An update on the plane crash in the French Alps. Saudi Arabia launches air strikes against Yemen rebel bases. And President Barack Obama slows U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan. A panel of journalists joins Diane for analysis of the week's top international news stories.
Pro-Gadhafi forces step up their attack on Libyan protesters as fears of civil war mount. In Bahrain, demonstrations grow despite concessions by the king. And a U.K. court rules in favor of extraditing Julian Assange to Sweden. A panel of journalists joins Diane for analysis of the week’s top international news stories.
- Mark Landler diplomatic correspondent, The New York Times.
- Nadia Bilbassy senior U.S. correspondent, MBC TV -- Middle East Broadcast Centre.
- Moises Naim chief international columnist, El Pais.
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us, I'm Diane Rehm. Opposition groups in Libya gain control of the eastern half of the country. Government forces tighten their grip on the capital. Efforts to evacuate American citizens were slowed by high seas. U.S. Admiral Mike Mullen arrived in Bahrain on a tour of the region to reaffirm ties and to assess the political situation And General Petraeus called for an investigation into allegations the Army used illegal psychological methods against U.S. Senators.
MS. DIANE REHMJoining me in the studio for the week's top international stories on the Friday News Roundup, Moises Naim of El Pais, Nadia Bilbassy of MBC TV and Mark Landler of the New York Times. Feel free to join us throughout the hour, 800-443-8850. Send us your e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org, send us a tweet or join us on Facebook. Good morning, everybody.
MR. MOISES NAIMGood morning.
MS. NADIA BILBASSYGood morning, Diane.
MR. MARK LANDLERGood morning.
REHMMark Landler, what is the situation in Libya today?
LANDLERWell, the news continues to tighten around Muammar Gadhafi with evidence that rebel forces have entered, as far as the capital Tripoli. On the evacuation front, the ferry that the U.S. Government had chartered to take diplomats and their families, as well as other American citizens, finally left the dock in Tripoli a few hours ago. It had been held up for a day a half by high seas. And it was in a very tense situation because just across the street from the peer was a hotel that had been the site of gun battles earlier. So I think there must be deep relief on the part of the administration.
LANDLERAnd the interesting question, which we'll see play out today, is whether, in fact, the U.S. will now toughen its language against -- not just the Libyan government, but against Gadhafi himself. The administration had been sort of pulling its punches a little bit until it got its people out. So now that those people are underway and presumably...
LANDLER...safe, we'll see whether there's a tougher rhetoric from the White House.
REHMWhat about all those other poor people crowded massively into the airports that are trying to get out of Libya?
LANDLERWell, they're having a lot of trouble. It's a chaotic scene. There aren't enough seats on commercial airliners. The Libyan Government has allowed charter flights from some governments to land. They did not allow the U.S. to bring in charter flights. So, I mean, it'll be pandemonium for at least as long as this lasts.
REHMAnd let's be clear, the ferry is transporting the Americans to Malta?
REHMAnd then from there, presumably, flights out.
REHMAll right. And Gadhafi spoke on national TV yesterday. He talked about al-Qaida. He talked about hallucinogenic drugs. I must say, when I had seen him a couple of days before speaking, he didn't look well, Nadia.
BILBASSYHe never does look well, Diane. I think the description of Libya is a rogue state with a crazy man at the helm. And I think this is very accurate. Libya was rehabilitated by the West and the United States in 2003 because Gadhafi wanted to give up the weapon of mass destruction dream. And also because of the oil interest in the West. Let's not forget this is a very important point. But now what we have seen, it just outrages, I think, you're right Mark when you said that the United States Government wanted to wait and see for -- to make sure that the Americans are leaving safely.
BILBASSYBut we're not waiting for rhetoric. I think we need action. We're talking about massacres. The reports come in of hundreds, could be thousands of people are dead. Now, the noose is tightened around Gadhafi. Just before I came on air, they were talking about all the battles in Tripoli itself is centered around one place in (word?) , which it's called Bab al-Azizia. The rest, it seems to be under the control of the rebels and there's massive demonstrations. Now, if he thinks he's under the -- he's varied under tight control, we don't know what measures he might resort to.
