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.
Republicans challenge the State Department over security at the Libyan consulate. The U.S. sends troops to Jordan to monitor the Syrian crisis. And outrage mounts over the Taliban’s shooting of a 14-year-old Pakistani girl. Abderrahim Foukara of Al Jazeera, Courtney Kube of NBC and Nathan Guttman of Channel 1 Israeli News join Diane for analysis of the week’s top international news stories.
- Nathan Guttman Washington correspondent for Channel 1 Israeli News and The Jewish Daily Forward.
- Abderrahim Foukara Washington bureau chief of Al Jazeera Arabic.
- Courtney Kube national security producer for NBC News.
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. Turkey forced down a Syrian bound passenger jet they say carried Russian military equipment. Pakistanis observed a day of prayer for the school girl critically wounded by the Taliban. And the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the European Union.
MS. DIANE REHMJoining me for the international hour of the Friday News Roundup, Abderrahim Foukara, Washington bureau chief of Al Jazeera Arabic, Courtney Kube, national security producer for NBC News, and Nathan Guttman, Washington correspondent for the Jewish Daily Forward. I invite you to be part of the program. Call us on 800-433-8850, send us your email to firstname.lastname@example.org, follow us on Facebook or Twitter. Good morning, everybody.
MS. COURTNEY KUBEGood morning.
MR. ABDERRAHIM FOUKARAMorning, Diane.
MR. NATHAN GUTTMANMorning.
REHMCourtney, let's start with the shooting of that young, 14-year-old child, Malala Yousufzai. She is clearly in very serious condition. First of all, why was she a target?
KUBEWell, she had been on the Pakistani Taliban, Tehrik-I-Taliban's hit list for several years. Back in 2009 when the TTP was in charge of that area, when they had taken over the Swat Valley, she began to blog. She was a little 11-year-old girl and she blogged about life underneath them and the atrocities that they perpetrated against young girls, women and all the people in that region, in that area.
KUBEAnd so she immediately became a target and earlier this week, several of these men, they walked up to her when she was in a truck, on her way home from school, 14 years old and they shot her twice. And they shot two of her little friends as well who are both in serious condition. They shot her in the head, you know. This is the person that this Taliban looks at as their biggest threat versus a military, a 14-year-old little girl who speaks out for her rights.
KUBEAnd she's in very serious condition. She was moving her arms and legs this week, but her cognitive functioning is up in the air.
REHMAbderrahim, there have been three arrests in regard to this killing. One person who is apparently the leader of the group, very much at large.
FOUKARAYes, absolutely, but I think that the broader picture here is of the tensions that exist within these societies, whether it's in Afghanistan or Pakistan. Because after the killing, there's been obviously an outpouring of emotion by many Pakistanis, who've felt totally outraged. And the issue...
REHMYou mean after the shooting because she hasn't died.
FOUKARAAfter the shooting, yes, yes, that's right. That's right. There were a lot of people who were very supportive of her cause, speaking out against the Taliban. And I think that the issue here is that the United States and NATO, even if they were successful in dealing with the military situation in places such as Afghanistan and Pakistan, the core of the issue remains within these societies themselves.
FOUKARAThis girl has been shot because she's been perceived by the Pakistani Taliban as a symbol of Westernized Pakistani and they absolutely hate that. But the other point that they have been making is about the general situation of women in Pakistan and Afghanistan. One of the points that they made is that there are a lot of people who are -- a lot of women who are detained by the Pakistani intelligence services and no one is paying any attention to that.
FOUKARAAnd if I may just make a final point, this is, in a way, reminiscent of what actually happened in Libya when Ambassador Chris Stevens was killed. There were a lot of Libyans who were totally outraged by the killing of Ambassador Stevens, who went out there to protest the killing, his killing. I think we are seeing a similar situation here. And I circle back to the argument that it's symptomatic of the split that actually exists in within these societies.
GUTTMANI think what'd also be interesting to see how this plays into the debate over here about how the United States relates to these groups. There was talk in the past, of course, them negotiating with Taliban and Afghanistan. To a certain extent, how does this actually play into that discussion? Is it relevant anymore or not? But also beyond that, will it reach some kind of a tipping point in Pakistan right now?
