TIME Military

The U.S. Needs a New Yardstick for a New Kind of War

IRAQ-CONFLICT
Buildings burn Saturday during a military operation launched by the Iraqi army to retake positions held by Islamic State outside the village Sharween, north of Baghdad. YOUNIS AL-BAYATI / AFP / Getty Images

America keeps measuring progress on a battlefield that no longer exists

Body counts are never a good a yardstick for measuring progress in a war of ideas. That’s why the Pentagon freaked out Thursday when Stuart Jones, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, told the Al Arabiya News Channel that America and its allies “have now killed more than 6,000 ISIS fighters in Syria and Iraq.”

The first counter-fire came, within hours, from Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. “I was in a war where there was a lot of body counts every day,” the outgoing defense chief, who served as an Army sergeant in the Vietnam War, said in one of his most pungent observations in his two years on the job. “And we lost that war.”

Hagel’s spokesman piled on Friday. “It’s not a metric that we’re going to hang our hat on when it comes to talking to the success of this strategy,” Rear Admiral John Kirby said of the Pentagon’s internal body-count estimate. “This is not a uniformed army with identification cards and recruiting posters.”

While Ambassador Jones added that the 6,000 number was “not so important” in the overall scheme of things, the catnip was out of the bag. That’s because Americans, impatient over wars that drag on (like Hagel’s Vietnam and George W. Bush’s Afghanistan and Iraq), crave measurements that suggest progress.

Unfortunately, that metric mindset has little utility in wars against ideology. “I don’t know whether 6,000 [ISIS] people have been killed or not,” California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the ranking Democrat on the intelligence committee, told CBS’s Face the Nation on Sunday. “But that is not going to do it.”

That’s because conflicts like the one now underway against the Islamist fundamentalism represented by the Islamic State in Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) are not constrained by national boundaries, or the national pressure points that have traditionally been the trigger of wars (and the foundation of ending them) among states.

Without the trappings of formal government—a capital, commerce, standing armies—non-state actors like ISIS or al-Qaeda deny military powers like the U.S. the kinds of targets they prefer. Their allegiance to ideology—be it theology or something else—takes away the fulcrum that victors used to leverage to bring wars to an end.

Industrial powers created industrial militaries, where rear-echelon bean-counters could tote up tanks, ball-bearing factories and troops destroyed—and thereby chart progress, or the lack thereof. But ideological war isn’t industrial in scope. Instead, it’s more like information warfare, where ideas, shared online, create alliances that ripple across borders and oceans.

It took a Detroit to build an industrial arsenal of democracy, with each weapon requiring dollars and sweat to assemble. Today, it merely takes a keyboard to build an ideological alliance, each member a low-cost addition requiring little more than fervor and an Internet connection.

The Administration of George W. Bush concluded the way to prevail after the 9/11 attacks was to invade and occupy Afghanistan and Iraq. Following wars that eventually will cost $3 trillion or more, and at least 6,845 American lives, his successor has decided not to tag along. Instead, President Barack Obama has told the nations involved—those with the most at risk—to step up to the plate to do the fighting, with the U.S. filling the role of best supporting actor.

Some see such a policy as too timid. “The U.S. efforts have always been halfhearted, half-resourced and focused on exit strategies rather than on success,” says David Sedney, who ran the Pentagon office responsible for Afghanistan, Pakistan and central Asia from 2009 to 2013. “We always want to have an exit, and the problem with real life is there’s no exit.” He argues that the U.S. needs to launch nation-building strategies in failed states that currently serve as incubators for ISIS and other groups.

Politicians aren’t calling for such radical action. But some believe the U.S. needs to step up the fight. “We need more boots on the ground,” Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain, the new chairman of the Armed Services Committee, told CBS on Sunday. “I know that is a tough thing to say and a tough thing for Americans to swallow, but it doesn’t mean the 82nd Airborne. It means forward air controllers. It means special forces. It means intelligence and it means other capabilities.”

