President-elect Trump chooses a retired Marine general to head the Pentagon. Syrian rebels agree to form a new alliance as the regime bombards Aleppo. And thousands of Cubans turn out to watch Fidel Castro's funeral procession. A panel of journalists joins Diane for analysis of the week's top international news stories.
Guest Host: Steve Roberts
The prospect of a Palestinian bid for full U.N. membership put the U.S. between a rock and a hard place; Pakistan reacted angrily to suggestions it supported attacks on the U.S. embassy in Kabul; a former president of Afghanistan was assassinated dashing hopes for a negotiated settlement with the Taliban; two hikers held by Iran for over two years on the suspicion of spying were released; and as Europe’s debt crisis continued, Greece introduced further austerity measures as it struggled to stave off bankruptcy.
- Richard McGregor Washington bureau chief, The Financial Times.
- Courtney Kube national security producer for NBC News.
- Moises Naim chief international columnist, El Pais.
MR. STEVE ROBERTSThanks for joining us. I'm Steve Roberts sitting in today for Diane Rehm while she's attending a public radio conference and she'll be back in this chair on Monday. New tensions between the U.S. and Pakistan and the harshest terms to date top U.S. officials accuse Pakistan spy agency of supporting militant attacks on American targets in Afghanistan.
MR. STEVE ROBERTSPresident Obama vowed to block a Palestinian bid for UN membership. Greece announced another packet of austerity measures to avert a debt default and Iran freed two American hikers. Joining me in the studio to discuss the week's top international stories on "The Friday News Roundup," Moises Naim of El Pais, Courtney Kube of NBC, Richard McGregor of "The Financial Times." Welcome to you all, nice to have you here.
MS. COURTNEY KUBEThank you.
ROBERTSYou can join our conversation, 800-433-8850, email@example.com. Richard, why do the Palestinians make the move now to seek a declaration of statehood at the UN?
MR. RICHARD MCGREGORWell, I think it's pretty well documented that they feel they've reached the end of the road. They're not going to get anywhere with the present Israeli government and the coalition that Benjamin Netanyahu leads. I think they want to lift the profile of the issue and I think it's also Palestinian domestic politics as well. I mean, as far as an operating Palestinian government goes, I think most people would agree that the one operating in the West Bank now is a more competent administration than they've had for some time and I think they want some recognition for that.
ROBERTSAnd Courtney, President Obama, high-stakes speech where he, you know, just a year ago talked about his desire to see a two-state solution and a Palestinian solution and yet while he didn't in the speech directly threaten a veto we know that that's American policy and why did he make this speech and what was the reaction?
KUBEWell, he was in a delicate situation because he had to balance what he wanted to -- the Arab world to see as his -- the U.S. support for the Arab Spring and for the growing movement of democracy throughout the region. But he didn't want to leave Israel in a lurch. He had to prove that he was still a staunch ally of the Israelis, who of course, are against the notion of the Palestinians becoming a state of the UN.
KUBESo it was -- he had a touch speech to give. He did not mention specifically that the U.S. would veto, if in fact it goes to the Security Council for Palestinian statehood. What was also pretty striking was after he gave this speech where he tried to make all these overtures to the Arab world, including talking about withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, he was trying to prove to the Arab world that he is still an ally of theirs, that he is still their friend.
KUBEBut afterwards, President Sarkozy of France, stood up there and basically opposed the U.S. position and said, look there has been no movement in the Palestinian peace process with the Israelis. Let's give them observer status at the UN, let's give them some hard deadlines...
ROBERTSWhich is not statehood but it's an upgrade from where they are and now one of the concerns that Israel and others have is if that were to happen, which would be a vote of the General Assembly, not a Security Council vote, that given that status they could bring legal challenges to Israel in the international criminal court and that worries Israel greatly.
KUBEExactly. And it would also give the Palestinians a stronger seat at the table, if in fact there are some peace negotiations coming up any time soon because they would be on more of an equal footing. It would also give them, you know, this critical international backing. It would make them look much more credible on an international stage when they go against the Israelis.
ROBERTSAnd Moises, the other dimension here, Richard mentioned it, there is -- their domestic politics in the Palestinian territory. there are also domestic politics in American and we've just come through a period where leading Republican figures, starting with Rick Perry, have attacked the administrated for not being strong enough in Israel.
ROBERTSWe had an election in New York, where Jewish voters who are normally pro-Democratic, helped elect a Republican. Talk about how the domestic politics plays into what Obama was saying.
MR. MOISES NAIMAnd that explains to you the timing. You were asking, why now? Well, why now in the Palestinians, as my colleagues said it is because they feel that there is nothing else to lose. They don't have much to lose. They're estimating that, yes, there will be bad consequences but not worse than they are now and in the politics there, let's remember that the current administration does not control the Gaza Strip and there are two contending factions that are fighting for who represents the Palestinian people and they also have their internal politics to see who represents them more effectively and gets them what they need.