GUTTMANWill this tragic event that really shocked the society over there, will that cause some kind of an internal change? Will be this a moment where, to a certain extent maybe even like the Tunisia moment in which a revolution started or a change begins. And one more point would be, how does this make the West and the United States be seen over there? And to a great extent the United States has been an excuse for many of these attacks during, in the past and even now we saw in the Taliban statements, that they're talking about this pro-western activist. That's how they depicted her.
REHMA 14-year-old girl. How much of a threat could she actually have been, Courtney?
KUBEWell, I mean, it's fascinating. You know, the one thing that I can't get past on this is that they really look at her as a bigger threat, a bigger target than a military force, than a drone strike in that area. And that's because she has ideas and she has courage and she got her ideas out there. You know, she was just awarded a national prize for her writing, she had gotten a lot of media attention, which, you know, then goes to question whether that just really put her in jeopardy.
KUBESo she did represent a very fundamental threat to this Taliban, to their way of life, to what they want in that area.
REHMI wonder how you'd react to Nathan's point that in possibility of a tipping point with the Pakistanis who recognize how dreadful a situation this was.
KUBEI mean, I hope Nathan is right and I hope, you know, we have the street vendor in Tunisia. We have the activist in Egypt who created a revolution. I'm a little less optimistic that this will be that tipping point for, you know, back in 2009 there was a video that was released of this brutal murder, that the Pakistanis used as reason to bring the Pakistani military into Swat, clear out the TTP.
KUBEIt provided enough public sentiment against the Taliban that the people didn't object to the military operations but it didn't really turn them against the TTP. I mean, and you know, the sad reality is these extremists have carried out horrible atrocities like these before and it hasn't changed anything. And it's not just in Pakistan, as Nathan was saying, you know, in Afghanistan, I just got back from a month in Afghanistan and we would continually see instances of this where the Taliban executing a women accused of adultery, we had video of that while we were there.
KUBEA horrible story of woman we interviewed, whose daughter was murdered by her husband. He tortured and beat her to death and there were no repercussions because he had Taliban ties. And unfortunately, it's pervasive in that area.
REHMCourtney Kube, national security producer for NBC News. Do join us, 800-433-8850. Abderrahim, there was a congressional panel this week that held a hearing on the security situation at the embassy in, or the consult in Benghazi. What did we learn or was it simply an opportunity to bash the administration?
FOUKARAWell, unfortunately, for me personally, what I've learned -- I'm strongly reminded that the United States is in the throes of an election. Because an investigation that was supposed to look into to the conditions that led to the attack of the consult in Benghazi and to the killing of four Americans including Ambassador Stevens, has turned into an election issue.
FOUKARAAll the signs during that debate in congress yesterday were that the Republicans has concerned as they legitimately are about the safety of U.S. personnel in various parts of the world. But they have found a serious opening from which they can attack President Obama at a time of election nearing.
REHMAnd it was all about security. Nathan, how much when the State Department was asked for more, I gathered they claimed they did not have funds, did not have personnel. How did you see it?
GUTTMANBasically what Republican lawmakers were trying to say was that despite intelligence, despite reports that there is a real threat there and there are credible threats that people are trying to target the U.S. diplomats in Libya, both in Benghazi and in Tripoli. The State Department didn't send more security forces. And to that, one of the replies is that they just didn't have enough and that they've been undergoing cuts, budget cuts, led by Republicans in Congress and for this diplomatic security mission.
GUTTMANBut basically beyond the tactical issue of did they have enough forces to protect or not? I mean, it's unclear even if they would have enough forces, if they could stop it, I think definitely, as we've heard the Republicans seem to have identified this point where they can attack the Obama administration.
GUTTMANOn the broader issue of whether al-Qaida has been disseminated or not, whether they're still active or not, and this seems to be the political point.
REHMAnd there have been questions about whether the hearing actually revealed classified information, Courtney?
KUBEYes, there was some concern that a photo that was released was, showed more information about where the annex was, escape routes and whatnot. I mean, ultimately the State Department has the authority to unclassify their own information but, you know, Nathan made an excellent point about the size of the security force. Whether, in fact, one of the big arguments there was whether the 16 member military group should have been extended and should have stayed in Tripoli. But to his point, they may not have been in Benghazi during the attack to help anyway.
