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.
President Barack Obama warned Syria on Monday that it could face American military intervention if there were signs it was moving chemical weapons for use. U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon announced plans to attend the Non-Aligned Movement summit in Tehran next week. And German Chancellor Angela Merkel met with French President Francois Hollande in Berlin about how to solve the euro zone financial crisis. David Sanger of The New York Times, Michele Kelemen of NPR and Abderrahim Foukara of Al Jazeera join Diane for analysis of the week’s top international news stories.
- Michele Kelemen diplomatic correspondent, NPR.
- Abderrahim Foukara Washington bureau chief of Al Jazeera Arabic.
- David Sanger chief Washington correspondent for The New York Times and author of the new book, "Confront and Conceal: Obama's Secret Wars and Surprising Use of American Power."
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. Attacks by Syrian forces on neighborhoods in and around Damascus killed dozens this week. Iran showed signs of accelerating its nuclear program and Afghanistan blames foreign spies for insider attacks against U.S. and NATO troops.
MS. DIANE REHMJoining me for the week's top international stories on the Friday News Roundup, David Sanger of the New York Times, Michele Kelemen of NPR and Abderrahim Foukara of Al Jazeera and throughout the hour, we'll welcome your calls, questions, comments. Join us by phone at 800-433-8850, send us your email to email@example.com, follow us on Facebook or Twitter. Good morning to all of you.
MR. ABDERRAHIM FOUKARAGood morning, Diane.
MR. DAVID SANGERMorning, Diane.
MS. MICHELE KELEMENGood morning.
REHMGood to have you all here. David Sanger, you have a front page article in the New York Times today about Iran's nuclear work. Tell us what's happening.
SANGERWell, no surprises here. There have been negotiations that were sputtering along through much of the year. There was a lot of premature optimism about them during the spring. They feel apart predictably by June. There's been basically no action on them during the summer and the big question was, what was Iran doing on the ground while the negotiations were not happening in diplomatic halls.
SANGERAnd the answer was that they have been building up their capability in the deepest underground site they have, which is under a mountain outside the holy city of Qom. This is the facility that is most invulnerable to bombing and thus most of concern to the United States and to Israel. It's the one at the center of the Israeli argument that the Iranians are approaching a zone of immunity.
SANGERThat is to say a moment at which they would've gotten so much into this facility that there would very little that the Israelis could do about it if they launched a military attack. And of course in the past few weeks there's been another one of these rounds, they happen about very six months of discussion in Israel about whether Prime Minister Netanyahu and Defense Minister Barack are moving toward a decision. Other than that...
REHMSo what, how much closer is Iran to building a nuclear weapon?
SANGERI don't think that the developments, that the international Atomic Energy Agency's going to announce next week which I described in the piece this morning. Move the timetable dramatically, even if they decided to make a run for a bomb, which the United States believes would be detected, the Israelis are more skeptical, it would probably be four to six months before they could a crude weapon.
SANGERIt would be probably two years before they could miniaturize something enough to put it on a, on one of its missiles and the U.S. argument has been, that's plenty of time. If the U.S. or Israel or others detected that that was happening that would be plenty of time for military action.
REHMMichele Kelemen, how likely is it at this point that Israel is going to continue plans to attack?
KELEMENWell, I think the planning will be there and I think the announcement will be there often to remind Iran that this is a possibility. Whether or not they do it, when they did it is a, sort of, there's a pallor game going on in Washington now, analysts all over the map here. I think most seem to suggest that it won't happen before the U.S. elections. That really next year is going to be the crucial year to decide what to do.
KELEMENYou know, President Obama has been pretty clear about saying I got your back, to Israel, saying containment is not a policy, that it's not his policy and that diplomacy and sanctions need to be given time. So if Benjamin Netanyahu does something soon, he's really going against President Obama's wishes.
FOUKARAWell, I think talking of Benjamin Netanyahu. Benjamin Netanyahu, he's obviously the prime minister of Israel. He has concerns for his country and he probably knows a lot more things than we know about Iran's nuclear project. But he's also a politician and I think politicians that's what they, that's what they do best. There are all sorts of gambles that they make and I think that the rhetoric coming out of Israel is part of the gamble domestically to reinforce his position politically but it's also to build up pressure on Iran.
