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Classified files show Pakistan secretly endorsed U.S. drone strikes. Saudi Arabia warns of a rift with the U.S. over Syria and Iran. And anger grows among European allies over alleged U.S. spying. A panel of journalists joins Diane for analysis of the week’s top international news stories.
- Nathan Guttman Washington correspondent, Channel 1 Israeli News and The Jewish Daily Forward.
- David Ignatius columnist, The Washington Post, and contributor, “Post Partisan” blog on washingtonpost.com; author of "Bloodmoney: A Novel of Espionage."
- Nancy Youssef Middle East bureau chief, McClatchy Newspapers.
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. Germany and France called for talks over US spying allegations. Classified files show Pakistan secretly endorsed US drone strikes. And Saudi Arabia warns of a rift with the US over Syria and Iran. Joining me for the International Hour of the Friday News Roundup, David Ignatius of The Washington Post, Nancy Youssef of McClatchy Newspapers, and Nathan Guttman of Channel 1 Israeli News and The Jewish Daily Forward.
MS. DIANE REHMDo join us. Give us your own questions, comments. 800-433-8850. Send us your email to email@example.com. Follow us on Facebook or send us a tweet. Welcome everybody, and happy Friday.
MR. DAVID IGNATIUSGood morning.
MS. NANCY YOUSSEFGood morning.
MR. NATHAN GUTTMANGood morning. Thanks.
REHMGood morning. It's good to see you all. Nancy Youssef, welcome back to you. Glad to see you, and talk about these allegations all over the place about US spying on Angela Merkel, on the French. I mean, they are threatening everything.
YOUSSEFIt was a very busy week for President Obama, because he spent a bulk of it making calls to his counterparts in France and Germany and essentially apologizing and trying to soothe concerns about spying. In the case of Germany, German officials discover that Angela Merkel's phone, her -- or excuse me, her business phone...
YOUSSEFHer cell phone was being tapped by the NSA in Le Monde. As Secretary of State John Kerry was landing in France, there were reports that 70 million calls had been intercepted or recorded, in some measure, between December of 2012 and January 2013. So the question became, what was the damage? And how real was it? Because, on one hand, this appeared to break trust between the United States and some of its closest allies. It affected the efforts by the United States and the E.U. to reach a trade agreement.
YOUSSEFAnd, but at the same time, it's not clear that it fundamentally changes the relationship. We heard, for example, Germany's Defense Minister say that these allegations, if true, are unacceptable. But at the same time, he said that the relationship between the United States and Germany remains strong. And so, it really raised questions about US spying practices again on the heels of questions coming from Mexico and Brazil. But, whether it has long term implications or not, we'll wait and see.
REHMThe question is, does everybody know that everybody does it, Nathan?
GUTTMANExactly. And that's the point that the White House was trying to make very subtly this week, saying these are common practices in intelligence services. Now, it's true that it's very offensive to other leaders, and Chancellor Merkel, who was known to run the country with her cell phone, you see all the photos of her holding her cell phone. And so, clearly, it's a huge embarrassment. But I'm sure that these European leaders and world leaders are aware of the fact that their calls are being monitored.
GUTTMANAnd I'm sure that the top secret information isn't relayed in these phone calls. There was even a report mentioned in the Guardian that the NSA found most of this information that they gathered through these world leaders as not all that important. So, basically, it's very embarrassing, but I'm not sure there were great secrets revealed here.
REHMBut did the US step over a line here, David?
IGNATIUSWell, I think this is the week in which we went from the everybody does it defense, which is true, this is what spy agencies do, to a new space in which new rules of the game are gonna have to be negotiated. The Europeans took one, or said they're ready to take one very important step, which is to cut off US intelligence access to the swift financial transaction processing system, which is one of the most important ways that the US has monitored terrorist financing. It actually has been a very important tool in trying to isolate, identify Al-Qaeda.
IGNATIUSAnd the Europeans said, we're not gonna let you do this anymore, unless we have new rules. Another thing that I would note is that, in a sense, this is the rebellion of other Europeans, German speakers, French speakers, against what the French call les Anglo Saxon, meaning the United States and Britain and other English speaking countries that form the intelligence partnership that's known as The Five Eyes. And those partners, in fact, do have a no spy agreement. We won't go after you. I don't think we'd go after British Prime Ministers with anything like the intensity that we went after Angela Merkel.
