A rebel attack on Yemen's capital throws the country into crisis. U.S. lawmakers renew calls for sanctions against Iran. And American and Cuban officials meet in Havana for the first time in decades. A panel of journalists joins guest host Susan Page for analysis of the week's top international news stories.
Britain, Italy and France will send advisers to aid Libyan rebels. The U.S. denies undermining the Syrian government. And prosecutors file new charges against a Saudi suspect in the U.S.S. Cole bombing. A panel of journalists joins Diane for analysis of the week’s top international news stories.
- David Ignatius columnist, The Washington Post; co-moderator of "PostGlobal" on washingtonpost.com.
- Susan Glasser editor-in-chief, Foreign Policy.
- Daniel Dombey U.S. diplomatic correspondent, Financial Times.
MS. DIANE REHMThank you for joining, I'm Diane Rehm. President Obama has authorized the use of armed drones to aid Libyan rebels. The U.S. military began flying predators yesterday. Britain, France and Italy also stepped up aid to rebels. Anti-government protest grew in Syria. The countries security forces responded with tear gas and live ammunition. CNN is reporting that there are 19 people dead in those protests. And the U.S. refilled charges against a Saudi citizen for his role in the U.S.S. Cole bombing.
MS. DIANE REHMJoining me for the week's top international stories on the Friday News Roundup, David Ignatius of the Washington Post, Susan Glasser of Foreign Policy magazine and Daniel Dombey of Financial Times. I look forward to hearing your calls, comments, 800-433-8850. Good morning all.
MR. DAVID IGNATIUSGood morning, Diane.
MR. DANIEL DOMBEYGood morning.
MS. SUSAN GLASSERGood morning.
REHMThe situation in Syria, CNN reporting 19 dead there. Really, really sad serious stuff going on, David.
IGNATIUSWell, the Arab spring has come to Syria now in a very bloody way. Today was described by Syrian dissidents as, "Great Friday." And we tend to see Fridays as protest days. People come out of the Masques and then they move to demonstrate. The regime had said, earlier in the week, that large scale protests would not be tolerated. And, so, they have been putting their security forces out and have pretty much warned that they would be stepping up their level of response.
IGNATIUSNineteen dead begins a cycle now in Syria, which I think puts the regime of Bashar al-Assad in the most extreme danger. His security forces will open fire, Syrians will protest. There are already roving street gangs in cities like Homs in central Syria and Latakia in the north where there are large Sunni populations. One thing to watch in this as it goes forward is the danger of wholesale ethnic killing between Syria's Sunni community, which is the majority and Syria's Alawite community from which Assad and his regime are drawn.
IGNATIUSU.S. officials tell me there are already reports of up to 30 of these ethnic cleansing killings in the last week and that could get out of hand.
GLASSERWell, you know, I think part of this is broadly happening across the region, which is the next stage, if you will, after the initial euphoria of people in Bolden to come out on the streets and protesting in countries like Syria, which is to say, are you -- are we settling in now, into a period of prolonged reaction and counter reaction? What's going to break this stalemate in Syria? Is this going to be the first in a chain of moving toward a more decisive reaction or are we going to go back and forth? Look at what's happened Bahrain in Yemen.
GLASSERWe've settled into, unfortunately, a terrible situation where neither side has been able to move toward a resolution. In some ways, in a much grander scale in Libya, that's also what we're looking at. And so are we talking weeks more of this, months more of this in these societies? They are under enormous and growing pressure.
DOMBEYWell, I think, that's entirely right. I mean, what we're seeing is new rules and old rules. The new rules is to spread a revolution, the old rules is the repression that Assad has used. And one of the problems with the new rules is that, you know, Assad needs just to look at Egypt where Hosni Mubarak is facing criminal cases, sons are already in jail for questioning. His assets have been frozen. Tunisia, where Ben Ali had his assets frozen as well. And so you see, if you step down from power, you could lose your -- not just that power but your wealth and even your freedom itself.
DOMBEYSo that, I think, is going to increase the likelihood, to be honest, of a continued repression going on. In those other countries, one of the key things is being the military but what's really very important in Syria, the military is, to all intensive purposes, run but the Alawite minority. And so Assad has quite strong support there and I'm afraid we're looking for some bloody days ahead.
REHMSecretary of State Clinton has very strongly protested what's happening there. Is the U.S. about to get involved again, Susan?