FOUKARAI think that there's a kind of war of attrition going on. Remember that the more, there's talk of war against Iran, the more money the Iranians spend to protect themselves and prepare for that possibility. And Iran is under sanctions, increasing sanctions, which means that their financial resources are getting increasing scarce. I'm not saying that this war is not going to happen.
FOUKARAWe don't know if it's going to happen, it could happen. But there's the other factor, which is the geopolitical map of the Middle East is shifting. We have seen in the past when Mubarak, for example, was still the president of Egypt. We saw clear alignment with Israel and the Gulf States on the issue of Iran's acquisition of nuclear weapons.
FOUKARANow, we are seeing, we are seeing, it's still faint but we are seeing a new pattern emerging from Egypt. We are seeing the new Islamist president of Egypt making overtures to Iran. He's actually going, he's traveling to Iran to attend the...
REHMAs he is...
REHMExactly, as his UN chief, Ban Ki Moon, against the wishes of the U.S. and Israel, Michele?
KELEMENYes, that's right. You know, the U.S. and Israel both urged Ban Ki Moon not to go, saying it would send a strange signal. This is a time when the, when the U.S. wants to show how isolated Iran is diplomatically in the world and here Iran's going to be hosting this summit of the Nonaligned Movement, which is a large portion of the General Assembly of the United Nations. Its two-thirds of the General Assembly and Ban Ki Moon, his spokesmen said, you know, he understands the sensitivities about going at this time but he also has responsibilities.
KELEMENIt is a huge part of the United Nations General Assembly membership, countries that give UN peacekeepers and he sees this as an opportunity to bring a message to the leadership in Iran that it needs to clean up its act on the nuclear issue. It needs to deal with Syria in a different way, human rights, etc. We'll see if actually he brings those tough messages, though.
REHMAnd, David, Abderrahim mentioned the sanctions, but Iran suffered earthquakes a couple of weeks ago. Hasn't the U.S. eased those sanctions since then in an effort to try to help?
SANGERThey have allowed humanitarian aid to go through, but the sanctions themselves, the critical sanctions to the Iranians, have not been affected and those sanctions go to oil revenue. And this gets to a central argument that President Obama has been making to the Israelis in their behind the scenes conversations, which has been look the sanctions that really hurt, the ones that cut into oil revenue have really just begun this year and the most severe of them only began at the beginning of the summer.
SANGERSo you've got to give this time to see if this will bring about a change in political decision making. The Israeli view that Israel's been hearing that back through the Bush Administration and that through all the sanctions that the U.S. has imposed and that the Europeans have imposed and some of the European sanctions are now more severe than the American sanctions.
SANGERThe Iranian response has been the same, which has been isn't defected their decision making.
REHMDavid Sanger of the New York Times, Michele Kelemen of NPR, Abderrahim Foukara, Washington Bureau Chief of Al Jazeera Arabic. Do join us, 800-433-8850. Michele, what is the latest coming out of Syria?
KELEMENWell, I mean, the violence continues. It's getting worse and worse by the day, air attacks in towns. We heard from President Obama this week about what his red lines are for military intervention and that was a bunch of chemical weapons moving around. But I think one of the things that will be interesting to watch what Turkey's red lines are because the Turkish prime minister, Turkish foreign minister this week said that he can't handle 100,000 refugees and they're up to 70,000 already.
KELEMENSo what does Turkey do? There's a lot more talk now about the idea of a no-fly zone or a limited no-fly zone, a buffer zone along that border between Turkey and Syria and I think you're going to start hearing a lot more about that on the diplomatic front.
FOUKARAObviously, I think the opposition, the armed opposition that is in Syria, they have been more forceful of late in calling for a no-fly zone imposed over a part of Syria, the part of Syria that actually links Syria to Turkey. Because it seems to me that ultimately if there is a no-fly zone imposed it would have to be the Turks who would lead it.
FOUKARAI haven't so far heard anybody from the Syrian opposition calling for Western boots on the ground. So I think there's general consensus over that...