IGNATIUSBecause they are our intelligence partners. So I think the French and the Germans are saying, look, you already have rules with the countries you trust most, and either you let us into that club, and we have rules that we understand together, or we're gonna cut off your access to -- the Germans are now moving to take their telecommunications, perhaps, out of the realm in which they could be intercepted, which would be an enormous change for the US.
YOUSSEFAnd then there's the practical issue of domestic politics in France and Germany. There's a real sense of outrage that the United States is engaging in this. On one hand, they hear about how there's a strong partnership, and yet, they don't know if their phone calls are being tapped, what the extent is, what the information's being used for, or what's been gained by it. The United States will say, in vague terms, that they've prevented terrorist attacks and whatnot through some of this intelligence effort, and yet, understandably, can't offer any specifics. And the other thing is it's another reminder of the impact of Edward Snowden and these leaks.
YOUSSEFAnd they're feeling that this will continue, that this is just the latest in what could be a string of revelations that come from these documents and the things that he has been able to leak out to the public.
REHMI thought it was interesting that the, in the press conference that Jay Carney had, he assured the reporters that the US, quote, "is not monitoring and will not monitor the Chancellor's communications." Did any reporter there ask, well, what about in the past?
GUTTMANI think there were attempts to get to that, but the White House was very insistent on this wording, not looking into the past. Maybe one of the good things that came out of the Edward Snowden leak is that, and of Wikileaks before that, is that governments do have to be accountable. You can't just say, we didn't do things and expect it not to ever be revealed by the public. So to a certain extent, I think the White House also gets that message, and I understand that you can talk about the present and future, but you can't lie about the past.
IGNATIUSI think the White House's response to the NSA leaks has been the focus on the domestic consequences. Americans were upset that their meta-data, the details of who they called and when, was entirely accessible, it turns out, to the NSA, for processing. So the administration thought, well that's job one. We have to reassure Americans, somehow, with new rules, new levels of transparency and oversight that Americans' privacy isn't subject to violation willy-nilly.
IGNATIUSThey kind of left the question of people overseas as a secondary matter. And I've heard administration officials, intelligence officials say, look, the fourth amendment banning unreasonable searches and seizures doesn't apply to foreigners. Well, you know what? Something is gonna apply to foreigners, because they're demanding that their privacy be respected too.
REHMSo, you believe that something will change.
IGNATIUSI think intelligence agencies will continue to do what they do, which is to violate the laws of foreign countries to obtain information that is regarded as important for national security. I think they'll have additional rules to prevent embarrassing incidents, but the notion that the CIA, the NSA, all these other agencies are gonna go out of business because Chancellor Merkel is upset about her cell phone being violated, I just don't see that happening.
REHMDavid, is this industrial espionage? What kinds of secrets does the US want to discover from Germany?
IGNATIUSWell, we know, and we're obviously outside this. But one has the impression that the NSA has really a very aggressive and technologically admirable organization, you know, seeking to deal with this new world of digital communications, just tried to break through every barrier it could. If there's something encrypted, figure out how to decrypt it. If there's a new way that messages are transmitted, find a way to get inside it. And, you know, that's what they're instructed to do.
IGNATIUSThe problem is that clear rules that limit that so that your political risk is reduced don't seem to have been applied. And I think that's what we're now living with.
YOUSSEFAnd that's where the division happens between the United States and the international community. Angela Merkel herself said just because the technology's available doesn't mean that it should be always used. And so we saw, just in this controversy this week, the divide that the practices that David talked about creates a division between the United States and its allies.
GUTTMANAnd it's not really clear if there are any specific secrets the NSA is looking for. Sometimes, this information gathering is just to help get a better picture of international diplomacy, of policy, of where things stand. And then, spy agencies add their own input to this discussion. A lot of this information is out in the open, and they can add whatever they gather in their own means.
REHMDo you think any permanent damage has been done by these revelations, specifically about Germany and France. David?
IGNATIUSWell, we're still in the period in which we're getting a sense of how governments and private individuals will react. Certainly, you hear from government officials. Yes, damage has been done. There will be serious consequences for this, and people need to understand that. And I think that that's a reasonable point. Privacy doesn't come at no cost. You know, when you insist on your privacy, part of that is saying, well, you know, certain things I might get in a world where I was less protected, I'm not gonna have.