REHMCourtney Kube, Nathan Guttman, Abderrahim Foukara, they're here to speak with you in our next segment. Do join us, 800-433-8850.
REHMAnd welcome back to the International Hour of our Friday News Roundup with Courtney Kube of NBC News, Nathan Guttman. He's with the Jewish Daily Forward and Abderrahim Foukara of Al Jazeera Arabic. We'll open the phones very shortly, but I want to ask you, Nathan, about Turkey's interception of a Syrian-bound passenger plane. Why did that come about?
GUTTMANWell, it's definitely another sign of the escalation and this tension between Turkey and Syria. And it comes on the heels of a mortar attack of the Syrians across the border in targeting refugees and civilians in Turkey. What the Turkish government did is basically they sent in jets to intercept this civilian plan coming from Russia to Syria accusing it of carrying munitions into the Bashar al-Assad regime.
GUTTMANThat, of course, created a big uproar and a diplomatic incident between the two countries with Syria and Russia claiming that Turkey overstepped and that there was a civilian airplane carrying people and legitimate cargo that Turks still insist that it had munitions that shouldn't have gone to Syria and that were meant to support Assad's attempt to suppress the opposition over there.
REHMDid Turkey find military equipment or weapons onboard the aircraft, Courtney?
KUBEWell, Prime Minister Erdogan said that they did, that they found communications equipment, some missile parts apparently, some ammunition. I have not seen any video or photographic evidence of this, but the Turkish government came out and said that they found it. And then they did confiscate that equipment and then let the plane move along to Damascus.
REHMAnd, Abderrahim, Turkey warned Syria that it would respond forcefully if Syrian shells continue to land in Turkey. We've got a potentially very, very serious situation.
FOUKARAAbsolutely. I think that the Turks are now dancing on two different ropes. There's the rope of diplomacy. The prime minister keeps saying that we will seek a diplomatic -- will continue to see a diplomatic solution to the crisis in Syria. But at the same time he is saying that his country is coming under attack and that the sovereignty of Turkey is in question now and that he will not hesitate to defend it.
FOUKARAAnd I think his problem is that now he's dealing with a crisis in Syria. He's dealing with a domestic crisis because there's increasing opposition to his rhetoric about Syria. There's increasing fear among Turks, at least part of the Turkish society that Turkey may get bogged down in a military conflict in Syria. And they are opposed to that.
REHMWell, and of course you've got all these Syrian refugees fleeing into Turkey and the Turkish government feeling as though it's being just overburdened with them, Nathan.
GUTTMANDefinitely. Turkey is probably the country that has most to lose from a deterioration in the situation in Syria. But also I think Erdogan is playing a high-risk game here, which he could actually benefit from, if things work out the way he does. He's walking a thin line here between actually going to war against Syria and just threatening the Syrians. But if he succeeds Turkey can emerge as the only player who actually delivered the head of Bashar al-Assad so to speak.
GUTTMANAnd in a sense it could signal to the Muslim world and to the Middle East that Turkey is now an effective powerful regional player at a time when the United States and the West are sitting out on this conflict. And the Arab world is also very slow in getting into it.
REHMAnd in the meantime, Defense Secretary Panetta has revealed that the U.S. has sent military personnel to Jordan to monitor the Syrian crisis. Are we talking about troops, and if so how many, Courtney?
KUBEThey are troops. It's about 150 members of the military. But they're primarily logisticians, support personnel.
REHMBut, forgive me, isn't that precisely how Vietnam began?
KUBEYeah, and let's keep in mind that they've been there for several months without any warning. And they're not just there, they are helping with the Syrian refugee crisis of course, helping Jordan. But they're also there as essentially a quick reaction force in case the Syrian chemical weapons fall into wrong hands or become unsecured. Also, they're helping the Jordanian military prepare and train.
KUBEI mean, I think that one day, if this conflict continues to escalate and if in fact, you know, as Nathan was saying that Turkey, you know, they become a part of a real conflict of back and forth, they draw the Western world, they draw NATO in, I think this will be a point that we will look back at and say this was the first time that the U.S. based troops in that region for the specific region (sic) of some sort of response to Syria. And they're 50 miles, 30 miles from the border.
