The U.N. suspends Syrian peace talks until late this month. The U.S. plans to quadruple military spending in Europe as a signal to Russia. And American officials express concern about ISIS in Libya. A panel of journalists joins guest host Tom Gjelten for analysis of the week's top international news stories.
Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood began fresh protests after a crackdown killed hundreds. The Obama administration came under fire by some U.S. lawmakers for not taking a harder line against Egypt’s military rule. In Beirut a car bomb in a Hezbollah stronghold killed two dozen people. After a new wave of bombings in Iraq, the government warned it would not allow the country to become another Syria. In Jerusalem, Israeli-Palestinian peace talks resumed. The U.S. re-opened most of the diplomatic posts it had closed over terrorism threats. And Secretary of State Kerry visited Colombia and Brazil. A panel of journalists joins Diane for analysis of the week’s top international news stories.
- Tom Gjelten NPR national security correspondent and author of "Bacardi and the Long Fight for Cuba: The Biography of a Cause."
- Kim Ghattas State Department correspondent for the BBC and author of "The Secretary: A Journey with Hillary Clinton from Beirut to the Heart of American Power."
- Moises Naim senior associate at Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, chief international columnist for El Pais and author of "The End of Power: From Boardrooms to Battlefields and Churches to States, Why Being in Charge Isn't What It Used to Be."
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. Egypt braces for more turmoil as the Muslim Brotherhood continue protests. Israeli-Palestinian peace talks resume in Jerusalem and Secretary of State John Kerry faces questions about NSA spying on his visit to South America.
MS. DIANE REHMHere with me for the international hour of the Friday News Roundup, Moises Naim of El Pais, Kim Ghattas of BBC and Tom Gjelten of NPR. You are, as always, welcome to join the conversation. You can call us on 800-433-8850, email us to email@example.com, follow us on Facebook or Twitter. Welcome and happy Friday to you all.
MR. TOM GJELTENMorning, Diane.
MR. MOISES NAIMMorning.
MS. KIM GHATTASGood morning.
REHMGood to see you all. Tom Gjelten, what's the latest from Egypt?
GJELTENToday is Friday, Diane, and Friday is traditionally a day of protests following prayers in musk's and not surprisingly there was a, there more big protests on the part of the backers of the deposed President Mohammed Morsi in Cairo today.
GJELTENAnd unfortunately once again, violence. We've had reports this morning of perhaps as many as 17 people killed. There were some very disturbing pictures. The protestors were on a bridge and they came under fire and some of the protestors are actually jumping off the bridge in order to escape being shot.
GJELTENSo another day of violence following a week that was just sort of extraordinary and incredible in terms of the number of people slaughtered in Cairo.
REHMKim Ghattas, are you at all surprised at the level of violence we're seeing and at the extraordinary amount of gunfire used? I was told they were just using birdshot but it looks to be actual bullets.
GHATTASYes, they've given permission to use live ammunition. I'm not sure if we're surprised but we're certainly horrified and covering events in Cairo is quite a challenge my colleagues from BBC, from, you know, our colleagues from NPR and all journalists there are facing quite a lot of challenge to try to get the story out.
GHATTASThey're coming under fire...
REHMIndeed, three have been killed.
GHATTASAbsolutely, three have been killed. What upsets people most at the moment in Egypt is to see the level of polarization that is taking place. Pent up frustrations and anger from decades of repression still bubbling under the surface, still coming out and spilling into violence on the street.
GHATTASThere was a man interviewed on television this morning who's saying this violence is because the army wants to rule and the Muslim Brotherhood wants to rule and they can't agree on finding a compromise and we are stuck in the middle.
GHATTASAnd I'm not sure how you get beyond that. Sadly I think there will be even more violence and efforts by the West, by the U.S., by the EU to mediate a compromise between the Muslim Brotherhood and the army had failed and that's why we're here today and that of course brings us to the question about U.S. influence.
REHMIndeed and President Obama has actually been criticized, Moises, for the language of his response.
NAIMExactly, and the response was to suspend military exercises that have been carried for years between the U.S. and the Egyptian armed forces. And what people were expecting was a more vigorous denunciation of the carnage that took place yesterday.
NAIMThey are denouncing the position of the Obama administration has been amply criticized for not doing more. I am baffled in part by this because this assumes that the United States, regardless of who is in the White House, has more influence in what's happening in the Arab countries than what it does, you know, the Arab Spring and what happened there was essentially a very national phenomenon.
