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.
Japan tries to cool nuclear reactors as concerns about radiation increase. Libyan forces loyal to Moammar Gadhafi make gains in retaking rebel territory. And Bahrain declares a state of emergency in a widening crackdown on protesters. A panel of journalists joins Diane for analysis of the week’s top international news stories.
- Indira Lakshmanan senior reporter, Bloomberg News.
- Abderrahim Foukara Washington bureau chief of Al Jazeera Arabic.
- Michael Hirsh chief correspondent, National Journal magazine; author of "Capital Offense: How Washington's Wise Men Turned America's Future Over to Wall Street."
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us, I'm Diane Rehm. The U.N. security council, yesterday, authorized military action against the forces of Libya's Moammar Gadhafi. Japan raised the severity rating of its nuclear disaster as firefighters continue efforts to cool radioactive fuel rods. And Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah offered residence money in an attempt to stem demonstrations inspired by uprisings around the Arab world.
MS. DIANE REHMJoining me for the international hour of Friday News Roundup, Michael Hirsch of National Journal Magazine, Indira Lakshmanan on Bloomberg News. We are expecting Abderrahim Foukara who is caught in Washington traffic. And, of course, we'll take your calls, your e-mail, your tweets, your Facebook postings in a very short time. I look forward to hearing from you. Good morning, Michael.
MR. MICHAEL HIRSHGood morning, Diane.
REHMAnd good morning and welcome, Indira.
MS. INDIRA LAKSHMANANThank you, Diane.
REHMIt's good to have you here.
LAKSHMANANNice to be here.
REHMMichael, the latest news from Libya is rather confusing.
HIRSHExtremely. So we had this U.N. Security Council resolution 1971 which ordered a no-fly -- authorized, I should say, no-fly zone and what they called, all necessary measures, to stop the slaughter.
REHMThat phrase, all necessary measures, went lots farther than just a no-fly zone, did it not?
HIRSHIt certainly did. And it was very impressive. It was a 10-nothing vote in which the U.S. took part, but it was impressive that China and Russia, in particular, two of the most recalcitrant members of the permanent veto bearing members of the U.N. Security Council decided to abstain and so they let this go through, very strong wording. Very soon after that, today, Libya's Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa announced that they would observe a cease fire, the Libyan forces that is, because of the U.N. Security Council.
HIRSHBut what we have now is a real state of confusion. Al Jazeera just recently, today, reported that Libyan forces may still be shelling Misurata, one of the rebel-held cities, in spite of the cease fire. So we really don't know what's going on now. This is real fog of war stuff.
REHMIndira, we really can't believe when Gadhafi or one of his representatives says, we're going to cease fire.
LAKSHMANANThat's right. I mean, it was just yesterday that Gadhafi's son, one of his sons, Saif al-Islam, said, anything that comes out of the U.N. is going to be too late in any case because we will have stormed the gates of Benghazi by then and it will -- all the fighting will be finished. So this is a remarkable turnaround from them. And, I think, one has to think about whether this is a bluff. Naturally, I think they were not expecting this U.N. Security Council decision because remember, not more than 24 hours ago, the U.S. -- or let's say 48 hours ago on Wednesday, it wasn't until then that the U.S. telegraphed, very clearly, that it was going to get in front and behind of pushing for any necessary military action.
LAKSHMANANBefore that, it was very unclear. Hillary Clinton, herself, the secretary of state, in Egypt this week and in -- before she got to Tunisia, kept talking about the dangers involved inherent in a no-fly zone and how there's a lot more involved than people had talked about. So I don't think Gadhafi was expecting this reversal and I think, right now, he's probably trying to retrench, take a breath and see if he can fend off any military action.
HIRSHBut bear in mind, I mean, Gadhafi himself who has been seen, you know, as unstable for many, many years now, even by his Arab allies, pledged just the other day in a speech that he would look in every closet and get those who had launched this rebellion.
HIRSHThere are very real fears of a bloodbath if his forces continue their assault on these rebel-held cities. There is a fear among military experts that this action, while strong now, may have come already too late because there are questions about even if you enforce a no-fly zone, whether you can do this from the air at this point because you have a lot of tanks and armored vehicles on the ground that are involved in this assault.