FOUKARACouple of quick points. I mean, to say that these U.S. personnel are in Jordan to help with refugees, it's very difficult to make that stick because Jordan has a lot of substantial experience handling refugees. Remember they handled refugees from Iraq for many years. They've been handling Syrian refugees for many years. They've been handling Palestinian refugees for decades. So to say that they are there to help the Jordanians deal with the issue of refugees sounds a little farfetched.
FOUKARABut I just wanted to go back to the high stakes game that the Turks are playing, as Nathan said. The flipside of the coin is if they do get bogged down in a war against Syria and Bashar -- everyone had said, okay, Bashar is seeing the writing on the wall. But this guy, he still seems to wield a lot of military influence and control. If the Turks get bogged down -- remember the Turks are the 16th economic power in the world. If they get bogged down in a war in Syria their economy goes does the tubes.
FOUKARAAnd remember, for all the U.S. support that the Turks are getting for Turkey to become a member of the European Union, there are a lot of Europeans who do not necessarily see eye to eye with the United States on that. And they would rather like to see Turkey weakened economically. Think about the Greeks for example.
REHMWell, and speaking of the Greeks, unemployment hit a record high of 25 percent as the country's financial crisis continues to intensify, Nathan. And of course Angela Merkel went to visit this week and protests in the street.
GUTTMANBasically she stepped into the lion's den. And Greece of course, because of their economic situation, has seen a lot of unrest. And a lot of this is directed at Germany, which has been leading the EU in enforcing Greece into these austerity measures. And that's very unpopular among the Greeks. We saw a huge protest and pretty harsh words used in these protests against Germany and against Merkel, references to the Nazis, to the Fourth Reich as they call it.
GUTTMANSo definitely it wasn't an easy visit although Merkel herself said that she actually came there to kind of broker a new era of good relationship between Greece and Germany and to make clear that Germany will be there to help the Greeks as they try to get out of this crisis.
REHMBut do you see Angela Merkel backing away in any sense from this push for more and more austerity from the Greeks?
KUBENo, not really. I mean, she's still pushing for continued austerity for increases in taxes. But she's hitting a tenuous point because she's within a year of her own reelection. Domestically in Germany the Germans are getting sick and tired of her dealing so much with the Greek economy at the expense of the German's. And she's really in a tenuous position now because she's essentially tied her own reelection, her own political future on the survival of the euro and the Greek economy. Which in essence she has not been able to help since all of these bailouts began, $300 billion in bailouts.
KUBEAnd the Greek economy, as you said, it's 25 percent unemployment, 50 percent unemployment for young adults. That's catastrophic. Think of that.
REHMAnd in the meantime what do we get but the Nobel Prize for the European Union, Abderrahim. What does that mean?
FOUKARAWell, the -- the timing -- in what Courtney has just said, the timing seems to be perfect. The time when the whole notion of the euro zone seems to be in the ropes the Nobel Peace Prize goes to the EU. And I think the EU has for many -- the Nobel Peace Prize committee has for a long, long time been thinking out of the box, if you will. I mean, think about giving the Peace Prize to President Obama at the very, very, very earliest stage of his tenure as President of the United States. Usually the prize is given to somebody who has achieved, who has done something. He hadn't done anything yet by that time.
FOUKARAFor the EU to get the Nobel Peace Prize winner -- Nobel Peace Prize at a time when Merkel, when she was in Greece a lot of people protested and a lot of people in Greece for example see her as a throwback to the days of the Nazis, it just shows you the kind of danger that the euro zone is in. And it sheds light on the time limits of the Noble Peace Prize going to EU.
REHMAnd who in the world is going to pick up the prize? How will the prize money be distributed? It's more than a million dollars. All of this very, very confusing. Moving on to last night's vice presidential debate. I'd be interested in your reactions to Congressman Ryan's points about Iran and the development of weaponry that he laid out and which Vice-President Biden totally contradicted, Nathan.