GLASSERWell, I, you know, I would be very skeptical of much greater U.S. engagement, certainly a scenario like the one we faced in Libya is extremely unlikely at this point in time. But you're right, that Syria, in many ways, is one of the biggest challenges for, what is the U.S. policy in the region? We, of course, have condemned the use of violence against civilian protestors in many countries. But, you know, at this point what we're trying to do, it seems, is to take a country by country and case by case situation so that you have -- we've really backed away.
GLASSERFor example, in Bahrain where, of course, we have the U.S. 5th fleet stationed and we have interests with Saudi Arabia next door. So we've really muted our criticism. In Yemen, we've moved much in the other direction of actually calling for regime change. So, I think, Syria, actually at this point, is one of the biggest tests for the U.S. in terms of, what is the Obama administration policy going to be? I can't say that I have a clear sense of what it is today though.
REHMAnd, of course, the U.S. has denied funding the opposition and yet there's Wikileaks telegrams that suggest otherwise, David.
IGNATIUSThe Wikileaks material makes clear that there was some funding, quasi secret, would be the way I would describe it, for Syrian media efforts to fund television station and other media. It had actually come out, it had been discussed a little bit in public over the last two years. So this wasn't a total surprise to people who follow Syria. I think, just following up on the somber vein we've been pursuing, it's importing to look at Syria's neighbors now as the regime of Assad faces this existential crisis.
IGNATIUSIt's important to look first at Iran. Iran has been pressuring Assad to crack down. I wrote yesterday, online, that Iran has secretly been sending assistance to the Syrian regime for putting down riots. They've been sending tear gas, they've been sending batons, they've been sending other tools of repression. And it's worth remembering when Iran claims to be the friend of the Arab spring, that in fact it's helping Syria put this down. What will Iran do? What will Turkey do?
IGNATIUSPresident Assad has seen Turkey's Prime Minister Erdogan, as his strategic depth in a way, he has quite a close relationship with him. Erdogan has talked repeated with us as to this crisis. Will he turn in some way to Turkey? What about Israel? Israel, obviously, has an enormous stake in the future of Syria. Israel's been reasonably happy with the security and stability that Assad's repressive regime had provided.
IGNATIUSInterestingly, Israeli sources, yesterday, sent me a document showing that Hamas, Israel's enemy in Gaza is now torn between a faction based in Damascus that supports Assad and another faction centered around its religious leader, Sheikh Qaradawi, that bitterly opposes Assad and is supporting the revolution. So look at those neighbors and think how the, kind of, chain reactions and repercussions could go.
DOMBEYI think that's entirely right. If you look at the Turk's, one of the things that senior Turks say, off the record, is that they're very worried about the regime fracturing. Erdewan has told us that there are four more. But when push comes to shove, the Turks conjure up whether -- not sure -- quite sure in good faith or not, the vision of an Iraq and Syria, real fratricidal strife, they're very conservative minded. I would add, so is the U.S. I remember going to an event in -- right at the beginning of events, at the state department.
DOMBEYAnd everyone dismissed the idea of an Arab in 1989. Everyone insisted that Tunisia and Egypt had nothing next to do with each other. Very conservative attitude toward Egypt. So, too, I think it's been toward Syria. You can read the Wikileaks story, which the Post had, in two ways. The way I would read it was this Obama administration inherited funding for the opposition and was very uneasy about it because it could be seen as supporting regime change. They're very -- have a very conservative mindset here.
DOMBEYAnd if you talk to administration officials, they say, we really don't know about the opposition. And they're worried about the Muslim Brotherhood, they're worried about that fratricidal split. That may be an unduly conservative point of view. It may be short sighted. But I think it's a very strong strain of thinking in the U.S. and elsewhere.
GLASSERWell, and remember actually that it was really just a few weeks ago, the event of moved so swiftly that Secretary of State Clinton was criticized for suggesting that Bashar Assad was a reformer and in fact that that was a widely held view inside the United States government.
IGNATIUSI just would note as we close this discussion. I was in Damascus at the end of February when these protests were just in their infancy. And I remember going to the Presidential palace and seeing one of Bashar Assad's closest advisors who was urging reforms. Basically said, if we don't move quickly, if we don't announce that the bath party's monopoly on power is going to end, if we don't move to embrace elections, we may get caught in this. That advisors words are haunting because that was exactly right.
IGNATIUSAnd that's one overwhelming lesson of this Arab spring. Unless you move quickly and decisively and get out ahead of this movement, you're cooked.
REHMBut what does that mean to get out ahead of the movement?
IGNATIUSIt means, taking the decisive steps -- if Mubarak had announced in the beginning, it's over, I'm resigning, the state of emergency will be lifted, the things he said at the end, many Egyptians tell me he'd still be President, kind of caretaker process. A care...
