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Riot police in Bahrain attack protesters calling for political reform. Anti-government demonstrations escalate elsewhere in the Middle East. And suspected drug cartel gunmen shoot two U.S. immigration agents in Mexico. A panel of journalists joins Diane for analysis of the week’s top international news stories.
- David Sanger chief Washington correspondent for The New York Times; a co-author of The New York Times' first e-book, "Open Secrets: WikiLeaks, War and American Diplomacy," available January 31.
- Susan Glasser editor-in-chief, Foreign Policy.
- Abderrahim Foukara Washington bureau chief of Al Jazeera Arabic.
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us, I'm Diane Rehm. Anti-government demonstrations have widened in the Middle East and North Africa. Security forces in Bahrain staged a violent crackdown on protestors, leaving at least five dead, many injured. Human Rights groups reported dozens of deaths in Libya's unrest and pro-government groups in Yemen clashed with protestors calling for political reform.
MS. DIANE REHMElsewhere, the U.S. expressed outrage over the attack on two American custom agents in Mexico. Joining me for the Friday New Roundup of the week's top international stories, Abderrahim Foukara of Al Jazeera Arabic, Susan Glasser of Foreign Policy Magazine, David Sanger of the New York Times. Of course, you are welcome to join us 800-433-8850. Send us your e-mail to email@example.com, join us on Facebook or send us a tweet. Good morning to all of you.
MR. ABDERRAHIM FOUKARAMorning, Diane.
MS. SUSAN GLASSERMorning, Diane.
MR. DAVID SANGERMorning, Diane.
REHMSusan Glasser, what had happened yesterday in Bahrain?
GLASSERWell, I think we're seeing the counter-revolution, if you will. The crackdown that has really been the most serious since this wave of protest has begun across the Arab world and you're seeing hundreds injured, the hospitals there are reporting something like 600 just at one hospital alone. Dead bodies in the street, the police themselves, after the King announced that he would call off the security forces, instead they roared into the square, sleeping protestors, many of them were violently injured.
GLASSERSo it's a real scene of mayhem and I think of counter-revolution. This may be one of the unintended consequences of the Egyptian revolution.
SANGERYou know, in every one of the societies that is going through this, the autocratic leaders and their militaries have to make a calculation. And the calculation has to be, are you better -- are you more likely to stay in power if you give in either to all of the demands or at least to some of them or does that show enough weakness that the protestors just keep coming back for me? And in Egypt, it was interesting because in the week before Mubarak fell, he did give in on a few things.
SANGERYou know, he was always a day late and he was always several dollars short. But, you know, he raised the pay of the public workers, he announced a council in which people had absolutely no faith in to revise the constitution. And none of it meant anything. Every day, people came back for more. So I think the King of Bahrain has looked at this, seen a very different society. Not a unitary society, but in Bahrain's case, a Shia majority that has gotten very few of the fruits of the country's wealth and a Sunni minority. And he's decided the Sunni minority can put him down.
FOUKARAI mean, obviously, as we've heard, there are fundamental differences between a country like Egypt and a country like Bahrain. Egypt is the pivot of Middle East stability as it was described before the regime was toppled. The Egyptian Army -- the position of the Egyptian Army in the -- on the political scene in Egypt is different from the position of the Army in Bahrain. The United States had invested over 30 years in the Egyptian Army and I think a lot of people here in D.C. would argue that that investment, in the end, paid off.
FOUKARANone of this actually exists in Bahrain. One fundamental -- another fundamental difference that we don't often hear about is that Bahrain has been the stage of political turmoil for a long, long, long time. There was a national charter to actually change the constitution, turn the country from an emirate into a monarchy, which it is now. And a lot of Bahrainis have felt that, over the last 10 years, nothing has really panned out that is of substance that they had hoped for.
FOUKARAAnd then we heard the government yesterday trying to play the sectarian card, saying that, you know, the conflict this stokes conflict between the Shia and the Sunnis...
REHMAnd trying to bring it back...
FOUKARA...and tries to...
REHM...from this sectarian.
FOUKARAExactly. So we didn't have any of this in Egypt. This is extraordinary that the two countries that are now being closely watched -- obviously, Tunisia was a small country in North Africa. Bahrain's a small country on the other side of the Arab world in the Gulf. And it's very interesting to see where Bahrain goes from here.
