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The world reacts to President Barack Obama’s reelection. China launches a once-a-decade shift of power. And Russian President Vladimir Putin fires his defense minister. Diane and a panel of journalists discuss the week’s top international stories, what happened and why.
- Elise Labott CNN foreign affairs reporter.
- Yochi Dreazen senior national security correspondent for National Journal magazine.
- Abderrahim Foukara Washington bureau chief of Al Jazeera Arabic.
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. The world reacts to the reelection of President Obama. China ushers in new leaders and Syria's president vows he'll never be forced into exile. Here in the studio for the international hour of the Friday News Roundup, Yochi Dreazen of National Journal, Elise Labott of CNN and Abderrahim Foukara of Al Jazeera Arabic.
MS. DIANE REHMDo join us, 800-433-8850. Send us your email to email@example.com, follow us on Facebook or Twitter. I look forward to hearing from you. Good morning everybody and welcome.
MR. YOCHI DREAZENGood morning, Diane.
MS. ELISE LABOTTGood morning, Diane.
MR. ABDERRAHIM FOUKARAGood morning, Diane.
REHMYochi Dreazen, generally speaking what has the world's reaction been to the reelection of Barack Obama?
DREAZENFirst, I think part of it is just, thank God it's over. And I think they were as confused, as worried and wondering as we all were about how it was going, if it was going to go smoothly, would there be another long recount. And when you read the press of almost every country in the world, you get a sense of thank God there's no more.
DREAZENThe places where I think it's been the most interesting, one, is in some of the EU countries, because they're trying to figure out do they do this massive bailout of Greece. They weren't sure what Romney would've done had he been in office. He's talked about how he doesn't want to bail out Greece and there's a lot of concern that the U.S. wouldn't even quietly back it.
DREAZENThere's a lot of concern to a degree in both Israel and the Sunni parts of the Arab world about what does this mean with Iran? There's obviously this incident with the drone we'll talk about and Israel's really fascinating. I mean, there you have legitimate concern which you're hearing publicly from members of parliament, from other rival candidates that Netanyahu basically screwed this up.
DREAZENThat he embraced Romney very publicly. More interestingly, he embraced Sheldon Adelson, who is Romney's biggest donor, roughly $100 million in the campaign. Sheldon Adelson funded, with his own money, what is now the biggest newspaper in all of Israel. It's a free newspaper, it's putting the other newspapers almost out of business. And it's basically a mouthpiece for Likud.
DREAZENSo you have this really interesting dynamic of massive right wing money, not just here, but there. And this question of, did Netanyahu go too far in meddling in American election?
LABOTTI think also there's a bit of a sense of relief in some of these countries. You know, President Obama wasn't ultimately, in the end of the day, he won a lot of popularity when he was first elected. I think that there was some disappointment in some countries, particularly in the Arab world, as Yochi mentioned.
LABOTTBut I think in countries like China, in countries like Russia and in countries like Iran where Mitt Romney had promised a much more muscular approach towards Iran, he said -- called Russia geopolitical foe. He said that he would call China a currency manipulator on day one. So I think that sense of relief is as interesting as the fact that maybe people aren't thrilled with Obama. In Iran for instance, people are saying listen, we don't love Obama but Mitt Romney would've been disastrous for Iran and the Muslim world.
FOUKARANow, I absolutely second what Elise has just said. The fact that there's relief in large parts of the Arab world, that Obama has been reelected for the second term is not by definition or necessarily an endorsement of the policies that he's pursued over the last four years. But it is a sense of relief because of a lot of people listen to Romney's positions and they heard in them echoes of George Bush's positions. And given the fact that a large number of Romney's advisors had served under George Bush, that brought back memories of the invasion of Iraq, the invasion of Afghanistan.
FOUKARAI think what went unnoticed is that Barack Obama was no less of a hawk in many areas than George Bush was. The issue of the drones killing civilians, the issue of his position on Israel has been criticized by the supporters of Netanyahu, that he's taken a tough line on Netanyahu. But remember that he's done some amazing deals, supplying weapons to Israel. More than that he vetoed his own position on the building of settlements in the UN Security Council.
REHMSo what do you see as Obama's top foreign policy priorities?
DREAZENJust one quick point, Abderrahim's very good point. The specific area where there was a lot of concern especially in the U.S. Treasury, with sanctions. The sanctions that are in place now are devastating Iran. There's no question about it, they can't sell their oil. There's thing called flagships where they're just having their oil literally sit on tankers and sort of cruise, trying to find somewhere to unload it. Their currency has plummeted, unemployment is soaring.
DREAZENAnd the fear was, Romney comes in, as Abderrahim said with George Bush rhetoric and the sanctions which are fragile in terms of European support, Russia support evaporate. I think to your question, there are four issues. Two he has to deal with, one he sort of vaguely knows in the long term he has to deal with. One he desperately wants to deal with.
