I’m CNN’s Chief National Security Correspondent. For me, national security covers pretty much everything from U.S. foreign policy - including international hotspots such as Iran, Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, all the way to China - plus defense, terrorism and intelligence issues such as NSA mass surveillance. I'm willing to answer your questions on any related topic, especially having just returned from an assignment in Iran, my 11th visit there. I've spent most of working life living and breathing international news. I spent ten years as Senior Foreign Correspondent for ABC News, based in London and covering Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia. I started my overseas adventure in China in the 1990s, first as a Fulbright Scholar and then as a reporter. I took a short break from news to try my hand at diplomacy, working as Chief of Staff to U.S. Ambassador to China Gary Locke in Beijing. I'm writing a book now about my experience in China and previously authored another on my time in the Middle East, titled "Against US" back in 2008. I live in Washington DC, married to ABC News correspondent Gloria Riviera (we of course met on the job!) and am lucky to have two little boys who speak better Chinese than me. Go ahead and AMAA!

Proof: https://twitter.com/jimsciutto/status/437996622065065984


Thank you guys so much for joining today. It's my first and I really enjoyed your questions. Follow me on Twitter and Instagram at @jimsciutto. I try to populate the feeds with observations and comments like the ones below so I hope to keep you engaged.


Watch CNN "Situation Room" at 5pm ET. I'll be quoting some of your comments from our AMA.

Comments: 148 • Responses: 29  • Date: 

karmanaut19 karma

What do you think is the most threatening "silent conflict" (either active or simmering) that gets very little news coverage but has important implications for the rest of the world?

JimSciutto39 karma

I have to say it's the territorial dispute between China and Japan in the South and East China Seas. When I was in China, this was at the top of the news virtually every day, but back home it only occasionally captures attention. Fact is, it's about much more than a few tiny uninhabited islands (Senkaku's to the Japanese, Diaoyu's to Chinese). It's about China's growth as a regional power - and expressions of that growth - and Japan's nervousness with that growth. It's also about intense emotions in each country, going back to WW2. Trouble is, politicians on both sides stoke those emotions and once they do, they're hard to tamp down. I had a worrying conversation with Chinese university students last year who told me they think war with Japan is inevitable. If you're youngest and brightest are saying that, that's a problem.

hassanvand13 karma

Hi Jim! I am an Iranian journalist. I want you to describe your Internet experience inside Iran. TNX.

JimSciutto16 karma

Well, Twitter, FB etc are still blocked there, so I had to access those through my international smartphone. Instagram is open. Pres. Rouhani promised to end those blockages but has yet to deliver and I heard a lotof frustration with it there. Of course the great irony is that Rouhani, Zarif and others all use Twitter and FB themselves! So I asked Zarif about this and he told me two things: one, they're still working on it but have opposition from hard-liners and two, he uses a VPN himself!

iamdovah12 karma

How much of the news exaggerates the conditions of Iran? Or is it all pretty accurate?

JimSciutto24 karma

I think Iran is a country which suffers from a phenomenon a lot of countries do: a focus on caricatures. Americans have a caricatured vision of Iranians, based in part on the over-use of images like the "death to america" chants for instance. Part of the reason for this is that too few foreign journalists visit Iran, or are able to. It's also due to a broader temptation among journalists to fall back on caricatures to add impact or to shorthand complicated issues. Here's an example. I've been to Iran 11 times and every time I talk about how most Iranians want better relations with the US. But every time I go back, friends and colleagues ask me if I'm scared to go!

NotCompletelyDumb11 karma

What happens if Putin decides to intervene militarily in Ukraine?

JimSciutto14 karma

From what US and other western diplomats tell me, this would be a very damaging development. Even among the non-government analysts I speak with, I don't hear anyone who sees outside force as the answer. The trouble is, Russia has real interests in Ukraine, and one key to stabilizing the situation is getting Russian buy-in and that will be a key challenge going forward.