REHMAnd the only way that would happen is as you say, Michele, President Obama has said, we won't do anything unless the Syrians begin to use these chemical weapons. But Russia says it has guarantees Syria will not use chemical weapons.
SANGERDiane, I'm not sure that President Obama has said he will do nothing prior to use of chemical weapons. They've already obviously offering some nonlethal support to the rebels. They've been trying to do a fair bit covertly to help the rebels but the key element here for President Obama is that he's not doing what the U.S. did in Libya, which is no big air support because under the Obama Doctrine, if you can sort of intuit one, you only do that when you can do it in a sort of no casualty way and he hasn't figured out a way to do that.
REHMDavid Sanger of the New York Times, author of the new book "Confront and Conceal: Obama's Secret War and the Surprising Use of American Power."
REHMAnd welcome back. We have a posting on Facebook from Nicholas. He's asking, "How likely is it that Assad will step down or is the regime simply trying to buy more time?" Abderrahim.
FOUKARAI think that the fact that you have that come from the Syrian government and in Moscow, not in any other capital, Moscow being obviously the principal -- one of the principal supporters of Bashar is very significant. Before they always said no conditions -- no preconditions for talks, but they never said that Bashar's stepping down was on the table up for discussion.
FOUKARAMy sense is that there's obviously a clear pattern coming out of Damascus which is to send clear -- conflicting signals to the rest of the world. Yes, it is significant that now they're saying that Assad could be part of the negotiation package. How likely is that to happen? My sense is that the political DNA of the regime in Damascus pretty much similar in a similar way to the political DNA what we saw with Saddam Hussein when he was the leader of Iraq does not lend itself to him surrendering or stepping down. That's my hunch.
REHMAnd an email, "Doesn't Prime Minister Netanyahu have a political agenda of helping Mitt Romney win the election by keeping the Iran nuclear issue on the front pages," David?
SANGERWell, I think it's the Iranians who are keeping the Iran nuclear issue on the front pages. I mean, Prime Minister Netanyahu can certainly control the leaks that go on at various moments to try to pressure President Obama into greater concessions to -- or stronger statement to back the Israelis.
REHMBut there was that close relationship.
SANGERBut there is a very -- look, the tension between President Obama and President Netanyahu...
SANGER...Netanyahu is very palpable. It's no secret. These are two people who do not like each other. However, the prime minister also has to know that any new president coming in, even if it's his best friend A. may not act as toughly as he says when he's on the campaign trail. I realize this is a shock but it happens in campaigns on regular occasion.
SANGERAnd secondly, even if Governor Romney is willing to do everything that he has said during the campaign that he's willing to do, you have to assume that there's going to be a year to 18 months of any new president getting their feet on the ground, trying to figure out what the lay of the land is ,what their other options are, not eager to get the country in these conditions into another prolonged conflict.
SANGERAnd so if you're Prime Minister Netanyahu you have to think, as you're doing your calculation about whether or not to strike before or after the election, that even if Governor Romney is elected you're probably looking at mid 2014 before there's any significant action. At that point his intelligence chiefs come in and say, okay sir, here's our lay down of what we think the Iranian nuclear program will look like in 2014. At that point it became more important to him to deal with President Obama today.
KELEMENIt's also not clear how any of this plays into American politics. I mean, this is a war-weary country, not eager to see anymore conflicts in the Middle East. So playing this up in the tough talk right now may not help Mitt Romney.
FOUKARAAnd if I may just add one more thing. I mean, for all the tension that -- I agree, definitely palpable -- that probably exists between Obama and Netanyahu, Obama has done a lot of things that his predecessors had not done for Israel. I mean, example, it's probably the only administration that has voted against its own policy on settlement in the security council exposing the United States, not just to resentment in the Middle East, but also to ridicule.
FOUKARAThe Obama Administration overseas was ridiculed over exercising veto against a policy -- its own policy opposing the building of settlements in the West Bank.
SANGEROne more thing to add to this, it was Ehud Barak who's the one who's been pushing for an attack the most, who came out on radio the other day and said, there's never been an administration that has done more for Israel than the Obama Administration. So what was he talking about? He was certainly talking about the settlements issue. He was also talking about Iron Dome which is this antimissile program that President Obama has done more to.