REHMIf he had said that at the beginning?
IGNATIUSBecause, basically, what if -- the movement would've gotten what it wanted. And you could argue the same about Assad. If he'd done in the beginning what he's still honestly -- he still hasn't really done.
REHMAnd yesterday, what did he say? He said, he would end nearly 50 years of being in a state of emergency. What did that signify?
IGNATIUSHe -- the state of emergency is the legal tool that Syria uses to maintain an authoritarian repressive regime. It's ironic, to put it mildly, that just after announcing he's ending the state of emergency, he sends troops all over the country...
IGNATIUS...to start shooting protestors. And they're only conceivable authority is the state of emergency Assad just said he was suspending.
REHMDavid Ignatius of the Washington Post. You can join us, 800-433-8850. Send us your e-mail, join us on tweet or Facebook.
REHMAnd having talked about what's happened in Syria in the last few days with 19 dead this morning as these protests against the government of Bashar continue, we're talking this morning with Susan Glasser, Daniel Dombey, David Ignatius. Let's move on to Libya where President Obama has authorized sending in armed drones. What does this mean for the U.S. involvement in this conflict, Susan?
GLASSERWell, I think, in part, it's a recognition that the NATO engagement so far in Libya has not yet produced any sort of game-changing momentum back on the side of the rebels. I also think it reflects that U.S. capacity -- although Secretary Gates was quick to say this is a modest contribution to the NATO effort. I think clearly that's not so much the case.
DOMBEYYeah, I think actually what it reflects, to be honest, is a couple of things. First of all it reflects real concern about Misrata where the rebel forces and civilians are undergoing the most awful battering there and under siege. They're cut off from all -- always apart from the sea and so on. And there was a real concern that Misrata could fall.
DOMBEYSo just as the fears that Benghazi would fall was actually the thing that propelled this whole military operation in the beginning, concerns that Misrata would fall, but NATO didn't have the ability to hit Gadhafi's forces who were in there in amongst the population was one of the reasons why they sent these drones, which can identify targets much more accurately than any of the aircraft of the U.S.'s allies.
DOMBEYBut the other is I wouldn't necessarily call it cynical, but I couldn't prove that it isn't cynical, is a calculation by the U.S. to do just a little bit more so the allies get off their case. The allies have been pushing for U.S. aircraft. The U.S.A., we're not going to send manned aircraft. We're going to send these. I spoke to Joe Biden this week and he was very insistent that the U.S.'s strategic concern was well away. And that if there was a concern -- problem with NATO is with its political will, not its capabilities.
REHMWell, and here you have Senator John McCain who had first argued against getting any involvement by the U.S. in Libya, now is urging more military support for the rebels, primarily weapons and training. What's with Senator McCain?
IGNATIUSWell, Senator McCain likes to visit the warzones. He was in Benghazi making these arguments. It's an argument we've heard from McCain about other conflicts. Basically, if you're in it win it. And so he'd like to see us go in deeper. I would just make a comment about the -- yesterday's announcement that the U.S. is using predator drones in Libya. I really think the administration has made a mistake here in using a weapon that is seen in the Arab and Muslim world as a symbol of U.S., forgive me for saying this, arrogant power. This is a weapon that kills people from 10,000 feet. It is a long distance tool of assassination essentially.
REHMAre they after Gadhafi?
IGNATIUSWell, you have to wonder. There are lots of weapons that we could've decided to use if we wanted to augment the rebels. The predator has a particular use and that is in targeting high value targets. That's what we use it for in the tribal areas of Pakistan. That's what we have used it for in Yemen. And you have to assume that that's part of what's going on here.
IGNATIUSThe idea of putting the predator drone, a symbol that's problematic to say the least, into a country that is next to Egypt and Tunisia, the places where these democratic revolutions are happening, where the most hopeful developments arguably in a generation in the Arab world are taking place really leaves me scratching my head and wondering if the U.S. has made a real error in judgment.
REHMAnd they've also approved $25 million in non-military weaponry? What is that all about, Susan?
GLASSERWell, I think one thing to look at is whether that actually gets delivered and how, you know, it's actually already held up on The Hill. And it's not clear exactly who they would be aiding and in what way. I'm struck by a couple things. One, the continued murkiness, not only of our policy in Libya, but of who we're engaging with, what our assessment is of the movement.
GLASSERAlthough there's been a ton of concern about this over the last three weeks, I can't say that we have a much clearer picture after a month of questioning about who our partners are there, who NATO's partners are there. I think that’s part of why you saw the announcement this week that the British and the French were going to put substantial numbers more of military advisors on the ground because of that ongoing concern about, you know, what's actually happening on the ground there, first of all.