DREAZENThe two immediate ones are Iran and Syria. Assad doesn't seem like he's falling, he's sort of toppling a little bit but, wobbling a little bit. So do you arm the rebels, do you consider air strikes? What do you do if the slaughter continues in Syria? Obviously in Iran the shooting at a U.S. drone, if there is any attempt by the Iranians to lash out at U.S. targets even for domestic consumption, to say, hey we're not going to be bullied on sanctions.
DREAZENIran is the second, China, what do you do when you've got China rising as a regional superpower especially on the South China Sea where you have Vietnam, other Asian countries really terrified about what to do with China. And the fourth one, I think frankly the most interesting one, he desperately on a deeply personal level, wants an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal.
DREAZENHe's wanted this since he was in Chicago. He's talked about it since he was in Chicago. Every president typically in their second term, Bill Clinton, George Bush, they all talk about it, very little success. Obama, on a very deeply personal level, almost a spiritual level, wants that deal.
REHMLet me take you up on that a little bit. Yesterday I heard one commentator say that because Obama had such a rough time the first time he came into office very gun-ho, over doing something over the Israeli-Palestinian issue he was rebuffed, he was knocked down so he decided to let go of it. And now he will simply kick it down the road until some new crisis evolves and then look at it again, kick it down the road again.
LABOTTI think the intention is to want to do something, Diane. I think that he noticed that the day he took office or second day, came to the State Department, big show, appointed George Mitchell as the special envoy and said, "I'm going to have a peace deal in my term." The reality on the ground, all the other issues, the Syria, the Arab Spring, the lack of will from both parties really prevented that.
LABOTTAnd I think that he wants to try again, but you have all these crises. You have what's going on with the Syria, you have what's going on with Iran and you have the fact that Benjamin Netanyahu is likely to be reelected in January. President Abbas is talking about going to the United Nations once again to seek statehood status. So the odds are against him but I think he really wants to be this legacy.
LABOTTI think his primary challenges as Yochi said, are Iran and Syria really right now. Yesterday, Dennis Ross, who was his former advisor on the Mid-East, gave an address on the foreign policy challenges, said 2013 is going to be a decisive year. if you look at all the advancements in Iran's nuclear program, if you look at how the sanctions are hurting the regime and if you look at the third area of the triangle, Israel and the threat of military action, you can't go beyond 2013 without this coming to a head.
FOUKARAI think what Yochi said a little while ago, he is definitely interested in doing something about Israel-Palestine. Remember, the Israel-Palestine issue became an issue of personal humiliation for him, for Barack Obama, when Netanyahu visited him at the outside of his first term in office. They came out of the meeting and in public he said, "I want Israel-Palestine to be top of the agenda." Netanyahu in public retorted, "No, I'm sorry, I want Iran to be top of the agenda."
FOUKARAAnd I think that for all that left to his own devices, I think his instinct is probably to want to focus on his feeling that the United States is a Pacific nation rather than an Atlantic nation. He would want to focus on China, in particular, but I think he's in a situation reminiscent of the "Godfather," where he says, "Every time I want to get out, they pull me back in."
FOUKARAHis interests in the Middle East, the U.S. interests in the Middle East are so great and the risks are so big and the opportunity is the potential, the opportunities are so great. It's going to be very difficult for him to focus singularly on China.
LABOTTYes, and a lot of experts are saying while President Obama has the opportunity to kind of fulfill his so-called strategic pivot to China, which was very ambitious but largely unfulfilled, you can't forget what's going on in the Mid-East. You can't forget what's going on in the Gulf and with Iran. And so I think the fear as he pivots towards Asia, he can't really neglect the Middle East.
DREAZENYou know, just two very quick points. One, it's a question of what can he do with Israel. For a second, one thing he could do which would be popular and influential there would be go to Israel. When he was in Cairo, on his Cairo trip, he didn't go. You can argue many presidents in their first term including what we consider very pro-Israel president in their first term didn't go. But it was seen in Israel as a major slight.
DREAZENEspecially for a president coming in where the Israelis weren't quite sure what to make of him. Some of that frankly was racist, just not knowing what to make of somebody with a name like Barack Hussein Obama. Some of it legitimately worries about a person who comes from a center left rather than a center right.
DREAZENBut if you go to Israel as an American president, I've been on some of those trips, Israel goes crazy. They listen in a way they don't listen if it's coming from a distance. So if he were to go physically, which I assume he will since he didn't go his first term that will have an enormous, enormous impact.
REHMBut his first trip has already been announced hasn't it?