MR. MOISES NAIMThe Arab Spring plays a role here. Why, you know, the Palestinians are asking, why is it that everyone else gets to get to the streets and gets freedom while we can't? So that is also fueling politics there. in the United States, as you said, this is already an election season and, you know, the process has started. And in the summer we saw on a very interesting trip by 84 members of Congress that were invited and went to Israel and they were all mostly, I think, a Republican men and women and they developed a very close -- they always had the Republican party had always close ties with Bibi Netanyahu and others.
MR. MOISES NAIMAnd they are now using that to see if they can, as you said, steal some of the votes or capture some of the votes in the United States from Americans that are strongly supportive Israel and that have always leaned towards Democrats and they may be shifting.
ROBERTSNow, Richard, Moises mentions the Arab Spring, one of the fallouts in addition to this yearning by the Palestinians to duplicate some of the feelings and accomplishments in other places is deterioration of relations with Israel and Egypt in particular, which long ago signed a peace treaty with Israel and now the emerging government which is still very fluid in Egypt but still some figures saying well maybe we'll elaborate this deal. Talk about how the Arab Spring is affecting Israel.
MCGREGORYes, well fluid is an understatement I think. I don't think we have any idea what kind of government will come up in Egypt, what kind of pressures it will come under, clearly the sort of policies that Mubarak could put in place and enforce and leave, in other words is, you know, strong, working relationship with Israel is not popular and if there's popular will to be affected in these -- is to be reflected in these democratic government then the Israel relation will suffer.
MCGREGORAnother byproduct of the Arab Spring, not directly, but a byproduct is Turkey. Turkey, I think, has really given up on trying to get into the European Union. It wants to be the new leading power in the region and its deterioration of its relations with Israel as well are very serious.
ROBERTSVery, very significant for Israel because Turkey is one of the few Muslim countries that has maintained diplomatic relations.
MCGREGORAbsolutely and they've had a very successful relationship. They've had good people to people relations. I mean, Israelis go to Turkey for holiday, you know, a normal kind of relationship that Israel can enjoy in a region.
ROBERTSOne commentator said, on this program earlier this week when we were discussing this issue and he said, now Israel has to make peace with the Arab peoples, not just with Arab government. I thought that was an interesting way to put it.
MCGREGORYes, and I think that's an uphill task.
ROBERTSAnd another fallout here, Courtney, is Syria, ongoing demonstrations in the streets, government of Assad continuing to crack down, taking a very different approach than some of the other Arab governments and Obama talked about Syria at the UN, talked about trying to impose sanctions. And there Turkey seems to be emerging as an ally of the forces of liberation and Turkey, of course, shares a very long border with Syria, a lot of traditions of trade.
ROBERTSTrade routes go right between the two countries, some legal trades, some illegal trade. I spent a lot time on the Syrian-Turkish border. It's a capital of smuggling. But still, there are relationships here. Talk about that moving part.
KUBEThat's right and as Richard was saying also, you know, there's new tension between Israel and Turkey right now, specifically because of Israel's naval blockade. They're trying to block arms from -- Hamas getting arms. That's caused additional tension. Turkey had been someone who had been moderating between Israel and Syria. Now Syria has this massive domestic disturbance and violent protests. So the whole situation is sort of falling apart or fallen apart.
KUBEWhen President Obama was at the UN this week, he specifically called on the UN to issue new sanctions against Syria and President Assad. So far, all the UN has done is issue what some people consider to be a pretty weak statement against Assad himself and against the Syrian government, specifically because of the violent crackdown against protestors there. It's left something like 3,000 people dead in the streets.
ROBERTSAnd the Russians are also reluctant to back any real move against Syria, in part because Syria has oil and Russia has a lot of commercial connections with Syria.
KUBEExactly. And one of the underlying problems that's continued to be a problem with the violence in Syria is there continues not to be an organized opposition there. So what comes next? And I think there are a lot of people in that region and here in the U.S. who are looking at it and saying well what comes next if the Assad regime topples then Iran could step in and fill that the power vacuum and we may just be causing a worse situation.
ROBERTSNow, Moises, speaking of Iran, Ahmadinejad also has spoke at the UN, gave his typically fiery and, in the view of some, certainly anti-Zionist, not anti-Semitic speech. United States walked out and so did a lot of European countries. Talk about that speech.
NAIMWell, it had become an annual ritual in which President Ahmadinejad comes to the UN and gives a -- first, he gives a soothing interviews explaining that he is in fact a friend, that...
ROBERTSAnd releases the two American hikers.