SANGERAnd I suspect, though he couldn't talk about it in public, that he was referring to Olympic Games, which was the covert program that I discussed in "Confront and Conceal" to help in which Israel and the United States work together to undermine the Iranian nuclear program. And that was ramped up very dramatically when President Obama came in. And of course the big attacks on Iran all happened in 2009 and 2010.
REHMNow, just for a moment let's divert to a book that's due out next month by one of the Navy SEALs who apparently shot Osama bin Laden. How that book has made its way into publication, what the outrage of the military is, how he's going to get past the sensors. And apparently he did go around the sensors. How does this happen, David?
SANGERWell, he's retired, that's how it happens, okay. I mean, there's only so much the military can do to you once you have left their ranks.
REHMBut what about his pension?
SANGERI guess they could go after that...
SANGER...I suspect. I have no idea what the book advance was but I suspect the book advance was considerable. And that might mitigate whatever could happen in the future to his pension. It's not clear until you see the content of the book -- and I don't know anybody who has seen it...
REHMI have not.
SANGER...and I don't think there's been a copy released -- whether or not he violated anything that was classified. I mean, as the Republicans will point out in every advertisement and comment, the Obama Administration has been extraordinarily forthcoming details of what this raid looks like, okay. They gave briefings from the night the raid happened. Now it's possible that the version of somebody who was on the ground may diverge from the official version and that's what everybody will be looking for.
SANGERBut it would be a hard case for the government to make that the details of a raid that's long over, the building's gone, bin Laden's gone, is classified after the President of the United States and his aides went out and gave briefings on it.
REHMAnd of course that has become a campaign issue in and of itself with the Romney campaign blasting President Obama for releasing what they believe had been classified information. Isn't that correct?
SANGERThey have said that though nobody has ever been able to point out to me a single thing that came out in the course of those briefings that seemed to have a significantly classified nature. And of course the president has the right -- as President Bush did before him and President Clinton did before him -- to declassify information and make it public. And that seems to be what happened.
REHMAll right. Michele Kelemen, how bad is the problem of Afghan soldiers turning on Western troops? How widespread has this become and how can we deal with it?
KELEMENI think it's become a huge problem that the military's very worried about. One in ten deaths of NATO troops this year apparently have died from these insider attacks. And they're also Afghans on Afghan attacks that we're hearing about now too. And one of the problems has been, you know, the Taliban claim responsibility for a lot of these attacks infiltrating Afghan units, getting access to where Americans and NATO soldiers are. But a lot of them are apparently not Taliban. They're just personal grievances.
KELEMENAfghans -- General Allen yesterday even suggested that Ramadan may have played a role in this, that you had people who were hungry fasting. And it was a particularly hot time of year. I mean, I think he'll get in trouble for making those kinds of comments but they are worried about that kind of general personal grievances, problems that Afghans have with Americans being there. And that's something that's very hard to counter.
REHMHere's an email from Bob who says, "Regarding the shootings in Afghanistan, it's not becoming apparent the rhetoric coming from U.S. generals is political and not a military assessment. They're repeatedly offering up weak excuses as to the reasons for the shooting of American service personnel by supposed Afghan allies. They are overlooking the big picture. The people of Afghanistan do not want an occupying force and never have."
FOUKARAWell, I think there are two layers to this. I mean, people here in America, in the context of elections for example, talk about culture wars except that these culture wars are verbal culture wars. And I think in the context of Afghanistan, they are deadly -- this war in Afghanistan is becoming a deadly culture war. As Michele said, a lot of ordinary Afghans, it's just become inculcated in them that foreign presence, in this case U.S. presence in this country, is unacceptable. And then when you have an accumulation of events such as the burnings and the desecrations of the Koran, all that stuff builds up.
FOUKARAThe other more fundamentally worrisome, if you will, at least from the point of view of the Obama Administration level, is this total disconnect. What's happening is a reminder of the total disconnect in rhetoric and vision that exists between the Obama Administration and the Karzai Administration in Afghanistan. The U.S. is now saying that these are Taliban infiltrations. Karzai is saying, no these are infiltrations by outside powers. And obviously clearly he means Pakistan.