IGNATIUSAnd I think that's, you know, Americans need to understand that. The only point I'd make, Diane, is that when you take away the haystack that NSA can search through to find the needle, your chances of finding the needle do go down, and we're gonna have less hay, because less data will be available.
REHMDavid Ignatius. The Washington Post. Short break here. When we come back, Pakistan is on our agenda. Stay with us.
REHMAnd welcome back to the International Hour of our Friday News Roundup this week with Nathan Guttman. He's Washington correspondent for Channel 1 Israeli News and the Jewish Daily Forward. Nancy Youssef is Middle East bureau chief with McClatchy Newspapers, just back from Egypt where she returns on Sunday. And David Ignatius is columnist with the Washington Post, author of one of my favorite spy novels, "Blood Money: A Novel of Espionage."
REHMAnd speaking of espionage and speaking of what goes on behind the scenes, David, the Washington Post revealed a secret deal on drones between the U.S. and Pakistan. You wrote about this a long time ago.
IGNATIUSThis has to be the least secret secret deal ever. Getting ready for today's show I did dig back in my clips electronically and I found a column I had written in November, 2008. And I'll just read a sentence from it. It was describing a secret agreement between the ISI, the Inter-Services-Intelligence directorate in Pakistan that runs their spying and the CIA submitted at a meeting in Washington around a big dinner table.
IGNATIUSAnd it says, this secret accord was set after the September 2008 visit to Washington by Pakistan's new president Zardari. It provided new mechanics for coordination of predator -- that means drone attacks -- in a jointly approved list of high value targets. Behind the agreement was the recognition by the Zardari government of Pakistan's new military chief General Kayani that an imminent threat to Pakistan's security comes from Islamic terrorists rather than the arch rival India.
IGNATIUSSo that's 2008 and this was done. Pakistan denied it publically always. Always publically criticized it. Even as in private it said basically, go ahead.
REHMAnd now we have a new president in place.
IGNATIUSWe have a new prime minister Nawaz Sharif who came to Washington this week for a visit that was described as a resetting. This one actually seems to have been a pretty good visit. Nawaz Sharif is a very experienced politician. He and his family control the Punjab. Lahore is his base in northeastern Pakistan but a very experienced person. He came to Washington and was given -- restored $1.5 billion worth of U.S. aid. He made the case about drones and I think he had a more receptive audience this time.
YOUSSEFAnd we should point out the reason that that aid was suspended was in light of a lot of controversies between the two nations, the bin Laden raid in 2011, the United States strike on the border that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers, a contractor who killed two civilians. And so this was the latest and arguably the third reset attempt since 2008. And as David points out, it seemed to be more promising than ones in the past.
REHMBut the prime minister did call for an end to these drone strikes, Nathan.
GUTTMANAnd he was basically elected on a platform that spoke a lot about the need to stop these drone attacks. And to a certain extent what the Pakistanis are looking at is an American operation that exceeded its limits, while it was clear to everyone that a certain extent of American intervention and the drone attacks are useful for Pakistan. When this became just too often and too dangerous with too much collateral damage and the Pakistanis just -- internal pressure led the leadership there to say what they're saying now.
GUTTMANAnd this attempt to reset relations would also be an attempt to reset the drone program in a sense which of course won't be stated publically. But in a sense that Pakistan would like to let the United States understand that if you need to do something really extraordinary to deal with a certain threat, go ahead. But you can't do anything beyond that because we're just not at that point anymore.
REHMWell, I don't understand the difference between what the agreement was and what it will be.
GUTTMANI'd say it's a lot about the volume and the extent of this program.
IGNATIUSI think that the Pakistanis have felt that we are overdoing it. And to support that I'll actually quote -- with apologies -- from a column that I wrote in 2010 after visiting the head of the ISI in Islamabad. And I quote a senior ISI official in that he'd given me a precise count of the number of drone attacks since 2004 in saying, 'the quality of the targets is not as good now as it was. The perception is that you are trigger happy.' That was in 2010. So that's been an increasing Pakistani perception.
IGNATIUSI think coming away from this meeting, Pakistani's know that they'll never get a U.S. pledge never to use drones when we have a deadly adversary in al-Qaida that's still hiding out in the tribal areas. But they want the targets to be more precisely chosen and limited.
