October 23rd, 2012
08:47 AM ET

Sen. Portman: Romney has always said Afghanistan withdrawal date shouldn't be announced; O'Brien: "It was just publicly announced"

CNN Anchor Soledad O’Brien asks Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) if it is problematic that Mitt Romney frequently agreed with President Obama on policy at the third and final debate and whether or not Romney’s positions have been contradictory, including announcing a timeline on withdrawing troops from Afghanistan.

Sen. Portman says, “I thought when Governor Romney [agreed with President Obama], it was refreshing to a lot of undecided voters who are tired of the attacks back and forth and the politics. Look, when Governor Romney thought the President was right, he said so. He also made it clear, by the way, that although he supported the drone attacks, he supported going after Bin Laden that that was not sufficient. And that’s when he said we can not kill our way out of these problems. We need to provide a vision and strategy for the future that deals with the underlying problems here of Islamic extremism and the spread of it.”

O’Brien, asks, “Previously, I think a number of times, he said a withdrawal date is wrong, ‘do not name a withdrawal date.’ Isn’t that a contradiction to now say, 2014, end of 2014?”

Portman answers, “Well, he’s always said that it shouldn’t be publicly announced because it helps our enemies… –”

“It was just publicly announced,” O’Brien interjects.

“Well, no,” Portman replies. “He thinks we ought to get out by 2014. The question is how you communicate it. And, frankly, whether you listen to the commanders on the ground as to how you get there. He talked about that, as well.”

Starting Point with Soledad O’Brien airs weekday mornings from 7-9am ET on CNN.

October 8th, 2012
08:29 AM ET

O'Brien to Romney rep.: Romney position on Israel and Palestine solution "contradictory"

CNN’s Soledad O’Brien asks Mitt Romney Senior Communications Advisor Tara Wall to clarify Romney’s position on Iran and Israel and Palestine.

On Israel and Palestine, O’Brien points out that earlier this year at a fundraising event, which was secretly recorded and released by Mother Jones, Romney said that a “pathway to peace is almost unthinkable” and it will “remain an unsolved problem.” And in a released transcript of today’s speech he will say that he would pursue the goal of a democratic Palestinian state “side by side with peace and security with the Jewish state of Israel.”

O’Brien asks, “Those are completely contradictory. Which one is true?”

Wall answers, “The fact is it’s the President who’s failed in the negotiation process. He’s the leader right now, of this country. And he has failed to meet with leaders of Israel and –“

O’Brien states, “And Tara, that was an excellent shift, but answer, for me, about Governor Romney.”

Starting Point with Soledad O’Brien airs weekday mornings from 7-9am ET on CNN.

September 26th, 2012
08:18 AM ET

Pres. Obama rep. on Iran: Red line has been "laid out"

President Obama campaign Adviser Michele Flournoy joins Starting Point to talk foreign policy record, relationships with international leaders, and 2012 race.

On Iran, Flournoy says, “If you look at the record of the President, he has led the international community in imposing the most crippling sanctions ever imposed on any country. He has said that all options are on the table including the use of force if that becomes necessary. And I can tell you, from my time in the Pentagon, that option is very real. But I think it’s important that we give diplomacy time to work. We still do have time. But the President has been clear, and consistently clear in his determination to absolutely prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. There’s no doubt about that whatsoever.”

On Israel, Flournoy states, “I think that we have laid out a red line and that is Iran cannot actually get a weapon. And we’ve had extensive, intensive talks with the Israelis. There’s no light between us on the intelligence picture. There’s no light between us on the policy objective. And we’ve worked very closely in a number of areas on diplomacy, on sanctions, to try to further isolate Iran and get them to change their decision making calculus and give up the quest for a bomb.”

She continues, “I think that all of the intelligence communities, and they’ve testified about this publicly, they believe that they’re at least a year away, if not more, from getting a weapon. But remember, the facilities they are using are under AEIA safeguards. There’s a lot that we would see if they were would start to dash towards a bomb. So the belief in the international community is that we still have some time to work this problem, before we ultimately have to make a decision whether or not to use military force to delay the program.”

When CNN Anchor John Berman asks which leaders President Obama is closest with, Flournoy answers, “I think he’s very close to a number of our NATO allies to the President of Turkey to a number of leaders across the Gulf and Asia.”

Starting Point with Soledad O’Brien airs weekday mornings from 7-9am ET on CNN.

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Topics: CNN • CNN Politics • John Berman • Starting Point
September 25th, 2012
09:18 AM ET

Sen. Barrasso: Pres. Obama 'has failed on foreign policy"

Senator John Barrasso (R-WY) and CNN’s Elise Labott discuss President Obama’s foreign policy record.

