Nine years ago, former FBI agent Robert Levinson disappeared in Iran while on a mission for the CIA. The story of his secret journey to Iran, the CIA cover-up that followed and efforts to rescue the longest-held U.S. hostage.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton meets with Palestinian and Israeli leaders in Washington for the start of peace talks; the American combat mission ends in Iraq; and heavy violence in Afghanistan claims more lives among U.S. troops. A panel of journalists joins Diane for analysis of the week’s top international news stories.
- Abderrahim Foukara Washington bureau chief of Al Jazeera Arabic.
- Kevin Whitelaw defense and foreign policy editor, Congressional Quarterly.
- Yochi Dreazen senior national security correspondent, National Journal magazine.
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. The U.S. combat mission in Iraq officially ended on Tuesday. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reopens direct peace negotiations between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. And the Chilean mining company might freeze the salaries of the trapped minors. Joining us for the international hour of our Friday news roundup, Yochi Dreazen of National Journal Magazine, Kevin Whitelaw, Congressional Quarterly and Abderrahim Foukara of Al Jazeera Arabic. Do join us, 800-433-8850. Send us your e-mail to email@example.com. Feel free to join us on Facebook or send us a tweet. Good morning to all of you.
MR. YOCHI DREAZENGood morning.
MR. KEVIN WHITELAWGood morning.
MR. ABDERRAHIM FOUKARAGood morning.
REHMAbderrahim, these peace talks began yesterday when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called everybody together. What happened?
FOUKARAWell, what happened is that they've agreed to continue to talk. There's going to be a meeting this month on the 14th and the 15th between Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian authority and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The venue for that has not been decided yet. Long term, they've decided that they want to still try to reach a settlement on permanent status issues within a year, at least a framework agreement. What happens between now and then and what happens beyond then is obviously anybody's guess. The best I think -- at least as far as the Arab side is concerned, my understanding is the same for the Israeli's side also, in terms of public opinion, the best feeling you could gleen out of the region is that this is not a time for solving the crisis. It's rather a time for managing it. There isn't a lot of hope. But on the other hand, what do you do if you leave things stationary?
REHMYochi Dreazen, is anything different this time?
DREAZENYeah. Actually -- and one thing is, I'm not sure that crisis is quite the word to use. And with -- what's different is that within Israel, the security wall has worked to the degree that there have not been suicide attacks in several years so the Israeli economy is growing within Israel. There's less of a feeling that this is an existential issue. The feeling is actually that you can kind of ignore this, that it's not an imperative. In the Palestinian territories, especially in the West Bank, you're seeing incredible economic growth. I mean, under Salam Fayad, the Palestinian Prime Minister, the growth in the West Bank is 8 percent, 9 percent, 10 percent. It's remarkable. So you have, on the Israeli side, less of an imperative and on the Palestinian, you're seeing the formation, at least in the West Bank, of a functioning state, which was not the case in any point in the recent past.
REHMBut don't the contingence issues still remain precisely the same as they've always been, security concerns on the part of the Israelis and Israel's continued expansion of settlements for the Palestinians?
DREAZENI think there have been two changes that are actually quite significant. The first is that the Palestinian security forces have gotten much, much, much better and there's a degree of trust. You hear this from the Israelis, you hear this from American officials, Lieutenant General Keith Dayton, in particular, who has been the one leading the Palestinian police training effort in the West Bank. There's much more of a feeling that the Palestinian security forces can control the West Bank and want to do so. In the past, the feelings about capabilities, the confidence wasn't there and the feeling of yes, they actually want to do this and it's not just a Trojan horse ploy, also wasn't there. That confidence is very, very important.
REHMYou had four Israelis killed this week just as the talks began. Hamas claimed responsibility. How does that effect thinking?
FOUKARAWell, I mean, that's obviously very important. And I want to use that to disagree a little with Yochi because on the surface of it, things have improved for Israelis and for Palestinians in the West Bank in terms of daily life. But in terms of the broader issues, in terms of the future of Israel as a state, obviously a lot of Israelis are concerned. And I think Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did express that concern solidly over the past couple of days.
FOUKARAIn terms of the future of the Palestinians also, there's a lot of concern about the future of the Palestinian state. Now, I think the bigger concern, as those two events in the West Bank over the last few days have reminded everybody, is that the region continues to be a powder keg. And no one is actually sure that there's going to be a war, but no one can give -- another war, but no one can give guarantees that there will not be another. And I think that's where the thinking of President Obama is right. At least, let's keep talking.