The U.S., McCain said, can’t simply direct wars against ISIS and similar foes from relative safety behind the front lines. “For [the Administration] to say, ‘we expect [Iraq and Yemen] to do it on their own,’ they’re not doing it on their own,” he said. “And they are losing.”

The last clear victory scored by the U.S. military was against Iraq in 1991, led by President George H.W. Bush, a Cold War commander-in-chief. It was a bespoke war tailor-made for the Pentagon: Iraq’s massive army stormed into Kuwait, occupied it, and waited for the U.S. and its allies to drive it out.

The world watched that conflict and decided, given Washington’s overwhelming advantages in that kind of war, not to fight it again. Unfortunately, too many Americans seem unaware that the rules have changed. So they continue to want to measure progress in today’s conflicts with yesterday’s yardsticks.

But such yearnings are doomed. Persistence and will, not body bags, are the keys to winning these kinds of wars.

TIME Greece

Greek Radical Left Wins Election, Threatening Market Turmoil

Head of radical leftist Syriza party Tsipras waves after winning elections in Athens.
Alexis Tsipras, the head of the radical leftist Syriza party, waves after winning elections in Athens, Jan. 25, 2015. Alkis Konstantinidis—Reuters

All eyes will be on the opening of world financial markets

(ATHENS, Greece) — A radical left-wing party that is demanding an end to Greece’s painful austerity measures won Sunday’s parliamentary elections, threatening renewed turmoil in global markets and throwing the country’s continued membership in the eurozone into question.

But Syriza, which is led by 40-year-old Alexis Tsipras, was still waiting to find out whether it would have enough seats to govern alone, or be forced to seek support from another party, either in a coalition or as a minority government. Greeks might have to wait until at least Monday all the ballots are counted to find out whether they have a government.

Whatever the case, all eyes will be on the opening of world financial markets after Syriza beat Prime Minister Antonis Samaras’ incumbent conservatives.

“What’s clear is we have a historic victory that sends a message that does not only concern the Greek people, but all European peoples,” Syriza party spokesman Panos Skourletis said on Mega television. “There is great relief among all Europeans. The only question is how big a victory it is.”

Official results from 54.2 percent of polling stations counted showed Syriza with 35.9 percent and Samaras’ New Democracy with 28.3 percent. Alarmingly, the Nazi-inspired Golden Dawn party — whose leadership is in prison pending trial for allegedly running a criminal organization — was in third place with 6.4 percent.

The Interior Ministry said that its projections, based on early returns, show Syriza gaining 150 seats. But it added that the margin of error meant that the final number could be 149 to 151, and a final result could not emerge until all votes have been counted.

If the communist-rooted party fails to win at least 151 seats, it will have to find a coalition partner, or secure pledges of support that would allow it to form a minority government.

Samaras conceded defeat, saying he had received a country “on the brink of disaster” when he took over in 2012 and was close to ushering it out of the crisis.

“I was asked to hold live coals in my hands and I did,” he said. “Most gave us no prospect of lasting out and we did. We got the country out of deficits and recession … and set the foundations for growth and a final exit from the crisis.”

Tsipras has promised to renegotiate the country’s 240 billion-euro ($270 billion) international bailout deal, and seek forgiveness for most of Greece’s massive debt load. He has pledged to reverse many of the reforms that creditors demanded — including cuts in pensions and the minimum wage, some privatizations and public sector firings — in exchange for keeping Greece financially afloat since 2010.

Greece’s creditors insist the country must abide by previous commitments to continue receiving support, and investors and markets alike have been spooked by the anti-bailout rhetoric. Greece could face bankruptcy if a solution is not found, although speculation of a “Grexit” — Greece leaving the euro — and a potential collapse of the currency has been far less fraught than during the last general election in 2012.

The election result will be the focal point of Monday’s meeting of eurozone finance ministers and Belgium’s minister, Johan Van Overtveldt, said there was room for some, but not much, flexibility.