BILBASSYHe might use planes. He might do something really terrible in terms of keeping control. We don't know and this is really vital. We have to wait and see. Now, what the West is going to, what NATO -- now, they are in emergency meeting. Nicolas Sarkozy called for him to leave now. And I think we need to make sure that civilians are protected, maybe through an air ban on traveling or maybe through some kind of military intervention, although it's not desirable at this moment.
REHMMoises, what more should the United States be doing or saying?
NAIMIt is not the United States. It's as Nadia said, Europe and others. An important thing, for example, will be the no-fly zone. In order to prevent Gadhafi from sending airplanes and gun -- and helicopter gunships to strife at that rebel.
REHMBut has President Obama been strong enough in his own rhetoric?
NAIMHe -- well, recently, he has been very, very clear about warning Gadhafi about violence and refraining from repressing violence and from -- and trying to avoid a massacre. He has all these -- also, been on the phone with his European colleagues, with Sarkozy and Americans and others, trying to coordinate -- and Berlusconi. Let's remember that Libya is a former Italian colony and that Berlusconi personally, and Italy, have very strong links in Libya and with Gadhafi. But there is a list of things. The Swiss Government, for example, went ahead and imposed a freeze on all of Gadhafi's assets.
REHMBut they may have moved their assets out of Switzerland even before now.
NAIMProbably, yes. But there is now, you know, there is a concern if there is a political will on the part of Europe, the United States and others to really impose financial sanctions and really try to freeze their access to funds, remember a lot of these mercenaries that are being -- that are -- the shield that is protecting Gadhafi in his stronghold are being paid. These are reminiscent of an attempt that was a very prolonged attempt on the part of Gadhafi to build a militia, an African militia that was actively recruiting mercenaries in a bunch of other countries.
REHMPretty frightening for the citizens of Libya left there. For the protesters, if Gadhafi does use flyovers, use some kind of -- well, it looks as though there are already thousands dead there.
LANDLERWell, yeah, I mean, this -- you can already say this uprising has been far more serious as a humanitarian issue than really any of the others so far and it has the potential to become multiple times worse. I think what's interesting in the case of the United States is there's a sort of debate about whether the U.S. -- and what kind of leverage the U.S. can bring to bear. We don't have close ties to the Libyan military. We don't have -- as we did in Egypt. We -- while we do have diplomatic relations, you know, it comes after a long period of no relations and a very hostile relationship.
LANDLERNow, some people will argue, in a way, having no ties should free our hand to be much tougher. We can take steps, like sanctions or even contemplate a no-fly zone more easily, perhaps, than we could have with the Egyptians, if it had ever come to that. So I think there are those who are arguing don't let the administration off the hook. Because unlike the Italians, unlike some of the Europeans, we have a more distant relationship. Maybe that gives us the license to act more strongly.
REHMAnd Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah came home after months away. Nadia, what has he done since his return?
BILBASSYThe King took unprecedented packages of helping the Saudi people. I think it's a way to defuse any potential tension. The Saudi Government and the King at the top decided to spend $36 million to help the Saudi people in terms of loan-free houses, in terms of -- unemployment has been very high, 25 percent, in terms of forgiving debt and so many projects that he's doing. And I think...
REHMHe's trying to forestall the kinds of uprisings we've seen.
BILBASSYYes, absolutely. But Saudi Arabia is different case, Diane, the same as in Bahrain because it's a monarchy. Number one, they have the money. Other countries don't have the money and we have seen now how they're distributing for the Saudi people. And also they have the loyalty. I think that the Saudi Government still have some kind of loyal following. But saying that, there is no Arab regime loyal or Republican, whatever, dictatorship is immune from what's happening in the Middle East today. Just to give you a bigger picture, panoramic picture, I saw a split screen on Arabic television with demonstrations in Cairo, still demanding forcing...
BILBASSY...the government today.
BILBASSYThey wanted to try Mubarek and they wanted a government to be formed immediately. There was demonstration in Iraq. There was two people dead in Iraq today, in Baghdad and in Basra. There was demonstrations in Amman, huge demonstrations. It's just happening everywhere. This wind, this tsunami of effect is catching everywhere.
REHMWhere is Mubarek? Do we know, Moises?
NAIMI think he's in...
REHMStill in Sharm el-Sheikh?
REHMAnd will they...
NAIM...and that's why his...
REHM...leave him there? That's the other question.