FOUKARAEither way, whether it's this or that, it just points -- it just illustrates the difficulty in which the Obama Administration -- and potentially the Romney Administration if Romney becomes president -- the difficulty of disentangling the United States from both Afghanistan -- the situation in Afghanistan and the situation in Pakistan.
SANGERYou know, military officials will tell you there is no more dangerous time for the troops than when you are finally withdrawing from a conflict. And that's what's happening now. I mean, the whole move from the time the surge was first announced at the end of 2009 to the president's announcement last year that the last of the surge troops will be out by the end of next month, September, to leave 68,000 Americans, has been to make the case that the United States is leaving.
SANGERAnd when the United States is leaving you're reducing your combat missions. You're trying to turn over more and more of the task to Afghans themselves. And that means much more interaction with Afghan troops whose vetting is, as we have seen, you know, pretty thin. And it may not be possible to vet them better. So you're arming these Afghan troops. You're alongside them and the big surprise I -- to my mind, is not the one in ten number that Michele mentioned, but that we didn't have this problem much earlier.
SANGERAnd we're enormously vulnerable to this and it explains why when you ask the military about their plans for next year, they tell you that by the summer of 2013 they want the U.S. pulled back from basically all combat role, playing some training role, but basically moving to staying on base.
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Let's talk for a moment about the mysterious so called death of Ethiopia's prime minister. What seems to have happened, Abderrahim?
FOUKARAWell, it seems that over the last few weeks he seems to have contracted some sort of incurable disease. That's at least what a lot of people believe in Ethiopia. But more than the disease, obviously what's of concern to both Ethiopians and to the neighbors and further afield to the United States, is the death of the man. He obviously transformed, during his reign, Ethiopia from a poor country -- remember some 20, 25 years ago Ethiopia was being ravished by famine. It was literally on its knees.
FOUKARAYes, and he rebuilt that country to become not just sort of self sustaining economically, but he also built it up to become a regional power. He was involved in Somalia, he was involved in Sudan. He helped South Sudan in its conflict with North Sudan, both when they were at a state of war, but more recently when they were trying to come to some sort of peaceful agreement over their conflict in Abyei. So he is of -- he was of enormous importance to the region.
FOUKARAWhether his successor, whoever it turns out to be, his current sidekick or somebody else, whether they'll be able to replicate that success, at least the success as described by his supporters, because he has many critics inside Ethiopia who thought that he did a lousy job on the human rights front.
REHMI guess there are still lots of questions about how he died. You've said a sudden infection, and that is what has been reported but no further information was given. I'm reading here, in the two month's since the prime minister's last appearance, the only Ethiopian newspaper that reported his illness was pulped, its office closed, its editor arrested. And further details of the prime minister's death surfaced only when an EU official confirmed that he died in a Brussels' hospital.
KELEMENHe was quite a repressive figure. I mean, he put away political opposition, he -- as well as free press. He cracked down on that. And it was interesting to see the Obama Administration's reaction because they said very little about his poor human rights record but praised him for all that he did on development that we just heard about, but also on security, you know, in addition to helping with Somalia. I mean, Ethiopian troops have fought against the El Shabbat militia in Somalia. He also has hosted -- Ethiopia hosts U.S. drones.
KELEMENSo the security relationship is quite tight and that's something President Obama's going to want to maintain with the successor.
REHMAll right. And something else going on certainly in Europe. French, German leaders met in Berlin to discuss Greece, the wider euro zone crisis. What came out of that meeting, David?
SANGERYou know, what has come out of this is more market jitters through the course of the summer. That the effort to keep the euro zone together and the effort to keep Greece inside the euro may yet ultimately fall apart. And, you know, we went through a period of time in the spring when we thought that the Greeks might leave. There are some who argue that it might actually be a better thing for Europe if Greece, which never met the requirements that they signed up for when they came in joined. And it could be that after a year of this process to keep them in, they may yet leave.
REHMDavid Sanger of the New York Times, Michele Kelemen of NPR, Abderrahim Foukara of Al Jazeera Arabic. Your calls next.