NAIM...and then every year there is a gesture and that that shows that he really is not as bad as his speeches, you know, show him to be in many ways. and then, you know, after soothing gestures then he goes and gives a fiery speech. Last year for example, there was a moment in an interview where he was asked about executions of homosexuals there and he simply said that there are no homosexuals. That homosexuality does not exist in Iran.
NAIMThis year and, of course, you know, always the ritual denunciation of the Holocaust, doubting it. This year he also included the accusation or the innuendo that the assassination of Osama bin Laden was simply a way of hiding and, you know, hiding what is the truth, in which in his judgment about 9/11, that in his judgment it was a ruse that allowed the United States to be...
ROBERTSBut why did he let the hikers out?
NAIMWell, in order to gain brownie points in his visit to New York at the General Assembly and there, Steve, it's very interesting that there was a big gap between the time he announced that they were going to be released and when -- actually they were released and that is internal domestic politics between him and the supreme leader.
ROBERTSWhen we come back on the international part of our "News Roundup," we'll talk about the financial crisis in Greece and the relations with Pakistan. You stay with us.
ROBERTSWelcome back. I'm Steve Roberts sitting in today for Diane. And as always on Friday our News Roundup in the international portion. We have three experts with us. Courtney Kube of NBC, Richard McGregor the Financial Times and Moises Naim of El Pais. You can join our conversation 1-800-433-8850 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
ROBERTSAnd let's move on to the financial crisis in Greece. This is -- yesterday yet another downgrading of Greek bonds -- Greek banks -- eight Greek banks to startlingly low levels. I mean C Grade ratings by international agencies. And Greece has tried to impose some austerity measures. There were strikes in the streets protesting austerity measures even as the European Union says they're not going far enough. Richard, what's your take on the importance of what's going on there?
MCGREGORWell, it's not just obviously a Greek financial crisis. It's a European financial crisis and in turn a global financial crisis. The -- as a colleague of mine Tweeted yesterday, I mean, after the latest austerity measures introduced by Greece -- that's after their economy has already contracted by about 8 percent -- he said, my god, you know, this is much worse than anything Germany can do to you. For god's sake default, you know. Get it over and done with.
MCGREGORAnd I think that is going to happen at some stage. But I think, you know, Greece is the symbol of it but I think the bigger issue and the bigger issue that the U.S. is worried about in the near term is Italy because Italy is a very large economy, part of the G8. And, I mean, there's a contagion from Greece to Italy, but, you know, if it moves from Greece to Italy in real time that is going to be real crunch time I think.
ROBERTSAnd we saw this week, Courtney, disturbing news about the German economy which has been the loan strong engine of growth in that part of the world and disappointing figures in terms of economic growth there. So the contagion is spreading all over Europe.
KUBEYeah, there are growing real concerns of some sort of a global recession. And it's remarkable to see how it just continues -- it flows through from country to country, you know. If, in fact, Greece were to default then it would cause what would likely be the biggest banking disaster in Europe -- that Europe has ever seen. It would make the 2008 economic crisis in the U.S. -- that would pale in comparison to this.
KUBESo there is growing concern that there's going to be a recession throughout Europe and it would hurt the struggling U.S. economy. If European banks start to default on the loans that the U.S. has given them that would obviously continue to hurt the United States. So we saw a very real impact on the U.S. stock market yesterday when it took an almost 400-point dive.
ROBERTSI mean, these economies are so interconnected that what happens anywhere in the world is going to flow across borders almost immediately.
ROBERTSMoises, talk about the future of the euro zone. You've got I think it's 17 countries now that are part of the euro zone, Greece being one of the smallest and least significant. But there's talk about either Greece leaving voluntarily or being thrown out. And what are the prospects of that and what impact would that have?
ROBERTSExiting the euro is very expensive. Staying the euro, as Richard said, is also very expensive for Greece. So the design, what we are now discovering, is what several commentators originally stated. And that is that there was a design flaw in the European monetary system in which you had a single currency. But each country could do whatever they wanted in terms of the fiscal, you know, taxing and revenues. Those two things...
ROBERTSEven though they tried to set standards, it's that...
NAIMAnd they had a treaty but everybody -- starting with Germany and France, they broke the treaty that would try to reconcile the fact that you had same currency but different fiscal policy tax and spend policies were different for each country.
MCGREGORAnd the Greeks lied on top of that.
NAIMAnd the Greeks are some that lied. There are also doubts about other countries, statistics and so on. And you mentioned, Steve, the concern about Italy. And there's also a concern about Spain. And so, you know, the phrase always was that, you know, too big to fail. It was referring to banks. But now we are moving to too big to bail.
NAIMSo you cannot bail out Italy. You cannot bail out Spain. These are huge economies. There's not enough money there nor enough institutional arrangements to take these countries -- to stabilize the countries, you know. If we have not been able -- the Europeans have not been able to stabilize an economy that is 2 percent of Euro, which that's Greece, a small economy that is creating this havoc. And as you have said we are all interconnected.