WHITELAWI have to say, I was really struck by the atmospherics of that session because, you know, the rhetoric we heard going into this didn't seem terribly promising. And it was only a month or two ago that Netanyahu was questioning whether the Palestinians could possibly, you know -- well, whether Mahmoud, in particular, really was a partner for peace. And instead, what you saw in the session was very warm conversation between them, flanking Secretary Clinton. They were all talking with each other. It wasn't that, you know, one would talk to the Secretary and then the other.
REHMAnd they actually shook hands across.
WHITELAWThey shook hands, but they were also at a moment where there wasn't anything going on. They were actually having conversations, the three of them. And Netanyahu, you know, in his remarks, said, I see a Abbas as a partner for peace, which I think was a little unexpected and I think caught U.S. officials maybe -- off guard might be the right…
WHITELAW... not quite the right word, but I think they were pleasantly surprised. They didn't really expect it to be -- to look quite that good. Now, put all that -- you know, that's just appearances. That's just the start. They've got a long, long way to go. But, you know, Netanyahu is not the, you know, the most likely partner for peace, either, himself as someone who is a, you know, has had a very hard line when it comes to these issues all in the past. And so there's some real interesting questions about whether, you know, he's the guy who can really make this happen, in part, because he doesn't seem like a likely partner.
DREAZENYeah, just two quick points. One on the atmospherics issue, if you noticed Obama's terminology in describing the death of the four Israelis the previous day, he referred to it as slaughter. Which is a much stronger word than you typically hear coming from him, in particular, about the death of anyone, but especially the death of Israeli settlers where oftentimes the description and the level of condolence that's expressed is not as -- quite as strong as slaughter. And I thought that was very interesting. It was clearly an attempt to show to a very skeptic Israeli public that he understands their security concerns and is sympathetic, on an emotional level, to the death of Israelis -- is something that many Israelis didn't trust up until now.
DREAZENThe other thing is that, to my mind, the most important takeaway of all this, I think, you know, Kevin's exactly right about the kind of warm unexpected atmospherics. But if they keep to the schedule of talking every two weeks, that, in itself, is a very big deal. And part of the reason why it's a big deal is it's a reflection of how badly things have deteriorated in the last couple of years. The Israelis and the Palestinians have been negotiating directly for more than a decade. So the fact that we're now at a point where them negotiating directly is seen as a huge triumph is a very depressing reminder of how far we've fallen. All the same, if they go back to talking, that's a very good thing.
FOUKARAAnd then, you have the issue of constituencies. I mean, that's one of the major challenges that each one of them faces, Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas. I mean, for all the atmospherics and the warm relations, the warm relationship that they evidently put on a show here in D.C., Netanyahu faces not only the problem of a coalition government, which could fracture if he goes a certain way, which probably the Arabs and President Obama want him to go. Mahmoud Abbas also faces the issue of constituency because a lot of Palestinians are very skeptical of his leadership on issues of the return of refugees, the issue of east Jerusalem and so on.
REHMAnd how effective could Hamas be in derailing these talks, Kevin?
WHITELAWWell, you know, I mean, obviously, that attack was a clear punctuation mark at the beginning of this and a warning shot about their potential to continue this. Now, obviously, that didn't disrupt the opening session and so I think there's enough commitment to weather some things. But there's only...
WHITELAW...there's always that huge part of the Gaza strip that's just hanging out there. Right?
WHITELAWI mean, any deal that is made isn't made with Gaza where a huge number of Palestinians live.
REHMHere's what I want to go back to. Netanyahu and Abbas have both described themselves and pledged to be peace makers, but each has said if there is not agreement on the construction of new settlements, if there is not agreement on total security and the recognition of Israel as a state, we're gonna walk away. So if those are core issues, do they sort of get mushed to the end of the discussions? How does that go on?
DREAZENI mean, the truth of it is and, to my mind, the deep human tragedy of this over the last close to a decade since the collapse of the Clinton-led peace talks, is that there isn't much disagreement and there isn't much doubt or much confusion about what the deal eventually will look like. And the tragedy is how long it will take between now and when that deal comes about. Israeli and Palestinian negotiators have addressed these issues for year after year after year.
REHMWhat will the deal look like?