REHMAnd welcome back to the Friday News Roundup, the international hour. We'll go right to the phones to Tampa, Fla. Hi there, Mark, what's the weather like?
MARKOh, well, good morning, thanks for the call. The smartest show on radio, first-time caller. Well, really I have two storms here apparently. I'm wondering if your guests have any insight into the takeaway we might suffer from Akin's comments. I think he was -- that was a gift not only to the Democrats, but to all of us and inside this, too, that party's base. And they're faking, he didn't misspeak. He's articulated his thoughts perfectly.
REHMBut are you talking about an international reaction?
MARKYes ma'am, what do they think of us overseas when such ignorance is so obviously on display and is an integral part, I think, of the party and the ticket they're about to nominate.
FOUKARAI mean, in the part of the world that I'm from, North Africa and the Middle East at least, there's always been keen interest in how the U.S. political system works or does not work. And obviously with all these changes happening in the region, there's even keener interest in how the system in the United States works or doesn't work.
FOUKARAThere are a lot of people out there scratching their heads, even more baffled than many Americans are by someone running for office talking about legitimate rape. I live in the United States. Before the show, Michele and I were talking about this.
FOUKARAI didn't quite understand what he meant by legitimate rape. Is there an illegitimate rape?
REHMI don't think anybody understands it.
FOUKARAAnd the bafflement with regard to the American political system, a lot of people are scratching their heads, especially those people out there who know, who have an idea how the American political system works. This is a political system where any word you say, particularly in times of election, can carry a huge political price tag.
FOUKARAFor somebody like him in such a crucial race, in such a crucial state to be talking so flippantly about the issue of gender, it's very difficult to understand.
REHMAnd here we are in this country, certainly Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, talking all over the world about attention to women's rights.
KELEMENOf course, I mean, that's been a centerpiece of...
KELEMEN...her time as secretary of state so I do think there will be a lot of people scratching their heads given that there's mixed messages coming from the U.S. when you have all sorts of issues not just, you know, women's rights, but rape and child marriage. I mean, these are all issues that the U.S. brings up around the world...
KELEMEN...and puts in their human rights (word?) .
REHMLet's go to Pittsboro, N.C. Good morning, Jerry.
JERRYGood morning. Well, I was listening with great interest to the discussion about all these efforts to hype the differences with Iran. They seem to be kind of complacent about it. We're looking at a situation where a small Middle Eastern country, a friendly country with a kind of a harsh government, is trying to stampede our public into voting for their choice of a presidential candidate. And at the same time we're being delivered into the tender mercies of the oil speculators as our fuel prices rise, with all of this effort at justifying attacking a country that has not attacked anybody else, as they say, for centuries.
SANGERWell, it's an interesting question. Let's try to unpack it. Let me start with your second point which was the fuel price rise. I think the remarkable thing about 2012 given where we were at the beginning of the Iranian crisis here is that fuel prices fell. Now no one predicted that.
SANGERI mean, the whole idea was that as the United States put more and more sanctions on Iran and took the world's number two oil exporter and restricted, it didn't take them off the market, but probably cut a million barrels a day out of their ability to export, that at the same time we saw fuel prices and gas prices fall.
SANGERNow partly that was because demand has been down in Europe. It's been down in China. People got lucky in that regard. So if there were speculators as your caller suggested who have been involved in this I bet they lost money.
FOUKARAYou know, the Iranians, at least the Iranian government, they've been saying we're not trying to build a bomb, we're trying to build a nuclear power...
REHMA nuclear power...
FOUKARA...for peaceful purposes. The difficulty that the Israelis, particularly the Israeli government run into in the region is that among the people, not the governments of the region there is a lot of support for the Iranian position.
FOUKARAThey're saying even if Iran is trying to build a nuclear weapon, if the Israelis have nuclear weapons, why shouldn't Iran have a nuclear weapon? But Iran is obviously not just any country. Iran is regionally -- it's becoming an ever more powerful country.