“We can talk modalities, we can talk debt restructuring, but the cornerstone that Greece must respect the rules of monetary union — that must stay as it is,” Van Overtveldt told VRT network.

“As far as I am concerned, we can discuss the modalities (of the program) but it’s impossible to fundamentally change things,” he added.

But Syriza struck a defiant tone Sunday night.

“There is an expectation of economic relief for many, of a reboot of the economy and there will be a new debate on the servicing of the debt,” Skourletis said. “Europeans have accommodated themselves with the idea.”

Skourletis said the election results heralded “a return of social dignity and social justice. A return to democracy. Because, beyond the wild austerity, democracy has suffered.”

Syriza’s anti-bailout rhetoric appealed to many in a country that, in the past five years of its acute financial crisis, has seen a quarter of its economy wiped out, unemployment of above 25 percent, and average income losses of at least 30 percent.

But it has also renewed doubts over Greece’s ability to emerge from its financial crisis, and fears that the country’s finances could once again send shockwaves through global markets and undermine the euro, the currency shared by 19 European countries.

Hundreds of people turned out to celebrate outside Syriza’s main electoral kiosk in central Athens, waving flags and cheering.

The centrist Potami (River) party was battling for third place with Golden Dawn. Early official returns showed Golden Dawn slightly ahead with 6.4 percent, compared to Potami’s 5.9 percent.

If Syriza falls shy of the 151 seats necessary to form a government on its own, it will have to seek support from other parties — either in a minority government or as a coalition.

A Syriza government will see Tsipras becoming Greece’s youngest prime minister in 150 years.

TIME faith

Balloons Replace Doves as the Vatican Symbol of Peace

Vatican Pope
Colored balloons released by children fly next to a statue at the end of the noon Angelus prayer recited by Pope Francis in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Jan. 25, 2015. Greogrio Borgia—AP

After doves released last year were attacked

Children visiting the Vatican released balloons instead of doves Sunday in a ritual that serves as a gesture of peace.

The change follows an incident last year when doves released together by children and Pope Francis were attacked by two other birds, a crow and a seagull, the Associated Press reports. The episode created unwanted attention for the Pope, who is named for animal lover Francis of Assisi.

“Here’s the balloons that mean, ‘peace,'” Pope Francis said Sunday as children released the balloons. Pope John Paul II began the tradition of releasing doves to acknowledge efforts for peace worldwide.

[AP]

TIME Greece

Greek Exit Polls Project Election Win For Anti-Austerity Party

Greece Election
People cast their ballots in booths at a polling station in an Athens school on Jan. 25, 2015. Lefteris Pitarakis—AP

The projected landslide would mark a rejection of the austerity measures imposed on Greece by its creditors

Exit polls in Greece’s national elections suggested an easy win for the radical leftwing Syriza party on Sunday evening, which has promised to “cancel” austerity and defy the European institutions that have given Greece some $270 billion in bailout loans since 2010.

Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras earlier summed up the mood of the day with a stark message for the voters taking part in the day’s elections: “Today we decide if we are going forward or if we are going towards the unknown.” Evidently, his electorate prefers the unknown to the five years of economic austerity they have faced under his government. Later on Sunday, Samaras conceded defeat in the election, the Associated Press reports.

A victory for Syriza, whose ranks include an array of leftists ranging from Marxists to greens, would be a stunning repudiation of the course the European Union has charted out of the worst economic crisis in its history. But it would also send Greece, and Europe, into uncharted waters.

In the best case scenario, Syriza’s success promises to initiate a standoff between a new Greek government and its European lenders, particularly Germany, over the terms of Greece’s bailout program. That could potentially bring about a reduction in Greek debt that will force other troubled economies in Europe to question whether they, too, deserve an easing of their loan obligations.

In the worst case, Greece could be pushed toward a default on its debt and a rancorous exit from the Eurozone, risking the collapse of the common currency that unites and fuels most European economies. Global markets could then be thrown into a potentially destructive downward spiral.