GUTTMANWell, basically this goes to the basic debate that also is going on between the United States and Israel. In a sense the position of the U.S. Administration is that we have time, time for diplomacy and for international pressure. And the reason you have this time is because even though the centrifuges are running in Iran they still did not reach this critical mass needed to actually build a bomb. And as noted yesterday, they don't have the delivery devices. Even if they have enough material to build a bomb there is no way they can use it because missile technology is difficult and they're not there yet.
GUTTMANIn the Republican view, which is closer in that sense to that of the Israeli government of Netanyahu, is that time is running out. They're almost there. And if you don't take action now, it will be impossible to take action later.
KUBEYeah, one thing that President -- or Vice-President Biden mentioned was, as Nathan was saying, the Iranians don't have the delivery mechanism. Even if they were able to create a nuclear weapon, they wouldn't be able to deliver it to -- certainly not to the United States. But the problem -- and Paul Ryan did not vocalize this as he should have if this is in fact what he meant -- is that once they reach that point of enrichment where they can create a nuclear weapon it would be too late to stop them. It could be that they've moved all their enrichment facilities too far underground to strike with any kind of a conventional weapon. So -- but he didn't annunciate that clearly enough.
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." And Abderrahim, Hugo Chavez won reelection as president of Venezuela. Six more years of very frosty relations with the U.S.?
FOUKARAAbsolutely. I mean, he obviously -- first of all, he seems to have won it with a relatively comfortable majority, a ten point lead on his rival. That's still more than ten points less than the difference last time. So obviously there is -- either there is a lot more disaffection among Venezuelans to his rule or his opponent has run a more effective and efficient campaign, although he's lost in the end.
FOUKARAOne of the things that I found absolutely fascinating about his victory is the call, for example, that he got from the Argentinean President Kirchner. And she was very enthusiastic about his victory. She spoke to Argentineans very enthusiastically about Chavez -- about the victory of Chavez. And you would've thought that a country like Argentina would not necessarily be so favorable to the kind of politics that Chavez is running. But he has a lot of support, not just in Venezuela, in Latin America. And remember he has very strong ties to people as far afield as Syria and Iran. So those will also be celebrating that victory.
REHMAll right. We'll open the phones now, 800-433-8850. First to St. Petersburg, Fla. Good morning, Anthony, you're on the air.
ANTHONYGood morning. I wanted to make a point about the debate and the fact that Vice-President Biden clearly drew distinctions between where the Republicans would take us and where the Democratic Party and their platform stands. And I think he made that distinction very clearly on Afghanistan that in 2014, we will be out of there period and they can defend their own country. And I think that was very clearly stated.
ANTHONYI also think he clearly stated many other points on foreign policy where it shows that we are doing a reason diplomacy versus scare tactics and fear tactics when it comes to Iran, where we should jump the gun, where we should have a doubling effect on what we're going to spend on defense and where we're not going to be using a reason to perch when it comes to diplomacy because we're fearful that they may develop a weapon, when in fact they cannot have a weapon to deliver the physical materials.
GUTTMANWell, I think, first of all, we should keep in mind that Paul Ryan isn't a foreign policy guy. He never was. He's a budget person and as Courtney mentioned earlier. Maybe he had some difficulties actually communicating some of the things that the Romney/Ryan campaign actually believes in in terms of foreign policy. But I think the point he was trying to make was to shake this notion that the Obama Administration has a real policy regarding the Middle East and the Arab Spring.
GUTTMANWhen he spoke about Benghazi being the face of the Obama foreign policy, basically what he was trying to say is -- and this goes back to Mitt Romney's foreign policy speech last week -- he was trying to say, listen, this idea of leading from behind, of allowing events unfold before we intervene, this isn't working out. And I think this would probably be the main foreign policy message that the Romney/Ryan ticket has.
KUBEI was really struck by Vice-President Biden's emphatic statements about Afghanistan, that they're -- no matter what, the U.S. troops will be out of there at the end of 2014. And in reality that's not 100 percent true because there's be an advise and assist team of some sort. The numbers are all over the place from hundreds to ten, fifteen thousand. But that was established in May with the agreement with the U.S. and Afghanistan, that there would be a continuing force until 2024. And the knowledge that the U.S. and NATO is leaving at the end of 2014 is palpable in Afghanistan right now.