GLASSERSecond of all, wanted to go back to the situation in Misrata. I think Daniel made a very important point about, you know, just as Benghazi in a way was an action-forcing event, that perhaps now that the siege in and really horrific urban combat that we're seeing in Misrata -- and it's of course proven to be deadly actually to cover the conflict there. And that's part of why we haven't seen as much what's really happening inside the siege of the city.
GLASSERTwo very well known and really heroic news photographers were killed there this week. But what did they transmit in the hours before they died were scenes that really reminded me of the war in Chechnya, the first war in Chechnya when Grozny was destroyed by Russian troops.
GLASSERIt looked like something out of World War II. I mean, we're talking hellish building-to-building combat there in which people are killing each other at close range. It's an absolute nightmare situation. And I think as that reality begins to seep in it may well force a next stage in this conflict.
REHMWell -- and who cannot look at what's happening in Libya and be reminded of Vietnam? Isn't this precisely the way it all started with first advisors on the ground, then little bit of help here, a little bit of help there and we were in.
DOMBEYThat argument's being made very explicitly in the countries that are sending advisors, particularly the UK for example. But the U.S. -- but people are just too worried about the rebels to actually step up their commitment to this point. This is the problem. You've got this confusion of means and ends. The ends really are regime change. I mean, they can dance around this as much as they want, but they really now are arguing the only way to protect civilians is for Gadhafi to go.
DOMBEYBut the means are clearly inadequate. Their problem is is that they are haunted by 1,000 phantoms. If they arm the rebels they still don't know enough about the rebels. There are concerns that the rebels may be selling arms at arms' bazaars. They are haunted by the memory of stinger missiles supplied to the Mujahideen in Afghanistan in the '80s then had to be bought back and went to people who we would now call Taliban.
DOMBEYThey are really very, very worried about boots on the ground. And so I would say look at what the UK, French and Italians have done. They -- even they, the strongest partners are the British and French of this whole thing are really worried, are too worried at the moment to even give a single round of live ammunition to the rebels, to put a single person in the actual military machine there. So there are huge reservations about the rebels because they don't know who they are.
DOMBEYAs a result, we have a stalemate.
REHMAnd going back to these drones, hasn't Pakistan been absolutely furious with the U.S. for using these drones in our search for Al-Qaeda's leaders? Since 9/11 we've been trying to find Al-Qaeda's leaders.
IGNATIUSPakistan, Diane, plays a bit of a double game on the drones. The truth is that the predators that operate over the tribal areas take off from an airbase in Pakistan. And those operations are done with the secret connivance of the Pakistani military, which either can't or won't go into the areas in North Waziristan where Al-Qaeda operatives still are based. So you have to be careful when you talk about Pakistan. The Pakistanis get caught because they encourage public rage about the drone attacks and then they have to make public statements that get them even more tied up.
IGNATIUSBut I would note the reality that goes on in secret. Interestingly the U.S. has just announced that it's going to give drones, a lesser form than the predators, to Pakistan. So Pakistan has its own drones. I mean, one -- drones are addictive. Drones are an easy answer to a lot of complicated problems in warfare and even in the political military space. Pakistan wants their own drones. It's going to get 82 raven drones. The Saudis want drones, the Turks want drones. I could go down a list. And this is catching. You're going to find drones all over the whole world going after who knows who.
REHMSusan, you mentioned the two photographers who were killed. These certainly are not the first and I'm sure will not be the last journalists killed in these combats.
GLASSERWell, that's right. You know, this is -- Libya in particular has proven to be a very dangerous place for journalists. Not only were these two incredibly brave photographers killed, but there have been many journalists who are still being held by the Libyan forces. They have refused efforts on the part of the U.S. and its Turkish actually intermediaries to disclose more about the status of these journalists to release them.
GLASSERAlthough they were, you know, by all accounts simply doing their job and captured as, you know, these fast shifting front lines move back and forth. So, you know, it's a very dangerous place for journalists right now. And I think, you know, just to go back, these were some of the most experienced conflict photographers in the world. Both Tim Wetherington (sic) who did the...
GLASSERYes, exactly, who did the very powerful documentary "Restrepo" about the war in Afghanistan.
REHMWhich is going to be rebroadcast on National Geo.
GLASSERThat's right. I think it's today, right...
GLASSER...I think they're redoing it. Exactly. And...