YOUSSEFWell, and this comes on the heels of Amnesty International and the United Nations coming back and saying, the United States has not been forthright about the number of civilians killed. And so the atmosphere is certainly ripe for a discussion about change of how drones are deployed, who they're deployed against and how to limit collateral damage. I think the dance that the Pakistanis have been doing around drones, and what we saw in the documents that the Washington Post published this week, really showed their challenge in using drones on one hand to go after sort of shared enemies, and at the same time pacifying public concern amid these growing civilian casualties.
YOUSSEFAnd so I think this week we saw sort of another manifestation of that diplomatic dance, if you will.
REHMAll right. Let's turn to Saudi Arabia, Nancy, some interesting words out of that country about U.S. policy in the Middle East.
YOUSSEFThat's right. This week Saudi Arabia suggested a change in the relationship with the United States. This is one of the United States' strongest allies in the region that face three really news events, if you will, or crises that are happening in the Middle East. Number one is the United States is positioned towards Iran and how to stop its move towards nuclear weapons. Secondly, the United States' approach towards Syria and its decision to not attack the Assad regime when it was right on the heels of it in the face of the use of chemical weapons against his own people.
YOUSSEFAnd maybe because I live in Egypt, I bring this Egyptian bias. I think the third would be the United States' position towards the military takeover and the removal of the Muslim Brotherhood's elected leader, Mohamed Morsi. And so together, those three things have really irked Saudi Arabia because they see the United States as sort of kowtowing to groups that don't serve the region.
YOUSSEFAnd I just want to point out, I think that this is something that we're going to continue to see in the post Arab Spring, sort of strange bedfellows and changing alliances because the region has been so fundamentally altered. Arguably at the start of the Iraq war but certainly since Arab Spring. We see it in Egypt for example. The United States gives $1.5 billion in aid and yet what was once its strongest relationship is now -- it has a military that ousted a democratically-elected leader and supports the Assad regime, which of course the United States does not.
YOUSSEFWe see this in Iraq. Nourik al-Maliki's two biggest allies are the United States and Iran, which of course have different interests. And so I can tell you as a resident there in the region that you see these changing alliances all the time. And they're shifting so quickly because the norms that we have known for decades have completely been thrown out the window. And I think we're going to continue to see more nuance and more difficult relationships and strange bedfellows. And I find, just as a reporter, it becomes very hard to follow sometimes.
REHMSaudi Arabia, Nathan.
GUTTMANIt's interesting that the Saudis in a public gesture actually announced that they're giving up their -- the seat that they were supposed to take at the UN Security Council. In international terms this is a coveted position. And finally Saudi Arabia got to sit around the table with the 15 nations and it decided -- it announced that because of its displeasure with the way the International Community is conducting its business, it will just give up the seat. So that kind of sent shockwaves because it just demonstrated how hurt the Saudis feel about the conduct of the world. But basically when they say the world, they mean the United States.
REHMAnd, David, we just had an email saying, "Saudi Arabia is a Sunni country. It's continuously in conflict with the Shiite communities. What's never discussed in analysis of the U.S.-Saudi relationship is that they want us to do the dirty work of suppressing the Shiites for them." How much truth is there to that?
IGNATIUSWell, I think it is true that Saudi Arabia has been pushing very hard its agenda in a region that is increasingly driven by this Suuni-Shia split. So, you know, it's said sometimes the Saudis want to fight the Shiites to the last Syrian. You know, they've been pumping weapons and money into that civil war. They want to fight against Shia in Bahrain down to the last Bahraini protestor. They want to fight their enemies down to the last American soldier. Some American critics would've said that the Saudis encourage the U.S. to take military actions.
IGNATIUSI think what's happening now is that the Obama Administration has decided that it is going to seek to make a turn in its policy in the region by opening negotiations with Iran, Shia Persian Iran. Saudi Arabia's longstanding rival in the region. And obviously that upsets the Saudis. And it's understandable why it should. I think the criticism to make of the Obama Administration is not that it's exploring this opening with Iran but that it's not talking enough to its traditional allies, and that includes Saudi Arabia, the UAE. To some extent it includes Israel. It certainly includes Egypt. I mean, we've got all of our traditional friends furious at us I think to some extent unnecessarily.