LABOTTWell, this is still in his current term. He's going to Asia and AIPAC and he'll be visiting Burma, which is one of the great foreign policy successes, I'll say, of this administration. You know, this is an example of a president making good on the promises if you reform. He's going to see President Thein Sein, look at what Thein Sein has done in terms of democratic reforms in China. Aung San Suu Kyi is now a member of parliament, out of jail and President Obama is going to show a message that if you follow the path of democratic reform, you can get a presidential visit.
REHMElise Labott, foreign affairs reporter for CNN. Do join us, 800-433-8850, I look forward to speaking with you.
REHMAnd welcome back. With me for the International Hour of the Friday News Roundup the immediate one following the reelection of President Barack Obama to a second term in office, Yochi Dreazen of National Journal magazine, Elise Labott, foreign affairs reporter for CNN and Abderrahim Foukara. He's Washington bureau chief for Al Jazeera Arabic. You are welcome to be part of the program. Give us a call, 800-433-8850. Yochi Dreazen, how strong is the Syrian president's hold on power?
DREAZENYou know, you had a very interesting incident this week in which Syrian revels shelled Assad's palace in the middle of Damascus. They didn't hit it or do much damage but simply the ability to be in Damascus close enough that you could lob--these aren't long distance rockets being fired from five or ten miles away. These are crude artillery pieces that you have to be relatively close even to fire. So the fact that they can get that close to the palace they will get better. They will target more accurately. It's a very interesting thing.
DREAZENYou have Turkey wanting NATO to give them patriot missiles for their border. Erdogan, the Turkish leader, has talked tough on Syria, hasn't had much success. But if this happens, if there are NATO missiles on the border with Turkey and Syria that's obviously major escalation because there's the problem and the question of can NATO be pulled into it. If, let's say, a NATO radar battery is destroyed by the Syrians how does NATO respond?
DREAZENIt's a -- so you have multiple military things happening, which suggests that Assad is possibly wobbling. At the same time, he is still in power. This is years into it and the violence has not stopped.
LABOTTWell, and I think you're going to see a much more muscular approach, not just by the United States, but by NATO countries, by the Arab League, in terms of how to deal with this crisis. I think you could see, as Yochi was saying, more support for a no-fly zone. If Turkey were to be the leader in this type of exercise than you could see other countries, you know, supported in some way. I think you'll also see more arming of the rebels because the more the Islamists are the ones with the guns and the money, the more they're going to have the power the day after.
LABOTTThirdly, you have a conference right now going on in Doha with the opposition. This is a real effort by the United States, by Qatar, by Saudi Arabia and Turkey to revamp the opposition. The complaint has been that the Syrian exiles, the SNC are not organized. They're bickering while the people on the ground, the ones fighting, the ones dying, the ones actually doing the hard work for the day after are not getting enough support. So the efforts in Doha that could revamp this opposition could make it a much more viable entity and it could get a lot more support from the International Community to move this forward.
FOUKARABashar Assad has obviously already reacted to the reelection of Barack Obama and he seems to be very well informed about U.S. politics. And he seems to be very...
REHMCourse, he was educated in this country.
FOUKARAWell, he was educated in the UK, but he knows from all the statement that have come out of Damascus, he seems to know exactly what's been going on here in the U.S. He's very familiar with the school of thought, that Elise just flashed out now, that with a reelection of Barack Obama, he'll be freer to arm the opposition and give them heavy or heavier weapons.
FOUKARAHe's also -- but to that he said, I think it was yesterday, that if there is foreign intervention in Syria, the cost of it to the world would be much greater than anything that the world has seen according to him.
REHMSo powerful threats coming out.
FOUKARAPowerful threats, yes. He's also reacted to British Prime Minister's position, David Cameron's position a few days ago when he was in the Gulf. And he said that if Bashar al-Assad is interested in safe passage out of Syria, that could be arranged. And Bashar said, I'm Syrian. I'm not going anywhere. So he seems to be talking from a relative position of strength. But remember Saddam Hussein had said exactly the same thing. I'm not going to leave Iraq. I'm Iraqi. Gadhafi said exactly the same thing. I'm not going to leave Libya because I'm Libyan. So you could read it both ways.
REHMNow, Yochi, you had an interesting story about some communication between Bashar al-Assad and a young Syrian woman here in the States.
DREAZENThis is one of the weirder stories in this broader tragedy. You had a Syrian American woman who was interning for Barbara Walter on "The View" who had been emailing with Bashar Assad, basically almost crush notes about how handsome he was, how good he looked on television, sort of oddly encouraging him. These were hacked. It turned out that Bashar al-Assad had a Yahoo email account. Literally, the password was 12345. So these emails were hacked.