REHMCourtney Kube of NBC News. Short break and when we come back, your calls. Stay with us.
REHMAnd welcome back to the International Hour of our Friday News Roundup and our first two emails on the Libyan attack, the first one from Dan in Orem, Utah. He says, "Your panel discusses nothing having to do with the real issues of the Libyan attack. The real security failure and deaths, the outrageous cover-up and smokescreen of deceit by the Obama administration by Susan Rice and others, the clear contradiction of Obama claims that al-Qaida is defeated and decimated."
REHMAnd here's a contrasting email. "In the course of last night's debate," writes Nancy, "Vice President Biden made the point very specifically citing funding that applied to embassy security." The Republicans stopped it. So please comment. Courtney?
KUBEWell, Nancy's right, there was a decrease in funding of security for embassies. I think it was $300 million, but don't quote me on that. The problem is to take that on its surface is probably not fair to the State Department, frankly. If they have a pool of money and they have dangerous embassies, they're going to do what they can to get the resources to the embassies that need it.
KUBEIn this case, and this is not unusual, the State Department determined that they wanted Libyan forces, in this case a Libyan militia, to provide the perimeter security around the consulate and the annex in Benghazi. I think that people will debate forever, for years to come, whether that was an intelligent decision or not.
REHMBut what about the argument that there were no protests going on outside the embassy. When the attack actually began, protests in regard to that film that apparently a lot of people thought set off a riot. Nathan?
GUTTMANWell, that was the notion here in Washington as well and that's why I think it's reasonable to accept the administration's explanation that in the fog of war and with things changing on the ground all the time, it wasn't really clear what started what, whether the attack was before the protest or after or during and who did it.
GUTTMANSo I mean, definitely there was a security failure because you have four Americans killed. But whether there was any kind of cover-up, it seems to me reasonable to accept the idea that it's hard to know. It's hard to know what's going on far away when the situation is still changing all the time.
FOUKARAI mean, I think as Courtney said way at the outset of this program, we still do not know everything we need to know about the conditions that made it necessary for Chris Stevens to be in Benghazi rather than in Tripoli, so that's number one.
FOUKARANumber two, the New York Times published the story two weeks ago that Benghazi was -- there was a CIA station in the Benghazi consulate. So it's not just the issue of the protests with regard to the anti-Islam film, protesters creating conditions for the consulate to be attacked. Clearly, whoever attacked it knew that there was a CIA station there and that was the intent.
FOUKARAAnd we don't hear a lot about that. And finally, the challenge that the Obama administration faces is, how do you make American personnel in places such as Libya safe without infringing the sovereignty of that country which is supposed to become a close ally of the United States?
REHMAlright, to Cape Cod, Mass., good morning, Brian.
BRIANAh, good morning. May I say, Diane, I'm a big fan of the show and I truly appreciate your skill and insight as an interviewer and a host.
BRIANAnd I'm one of those people to takes a big sigh when anyone else hosts the show, you know. I would like to say, first point real quickly, it doesn't even need to be responded to is that I challenge anybody to watch the full debate all the way through, as hard as it might be, and tell me at the end of it that there was a clear winner. You know what I mean? It was pretty lackluster.
BRIANBut my point that I was calling for was this girl that was shot. I appreciate your panelists, you know, point of view that she, you know, that the Taliban takes her as a threat and I appreciate what she's trying to do, you know, make it seem like, you know, other people should stand up, but I mean, truly.
BRIANI mean, no one is going to care. You know what I mean? And in two weeks' time, like a week later, it's been a week or so, no one is going to care. And the fact of the matter is the reason the Taliban, you know, they don't feel that that's a threat and that's why they could do it. I mean, that's why they shot this poor girl and two of her friends because they -- I mean, with no regard and that's why, because they don't think that they're a threat.
BRIANAnd they know that, you know, some people might read their newspapers in the morning and, you know, so what? I mean, some Pakistani people gasped.
BRIANYou know, they gasped when they read the paper, but there's nothing that's going to come of it, you know.
KUBEWell, Brian, you're right that this -- I agree. I don't think this is going to cause a seismic shift in sentiment in Pakistan, but what I will say is that every horrible incident, every atrocity that gains attention like this, it does shift a little bit of feeling. It does push a little bit of sentiment, hopefully at least, in the Swat Valley against the TTP and against the notion that, you know, they shot a little girl. They shot three little girls.