FOUKARAIt has influence in Iraq. It has influence in Lebanon. It has influence in Syria. Bashar al-Assad would not be with us today probably had it not been for Iranian support. And the support that Iran has so far enjoyed among the people of the region is ironically eroding, principally because of the position that it has taken on Syria.
FOUKARAAnd more worrying the Iranians just like the Saudis have built up this whole discussion about the conflict in Syria and elsewhere in the region being a sectarian one, about the Middle East being who is going to rule in the Middle East? Is it the Sunnis or the Shiites? So you may or may not believe what they're saying about wanting to build peaceful nuclear facilities, but the fact is, they are a powerful country.
REHMAll right to Magdalena, N.M., good morning, Lawrence.
LAWRENCEGood morning, Diane, good morning, panel. I just want to get some clarity on one thing. I think when we speak about Iran and we speak about preemptive and Israel preemptively striking Iran and the United States backing that, who are Iran's allies? Okay, and I ask this question because of a pact that Iran and China signed some seven, eight years ago.
LAWRENCEI'm not clear on the timeline, but an energy pact that they signed which would make -- I would think that would make Iran a key interest for China. So can I get some clarity on that?
REHMSure, thanks for calling. Michele?
KELEMENWell, I mean, if you listen to the Americans, Iran's only ally really is Syria at the moment and that's seems to be going downhill. China is a much more complicated figure because China has been involved in the negotiations to talk Iran out of its nuclear program.
KELEMENIt has been relying a lot on Iranian oil, true, but the U.S. has been really encouraging Saudi Arabia to fill the gap and encouraging China to back off on that. I am not sure that China would come to Iran's defense if there was any kind of limited strike which is what the Israelis are talking about, strike on the nuclear facilities because like Russia, China has gone on record supporting U.N. Security Council resolutions demanding that Iran come clean on its nuclear ambitions.
REHMAll right and we have an email from Alex, who is aged ten, who says he loves listening to the International Hour. His question is, "Is it possible that Turkey might use military action in Syria?" David.
SANGERGreat question from Alex and I wish I could have gotten my kids at ten to listen to the International Hour. They're a little bit older now and, you know, I'm still working on it, Diane. Turkey could well end up taking military action, but pretty much all along their border, for them, it is all about border security for them. And you heard earlier about the concerns that they...
SANGER…the Turks have about the refugees who are pouring in. And you may remember that for a while there was discussion of creating some kind of safe haven border area between Turkey and Syria and nobody could figure out militarily how to go about that because it's not as if the area is cut off by some geographic figure like mountains or so forth.
SANGERSo it would take a huge number of troops to create that and that hasn't happened. But you may yet see the Turks pulled into this, if they believe this refugee flow is completely (word?) .
KELEMENAnd there's another thing drawing them in as well, which is the Kurdish population in Syria and now there's suspicions that Syria is backing a group called the PKK, which is a Kurdish militant group, which has been fighting with Turkey. So that's a way that they might also be drawn in.
KELEMENAs I understand it, along the border, David was just talking about it. There was a case where a Turkish jet was shot down early on in this conflict by the Syrians. The Turks have warned Assad to keep his air force away from that border and apparently they have. So there is that, but that could be another way it's drawn in.
FOUKARADiane, please allow me the privilege of talking to the ten-year-old.
FOUKARAI will be very brief. I promise. My sense is that if there's one thing that Bashar is probably hoping for is intervention from the outside world even from Turkey because that would. He still has some support among the populace in Syria.
FOUKARAAn intervention by the Turks who are the descendants of the Ottomans, who occupied Syria, and memory of Ottoman occupation is still fresh. Intervention by the West would, may ultimately help him more than hurt him.
REHMAll right, to Ameer al-Azim in Portsmouth, Ohio. Good morning to you.
AMEER AL-AZIMHello, good morning, Diane. Thank you for taking my call.
AL-AZIMI have been following what some of the comments and I just want to say the following. You know, right from the very beginning, we, you know, the international community has been averse and I would even argue, very unwilling to engage itself really or get itself involved in the Syrian uprising, primarily because of the consequences from that.
AL-AZIMBut there has been, but this has created a serious problem for us because as the international community shows this hesitancy and even aversion, you also have statements coming out from various generals in the army or even someone like, well, even Obama saying, well, we'll only change or we'll only use force if this happens.