NAIMWhat happened in Tunisia took place in Tunisia and then in Egypt and the United States and other powers did not have a significant role and I think, again, in this one in what happened this week we see a lot of very autonomous behavior on the part of the Egyptian military.
NAIMIt's, you know, I'm sure there is some reports that the White House tried to do all it could in order to stop the Egyptian military from stamping down and resorting to violence and they failed. And so I don't know that any administration in this day and age in the United States or anywhere in the world could really shape events that are driven by the people.
GHATTASI think critics of the administration will say that there were definite missteps in the way the Obama administration handled the last two years. But it is very difficult for the United States to exert real influence inside Egypt because of years of mistrust past.
GHATTASAnd it's very difficult to undo that, all of a sudden, and President Obama yesterday speaking from Martha's Vineyard showed that frustration. He said, "It's easy to blame us for everything. We've been blamed by the pro-Morsi camp for supporting the military. We've been blamed by the military for being supposed allies of the Muslim Brotherhood but in the end it's up to Egyptians to work it out."
GJELTENI'll give you one example of a misstep by the United States. Secretary of State John Kerry came out a couple of Sundays ago and said that the Egyptian army was -- what the Egyptian army was doing was restoring democracy in Egypt.
GJELTENUp until that point, the administration had been very careful not to characterize the events in that way and, in fact, General Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was very careful and quick to say that he did not necessarily see things that way in Egypt.
GJELTENBut the head of the Muslim Brotherhood or the -- not the head of the Muslim Brotherhood, but one of the key people in the Muslim Brotherhood said that when Kerry said that, the army took it, the Egyptian army took it as a green light to do what they felt needed to be done.
GJELTENAnd I think that just to sort of backup what both Moises and Kim have said, that shows that people parse every word that comes out of Washington and take them as signals and act accordingly. And it just underscores how careful the United States needs to be and in this particular case it seems the administration was not as careful, though it tried to be, it was not as careful as it could've been.
REHMWhat about the resignation of El Baradei, Moises?
NAIMMohamed El Baradei, the Nobel Prize winner, was the vice president of Egypt in this interim government and he, as a result of these events, he decided to resign from the government because he could not condone the armed violence and so on.
NAIMWhat is very clear here is that the Egyptian military will paradoxically end up weakened by all this. It is going to be very hard for the Egyptian military establishment to retain the kind of power that they had in the past. I'm talking in the long run. It may be that in the short run they will look victorious and they have the power and use of violence.
NAIMAnd the Muslim Brotherhood is coming ahead of all of this. The Muslim Brotherhood is going to, in the long run, they have been provided with the perfect narrative.
NAIMIf you'll allow me, Diane, there is in today's New York Times, there is a piece by Amr Darag, who is a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, and I think he sympathizes. There's a paragraph in this op-ed that he wrote that summarizes the narrative that is now going to be part of the Muslim Brotherhood and I read verbatim.
NAIMIt says, "Americans need to recognize that every passing day solidifies the perception among Egyptians that American rhetoric on democracy is empty that American politicians won't hesitate to flout their own laws and subvert their declared values for short term political gains."
GJELTEN"And then when it comes to freedom, justice and human dignity, Muslims need not apply." This is a very self-serving exaggerated statement but it's a very powerful piece that we're going, variations of this narrative are going to be part of the story.
REHMIt represents what the Muslim Brotherhood has called "a day of anger," Tom.
GJELTENIt certainly does. However, I do have to point out that with the exception of, Mohamed el Baradei has been an exception in this narrative so far because the people that we think of as Egyptian liberals have been, to me, somewhat surprisingly, it seems, completely behind the army action.
GJELTENI think there has been a real absence of voices from the secular pro-democracy, pro-Western, liberal, whatever you want to call it, world in Cairo criticizing the army. So I'm not sure that Egyptian democrats are drawing the conclusion that that gentleman says they are drawing.
REHMIt sounds as though we are all confused about what the Egyptians want and how we can be of any help at all.
GHATTASThose are two very different questions. What the Egyptians want is indeed something that they are trying to figure out. And as I said in my earlier comment they're deeply polarized. I think that that's what we're really seeing, the country split in two.