HIRSHAnd so that raises questions. Did we wait too long and will force necessary to prevent a bloodbath require actual troops on the ground.
REHMAnd joining us now is Abderrahim Foukara. He's Washington bureau chief for Al Jazeera Arabic. Good morning to you.
MR. ABDERRAHIM FOUKARAGood morning, sorry about being late.
REHMThat's -- we understand. We're just talking about the U.N. action and Libya's response. Can anyone trust Libya saying that it will now put down arms?
FOUKARAWell, I mean, the record indicates that whatever the regime of Colonel Gadhafi says, obviously, you'd have to think twice before taking it on trust. But it seems to me, just listening to him yesterday and watching actually the Security Council, his reaction to -- it seems to me that he had a plan and he had a double headed plan. Part of the plan was his speech before the Security Council authorized the no-fly zone in which he said that he would march on Benghazi and he urged his supporters to cleanse Benghazi of people who kept carrying arms against him.
FOUKARABut very soon, minutes after the end of the vote in the Security Council, the deputy foreign minister came out and he said that they would deal positively with the Security Council resolution. And, you know, that tells me that he's trying to cover all contingencies. And the fact that his forces continue today to pound Misurata, it tells me that he is in with a plan.
REHMIndira, could this simply be another delaying tactic?
LAKSHMANANThat's absolutely what I see it as. And in a way, it reminds me of Saddam in 1991. And you have to think about, you know, what are the various scenarios? How can this play out? And, I think, I would see Gadhafi as right now he's just trying to hang on for as long as he possibly can, survival. And so he's probably thinking, looking back at Kuwait in 1991 and the international community felt that it could not go all the way to Baghdad at that time.
LAKSHMANANYou know, he's probably hoping for his own oil for food program in the future and, you know, some way of hanging on and staying in power because if he doesn't continue overt attacks on civilian populations, it really might rob the international community of a justification for military action.
REHMHow soon could military action begin, Michael, or do you see a waiting period even though as both you and Abderrahim have said, his forces continue to pound?
HIRSHI think, the expectation is, we'll see something by the end of today. At the latest, U.K. and French warplanes are even now being readied, backed up by U.S. logistical support, AWACs, we don't know what it will be. And I would add, there is one very hopeful note here, I think, in the recent history of the Gadhafi regime, which is, after the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Gadhafi was apparently so rattled by that, that he rather quickly gave up his entire nuclear program, came to terms with U.K. and the U.S. negotiators.
HIRSHHe has been shown before to respond to a demonstration of force or the threat of force. So in that respect, he does appear to be rational.
REHMAbderrahim, what about the involvement of the Arab world in this no-fly zone or whatever it turns out to be?
FOUKARAWell, I mean, first of all, the way I see it is, that the decision of the Arab League to support the no-fly zone is an extraordinary development in the history of the organization of the Arab states.
REHMBut they kept saying, we want you all to do it.
FOUKARARight. Right. But the fact that they actually decided to support it, I think, with that the dynamics of the revolutions going on in the Arab world, it would've been very difficult for them not to dither as they usually do. Although they've actually said, it's up to the Security Council, but we heard yesterday, mutterings that specific Arab countries may take part in this military effort now.
FOUKARAAnd the names that are being tossed around, nothing confirmed yet, but we've heard United Arab Amorites, the state of Qatar, Jordan and, this is very important if it turns out to be true, Saudi Arabia. And, obviously, if Saudi Arabia decides to join this effort, people will be asking why. My sense and you'll probably want to get into this later on, is that their intervention in Bahrain may have given them the incentive to participate in this Libya effort as some of their critics call it, cover up.
REHMOne might ask, why the Obama administration has been so slow to move forward on this, Indira?
LAKSHMANANI think, there are a number of issues in play here. One is that the Obama administration very carefully from the beginning has tried to be the anti-George W. Bush administration. It hasn't wanted to take unilateral action and it has considered multi-lateralism to be key to anything it has done. I think that the Arab League decision, historic one over the weekend, to for the first time endorse essentially military action against one of its members was a key turning point for the Obama administration.
LAKSHMANANBecause at that point, they see, well, if from the very own neighborhood there's a call coming for a no-fly zone, we can't ignore that. They were clearly under pressure from Britain and France as well. So I think it was key to them to feel that they were going to have, I don't want to say international cover because that makes it sounds as if it's something they wanted to do, but that they wanted to have international consensus before they were going to come out front.