REHMInteresting, Susan, that the government of Bahrain is getting support from its neighbors.
GLASSERWell, I imagine that its neighbors are the ones, in particular in Saudi Arabia, who are watching these events with the gravest concern. You know, you haven't heard a lot of talk up until now about Saudi Arabia. It's -- doesn't have the even semi-open society in a way that has facilitated the protests and the demonstrations in some of the countries in the region. And I think that's going to be a big question, whether this wave of change and this criticism of these autocratic regimes can even penetrate a much more controlled society like Saudi Arabia.
REHMSusan Glasser is editor-in-chief of Foreign Policy Magazine. She's also editor of a new e-book, "Revolution in the Arab World: Tunisia, Egypt and the Unmaking of an Era," coming out next week. Do join us, 800-433-8850. When you talk about the unmaking of an era, what do you mean?
GLASSERWell, I think, you know, for years, right, this has been the story that we've been waiting for and it hasn't happened and hasn't happened. And if anything, it's not a story about how the experts and the journalists were wrong about the ticking time bomb in the Arab world, but that we just didn't know when it was going to happen. And I'm so struck by this era where this false notion of stability, the sort of Paxamericana (sp?) in the region.
GLASSERIt's -- whatever we're entering into, that old era is over. And I think that, you know, it's a sharp moment of change. It is a pivot turn, although we don't know exactly where it's ending. And I think that's what's been an interesting product for us, to try to publish a guide book to that change in real time, you know.
REHMAnd turning to you, David Sanger. You've got the New York Times first e-book, "Open Secrets: Wikileaks, War and American Diplomacy." And that puts the finger on the question of, what is the U.S. to do in the face of all this?
SANGERWell, so far, Diane, the U.S. has divided these protests into two categories. The category of those countries that have been adversaries to the U.S., think Iran and to some degree Syria, although that's been a little bit quieter, where President Obama, again this week, all but urged the protestors to get out and do more. Particularly in the case of Iran. In the case of Bahrain and other friendly countries, he has urged the rulers to basically give in to most of the demands.
SANGERNow, Susan mentioned the Saudis. And I thought that during the Egyptian uprising, the most interesting conversation that I heard about between the White House and any of its allies were the conversations between the Saudis and the U.S. And the Saudi advice, basically, stripped away to its base conversation was, you have to stick with Mubarak, Mr. Obama, even if he opens fire on the protestors. And the White House was sort of in stunned silence to this.
SANGERThe unspoken message of that was, if this comes here to Riyadh, just so you know, we've heard your principles, you know, freedom of assembly, no violence, we're shooting them. And that was the unspoken message of all this. Now, you have to think that when the Saudis got into that conversation with the leaders in Bahrain, it was pretty much the same thing.
GLASSERI think David is making a really important point here. First of all, the takeaway from Egypt to Americas allies in the region may give America a lot less leverage, at least in the short term. These are regimes and governments that we work closely with, that we've provided money. We have the 5th fleet in Bahrain. But they've just seen us abandon, from their point of view, an ally of 30 years in Mubarak.
GLASSERSo any advice that the Obama White House is giving them, I think, is going to be taken a lot less seriously, first of all. Second of all, Saudi Arabia is the big 800 pound gorilla on the doorstep of Bahrain. And I'm sure David's right, if we overheard that conversation between the two monarchs, it would've involved something along the lines of, shoot them now.
FOUKARAYou know, Diane, to me, the most amazing thing about what started off in Tunisia and now is sweeping through the region left and right, is the fact that nobody had ever imagined that it would happen in Tunisia. And suddenly, nobody had imagined that it would happen at the speed with which it happened. And yet it happened and here we are today. And I think the lesson there for Libya, for Yemen, for all these countries that are a flame today and where civilians have been shot as in Libya, as in Bahrain.