GHATTASBecause as Tom points out the army does have a lot of support for what it is doing and when you look at some of the country's secular opposition, some of its liberals, some of its elite, they back the army clamp down on the Muslim Brotherhood and describe the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization and they say that the army is right in doing what it's doing.
GHATTASIt is perhaps surprising in the West to square that. How does that does make sense. The reason why it makes sense is because this is a narrative that people in the region have lived with for a very long time.
GHATTASIslamists are terrorists, it's the same sort of narrative that people are used to some extent in the West but what...
REHMBut he was democratically elected and that's the part that doesn't compute.
GHATTASAnd half of the country still supported him. The other half was in shock that they had suddenly ended up with an Islamist president and the word to describe the attitude by some of those opposing Mr. Morsi is ultra-nationalist.
REHMKim Ghattas, she's State Department correspondent for the BBC and author of "The Secretary: A Journey with Hilary Clinton from Beirut to the Heart of American Power." Short break, we'll be right back.
REHMWhile I know that Egypt is on the minds of many in this country and around the world, of course there is other news internationally. It seems almost every day, Moises, we hear of more violence going on in Iraq. What's happening?
NAIMAnd so while we're talking about Egypt and there's this tragedy, this carnage going on with 600 people killed in Egypt this week, in the month of July more than a thousand people have been killed in Iraq. This is the deadliest month since 2008. Only in this year so far 4,000 people have been killed in Iraq. So the killing there continues and, in fact, not only continues but it has escalated.
REHMAre the attacks mostly sectarian?
NAIMExactly. And what happened is that the Sunnis in Iraq have been both motivated by what they see happening in Syria, they see that the Syrian Sunnis are making inroads and have a chance -- have a shot at finishing with the government and a regime that excluded them. And they perceive that Maliki who runs Iraq has been very exclusionary, has been treating them in a very discriminatory way. And this is in part -- this is one of their very strange ways in which the contagion -- the political contagion in that area takes place. In which what happens there ends up affecting that situation in very convoluted, very strange and surprising ways.
GHATTASOf course the violence is driven by the radical militants. And it's important to remember that although they target government officials and Shiites, the Sunni population in general also does not benefit from such levels of violence. It is to the detriment of the whole country. And it is something that is of great concern for the U.S. because there are concerns about the resurgence of al-Qaida in Iraq and the impact this will have on Syria as well with over flights, with weapons crossing into Syria. So there is a sense that al-Qaida is regrouping in the region and that Iraq and Syria are becoming a new hub.
REHMPerhaps another misstatement on the part of President Obama regarding al-Qaida, Tom.
GJELTENWell, yeah, a premature declaration of victory, I think would be fair to say, that's reminiscent of the mission accomplished quote by George W. Bush, you know, when the mission was not accomplished. I think, you know, Kim linked what's happening in Iraq to what's happening in Syria. And this is a very important point to underscore. It's true that Nouri al-Maliki, the Iraqi prime minister, really has blown it as far as implementing a more inclusionary policy.
GJELTENNevertheless, you have to look at what's happening in Iraq as a by-product in part of what's happening in Syria. And what we now have basically is the conflict in Syria has now spread to three countries. It's Iraq, it's Syria and it's Lebanon. And I know we'll probably be talking about this car bombing in Beirut yesterday. But this is a -- you know, we've had foreign fighters coming into Syria. We've got Iran and Hezbollah involved. And now the al-Qaida in Iraq sort of moved to Syria, took up the cause of the Syrian rebels and now they have established basically a base in Syria from which they can then support militancy back in Iraq. So this conflict is spreading.
GHATTASI'd like to point out that I did a lot of reporting from Syria in the aftermath of the Iraq war. And it's important to think back to that period and think about where some of the fighters in Iraq came from. And they came through Syria. And it was a trend that was very much encouraged by Bashar al-Assad, the current president of Syria who is still there who was president at the time, who allowed all these foreign fighters to flow into Iraq to make life miserable for the American troops there and to undermine, let's say, America's project in Iraq as they saw it.
GHATTASNow you could argue that this problem is now coming back to make his life miserable, that he has created this monster in Iraq which is now coming to haunt him back in Syria. But as we've said often before on your show, Diane, presidents and rulers like Mr. Assad don't necessarily mind the violence that wrecks their country, as long as they stay in power. And they see that as a way of continuing to rule by dividing the country.