LAKSHMANANI think Obama wanted to let others lead here. And part of this is because they've had to make up their foreign policy on the fly as all of these protests have broken out throughout the Middle East and North Africa.
REHMIndira Lakshmanan a senior reporter for Bloomberg News. We'll take a short break. We'll welcome your calls, 800-433-8850.
REHMAnd we're back with the international hour of the Friday News Roundup this week with Indira Lakshmanan. She's senior reporter for Bloomberg News, Abderrahim Foukara, Washington bureau chief for Al Jazeera Arabic and Michael Hirsh, chief correspondent for National Journal magazine and author of "Capital Offense: How Washington's Wise Men Turned America's Future Over to Wall Street." The phones are open, 800-433-8850. Michael Hirsh, give us an update on Japan and what's happening now.
HIRSHWell, the latest is there continue to be divergent assessments of just how serious the nuclear accident at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant is in the wake of the terrible tsunami. And the Japanese have just assessed this at a level five out of seven, which would put it about where Three Mile Island was in terms of the seriousness of the radioactivity release. But others, for example the French, have been saying all week long that this is already at a level six exceeding what the Japanese are admitting to. And there is a credibility problem emerging here, as well as a very serious practical problem of how to contain this.
HIRSHWhat you have is radiation, dangerous levels, emitting from not just the fuel rods and the reactors that were being used, but in spent reactors that were in a drainage pool that lost most of its water after the disastrous earthquake. And the question becomes -- they've been trying to rain seawater on it to cool it down. They may have to use sand or even dirt. In the end, they may have to do a sort of entombment of the entire reactor site, not unlike what was done at the Chernobyl plant in Russia (unintelligible) .
REHMAnd here you have two close allies, the U.S. and Japan and the U.S. is sending its own aircraft to assess for itself the damage that's been done, Abderrahim.
FOUKARAYeah, absolutely. I mean, it's clear that the Obama Administration has been struggling not to appear as dithering in the way that it appeared to be dithering over events in the Middle East. This is obviously a much -- as a disaster, it's on a much, much larger scale that affects not just Japan, but it also affects the Obama Administration's plans with nuclear energy in the United States. May I just say this on a personal note, Diane? As a journalist watching all these events, I'm watching a real Mother Nature tsunami happening in Japan and the extent of the death and destruction and I'm watching a political tsunami in my part of the world. And it really is hard to decide at times which one you would like to follow.
FOUKARABut the case is for the Obama Administration, they've obviously been -- it's a very difficult time for them to divide their attention between what's happening in Japan and what's happening in the Middle East. It's maybe a happier time for somebody like Gadhafi because the tsunami in Japan has provided a diversion from what's actually happening in Libya.
REHMYou know, it's interesting. We've just gotten an e-mail from Hank in Ann Arbor who says, "Isn't this a brilliant move by Gadhafi? He gets to keep his army as power in most of the country. He can wait out the U.N. while stalemating the rebels because they're not protected if they move against him militarily." But I take your point, Abderrahim. I must say this has been such an emotionally difficult week for all of us who've been watching these events both in the Middle East and in Japan watching the death and destruction as it continues without a clear end in sight. Indira.
LAKSHMANANI think it's interesting the -- this is a week when I think pictures have really told a thousand words.
LAKSHMANANAnd I wish on radio sometimes that we could hold up a photograph like the cover shot on the Washington Post today, which was so stunning of an elderly Japanese gentleman just broken down in tears next to the makeshift grave of his mother. And there have been so many pictures this week out of Japan that really underscore it's not just the nuclear radiation, but you've got snowstorms, complete devastation in such a modern country. And if we compare it to the Southeast Asian tsunami of a few years ago, think about the death tolls there which reached around 300,000, if Japan did not have the anti-earthquake building codes that it does, how much worst this devastation would be.
REHMCould have been.
LAKSHMANANCould have been.
REHMHas this in some ways -- we've talked about the level of trust about what Japan is saying. Has this in any way strained the trust between the U.S. and Japan?