DREAZENThey were then leaked because you had this weird scenario of this teenage girl, this very attractive Syrian American exchanging emails about how good he looked. You had emails from his wife about the shopping trip she was going on, the specific clothing, the dishes she wanted, the curtains she wanted. You had, of course, probably the most embarrassing moment in recent journalism, Vogue sending a reporter to Damascus to do this very long feature about Assad's wife and how beautiful and fashionable she was, how Western she was that ran in the midst of all this slaughter.
DREAZENSo you've had this bizarre military, media, politics moment with him here that if it weren't such a tragedy, you would almost laugh about it.
LABOTTDiane, this was a little bit earlier in the year, but I think what is going to be key is whether if you see the Alawite communities and the Christian communities that have supported Bashar al-Assad suddenly abandon him. I mean, the more he seems out of touch with their concerns, the more this is his real inner ring of power that really supports the regime. And if you talk about these bombing attacks that have happened this week, these were in Alawite communities.
LABOTTSo at some point, if the Alawite, if the business communities, if the Christians say listen, he can't protect us any longer, then I think you're going to see this move in a much different direction.
REHMAll right. Let's talk about China with the election over. Mitt Romney had said on his first day in office he was going to address the currency manipulation on the part of the Chinese. How do you see Barack Obama dealing with the Chinese currency situation, Abderrahim?
FOUKARAWell, I think Barack Obama has always had a double-headed approach to China. On the one hand, he is worried about the rise of China and he may not say it in public, but he does seem to share some of the concerns that Romney had when he said he wanted to call China a currency manipulator. But I think, on the other hand, Obama sees greater potential than Romney did in dealing with China on a more positive level.
REHMAnd doesn't China have its own economic problems, which are going to make this trade deficit with the U.S. a bit more acceptable?
FOUKARAYes, absolutely. I mean, there was the concern with the rise of China up until just a few months ago when the Chinese economy was still growing. There was concern that it might actually overtake the United States in terms of its economic growth. But now the Chinese Economy has slowed down. And more importantly their political system seems to be -- yeah, seems to be going through some serious bumps...
REHMTransition is the word.
LABOTTThat's right. Yeah, that's right. The 18th Communist Party Congress meeting this week, going to designate their new leadership, Hu Jintao. The president will step down and hand the torch to his designated successor, Xi Jinping. The question is all about him and what are his reforms going to be. What's coming out of the party congress seems it's reform China style, which means reform of the economy, but enough control of the party that things don't really change.
LABOTTBut the Chinese people are really clinging to the hope of some reforms. This whole scandal with Bo Xi Ling has really put a stain on the leadership of the party. And there's a lot more talk about more accountability by China's party leaders.
REHMExactly. I thought it was fascinating that Hu Jintao, the former president, has warned a failure to deal with the corruption in the Chinese system is really going to hurt them.
DREAZENAnd part of it is there have been actual incidents like high speed train crashing and derailments which have not only killed hundreds of people but been a massive black eye to this image much of the West has of China as being this hyper efficient, hyper technologically advanced, almost this woe is us. If only instead of it taking ten years to build a metro line to Dulles Airport, if only we had the Chinese efficiency where it'd be high speed built in a week.
DREAZENSo you have major embarrassments. You have revelations of the former -- the current, excuse me, Chinese prime minister, his family having a $2.7 billion fortune.
REHMIs that true? It's been denied.
DREAZENIt was denied but if you notice the Chinese, their first steps were to ban the New York Times website from China. So they haven't denied it convincingly. What they have argued is that perhaps he didn't know. But there hasn't been much pushback. One brief point, for all the talk of China here in the U.S. as being this threat, you know, China is the boogieman for defense contractors. They say we need very advanced expensive weapons for China. You know, Mitt Romney, currency manipulator or Obama and trade sanctions.
DREAZENFrankly the U.S. wants a stable China. They want a China where they know who the government is, they know what it's goals are. So as Elise mentioned, we have a China, we have political instability, economic instability. That's not what the U.S. wants. Beyond the tough talk what they want is stability. They want the China they know that they've dealt with and can deal with, and that may not be the case anymore.
REHMAnd the question becomes is the average person in China better off now than ten years ago?
LABOTTThe average person? It depends where you sit. It depends where you sit. Some people in the rural areas would say definitely not. Some people in the middle class would say definitely. But I think the Obama Administration, President Obama has to pick his battles right now. Is he going to hit China on the currency issue? There's a big dispute with Japan right now over these disputed islands. Definitely doesn't want any tensions in the region. The U.S. in this whole pivot to Asia has been talking about all of these disputes over the South China Sea. And is he going to hit the Chinese on human rights?
LABOTTSo the question, when you look at this party congress what's coming out, Hu Jintao leaving said, you know, something like, we need to reform, but we will not follow the wicked way of changing course. That means that China will reform at its own pace and basically the United States is really who they're talking to. You know, let us do this in our own time.