AL-AZIMAnd every time a statement like that is issued, we see a spike in the violence. In the last 24-48 hours, we have seen, I think, a massive increase. In fact, through last week since that statement was made, we've seen another spike in the killing by the regime of the people on the ground and this is a serious problem for us. And we have tried to warn the administration that it is very important to try and lay down a red line where if you cross this line beyond reach, then there will be consequences and that has never happened.
REHMAll right, Michele?
KELEMENWell, that's been a problem from the beginning about the rhetoric versus the reality here. I mean, President Obama pretty early on said that Assad must go, but didn't follow up with policies that are going to lead to that.
REHMWell, Clinton said the same thing and.
KELEMENAnd it's raised expectations that this administration was not planning on leading.
REHMMichele Kelemen, she's diplomatic correspondent for NPR and you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Well, Prince Harry has been in the news this week for his trip to Las Vegas. What do you make of all this and the lack of coverage in Britain, Michele?
KELEMENMaybe they were hoping what happens in Las Vegas stays in Las Vegas, but I guess it doesn't happen in this case when it involves Harry.
REHMYou know, I caught myself wondering how the secret service who would presumably be around him would allow...
KELEMENWould allow photographs, I mean...
KELEMEN...that's really the question that I have in all of this. I understand the British press is now publishing some of the pictures given that they're all over the place on the internet. But that's the question is whether anybody is going to lose their job over that, letting somebody with a camera in there.
SANGERI'm sure it's British security that was probably, primarily responsible for him. And you know this gets to a question that the secret service is taken up frequently with kids, presidents' kids and vice presidents and all that particularly comes up when they're of teenage or young 20s age. They are there to protect them. They are not there to be their nannies and that's a very, very big distinction.
SANGERAnd so it's been an issue when presidential kids have gone to college. It's been an issue, you know, later on when they've been out, you know, at parties, which is to say they are there only to keep them from getting harmed, but they are not out there to go and tell them how to run their lives or under what moral code to run their lives. And it's a really, really tough thing.
SANGERSo cameras, you know, what are you going to do? Tell everybody that goes in to see, in the same room with Prince Harry that they can't carry a cell phone because what cell phone doesn't have a camera on it these days? And...
REHMI go through security at the airport and there's a certain amount of making sure what I have in my pockets is examined, you would certainly think that the same would be true when a member of the royal family is entertaining.
SANGERBut after you're through security, they give you your cell phone back, right?
SANGERBecause it's not a weapon.
REHMBut it's after you leave. Adberrahim?
FOUKARABut it's also like David said, it's also about the age where anyone now is a cameraman, anyone is a journalist with a cell phone. What I find most, even more extraordinary about this story is given the role that the tabloid press in British politics...
FOUKARA...has usually played. For them to have stayed away from that particular story is truly extraordinary.
REHMWhat do you make of it?
FOUKARAI don't know what to make of it. I find it totally, totally baffling because you would think that the story of Prince Harry -- and Prince Harry has had this reputation of being the rascal of the family. He's also had this reputation of being like his mother, like of a sort of rebel against the royal family and their rigid rules. But you would think that something like what happened in Las Vegas would be the kind of food that the tabloid culture in the U.K. really thrives on.
FOUKARAFor them to have stayed away from it at a time when they have actually shaped not just British culture, they have shaped electoral trends and given political victories and taken away political victories, for them to have stayed away from Harry, I guess it's the power of Harry. I don't know how to explain it.
REHMLast word, David.
SANGERWell, I guess the most interesting conversation that we won't read about or probably won't know about for sure is Prince Harry's explanation of this to the Queen. That would be an interesting conversation to hear.
REHMDavid Sanger, Washington correspondent for the New York Times and author of the book "Confront and Conceal," Michele Kelemen, diplomatic correspondent for NPR and Abderrahim Foukara, Washington bureau chief of Al Jazeera Arabic. I presume many of you are going to be here during the Republican National Convention.
REHMHave a great weekend and enjoy it everybody. Thanks for listening. I'm Diane Rehm.
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