NAIMOne of the dilemmas that the new government, which in fact has many elements of the old government, it's very important to know that in Egypt, other than having changed the top tier of the (word?) Mubarek and some of his close associates, the structure is there. The structure continues to be there and the military are calling the shots -- are the same military that were there before. So they are calling the shots, they are deciding the pace, the speed, the scope of that transition.
NAIMThey are deciding how is the process evolving, in terms of writing a new constitution. And they will have to face -- you know, it all hinges, as Nadia was saying, on how much more pressure in the streets they will face. And they may -- you know, they may stall and try to stabilize the situation around their interests. Remember that the Egyptian military has a very strong economic role. They own and operate and it's a highly corrupt operation also. So there is a lot of stakes here in which they would want to keep the status quo (word?) .
REHMMoises Naim, he's Chief International columnist for El Pais. We'll take a short break here. When we come back, we're going to talk about the Rolling Stone piece regarding psychological operations in Afghanistan.
REHMWelcome back to the international portion of our Friday News Roundup this week with Mark Landler, The New York Times, Nadia Bilbassy of Middle East Broadcast Centre, Moises Naim of El Pais. I look forward to hearing your calls, 800-433-8850, your e-mail to email@example.com, messages on Facebook and Tweet. Admiral Mike Mullen went to Bahrain yesterday. Why'd he go, Mark?
LANDLERWell, he was delivering a message of reassurance to the Bahraini government. And he's not the only person that's reached out. Tom Donilon, the National Security Advisor, has now made two phone calls to the Crown Prince of Bahrain who has stepped forward to take charge of what the government says will be a national dialogue with the protestors. And this is an evolving kind of template in this crisis. You see some of the monarchs, for reasons that Nadia has talked about earlier, trying to buy off their populations to some extent. And the Bahrainis have done that as well. The administration has decided to throw its weight behind the royal family's efforts to find common ground with the protestors and are going to give them some time to prove that their genuine about reform.
LANDLERThe issue in Bahrain is so complicated because, in addition to the resentments that are generally against the royal family, you have a split between the Shiite majority in that country and the Sunni minority. The ruling family is a member of that. And so there's an issue there that's more sectarian than economic and that complicates both how the government there is reacting to it and how the United States must sort of weigh the risks. And then a last element to introduce in this regard is the role of Saudi Arabia. Bahrain is connected to Saudi Arabia by a causeway. It's economically dependent on Saudi Arabia. It may not be an exaggeration to say it's a vassal state of Saudi Arabia.
REHMWhy haven't the two leaders actually met?
LANDLERThe two leaders have met. In fact, King Hamad of Bahrain went to Riyadh to be on the tarmac when King Abdullah returned from his medical treatment and consulted him. It had the appearance of he was showing up to take his marching orders. So the question also is what will the Saudis be willing to tolerate in terms of a reform in Bahrain. They, too, have a Shiite population in the east so they're very concerned and frankly skeptical, if not resistant, to giving Shiites in Bahrain more of a political voice.
BILBASSYOne of the interesting points that the opposition -- that the royal family in Bahrain did was to release 300 political prisoners. Twenty-five of them were Shiites who were accused of plotting against the regime and they were on trial, but they were released. When they came out, people received them as heroes, but they talked about torture and what happened in jail and that created another wave of resentment.
BILBASSYThe things about the royal family, they can reinvent themselves. Because I think my prediction that we might see in Bahrain, maybe not immediately, but in the long run, a constitution and monarchy that you will take less power from the monarchy and more power to the parliament and the people. They don't want to overthrow them completely, but they really wanted to have a say in the country.
NAIMAnd that's the talk throughout the Middle East in these monarchies. Which, one, is going to take the first step ahead and declare a reform, a movement towards a constitution of monarchy in which there is a kind of an elected government prime minister. And they're on there, coexisting with the king and the royal house...
REHMBut didn't you have an opposition leader trying to return to Bahrain and prevented from getting there?
NAIMYes. And that was happening and at the same time they were releasing a very important cleric Sheik al-Nouri who had been, as Nadia said, one of the many that had been in prison accused of plotting against the king. And again, it is the dynamic with the Shiite. This is a country in which 70 percent of the population is Shiite, but is ruled by a Sunni monarchy.
REHMAnd the other factor here, as people have said on this program so many times, is the youth of the region -- the youth of the region seeing no realistic future for themselves.