FOUKARAAnd who knows what's going to happen down the road. I think the message from there is that whatever happens in those countries, whether they do manage to crush, temporarily, the uprising or it actually sweeps them off, the old bond of whatever representivity (sp?) was left is gone. Once you shoot -- as we saw in Bahrain, once you shoot civilians, you shoot women and children at three o'clock in the morning, that you may be able to hang on to power for a while, but any semblance of being representative for the government that you claim to represent, whether it's Bahrain, Libya, Yemen, anywhere else, is ultimately doomed.
REHMAnd briefly, how strategically important is Bahrain to the U.S.?
GLASSERI mean, the short answer is, at least in the short term right now, yes, it's very strategically important. Not only do we have our Navy presence there, but it's right in the middle of the Persian Gulf.
REHMSusan Glasser, editor-in-chief of Foreign Policy Magazine. When we come back, we'll talk about Yemen, Pakistan, other areas of the world. I look forward to hearing from you.
REHMAnd we're back with the International Hour of our Friday News Roundup, a very important hour considering everything that's going on in the world. Let's turn now to Yemen, Abderrahim, and it has clearly entered its second week of protests. What's happening there?
FOUKARAWell, Yemen is like Bahrain except in a more acute way. Yemen has been rocked by instability for a long time. An instability not just in the north, which is where the capital is and which is the seat of power, but instability also in the south, which wants to secede. And then you have the presence of Al-Qaeda and you have the United States military effort. It's such a cocktail for instability. But one thing that it has in common with Egypt, one thing it certainly also has in common with Libya now is that Yemenis do not – no longer seem to tolerate the notion that the president can pass on power to his son. And I think that has been one of the main engines of all this.
FOUKARAI think once the Yemenis have seen what's happened in Tunisia, certainly once they've seen what happened to Egypt where President Mubarak was trying to hand down power to his son, Gamal, I think it's going to be very interesting to see how willing they are actually to go all the way in Yemen.
GLASSERWell, I think those are really important points. And, you know, another one is that Yemen is so different from Egypt. Rather than being a strong centralized state, it's already been in a state of low grade civil war for a long time. The president already has very uncertain control over the rest of the country. In that sense, it's much more like Afghanistan, I think, where you see a sort of unpopular and weak leader of a weak central government. And so, of course, he comes into this political crisis with this weakness already very apparent. That may make a recipe for even more volatility than in some of the other areas of the region where potentially we've seen Egypt -- we can still see the possibility, at least, of a relatively calm transition. That may not be the case, but at least it's a strong central government and people have the desire to resurrect that in some more democratic fashion.
REHMBut in Yemen, police are firing into the air and not firing at civilians.
SANGERThat's right. But the other difference is that -- excuse me -- Yemen is one of the most armed societies on earth so one of the characteristics of the Egyptian uprising was that there were very few people firing back. The most that the protestors could do, and they did it in a very organized way, was chop cobblestones out of the street and throw them back. In Yemen's case, you could argue that the populace is as armed as the military and may be better organized in some parts.
SANGERSo that's a big different between Egypt -- it's also a big difference from Iran where all of the arms are clearly in the hands of the state. And you notice that the protests that started in Iran, by the beginning of the week, didn't turn into much. And it's worth remembering that while we keep asking ourselves could any of this flow across the Gulf to Iran, actually it started in Iran. It started there in 2009 and it was extinguished there.
REHMHere's an e-mail from Pam who says, "I fear that in Egypt the regime has not actually changed in substance, but has merely had a facelift. The very fact that the ruling army is not lifted, the state of emergency is telling. According to reports, military interests own and control a huge amount of Egyptian economic activity. In aggregate, they're said to be the largest employer in the country. They will not yield up the power their businesses give them any time soon or in any way easily."
FOUKARAWell, absolutely. I mean, this is a regime that has built itself over 30 years. So the face of the regime is gone, Hosni Mubarak, but obviously many of the pillars of it, many of the roots of it remain. If the United States, which has supported Mubarak over 30 years, supported the military over 30 years, is now saying the pace of change is not enough, then people have to sit up and listen. I think we've heard Hillary Clinton, the Secretary of State, in no uncertain terms say that the demands of the protestors in Egypt, some of them have been met, though, like dissolving the -- the army saying that it will dissolve parliament in forming a transitional government.
FOUKARABut the state of emergency is still there. Many people are still being detained, many of them in unknown locations. We don't even know who's actually holding them. So when you have the United States government expressing a level of discontent with the pace of change, I think that in itself is very telling.