DREAZENIt'll look effectively -- the major Israeli settlement bounds that lie along the West Bank, particularly the ones close to Jerusalem, Ma'ale Adumim, the Gush Etzion block , Ariel, which is where the vast bulk of settlers live will be annexed in exchange for territorial swaps so that the Palestinians have close to 100 percent of the West Bank given back to them. There'll be some sort of security guarantee in the Jordan Valley, some issue of a demilitarization of the future Palestinian state with agreements about air space. So I mean, Jerusalem -- there's been talks about Palestinian territories becoming the capital of the Palestinian state. Most of these issues have been hashed out. I agree with the point before. It's getting to that final question of, are their constituencies willing to back it and leaders willing to take the risk to sign that treaty?
REHMYochi Dreazen he's senior National's Security Correspondent for National Journal Magazine. We'll take just a short break and be back with Iraq and Afghanistan.
REHMAnd welcome back. Here in the studio, Abderrahim Foukara. He is Washington bureau chief of Aljazeera Arabic. Kevin Whitelaw is defense and foreign policy editor for Congressional Quarterly. Yochi Dreazen is national security correspondent for National Journal magazine. And we do look forward to hearing your questions, comments. Join us on 800-433-8850. Send us your e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. By the way, I had an e-mail yesterday telling me that some of you may by mistake be dialing the wrong number. I want to give it to you again. It's 1-800-433-8850. Please dial carefully. Let's talk about the president's comments on the U.S. combat mission in Iraq officially over. Kevin, what does that mean for the role of the remaining 50,000?
WHITELAWWell, that's right. The combat phase of the war is over, according to the Pentagon and to President Obama. That doesn't mean that U.S. troops will not engage in any combat anymore. We still have a sizeable portion, 10, 15 percent of the force, that really is sort of a special forces component that is stationed in Iraq still -- remember 50,000 troops so you take about 10, 15 percent of that. These are troops that will still go out on missions here and there to capture and kill.
REHMWith the Iraqis.
WHITELAWIn most cases.
WHITELAWWe don't know for sure, keep in mind, whether there might not still be a few unilateral missions. But in most cases, that's correct. They'll go out with Iraqis to do certain targeted missions. And they'll also, in the various training mission, the larger training mission, there will be U.S. troops that accompany Iraqis on various missions. And you can expect that if they find themselves under fire, that they will certainly defend themselves. So there is still a combat capability left with this force that is in place. Having said that, what it does mean is that the Iraqis are, you know, in the front lines. They're the ones that are expected to do the bulk of the security work and to make the bulk of the security decisions about how to -- you know, where to target, where to go, how to defend and how to pursue.
REHMWhat about NATO forces still in Iraq, Abderrahim?
FOUKARAWell, I mean, if I may comment on the broad issue, first of all.
FOUKARAI mean, it all (sounds like) hawks back to democracy, obviously. In a democracy, when you make a pledge, you have to live up to it. President Obama made the pledge that, you know, he would get the U.S. forces out of Iraq. And obviously, now that we are closing up to the November election, he has to be seen as living up to his word. Now, leaving -- withdrawing 50,000 combat troops and leaving several thousand more in Iraq at this time when there isn't even a government in place yet in Iraq, despite all pronouncements to the contrary, the security forces -- the Iraqi security forces are still not up to snuff.
FOUKARAIt is -- it may be a little controversial calling this phase -- combat phase over because it seems to me that U.S. forces will remain in Iraq, will continue to be combat forces, in one kind or another, in one situation or another. So I (sounds like) hawk back to my opening statement in this show, which is that in the same way that it is managing the crisis, the situation between the Israelis and the Palestinians, Iraq will remain a crisis and the United States will keep on managing that crisis for a long time to come.
MR. YOCHI NDREAZENYou know, the war in Iraq has been a war of semantics from the very beginning; the coalition of the willing, which didn't exist. I mean, it was a coalition of the U.S., small number of allies -- in some cases, absurdly small. There was one Icelandic female soldier who I met who was -- it was Iceland's entire military contingent in Iraq. You had five Dutch. You had a Costa Rican bomb-dismantling team who didn't want to leave any of its bases. So if the bomb was brought to them, they would dismantle it, but otherwise, they wouldn't go. So you had the coalition of the willing, which, of course, didn't exit.
MR. YOCHI NDREAZENYou had shock and awe with neither shocked nor awed. And now, you have this transition from combat mission over to advise and assist mission beginning. And the previous points are exactly right. I mean, you have 50,000 U.S. troops, which is a considerable number. They are still having the same equipment they had before. They still have the same armored vehicles. They will still be out on patrol. It's a semantic difference, but that's been the case with Iraq from the very beginning. The key difference in my mind is there's no government. The second key difference from what the president said -- the president's speech sounded very much like we are out the door. The feeling with the Pentagon is that this will be renegotiated and that by the end of next year, there will still be troops there.