REHMAll right. Yochi, earlier in the program you mentioned the surveillance drone -- a U.S. surveillance drone that Iran had apparently struck last week. What happened and why?
DREAZENSo what happened, we have a clear ascent. You had an American Predator drone unarmed. They're not the drones that you hear about typically that are used to kill people. This was an unarmed very slow moving surveillance drone in international waters. One Chinese warplane, a Russian-made warplane buzzed by it, shot near it, didn't hit it, didn't knock it down, but was close enough that the onboard cameras saw this plane coming towards it.
DREAZENThis had been rumored about, National Security Council. It was sort of out a little bit and no one confirmed it until yesterday. Barbara Starr our colleague from CNN to her credit had the story. The Pentagon then confirmed it. One interesting part of this is, again, this happened November 1. It didn't come out until yesterday. So the optimistic reading would be the U.S. was trying to deescalate. They didn't want this to become a bigger deal than it had to be.
REHM...before the election.
DREAZENBefore the election. The cynical political argument would be that the White House didn't want this to come out because they didn't want a huge Iran political issue to come up before the election because they'd be hammered as being weak on Iran. But it's a fascinating question.
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Elise, has Iran admitted to firing on the drone?
LABOTTThey have and I have to give props, just like Yochi, to my colleague Barbara Starr who's dogged reporting not only go the administration to admit to it, but the Iranians. Because clearly neither the United States nor Iran has an interest in an open military confrontation right now. So the Iranian's have admitted to firing upon it. It said it was in their airspace but it seemed to be in international airspace near the border with Kuwait. I'm not really clear exactly where it was when it was fired.
LABOTTBut I think the concern is, is Iran going to go the way of a deal with the United States and try and have some kind of accommodation with the West or are we going to see a much more robust military posture from Iran in the coming years?
REHMAnd what about Israel? Benjamin Netanyahu has now said we'll go it alone if we need to and fire on Iran.
FOUKARAWell, I mean, he's been saying that for a long time. And I think the problem with that position is that he is able -- to all intense and purposes he can do it. And I think the action that the Israeli -- military action that we saw in Sudan recently bombing a weapons factory in Sudan, I think it's been interpreted in the region as training, as rehearsal for something against Iran.
FOUKARABut I think that the problem that the Israelis, specifically Benjamin Netanyahu would face in that case, it's not the issue -- the issue is not just striking against Iran. The issue is dealing with the aftermath of that. And dealing with the aftermath of that the Israelis would, by definition, need the help of the United States because it would have retaliation from the Iranians. It would have the whole region destabilized. The Straits of Hormuz where much of the world's oil goes through would also be destabilized.
FOUKARAAnd I want to say this with regard to the drone issue. I don't think it's particularly tied to the election the fact that it wasn't announced that it took Barbara Starr to uncover it. I think there's a pattern here beginning with the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi. And the Obama Administration tried to calm down the situation. Normally the killing of ambassadors leads towards invasions. They tried to calm the situation down.
FOUKARAAnd I think what we've seen with this drone is probably within the same context. They still see diplomacy as the best way to deal with this rather than jumping to military action. And by the way, Susan Rice who was tied to the Benghazi attack, a lot of people now see her political future as bruised fruit because a lot of Americans saw it -- saw her as having tried to actually hide the reality of what happened in Benghazi. Instead of calling it a terrorist attack, she called it something else.
LABOTTSome people say that her future is bruised. Some people say that she is one of the closest advisors to President Obama and she could very well be the next Secretary of State. And I think that she's getting a raw deal here because, you know, some could say she might've been smart enough to not go out so early and say something like this. You notice that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wasn't out on the talk show scene like this. But I think that the White House put her in a bad position. And if there was anybody in the administration going out they would have the same criticism right now.
LABOTTSusan Rice didn't write these talking points. She was given them by the Intelligence Community. You might say it was an error in judgment but was it Susan Rice that was -- decided to mislead the American people or portray it in another way? I think that happened at a higher level.
REHMDo you agree with that, Yochi?
DREAZENI do but I also -- I agree with Abderrahim. I think it'll be a tough sell. You have a lot of fury among the Republicans on The Hill, enough in theory to block this. It's also not clear to me frankly that she's the best choice. She has a relationship with President Obama which is tight. There are people on The Hill. John Cary's certainly not the most charismatic man but he has been the person that Obama, when he's needed, a sort of back channel, particularly in Afghanistan and to a degree with the Pakistanis, he has turned to John Kerry.
DREAZENI don't know -- that's conventional wisdom. I don't know if he will get the job, but I do think Susan Rice would have a very tough path in the Senate.
REHMYochi Dreazen. He's national security correspondent for the National Journal magazine. Short break here and when we come back, time to open the phones.