REHMAnd, Tom, talk further about that bombing in Beirut.
GJELTENWell, this was a car bomb in the section of Beirut where Hezbollah has a stronghold and therefore the assumption is made that this was in retaliation for Hezbollah support of the Assad regime in Syria. And we know that the anti-Assad forces have a reach which goes beyond Syria. So I think that is a likely explanation. It was -- at least 22 people were killed in it. There's some indications it was a suicide attack. And suicide attacks, of course, we associate with al-Qaida.
GJELTENSo I think that, you know, again we're seeing sort of al-Qaida having established itself among the rebel forces in Syria now also participating evidently in attacks in Iraq and in Lebanon.
NAIMAnd again, this is one of these groups that appears and we had not heard of them before. They call themselves the brigades of Aisha and they're a group of masked men. And as Tom said, this was probably a suicide attack. And what is very interesting and tragic here is the clash between -- it is factions -- it's a faction of the war that is combined with a civil war with religious sectarian. And it's a complicated set of forces and ideologies at work that are very hard to imagine how you settle that in the long run.
GHATTASPeople forget that suicide trucks were first used in Beirut by Hezbollah itself. So this has come back to haunt them as well. There's a lot of focus at the moment when looking at the region on the sectarian tensions and the divide between Sunnis and Shiites. And a lot of analysts or a lot of officials in the region who say this is a showdown between Sunni Islam and Shiite Islam. And to some extent it has become thus.
GHATTASBut my sense from knowing the region from having lived there is that it is always an excuse that is used by the countries' leaders, whether it's Mr. Assad, whether it's Hezbollah, whether it's the Iranians, to whip up anger and to provoke violence. At the basis there is a political dispute. We have to remember that this started in Syria as a popular uprising and a rejection of Mr. Assad's rule. But again, you know, some of these rulers are masters at Machiavellian games. And they then feed confessional resentments to continue to fuel the violence.
REHMSo in the midst of all this violence, we have Secretary of State Kerry embarking on these new peace talks. We know the peace talks have begun. We do not know yet what the content will be, Moises.
NAIMYes. Negotiators are meeting in Jerusalem. They first held talks in Washington last month. It started with a dinner at Secretary Kerry's residence. And it was launched in these conversations. And then in the midst of all this there were two events. One is Israel against all odds decided to free prisoners, Palestinians that they held in jail for many years. Some of them were accused of committing heinous crimes there, had assassinated people. And so but yet it was decided to free them.
NAIMAnd at the same time they do this they then go ahead with more settlements which infuriates the negotiators. And one of the negotiators says, you know, we're going to end the negotiations even before they start. And to show again how weakness and fragmentation is the order of the day there -- Yair Lapid is the minister of finance of Israel, he got there because he won -- he's the second largest voting bloc in (unintelligible) and he is a very popular middle class -- middle-of-the-road kind of personality. And then he declared, he stated, I was surprised by the decision to move ahead with the settlements. I didn't know that this was going to happen.
NAIMAnd that just shows how inside the Israeli government there are all of these free agents and these inertia forces that in the middle of very sensitive negotiations, go ahead and make a decision that infuriates everyone.
GJELTENThe last time that the Israelis and the Palestinians held peace talks was five years ago in 2008. And since then, 40,000 Israelis have settled in the Palestinian -- in the occupied territories. And it's clear that what Israel is trying to do here, and they're quite open about it, is they say we are only allowing settlements in those parts of the territory that we intend to keep. So they are creating facts on the ground that they think will sort of trump any negotiation over territory.
GJELTENBy having Israeli settlements in these areas they can say they are basically creating what they see as the final territorial map. But this sort of takes that off the table as far as negotiations are concerned. And this is why the Palestinians are so upset about it.
GHATTASIt's interesting to see how the Israeli government is handling this. In essence what they did is a two-step. They were asked to do something to help the Palestinians stay at the table, confidence-building measures.
REHMCome to the table.
GHATTASBut they also have to mollify the right wing. So Mr. Netanyahu decides to release some prisoners but to quell any criticism he goes ahead with an announcement about new settlements being built. What is interesting is the emotions that are stirred up by the release of those prisoners. There's an agreement to release about 100 of them. Twenty-six were released in the first phase. Most of them have been in jail for a very long time predating the 1993 Oslo Accords. They're in jail since before then for violent crimes against -- violent attacks against Israelis.