REHMDavid Ignatius wrote in the Washington Post yesterday, "One of the mysteries of U.S. policy is why Washington keeps pushing a formula that will allow Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to keep his job, or another top post, at a time when he is rejected by nearly all Iraqi political parties. America's silent ally in this particular gambit is Iran. After so much pain, Iraq deserves better." Yochi.
NDREAZENThere's a very short and simple answer to the first part of that question. It's that American officials have come to like Nouri al-Maliki and to trust him. And that -- which is remarkable, given, if you remember, a memo leaked out a few years ago that had been written by Steven Hadley who was then the national security advisor for the Bush Administration, raising questions about Maliki and making clear that, if you read the memo carefully enough, that he was under some sort of American surveillance because they didn't trust him. Now, they do. And the reason why there's willingness to keep him in power, even as a caretaker, let alone post as a caretaker, there's a feeling that he's a person you can do business with, a person you can trust and a person who has some measure of control over the security forces.
REHMBut how much trust is there, Kevin, that they can finally get a government put together?
WHITELAWWell, you know, we've been down this road. Every time there has been one of these elections, there's been a lengthy transition. This one's been even longer than the other ones, but all the other ones did result in a government that was able to exercise some amount of control. This one has dragged out even more. It's a sign of how little trust still exists between the parties over there. And I think you also have a sense of while there's a lot of Iraqis who are not big fans of Prime Minister Maliki, he's still something of a known entity to them, whereas any new potential leader, particularly from a different party, would be a gamble, a roll of the dice.
WHITELAWAnd so you have a real difficult question there for these Iraqi politicians to decide. Do you go with -- you know, which guy do you go with? The devil you know, the devil you once knew, which is former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi whose coalition of parties did well in the election or do you bring in, yet again, somebody else? And then, obviously, all of the political jockeying below that level. It's...
REHMAnd considering all of that, how realistic is it that the U.S. will pull out at the end of 2011?
FOUKARAI think, militarily, they will -- my sense is that President Obama will be able to live up to his pledge to get all or most of the military out of Iraq by the end of 2011. Now, what will that mean for the role of the United States in Iraq? I think the role of the United States in Iraq will, in different ways, continue to be very strong for many different reasons. One of them is obviously the fear, although Joe Biden actually trashed it, but the fear that the Iranians are playing an increasing role in Iraq. And therefore, for the United States to hand over, if you will, Iraq to the Iranians or to anybody else for that matter in the region, it's not going to happen.
FOUKARAHaving said that, there's nothing that the United States -- I think the current state of play being what it is in Iraq, there's nothing that the United States can do in Iraq to actually increase its influence beyond what the -- beyond the influence that's actually attributed to the Iranians. You have to remember that the United States -- the Americans have built a huge embassy. It's probably one of the largest embassies in the world, in terms of its physical size and in terms of its staffing. And that gives you an indication as to the transformation of the role of the United States in Iraq post 2011. But there's no doubt that the United States has lost influence in Iraq.
REHMThere is also transformation of opinion about the United States as a result of the war in Iraq, Yochi.
NDREAZENWell, that was something that President Obama tried to address in his speech earlier this week. And, you know, the multiple facets of that -- obviously, the war began in tremendous, tremendous controversy which has never really gone away. It was a measure of original sin in many ways. It was seen as illegitimate. It was seen as based on faulty pretenses. Within Iraq, you've seen opinion about the U.S. really vary almost like on a sound wave. There is the initial, what General Petraeus referred to as the man-on-the-moon feeling of, hey U.S., you put a man on the moon. Why can't you restore our electricity? Why can't you restore our water or our sewage? Then during the civil war, there was the feeling of, the U.S. is at least less of an evil than the Shiite death squads or the Sunni death squads.
NDREAZENNow, again, there's a feeling -- my Iraqi staff, who are e-mailing from Baghdad daily, my former staff when I was at the Wall Street Journal, that there's still no power. It's 125 and they have three hours of electricity a day. So there's, again, the feeling of, we know you spent all this money, we know that it enriched a lot of corrupt officials, but why can't you fix these very, very basic issues? Just one point on his speech I thought was very interesting. If you think back to how politicized this war has been from the start; did Bush lie, did Bush tell the truth, was Saddam containable, et cetera, I thought it was remarkable that at the end in the speech that basically was our we're departing, President Obama couched the cost of the war primarily as an economic issue.
