Live now: John Kerry on global issues

June 16, 2014

 By Olivier Knox

Secretary of State John Kerry warned Monday that al Qaida-inspired fighters sweeping through Iraq pose an “existential” danger to that war-torn country and threaten the stability of the entire region.

“This is a challenge to the stability of the region. It is obviously an existential challenge to Iraq itself. This is a terrorist group,” Kerry told Yahoo News Global Anchor Katie Couric in an exclusive interview.

Kerry’s comments came as President Obama looked at possible air strikes to stem the surge of al-Qaida-inspired extremists in Iraq, known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). ISIS fighters have seized Mosul, which is the country’s second-largest city, Tikrit, which is Saddam Hussein’s hometown. Overnight, they captured the city of Tal Afar, and American officials feared enough for Baghdad that they partially evacuated the US embassy there while beefing up security.

Asked whether ISIS could take the capital, Kerry replied “I don’t believe that they will in the near term” and expressed skepticism that they could at all.

Kerry said Obama was giving “a very thorough vettting of every option that is available” and underlined that “we are deeply committed to the intergrity of Iraq as a country.

Meanwhile, Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s strategic Crimean Peninsula, Syria’s bloody civil war, China’s rise and increasing tensions with its neighbors, and Obama’s plan to untangle America from its longest war in Afghanistan also challenge Kerry’s handling of world affairs.

As the top U.S. diplomat, Kerry has played a central role in what may be the Obama administration’s biggest foreign policy gamble: negotiations with Iran over its suspect nuclear program. Those talks resume this week with time running short to reach a deal that would lift crippling economic sanctions in return for steps designed to prevent Tehran from developing nuclear weapons.

Kerrycould also face questions about the prisoner exchange that freed U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, or about international efforts to retrieve more than 200 schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram extremists in Nigeria.

The interview comes as Kerry launches a two-day “Our Ocean” conference at the State Department.

“We will bring together individuals, experts, practitioners, advocates, lawmakers, and the international ocean and foreign policy communities to gather lessons learned, share the best science, offerunique perspectives, and demonstrateeffective actions. We aim to chart a way forward, working individually and together, to protect ‘Our Ocean,’” the department said when it announced the gathering.

The conference rests on three pillars: sustainablefishing, battling marine pollution, and reducing oceanacidification.

And it ties in with Kerry’s frequent, outspoken warnings about the potentially catastrophic impact of climate change.

“You might not see climate change as an immediate threat to your job, your community, or your families. But let me tell you, it is,” Kerry warned at Boston College’s commencement May 19.

“If we do nothing, and it turns out that the critics and the naysayers and the members of the Flat Earth Society, if it turns out that they’re wrong, then we are risking nothing less than the future of the entire planet,” Kerry said.

Kerry’s push on oceans, (and climate change generally) will test the Obama administration’sability to set the agenda at a time when headline-grabbing crises – Iraq, Ukraine, Nigeria -dominate the discussion of world affairs.

  • Politics & Government
  • Foreign Policy
  • John Kerry
  • President Obama
  • Islamic State of Iraq
  • Iraq

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