GHATTASTheir release has stirred up a lot of very mixed emotions amongst Israelis. And a new poll shows that, in fact, 62 percent of Israelis would have preferred a settlement freeze to a prisoner release.
NAIMAnd to add to the interesting aspects of this, they released 104 prisoners. And the vetting of which prisoners were going to be released was done by a cabinet member called Ya' akov Perry who before being a cabinet member was a member of Shin Bet which is Israeli's security services. And he says, I was involved in capturing 92 of those that we just released. And then he said, this is part of the prize of pursuing peace with our neighbors. He said, the ramifications of not returning to the negotiating table are dozens of times weightier than releasing the prisoners.
REHMSo amidst everything else that's going on in the world, why is Secretary Kerry moving forward on this so hard, Tom?
GJELTENWell, you know, the -- as we pointed out before, there are no easy answers to what the United States can do in Egypt. There are no easy answers to what the United States can do in Syria. If you are an American diplomat and you're looking to assert some kind of leadership role, there just aren't that many places where you can do something effectively. And the United States has long established that it did have a role -- that it does have a role to play in promoting negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians.
REHMExcept it certainly doesn't look as though they're going to go very far. And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Does anybody expect a breakthrough there, Kim?
GHATTASI think a lot of people are counting on Mr. Kerry's dogged determination to get this done. And he may just about get lucky. We simply don't know. He got this far but it took a lot of effort to get the two sides to agree to return to the negotiating table. He took six trips to the Middle East in just about five months. And a lot still has to be figured out. A lot of the details, we don't know about the contents, we don't know about the format. But they have agreed to stay at the table for nine months.
GHATTASAnd my understanding from speaking to American officials is that Israelis and Palestinians have agreed to stay at the table no matter what. So that's why you had Mr. Kerry in his recent comments about Israel's announcement on settlements say, well it was expected but, you know, the peace talks will continue. So the two sides will express their anger at the other side's unprovoked actions or provoking actions. But the expectation is that they're going to try to keep them at the table for nine months.
REHMAnd meanwhile, Secretary Kerry goes down to South America to visit with leaders in Colombia and in Brazil to talk about the NSA. And it's fine but he -- well, actually he went down there for another reason, did he not?
NAIMYes. You know, this is his need to bring Latin America in the conversation. And what is very interesting about this trip is the contrasting stance of these two countries. In Brazil, the NSA leaks and everything else has caused very strong reactions, very severe, you know, comments. And they went to the UN and asked the secretary general to act against the United States. And so in Colombia instead he had meetings with the president and the foreign minister who stated, we were satisfied by the explanations that Secretary Kerry gave us. And we are talking about something else.
NAIMAnd what I think is very interesting is that something else that they are very keen on talking, something that not a lot of people know about, which is the alliance of the Pacific. This is a group of countries formed by Mexico, Colombia, Peru and Chili that are the fastest growing countries in Latin America that have decided to create a free-trade zone. And they are moving forward and hopefully they want also to link with Asia.
NAIMThis contrast with Brazil, which is the largest continental country in that region that has been associated with Mercosur, which is an alliance of countries in the south with Argentina and recently with Venezuela and takes a very critical, very negative, very -- in its statements and relations with the United States. And so we have two contrasting approaches. It's two groups of countries in Latin America that have very different stances. And then of course, Mr. Kerry went because President Dilma Rousseff, the president of Brazil, is scheduled to come to the United States in a state visit in the fall.
GHATTASI certainly can't compete with Moises on knowledge of Latin America but when it comes to the NSA, one thing that I've picked up outside of the U.S., particularly in Europe is that people -- officials there and Europeans feel that the U.S. isn't taking their concerns seriously enough...
REHM...regarding the NSA.
GHATTAS...regarding the NSA. And that is something that perhaps Mr. Kerry picked up also in Brazil. European officials tell me, you know, we find this to be a very serious issue. And we're not happy when members of this administration say -- dismiss it by saying, oh you know, we've all done it. We all do it. It's -- you know, let's move on. And they point to something quite serious, which is that it feeds mistrust of the U.S. and could reawaken anti-American feelings in Europe, which is a particular issue when you have elections coming up.