DREAZENI mean, in his reasoning for why it's good that we're getting out, he paid tribute to the troops which should be to their sacrifice, and then said, we need to spend that money here at home. And I just found it very interesting that a war that began with so much high-level debate about honesty and lying and torture and deception and all these grand issues, in the end comes down to we can't afford it.
REHMAnd, of course, he talked with former President Bush, I've heard, more than once prior to making that speech.
FOUKARAAbsolutely. I mean, the contact seems to have been -- with President Bush seems to have been revived for more than one reason by President Obama. What's paradoxical for what President Obama is trying to do in Iraq is that Iraq, at a time when the president seems to be saying, let's disengage militarily with Iraq, is Iraq is much more central to United States' strategic interests than Afghanistan long term. And yet President Obama seems to be pouring, not just attention, but resources, more of them in Afghanistan than he seems to be doing in Iraq.
REHMAbderrahim Foukara, Washington bureau chief of Al Jazeera Arabic, and you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Let's talk about Afghanistan. Defense Secretary Gates arrived in Kabul yesterday. There were 55 U.S. soldiers killed there in August. Not quite as many as in July, but still a heck of a lot. What's going on, Kevin?
WHITELAWWell, we are in a dangerous violent period, in part, because there are more U.S. soldiers there. We're now right near the peak of what this surge was going to bring the total of U.S. soldiers to. And they're going on the offensive. They've mounted operations in some dangerous areas. They've gone into provinces in the past few months where there really hadn't been much of a U.S. presence ever. So these were always going to be hard fought violent times. And Pentagon officials had warned ahead of the surge that casualties were going to rise. You know, I think, trying to see trends, it's still a little early. We're now -- again, we sort of have -- the next year is going to be real pivotal to be able to get a sense about whether they're making any strategic gains or not.
WHITELAWBut every time you have an airstrike like the one we had this past week where the U.S. says, well, we think we killed a few insurgents. And the Afghan officials come back and say, no, we think you've killed a guy who was campaigning for office and -- or wounded a guy who was campaigning for office and killed some of his bodyguards and some of his aides. You know, and sort of knowing the truth of that often is incredibly remote province, it's going to take a while, if we ever fully understand what happened there. But those kinds of examples have -- you know, each of those has been a real, you know, bit of a setback to what the U.S. is trying to accomplish.
REHMYochi, explain the banking crisis going on in Afghanistan and the request on the part of Karzai's brother that the U.S. bail out this bank.
NDREAZENYeah, well, one of the last times that we were talking about this same issue, the cloak and dagger element of all this has been overhanging the serious issue for quite some time of billions of dollars -- literally billions of dollars of cash being taken out of Afghanistan in truckloads and duffel bags and backpacks into Dubai and to other Arab nations and to Pakistan. That's been the kind of broader issue, this feeling that 3, possibly $4 billion in cash, has just disappeared.
REHMLeft the country.
NDREAZENAnd no one really knows, other than it was spent corruptly, where it went. I mean, a lot of Afghan officials have houses in Dubai that no government official could possibly afford, other than with some of this missing $4 billion. It's not a huge mystery, but that's the broader issue. The specific issue with Kabul Bank is an interesting one. This is a private bank, but that functions effectively as a central bank. This is the bank that holds all Afghanistan's hard currency reserves. This is a bank that pays the salaries of Afghan police and soldiers.
DREAZENIf you go to Kabul and you see ATMs -- which a lot of Afghan officials are very proud of. Because even now in Iraq, there are no ATMs. Those are Kabul Bank ATMs. And this, like most things in Afghanistan, is run by powerful families, in this case, the Karzai family and the Fahim family. The Fahim family is tied to a warlord who's been in and out of the Karzai government and has his own independent base of political and military power. So sort of all the problems of Afghanistan, all of them in microcosm you see with this bank; corruption, crony-ism, lack of control...
REHMAnd now, there's...
NDREAZEN...and now a cash -- there's a run on the bank.
REHM...a run on the bank.
NDREAZENBecause the government belatedly tried to push out some of the family members at the top who were thought to be the most corrupt. As news of them being pushed out spread, a lot of Afghans said, give us our money back. And you've seen a run on the bank. Classic bank run.