REHMBut Secretary Kerry was playing down the rift.
IGNATIUSHe was playing down the rift but he ought to look at -- I mean, when Saudi Arabia publically -- Saudi Arabia, the most reticent country I know -- publically attacks the United States, its longstanding ally, that's important. I'd also note that there was a luncheon meeting Monday in Riyadh with King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia in which he invited King Abdullah of Jordan and Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed the crown prince and the defector ruler of the UAE. And they all sat together and the Saudi king said, I'm furious with the United States. And I'm told they basically nodded and said, we don't understand U.S. policy either. Whoa.
YOUSSEFWell, it's very hard to understand U.S. policy. I'll give you an example just in Egypt. I mean, three months ago Egypt was with the Syrian rebels. And all of a sudden it had a new president and now it's against the Syrian rebels. And so formulating a policy, I think, with alliances and leadership changing so quickly I think is very difficult.
YOUSSEFAnd the other thing I would point out, as David says, about the Sunni-Shia rift, it really threatens the entire region. We could go from five states to fourteen, some argue, because once you lose those tenuous borders, which are all in some ways in jeopardy, Syria being the keystone to it, suddenly we have an eastern Syria that's more aligned with western Iraq or even Libya perhaps breaking up. And so I understand the frustration with U.S. foreign policy in the region but I think it's very complicated to form one when the very essence of the Middle East is up for question right now.
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." To remind our listeners, on Monday we'll devote a full hour to Saudi Arabia. One question I want to ask you, Nathan, is about women and driving in Saudi Arabia. Apparently many, many women are going to come out tomorrow and drive cars.
GUTTMANYes. Tomorrow will probably be the first and biggest showdown over the rights of women to ride cars in Saudi Arabia. There's a huge social media campaign going on with YouTube and videos showing women driving with Twitter and Facebook accounts calling for people to join. And it's interesting to see if this will be just a symbolic issue or if this will be beginning of a point of change in Saudi Arabia. Because there's one thing, which is the actual issue of women being allowed to drive or right now not being allowed to drive.
GUTTMANAnd the broader issue of how the Saudi monarch will deal with cause for change in his kingdom. And right now it seems, at least based on the public announcements of the regime, that they're trying to play it safe. They're making clear that it will be a violation of the law. But it doesn't seem as if they're going to be too tough with these women protestors. And it's a way of walking this tightrope of listening to the people but still remaining an Islamist theocratic regime.
REHMSo they might act with sort of looking the other way tomorrow. Nancy, if thousands of women turn out, then what happens on Monday if those women continue to drive?
YOUSSEFWell, that's the question. I think we'll start to -- we'll see arrests in cases on Saturday. Not severe penalties that we would've once seen before. And I think on Monday if it continues we'll still see arrests of some kind. But I -- you do get the sense that there's an acknowledgment that something has to change, little things that are big indicators. For example, state newspapers are being allowed to run editorials calling for change and calling for women to be allowed to drive. A huge development.
YOUSSEFThe language that they're using in admonishing people who are going to participate tomorrow is different. They say that you face arrests but they don't outwardly condemn the protests itself. That 16,000 people have been allowed to sign a petition calling for the change is a big step. And, you know, we hear about this issue over and over again. And there are women in the Shura council but what makes driving particularly important in Saudi Arabia is if they win this, this is a real physical change in the country.
YOUSSEFYou don't see women in the Shura council every day but if women are allowed to drive, it's something that every Saudi will see every day. And I think that's one of the reasons women are pushing so aggressively on this issue.
IGNATIUSOne unlikely fact, Diane, is that when you visit Saudi Arabia and talk to Saudi women, they have such deep frustrations and anger about issues like driving, not being able to shop freely. But when you ask them about Saudi leadership, and specifically about King Abdullah, they generally love King Abdullah. They see him as a defender of their rights, somebody who stands between them and the much more hostile clerics of the Ulama who are in charge of the religious police in Saudi Arabia known as the Mutaween who patrol the markets. You know, rounding the -- if they see a woman who's hijab, headscarf, is not appropriate, they (unintelligible).
IGNATIUSBut they see King Abdullah as somebody who is with women in their desire for greater rights. So I can imagine a kind of classic Saudi -- you know, they don't quite announce it but the ban on driving is eased a lot. And then eventually there's some new rule. And I think the king personally would probably support that.