REHMDo we know where President Mubarak is and how he is?
SANGERWe don't know. We are led to believe, and it could be inaccurate, that he has retreated behind the high walls of his very lovely place in Sharm El-Sheikh.
SANGERThere have been periodic reports that he went to Germany for medical treatment. The Germans have indicated that they have no evidence that he's entered the country. I'm not sure at this point it matters, unless there is any evidence that he's trying to regain control from behind the scenes. So far we haven't heard evidence of that.
REHMCBS News reporter, Laura Logan, was sexually assaulted. Susan, were journalists actually being targeted or did she get caught in some kind of mob frenzy? What do we know?
GLASSERWell, obviously this is a terrible story to have emerged this week, and I think there are two thoughts. One is I do believe the accounts are pretty widespread that this was part of a systemic effort on the part of the regime to fight back. They targeted foreigners and foreign journalists in particularly in their sort of brief counterattack. They rounded up journalists, they took them to jail. This was not an accident, per se. Some of these mobs, these pro-Mubarak mobs, also had been used as a tool, including sexually assaulting women for the last decade. And this went very unreported. Human Rights Watch documented this.
GLASSERI went back and looked at some of this this week and I think that's where, you know, we didn't give Egypt and what was happening the scrutiny that it deserved. This didn't come out of nowhere. This wasn't some crazy horrible accident. This was a tool that was used by the regime systematically against their own people. They turned against foreigners and tried to raise a xenophobic backlash in the final days and hours of their government. It didn't work, but of course there's a terrible human toll as a result.
REHMAbderrahim, there are a great many people wondering why Aljazeera Arabic did not cover what happened to Laura Logan.
FOUKARAI just wanna say this. I don't wanna say anything stupid or come across as trying to say anything too smart by half. I don't know the answer to what exactly happened with the story of Laura Logan on Aljazeera. I'd be very happy to come back down the road next week or whenever, once I've had a chance to speak to people and give the details of why that story was covered the way it was covered or was not covered at all on either Aljazeera English or Aljazeera Arabic.
FOUKARAIf I just go back to what Susan was saying about what was going on in Egypt, obviously the level of violence and intimidation that was going on in Tahrir Square and around Tahrir Square. I think we are only now beginning to get a sense of what had actually -- the extent of what had actually happened. And it's interesting that when the army started to show up in Tahrir Square a lot of Egyptian protestors actually celebrated its arrival on Tahrir Square. And the notion was that there's this unspoken alliance between the army and the Egyptian people.
FOUKARAWell, now that the revolution has toppled Mubarak and more information is beginning to emerge, it's also beginning to emerge that the army's role in what happened is not the -- its image is not quite so pristine. There are reports of violence committed by the army. There are reports of kidnappings undertaken by the army. People tortured with electricity by the army, all sorts of things. And now that you have protestors coming back to Tahrir Square today, partly to celebrate the revolution, but also to push harder for their real demands to be implemented by the army, I think that puts the issue of the connection of the army to what has happened, the connection both to the protestors and to the regime front and center.
REHMLet's look for a moment at what's happening in Libya. David, we have a report this morning from the AP that one of longtime leader Muammar Gaddafi's sons said Friday that the national congress has halted its session indefinitely indicated amid widespread unrest. It will take steps to reform the government when it reconvenes. What's your take on that?
SANGERYou know, Libya is the most complex case here. Like Egypt taken over by Colonel Gaddafi in a bloodless coup three decades ago, like Egypt a lot of speculation that his son was designated to take over. But the effort by Egypt to get back in the good graces of the West and begin to do some reforms began a lot earlier. Remember, it was 2003 when the Egyptians, right after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, basically came to an agreement with Britain and the United States to give up its collection of uranium enrichment equipment, which had been its effort to build a nuclear bomb, an effort that had not gone very far. And that stuff was all literally shipped out. And they also tried to come to some resolution of the PanAm bombing as well.
SANGERThe Egyptian government then felt that they never got rewarded for that fully by the West. And the people of Libya clearly believe at this point that Gadaffi's continued repression and the uneven economic spreading of the wealth in Libya has gone too far. The problem with Libya for all of us is that because we can't get into the country we don't really have a full sense of how widespread these protests are.