12zeroes000000000001 karma

He won't. There's nothing in Russia's national interest in intervention. This isn't a proxy show of sabre rattling. The 1800s were a long time ago.

esotericish2 karma

But Russia invaded Georgia in 2008 under very similar pretexts.

12zeroes000000000005 karma

Don't forget that is something Georgia brought on themselves and sought to shock the Russians

esotericish2 karma

Well that's highly debatable. Georgia would certainly disagree. Russia set themselves up to intervene by ensuring that a large amount of the population in Abkhazia and South Ossetia held Russian passports. They could then claim that any action on their part was to defend "Russians". In reality, the citizens in those regions were already mostly autonomous and Georgia didn't want Russia to dictate its internal affairs. This was also a response by Russia on Georgia's recent outreach to join NATO.

f4ze3 karma

Georgia still made the first move by attacking the peacekeepers in the area. Russia responded though rather heavy handedly.

JimSciutto4 karma

The timing is also interesting. Remember the Georgia invasion happened just as the Beijing Olympics were starting.

islesfreelance10 karma

Hi Jim,

What are the biggest misconceptions that Americans have about threats to our country?

JimSciutto26 karma

I think it's that some of us imagine the only threats are the violent ones such as terrorism or war, which are very real. But our lives are impacted directly by so many other challenges that we often forget - like how well we're educating our kids, or upgrading our infrastructure from building better airports to increasing broadband speeds, to how we're managing our public discourse in the US. As a big traveler, I gotta smile when I can get a better cell signal in Beijing than NYC, or faster internet in Seoul than SF.

MurrayPhilbman10 karma

Do you consider a hamburger to be a type of sandwich, or an entity of its own?

JimSciutto8 karma

An entity all its own! And one of the best things in the world by the way...

iamslm2210 karma

What is the most shocking/ disturbing thing you saw in Iran? Anything that would really surprise us?

JimSciutto9 karma

I'd have to say it was the 9/11 conspiracy theory still being peddled inside the former US Embassy there. They'd painted a mural on the wall leading up the main staircase telling a story of how the US manufactured the whole thing to justify attacking the ME. Now, I'd heard this conspiracy many times before in the region, but to see it still alive and well 13 years later was sobering. And like I said to the tour guide in the embassy who was trying to sell me on the story, I've just lost patience with this at this point. Here's the link to my story there: http://www.cnn.com/2014/01/30/politics/iran-embassy-mistrust/

iamslm221 karma

Wow that's incredibly disturbing. It's so bizarre to think people there are in such denial.

JimSciutto10 karma

And believe it or not, I still hear the same conspiracy theory even in Europe. A German friend and I got into a big debate over it a few months ago. Incredible.

trafficjelly9 karma

Hi Jim! What's your favorite place you have encountered in your travels?

JimSciutto13 karma

It's such a tough question because I've been to more than 100 countries and love so many of them for different reasons. But since that's a lame answer, I'm going to give you more than one favorite: Mongolia, Iran, and Chile. I like Mongolia for the other-worldlyness and supreme toughness of its people. I like Iran for the news, the history and the warmth of its people. And I like Chile for the intense and varied natural beauty from the mountains in the south to the desert in the north. Liked it so much spent my honeymoon there!

Mercurydriver7 karma

Do people in Iran really hate Americans or are they actually friendly people?

JimSciutto15 karma

Absolutely not. Look at how these kids reacted when I told them I'm an American: http://instagram.com/p/jukonpvKH5/

But I've always found that Iranians tend to like Americans more than people from many of our allies in the region - and the public polls back this up. Look at Americans' favorability ratings in Pakistan or Saudi Arabia, and they're not too warm and fuzzy! In 11 trips to Iran, even when relations between Tehran and Washington were ice-cold, I have almost always gotten a respectful and warm welcome form most Iranians.

Don_chingon7 karma

Jim Sciutto, you might like answering this. What was your favorite dish you got to eat in Iran, do tell !!

JimSciutto7 karma

Tough tie between dzin and fesenjoun (spelling?). Do you know them?