While voting in Athens, the 40-year-old leader of Syriza, Alexis Tsipras, said the vote would mark “the return of dignity” to Greece. His party was expected to get 36% and 39% of the popular vote, according to the exit polls, which are seen as a rough but reliable projection of the final results.

In the country’s 300-member legislature, that would translate into between 148 and 154 seats. So the key question that remained on Sunday night was whether Syriza would win an outright majority and a mandate to form a new government, or whether it would need to find a coalition partner.

“For them a coalition might be better,” says Eleni Panagiotarea, a research fellow at the Eliamep think tank in Athens. “They have promised so many things to so many people that they may need a coalition partner to blame when they eventually fail to deliver.”

Many of Syriza’s promises do seem unrealistic. On the campaign trail, Tsipras pledged to drastically raise the minimum wage, hike social spending and cut taxes, all while keeping the federal budget balanced. He has also promised to keep Greece in the Eurozone while defying the terms of its E.U. bailout.

But regardless of whether such promises can be kept, they seem to have appealed to an electorate suffering from the impositions of austerity measures. The size of the Greek economy has contracted by a quarter since the onset of the financial crisis in 2009. Unemployment has soared to about a quarter of the population, with more than half of young people jobless in Greece. Under the spending cuts Samaras’ government has been forced to impose as a condition of its loans, roughly a third of the country’s 9.8 million voters have seen their social security and medical insurance slashed.

So it has long seemed only a matter of time before these deprivations brought about a revolt at the ballot box. As the European nation worst hit by the financial crisis, Greece has now become the first to see public resentment bring an anti-austerity party to the threshold of power. But in the months and years ahead, other E.U. members weighed down by crippling debt will be watching Greece to see whether it manages to rid itself of austerity in a face-off with European creditors.

Success in that effort could encourage the rise of similar political forces in debt-laden countries like Portugal and Italy, piling ever more pressure on European banks and donor countries to write off the loans they have given to their struggling neighbors. The strain on the E.U.’s economic stability would be severe, but not quite as severe as it would be in the case of a Greek exit from the Eurozone. Such an outcome would threaten to unwind the common market that has kept Europe united for a generation. That would surely mark a step into the unknown.

TIME ebola

WHO Chief Unveils Reforms After Ebola Response Criticized

WHO Director-General Margaret Chan addresses the media during a special meeting on Ebola at the WHO headquarters in Geneva
World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Margaret Chan addresses the media during a special meeting on Ebola at the WHO headquarters in Geneva on Jan. 25, 2015. Pierre Albouy—Reuters

"The Ebola outbreak revealed some inadequacies and shortcomings"

The head of the UN’s global health agency has laid out a set of reforms to better and more quickly fight disease outbreaks, in a frank acknowledgement that the organization struggled to confront the scale of the 2014 Ebola outbreak that killed more than 8,600 people.

“This was West Africa’s first experience with the virus, and it delivered some horrific shocks and surprises,” said World Health Organization (WHO) director General Margaret Chan in a speech on Sunday. “The world, including WHO, was too slow to see what was unfolding before us.”

The needed changes, she said, include country-specific emergency workforces trained with “military precision”; a strengthened team of epidemiologists for detecting disease and a network of other providers to allow responders to reach “surge capacity.”

“The Ebola outbreak revealed some inadequacies and shortcomings in this organization’s administrative, managerial, and technical infrastructures,” she said, calling for a “dedicated contingency fund to support rapid responses to outbreaks and emergencies.”

The remarks came as the WHO’s executive board prepared to meet in Geneva to discuss reform proposals that many in the international community consider to be overdue. The response to Ebola by the UN’s health agency was seen by many as slow and ineffectual.

Indeed, Sunday’s speech did not mark the first time Chan acknowledged her organization’s shortcomings. In October, she told TIME that “the scale of the response did not match the scale of the outbreak.”