REHMKim Ghattas. She's State Department correspondent for the BBC. Short break, your calls when we come back.
REHMAnd it's time to open the phones for your calls. First, to Fort Worth, Tx. Hazan, you're on the air.
HAZANGood morning (unintelligible) how you doing?
REHMFine, thank you, go right ahead, sir.
HAZANFirst of all, I speak some different language, but my English is too weak. Please forgive me for that.
REHMThat's all right, go right ahead.
HAZANI love your show and I want comment on the situation in Egypt. And Lindsey Graham and Senator McCain, they stand up for the truth. They tell what it is like it is, you know, the military coup is military coup. But John Kerry, he give the military green light and he told them that. He come on the air and he said what happened in Egypt is just the military doing the right thing because he said they're restoring the democracy.
GJELTENWell, that's right. It is in fact what John Kerry said, to the dismay, I think, of some others in the administration who didn't want the United States to be quite so clear about that.
GJELTENBut I should point out that nothing that the United States has said has exactly endeared itself to the anti-Morsi forces. There was an interesting interview in The Washington Post a couple of weeks ago with General al-Assisi who is the head of the, basically the head of the government now in Egypt.
GJELTENThe general and he said the United States had turned its back on the Egyptians. So we're really in a lose-lose situation here. Nobody is applauding what the United States has done. Everybody has criticism for the U.S. role it seems.
REHMAnn Collins in The Washington Post this morning, Jackson Diehl, you had other people speaking out against the route that the president has tried to take. But as you said, it's a lose-lose situation.
GJELTENWell, Jackson Diehl's point was just because there are no easy answers doesn't mean that you shouldn't be, you shouldn't try something. And I think his criticism of the administration throughout the Middle East has been that it's been too indecisive, unsure of itself and therefore has projected weakness.
GHATTASThe Obama administration always gives the impression that it's hedging its bets, that it's waiting, that's it's reluctant, that it doesn't want to pronounce itself too quickly in one way or the other. Perhaps it's symptomatic of a president who is all about nuance and nuance is a great thing but sometimes you need to take action.
GHATTASJust a quick point about the visit of Senators Graham and McCain to Egypt, it is the kind of thing that feeds confusion in countries like Egypt.
REHMWho's in charge?
GHATTASWho's in charge? And there is often misunderstanding about, you know, the role of senators and the fact that they don't necessarily speak for the government. The minute you have an American official, even if he's a lawmaker, people in countries outside of the U.S. instantly think this is the voice of the government.
GHATTASAnd then you have another voice coming, the voice of Secretary of State John Kerry so that confusion is often there. And it was there also during the uprising in 2011 when I had the Egyptian foreign minister complain to me and say, we just weren't. We didn't understand what the Americans wanted from us.
GHATTASOne day they said that. Then the envoy said something else. Then the secretary of state said something else. Then senators said something else.
NAIMDiane, a few minutes ago, you said that what happens here, what the impression is, is that everyone is very confused. And what we have been discussing is a situation of such complexity with multiple layers of difficulty, lack of information, different layers. Each of the players have their own agenda and plays on their own so.
NAIMThe deputy secretary of state of the United States is in Cairo negotiating and then two senators show up and say something and so. All of this is just to point to the fact that those that are so clear about what needs to be done are probably not completely capturing the difficulty.
NAIMI don't know that the Obama administration is being hesitant and not clear and all that just because they're incompetent or they are ideologically blindsided. I don't know. It may be that they know things. They know more about the complexity of the situation than all of the commentators do and it may be that it's much easier to claim and denounce an administration for not acting when you don't have all of the complexity at hand.
GHATTASMoises makes a very, very good point. It is always easier to criticize when you're not the one in power. And just do, let's say, put out there the point of view of the administration. They look at Egypt and they still see a country with whom they have to cooperate on security issues.
GHATTASThey want the generals to uphold the peace treaty with Israel. They want to assist and make sure that the army's military continues to fight the militants in Sinai also on the border with Israel. They need access to the Suez Canal. That is absolutely key.
GHATTASNow you could say that they have no leverage on the military to get them to do whatever they think they should be doing within the country but they want to make sure that they don't sever that relationship because the Suez Canal is a key shortcut for the U.S. Navy to reach destinations like Iraq, the Persian Gulf or Afghanistan through the Indian Ocean. If you lose that access there's a lot that's in jeopardy.