ROBERTSBut now you're also seeing a fault line running through Europe north and south and that in some ways the ideal of a united Europe papered over some profound differences. And you mentioned three countries on the Southern Mediterranean border, Italy, Spain and Greece. And it's the northern European economies that remain much stronger, Germany in particular, also the Scandinavian economies. Finland balking at -- being a small economy but balking at yet another input of money to Greece saying they now want collateral. And so there's really almost a cultural divide too, isn't there?
NAIMYes. And one of the smartest more insightful comments I heard from a commentator from (unintelligible) was that Germany's trying to build character. And the rest of the world, the markets want to build confidence. So what Germany wants is for others like Greece to stop spending the money they don't have. Start saving...
ROBERTSBe more like us.
NAIMYou know, be Germans. And so Germany wants to build character and the markets want confidence. So it's a clash between character and confidence that is shaping a lot of this.
ROBERTSLet me turn to one other important international story this week before we get to our callers. And that is the rather stunning testimony by Admiral Mullen, Chairman of Joint Chiefs accompanied by Leon Panetta, Secretary of Defense in which they rather directly and starkly accused the Pakistan Intelligence Services, the ISI of being in collusion with this terror network, the Haqqani network saying they were -- in fact they called the Haqqani network a veritable arm of the Pakistani intelligence.
ROBERTSNow this is not a new story. There've been talks about this for years. But it seemed to me that they would be far more direct in their criticism and their accusations than before...
MCGREGORAbsolutely. It's not just a nod and a wink, but, as you say, a veritable arm. And it was quite amazing to hear the detail of the last conversation of -- the conversation prior to the terrorist attack, which the Americans say the Pakistanis colluded in. I think Admiral Mullen was speaking to Colonel Kayani, the Chief of Staff of the Pakistan army. And he told him about the intelligence about a truck bomb being on the way. And the Pakistani Chief of Staff replied, well I'll make a phone call, in other words to try and stop it. And it wasn't stopped.
MCGREGORI mean, Admiral Mullen, I think, is stepping down soon and he can afford to go out with a bang. And I think it suits the U.S. as well. But, you know, how do you climb back from a relationship like this which has gone to such depths?
ROBERTSWell, let me read though 'cause the Chief of Staff Kayani who was, if I'm not mistaken, formerly the head of the Intelligent Services, said in a statement Friday that claims Admiral Mike Mullen were, quote, "unfortunate" and, quote, "not based on facts." Kayani's statement implied that Pakistan and other regional countries were in contact with the Haqqani militant network presumably to bring them into the peace process. It said, quote, "singling out Pakistan is unfair."
ROBERTSCourtney, the relationship with Pakistan, a very important one, a very difficult and cloudy one. Admiral Mullen said yesterday a flawed and difficult relationship is better than no relationship at all. What are we seeing in terms of the American Pakistan relationship?
KUBEI mean, there are several things that are really remarkable about Admiral Mullen's comments yesterday, and Secretary Panetta's too. For starters, for General Kayani you have to take that with a grain of salt because much of what he and his colleagues say is meant for domestic consumption. They have to make the Pakistani people believe that they're protecting their sovereign nation. They're not being pawns of the United States, etcetera, etcetera.
KUBESo as far as Mullen's comments yesterday though, U.S. officials told my colleague Jim Mekleshevski (sp?) that it goes even deeper than what Mullen said yesterday. That the Pakistani ISI is directing the Haqqani network to specifically attack American targets, including the embassy in Kabul last week or a week-and-a-half ago, the Intercontinental Hotel back in June in Kabul and even the -- out in Wardak province. And the Haqqani network is also known to have been the one who attacked the CIA agents back in 2009 in Eastern Afghanistan at Chatman.
KUBESo the notion that Admiral Mullen came forward and said in Congress -- Admiral Mullen who has these deep ties with the Pakistanis. He's had something like two dozen meetings with them.
ROBERTSHe's always been an advocate of closer ties.
KUBEA tremendous advocate of closer ties. He's done numerous trips there as -- I mean, you could argue that he, more than any other U.S. official, has the strongest relations with the Pakistanis right now. So the notion that he went to Congress and said this is remarkable.
KUBEHe also, in his prepared remarks -- he didn't say it actually to the committee yesterday -- but in his prepared remarks he said that Pakistani's actions could actually warrant sanctions because of this. And they're directing a tax against the United States.
ROBERTSNow the relationship, Moises, has been deteriorating, been back and forth for a long time but it seems that one of the key developments here was the use of drones to invade Pakistan territory. And then of course the assassination of Osama bin Laden, which was a military mission on Pakistan soil which -- and a lot of hard feelings on both sides. The Americans thinking that Pakistan intelligence had somehow protected Osama bin Laden all these years. And the Pakistanis insulted that the Americans didn't bring them in on the planning of the operation. So this is part of a much longer story here.