REHMAll right. And to Pakistan. Why is Ray Davis still being held and what is the standoff about diplomatic immunity, Susan?
GLASSERWell, that's right. This is the case, of course, of the American who was there in Pakistan who claimed that he was being robbed. He shot and killed two Pakistanis. Apparently, there's now a move afoot to charge his driver as well who helped him get away. It has caused the most serious crisis, I think, in U.S. relations with Pakistan in a long time. You know, some people...
SANGERWhich is saying a lot.
GLASSERYeah, exactly. This is a relationship that's in perpetual crisis, but this is very serious. Senator John Kerry, in fact, flew there this week in an effort to mediate the standoff. I think he went with a very, very strong message of, let this guy go. You know, our billions of dollars in aid are, in fact, at some point, contingent on this. So there's not a resolution yet. The U.S. is taking the very absolute position that the guy was an Embassy employee and therefore is covered. It doesn't matter what is role was.
REHMSusan Glasser. She is editor-in-chief of Foreign Policy Magazine. And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." We're going to open the phones now, 800-433-8850. First, to Huntsville, Alabama. Good morning, Gary, you're on the air.
GARYGood morning -- or actually good afternoon. My question is I've been following a group on Facebook called Women of Egypt. And I was wondering, specifically to the Aljazeera representative, what does he think will be the role of women in Egypt in the new normal? Thank you very much.
FOUKARAI think it's -- let me, first of all, just do a quick reflection on the role of women in Egypt so far. I mean, for all the male dominated society that Egypt has been over the last 30, 40 years, if not even longer, women have always played a very important role culturally, socially, economically and politically. Now, what we have seen in Tahrir Square during about three weeks of protests, we have seen men and women basically leading that revolution. And when the revolutionaries, as they call themselves, of Tahrir Square formed the committee to actually speak on behalf of the protestors to the supreme council of the armed forces, which is now managing the affairs of the country, many of its members were women.
FOUKARAAnd we have to also recall that there have been concerns that the Muslim Brotherhood may gain more influence in a fair and open election in Egypt. And I think they have been aware of this very issue. And I think they've also gone out of their way to say, first of all, we're not after power. We're not gonna field a presidential candidate. But secondly, we are willing to work with everybody who is representative of a new government who is representative of this revolution, be they men or women. So I expect women will continue to play a role in the political future of Egypt.
REHMBut does that mean that they will be taking positions of leadership?
FOUKARAWell, they have been taking positions of leadership even under Mubarak, whether in the economic sector or in the political sector. Not as prominent as they should've been. Suzanne Mubarak, the wife of the president, clearly had an important role to play, although, you know, somewhat behind the scenes. But in terms of the major political decisions that were made trying to groom Gamal, the son, she was obviously very influential in that direction.
SANGERYou know, in Egypt, I think one of the big questions that we've already dealt with some is, is the military going to change. The question that our caller's asking is because of this political change is the society going to change? Are we going to see a fundamental change in the role of women in the society? And all you can do is look at some other examples of societies that have gone through kind of wrenching change like this, South Korea and Indonesia and so forth. And what you discover is the politics change a lot faster than the social norms do. Now, whether that applies as well to the conservative societies of the Mideast is an open question, but I suspect it probably will.
GLASSERWell, you know, it's striking that we mention Suzanne Mubarak. In fact, many of the first ladies have become the focus of popular outreach and ire directed towards these autocratic regimes. Not just in Egypt, but in Tunisia. Remember, it was...
GLASSER...it was the reports of corruption that -- first of all, it's seen as safer somehow to still criticize women. Second of all, I think it sort of pigeonholes them in a certain role. You have this notion of family role to begin with is part of what these societies are reacting against. And, you know, in the end were the women running these autocracies? Were the women in charge of these repressive brutal police states? No, absolutely not. So what does it tell you that many of the popular outreach is focused on? These women, wives of the rulers.
REHMAnd even in Jordan, Queen Rania has been criticized for her lavish clothing, her lifestyle and so on. It's going to be fascinating to see where this goes. Short break, we'll be back in just a moment.