FOUKARAWell, it's interesting when you talked about the increasing contact between President Obama and President Bush. I read in one of the papers today that someone said President Obama is borrowing a page from President Bush's surge in Iraq to apply it to Afghanistan. And that's certainly one level of it. What Yochi has been talking about is the other level of it, obviously. Now, think about the issue of corruption that the Bush Administration faced in Iraq with thousands of billions of dollars disappearing without accountability, with people walking -- beginning in 2003, walking around Iraq with trunks full of dollars without any accountability. And Iraq is a rich country and the hope was that Iraq's richness would offset that at some point, bring that to Afghanistan, a much, much poorer country. And now, the issue of corruption is bedeviling, not just Karzai, but United States presence also.
REHMAnd final question, which we'll answer after we come back, will the U.S. bail out that bank?
REHMYochi, during the break, you said something about Bob Gates in Afghanistan. What was happening?
DREAZENIt was a really interesting moment. It was just a press conference with Defense Secretary Gates and with Karzai -- President Karzai. And the question was about corruption. Gates, being polite, didn't speak about it with any specificity, other than to say it was a concern and an issue. Karzai then referring to the recent arrest of one of his top aides by a U.S. backed anti-corruption body where Karzai then intervened to get that aide released. We later learned that aide was on the CIA payroll so the whole issue was remarkable. But Karzai, referring to that arrest of his aide, said, this is the kind of thing the Soviets did, and referred to this corruption body which -- anti-corruption body, which although backed by the U.S. is run by Afghans as a tool of foreign powers. And that Soviet reference is a real, real slap in the face to Bob Gates. And Bob Gates is -- this was a man who spent his whole life in the CIA during the Cold War. This is a man who -- I've been on trips with him where he's gotten visibly angry about the Soviet policy in Afghanistan because of the amount of people the Soviets killed. So to compare him, even indirectly, to the Soviets was a real slap across the face.
REHMAll right. We're going to open the phones now. First, to Mark in Miami, Fla. Good morning, you're on the air.
MARKGood morning, Diane. I'm such a fan of you and your show. Thank you so much for doing this every Friday.
MARKI really do appreciate it.
MARKI -- All the hand-wringing -- excuse me. All of the hand-wringing we're hearing over the withdrawal of the troops at this time when there's a lack of a real stable government in Iraq, I thought that the -- we weren't told that the purpose of the surge in Iraq was to open up this space for political stabilization there in Iraq. And that has not yet occurred. And yet we are withdrawing the troops. Doesn't this really indicate that the rhetoric of the surge being successful, doesn't that completely debunk that? The surge wasn't successful and we are now seeing the result of this.
WHITELAWWell, you know, the surge was aimed, in part, at opening up the political space, but it was also aimed at stabilizing the security situation, which it did have some success at doing. So it's given the Iraqis a fair amount of time to build up their own security forces to the point where they can credibly defend themselves. And, you know, that's -- to a decent degree, that has started to happen. The Iraqi forces can operate independently. They have been able to assert some amount of security control. We're still seeing some incidents. We're still seeing some bombings, but that's gonna happen almost no matter what.
FOUKARATwo things. One, is that prior to 2003, the Bush administration went into Iraq not really understanding how Iraq and how Iraqi society and how Iraqi politics actually worked and how they were structured. And I think that was a fatal Achilles' heel. And I...
REHMYou invaded, you own it.
FOUKARAYou break it, you own it. And that was an almost fatal Achilles' heel, which United States' presence in Iraq continues to suffer from and which the Iraqi political scene today continues to suffer from. Two, the issue of the surge. Yes, the surge did work, in the sense that it gave the Bush administration respite to get the Iraqis talking. But the surge was also used by many Iraqis, both on the Shiite side and on the Sunni side -- actually armed themselves because there was always a fear that ultimately the United States would leave and they would have to face-off down the road. There was a recent report about the incredible amount of arms that Iraqis -- ordinary Iraqis have been procuring. And in that sense, the surge has not actually worked.
DREAZENAlthough -- two points. One, the U.S. made a lot of mistakes and did a lot of breaking. The Iraqis made a lot of mistakes and a lot of the breaking themselves. The second point is the surge did what it was trying to do in some ways at the most cynical level, which is not something that the Bush administration would say publicly. But the U.S. can now withdraw and Iraq looks relatively stable and I stress the relatively stable. It allows the U.S. to withdraw, feeling it has not lost the war. It may not have won the war, but it allows them to say they did not lose the war. And in the most cynical calculation that a country makes and when it comes to war, that is the calculation you do make. Did you lose? At least now, the surge can allow us to say we did not lose.
REHMAll right. To Fairport, N.Y. Good morning, Doug.