LAKSHMANANWell, I think the Japanese certainly would have preferred to have had a heads-up on the U.S. releasing statement out of its embassy in the middle of the night Tokyo time, which we covered here in Washington, urging all Americans within 50 miles to evacuate. And that was, you know, several times greater distance of danger zone than the Japanese government had issued. So I think they were not pleased with that. But the United States felt it had to take that measure in the interest of the safety of its citizens by following U.S. rules -- standards of how far you would evacuate.
LAKSHMANANI think Abderrahim's point about how this affects nuclear energy and the whole idea of a nuclear renaissance is really one worth dwelling on because during this weekend, President Obama's going to be on a trip in South America. And one of the things that was supposed to happen in Chile was, you know, a memorandum of understanding and agreement about a nuclear plant for Chile. And I'm wondering whether that can go on, given that they're in the ring of fire. They're in an earthquake zone, doesn't seem like great timing.
REHMDo you agree, Abderrahim?
FOUKARAWell, I mean, to a certain extent. I mean, I do take onboard what the Obama Administration has been saying about the fact that Americans should not worry too much about radiation from Japan because of the sheer distance between the United States and Japan. But I think the fact is that this debate -- as we all know, those of us who live in the United States, this debate is already underway in the United States. Where do we go with the issue of nuclear energy?
FOUKARAAnd if I may say one more thing, the debate about nuclear energy in the Middle East, we know there's been a very strong debate going on in the Middle East in light of what the Iranians are trying to do. And I think what a lot of people in that part of the world, the lesson for them is that they look at what's going on in Japan, despite U.S. assurances to Americans that they shouldn't worry too much about radiation. And they'll say if the Iranians are trying to build a nuclear weapon, the folly of even thinking of using that would only be equaled by the folly of attacking nuclear facilities in Iran. Because at the end of the day, the Middle East is a much smaller place than the distance separating the United States from Japan. And if there is radiation, it could be catastrophic for the Iranians, for the Israelis and for people sitting anywhere between the Israelis and the Iranians.
REHMAnd Michael, Abderrahim brought up Saudi Arabia. Now Saudi Arabia's sending troops into Bahrain.
HIRSHWell, Diane, that's why I think this is -- it's certainly the most difficult foreign policy problem for the U.S. that I can think of in my lifetime. As horrific as the events in Japan are, that is disaster response, this is about trying to reconcile for the United States two almost irreconcilable elements. On one hand, you know, you have the impulse to support democracy protests across the region including Bahrain and Yemen. But in Bahrain and Yemen are concentrated critical U.S. interests in terms of stability in the region. You've got the fifth fleet there in Bahrain. You have counterterrorism assistance from the Yemen government and in Saudi Arabia, you have the central supply of oil.
HIRSHAnd there are -- there's serious dissention now between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia. That's why you saw the U.S. really lagging behind the European allies in terms of Libya. It's all part of the same equation. It's like, okay, I think there was actually a decision taken by the Obama Administration that it did not want to overtly support these revolutionary protests, but at the same time they realized that the humanitarian issue in Libya had become so critical that they had to be seen as stepping in there.
REHMSo, Indira, how is this affecting the relationship between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia?
LAKSHMANANWell, interestingly, the Obama Administration sees King Abdul of Saudi Arabia as one of the biggest reformers in the region. Certainly Saudi Arabia is an incredibly conservative country. I was reading a British poll done last fall, which was fascinating to me because it sort of split the country into three in terms of one-third thought he was doing enough reforms. Another third thought he was not doing enough -- I'm sorry, 20 percent thought he was doing enough reforms, 20 percent thought he was doing not enough and the remainder 60 percent thought he had gone too far already.
LAKSHMANANAnd so that's interesting. If -- you know, the United States, Secretary Clinton in particular, have been really careful to heap praise on the Saudi King, the Jordanian King and most recently the Moroccan King for trying to get ahead of these protests and calls for Democracy by putting forward their own reform plan. So I think the U.S. is walking a fine line here because I think they see in the Middle East, if they're thinking of a larger strategic rethink it's that they've called consistently for a democracy, for universal rights and for nonviolence. But I think they also realized that stability as it has been U.S. policy for the last 30 years in the Middle East, including supporting some autocratic leaders, is -- that's not necessarily going to give us stability anymore.
REHMAnd now the Saudis are saying they'll pay their citizens billions of dollars.