REHMAnd it's time to open the phones. First to Marshall, Minn. good morning, Tom, you're on the air.
TOMDiane, I want to know if you and your guests don't see the Middle East region and all of its attendant problems fading into insignificance as the U.S. and North American oil production ramps up to beat or exceed the Middle East production. We won't care about any of that over there anymore.
REHMWhat do you think, Abderrahim?
FOUKARAI think that's -- look, the Middle East region has been central to world peace and war for hundreds of years, long before oil. And I think you have all sorts of currency, have all sorts of interests there. The Israel/Palestine issue, for one, is not going let the Middle East go away as a concern for the United States, even if the United States were to become independent in terms of oil.
FOUKARAWe've been hearing this issue of the United States becoming independent of other countries' oil forever. How realistic is it that it's going to happen within the next ten, twenty, fifty years? I don't know.
DREAZENAlso a small clarification to the caller, primarily we're talking about natural gas, the U.S. having massive natural gas holdings, not oil holdings. Converting natural gas would mean converting the whole U.S. energy infrastructure. This would not be five years and more suddenly to forget the Middle East.
REHMHere's a posting from Facebook from Jason, "How do you think President Obama will deal with Pakistan in his second term?" Elise?
LABOTTI think that's a very good question and I think it's largely going to depend on the Pakistanis. I mean, we've got those NATO supply lines open, those so-called G-LOCS that they talk about and so in terms of the immediate problem of getting supplies out of Afghanistan, more importantly as U.S. troops withdraw, I think that's set.
LABOTTBut you have a country that is rife with extremism and could really tank the United States' efforts to get out of the country. I think he's going to try and have a conciliatory approach in the beginning. I think the drones will still continue.
LABOTTBut if Pakistan doesn't get on top of its extremist problem as the U.S. has been hoping, I think you could see over the years a tougher approach.
REHMTo Kalamazoo, Mich. Hi there, Gerald, thanks for waiting.
GERALDYeah, thank you, Diane, for having me on your show.
GERALDOne of your panelists mentioned that China, Russia and the Arab world was relieved because President Obama won the election. But you've got to look a little deeper into that. The whole world is relieved that he won the election because people are tired of the war. People are tired of the hatred. People are tired, quite frankly, of Israel wanting Palestinians off their land and it's just a matter of time if the Republicans would have got into office, we would have seen the Bush administration all over again.
REHMDo you agree with that, Yochi?
DREAZENIf I could take the second part first, in part because I think, for people listening, is probably the most controversial, eye-opening. We should remember the first American president to ever talk about a Palestinian state called Palestine was George W. Bush.
DREAZENIt was not Bill Clinton. It was not Barack Obama. It was not Jimmy Carter. So the idea that the Republicans are just in lockstep behind Israel, Democrats are in lockstep behind the Palestinians, is not right. I mean, it's a much more muddled issue than that.
DREAZENThat said, I do agree with the broader theme that the world looks at the U.S. They don't want to see the U.S. in wars that destabilize them, that the U.S. can't afford, that they then get sucked into both in Afghanistan and Iraq. So I think the caller's broader point is right that there is a relief that that's not the path the U.S. is going down.
REHMHere's an email from Peggy who says: "Diane, you left something important out from the interview on yesterday's ATC with Gideon Rose of Foreign Affairs Magazine. She gives us the quote, but the real problem there is not lack of American intervention. The real problem is neither the Palestinians nor the Israelis are really prepared to do what's necessary to make the negotiations move forward." Abderrahim?
FOUKARAWell, I mean when you say the Palestinians nowadays, that begs the question, which part of the Palestinian spectrum you're talking about? In the past, the Palestinians, on the surface of it at least, used to speak with one voice. Now the Palestinians are divided between the West Bank and Gaza and even in Gaza, it's no longer just Hamas.
FOUKARAHamas seems to have ironically tempered its rhetoric and in many ways, it's struggling against other groups within Gaza who want to take a much tougher stance on Israel. And I think for the Israelis, the Israelis, especially under Benjamin Netanyahu, at least this is the perception in the region.
FOUKARABenjamin Netanyahu, according to that perception, has been trying to change the goal post. For him, a deal with the Palestinians is no longer the top priority.
FOUKARAFor him, Iran is the top priority and he sees Iran as the existential threat notwithstanding what the Iranians are saying that they are not developing nuclear weapons, that they are developing nuclear capability for civilian purposes.
LABOTTThere's some talk in the press and among experts that there could be a deal between Prime Minister Netanyahu and Barack Obama. You get a deal on Iran for a deal on the Israelis and Palestinians. You know, we'll be more muscular towards Iran if you concede on a peace deal. I don't know if that's really in the offing.