GLASSER...Chris Hondros who was very much a friend of our magazine and a contributor of ours and, you know, literally had been in every warzone over the last decade-and-a-half. So these were not tourists. They weren't Senator McCain showing up for a press conference in a warzone. These were folks who had made it their career to show us and to go places where others cannot.
IGNATIUSThey were outstanding photographers. If your listeners want to know something about the war in Libya and the other conflicts that Chris Hondros has covered and also a little bit about who he was and what a photojournalist does, I urge them to go to the Washington Post website and there's a gallery of photographs that he's taken.
IGNATIUSAnd they're haunting. They're so beautifully done. In our business for people like the three of us who are all print journalists, we always like to say when we're covering wars, if you really want to see it, if you really want to see what's actually happening, travel with a photographer. Because they have to be there, they have to be right up close to it. And that's true in every war but these are two especially brave journalists.
REHMAnd apparently the military really came to trust them.
IGNATIUSThey -- in the work that Hetherington and Hondros both did in Afghanistan, I know that they were regarded -- you know, they were journalists but they were tough, smart resourceful people. Any unit they traveled with felt comfortable with them being there.
REHMAnd our condolences go out to both their families. Here in the studio, David Ignatius of the Washington Post. He's co-moderator of "PostGlobal" on washingtonpost.com. And you can see those photographs we've been talking about by going to washingtonpost.com. And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Let's turn to what's happening in Egypt where there have been calls for Christian governor to resign. How come, Daniel?
DOMBEYWell, this is -- these are growing pains of the new Egypt. This is a -- the governor of a region in Egypt who's a Coptic Christian and there's been protests against that. But he's also a former police chief and there are very deep feelings about that. So there have been very large scale protests against him, blocking railway lines, which the government says it's going to crack down on. It's not clear that this is purely inter-ethnic because as I said, he's a former police chief. And one of the real concerns here is how much is the country's military really willing to break with the old regime in terms of choosing people like this.
DOMBEYBut the other question really is the new Egypt. One doesn't know how infracticidal tensions are going to work out or intercommunal tensions are going to work out in a country that's now no longer authoritarian. And we've already seen shift in Egypt's broader policy. So we saw, for example, in the last few days, the former minister energy charged for supposedly organizing a preferential gas deal with Israel. Egypt's role, its attitude towards Israel, its attitude towards Islam is changing as it opens up. And that's going to be a very bumpy road for a lot of people. And it's not necessarily going to end up in a perfect liberal democracy at first go.
REHMBut hadn't Egyptians themselves hoped for less religious tension in the new regime, Susan?
GLASSERWell, I think it's not yet clear actually, you know, what kind of role and a public versus a private role religion is going to play in the country. I think as we see elections unfolding on the timetable that's now been set out by the military government, that's part of where this question is going to be litigated.
GLASSERHow successful will the newly allowed Muslim Brotherhood be in the public sphere is going to determine, I think, in many ways, whether these tensions erupt in full fledge violence or not, whether there is a new secular consensus. Remember that already in the first round of voting that we've seen post Mubarak, actually many of the leaders of the youth protests who drove the Tahrir Square movement broke with the Muslim Brotherhood and were on different sides of the vote.
GLASSERAnd so I think if you see that rift opening wider you may see more of this to come.
REHMAnd David, turning to the U.S.S. Cole bombing, how come military prosecutors had to re-file charges against them?
IGNATIUSThere were some additional charges that were added that the gentleman who's being charged is Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri. He's charged in the terrorist bombing of the U.S.S. Cole which killed 17 U.S. service people in 2000. He is the first example of the military trials in Guantanamo that the Obama Administration, after going back and forth, has decided to embrace. His case will be an important one to watch because it's now acknowledged that he was captured by the CI. He was taken to secret CI sites both in Thailand and in Poland, that he was water boarded twice. In other words, his case involved every difficult issue of torture that surfaced in the whole debate.
REHMAnd certainly the Arab world is going to be watching, Daniel.
DOMBEYIt is, but this is going to be a spectacle of (word?) length because no one should necessarily think that just because words military commission sounds short and sharp and abrupt, this is going to be a process that's in any way speedy. There are huge issues with this process. It's a military commission format itself which is being repeatedly questioned and thrown out by the courts.
DOMBEYThere is the question of the water boarding which is particularly significant because he denies the charges against him. You can see this however you want but he says he was just organizing a boat for a fishing expedition. And if he -- the confession that he gave he says he only gave because of water boarding. You have problems with witnesses who are in Yemen, not in the U.S. and so on.