NAIMBut it's the youth combined with bad economic policies...
NAIM...because you can have -- the youth can be an asset. The youth can be a highly dynamic source of growth and innovation. Instead, you have now a youth bulge that coexists with very bad economic policies that do not create growth and opportunity and dynamism. It's just these monarchies and these elites that have the lead...
NAIM...on economic activity and don't let the youth have opportunities to prosper.
BILBASSYOne of the descriptions I've seen was what's happening in the Middle East is a generational struggle. It's between the monarchy and the presidents who completely cut off from reality and the young population, like, the majority of them, 60 percent under the age of 25 or 30...
BILBASSY...with no opportunities whatsoever. With the new -- with the global village, everything is happening in the world we know now through the social media. So these people are on the move and there is insatiable appetite for freedom. Once you require it and you want it, you want it even more. So this is why they're not stopping. This is why we're seeing the demonstrations in Cairo today saying, it's not enough. We don't want this government. We want more reform. And in Tunisia today, by the way, Diane, there is more people today, 50,000 today in (sounds like) Casaba Square, also wanted the government to resign or Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi.
NAIMWe know that images are worth a thousand words and some of the most revealing images of all this crisis in the Middle East have been the speeches by Mubarek and the speeches by Gadhafi.
NAIMAnd the way in which they were unconnected, disconnected, isolated, in which they were talking about a reality that bear no relationship with what's happening in the streets and with the dynamism that Nadia is describing among the youth. That was very revealing in terms of the isolation and how unconnected these leaders end up being with their people.
REHMLet's talk about the Rolling Stone piece done by Michael Hastings, Mark Landler. He is the same writer who did the piece that somehow reflected poorly on General McChrystal, led to his resignation, or stepping down retirement is a better way to put it. What's this one all about?
LANDLERWell, I mean, the first thing that must be said is that Michael Hastings is not a one-hit wonder. When he wrote that first piece, it was sensational. He came out of nowhere. Some people took shots at his methods, but it had a huge effect. Now, he's done it again. It's a piece that's led to an investigation called by General Petraeus. And the piece basically reports that General Caldwell, who is one of the top commanders in Afghanistan and the general responsible for training the Afghan security forces, instructed his psychological operations team to use the techniques that they would normally customarily use against the Taliban to influence visiting senators and congress people to try to get them to commit more money for the training of Afghan soldiers.
LANDLERThis, if true, would be a breach of the U.S. law or of army law. You're not supposed to use Psy-Ops against American citizens. That's the job for the Public Affairs office. And a member of the psychological operations team has gone public in this article to say he was, first verbally and then in writing, forced to deploy his techniques, his methods against visiting American dignitaries. And General Petraeus, the overall commander, has ordered an investigation. If it's found to be true, it puts yet another top commander in a very precarious position. General Caldwell is a favorite of -- seen as a rising star. He's a favorite of his commanding officers. And it's possible to question how much of a -- whether he could even be tenable after this if these charges prove to be true.
REHMMoises, at least one of these Psy-Ops people said, I'm not doing this. It's against the law.
NAIMIt's against the law and also probably it's against common sense, Diane. For me, this story epitomizes overestimation of the powers of psychological science and underestimating the senators. Imagining that you can spin John McCain or Jack Reed or Al Franken or Carl Levin just because they go there and you can unleash on them some sort of black arts of psychological operations and then, you know, sway them into giving you a couple billion dollars is very naïve. And that is what happens when you have a lot of money, a lot of time on your hands and bad ideas.
REHMIt was certainly no indication that General Petraeus knew anything about this, is there?
BILBASSYNo, it doesn't seem to be the case. But the actual operation seems to be in process for four months so it's not something new until this one person who said, no, I'm not going to do it, and he was reprimanded. And it's interesting, as you said, that they're targeting senators like McCain and Lieberman who are very pro-war anyway. I don't know -- I mean, maybe I'll understand it if somebody very suspicious of the intention of the long term objectives. But these two in particular, that they were willing to add troops...
BILBASSY...and want to give money.