LABOTTI think Abderrahim is right. I think Prime Minister Netanyahu has a myopic focus on wanting to deal with Iran and the Palestinians themselves aren't ready to come to the table without concessions. Again, we're talking about possibly President Abbas going to the U.N. which would put it even further.
LABOTTI mean, for someone that came to office wanting a peace deal and making this a priority, the parties are farther apart than they ever were.
REHMTo Cleveland, Ohio. Hi, Evan.
EVANHi, Diane, thanks for taking my call.
EVANI just wanted to ask your panelists what they thought about a future secretary of state, if it could be Rich Lugar. I think an advantage of him is he's got very similar experience to John Kerry, but in a very divided Congress, you'll lose John Kerry in the Senate. You can use, you know, Rich Lugar doesn't have a job anymore. So that's my question. I'll take my answer off the air.
DREAZENIt's an interesting idea. I think that Lugar is an old man, frankly. He's tired. I don't know how easy a path he would have through the Senate.
DREAZENHe would be easier, I think, than Susan Rice, but this is not a young man and this is a job that's grueling. Elise would have the numbers better than I do, but Hillary Clinton flew hundreds...
DREAZEN...upon hundreds of thousands of...
LABOTTMillions, I think over a million.
DREAZEN...miles. I don't know if Richard Lugar, in his 80s, would be up for this job.
REHMAnd just tangentially what's next for Hillary Clinton, Elise?
LABOTTWell, there's been a lot of talk. The Secretary said something kind of offhand that, you know, I'll stay for a few days after the administration starts. Oh, is she going to stay for another month, for another year? She's going to wait until a successor is confirmed. If it's someone like Susan Rice, as we agree might have a hard time in the Senate, that could take a little bit of time.
LABOTTShe'll wait until a successor is seated and then I think she's going to review her options. She's going to take a long nap. She's going to write a book and she'll probably retreat to the issues that are really important to her that she tried to advance during her tenure, which are women, poverty, and children's rights, some of these things to help the betterment of the world. And then I think she's going to think hard and long about whether she wants to run.
LABOTTHer supporters are already getting ready. So many people, even aides in the State Department have said, I would drop anything. I would drop everything I'm doing to help her get elected. They're certainly already gearing up on the Republican side and the Democratic side for a Hillary Clinton run in 2016.
DREAZENJust, you know, Hillary is obviously a superstar globally. Her name recognition is through the roof. I think that's why we spent so much of this show talking about it frankly.
DREAZENThere's an equally important job, arguably more important, which is secretary of defense. Leon Panetta will not stay on much longer. He's made that very clear. The Pentagon has to draw out of Afghanistan. It faces questions about Iran, about Yemen, about Syria. That job, to my mind, is at least as important, probably more so, and we don't know who will fill that job either.
REHMAnd are there any candidates out there that you can think of?
DREAZENI mean, the names that you keep hearing, it's conventional wisdom which I always take with a grain of salt, are Ash Carter, the current deputy. He has a lot of experience in the budget. The reason I'm personally skeptical is very few deputies get the job. They usually go out, that's the job they have.
REHMWhat about a woman?
DREAZENI think that there is a real desire in the White House to have a woman in that job because that would be historic. The woman whose name is out there is Michelle Flournoy. She was beloved in the building. She was very smart. She was very good to her people. She was the number three. She did all of the policy work for the Pentagon and I think that's a very real possibility.
FOUKARAI don't have anything specific to add to what Yochi said on defense, but just a quick point on Kerry, John Kerry as a potential candidate for becoming secretary of state. John Kerry obviously has many qualities. He has the stature, but remember he has at least one Achilles Heel and it's recent. And it's the fact that he spent a lot of time basically promoting Bashar al-Assad before events started happening in Syria so, talk of another bruised fruit.
LABOTTBut I will say this is where John Kerry could be effective for the Obama administration. It's almost as if, you know, they have the cow. They have the milk. Do they really need to buy the cow? Because they can send him out on these type of missions. He didn't go at the behest of the administration, but certainly it was a coordination with the administration.
LABOTTHe can go and talk to Hamid Karzai or whoever his replacement is. He can go and meet with President Zardari in Pakistan and smooth things over. He is very good for plausible deniability in dealing with some of these issues around the world without having the imprint of the Obama administration.
REHMAnd one of the other areas of the world we haven't talked about yet is Europe and the fact that German Chancellor Merkel and British Prime Minister Cameron are at loggerheads. Why is this, Yochi?
DREAZENThe primary reason is something we've talked about on the show often, which is, what do you do about countries like Greece? What do you do about countries like Spain? You know, during the election, you had this amazing issue of China was one word you kept hearing, Iran, Israel, these sort of obvious big-picture issues, Syria, Libya. And then you would hear, we don't want to be Greece.