DOMBEYAnd I would remind you about the military commissions. I think we have only had six sentences by military commissions of people in Guantanamo Bay in over a decade. And four of those I think were plea bargains and one of them was a short sentence. And so a genuinely contested case has to jump over an enormous number of hurdles.
REHMDaniel Dombey. He's U.S. diplomatic correspondent for the Financial Times.
REHMAnd we'll go right to the phones to Ann Arbor, Mich. Good morning, Leigh, you're on the air.
LEIGHHi, I have a question as to, as an old anti-war protestor, why are people in this country so surprised that dictators are responding with teargas and shooting people where we had the shootings at Kent State and Jackson State. And I personally was tear gassed many, many times for nonviolent protests. We -- these are dictators we supported and these are dictators that don't wanna give up power. We were gassed and some people were shot at just protesting a war, not even trying to overthrow the government.
REHMDavid, you and I saw all of that.
IGNATIUSWe did. We lived through it. The U.S. knows what a period of violent change is like. Our cities were in flames. We went through a kind of -- you could almost call it a revolution -- a cultural revolution in the '60s and '70s. I just would note not all repressive dictators have used their armies to open fire on citizens. And the reason that Hosni Mubarak is gone as president of Egypt is that when he called out the army, the army wouldn't fire on civilians.
IGNATIUSThe army went to Tahrir Square, was embraced by the protestors, embraced them back. The protestors said this is our army, this is not Hosni Mubarak's army. That is so obviously not the case in Syria where it's now a desperate situation, but we shouldn't assume that all armies will end up shooting on their citizens. Often they don't and that's when regimes change.
GLASSERWell, I think that's an important lesson if you look back at the history of revolutions. You know, think about the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Communist regimes of Eastern Europe and I think you have a very similar phenomenon. Those were 18-year-old conscripts in those militaries, not dissimilar to Egypt. And they also would not for the most fire against their fellow countrymen. And when they did, as in the Baltic States, that actually helped trigger the unraveling the Soviet Union.
DOMBEYWell, I think that the other thing is really, to be honest, if a dictator hunkers down, they can often stay in power. If a dictator hunkers down, they can often stay in power for much longer. There is in many regimes sometimes an essence of decency which you should sometimes -- which you should remember, and you saw that with Mubarak.
REHMTo Rome, Ga. Liam, you're on the air.
LIAMHi, how you doing, Diane?
LIAMGood. Yeah, I had a comment regarding Libya. And I think it's important to remember when dealing with these sorts of international conflicts, Libya or any totalitarian dictatorship to keep objectives in mind. And I would say regarding Libya we have two objectives, get Gadhafi out of power and, two, to save lives. And I would think that one way to explore achieving those is to offer some sort of amnesty to him. Now, this would not be popular and it's absolutely 100 percent not fair. However, in terms of reaching our objectives, he would be much more likely to step down being guaranteed a small house in the country and left alone 'til the end of his days.
IGNATIUSWell, it's been reported that the Obama administration is exploring precisely that option of finding some nice place where Moammar can spend the rest of his days outside Libya and...
IGNATIUSWell, that's one of the problems. I'm told that Venezuela is very nice. I mean, finding the right place is not easy, but the White House's preferred outcome here since the beginning has been a coalition government that unites elements of the rebels, elements of the Gadhafi regime who are regarded as redeemable and forming some kind of coalition. The problem is that Gadhafi's proving more resilient that we expected. He's -- you know, he's a tough infighter.
GLASSERAnd every day that goes forward in the war actually makes it much less likely that you're going to be able to reunite the rebels and perhaps what had been a reformist element within the regime, because of course many of the people who were reformers have already defected from the regime and I think you've left an increasingly embittered hard core.
GLASSERYou look back to the interview that his son, Saif Gadhafi, gave the other day and you see that real hardening of positions. He was of course embraced by the West, much to the embarrassment of many scholars now. He was given a PhD at the London School of Economics, "until his sort of blood will flow in the streets" speech.
GLASSERBut his comments in an interview with The Washington Post, I think, were very revealing that there's much less space for negotiation now. That's what happens in a war. The two sides get farther and farther away from each other.
DOMBEYI think, to be honest, what the U.S. and its allies have is something halfway between hope and strategy. I mean, I think Secretary Gates was very honest when he said, you know, it could end with a bullet to the head of Gadhafi. That's what they're hoping for. The element of strategy comes in and they are trying to -- when they imposed sanctions on former Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa and then relieved them when he defected, that was a signal to other members of the regime that if they peeled away, they could escape with their money. Trouble is, no one has followed suit for the reasons people have discussed.