LANDLERWell, and it also goes to something that's been a kind of an undercurrent for a while in Afghanistan, which is a sense that the generals have rolled the civilian leadership. This goes back to the debate over Afghan policy. There was always a sort of a feeling, a residue of bitterness that the Pentagon stacked the deck for President Obama when he had to make his decision on deploying more troops. And that impression was further reinforced by the picture that was drawn of General McChrystal, who Rolling Stone referred to famously as the runaway general. This article tellingly has headlined another runaway general. So again, there's this thought that these very powerful military commanders are stepping way across the line in making their case. In this case, less against the White House than against congressional leadership.
NAIMDiane, I love the phrase in the Rolling Stone article that says, instead of fighting the Taliban, General Holmes and his team were now responsible for using their training to win the hearts and minds of John McCain and Al Franken. So that gives you -- you know, there is a silly element to this story in which, you know, you are deploying highly sophisticated, very expensive psychological operations to try to convince visiting -- distinguished visitors to give some more money to -- for the training of Afghan troops.
REHMWell, now you've got another situation where another agency of the U.S. may be in a little difficulty. The United States has now admitted that an American accused of killing two men in Pakistan actually works for the CIA. What was the reaction, Nadia?
BILBASSYThis is an ongoing saga. I mean, the CIA said, yes, he works for us, but he's not an operative -- he's not a covert operative. He is just basically assigned as a bodyguard to protect dignitaries of the Embassy and other visiting, et cetera. But the situation has brought even more attention between the United States and Pakistan. Some even predict that the PPP might even come down as a result of this. Prime Minister Yousuf Gilani said in the Parliament yesterday that the relationship is not going to be effected and we're going to respect the Vienna Convention, which has basically given Mr. Davis a diplomatic immunity.
BILBASSYBut the case is going still in court. He's still in jail. The CIA said yes, he works for us. The State Department won't comment. Every time we were in the briefing, we asked the same question. What happened? And he said, we cannot comment on him. He works there. The ISI basically believed that he works for the CIA and it brings even more bad kind of tension between the two parties.
REHMNadia Bilbassy of Middle East Broadcast Centre. You're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." What could this case mean for other Americans in Pakistan, Mark?
LANDLERWell, it could have potentially chilling consequences. There has long been this tension in Pakistan where the United States relies on a large number of contractors with sometimes murky job definitions in addition to its official embassy personnel. And this case reflects a kind of a pent up resentment on the part of the Pakistanis who have always questioned what these contractors were doing, who they were, the way they were behaving. And so it's one more thing that, except in a very pointed way, will add to this distrust. The U.S. has worked for two years of the Obama administration to try to build up trust with the Pakistani government. They've invested an enormous amount of time and effort in this. And this shows how a single case can sort of undermine those efforts so completely.
LANDLERAnd it comes at an awkward time too on the diplomatic front. Among the people that are missing from this equation are Richard Holbrooke, who is the special envoy to Pakistan. He's now been replaced by a very seasoned diplomat named Marc Grossman. But Marc Grossman is starting from scratch. He hasn't made his first trip to Pakistan yet. And when he goes he's going to find this very distrustful, suspicious atmosphere. And he'll have to build up again much of the work that was done by his predecessors.
NAIMSo we shouldn't be surprised that the United States has spies in Pakistan and has operatives trying to track and monitor some violent groups that are terrorist organizations. Ray Davis was working in a unit that associated with the CIA that was tracking the Lashkar-e-Taiba, which is a very violent group that is widely believed to have links with the ISI, which is the Inter Service Intelligence...
NAIM...of Pakistan that has a very complicated relationship with the CIA. There's lack of trust, but at the same time they have to work together. And in some issues they work together, in some issue they undermine each other and there are rivalries. There was a meeting recently in Oman between General -- Mike Mullen and David Petraeus and others with the top brass of the Pakistanis. This was a meeting that was long planned, but -- and was to discuss the general work collaboration between the two armies. But, in fact, it was -- they spent most of the time discussing this case and making sure that it would not become an even larger hurdle in the way in which the United States and Pakistan have to work together.
REHMIn another story, the FBI detained pirate commanders who had taken a boat and there were four Americans onboard that boat and all four were killed. Did the FBI decision to hold those pirate commanders lead to the death of those Americans, Mark?