TIME Egypt

Violent Protests Mark Tahrir Square Uprising Anniversary in Cairo

At least 18 killed over weekend of unrest

Protests continued in the streets of Cairo on Sunday, following the death of a socialist activist who was shot and killed at a rally Saturday marking the fourth anniversary of the Tahir Square uprising that overthrew Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak.

At least 18 were killed in protests across the city as police officers opened fire, according to the New York Times. Security forces had been deployed across the city in an attempt to prevent a repeat of the dozens of deaths during last year’s anniversary.

[Reuters]

TIME White House

White House Chief of Staff Reaffirms ‘Deep and Abiding’ U.S.-Israel Ties

Meet the Press - Season 68
Denis McDonough White House Chief of Staff appears on "Meet the Press" in Washington D.C. on Jan. 25, 2015. William B. Plowman—NBC/Getty Images

Amid reports of a rift with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough repudiated reports of a widening rift between the Obama administration and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday’s morning talk shows.

An unnamed administration official was quoted by Israeli newspaper Haaretz as saying Netanyahu “spat in our face publicly” when he agreed to accept an invitation to speak to the United States Congress in March without President Obama having been consulted first.

But McDonough said on NBC’s Meet the Press that the alliance between the U.S. and Israel remained strong. “Our relationship with Israel is many-faceted, deep and abiding,” he said. “It’s focused on a shared series of threats, but also, on a shared series of values that one particular instance is not going to inform overwhelmingly.”

The White House Chief of Staff said he could not “guarantee” that an administration official hadn’t made the remarks about Netanyahu, but said he had no idea who might have said them. “It’s not me. It’s not the President,” McDonough told interviewer Chuck Todd.

House Speaker John Boehner invited Netanyahu to deliver an address to a joint session of Congress when he visits the U.S. in March, without informing the White House first. The trip coincides with negotiations between the U.S. and others with Iran on their nuclear capabilities, which are strongly opposed by Israel and by some in Congress.

The White House said President Obama would not be meeting with Netanyahu during his visit, out of concerns that it might influence the Israeli elections due to take place two weeks after his trip.

The decision has been portrayed as a snub by the Israeli media, though McDonough said on Meet the Press that the principle would be the same for any other ally. “We think as a general matter we in the U.S. stay out of internal politics of our closest allies,” he said.

In a separate interview on ABC’s This Week Sunday, McDonough urged Congress not to pass new sanctions on Iran while the nuclear negotiations are ongoing.

“We’ve asked Congress for forbearance, for some time to allow us to run these negotiations so that it is we who are, united with our allies, maintaining Iran isolated, rather than going with some kind of premature action up there on the Hill that would risk really splintering the international community, making it we, not the Iranians, who are isolated,” he said.

TIME Nigeria

Boko Haram Storms Nigerian City As Kerry Lands for Talks

U.S. Secretary of State Kerry walks down the steps of the aircraft upon arriving at airport in Lagos
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry walks down the steps of the aircraft upon arriving at airport in Lagos, Nigeria on Jan. 25, 2015. Akintunde Akinleye—Reuters

Islamist extremists attacked Maiduguri, the biggest city in northeastern Nigeria, as U.S. Secretary of State arrived in Lagos

In fierce fighting Sunday that killed more than 200 combatants, Nigerian troops clashed with Islamic extremists who attacked Maiduguri, the biggest city in northeastern Nigeria, from three fronts.

At the same time the insurgents continued scorched-earth attacks on villages some 200 kilometers (125 miles) to the south in Adamawa state, slitting throats of residents, looting and burning homes and abducting dozens of trapped women and children, according to Vandu Kainu and other escaping survivors.

Adamawa state legislator Adamu Kamale appealed for troops to protect civilians in Michika, where six villages are under attack. “The attacks have continued since Friday with no presence of security operatives,” he complained.

The multiple attacks come as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital nearly 1,000 miles (more than 1,500 kilometers) southwest of Maiduguri, over fears of violence around critical Feb. 14 elections.