DOUGGood morning. Thank you. Great show. You asked a question just before breaking and kind of left it hanging there about whether or not United States should bail out the bank in -- I believe it's Afghanistan.
DOUGWe have put so much money into the effort over there, that has disappeared. Now, maybe that's our fault for not paying attention. But why would we want to put money into bailing out a bank that all of the money in that bank is going to a single family or two, one of them being the Karzais? And there's questions about whether he was legitimately re-elected or not. So I say no, and I will...
REHMYou say no. What do you say, Yochi?
DOUG...I will fight any politician that votes yes to give money to that bank. And I'll listen off the air.
REHMAll right. Thanks for your call.
DREAZENYou know, I mean, to Doug's point, so far every official has been quoted on the record, off the record, from Robert Gibbs on down, has been clear that there will not be a bailout. But just to return back, briefly, to this issue of semantics, whether we bail out the bank or not, we are funding Afghanistan. I mean, there should be no doubt about that whatsoever. We are funding their security forces. We are funding their government. We are funding all the salaries that are being drawn out now in this bank run. For Afghan officials, we paid those salaries. So whether we directly bail it out or not, and right now the answer seems to be we are not going to bail it out, we're the ones who put the money in the first place and we'll continue to do so down the road.
REHMI wanna talk about suicide bombings in Pakistan. A triple bomb killed Shiites attending a ceremony. And this morning 44 people in Pakistan, again suicide bombings. Kevin?
WHITELAWWell, I'm sorry. We saw a triple suicide attack on Wednesday that killed 35. We saw two bombings at least today, one of which killed 43 people. And these were all actually aimed at minority Shiites in Pakistan. And it's a reminder that, you know, we, you know, in this country so often think about the terrorists are out to get us, this is about us. It's not just about us. These are incredibly complex places. And you have militants targeting a variety of people that they have decided are anathema to all of their beliefs. And so this is coming on top of, obviously, the massive aftereffects of the flooding that Pakistan is still trying to cope with and will be coping with.
REHMAnd what about the authorities, to what extent have they been there trying to help people in some of the worse hit places?
WHITELAWWell, you know, we have seen the Pakistani government here and there. But they don't have the capacity to truly respond to this. This really is an enormous, enormous thing, covered an enormous swath of territory affecting millions and millions of people.
REHMAnd how destabilizing to the government?
FOUKARAWell, it's obviously very destabilizing. I mean, it couldn’t have come at a worse time. You have an insurgency. You have a public opinion that's turning against the government, both the government of Pakistan and against the United States, obviously. I think we -- a lot of us tend to forget that it's not just Afghanistan. It is -- in fact, in some ways, it is more about Pakistan than it is about Afghanistan. The issue of Karzai and the bailout is closely related to this because the bailout has, by necessity, become a political issue because there's a tug of war going on between Karzai and the United States. Tug of war, in the sense that he wants to appeal to his own public opinion to put his own public opinion on his side and he has serious problems with Pakistan. So he feels that the Pakistanis are actually feeding the insurgency in Afghanistan, as became very clear during the WikiLeak issue.
FOUKARANow, that is the problem that the United States in dealing with the bailout, they want to goad Karzai to go in a particular direction, which he does not want to go. He may well be just playing to the gallery, so to speak, which is fine with the Obama administration as long as that does not have serious consequences for American lives in Afghanistan. But it's a jigsaw puzzle. And Obama is not having, I'm sure, an easy time of it.
REHMAnd now, you've got 10 days of fighting in Mogadishu claiming over 100 lives. What's happening in Somalia, Yochi?
DREAZENSomalia's one of these other countries that are sort of percolating as cause of enormous concern. Yemen being another. I mean, the fundamental premise of the Afghan war had always been, we have to go to Afghanistan because that was the base of 9/11 attacks. And as Obama said this week, we can't allow it to become that kind of base again. In the meantime, of course, al-Qaeda has set up operations in Yemen. Al-Qaeda has groups of operations in Somalia. The feeling, at least, among the people I've talked to is that Yemen is as much of a base now as Pakistan had been in recent years. So the whole fundamental premise of the war you see come into question as Somalia, as Yemen, as other issues on the Horn -- other countries like the Horn of Africa become bases for transnational terror.
REHMAll right. To Timonium, Md. Good morning, Simon.
REHMGo right ahead, sir.
SIMONOh, great. I was calling today to talk about the timeline, the draw out of troops out of Afghanistan and Iraq.
REHMAnd what's your point?