NAIMAnd the context here is that -- they all say is that Pakistan is not a country with an army but an army with a country, meaning that the Pakistani army controls the country in very important ways. It has a very important economic role and so on. What we are now stating or what this now implies is that the Pakistani army is not an army with an intelligent service, but an intelligent service with an army.
NAIMAnd that means that the ISI, which is the spy agency, the intelligent service of Pakistan has great influence over what happens. And we see now concrete evidence of their very active role in shaping events there and targeting very specific and very strategic targets in order to send signals, in order to mold the situation and the outcomes. And this is inevitably related to the presence of -- and the plans of the United States in Afghanistan.
ROBERTSAnd what about the assassination of former Afghan President Rabbani who has been a voice for peace, who has been involved in a peace council trying to be a broker. He's an ethnic Tajik and it gives him an ability to move among other ethnic groups. And this assassination a real blow, Courtney, to prospects for peace in Afghanistan.
KUBEYeah, after a year with virtually no progress on the peace front, frankly in Afghanistan, this will have the impact of either completely halting or, at a minimum, derailing what was starting to finally begin, it looks like.
KUBEBurhanuddin Rabbani was sort of an unusual choice to head up the High Peace Council because he obviously was a Northern Alliance leader back in the early '90s, he fought against the Taliban, he fought against the Russians. So he had that strong sense of respect throughout the country but he was also known as the man who, when he was president, refused to negotiate with other ethnicities. And it led to a bloody civil war in the country.
KUBESo right now he had forged these ties that were somewhat tenuous with Karzai but he was Karzai's only ally in the north right now. So the fact that he's gone means that President Karzai, he virtually has no allegiance in the north right now as far as peace talks might go.
ROBERTSI'm Steve Roberts and you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Let me read you some e-mails and Tweets from a variety of our listeners. Here's one that says, "The U.S. should've stood neutral on the Palestinian's request for statehood. This give us the ability to broker peace in these areas." Richard, talk about the dimension of the American role -- long-going role as a broker of peace. Courtney mentioned the French casting doubts on that role in the future. What are we seeing?
MCGREGORWell, the U.S. leverage obviously is diminishing in the Middle East, you know, through the process of the Arab Spring. You know, they're struggling to be influential in the formation of new governments there. I mean, the U.S., I think would argue that it has supported Palestinian statehood. I mean, George W. Bush supported the two-state solution. This is not a new thing.
ROBERTSAnd Obama's speech at the UN last year was very supportive.
MCGREGORThat's right. I mean, he obviously had a different speech this year from last year and two years ago when he was talking about, in fact, playing up the U.S. policy on getting a settlement freeze in Israel. That's long gone. But I think the -- it's -- I think it underlines the lack of decisive influence that the U.S. has, and that's both Mr. Bush and Mr. Obama, in forcing two sides to come together, which are determinately far apart.
ROBERTSHere's another e-mail from Bryce -- I mean, from Renee, I'm sorry. Renee writes to us from New York, "All spring and all summer the United States, in various ways, has supported movements across the Arab world for democracy and self determination. In the case of the Palestinians the actions have not exactly been the same. How can the government credibly defend this position without the listener rolling their eyes and chalking it up to domestic politics? How is it that the U.S. remains a role as honest broker in the region unless the government finds a way to really push for Palestinian independence?" Moises.
NAIMThere is no doubt that the posture that the United States has recently taken will erode its ability to be an honest broker. But let's remember that when the United States was able to be an honest broker nothing happened either. So the notion that these will happen or, you know, that the peace in the Middle East will be the outcome -- will result as the outcome of the United States' heavy handed intervention and just bringing people in a room and forcing them to agree, I think that notion has now been abandoned.
NAIMAnd increasingly, as President Obama said in his speech, this should happen when the Israelis and Palestinians realize and discover and have the incentives to really sit down and reach an agreement.
ROBERTSAnd to pick up on something you said earlier, Courtney, and Richard's point about U.S. influence in the region, if Obama and the United States is forced eventually to issue a veto. For two-and-a-half years this president has made improving relations with the Muslim world, a key part of his foreign policy. Trips to Istanbul, Cairo, Indonesia where he has made major speeches trying to say to the Muslim world, we are your friends. We're not your enemies, a point you made earlier. How damaging would it be to that ongoing effort if he is forced to cast this veto?
KUBEYou know, I have to be honest. I looked at some of the headlines in the region yesterday after President Obama's speech and I was amazed at how stark some of them were. There was one that specifically said President Obama declares war on the Arab world. I thought that was just unbelievable. Unfortunately it's not the first time that the president has faced this kind of criticism for supporting one side and not the other. He took the same criticism in Bahrain where he -- the United States didn't really stand up for the protestors. And instead they continued to back the government -- Bahraini government.