FOUKARAWell, I mean, the issue of bribing your own citizenry, I think, has been part of the narrative of reform and revolution right from the start when the president of Tunisia fled. We heard several governments in the region, including some in the Gulf, such as the government of Kuwait for example, saying that they will increase subsidies and actually give wads of cash to their own citizens. And the hope was that that would stall the call for reforms. I think there are two different narratives now in the Middle East. There's a reform narrative and there's a revolution narrative. And I think in many cases the revolution narrative is overtaking the reform narrative.
FOUKARAWhat has happened in Tunisia and Egypt, people have seen that people can affect revolution as the Egyptians and the Tunisians call it. And you have countries in Bahrain, for example, where initially people were calling for reforms. And then when the government cracked down on the protestors several weeks ago, that sort of morphed into a revolutionary call for deposing the king and toppling his government in Bahrain. Obviously that increased fears in Saudi Arabia. Bahrain is a predominantly Shiite country. Saudi Arabia has a Shiite minority in Eastern Saudi Arabia. And the fear is that if it happens in Bahrain, it could also happen in Saudi Arabia.
REHMAbderrahim Foukara of Al Jazeera Arabic and you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Indira, you wanted to add something.
LAKSHMANANWell, I just think that it's a very good point that Abderrahim is making about revolution versus reform. And there's no question the Obama Administration officials have said this. They prefer reform because revolution is messy. People die, revolutions can get hijacked, you know.
REHMAnd is that what's happening in Egypt, for example?
LAKSHMANANI think there's concern about that. I don't know that we can say definitively yet but people in Washington don't want it to go the way of Iran in 1979. And I think that there is a real concern about it would be better to do things through peaceful reform.
HIRSHWell, in fact, there are very serious questions about what's happening in Egypt now, which with all these other headlines crowding in people tended to forget about. But their -- the initial calls for a brand new constitution seem to have been set aside. They're going to have a referendum on amendments to the current constitution, which is, you know, essentially seen as Hosni Mubarak's former piece of paper that he toyed with for 30 years. And there are also questions about whether the Muslim Brotherhood, the most organized political force in the country, may now be stepping up. And this of course was, you know, precisely the fear that the U.S. had, not just in Egypt, but in countries throughout this part of the world, that you would have organized Islamic forces stepping in, in the vacuum left behind by the regime.
REHMAnd now we hear that at least 33 people were killed, more than 100 hurt Friday in Yemen.
FOUKARAWell, Yemen is obviously a much more fractured place than any of the other places in the Middle East where revolutions or uprisings or reforms have been taken -- have been made or announced. Yemen -- obviously there's a problem between the opposition and young people with the president and his regime in the northern part of Yemen. There's a secession movement in the south of Yemen. Then there's Al-Qaeda and there's a Shiite -- a sectarian also strand in the form of the Hothi movements that have been accused of getting support from Iran, accused at least by the Saudis. So Yemen is obviously a much more explosive cocktail.
FOUKARABut I think that the Obama Administration obviously has expressed explicit concern about the way that governments in Yemen and in Bahrain after the intervention of the Saudis and the Emirates and so on in that kingdom, there's serious concern about the use of force. I think the feeling in the region is that once you start shooting civilians you will by definition radicalize those civilians. And again we go back to the narrative of reform morphing into the narrative of revolution.
REHMAbderrahim, the last time you were on this program, we asked you about why the sexual assault of Laura Logan in Egypt was not reported by Al Jazeera. You said you'd give us an answer the next time you came on.
FOUKARASo, I mean, I'd be happy to report my findings, so to speak. What I've been told is that there was some debate about how the Laura Logan story should be reported and if it should be reported at all. For Al Jazeera English, there were people who wanted to, in one way or another, report the story. And there were others who thought that the focus should remain the revolution in Egypt rather than what happened to an individual journalist, although many other journalists had come under attack in Cairo.
FOUKARAThere are actually people who knew -- there's one particular individual who is the managing director of Aljazeera English who knew Sarah (sic) Logan personally from his time at CBS. He knew her personally. She's a former colleague of his. And the decision eventually was made that because Al Jazeera English broadcasts to 120 different countries, not just the United States, that they would go with the revolution as the focus not what happens to individual journalists.