GJELTENYou know, I think I probably agree with Moises. However, just to take a devil's advocate position here, I think it's important to underscore as Kim just did, the United States has real, strategic interests in the Middle East ranging from keeping seaways open to keeping al-Qaida under control.
GJELTENAnd if you look, for example, at Syria, the consequence of the developments in Syria over the last two years has been the strengthening of al-Qaida in that region and that is most certainly not in the U.S. interest. Now, you can look back in hindsight and say, well there's nothing the United States could have done but what is developing here is a situation which is most decidedly not in the U.S. strategic interest and it's quite sad to think that the United States has been helpless, powerless over all this time to do anything at all.
REHMWhen you all begin to talk about strategic interests, what you may be leaving out intentionally is what about the safety of the U.S. itself with all of these developments. Are there growing concerns about what's happening in the Middle East as far as we might be?
NAIMAs Tom said, Diane, a superpower has multiple interests. There's a, you have a strategic interest as Kim described so well, you know, from the Suez Canal to what's happening in Syria. So when you put that in the list you discover that many of those things are in contradiction, that they are competing objectives because let's also add that the United States not only drives its foreign policy on the basis of security and economic interests, there are also values at work here.
NAIMThe United States believes in promoting democracy elsewhere but it clashes. That goal clashes with other interests. And so what we're seeing, part of the complexity and part of the difficulty and the mixing now sees that the United States is simultaneously pursuing interests that are contradictory.
NAIMAnd they need to balance off that and as you said of paramount interest is to ensure the safety of the homeland and that's part of the story.
REHMLet's go to Spring Hill, Fla. Ivan, good morning.
IVANGood morning, Diane. I wish to say that the military in Egypt has done absolutely the correct thing and they are probably using a template drawn up by one of my greatest heroes, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the present country of Turkey.
IVANHe was a military man, but he renounced, after the defeating the British after the First World War. He, at Gallipoli, that's the second Battle of Gallipoli, he formed a secular country that was mainly Islamic. What he did is he changed the entire. He changed the alphabet. He changed the way people dressed. He changed the educational system.
IVANHe did everything to bring the country out of the caliphate mentality and into a progressive, secular world.
GJELTENWell, yeah, you know, the other thing that the caller does not mention about Ataturk is the instrument for doing all these changes was largely the Turkish Army. If that is, if that is part of the approach that you're going to take in the Middle East, I think that you are accepting the prospect that you're going to have resistance to that effort and in all likelihood violent resistance.
GJELTENAnd, you know, one point, who is another major secular ruler in the Middle East? It was Bashar al-Assad and he, for him, the Islamists were the enemy and he used, has attempted to use force to keep his country intact in the vision that he and his father had for Syria and you know, look what that has brought.
GHATTASThe problem with using violence is that it drives groups like the Muslim Brotherhood underground. We've seen it happen in the past and it has brought great violence to Egypt. It is better to try to include people in a political process and there are a lot of people, whether they're pro-Morsi or anti-Morsi, the former Islamist president, who say it would have been better to let the Muslim Brotherhood fail at the polls instead of bringing them down in this fashion.
GHATTASThose who fear the Muslim Brotherhood influence say well by then it would have been too late. They would have not held proper elections anymore and we would have been stuck with them forever. But it's going back to that polarization. It's a win-lose situation all the time. There is zero-sum gained in the Middle East that is very detrimental to forging a path forward for the region.
REHMA caller is here in Washington, D.C. Hi there Jim.
JIMHi Diane, on the point on elections, isn't there more to democracy than elections? Isn't there the issue of the rule of law? And why would in Mubarak's case having the military remove him not be branded as a military coup? And finally, in terms of the ambiguity your panelists speak to, isn't there something that clarifies the ambiguity if you triangulate the situation with the American policy toward Egypt now with the Palestinian negotiations?
NAIMSo Jim is absolutely right that democracy is not just what happens the day of elections but is what happens in between elections and as Kim suggested one of the anxieties about the Morsi government was that it could be one of those democracies that have one person, one vote, one time, meaning that after they win by democratic means then they use democracy to subvert democracy and then...
NAIM...we have seen that elsewhere.
REHMYou might like to know that Reuters is reporting at least 50 are now dead in today's Day of Rage in Cairo. Kim you want to add to Moises' comments?