Barrasso says, “[President Obama] says Osama bin Laden is dead and al-Qaeda is on the run. Al-Qaeda’s not on the run. What we’ve seen is al-Qaeda targeted and assassinated our ambassador in Libya. That’s the case. And then he called that a bump in the road. These are four dead American bodies who are in the road. So, I think he is absolutely wrong there. When he talks about pulling out of Iraq. What we now know is that his military advisors said leave people in Iraq, 15,000. He wasn’t able to accomplish that. So right now Iran is flying supplies to Syria over Iraqi airspace. It shouldn’t be happening, but it’s being done to supply the Syrians who are massacring their people. This president has failed on foreign policy.”

He adds, “The reset button on Russia has failed, we are still being held hostage by that. We know that China is funneling money to Iran in spite of all the sanctions we have. And I think the President, additionally, with regard to Israel needs to say exactly where the red line is, where the deadline is. And what it really means so people in Israel and the United States and Iran know when the President says ‘we have your back,’ what specifically does that mean.”

LaBott says, “I think on the issue of Iran, I mean, what US officials tell me is why should we spell out exactly what Iran needs to do. Want to keep Iran kind of guessing a little bit. Certainly, it’s coming to crunch time. I think it’s not so important necessarily that the President spells out to the general pubic and to the Iranians what he needs to do. He needs to spell out privately to Prime Minister Netanyahu, ‘this is where I’m prepared.’”

“Thirteen meetings with foreign leaders last year, none this year,” Barrasso says. “But time for ‘The View.’ I think that it misses the mark in terms of where the United States ought to be in foreign policy.”

Starting Point with Soledad O’Brien airs weekday mornings from 7-9a ET on CNN.

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Topics: CNN • CNN Politics • Egypt • Elise Labott • Iran • Iraq • Libya • Osama bin Laden • Soledad O'Brien • Starting Point • Syria
September 21st, 2012
01:43 PM ET

First on CNN by Elise Labott: Clinton to take MEK off terror list

CNN Foreign Affairs Reporter Elise Labott reports that Secretary Clinton will inform Congress of her plans to take an Iran opposition group off a State Department terror list.

Clinton to de-list Iranian exile group from terror list
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Topics: CNN
September 17th, 2012
09:10 AM ET

O'Brien questions Rep. King on validity of Pres. Obama Mideast 'apology tour' statement

Homeland Security Committee Chairman Rep. Peter King (R-NY) answers questions on Mideast unrest and his previous statement that President Obama has gone on an “apology tour.”

CNN Anchor Soledad O’Brien says, “But everyone keeps talking about this apology tour, and apologies from the President and I’m trying to find the words, “I’m sorry, I apologize” in any of those speeches, which I have the text of all of those speeches in front of me. None of those speeches at all… and if you go to Factcheck.org, which we check in a lot, they’ll say the same thing. They fact checked this and they say this whole theory of apology….”

Rep. King interjects, “I don’t care what FactCheck says.”

O’Brien replies, “You may not care, but they’re a fact checker.”

Starting Point with Soledad O’Brien airs weekday mornings from 7-9am ET on CNN.

September 14th, 2012
11:07 AM ET

Miguel Marquez looks for anti-Islam filmmaker in hiding

CNN's Miguel Marquez reports on the man behind an anti-Islamic film sparking outrage in the Middle East.

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Topics: Breaking News • CNN
September 13th, 2012
10:55 AM ET

Sen. McCain: Train Libya's police, military

Senator John McCain (R-AZ) responds to loss of US Ambassador Christopher Stevens and escalating uprisings in the Middle East.

Sen. McCain says, “We need to train [Libya’s] police and military. Again, it's not expenditure of American tax dollars. It's providing the kind of assistance that any country that is forming up after being the subject of a brutal dictatorship for so many years.”

Starting Point with Soledad O’Brien airs weekday mornings from 7-9am ET on CNN.

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Topics: Brooke Baldwin • CNN • John Berman • Starting Point
Sara Sidner Joins CNN Jerusalem
September 12th, 2012
10:36 AM ET

Sara Sidner Joins CNN Jerusalem

Sara Sidner takes on Jerusalem brief for CNN 

Sara Sidner is moving to CNN’s Jerusalem bureau as senior international correspondent, the network announced today.

Sidner will join CNN’s contingent of correspondents across the region, as the network underlines its commitment to Israel and the Middle East. In addition to its Jerusalem bureau, CNN has a production hub in Abu Dhabi as well as major operations in Amman, Cairo, Baghdad, Dubai and Beirut, where just last week the network added both a correspondent and producer/shooter.

FULL POST

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Topics: CNN
September 12th, 2012
08:41 AM ET

CNN's Elise Labott reports on the life of Ambassador Stevens

CNN's Elise Labott reports on the life of Chris Stevens, U.S. ambassador to Libya, who was killed in a rocket attack in Benghazi.

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Topics: Breaking News • CNN • Early Start • Zoraida Sambolin
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