JimmyRippa7 karma

Hey there Jim! I was wondering what advice you could give to a kid looking into a career in journalism?

JimSciutto6 karma

I'd say find the best place and best opportunity to learn the basics of journalism - how to report a story. The key would be finding a place that puts you close to journalists doing their work so you can learn from them. This could be a small operation that gives you a change to report earlier and more quickly than a large operation. Or going to a large operation where you may be doing more "grunt" work but can do so for and close to folks who really do their job well. Find a beat you're passionate about. For me it has always been intl affairs - and dive in. One advantage for young journalists today is that there are so many more outlets which gives you more chances - and earlier - to report the news. And stick with it. Journalism - for all the grief it gets, sometimes rightfully - still has an important mission. We need good people like you. Hope this helps!

f4ze6 karma

Has there ever been an assignment during a violent protest or war where you ended up too close to the action? What was your mindset in the moment and what is it now that you've had time to reflect on it?

JimSciutto8 karma

Several times. And I feel very luck because several close friends and colleagues have been injured or killed in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria. Once I was in a Marine convoy in southern Afghanistan which was hit by an IED. I remember seeing the wheel of a humvee fly into the air in silence - before the sound of explosion registered in my ears. It was spooky. This was when my wife was pregnant with my first son, so it was the first time I was gambling with more than my own personal safety. As I hunkered down and waiting for the secondary attack, I remember thinking to myself this isn't just risky, this is irresponsible. I've tried to reduce my trips to warzones since but when you cover these stories, you often simply have to be there.

ravagedteacher6 karma

How difficult is it to get reliable sources to give you important information that shape the international stories we see every day? Despite the general reddit hate, I still read CNN every day. Cheers.

JimSciutto11 karma

It's not easy. One challenge is to get officials to go beyond set talking points to answer the questions we actually pose. It sometimes amazes me how so many corners of the govt will use the exact same phrasing to answer questions on Iran, Syria, NSA, you name it. The press shops these days are so well-managed. It really takes developing as broad a range of sources as possible and building trust over time - which has always been true. But it also takes resisting packaged news tidbits which don't have much substance.

Lookakitty6 karma

Do you think Iran could have a popular uprising like Egypt or does the majority of the population seem content with the way things are?

JimSciutto9 karma

I'd say the majority of the population is definitely not content with the status quo. In 11 trips there, and particularly on this latest trip, I just sense pure exhaustion with the state of the economy and Iran's international isolation. But will that send people into the streets? Some tried it in 2009 after the disputed election with no success. And Iran has a very good handle on policing. I just didn't sense a brewing revolution. And right now, there is at least some skeptical hope that a nuclear deal with the West will lead to improved lives.

K454R15 karma


JimSciutto6 karma

Actually, Beijing has a lot of variety now so you can get pretty decent Italian, French, international. My wife and I have a favorite Italian place there called Mercante, run by an Italian who brings in only the best cheese, meat, you name it. And Beijing also does the basics pretty well, like burgers and pizza. But if I want to feel truly "at home", I gotta go to a favorite in downtown Manhattan!

trevelyan765 karma

What were the main differences between your work as a journalist and as a diplomat, and which was more rewarding?

JimSciutto8 karma

Well, I've spent the vast majority of my working life as a reporter so I've got much more experience in journalism than in diplomacy. But the biggest difference is access to information. I remember some advice another journalist-turned-official told me before I started: that I'd be amazed how little information you need to write a news story. That sounds rough, but on "the inside" you are buried in information: cables, classified reports, high-level meetings, etc. You can write a story with one quote from one of them. But information is not always enough. I find perspective and a broad base of sources can be just as telling, or even more so. I'll go out on a limb here to say that sometimes, I found experienced journalists knew China better than some of the professionals. I did learn a tremendous amount from the people I met as a diplomat and in how decisions are made at the highest levels. I also met so many people in govt committed to make a positive difference.

esotericish4 karma

What's the first thing you eat when you get back in the states after a long time away?

