tougher.

TIME Poland

U.S. Ambassador Apologizes to Poles Over FBI Director’s Holocaust Remarks

The 72nd anniversary of Warsaw Ghetto Uprising
Jakub Kaminski—EPA The U.S. ambassador to Poland, Stephen Mull, right, lays flowers at the Monument to the Ghetto Heroes in Warsaw on April, 19, 2015

Envoy concedes that remarks were "offensive"

The U.S. ambassador to Poland Stephen Mull has apologized for remarks made by FBI Director James Comey, who penned a Washington Post op-ed last Thursday in which he accused Poland of being a collaborator in the Holocaust.

Mull, who had been summoned by Polish authorities, conceded that Comey’s remarks were “wrong, harmful and offensive.”

During Nazi Germany’s occupation of Poland in World War II, more than 6 million Poles died in addition to millions of Jews, Roma and other groups who died in several extermination camps in the country.

In his article, which was based on a speech he delivered at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, Comey referred to Polish “murderers and accomplices” and claimed that “in their minds” they “didn’t do something evil.”

The Polish embassy in Washington, D.C., published a statement over the weekend castigating Comey’s article “especially for accusing Poles of perpetrating crimes which not only did they not commit, but which they themselves were victims of.”

On Sunday, Polish Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz said, “To those who are incapable of presenting the historic truth in an honest way, I want to say that Poland was not a perpetrator but a victim of World War II.”

TIME Iran

These 5 Facts Explain the State of Iran

Secretary of State John Kerry, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif and others wait for a meeting at the Beau Rivage Palace Hotel on March 27, 2015 in Lausanne, Switzerland.
Brendan Smialowski—Reuters Secretary of State John Kerry, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif and others wait for a meeting at the Beau Rivage Palace Hotel on March 27, 2015 in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Sanctions, demographics, oil and cyberwarfare

As leaders in the United States and Iran maintain laser focus on the ongoing nuclear negotiations, it’s valuable to take a broader look at Iran’s politics, its economy, and its relations with the United States. Here are five stats that explain everything from Iran’s goals in cyberspace to its views of Western powers.

1. Sanctions and their discontents

Sanctions have taken a heavy toll on the Iranian economy. According to the Congressional Research Service, Iran’s economy is 15 to 20% smaller than it would have been without the sanctions that have been enacted since 2010. They leave Iran unable to access nearly four-fifths of the $100 billion in reserves the country holds in international accounts. Iran’s oil output has fallen off a cliff. Four years ago, Iran sold some 2.5 million barrels of oil and condensates a day. Over the last year, the country has averaged just over a million barrels a day. Even as the exports have fallen and the price has plummeted, oil still accounts for 42% of government revenues. Iran’s latest budget will slash spending by 11% after accounting for inflation.

(Bloomberg, The Economist)

2. Cyber-spending spree

But despite the belt-tightening, Tehran has been willing to splurge in one area. Funding for cyber security in the 2015/16 budget is 1200% higher than the $3.4 million allotted in 2013/14. Up until 2010, Iran’s chief focus in cyberspace was managing internal dissidents. But after news of the Stuxnet virus—a U.S.-led cyberattack on Iran’s nuclear program—went public in 2010, Iran’s leaders shifted gears. According to one estimate, Iran spent over $1 billion on its cyber capabilities in 2012 alone. That year, it conducted the Shamoon attack, wiping data from about 30,000 machines belonging to Saudi oil company Aramco. In 2013, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard publicly declared that Iran was “the fourth biggest cyber power among the world’s cyber armies.”

(Global Voices, Wired, Strategic Studies Institute, Wall Street Journal)

3. New generation and old leadership

The median age in Iran is 28, and youth unemployment in the country hovers around 25%. Nearly seven out of ten Iranians are under 35 years old, too young to remember the Iranian revolution of 1979. But the country is controlled by older men, many of whom had an instrumental role in the revolution. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is 75 years old; there have been concerns about his health and Iran’s eventual succession plan. Iran’s Assembly of Experts is an opaque institution with huge symbolic importance: it is tasked with selecting and overseeing Iran’s Supreme Leader. The Assembly’s Chairman passed away in October at the age of 83. His replacement? Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi, who is…83 years old.

(New York Times, CIA World Factbook, BBC)

4. The feeling is mutual

Over 70% of Iranians view the United States unfavorably—and 58% have “very unfavorable” views. On the flip side, more than three-quarters of surveyed Americans have unfavorable views of Iran. But that’s a more modest stance than some other European powers: 80% of French and 85% of Germans have unfavorable views of Iran. According to recent polls, Iran is no longer considered “the United States’ greatest enemy today.” In 2012, 32% of those polled chose Iran, good for first place. In 2015, just 9% selected Iran, placing it fourth behind China, North Korea and Russia, respectively.

(Center for International & Security Studies, Pew Research Center, Vox)

5. Support for a deal?

Negative views of Iran haven’t undermined Americans’ desire to try and cut a deal: 68% of Americans favor diplomacy with Iran. It’s a bipartisan majority: 77% of Democrats and 65% of Republicans are in favor of talks. Iranians have mixed expectations: only 48% think that President Rouhani will be successful in reaching an agreement. But if we do see a final deal, a lot more than Iranian oil could open up. Western businesses would love to break into a country that is more populous than Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, Israel, Bahrain, Lebanon and Jordan combined.

(Center for International & Security Studies, CNN survey, CIA World Factbook)

TIME diplomacy

Knifed U.S. Ambassador Can’t Wait to Get Back to Work

South Korea’s president visited injured U.S. Ambassador Mark Lippert on Monday, who hospital officials say is itching to get back to work after being knifed in the face.

President Park Geun-hye told the diplomat that while she had herself been victim of a similar attack in 2006 and undergone surgery at the same hospital, “it is even more heart-breaking thinking that an ambassador had to go through the same thing.”

Lippert — who received a large gash on his face and injury to his arm in the attack last week — could be released from the hospital as early as Tuesday, according to hospital officials…

Read the rest of the story from our partners at NBC News

TIME Know Right Now

Know Right Now: Hillary Clinton Wants Emails Made Public

The former Secretary of State wants to release some of her emails to the public

Hillary Clinton said late Wednesday that she wanted her emails to be made available to the public, after coming under fire for exclusively using a personal email address while U.S. Secretary of State. Watch Know Right Now to catch up on the latest in this story.

Your browser is out of date. Please update your browser at http://update.microsoft.com