SIMONWell, I don't think it's a correct formula to set a timeline 'cause you're just telling our enemies when we're gonna pull out and they'll just wait. And it's just a -- it's a bad plan.
REHMAnd that is one point of view. Yochi?
DREAZENAnd that had been the point of view, especially, that you heard among Republicans up to the moment that President Bush signed a timetable to withdraw from Iraq. I mean, during the heat of the debate of the Iraq war, when you had the Iraq study group and others, particularly among Democrats, say, we want a timetable of withdrawal. Republicans made that point exactly, that it's emboldening the enemies. Then President Bush signed a timetable, in part, because we don't make these decisions in a vacuum. If the government of a country that we say is sovereign says, get out, and they say get out by a certain timetable, we have to get out by that timetable.
REHMAll right. To Clemmons, N.C. Good morning, Pat.
PATGood morning. How are you?
PATI'm refer -- I would like to go back to your earlier discussion on the Middle East crisis. And I was listening yesterday and one of your guests was saying that Jerusalem is a big hotbed issue and that everyone is claiming it and no one is willing to forfeit it. And I was wondering if anyone has ever thought about the possibility of making Jerusalem an independent country, such as Vatican City, with a coalition government of a Jewish religious leader, a Muslim religious leader and a Christian religious leader, thus taking it off the table, whether it belongs to Israel or Palestine or whoever, and then sidestepping that issue and getting more onto, you know, the issues in that situation.
REHMPat, thanks for your call. You're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Abderrahim, what's your thinking?
FOUKARAI'm not sure about an international -- an independent country. But there has been, at various times, talk of making Jerusalem an international city under some sort of U.N. trusteeship. Quite frankly, neither that option nor the option of independence is -- has any chance of actually happening. If you visit Jerusalem, and I was there just a few months ago, you visibly see the extent of the challenge because the issue of settlement and -- has expanded in such a way that many Israelis feel that they cannot even share it in any way with the Palestinians. But the rub, obviously, is that for the Palestinians and for a billion Muslims, not to say anything about Christians, and the issue of Jerusalem has to be settled in some way to the satisfaction of everyone. I don't know how they could actually achieve that in the end.
REHMAnd now, I want to ask you about these poor miners stuck underground in Chile. Is it possible that this company can simply declare bankruptcy and say, sorry, we can't pay you, you're not working?
DREAZENIt's certainly possible and, unfortunately, it seems even likely. What's interesting to me, is that for the first few days of this story, it seemed like this was gonna be a heart-warming, almost Disney-esque ending. These guys were still alive. There were photos of them coming back up to their families. They were able to video chat. There was food being passed down and water being passed down. There's an Apollo 13-like feeling where engineers were designing tiny packages of food to fit into this little hole. So really thought you'd have a happy ending and feel like humanity's being affirmed as fundamentally good. And then, of course, this side of it where a company that -- who is lucky that these people are alive, now wants to stop paying them, to stop paying their families. And it is a reminder that, unfortunately, humanity is obviously not fundamentally good and that there's very rarely a happy ending to this type of story. It's remarkable.
REHMNot all of humanity is not good. But some people who put money as the deciding factor are behaving not very humanely.
WHITELAWThere is some question about whether their salaries are actually covered by insurance and will get paid through other mechanisms. So I think the company's had a few explanations out there that try to say that they're not just the bad guys. So far, the Chilean government has said that they don't have the legal authority to do it. This is going to get solved.
REHMTalk about a dance.
WHITELAWThis is going to get solved. It just doesn't look good in the interim. But there's no way that they're gonna let this -- let it go on this way.
REHMI would think the people of Chile, themselves, would rise up about this.
DREAZENI would, too. I mean, the Chilean government has been front and center trying to do this. This, obviously, is gonna be the dominant story in Chile until the miners come out and probably for some time after. I agree with you on that.
REHMI hope they get out soon. But they're talking about near Christmas. Abderrahim?
FOUKARAWell, I mean, that's probably a factor. I mean, one fundamental difference that we have to bear in mind is that this is not the United States, in the sense that you could sue a company like that and get redress. Not sure if you can do it legally in Chile, but certainly the weight of public opinion may push it in the direction of getting it solved.
REHMAbderrahim Foukara, Washington bureau chief for Al Jazeera Arabic. Kevin Whitelaw, defense and foreign policy editor for Congressional Quarterly And Yochi Dreazen, senior national security correspondent for National Journal magazine. Thank you all so much. Have a great holiday everybody. Please stay safe. Come back to us on Monday. I'm Diane Rehm. Thanks for listening.
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