REHMYou think that by say a month from now?
IGNATIUSWell, I wouldn't predict -- the king has a very strong prominent daughter who's just a figure in the kingdom. And he listens to her. (laugh)
REHMGood for him.
IGNATIUSAnd, you know, the king is an old man and I'd think he'd want to protect this part of his reputation.
REHMAll right. And when we come back, time to open the phones. We'll also be talking a little more about Egypt and certainly about Israel and its outlook on Iran. Stay with us.
REHMAnd two emails, one from a Peace Corps volunteer in Namibia who simply wants to say he downloads the "Friday News Roundup" to catch up on what's happening and thanks us all for helping him to stay up with what's happening. Andrew, we're glad you're out there listening.
REHMHere's another email, a little more critical. David, here it comes, "David Ignatius' comments about the NSA collection activities being complicated by the intelligence haystack becoming smaller are incorrect. The leaked documents demonstrate the NSA is sifting through nearly all communications lawfully or otherwise."
REHM"Their haystack is currently far too large to provide meaningful, actionable intelligence without an enormous number of false positives. These programs continue at great cost to our country, our image abroad, our civil liberties."
IGNATIUSThat's a strong statement of the argument for much greater restriction on NSA collection. I'm not sure I'm really disagreeing with the person who wrote that email. If some of these changes are carried out, the size of the haystack will get smaller. It may be vastly too big. I'm not sure that we know all the details of that but as it gets smaller by whatever degree, the ability to look for the needle is diminished. Is that worth doing? That's what Americans have to decide...
IGNATIUS...because that makes sense. These things, my only point would be, these things aren't costless. We may feel that our privacy rights really matter to us as Americans.
IGNATIUSWe ought to look carefully at what that will cost us and do it with our eyes wide open.
REHMLet's go to David in Fort Worth, Tx. You're on the air.
DAVIDThank you, Diane.
DAVIDMy question is, Edward Snowden made claims since arriving in Russia that he hasn't carried any of this intelligence with him that would make him vulnerable to both Russian and Chinese authorities. My question is, how is a lot of this information still being disseminated and A, will these people, if caught, helping Edward Snowden disseminates this information, if they are caught, are they subject to the same penalties and criminal charges that he's found under?
DAVIDAnd finally, what impact is this having on the current administration in moving forward our ability to collect, maintain and keep secrets with this intelligence information?
GUTTMANWell, I think a lot of this, to the best of my knowledge, a lot of this information was given in advance to the (word?) journalists and it's being put out gradually as time goes by. I don't think Edward Snowden is, has the ability right now to communicate with the reporters freely or to pass on that information. So I guess the question that still remains open is how much is still out there? What piles of information are reporters sitting on that we'll see as time goes by?
IGNATIUSSnowden said in an interview in The New York Times recently that he did not take the documents, the materials with him to Moscow and so in that sense he couldn't have given the Russians these secrets. He says he didn't give them to the Chinese either.
IGNATIUSI think there is an expectation on the part of everybody looking at this, that includes journalists, it includes U.S. government officials, that there is a lot more that's going to keep coming in dribs and drabs. And this is going to be a -- and I think that's very much the way Snowden and the advocates of greater privacy, greater controls on NSA would like.
IGNATIUSThey want to see this. There is a toothache that doesn't go away until fundamental changes are made.
REHMAlright, to Kansas City, Mo, Hyam, you're on the air.
REHMHi, go right ahead.
HYAMOkay, I wanted to ask about Iran. And I read an article that Iran is like a month close to creating a bomb, and my question is, is all this stuff with the elections, because I think the elections were faked, the last elections, because the results were released like a month, a day later, the same as four years ago and I think Iran planned it this way and nobody counted the votes, too many votes to count and they made 50 point something percent just to show that, to make the people happy.
HYAMAnd do you think it's all fake? Just for them to have a bomb and once they have a bomb they're like North Korea and nobody can do anything about it. And he told a joke and what Netanyahu is saying is true, the Prime Minister Netanyahu is saying is true, that they are just trying to hide it and talk and make everything look nice.
REHMAlright sir, thanks for your call. Nathan?