REHMAbderrahim Foukara. He's Washington bureau chief for Al Jazeera Arabic. When we come back we'll open the phones, read your e-mail, look at your Facebook postings and your Tweets.
REHMAnd we're back. It's time to open the phones, 800-433-8850. Send your e-mail to email@example.com. First to Miami, Fla., and to Michelle. Good morning to you.
MICHELLEGood morning. I have a quick two-part question.
MICHELLEI'd like to know...
REHMAre you there?
REHMYes. Go right ahead, Michelle.
MICHELLEQuick two-part question I'd like to understand. Um, if the rebels -- this is about Libya. If the rebels -- they're thugs, and, um, the opposition to the government, it is illegal to oppose the government. These are laws that are in place, no matter how vicious the law.
MICHELLEI don't understand...
REHMAre you talking about Libya?
MICHELLEI'm talking about Libya.
MICHELLEUm, I don't understand why America would be so eager to go in and help and assist these rebels, or thugs. I understand that there are, you know, every day citizens who are very upset and -- with the way the country is poorly run, um, and this is not to belittle the lives that are lost. But the other part is, I just don't understand why should be eager to go in and assist these rebels and not initially go in to help reform the country.
MICHELLEAnd would it be allowed here if we -- there are many people who oppose our government, what would they do if we decided to overthrow, how would our country feel?
LAKSHMANANWell, on the question of what the rebel movement is, it's interesting because the White House spokesman, Jay Carney, just last week made a comment saying, well, we can't exactly just start sending weapons to a P.O. box in the desert. We don't know who these rebels are. Obviously in the last week or so, the administration and other governments feel they've learned a lot more about the rebels. Secretary Clinton met with one of the chief rebel representatives when she was in Paris at the G8 this week, and Under Secretary of State Williams Burns was on Capitol Hill yesterday testifying and went into quite detailed and extensive testimony about what they've learned about the rebels.
LAKSHMANANThey felt that they're quite widely representative, that they represent a lot of the different tribes. Many of them are actors who are known to the U.S. government. Some of them are defectors from Gadhafi's previous government such as the justice minister so I don't think they're regarding them quite as band of thugs.
LAKSHMANANThey feel that they are a little bit more familiar with who they are, and they have certainly expressed -- we don't know if this is, you know, their true intention, but they've certainly expressed democratic aspirations.
REHMAll right. To Glen Burnie, Md. Mohammad, good morning to you.
MOHAMMADGood morning, Diane. Thank you for taking my call.
MOHAMMADFirst of all, this is a -- this show is a treasure of information for the American people. I really appreciate your effort.
MOHAMMADAnd I would like also before I start my comment to thank the Jazeera for their efforts, regardless who's behind it and who owns it. The comment is about Gadhafi and what he said after the UN resolution pass yesterday. He said that he would stop the firing and all of that stuff. I don't believe him. Okay? I'm an Arab. I came from Morocco and I don't believe him. Not because he's a Gadhafi, it's because this is something in the DNA of all the Arab rulers from the Atlantic Ocean all the way to the Gulf, with no exception.
MOHAMMADWe have seen the Saudi king given billions of (unintelligible) , that's bribery basically, not to revolt, here is the money.
REHMAll right. Indira, do you want to comment?
LAKSHMANANWell, Secretary Clinton actually just spoke to this issue within the last hour where she said that the U.S. has not been impressed by the Libyan government's claim of a cease fire, and saying we're going to have to see action on the ground and that is not yet at all clear. So I think -- I think the administration is adopting the same and wait and see attitude and skepticism that you are.
REHMHere is an e-mail from Mike in Tallahassee, Fla., who says "It disturbs me that many progressives are calling for military intervention in Libya right now. Similar rhetoric about humanitarianism has been used to justify U.S. military actions that serve to spread American dominance in the Middle East and other parts of the world." Michael.
HIRSHWell, I don't know how much it has served to spread American dominance. You know, going back to the liberal intervention as arguments over Bosnia in the 1990s, you know, the U.S. saved an awful lot of lives and didn't remain there. Similarly with Kosovo, Muslim lives I would add. I think for the Obama administration again, this is mainly about strategic interest in the region, particularly keeping the Saudi's happy. There is a riff there. And it's also frankly about expense.