KUBESo unfortunately, you know, in 2008 President Obama went to Cairo. He gave the speech that really moved the Arab world. And I think that they believed that they would have a strong supporter in the United States. And I don't think it's fair to say at this point that they still do not, that the president is not a supporter of the Arab world or of democracy in the Arab world. Quite the contrary but that perception is out there right now because of this.
ROBERTSVery quickly Jeff asks, "I keep hearing reports U.S. citizens held in Iran each paid $500,000 bail. But as I understand the terms of being freed they couldn't go back to Iran. How is this bail?" Richard quickly.
MCGREGORI've read those reports as well and I haven't confirmed them. And as to them going back I doubt they're going to have their next hiking trip there.
ROBERTSThat's Richard McGregor of the Financial Times. Courtney Kube of NBC, Moises Naim of El Pais. We're all going to be back with more of your calls so stay with us.
ROBERTSWelcome back to the international portion of the News Roundup on "The Diane Rehm Show." I'm Steve Roberts sitting for Diane. She's away, but she'll be back on Monday. And we have a number of callers who wanna join our conversation. So let's start with Duncan in Lorington, Va. (sic) You're on the air. Thank you.
DUNCANHello. Thanks for taking my call. I was calling about what is basically what I regard as Turkish hypocrisy towards the position in Syria, the Syrian crackdown that is, and the Turkish position to Israel, where the flotillas of Turkish activists going to Syrian ports to save Syrian citizens. And I also think that the Palestinian national movement is rather complacent in the Syrian crackdown. They don't seem to protest that at all. Where is Hamas decrying?
DUNCANAnd I think by doing this in the UN this week with the Palestinian statehood movement, it just takes away news from Syria and it also gives the Syrian government a chance to look positive by voting for the Palestinians. I think it all speaks to the endemic anti-Jewish bigotry in the Arab world and the larger Islamic world and even Europe. And it's precisely the reason why America needs to be part of and maybe the most important part of the peace process as an honest broker because that endemic anti-Semitism isn't there the way it is in this part of the world.
DUNCANI'll take my comments off the air.
ROBERTSThanks, Duncan. Moises.
NAIMThere is no doubt that Turkey has recently adopted very surprising moves that have no precedent. You know, they, for example, are banning flies over territory by Israeli airlines and details like that, and very important things like saying that their armed vessels will escort the irregular flotillas. These are very extreme changes in attitude.
NAIMBehind all that, there is rivalry over who has the most influence in the Middle East, which is now in play. Historically that role had been played by Egypt. More recently, Iran has ambitions to be the big player on the ground. And Turkey now finds that it has a chance, that it has a shot at becoming the game maker there, and they're using it. And a lot of these gestures are geared to win the good will of the Arab world.
ROBERTSAnd there's also an economic motive. There are a lot of Turkish businessmen with aspirations to expand their role in a lot of these countries.
NAIMThe political ambitions are always fueled also by these commercial interests.
ROBERTSLet's talk to Zahid (sp?) , if I have your name correct, I hope so, in Cleveland, Ohio. Welcome.
ZAHIDYeah, good morning, Steve and gentlemen and also lady. My comment about Mike Mullin, you know, the admiral chief of staff is coming about Pakistan, ISI (unintelligible) and all that. Steve, we know that since 9/11 Pakistan has lost 30, 40,000 people and citizens. It has lost tens of thousands of its soldiers. And basically we have absolutely -- Pakistani government helped tremendously the government of the United States. But it is very (unintelligible) for a few -- for a couple of years now that within the U.S. government and this Obama administration, they're kind of institutionalized bigotry and (unintelligible) comments are being made about Pakistan.
ZAHIDAnd if we are to sit down and could Pakistan's contribution towards -- beyond 9/11 war on -- with the Taliban and all that, that lasted so long that I don't have time to enumerate those. And so it is already a disservice to our military by making comment by military chiefs pertaining to Pakistan and the Pakistani government that has sent military the most for us, maybe not Pakistani government, but military has been absolutely enormous in this country against Taliban and al-Qaida and all that.
ROBERTSThank you very much for you comment. Courtney.
KUBEU.S. officials believe that at this point the Pakistani's have decided basically to hedge their bets. They think -- Pakistani leadership believes more and more that the U.S. is gonna leave the region and there's historical precedence for them believing that. And so they're hedging their bets. They're siding with -- the ISI is siding with the Haqqani Network because it candidly can bring them domestic peace or more domestic stability than they would have if they were fighting against Haqqani. The Pakistani Frontier Corps, they waged this big war against the Pakistani Taliban in Swat.