REHMAnd here is an e-mail from Cincinnati, Ohio. Saidhu (sp?) wants to say, "One person has been surprisingly silent about the wave of uprisings sweeping the Islamic world, Osama bin Laden. Will Al-Qaeda try to co-opt this largely peaceful movement?" David Sanger.
SANGERWell, he may try, but this is a little bit problematic for him because when you think about all of the awful things and great things that we saw happen from Tahrir Square, what was missing, Death to America signs, any protests about Israel and the Palestinians. You had none of the anti-Americanism until you got to those attacks that we referred to before on Laura Logan and the other correspondents. President Obama, fairly early on in this crisis, told a number of his aids that he thought that the uprisings we saw in Tunisia and then in Egypt could create an alternative narrative to Al-Qaeda and an alternative narrative to Iran that the United States ought to make use of.
SANGERNow, it's an open question how effective the administration has been at making use of that alternative narrative. And I don't think they've articulated it quite as clearly as they might have. But this is not an easy one for Osama bin Laden to navigate.
FOUKARAI just want to add one thing to what David has just said. What we saw in Egypt is going to be obviously a multi-tiered process. The first tier is that they want to get their act together first on the domestic scene, getting their freedoms and getting a democratic and more representative system in place. Once, if that happens, I think the next stage will be to try and examine Egypt's relations with the outside world, including Israel and the United States.
FOUKARADavid mentioned the issue of Al-Qaeda. I think there'll be a serious examination, especially the number two of Al-Qaeda is Egyptian, Ayman al-Zawahiri. Number three, I think you will see an attempt to have some sort of debate about the international system as a whole. And this is where I think what's been happening in Egypt will be an opportunity for everybody long term. Because the people who've been leading, these young people, they are plugged primarily into the future the same as what many people in the United States, especially young people are trying to be.
REHMTo New Haven, Conn. Good morning, Lance, you're on the air.
LANCEHello. It's Lance (word?) from New Haven. How are you?
REHMFine thanks. Go right ahead, sir.
LANCEOkay. My question is how do we know -- how do you know, because you're stating definitively that the parties that assaulted the female CBS reporter were in fact pro-Mubarak demonstrators?
GLASSERWell, I think if you look at the accounts that CBS has put out, that's pretty clear. You know, that's what they're saying happened and, you know, I think that's pretty credible based on the accounts not only of CBS, but of the other reporters who were also arrested, assaulted, beaten at that time.
REHMAll right. Thanks for your call. To Bill in Orlando, Fla. Good morning.
BILLGood morning. My question is -- first of all, I think the Arabic translation for uprising is intifada. And the first intifada -- well, among the first intifadas happened actually in 1980s in the Palestinian territories where thousands of youth -- Palestinian youth were shot and killed and maimed and injured, which really brought about Hamas back in the late 1980s. My question is while there's so much coverage of the Arab government, you know, harsh response in some cases towards protestors, why isn't there ever any mention about the democratic state of Israel and the way it has gone prior to planned peaceful protests among Palestinians, arrested people in their homes, peaceful protestors ahead of any protests to stop and prevent any protests on the streets?
FOUKARAWell, I think the world is currently focused on what's going on in the Middle East, primarily Egypt. And I think, as I said a little while ago, you will see at some point a debate about Egypt's relations with the Israelis. I think the army has given all the indications that it will not try to abrogate the peace treaty with Israel. They would have absolutely no interest in trying to abrogate that. But I think what will change is the dynamics of Egypt's mediation between the Israelis and the Palestinians. And I think that will put the focus back on Israel, the Palestinian authority and the West Bank, and Hamas. But you will definitely see different dynamics.
REHMYou know, and speaking of the country's youth, Facebook groups are calling Morocco's youth onto the streets of cities, including Casablanca, Marrakesh, Rabat, Tangier, on Sunday to demand constitutional reform, prepared democracy, so truly it is spreading. Let's go to another part of the world however. Here's an e-mail from Alexander who says, "I think the murder of the agents in Mexico illustrates an issue you could cover in both hours of the Friday News Roundup.