HIRSHWe haven't talked about that, you know. Before all these foreign developments began we were in and still are in the middle of an intense budget debate here. These interventions are expensive where our military is badly strained in Afghanistan and still in Iraq, though withdrawal is under way. And this becomes, you know, a question of -- of how much is this gonna cost, both in terms of personnel and dollars.
LAKSHMANANI want to just build on that and make a point about liberal interventionism, humanitarian calls. Don't forget that some of the strongest voices in the Obama administration and Samantha Power who's senior director at the National Security Council and the author of a Pulitzer Prize-winning book about genocide, Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, they are strong proponents of interventions when necessary to stop the slaughter of human beings. Think back to Rwanda, not just Bosnia and Kosovo.
LAKSHMANANAnd a lot of people have said that the U.S. waited too long in all of those situations to stop the slaughter. So I think they're also trying to get ahead of the problem and make sure that there's not a humanitarian or a genocide situation caused by international inaction.
REHMAbderrahim, let me ask you about Pakistan because on Wednesday the CIA security officer who had been accused of killing two men was released after paying a lot of money to the family. Number one, how usual or unusual is this kind of forgiveness payment, and second, do we know how much he paid?
FOUKARAThe issue of how much was paid I'm not exactly sure. The issue of blood money, it's obviously a tradition that has very, very deep roots in tribal culture in the Muslim world. What has obviously made this much more intractable if you will, is that it involves the politics of the United States and the politics of Pakistan at a time when the United States is prosecuting a war in Afghanistan and in Pakistan.
REHMSo is this likely to ease tensions between the U.S. and Pakistan slightly, Indira?
LAKSHMANANFor sure. I mean, the Raymond Davis case that we are referring to, the CIA contractor in Pakistan who was accused of -- who killed two men who he said were attacking him and trying to rob him, and then the people who came to his rescue accidentally killed a third person on a bicycle. So quite a mess. That caused the derailing of trilateral meeting that was planned for February between the U.S., Afghanistan, and Pakistan, and essentially the U.S. disinvited Pakistan to those talks, and it became a bilateral meeting with Afghanistan.
LAKSHMANANSo it was a major hiccup in relations with Pakistan, and let's not forget the whole relationship between the U.S. and Pakistan is key to this whole thing of prosecuting the war on terror or whatever you want to call it, and trying to keep the border areas between Pakistan and Afghanistan safe of militants moving back and forth. So this I think shows that there was some kind of a back room deal made between the CIA and the Pakistan equivalent, the ISI.
LAKSHMANANWhat we're being told is that Leon Panetta spoke with his counterpart, General Pasha, and that there was some sort of an agreement made that in the future the U.S. will give the ISI more information about what its CIA folks on the ground are doing. Now, the whole question about this is LET, the terrorist group operating in Pakistan, which the Pakistani authorities have allowed -- well, let's say they have allowed them to operate. And this is something where the U.S. was trying through its own means to...
REHMAnd we just learned that the White House says President Obama is going to meet with a bipartisan group of congressional leaders on Libya at 12:30 this afternoon, and deliver a statement on the situation in Libya at 2:00 p.m. Back to Pakistan. Leaders there have also criticized the U.S. for a drone attack yesterday apparently that killed 41 people.
HIRSHWell, this has been an ongoing division between the U.S. and Pakistan. There are questions about how many civilians are being killed in these drone attacks. The U.S. consistently claims that there are, you know, there is a little bit of collateral damage as it's called, but that these are mostly militants, and that, you know, Islamist sympathizers within the Pakistani government or other dissidents are simply saying that these are not -- that these are civilians. But this is, you know, a critical interest for the U.S.
HIRSHYou can argue about how much these tactics are correct, but you have to remember it's not just (unintelligible) but as Indira just referred to, which is the Pakistani Islamist militant group that the ISI sent its support. It's also the fact that most of the Taliban leaders are still situation in (word?) , and other parts of Pakistan, as well as, it is believed, Osama bin Laden himself and other senior Al Qaida leaders, you know, in the tribal regions.
HIRSHSo this is a country that has become central to the U.S. fight. And I think Washington had to do whatever it took at this point to try to ease the tensions over the Raymond Davies case.