LANDLERI think the honest answer is we don't know. It was a very murky episode. It was a very rapidly developing one. Clearly the FBI will have to go back over this minute-by-minute. But the sequence of events is these two pirate leaders were summoned over to a U.S. ship to carry out a face-to-face negotiation. The FBI was prepared to allow the pirates to leave with the boat belonging to the four Americans -- or to two of the Americans as long as they released the Americans. When these two pirates were deemed to be not serious, then the FBI decided to detain them and put them in the brig rather than send them back to the ship.
LANDLEROur reporting suggests that the other pirates back on the boat reacted to that calmly, were not agitated. At least didn't appear to be agitated. But there's now evidence that there was some fighting within the ranks of the pirates. And so there may have been some gunfire even before the special ops people boarded the ship and found the Americans.
REHMMark Landler of the New York Times. Short break and right back.
REHMAnd now it's time for your questions, comments. Here is an e-mail from Merle in Grand Rapids, Mich., who says, "Assuming that Gadhafi escapes Mussolini's fate, is there any country that would take him in?" Moises.
NAIMWe were chatting about that before the show and we all agreed that he has become a very, very difficult commodity to handle. It's hard to imagine which country will welcome him. And also there are very strong calls to bring him to the international criminal courts and there is plenty of evidence that can lead to that. So the answer is I have not -- I don't have any idea of where can he go after.
REHMAll right. To Kingay in Washington. Good morning, you're on the air.
REHMHello. Go right ahead.
KINGAYDiane, thank you for taking my call.
KINGAYI -- you know, this is a country -- a great country, one that is based on principles. And we knew all along that this guy was a bad guy. You know, but for money and other material interests, we removed him on the list of terrorists. We let this guy, who was responsible for bombing the flight 103 over Lockerbie, go home. And now we see what the truth of Gadhafi is. What are we now gonna do as a country to stand up with the people of Libya who are being slaughtered as we all watch? Somebody just asked about where he should go. Well, how about a cell jail in La Hague?
REHMAll right. Go ahead.
BILBASSYYou're absolutely right. I think the challenge now for the Obama administration is not just Libya, but to re-evaluate its policy with the Middle East. For so long, they banked on the stability because they supported dictatorial regime, the despotic regimes that oppressed their own people. The case -- and that's the case for most of America's allies, unfortunately. But in the case of Libya, you're dealing with a crazy person. He has some kind of existential paranoia. He's a megalomaniac so he's very unpredictable.
BILBASSYSo I think the problem with Gadhafi now is not which country's gonna take him. I think if we see something within the army, and the army here, and I put in inverted commas, it's not the really army. It's militias. One of them belongs to his son, Khamis and others belong to a model of a Turkish elite unit during the Ottoman Empire called the Janissaries, which is bringing young people, very, very young, and enroll them in the army so they will be loyal. And the mercenaries that he brought in, basically because they can shoot at people, they don't have loyalty. So he didn't want to have a scenario like Egypt where the army stands by and says, we are with the people, not with the regime. And that's a problem now.
BILBASSYAnd the United States, I think one thing they can do, and I think President Obama could've made that point clear, which is to appeal to the army. Some of them defected, actually, to say that if you shoot at your own people, you're gonna be brought to the Hague and you're gonna be facing crimes against humanity. And that will scare them, let alone Gadhafi. The problem in Libya now, we are running out of time. We cannot wait for Secretary Clinton to go on Monday and meet with people in Geneva. Action needs to be taken now.
NAIMConcerning the question of the caller on principles, countries that work on principles and act and foreign policies driven by values and principles, which I think we all agree, let's remember our countries also have interests. And when you have someone like Gadhafi with a profile that Nadia just made of him, essentially a demented leader that has atomic weapons and he's developing atomic weapons and comes to you and says, you know, I'm willing to forego these weapons, I'm willing not to have nuclear bombs. You know, telling him, no, go away because just, you know, my values are not aligned to yours is easier to say now than when it did happen.
REHMBut at the same time, Aaron David Miller made the point on this program that the U.S. did make deals with the devil. I mean, we did trade on that issue of no nuclear weapons so he's considered, at least briefly, an ally.
NAIMA superpower has multiple goals that are sometimes often in conflict, that are competing types of things that you need to do and very hard balancing acts. And so in hindsight, you know, things are always clearer than when things are (unintelligible)
REHMAll right. To Murray, Ky., good morning, Bill.