REHMMexico has all the characteristics of a failed state due in part to the U.S. making so many drugs illegal. As with prohibition, our drug laws have created organized crime in the form of drug cartels, this time south of the border. Why is having a serious discussion about U.S. drug policy, its affects on Mexico anathema to so many politicians?" Susan Glasser.
GLASSERWell, I think that represents an increasing point of view in the United States that this is something that we ourselves bear much of the responsibility for. It's certainly been the case in Mexico that that is almost the conventional wisdom. Unfortunately, I'm not sure that even were we to embark on a wholesale review and rethinking of American drug policies, which is extremely unlikely to occur...
GLASSER...it seems to me, in the near future, that that would have any positive affect in terms of tamping down the drug war that is really raging just across the border.
REHMLet's go to Michael in Silver Spring, Md. Good morning, you're on the air.
MICHAELGood morning, good morning. I just wanted to briefly touch on a topic that -- well, something that was mentioned a little bit earlier about the movements and where it all started. I appreciate it, too, because it kind of strengthens my point. In 2009, the green movement in Iran did kind of start with this thing. And I feel like the new terminology that's being used, like sweeping change, has kind of reduced these revolutions, these movements into trends. And I just find it demeaning in a way, a little bit insulting. And it almost plays into the hands of the political leaders that these people are fighting against trying to break out from under it. Do you think that there is any validity to using terminology like this and how badly it can affect a movement when...
SANGERWell, whenever movements like this begin and whenever there is repression to put them down, a sub-war begins about how to go -- term these issues. Think about the concern about whether or not news organizations, including the New York Times, accurately used the phrase terrorist to describe people who would set off bombs in different places or try to mount other attacks.
SANGERBut in this case, I think that one of the elements that is befuddling everybody about these Mideast uprisings is that while they all seem to have a common root, they all express themselves in very different ways and they all have very different origins. So the Iranian uprising was against a repressive regime, but many of these others that we have seen seem to be less about the repression and more about the fundamental economic issues. Now, the two are always -- you know, go hand in hand. It's hard to sort them out. But it's very difficult to put together a grand strategy of how one would respond to these when the conditions are so different in Egypt and Bahrain and Morocco.
GLASSERWell, I also think -- not to sort of throw rain on the parade, but I think there's something very American about wanting to cheer for young people in the streets and the Facebook generation and the idea that people who have been disempowered who are educated, but have no opportunity, are taking the lead in this. Let's remember who was still running France at the end of 1789. Let's remember who was still running Iran at the end of 1979. And I think we see there were early days here, and this doesn't mean that these young students are going to be running Egypt. And, in fact, that's a very, very unlikely outcome.
REHMSusan Glasser, David Sanger, Abderrahim Foukara, and you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Let's go now to Vian, Okla. Good morning, Ed.
EDYes, good morning. Would you have your guests speak to the overloading of CIA staff in our embassies and talk to that may be a problem in what we're seeing in Pakistan instead of using -- State Department personnel are using those slots for CIA?
REHMDavid Sanger, any truth to that in relation to what's happening...
SANGERThe Davis case?
SANGERWe're still trying to figure out...
SANGER...exactly what all the conditions were in the Davis case. I would say that the U.S. government has been less than fully transparent about what Mr. Davis' exact role and responsibilities were. The IDs that he had on him seem to refer to several different consulates. And it's not only the CIA that's there. We have a huge number of contractors who operate in and out of U.S. embassies there as well. And it all fits into the brew of resentments in Pakistan about the American role, which range from the drone strikes, which we've discussed on past shows here to the question of whether or not there are American military who go over the border secretly, to the question of what the very large CIA station in Pakistan does.
SANGERYou may recall that the identity of the American station chief -- CIA station chief in Pakistan was blown a few months ago. One believes probably organized by the Pakistani intelligent service, the ISI. And he had to be withdrawn very quickly from Pakistan back to the U.S.
REHMHere's an e-mail from Sarah in Louisville, Ky. who says, "Something in the discourse surrounding the uprisings in the Middle East that disturbs me is the idea that the U.S. has to make sure we protect our own interests as some of these governments topple. Isn't it pretty arrogant to assume our interests are more important than the free elections and representation of the people in the Arab states?" That e-mail reminds me of Aaron David Miller's comment the other day on this program, that the U.S. has made a devil's bargain. Susan.