GUTTMANWell, there are a few questions here. About the elections in Iran, first of all we should keep in mind that the candidates were preselected by the Supreme Leadership so even if the count itself is accurate, it's clearly not a free election system in Iran.
GUTTMANBut that seems to be a little bit beside the point. The fact is that Rouhani is being backed, at least currently, by Khamenei in this drive to negotiate with the United States and we've heard the alarm bells ringing in Israel ever since because for Israelis, this is basically their worst case scenario. This is what Netanyahu has been warning about for years, that they will reach a point in which Iranians are willing to talk and the West will be willing to compromise.
GUTTMANAnd Israel's position is in zero compromises, zero enrichment in Iran, zero nuclear facilities. If they want a nuclear civilian program, let them buy the nuclear material from other countries. They're stating a maximalist approach and this is the source of tension right now between Israel and the United States over this issue.
IGNATIUSFirst on the caller's question, was the election in Iran fake? I know of no evidence to support that argument and quite a lot of evidence to the contrary. What was surprising, and analysts are pretty sure this was surprising to the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, as to others was that in a field of five candidates the one who was most critical of the regime, most in favor of engagement with the West, Rouhani, ended up winning more than 50 percent.
IGNATIUSAnd as we understand it from the reporting that we've done, the question that was facing the Supreme Leader was, should I let that election result go forward? Or should I mess with it and try to limit it? As they seemed to have done in 2009 when they clearly intervened and the Ayatollah let it go forward and Rouhani is now president and you know, he's doing some things that in Iran are controversial.
IGNATIUSOn Israel and the Israeli position, no enrichment, basically turn the clock back, you know, they're really talking about turning the clock back ten years. Increasingly even among hardline Israelis there is a recognition that although the perfect deal that Netanyahu would like to see with no enrichment may not be possible.
IGNATIUSThere's a good deal that the United States is seeking that Israel could live with. It was very interesting that a former Israeli director of military intelligence, General Amos Yadlin, came out with a public statement saying, the perfect deal may not be achievable but he's for the good deal. He was separating himself from Prime Minister Netanyahu and that was I think, Nathan can tell us, I think that was watched very carefully in Israel.
GUTTMANDefinitely and there are two schools of thought about this. Is Netanyahu basically just playing the game of the Middle Eastern bazaar, meaning if Iran is now willing to negotiate and the West is willing to compromise, then we have to position ourselves in the most extreme way in order for the compromise to be somewhere closer to our view.
GUTTMANOr is he really serious about the fact that Israel will not allow, and when Israel says it will not allow it means it might attack on its own, will not allow Iran to have any nuclear capability. And that is still open and Netanyahu is reaching out to the public saying, this is our only position. It's not an opening position, it's our only position. I think most Israelis understand that it is an opening position.
YOUSSEFI would just add, you mentioned earlier about Netanyahu and his concern about giving up too quickly, that sanctions is a critical part to the discussion. Because I think one of the reasons people like Netanyahu felt Iran would eventually be willing to negotiate is because of the sanction pressure. And I think the real question coming forward, going forward is, what happens with sanctions?
YOUSSEFAt what point does the discussion start about lifting and does that lead to a reversal of the Iranian position? Is this about lifting sanctions? Or is this really about a change in tone? And I think that's really the central debate going on right now in terms of Iranian motives.
REHMAlright, to Tim in Kalamazoo, Mich., hi there, you're on the air.
TIMGood morning Diane.
TIMMy question is, has anyone imagined what sort of backlash might happen if an allied country such as Germany was discovered to be tapping our president's phone?
IGNATIUSWell, that's a good question. I think we'd be furious and it's not as if it's -- it's understandable why people or why leaders get upset at these invasions. The, I'll give you an interesting example to me. Last year the United States learned through a defector who walked into the U.S. consulate in Chengdu in Sichuan Province in China about some scandals that really rocked the Chinese leadership, you know, really could have created instability.
IGNATIUSThe U.S. kept it zipped, didn't say a word publicly for months even though it knew all those details, because of a desire to protect the stability and confidentiality of relationships. And normally that's what people do. I mean, for all we know, there are lots of incidents in which U.S. communications in the White House or anywhere else are collected and surveilled. But they're just not announced because you decide, you know, let's just keep a lid on. I don't know that that's so, but it wouldn't surprise me.