KUBEThis is their enemy, helpless little girls. So all we can say is try and be optimistic that perhaps with every terrible incident like this, if we give it the attention, that maybe over time there will be some sort of a change.
REHMAll right, thanks for calling, Brian. Let's go to Indianapolis. Good morning, Glenn.
GLENNGood morning, Diane, and thank you for all that you do.
GLENNMy question is related back to Iran and the focus seems to be on their lack of missile delivery systems and that should somehow make us feel safe because they can't deliver it. In the history of the world, the only atom bombs that have been delivered have been delivered on aircraft and they're readily available. And so I wonder why do you think the focus is on the missile delivery system?
GUTTMANWell, I think the notion is that aircraft are easier to deal with. Most countries in the region have pretty good air defense systems and it's harder to imagine right now an attack as we've seen during World War II. In that sense, technology is different nowadays and the most effective way of using a nuclear weapon would be as a nuclear warhead for a medium or long-range missile.
GUTTMANSo in that sense, this is an important factor. There is, of course, a question of can you just transfer nuclear capabilities to terror groups? Can you produce a dirty bomb? Can you use it as a threat? These things can definitely happen without a delivery system.
REHMSo no matter who is elected, this issue of Iran developing a nuclear weapon and a delivery system, that's not going to go away no matter who is in the Oval Office?
FOUKARANo. I don't think it's going to make a big difference. I mean, during the General Assembly of the United Nations when the Iranian president was in New York, Ahmadinejad, there were some people like the former mayor of New York, Rudy Giuliani, saying if the Obama administration has been able to change, to affect regime change in Egypt and affect regime change in Libya, why can't they affect regime change in Iran?
FOUKARAWell, the simple answer to that is that Iran is not Egypt and it's not Libya. Iran's influence is tentacular. The stability of Iraq, if there is such a thing as stability in Iraq, depends on the Iranians. They wield a lot of influence in Syria. They wield a lot of influence in Lebanon with Hezbollah. They wield a lot of influence in Afghanistan.
FOUKARASo I do not see how Romney could do something very different from what the Obama administration has been trying to do as far as the Iranians are concerned.
REHMIke in Bardstown, Ky. asks if there are any Muslim groups that have denounced the shooting of the 14-year-old publicly.
KUBEThere were and not only were there some, there were some Muslim extremist groups that have denounced the shooting. And you know, both Mike and Brian make the point of, what has been the reaction and what will that cause? What will that generate? There were rallies. There were more rallies today after Friday prayers. Schools were closed and it was girls. It was women and they were out in the streets. They were supporting this young girl.
KUBEPolitical leaders in Pakistan have supported her. They've offered to pay her hospital bills. So I mean, while this may not cause a seismic change, as we said before, there has been some support and there is potentially a little optimism out of this tragic.
REHMBut on that point let's take a call from Vera in Blacksburg, Va. Good morning.
VERAGood morning, Diane, thank you for your Friday News Roundup show. I'm also calling about the young girl in Pakistan who was attacked. And as unlikely as it seems, the first thing that I thought of when I heard that story was the relationship or the correlation between that and the first, "The Hunger Games."
VERAThe movie "The Hunger Games" where the young female protagonist became a standard bearer for the cause, a revolution and I'm wondering given that, is there a chance that this girl could become the standard bearer for some kind of change?
VERAI know your speaker earlier said that that was not likely, but it feels different this time. It feels like the outrage is so great and so widespread, not only in Pakistan but across the world, that something could come of it.
GUTTMANWithout reading the book or watching the movie there's always this chance. There's always this chance that a person becomes a symbol of something. We've seen it throughout history. We've seen it in Eastern Europe in the past. And people, tragic stories do grab attention and have the potential at times if the conditions are ripe on the ground to make a real change and that's basically what it depends on.
GUTTMANAre the people in Pakistan sick and tired of the Taliban? Are they willing to stand up? If so, if there is this feeling on the ground, then this tragic story could trigger a change, but it depends on that.