BILLEarlier commentators have suggested a certain synchronicity between these popular movements in the Middle East and in the U.S. I teach world history at Murray State University, and this was actually the topic of my class yesterday. In 1848, 1907, 1969, you had these movements throughout the world, these popular uprisings that are seemingly unconnected and yet occur at the same time. 1969 is probably the best known. You have the youth movement in the United States. You have a similar thing in England. You also have in Germany youth movements that are -- occur at the same time.
BILLAnd in France, notably shut down Paris for almost two weeks when students completely take over the city. And in China, you have the Cultural Revolution. What's going on now with the Tea Party, the Michigan unions, the -- even the Obama election, this is -- represents some kind of turning that is widespread. They're occurring at the same time, but are apparently unconnected. But in this instance, I think one thing that is driving this is the new technology. Cell phones, Twitter, Tweet, this allows people to communicate and organize in ways that are really not coherent top down organizations, but emerge from the bottom up.
REHMThanks for your call. Mark Landler.
LANDLERWell, I think he raises a very interesting point in drawing a line between the State House in Wisconsin and Tahrir Square, which is, I think, what he's done. And I think it bears noting that even in China there's been a good deal of insecurity on the part of the government about some sort of a movement taking shape there. So I think zeroing in on the technology piece of it is probably a good observation. I'd argue there's differences between the dynamics of the Tea Party and public service unions in Wisconsin versus young people in Egypt, but it's also true that even within the Middle East, there are different strains. What you see with Shiites in Bahrain is not exactly the same as what you saw with young people in Egypt.
REHMHere's a message posted on Facebook from Rafael, who says, "In an event of Gadhafi's fleeing Libya, how likely would it be he would go to Venezuela given that Hugo Chavez has been one of the few and timid voices to defend Gadhafi's actions? Would this finally bring attention to this dictator wannabe and his destructive agenda toward Venezuela and other South and Central American countries?" Moises.
NAIMIn their early days of the revolts in Libya, there was a rumor that Gadhafi was going to Venezuela confirmed by the British Foreign Minister. Then the Venezuelan government and the Venezuelan Foreign Minister denounced those statements as irresponsible and said that there was no plans or there's no -- nothing going on in terms of Gadhafi going there. However, the writer of the e-mail is correct in terms of the close links between Hugo Chavez and the deep affection between the two. For those that are interested in following this thing, there's a YouTube video in which Chavez gives a replica of Simone Oliver's sword to Chavez and explains that this is a message of freedom, the liberator, believer who freed Latin America had this sword and Chavez was giving it to the liberator of Africa.
REHMInteresting. To Indianapolis, Hal, you're on the air.
HALI wanted to make two quick points. The first is I believe Libya has one of the highest gross domestic product or per capita values per person in Africa. And it's just the money is not trickling down. The second point is that oil money makes it such -- so compelling, I think for Gadhafi, that even if there were a few perhaps European or South American leaders willing to take him and perhaps protect him for the next few decades -- I don't think he'd go simply because he's got control of a cash flow there. He might not if he's relying on Swiss banks who have proven themselves, over the past decade or so, to be increasingly willing to work with the Hague and so forth.
REHMLet me understand about the oil production. I know that Libya is the 18th largest oil producing country in the world, exporting mostly to Europe, not to the United States. Is our caller correct about the money that is produced by that oil, Nadia?
BILBASSYHe's absolutely right, Diane. Actually Libya is the richest country in Africa. Well, they were talking now about the personal wealth of Gadhafi and his sons -- nine of his sons and one daughter. It's $130 billion, which is six time the national budget of Libya. Libya is a huge vast country with little people, six million people. With this money, they were talking about his own personal money, can feed the entire Arab world between three to four years, just imagine. And what he did to Libya, it's just a disaster in terms of infrastructure, schools, universities.
BILBASSYEven the army, he kept it weak on purpose because don't -- let's not forget that he took over in 1969 in a military coup. So he knew that the army can plot against him and therefore it was on purpose that he kept the army very weak. It's a ragtag army and militia. And he kept the loyalty, the vision on the tribal issues. And he's been -- I mean, he's crazy, but he's clever in a way to manipulate this division between the -- between the tribes. And just one last point about where he will go. Yes, I don't think he will go anywhere. Because he is -- because of his character, he either -- my prediction, either gonna be shot by somebody within in the army or he's gonna kill himself. I don't think he's gonna go anywhere.