DOMBEYThe other problem is, is even the place of exile is problematic because they can't just offer him an amnesty. There's an international criminal court investigation that the world leaders are powerless to stop, so they have to look at places like Venezuela, Eritrea, countries that are not signatories of the ICC. That adds another level of complexity. Again, it just shows you how far there is to go in all of this.
REHMLet's go to St. Louis, Mo. Good morning, Chuck.
CHUCKGood morning, Diane. I'm wondering how quickly NATO could evacuate the good people of Libya thus leaving the wraths of whom to dispose.
IGNATIUSWell, 7 million people is a lot of people to evacuate. I'm not sure that's a realistic idea. The -- I think one thing to bear in mind, people talk as if a stalemate is the worst thing that is imaginable, oh, my gosh, a stalemate. Well, you know, lots of conflicts go along and they end the stalemate and the stalemate leads to cease fire lines.
IGNATIUSI mean, I lived in a Lebanon that was in a stalemate and, you know, had a kind of semi-hot civil war going on, you know, firing back and forth, but it lived that way for more than a decade. So the idea that a year from now we'd still be looking at a stalemate in Libya, relatively small country, small population, and people shouldn't regard that as the equivalent of, you know, Nazi Germany surviving.
REHMBut, David, if it were just one place that were in a state of upheaval...
REHM...it would be one thing.
IGNATIUSAbsolutely. The only issue, Diane, is for us, meaning the United States and the West, not to do things in solving and addressing this little problem that skewed the larger trajectory in a way that's unfortunately. I mean, if this becomes a narrative about Americans using predator drones to attack Arabs instead of a narrative about Arabs fighting for their freedom and changing their governments, we will have made a mistake.
DOMBEYI think that's entirely right. I mean, look, when I was talking to Joe Biden this week he said, this doesn't even come close to the importance of Egypt. It's so much more important for us to find out about the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, for example, than it is to find out about the opposition in Libya. Secretary Gates when he talked about the goals said, you know, this is something that's very important to us to avoid a humanitarian crisis. It's important to us to stop destabilizing effects in Tunisia and Egypt. And it's a kind of favor to our European allies because it's vital interest for them, not us.
DOMBEYI agree with David. If you had a stalemate in which -- I agree with David. If you had a stalemate in which not many people died, that is not the end of a world. There is no way at the moment that the rebel forces can win this war and there's not much way in the -- not much way in which U.S. and allied air power can win the war either, so they're hoping to get lucky and that's not a strategy.
REHMLet's go to Goota (sp?) who's here in Washington. Good morning, you're on the air. Goota, are you there?
GOOTAOh, yes, I am. The point I was trying to make is really I am, you know, from Tunisia and I'm extremely worried about the flow of arms, you know, to the rebels in Libya. The rebels is not an organized group. There is no leadership. And what will happen eventually is, you know, the flow of arms, you know, in Tunisia. The reason the uprising in Tunisia was, you know, pretty much bloodless, you know, there's not too many people who died and it's because there are no arms. People have no access to arms. And basically what's gonna happen now is that those arms given to the rebels in Libya will find their way to Tunisia.
GLASSERYou know, I think the caller is making a very powerful point. And I think this is a reminder that the neighborhood is in turmoil. And when the neighborhood is in turmoil, that's why Libya matters in a strategic way, that it doesn't necessarily on its own. And this goes back of course then to who are NATO's partners in Libya and what can we hope to accomplish by arming them and is that a good idea or not. In the longer term interest of what we'd all like to see emerge as a much more peaceful, stable and democratic region.
REHMHere's e-mail, let's see, from Seffer (sp?) , who says, "Why doesn't the world support and cover the green movement in Iran? A change in Iran though difficult will cause great change in the region. Why aren't the Iranian people, a great majority of whom are fighting for freedom as well, covered and supported by media around the world?" David.
IGNATIUSIt's a very good question. One answer is that the Iranian regime has been systematic in its repression of that movement and in its efforts to reduce the movement's access to means of communication both inside Iran and with the rest of the world. That said, I think there's no question that if the revolution in Syria topples Iran's closest ally in the Arab World, that revolution is coming next to Iran. You just know that as sure as daybreak falls, the night. It's coming. And, you know, my Iranian friends tell me that keep your eye open, that that movement hasn't died. It's been quiet for good reason, but it's coming back.
REHMAnd let's look at Cuba, some interesting news out of that country this week. What happened, Susan?