KUBERemember, there was also a case not long ago during the Green Revolution in Iran of a young woman who was killed. She was shot during the protesting and her video and picture were everywhere and everyone thought that she would become a symbol for change in Iran and sadly that didn't happen.
FOUKARAI mean, the notion that outrage could cause tectonic shifts in a situation, that's not necessarily guaranteed. I mean, if you look at the outrage of the killing of dozens, hundreds of Syrian children, for example, over a period of two years and every time you say, okay, the situation in Syria because of this outrage has reached a tipping point, and yet because the forces that want that situation to continue are still there.
FOUKARAThe Russians, they support Bashar al-Assad. The Iranians support Bashar al-Assad. The Saudis and others support the opposition. There is outrage, but that outrage does not necessarily mean that there's going to be a tectonic shift.
REHMAbderrahim Foukara of Al Jazeera Arabic and you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Here's an email from Brian in Dallas who says, "Months ago, Dr. Brzezinski posited that the Syrian conflict could become internationalized. He predicted Syria would align with Iran and Russia and Turkey would be drawn in because of proximity, possible co-opting NATO. A global, at the very least, we would have a regional conflict that could morph into a global one if China and Japan decide to pick sides although this outcome is unlikely. History shows that both world wars were spawned by relatively insignificant events until treaty alliances drew the global powers in." Courtney?
KUBEOnce again, Dr. Brzezinski is genius. I mean, Brian makes an excellent point. One of the first things I thought when I heard about the mortar that went across the border into Turkey was -- and then Turkey responding. Turkey responded again today. There was a Syrian helicopter that went near the border with Turkey and Turkish jets were scrambled and are now patrolling across the border.
KUBEThere does not seem to be any stop to this escalation between Turkey and Syria. And keep in mind that once a member of NATO is attacked, all members of NATO are attacked and that draws in the international community.
REHMNathan, are you equally as gloomy about prospects here?
GUTTMANI actually don't share this doomsday scenario mainly because I think Russia is an important part of this. And while the Russians are playing definitely a negative role in this whole conflict and are doing all they can to make things more difficult for the West and to help the Assad regime, I really don't think that Russia right now is willing to send forces, to get into war, to take real action in order to protect Assad. That seems to be too far for Moscow right now.
FOUKARAI think I second what Nathan has just said with one exception and that exception has to do with how you define war. I mean, if you look at the situation -- for example, before I talk about Syria, if you look at the situation between Iran on the one hand, Israel and the United States on the other, there's a lot of covert action on both sides and people have been killed in those covert operations on both sides.
FOUKARAIs that war? To many people, yes. It is war and I think in the case of Syria, particularly in the Turkish case, I mean, how do you define war? You have rockets, Syrian rockets landing into Turkey. You have the Turks conducting reprisals. If that is not war already, I don't know what is.
FOUKARAThere is definitely also a proxy war going on in Syria, right?
REHMSo you are very gloomy?
FOUKARAI'm very gloomy. I think that the conflict initially was Syrian, but it stopped being purely Syrian a long time ago. It has become a regionalized conflict and it has become an internationalized conflict.
GUTTMANI hope and think that the sides will know when to stop before turning this into a real international conflict, which I think goes back to the vice presidential debate that we saw last night. That was basically the point that Vice President Biden was trying to make is that you have to be very careful in pouring arms in and in making statements because this is a very volatile region and because you don't know how these things are going to end.
GUTTMANAnd while Bashar al-Assad is fighting for his life, other players involved in this do have other interests as well and they could have more reason and make other considerations.
KUBEThe one thing that we need answered here is what, if anything, will make Bashar al-Assad stop? And at this point, it's been 19 months. There are 30,000 plus people dead. Syria is wiped out. What would make him stop? He has no incentive at this point.
KUBEI agree with the point about Russia not wanting to get involved in the conflict, but I don't see why Bashar al-Assad will stop attacking his people for any reason.
REHMCourtney Kube, national security producer for NBC News, Nathan Guttman, Washington correspondent for The Jewish Daily Forward, Abderrahim Foukara, Washington bureau chief of Al Jazeera Arabic. One day, we hope there will be peace in the world. Thank you all.
REHMAnd thanks for listening all. I'm Diane Rehm.
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