GHATTASAbsolutely, elections are not just, oh democracy is not just about, you know, a one-time election and President Morsi had a lot of failings in his time in office and those were very apparent. What American officials have been trying, or had to have been trying to tell the armies, generals, Egyptian generals and the secular opposition is that the best way to make Egypt forget about how inept Mr. Morsi was, was to use violence and turn his supporters into martyrs. And that's precisely what we're seeing happen today.
GJELTENYou know, there has been a commentary this week, lots of commentary that this represents the end of the Arab Spring...
GJELTEN...in the sense of the idealism that we associated with that movement which was if you extend it across the whole region, basically an anti-authoritarian movement, a pro-democracy movement, a pro-people movement and you know, what we have seen is that establishing democracy in these countries with their very troubled legacies, with the sectarian tensions that exist there is just enormously challenging.
GJELTENAnd you know, I for one certainly hope that this is not the end of this movement but it does underscore how difficult it has been.
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show". To, let's see, Cleveland, Ohio, Ray you're on the air. Ray, are you there? Okay, to Constantine in Raleigh, N.C. You're on the air sir.
CONSTANTINEYes, I wanted to make one comment based on a caller just now who described Ataturk as a hero and said that Egypt...
REHMOh dear, lost him, lost him.
GJELTENMy guess is he didn't really think he was a hero.
REHMHe said he killed too many people to attain his goal. I have here a tweet from Indira Lakshmanan. She says, "The guy I bought a shawarma from at a Penn Station food truck told me his cousin was killed in the Egyptian crackdown yesterday." So that crisis is now reaching New Yorkers, reaching people all over the world. Finally to San Antonio, Tx., Justine, you're on the air.
JUSTINEHi Diane, I have two comments. One, I'm an anthropologist and I've worked in Lebanon before the beginning of the civil war and I lived in a Sunni community. I wanted to really reinforce Kim's point that sectarianism becomes, is really a reflection of being, of religion being politicized.
JUSTINEI would see people. I lived in a remote area with a mosaic of Christian, Sunni and Shia Muslims. People got along just fine,, but the underlying theme, of course, was this poverty and access to the resources of the city, of the country rather. And so when the war began, politicians would just inflame those things.
JUSTINEThen you saw people who were living together perfectly fine suddenly becoming enemies. The second point I wanted to make is that having spent a long time, a lot of time in that area and frequently I think that on the ground and around the world there's a growing movement among Palestinians and even within Israel, Jewish-Israelis, that the only sustainable and just solution to the conflict will be the formation of one democratic state for everyone in that region.
JUSTINEThis, the peace talks are a chimera. They've been a chimera since the beginning of the Oslo period. It's just a way to continue to take the land. So those are my comments and I'd like to hear what your panel has to say.
REHMAlright, and Kim, do you want to respond?
GHATTASOn Beirut and the issue of confessional tensions I think Justine and I are on the same page. It is absolutely something that is used by leaders to inflame tensions and feed to the violence.
GHATTASOn the peace talks, you know there are lots of different opinions on how to address this, how to move forward, whether one country is the answer, one state solution instead of a two-state solution. But the key, the thing is at the moment there is a peace process going on.
GHATTASThe two parties on are onboard and the U.S. secretary of state is trying to keep them at the table for nine months.
GJELTENJust final point, the one ethnic conflict that I know best is the one in Bosnia and on the basis of my experience there I would say it's never enough for ethnic conflict to produce a war on its own. It takes a deliberate effort by demagogues on the outside to stir these up and turn it violent.
REHMTom Gjelten of NPR, Kim Ghattas of the BBC, Moises Naim of El Pais, have a great weekend.
GJELTENYou too, Diane.
GHATTASThank you, Diane.
REHMAnd thanks for listening all. I'm Diane Rehm.
ANNOUNCER"The Diane Rehm Show" is produced by Sandra Pinkard, Nancy Robertson, Denise Couture, Susan Nabors, Rebecca Kaufman, Lisa Dunn and Jill Colgan. The engineer is Aaron Stamper. Natalie Yuravlivker answers the phones. Visit drshow.org for audio archives, transcripts, podcasts and CD sales. Call 202-885-1200 for more information. Our email address is firstname.lastname@example.org and we're on Facebook and Twitter. This program comes to you from American University in Washington, D.C. This is NPR.
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