GLASSERWell, I think this in many ways is my favorite overlooked story of the week. The youth movement launched by Raul Castro, which has resulted in the appointment of an 80-year-old successor to him, a vice president -- of course it's a watershed moment in a lot of ways because he's the first designated heir, if you will, who is outside of the Castro family. But, you know, a very interesting speech on the part of Raul Castro at the party congress, where he acknowledged that the party had failed to replenish itself and fail to come across a new generation.
GLASSERUnlike some of the Arab leaders, he seemed to be in a way, although an odd and belated way, getting out in front of reform. You might see the end certain of the most restrictive policies followed by the regime, but, you know, it's still very unclear what course they're charting.
DOMBEYI would question a little bit of that. The -- Raul said two things. He said, on the one hand, we can't go on as if two plus two is six or eight, you know, highlighting the absurd surreal math and economics of the Communist days. And he announced these reforms, I think 300 reforms, people may be allowed to sell and buy houses. But he also said one other thing. He said the army is the soul of a revolution. Well, I think if you cut open Raul Castro and looked at his heart, I know which of those two slogans would be engraved on it.
DOMBEYI've been -- I don't know Cuba that well, but I've been three times over the last 20 years. Two things strike me. First of all, it's not in the dire economic straights that it was in the mid 1990's when people were malnourished. It's not doing well, but it's nowhere near as bad as that period. Secondly, the army is ever more powerful. You've had almost a creeping military coup. Five members of a fifteen member pilot bureau are now from the military. They have much, much stronger ties to Raul who's a military guy.
DOMBEYHe's a clever dictator. He knows, and the thing that limits these reforms, is he knows what brought down Mikhail Gorbachev was liberalization, too much liberalization. He's gonna have a little bit of economic reform, a little bit of liberalization, but not so much as to endanger his position.
REHMDaniel Dombey of Financial Times. You're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." David.
IGNATIUSWell, I'm no Cuba expert. The one thing that occurs to me is if you wanna hasten the demise of Raul Castro and the regime in Cuba, open American contact with that regime, it'll be gone soon. I mean, they need us as an enemy as much as some people in our political system seem to need them as an enemy. That's a mistake.
REHMSo do you think we're gonna see any real shift in the U.S. position any time soon?
IGNATIUSThis unfortunately, like some other foreign policy issues, has become a matter of domestic politics. And I don't think with Florida, a key a state, and the Cuban exiles in Florida adamant in arguing against this, no, I don't think we'll see it, even though Obama would like it.
GLASSERWell, that's right. I think this is one of many areas, in fact, which the candidate Obama has to recognize that it's just simply not in his perceived interest to speak out anymore on this. And especially with the Arab revolution, especially with the other things on his plate with Afghanistan and Iraq, it's almost inconceivable that he would take on such a key domestic political issue.
REHMAll right. And, finally, to Nick in San Antonio, Texas. Good morning to you.
REHMHi there. Go right ahead, please.
NICKMy question is about the Restrepo documentary. It's being showed to sort of highlight the career of this guy. Really it focuses on, you know, the soldiers and their plight and their situation that they're doing in Afghanistan. And it's kind of an interesting dichotomy, you know, the outside looking in, giving those kind of views to the general population that haven't been to these countries and how it's viewed by the media especially.
IGNATIUSI haven't seen the documentary, but I've been to the place that the documentary describes, which is the Korangal Valley in the far northeast of Afghanistan. And I'd just say that's about the toughest fight that our soldiers have had. And you could argue the most senseless. We were fighting local people who were really insular and this conflict turned out to be largely about their rage at the government in Kabul over taxes on their logging industry, which they didn't like. And, you know, our kids bled and died in this fight which was captured in this apparently magnificent documentary.
REHMAnd, finally, the Japanese government announced it will begin strictly enforcing the evacuation zone. What's the significance of that, Susan?
GLASSERWell, there are some very poignant pictures today, speaking of photography, of a few residents trickling back. There was a midnight deadline before they would not be allowed probably into their homes for what could be years or ever again. And just horrible scenes of just sort of post apocalyptic empty towns and villages, farms with, you know, dozens of livestock dead where they lay. It's a really powerful scene of the long toll that this nuclear accident is gonna take on the country.
REHMAnd, finally, any effect on the development of nuclear energy in this country, David?
IGNATIUSWell, it's obviously slowed the process. And we're just gonna have to see. It's conflicting demands here from every side.
REHMDavid Ignatius of The Washington Post, Susan Glasser of Foreign Policy and Daniel Dombey of Financial Times, thank you all so much. Happy Easter to all. Thanks for listening. I'm Diane Rehm.
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