Kerry met with President Goodluck Jonathan and his chief rival candidate, former military dictator Muhammadu Buhari. Kerry intended to ask them to urge their supporters to refrain from violence, State Department officials said. More than 800 people were killed in northern protests after Buhari, a Muslim northerner, lost 2011 elections to Jonathan, a Christian from the south.

Boko Haram has denounced democracy and wants to make an Islamic state of Nigeria, whose population of about 170 million is divided almost equally between Muslims in the north and Christians in the south.

In Maiduguri, troops blocked roads into the city, which also prevented civilians from escaping.

“Coordinated air and land operations are being conducted now,” Defense Ministry spokesman Brig. Gen. Chris Olukolade posted on Twitter. He said the 12-hour curfew in place in Maiduguri for more than a year is extended to 24 hours.

“We believe hundreds of thousands of civilians are now at grave risk,” Amnesty International said.

More than 200 combatants have been killed, mainly insurgents, according to soldiers and civilian self-defense fighters who counted bodies. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not allowed to speak to reporters.

Boko Haram on Sunday morning seized the town of Monguno, 140 kilometers (88 miles) northeast of Maiduguri, and attacked Konduga, 40 kilometers (25 miles) to the southeast, according to a senior army officer who similarly sought anonymity.

President Jonathan made a surprise visit to Maiduguri 10 days ago and pledged to crush the insurgents. But his repeated promises are ringing hollow as Boko Haram since August has seized and kept control of large swaths of the northeast, including key border crossings into Cameroon, Chad and Niger.

With encouragement from the United Nations, Nigeria and its neighbors are setting up a multinational force to fight the extremists who recently have increased cross-border raids into Cameroon.

But there is distrust of Nigeria’s military, which many believe is infiltrated by Boko Haram at the highest levels.

The Maiduguri attack is not unexpected. Boko Haram on Jan. 3 seized a key military base and Baga town on the border with Cameroon, killing hundreds of civilians and leaving the main road open to Maiduguri. The military said they were counter-attacking a week ago. But escaping civilians said there was no fighting and the insurgents retain control.

Maiduguri is the birthplace of Boko Haram and has been attacked many times in the 5-year Islamic insurgency that killed 10,000 people last year.

TIME India

Obama and India’s Modi Declare ‘Breakthrough’ on Nuclear Deal

US President Barack Obama in India
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi shakes hands with President Barack Obama prior to a meeting in New Delhi on Jan. 25, 2015. Vinod Singh—Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Leaders cite progress on nuclear cooperation, though details remain unclear

Seizing on their personal bond, President Barack Obama and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said Sunday they had made progress on nuclear cooperation and climate change, with Obama declaring a “breakthrough understanding” in efforts to free U.S. investment in nuclear energy development in India.

Obama and Modi expressed hope that a landmark 2008 nuclear agreement between the U.S. and India could begin to bear fruit.

“We are committed to moving towards full implementation and this is an important step that shows how we can work together to elevate our relationship,” Obama said.

The two countries had been at an impasse over U.S. insistence on tracking fissile material it supplies to India and over Indian liability provisions that have discouraged U.S. firms from capitalizing on a 2008 civil nuclear agreement between the U.S. and India.

“In our judgment, the Indians have moved sufficiently on these issues to give us assurances that the issues are resolved,” said Ben Rhodes, Obama’s deputy national security adviser.

Rhodes said it would still be up to U.S. companies to assess the market and decide whether they wanted to partake. He said neither country needed to take legislative action to complete the agreements the leaders reached Sunday.

In a joint appearance following their meetings, both men went out of their way to illustrate how their personal chemistry was yielding progress on various fronts, from defense, to trade to energy issues.

“Barack and I have formed a bond, a friendship,” Modi said. “We can laugh and joke and talk easily on the phone. The chemistry that has brought Barack and me closer has also brought Washington and Delhi closer.”

Obama said: “Your election and your strong personal commitment to the US-India relationship gives us an opportunity to further energize these efforts.”