GUTTMANI'd just add that in Israel the first reaction from many people was, well what about Jonathan Pollard, because and this is an example going back 30 years ago when Israel spied in the Pentagon, had its own person in the Pentagon stealing documents, basically. And the reaction of the United States seemed to be extremely harsh. The guy is still in prison now and it just comes to show you that when you're on the other side of being spied on, you're not as forgiving.
REHMI want to ask you all about the news we heard this week about Pope Francis temporarily expelling a German bishop over the scandal to build a new residence which, at least in American dollars, cost about $42 million. Nancy?
YOUSSEFSix times the allotted budget that was given to him. He is now referred to as the bishop of bling, $640,000 on art. You know, Pope Francis has been the pope who has been calling for humility and austerity and the idea that his bishop in Limburg, Germany would be spending this kind of money was simply unacceptable.
YOUSSEFTaking a first-class trip reportedly or allegedly to visit the slums of India, it certainly, it went against the fundamental principles that Pope Francis has been trying to preach from his papacy, and so as allegations came out that this pope had spent, as you say, $42 million to renovate his living quarters, he says it was several buildings, and some of them included his own private church, and several buildings, led to his indefinite suspension as the church investigates it.
REHMBut you know it's interesting, are we going to see more pushback from the Vatican itself, I mean, to these austerity measures? David?
IGNATIUSWell, there's been a little bit of pushback from conservative Catholics already who are worried that the new pope is just on a tear and is going to fundamentally disrupt their notion of how the church should be run. I would say looking at this from my perspective as a journalist that Pope Francis is an example of what a change agent is.
IGNATIUSHe has been pope for a very short time but through spoken messages, through his personal behavior, through some very sharp moves, like going after this bishop of Limburg, he is sending powerful, clear messages about how he wants to change the way the church is perceived.
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Did you want to add to that, Nathan?
GUTTMANIt would just be interesting to see how this plays out. I mean, this is one part of the greater reform that Pope Francis seems to be pushing forward and it's definitely one of the most difficult institutes to reform, so he's trying to do a lot in his first year and kind of mimicking the way that elected officials in democracies work, trying to get as much done in the first year, and it would be interesting to see how much pushback he faces.
REHMAnd finally, knowing that you're returning to Egypt this weekend, Nancy, a lot of people are concerned about whether Egypt is actually heading for a civil war.
YOUSSEFI don't think so. I think there's a difference between heading toward civil war and being a deeply polarized state and that's what Egypt is right now. There's a huge majority, group of Egyptians who support the military ouster of former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi.
YOUSSEFI think it's hard to see war breaking out if for no other reason, who is strong enough to go against the military? And who has the backing of the people? The Muslim Brotherhood and the Islamists have really lost a lot of public support under the Morsi presidency.
YOUSSEFThe revolutionaries have lost a lot of Egyptian public support and their years of promises of democratic reforms only to literally get on a plane and leave when things started to collapse. And so, what I think you're starting to see is an Egypt in which the military will increasingly take away people's rights and freedoms. I think that's a very real possibility.
YOUSSEFI think you'll see a military really try to clamp down on not only Islamists but really political Islam as they see this as their chance to deal with this problem, and potentially a military that the people who rose up just three years ago allows to stay in power for the foreseeable future because they're literally exhausted from the promise and the drama of the last few years. Is that civil war? I don't think so. It doesn't feel that way yet.
IGNATIUSThe excesses of the military, as Nancy says, and she's living this on the ground as a journalist, really are worrisome and may create a new terrorist underground. But I would just note something fascinating which is that it seems as if a majority of Egyptians in the center, looking at this Muslim Brotherhood government under President Morsi which was very closed, which wasn't really seeking to govern for the country, said we don't want to live like this.
IGNATIUSThis isn't the country we want and it's a tragedy that the military has been so extreme. But that public, you know, desire, we don't want to go down that road, I find positive.
REHMLast brief word Nathan.
GUTTMANIt just strikes me as if the clock was reversed where three years back again in the Mubarak times, the Muslim Brotherhood being oppressed, military overreaching. It's all the same.
REHMNathan Guttman, Nancy Youssef, David Ignatius, thank you all.
GUTTMANThanks to you.
REHMAnd thanks for listening all, have a great weekend. 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
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