KUBEAnd it didn't really -- and the caller was correct. It had -- there were tremendous military casualties on the Pakistani side. And it didn't really do much to root them out. So the problem right now is Pakistan wants -- they're looking at a U.S. that's gonna be withdrawing they believe sooner rather than later, and they don't wanna be the weaker country in the region. So if they back the Haqqani Network, they then sorta destabilize the government in Kabul, then they're the stronger nation.
ROBERTSAnd, Richard, the other word that always has to be spoken when we discuss Pakistan is the word India. And one of the eternal differences between the United States and Pakistan is who they perceive is the real enemy in the region and Pakistan will always consider India the main rival. And isn't that part of what continues to royal American Pakistan relationships?
MCGREGORYeah, I mean, the context for 9/11 even if you like is the longstanding Pakistani policy of having strategic depth. In other words, having influence in or proxies inside Afghanistan so they don't see that territory to India. And the broader issue is India, Pakistan which have fought a number of wars, come close numerous other times. The U.S. has strengthened its ties greatly with India, particularly under George W. Bush in recent years. And that stokes paranoia, particularly while India and Pakistan still can't talk to each other.
ROBERTSLet's talk to Jim in Grand Rapids, Mi. Welcome, you're on "The Diane Rehm Show," Jim.
BRIANGood morning, Steve, this is -- and guest. My comment is in that speech President Barack Obama gave at the UN, he's been a stalwart when it comes to controlling nuclear proliferation. And what I'd like to know from your guests is how important does the panel feel nuclear proliferation is and if they're willing to write a story about it soon.
ROBERTSThanks. And I misspoke. It was Brian in Grand Rapids, Mi., not Jim. Thanks very much for your call -- for your call, Brian. In answer, yeah, go ahead.
NAIMWell, it is a priority. The Obama administration has put a lot of effort into this. There is the issue of Iran. There is the issue of North Korea. And frankly, there is great concern about Pakistan who is a nuclear...
ROBERTSYeah, that comes back to Pakistan.
NAIM...is a nuclear armed country and, again, is a very fragmented country, hard to govern where power is highly fragmented. No one really understands who calls the shots, when. And this is a country that has nuclear weapons. So one of the concerns is that some of these weapons can fall into the wrong hands.
ROBERTSAnd then when Courtney says that the Pakistani government betting on the United States leaving the region, one of the forces keeping them there is exactly what you're talking about. If Pakistan were to collapse in any significant way, perhaps the single biggest threat to American national security with these weapons and this material getting into the wrong hands.
NAIMAnd that's why Gen. Kayani every time insists that Pakistan's nuclear arsenal is safe, is under control and there is absolutely no risk of that horrible scenario happening.
ROBERTSBut we have seen rogue scientists, A. Q. Khan, a Pakistani...
ROBERTS...being the source of significant information to other countries. So it is not a perfect system in terms of containing either the materials or the knowledge in Pakistan.
MCGREGORAnd plus we also saw the recent attack by -- very successful, sophisticated attack by the Taliban on the Naval port in Karachi. And I think that underlined the sort of security phase that, you know, spread to the issue of nuclear weapons and how tightly they're held.
ROBERTSYou know, there's another story that is actually gonna break on Monday in Newsweek that we got an early copy on relating to this whole question, Courtney, of nuclear weapons and where the Obama administration, this report says, has sold to Israel 55 what are called bunker busting bombs, and that the single biggest reason Israel would want these weapons is for a potential attack against nuclear installations in Iran. So this issue keeps threading its way through a lot of these stories.
KUBEAnd I think that the administration recognizes that Iran is always sort of that problem that's overlying, that's hanging over Israel at all times. And if there's anything that President Ahmadinejad showed this week in his rambling, in his anti-Semitic, crazy, conspiracy theory speech, it's that you never know what's gonna happen next with him.
KUBEThe other problem that exists right now in Iran that no one can control is this growing power struggle between President Ahmadinejad and the grand ayatollah and the judiciary. You know, the ayatollah was once Ahmadinejad's mentor essentially. He's the one who chose him for the presidency. And now they're fighting over who's gonna be the more powerful person in the nation, so it's a very tenuous time there, even more so than usual. So I guess the Obama administration recognized that Israel needs to defend itself.
NAIMWell, to allay our fears, President Ahmadinejad in an interview that he gave to Nick Christopher of the New York Times, he said all they want is to enrich uranium to cure cancer. They needed that for the hospitals. But that's all. He really does not feel that they're doing it for any other purpose.
ROBERTSNot a particularly believable argument.
NAIMThere is a lot of evidence that shows that he's lying.
ROBERTSLet's talk to Frank in Charlotte, N.C. Welcome, Frank. You're on "The Diane Rehm Show."
FRANKOh, hi. Okay. So I read a book that you can actually get at the Library of Congress and I'm pretty sure the name of it is "The History of Palestine." And in 1849, the population of Jews over there in that area was only 13 percent. And the population actually didn't increase until after World War II.