LANDLERThe only comment I'd make about oil is the tension in the Middle East is driving up the price of oil...
LANDLER...to huge levels. And it's actually high enough now that it poses a threat to the economic recovery in the United States. So the Arab crisis, which was already an enormous geopolitical challenge to the administration, is going to fast become an economic challenge as well.
REHMLet me ask you all about the decision to extradite Julian Assange to Sweden on -- they want to question him about some sexual allegations that have been made. British judge ruled they could do it. Is he ever gonna back to Sweden, Moises?
NAIMApparently so. He's appealing.
NAIMAnd they -- but the judge in the United Kingdom dismissed the arguments about that he would have an unfair trial in Sweden. Even the fact that the Prime Minister of Sweden said that -- made comments concerning the case were dismissed by the British judge. And so the concern here is if he goes Sweden, the defenders of Assange feel that this puts him one step closer to the possibility of getting into U.S. custody.
REHMBut you better spell out what it was the Swedish Prime Minister said.
NAIMAs I recall it, the Prime Minister made comments concerning the trial and the need for Assange to go to Sweden and face the allegations there.
BILBASSYBut wasn't just saying -- at least remember he was not charged and they're extraditing him. And the fact that he was not charged yet, they wanted him to go to Sweden. And actually I listened to his press conference, whatever he had, he was talking personally about the fact that, I cannot go to Sweden because the judge doesn't speak English, the paperwork in the court's not in the language and he was giving this talks as if he's being sent to Zimbabwe or to a third world country. I mean, this is Sweden where the law is respected. But nevertheless, I think I agree with Moises that the problem -- if he goes to Sweden, he's one step away from coming here to the United States.
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Let's go to Colin on Long Island, N.Y. Good morning, you're on the air.
COLINHello, and how are all of you?
REHMFine, thank you.
COLINI was actually calling to comment to one of your previous caller's comments regarding the youth movements and how they are having -- how they're playing a role in all of these uprisings. And I think that there is some correlation that can be drawn between the youth movement in America and how they move to elect Obama and how the technology seems to be on the side of the youth movements. And across the globe, there is a -- this strand between all of them that they all have a mastery of technology that some of the governments have yet to really utilize or understand.
NAIMThat's true. And there is no doubt that Twitter and Facebook and all the new technologies have helped coordinate and organize and mobilize the youth around the world and are behind these upheavals in the Middle East. There's no doubt about that. I would just warn as a word of caution about saying the governments do not know how to use these tools. Many governments have become masters at using these tools to identify who are the leaders and who are the people that are at the center that knows of these networks that organize. In Iran, for example, many of the people that were Twittering and were on Facebook became very easy targets for the government that went after them. And it -- in fact, it can be a very efficient way of providing governments with the names, lists and whereabouts of the people that are organizing the revolts.
BILBASSYBut also governments now, including the United States, are really aware of the important efficiency of using social media, including the State Department. They are on Twitter, including Hillary Clinton. They have the State Department in both Arabic, Persian, so many languages and they keep an update on everything that's happening. Many Arab leaders actually, including the Crown Prince of Bahrain, he's on Twitter. The Foreign Minister of Jordan is on Twitter. So they give you the messages because they know this is the way to reach the masses.
REHMLast quick question, your Oscar picks. Moises.
NAIM"The Social Network."
REHMReally? You think that's gonna be best picture? And what about best actor?
BILBASSY"Black Swan" I think and who's the best -- best actor is, I agree, Colin Firth.
LANDLER"King's Speech" and Colin Firth. Though I'd prefer to see "Social Network."
REHMYou would prefer to see...
LANDLERWell, I think in terms of a movie that got a conversation going this year or this past year, "Social Network" had to be the one.
REHMThat's very interesting.
REHMI have not seen "The Social Network."
BILBASSYI didn't think it was that exciting, I have to admit. I saw it and I don't think it was exciting. Maybe because we know the story and we know the ending, but it was okay.
REHMWell, I'll tell you, Moises, you and I have said before, we've never seen the whole world in such turmoil. Just an extraordinary week. Thank you all so much for joining me. Mark Landler of The New York Times, Nadia Bilbassy of Middle East Broadcast Centre, Moises Naim of El Pais. 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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