JimSciutto7 karma

Really good Italian! Unless I'm coming back from Italy of course, where I just inhale the food. But I will say I love eating locally in most places. This latest trip to Iran was a culinary adventure. I took a lot of pictures to remember. You can see some here: http://www.cnn.com/2014/01/30/politics/iran-embassy-mistrust/

plurntup3 karma

What would you say is your key to maintaining a successful life?

JimSciutto4 karma

I would say the key is a combination of hard work, direction and passion for what you do. But it is also a willingness and readiness to change and take on new challenges. I realize these all sound so anodyne as I write them out. But that last one in particular has real meaning to me. We have to constantly improve and adjust. It's one reason I like watching the Olympics. That's true inspiration for hard work and change!

LewisDodgsonHere3 karma

What's your favorite dinosaur?

JimSciutto1 karma

In this case, I'd have to go with my son's - and that would be T-Rex, though as a kid myself I always liked the sluggish Brontasaurus

[deleted]3 karma


JimSciutto2 karma

I'll take the last one first: yes! Iranians are hugely excited for the world cup. Did you know one of the team's coaches is an American? It's a great story actually. As for first question, I believe it's possible. Many Iranians are supremely disappointed with what the revolution brought them. They want a greater voice - and in the 21st century - I don't see how govts can sustainably stifle that demand.

Chispy3 karma

Just saw this on CNN. Hopefully we'll see reddit on there more often.

CisternaChyli2 karma

Just saw this as well, nice to see reddit on the big screen :)

JimSciutto4 karma

Great, glad you guys caught it. I'll be back on reddit for sure. Thank you for taking part

Don_chingon3 karma

Good afternoon Jim! Questions: Do you see the current actions between the nuclear program get better with the U.S. and Iran?

Do you see that war here soon between us in the near future?

I ask for reasons to visit Iran for the first time very soon.

JimSciutto5 karma

I do see a real opportunity between the US and Iran now because American and Iranian interests are aligned more closely than they've been in a very long time. There are still real obstacles to an agreement but - based on conversations with officials on both sides - there is also hope for an agreement. I do not see war between our countries in the near future. I hope you do get to visit. Nothing substitutes for seeing it yourself.

JimSciutto3 karma

Here's a link to my profile of Iranian FM Zarif. One thing is certain: the new leadership is much more open to public conversation with the west:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W2P2youjlq8 – Zarif behind the scenes

PropaneSalesMen3 karma

Paper or Plastic?

JimSciutto5 karma

Paper! Though I'm really trying to bring my own reusable bag these days. I'm a militant recycler and try to teach my kids the same. Lorax comes in handy for teaching environmental lessons by the way...especially when you're in Beijing!

hogutn3 karma

What countries haven't you been to, where you want to go? Have you ever been in Scandinavia(Norwegian here)?

JimSciutto6 karma

Definitely want to get to North Korea. That's a gaping hole on my list. Also New Zealand for sure

VideoCT2 karma

presuming you are still answering questions - as someone who flies all over the world, are Americans getting quality service from US-based airlines and likewise do we have a right to complain about things like lost luggage and delays?

JimSciutto1 karma

I'm still here. I think we do, sometimes. The airline business has been so hit by costs and consolidation, I think we the passengers are the ones who feel it. That said, international flights always seem to be better than domestic.

Paulk272 karma

Hi Jim! My name's Paul, you might know my dad George Katsiaunis through your sister.

What made you want to pursue the field you're in? Why is it important to you?

Any advice to young people looking to do what you do?

JimSciutto2 karma

Hi Paul, Nice to hear from you. I see news as important for several reasons. For one, journalism can shed light on wrongs, exposing corruption, abuse of power and more. I've taken a particular interest in covering dictatorships - and the brave people who challenge them. I believe news also has a key role in shaping our political discourse. If we're not covering important issues, people are less likely to be learning about them and discussing them and informing themselves so they can make informed decisions, including at the ballot box. Finally I think news has the power to move people and inspire them, by telling powerful and important stories. Reporting the news is a privilege and journalists have to respect that.