DREAZENYou know, like Greece, how does that make it to the list of the top five countries? It's because the unemployment rate there is near 30 percent. They are hundreds and hundreds of billions of dollars of euros in debt. Right now, their debt to GDP ratio is 180 percent.
DREAZENAnd the question that's been hanging over Greece now for more than a year is, who bails it out and who pays for it? The Germans have the best and most stable and most conservative economy in all of Europe. They don't want to keep throwing tens of billions of dollars of euros at Greece.
DREAZENDavid Cameron oversees London, the major European financial center. He does not want further instability in the currency and equity markets so he wants some kind of deal. And that has not gone away and won't go away.
REHMIs there real talk about the UK withdrawing from the EU or is that just threat?
DREAZENI think it's just a threat primarily because of what it would do to the City of London, I mean, to their version of Wall Street. They don't want to have the chaos that that would bring. It's mainly, I think right now, a populist sop because it's an easy, convenient thing to say. People understand what it means in the shorthand.
DREAZENWhen you start to get into currency rates, exchange rates, you lose a lot of your voters.
FOUKARAI think it is to a certain extent a threat, but it's also. You also have to remember that there's a lot of pressure by euro skeptics in the United Kingdom. There's always been a lot of pressure with regard to the EU and the euro skeptics, not only do they view the rest of Europe with suspicion, but they also rest their case on the fact that the United Kingdom is in this advantageous position where its ties with the United States are so historic and so strong that they can afford to rebuff Merkel.
FOUKARAHaving said that, I'm not sure 100 percent that Merkel is really, really concerned about the UK exiting from the euro.
REHMAbderrahim Foukara of Al Jazeera Arabic and you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Let's go to Palm Coast, Fla. Hi there, Guy.
GUYGood morning, Diane, I always enjoy your show.
GUYSince the conversation has drifted from where it was when I originally called, I've got two points that I'd like to throw out to the panel. One, after visiting Israel a year ago, I was very depressed to see the condition of the Palestinians and I would propose that if Israel wanted to score some points, building one water-desalinization plant for the Palestinians would be a huge bonus, not only for the quality of life for the Palestinians, but for the way the rest of the Middle East looks at Israel.
GUYThe second point was dealing with our difference in trade with the tariffs between China and America which doesn't exist now, of course, it was discussed prior to the election, but since most of our product is coming in from other countries, the amount of reciprocal damage that we would receive if we put tariffs in place would be minimal by what we would gain tax-wise for doing something of that nature.
REHMAll right, sir, thanks for calling. Elise, on that?
LABOTTI'll take the Israeli de-salinization and the larger point of the Israelis using the economic situation as a bit of a weapon against the Palestinians, you know, holding on to some of their taxes, not helping develop some of the areas, you know, particularly Gaza is basically a wasteland of misery and humanitarian crisis.
LABOTTAt the same time, the Israelis have kind of shown the West Bank and Ramallah as this shining example of what can be done if the Israelis and Palestinians worked together. And I was just in the West Bank this summer and I was really surprised to see what was going on in Ramallah in terms of the development.
LABOTTBut at the end of the day, the question is, are the Israelis going to make a deal with the Palestinians? Are they going to let them have their own state and their own aid and their own money and be able to develop their economy? Oh, there are some Palestinians now talking about, okay, one citizen, one vote and let's all just have one state and the Israelis will be forced to recognize these people as Israeli citizens and give them the economic rights and the civil rights of any other Israeli citizen.
FOUKARAI think the Palestinians have been unlucky in so many different ways, not just in terms of what Elise has just said in terms of the Israelis or at least their government of Prime Netanyahu refusing up to now, at least the way they see it, refusing to give them their own state.
FOUKARAThey've also been unfortunate in the sense that the so-called Arab Spring has made them a forgotten issue. No one is focused on the Palestinian issue right now in the region. Everyone is focused on the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Camp David and so on, but very, very little is being said about the Palestinians.
REHMAnd finally tariffs with China, Yochi?
DREAZENI always get the great, sexy question.
LABOTTI'm not good at math.
DREAZENPeople tune in when they hear China trade. There have been and Obama has already tried to do trade sanctions with China. Tires are something he highlighted during the campaign. It's something he's done before. A quick issue, because I think people hear currency manipulation and don't know what they means. What that means is China keeping its currency artificially low so that the imports, their exports are high and U.S. imports are low. The issue won't go away.
REHMYochi Dreazen of National Journal magazine, Elise Labott, foreign affairs reporter for CNN, Abderrahim Foukara of Al Jazeera Arabic, congratulations for having made it through another election.
LABOTTSame to you, Diane.
REHMThanks for being here.
DREAZENThanks, Diane, have a good weekend.
REHMAnd thanks to all of you for listening. I'm Diane Rehm.
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