GLASSERWell, I think this goes back to our conversation earlier this morning, which is about stability and what price and how much did we deceive ourselves that these revolutions or uprisings, whatever you want to call them, were not in the making. We saw the data points but we didn't have a narrative to stitch them together until now. We knew that these rulers were making a bad bargain with us. We felt stuck in it, right. You know, there have been reports in David's newspaper this week about President Obama commissioning a secret report last year that looked at the possibility for unrest in the Arab world.
GLASSERI think, you know, we knew that these conditions were out there. We knew what kind of bad guys we were dealing with in many of these countries. The Wikileaks cables have helped spur some of these protests after all. It was our own diplomats who were acknowledging some of the rottenness from within.
SANGERWhat we didn't know was what would trigger them. And one of the interesting historical questions is whether the publication of the Wikileaks cables did in fact contribute to stirring some of this, particularly in Tunisia.
REHMAnd now to Abdelahakim (sp?) in Ann Arbor, Mich. Good morning, you're on the air.
ABDELAHAKIMYes. Good afternoon, Diane. Thank you very much for taking my call.
ABDELAHAKIMI've been listening to your panel and I do thank each one of them. And I just want to make -- thank you especially for bringing Mr. Abderrahim Foukara to the program. Actually, this is the first time that we have seen (sounds like) handed evenly in the issues of the Middle East, and we have somebody who is from that region to discuss these issues. I have a very quick comment. I'd like to say that I am so surprised that we have not shared anything from congress.
ABDELAHAKIMWe have not shared any -- serious discussions of what has happened September 11 (unintelligible) as you know. We were all surprised and we said, well, you know, everything was wrong and we're going to correct. And this country spent billions and billions of dollars to strengthen intelligence and to do this and that and to correct the situation so we would not be surprised.
ABDELAHAKIMI think that -- surprised. What is taking place has surprised everybody including the United States. And so far we are trying to manage a crisis. We are not doing anything about it. And management has brought the United States far behind from the actual events that's taking place. And that's making us look bad as a country. In fact, it's making -- some of the decisions they are making is not serving the purpose.
REHMAll right. Abderrahim.
FOUKARAI will quickly say one thing cynical and one thing more hopeful about the debate in the United States, including Congress, as to what's going to happen in the Middle East. The cynical part is that President Roosevelt's characterization when he was talking about Somoza in Nicaragua, the former dictator. And he said, he is a son of a bitch, but he is our son of a bitch. I think that will remain a major factor in forming U.S. foreign policy, regardless of what happens in the Middle East now.
FOUKARAThe more hopeful sign is that when you get pushed back, as we have seen in the case of Egypt, people really mobilizing to change things, I think ultimately whoever is in the White House will listen to a certain extent. To what extent President Obama and Congress will be able to get a country like Egypt to a nice compromise where they get their own freedoms and a democratic system, but also get Egypt to respect its international commitments to the United States and other countries, that's the question for me.
REHMBut the other point he raised is about the lack of U.S. intelligence knowing what was happening, who was doing what, David.
SANGERWell, there's two kinds of intelligence in this kind of issue. The first kind is, do the underlying conditions exist? And as Susan said, not only has the CIA and other intelligent agencies written on this, President Obama himself commissioned a number of his staff led by Dennis Roth, Samantha Power and others to do so. The harder issue is to figure out when the trigger comes. And there the intel agencies appear to have largely failed. I'm not sure that was predictable.
REHMDavid Sanger, the New York Times, Susan Glasser of Foreign Policy, Abderrahim Foukara of Aljazeera Arabic. Have a great weekend, everybody. Thanks for listening. I'm Diane Rehm.
ANNOUNCER"The Diane Rehm Show" is produced by Sandra Pinkard, Nancy Robertson, Susan Nabors, Denise Couture and Monique Nazareth. The engineer is Tobey Schreiner. Dorie Anisman answers the phones. Visit drshow.org for audio archives, transcripts, podcasts and CD sales. Call 202-885-1200 for more information. Our e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org and we're on Facebook and Twitter. This program comes to you from American University in Washington. This is NPR.
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