FOUKARAI just wanted to say that this issue of blood money that was paid to the Pakistani families, to me it elucidates a very interesting part -- or facet of the debate about democracy in Pakistan. Because the money or the deal was struck soon before the case went to the Supreme Court in Pakistan, which tells you that the Supreme Court could be lent on by the government, and there are reports that it was lent on by the government to delay the case until the deal was struck. And that obviously undermines democracy in Pakistan.
FOUKARABut the flip side of the coin is, the fact that there is a supreme court with that kind of magnitude and that kind of power to actually affect the course of events in Pakistan, shows you another side of the democratic debate in Pakistan that it is a real debate.
REHMAll right. To Cincinnati, Ohio, and to Shahariza (sp?) , good morning.
SHAHARIZAHi, Diane, how are you?
REHMI'm fine, thank you.
SHAHARIZAI really appreciate your program. And I want to say a special thank you to Mr. Abderrahim, and for Al Jazeera. I was on Al Jazeera documentary -- Al Jazeera English actually. I'm a Libyan-American citizen, and I have a few comments, but I would like to make them very brief.
SHAHARIZAOne of your callers called and asked about how America would be assisting or helping rebels. First of all, we don't like to use the word rebels to describe the revolution that is going on in Libya. It's a shame that the American mainstream tend to forget history, and tend to not remember that when George Washington led a revolution against Britain, he was called a revolutionary hero.
REHMIndeed. And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." I think Shahariza makes such a good point, but the fact of the matter is, there are a great many people who still have questions about exactly who these people are.
LAKSHMANANRight. As I said with that comment from the White House about a Post Office Box in the desert, I mean, clearly you need time to figure out who the opposition members are. It's interesting that this all happened at a time when the U.S. had just withdrawn its ambassador, Gene Cretz, over the controversy from the Wikileaks. This was the U.S. ambassador who had written up some pretty colorful memos, diplomatic cables, that referred to the voluptuous Eastern European nurse who was always at Gadhafi's side.
LAKSHMANANAnd that seemed to cost him his job in Tripoli. It didn't cost him his job in the diplomatic service, so he was in the State Department when all of this has been happening over the last month, and making use of all of his contacts in Libya, and getting to know -- traveling and getting to know opposition members. You know, it's one man's revolutionary is, you know, one man's hero is another man's militant. It's hard to know.
FOUKARAI attended an event by Senator John Kerry a couple of days ago, and he dealt with that very question, and he said ruefully, that Lafayette had waited to actually find out who he was gonna support during the American revolutionary war, the United States would not be the United States as we know it today. But Gadhafi yesterday used a interesting expression in his threat to the rebels in -- revolutionaries, the protestors, the opposition freedom fighters, whatever you want to call it.
FOUKARAAnd he said the thugs, the gangs, and the bearded people, and he was obviously referring to the Islamists. Now, he's using that to frighten the west with, but he has had a history of problems with Islamists in Libya. To what extent every Islamist in Libya is an Al Qaida operative as he said, obviously a lot of Libyans would reject that. There are Islamists in Libya. Some of them we don't what their agendas are, but to describe the rebels as thugs or Al Qaida, I think it's a tactic that Gadhafi is using.
REHMMichael, what about Afghanistan? With everything else that's been going on in the world, what did General Petraeus tell Congress about plans for troop withdrawal to start this summer?
HIRSHWell, you know, you talk about who's had the best or worst week. I think Petraeus actually had a pretty good week simply because there's so much else going on that his testimony and U.S. plans for Afghanistan got very little attention, which is how, frankly, the Obama administration wants it. Petraeus talked to Congress about going forward with some withdrawal plans by July of this year, but frankly, aiming toward 2014 as being the real withdrawal date. I mean, as a source described it to me the other week, 2014 has become the new 2011 in many respects.
HIRSHAnd so you have a relatively open-ended conflict there where Petraeus I think has been forced to concede there is no clear-cut victory in sight. We don't know how success exactly is going to be defined, even in 2014.
REHMMichael Hirsh, he's chief correspondent for National Journal magazine. Indira Lakshmanan, she's senior reporter for Bloomberg News, and Abderrahim Foukara, Washington bureau chief of Al Jazeera Arabic. We certainly live in interesting times. Thank you all so much.
REHMThanks for listening. I'm Diane Rehm.
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