Under hazy skies Sunday, Modi greeted Obama with a hug on the airport tarmac and offered an elaborate welcome at the country’s sprawling presidential palace. Obama also solemnly laid a wreath at a memorial honoring the father of India’s independence movement, Mahatma Gandhi.

On Monday, Obama was to be the guest of honor at India’s Republic Day festivities, making him the first U.S. president to attend the anniversary of the enactment of country’s democratic constitution.

Taking some of the luster off the trip, Obama is cutting his trip short to go to Saudi Arabia Tuesday to pay respects to the royal family following the death of King Abdullah. In doing so, the White House had to cancel a tour by the president and first lady of the Taj Mahal, the famed white marble monument to love in the city of Agra.

Other international topics also dogged Obama on his trip.

Obama said the administration is “deeply concerned” about the latest deadly flare-up in eastern Ukraine, where authorities said indiscriminate rocket fire killed at least 30 people in Mariupol, in the southeast, on Saturday. But Obama insisted that he won’t change the way he’s been handling the situation. He said he’ll keep trying to isolate Russia and would review options short of military conflict with Russia over Ukraine.

On Yemen, which has been a close U.S. ally in the fight against terrorism, Obama denied that the political vacuum created there last week has affected U.S. counterterrorism operations inside the Middle Eastern country. Obama said recent news reports to the contrary are inaccurate.

“We continue to go after high-value targets inside of Yemen and continue to maintain the pressure that’s required to keep the American people safe,” he said.

The normally bustling streets of New Delhi were empty and the sidewalks cleared by Indian police as Obama’s motorcade sped from the palace to Gandhi’s memorial. A massive security presence was in place for Obama’s visit, with numerous roadblocks and armed men lining the streets.

Obama and Modi strolled briefly through the picturesque gardens of Hyderabad House, the guest house where the leaders held their talks, walking past little ponds of lotus flowers. Sitting down before cups of tea, both men looked relaxed and smiled and laughed often as they chatted animatedly.

Earlier, Obama walked in his socks into a walled courtyard to lay a large white wreath at the site where Gandhi, India’s independence icon, was cremated. He then shoveled dirt and poured a pitcher of water around a young tree planted in his honor at the memorial.

As Obama and Modi opened their talks Sunday, the prime minister presented the president with a copy of 1950 telegram from the United States congratulating India on the adoption of its constitution.

Read more: 5 Things You Need to Know About Obama’s Visit to India

TIME North Korea

Dennis Rodman Doesn’t Believe North Korea Hacked Sony

CHINA-US-NKOREA-DIPLOMACY-BASKET
Former NBA basketball player Dennis Rodman waits to check in for his flight to North Korea after his arrival at Beijing's international airport on Jan. 6, 2014. Wang Zhao—AFP/Getty Images

"North Korea is going to hack a comedy, a movie that is really nothing? I can’t see that happening"

Dennis Rodman doesn’t believe that North Korea hacked Sony Pictures, the basketball star and self-declared friend of Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un said in an interview published Saturday.

“How many movies have there been attacking North Korea? And they never hacked those. North Korea is going to hack a comedy, a movie that is really nothing? I can’t see that happening,” he told The Hollywood Reporter.

Rodman, whose remarks came as he promotes his new documentary on his travels to North Korea, has traveled to the isolated country on multiple occasions and has received a warm welcome from Kim, whom he describes as a friend. The basketball star has been criticized for being too cozy with a country often considered among the most repressive in the world.

Read More: The Interview May Be Funny; North Korea and Kim Jong Un Are Not

The claim challenges the United States government’s allegation that North Korea hacked Sony Pictures in retaliation for depicting the assassination of the country’s dictator in the movie The Interview.

Sony ultimately cancelled the theatrical release of the film in response to terrorist threats against some theaters that planned to show the movie.

[THR]

Your browser, Internet Explorer 8 or below, is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites.

Learn how to update your browser