FRANKOkay. And then I also read inside there, I'm pretty sure that I read it there, that only eight percent of the land was actually purchased by Jews. The rest of it was either given to them by the UN or taken by the gun. Okay. And that happens today too. So, you know, when people start talking about why people hate Jews, I don't hate Jews. I actually love Jews. But the thing is, is that we cannot have people in this day killing people for land, especially using our tax dollars to do that.
ROBERTSOkay. Thank you, Frank. Anybody got a reaction to Frank's comment? No?
MCGREGORI think you can get just about every book in the Library of Congress I'm told. I mean, I don't think we can on this radio program unwind the thread back to 1849 and calibrate the different populations at different times. And unless the Israelis and Palestinians can sort it out themselves, as we have talked about before, there's little that even the mighty U.S. can do.
ROBERTSBut it does -- the caller reflects how complex and how twisted and how ancient the grudge is and the feelings go on that issue, as if we needed reminding, which we didn't. Here's...
KUBEI think we saw that this week too at the UN You know, in the midst of this big Arab Spring that has really been taking over the headlines this year, Israeli/Palestinian relations took over everything this week in the United Nations. So there is clearly a lot of interest in it and it is clear it's something that's gonna continue for a long time.
ROBERTSI'm Steve Roberts. And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Do you wanna add something quickly?
NAIMYeah, no, about the UN, I just wanted to point out that one of the speeches had went uncommented, not very commented, is that of President Calderon from Mexico, in which he said that we have to be aware that organized crime is killing far more people than all the territorial regimes together right now. And the numbers are staggering, 18,000 people assassinated in Central America. Yet in Mexico only 40,000 people have died as a result of this fights and war. You know, there is a war going on there.
NAIMIt's adjacent to the United States. It's a very strange kind of war with illicit drug networks. But the United States which is selling weapons and buying drugs is a big part of it. And no one talks about that and the numbers are vastly larger and the numbers of casualties are vastly larger than those that are taking place in the Middle East right now, for example.
ROBERTSWell, historically so much of our attention is focused on areas that are flashpoints that have been arenas for big power conflict or have the potential as we've been discussing of the nuclear weapons in Pakistan. And Latin America has always in some ways been secondary to those larger issues, right, and I think...
NAIMUntil the killings start spilling over the border.
ROBERTSOver the border. And then it becomes an issue in American presidential, which it will be, particularly if Rick Perry is an nominee. Let me read an email from Marilyn who raises a good point that I'd like you to talk about, Richard. "Europe's blunder," she writes, "was belt tightening, massive cuts in the face of the global recession as dictated to them by supply side economists. Now those economies are contracting and you all are marveling. This is not rocket science. The European countries should've done right size stimulus packages. The world economy would be a very different place." What do you think?
MCGREGORWell, this is not about Europe. The Keynes versus Hayek debate is in the UK, in Europe, in the United States, particularly in the United States and in the Congress right down to the spending battle we've seen this week over disaster funds. I mean, but it's -- in the case of Europe, of course, Germany, it's faltering a bit in recent weeks, but its economy introduced an austerity package early on under great criticism, but it's bounced back.
MCGREGORAnd that may be because it exports so much capital goods to China, for example. I mean, things have gone its way. The cycles have gone its way. Is the problem in Europe right now austerity? No, it's not. It's the design of the euro zone and the way they're not able to untangle fiscal problems in lagged countries. So, yeah, there's a debate about austerity, but that's really not at the root of this problem.
ROBERTSQuickly, we have time for maybe one more comment. And this is from Marcus. "What prevents the peace talks from starting again? Is it the settlement freeze?" Courtney.
KUBEIt's the combination that neither -- both sides wanna come to the table without preconditions and neither side will agree to -- neither side will agree to do that, for them not to have their own preconditions when they step to the negotiating table. Basically the last year has -- there has been no talks in the last year and essentially the talks have been brought backwards. George Mitchell stepped down. He resigned as a special envoy. There's been no movement, so if you ask either side, they would argue that it's the other side that's keeping them from coming to the table, but...
ROBERTSFinal e-mail from Dave says, "What would be the downside of having Palestine as an accepted state? Then they would have to bear responsibility, right?" Moises.
NAIMIt's more complex than that and it has already been mentioned. They will be a country that has one of its statements, the elimination of a neighbor. They have stated that they will go to the International Criminal Court and use all kinds of legal maneuverings to create a more difficult situation that will be harder to get peace. And it's not that straightforward as we have seen.
ROBERTSThat will have to be the last word. Thank you all. Courtney Kube of NBC, Moises Naim of El Pais and Richard McGregor of The Financial Times. Thanks for joining us on this hour of our regular Friday News Roundup, the international hour. I'm Steve Roberts sitting in today for Diane. She'll be back in this chair on Monday. And thanks for spending your Friday morning with us.
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