The threat from North Korea: a diplomat's perspective on what's changed and what hasn't, then, shifting notions on tax payer money for religious institutions and the separation between church and state.
In Brussels European leaders agree to measures to help financially struggling euro zone members. Egyptian Mohamed Morsi is to be sworn in as the first Islamist head of state in the region since the Arab Spring democracy movement began. Tensions heighten after Syrian forces shoot down a Turkish military plane. And Russian President Vladimir Putin stops in on Israel for brief talks with Prime Minister Netanyahu. James Kitfield of National Journal, Courtney Kube of NBC and Warren Strobel of Reuters join Diane for analysis of the week’s top international news stories.
- Courtney Kube national security producer for NBC News.
- Warren Strobel editor in charge, U.S. foreign policy and national security, Reuters.
- James Kitfield senior correspondent, National Journal.
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. In Brussels, European leaders agree to measure to help financially struggling Eurozone members. Egyptian Mohamed Morsi will be sworn as the first Islamist head of state in the region since the Arab Spring democracy movement began And heightened tensions after Syrian forces shoot down a Turkish military plane.
MS. DIANE REHMJoining me for the week's top international stories on the Friday News Roundup, James Kitfield of National Journal, Courtney Kube of NBC News and Warren Strobel of Reuters. You can join us, 800-433-8850. Send us your email to email@example.com, join us on Facebook or Twitter. Good morning to all of you.
MR. JAMES KITFIELDGood morning.
MS. COURTNEY KUBEGood morning.
MR. WARREN STROBELGood morning.
REHMAnd, James Kitfield, surprise news from Brussels early this morning.
KITFIELDYes, you know, we've seen this act before. The Europeans creep up to the abyss and markets get extremely nervous and the next country, the next domino, looks like it's going to fall and they do something to pull back from the abyss. And this time, they did something that was pretty significant in the sense that the European Central Bank can now use the bailout fund, which has already been established, of $500 billion or so euros to directly recapitalize banks without that going on the debt ledgers of the country
KITFIELDAnd that's important because what happened with Spain and its bank bailout was we, you know, the European Central Bank made $125 billion dollars available. But that went on Spain's already groaning debt leverage and the markets within hours were making Spain pay a high premium to sell its bonds. So this kind of circumvents that problem and the markets are reacting very favorably.
REHMSo what is the impact here on Spain and other European countries, Courtney?
KUBEWell, in the more immediate future, they're lowering the barring costs for Italy and Spain, which is necessary for both of those countries. Frankly, their banks were really teetering or will be teetering on the end if they continue to have to pay these outrageous interest rates. So it's, you know, what's interesting about this is every time we've been talking about these summits over the last, what 19 or 20 of them that they've had since the Eurozone crisis, is that Angela Merkel is continually being more and more isolated with each summit and this one was really, it really illustrated that.
KUBEShe went into it with this vision of long term stability for the euro and not so much of a short term solution. But instead, I mean, she really -- I know that this morning she was out saying that, no, I, you know, everything that we wanted, Germany got. But it doesn't really appear that way after the summit had broke up after all night haggling.
REHMAnd Warren, what she actually said was that the new aid would not flow without conditionality.
STROBELExactly. I mean, I totally agree with Courtney that Angela Merkel has been isolated over time, but she still holds all the cards, right? I mean, the cards are money. Germany has the most productive economy. It doesn't have a huge deficit. And in the end, she's going to drive a very tough bargain. The details of this deal that was announced today have not been working out.
REHMAnd yet markets all over the world indeed believe that something really good has happened.
KITFIELDYou know, the question out there that creates so much uncertainty is what will Germany do. And, you know, she says things at home for a bailout weary German public that suggests that, you know, Germany is going to do no more. If Germany does no more, the Eurozone cannot survive. And so the question about Merkel was always, will she eventually -- is she just really driving a harder bargain here with all this sort of brinkmanship or is she really willing to let the Eurozone crash?
KITFIELDWell, this is a pretty good indication that she got what she wanted, which was a joint supervisory board that will oversee, you know, the banks and these national governments and will have power to sort of, you know, affect the flow of money to them. So and she will require -- and they will require some austerity measures in terms of putting up collateral, et cetera.
REHMBut no euro bonds?
KITFIELDNot yet. But, I mean, the euro bonds are going to be the final answer to this if there is going to be an answer. But she wants to apparently drive the hardest bargain so by the time that you get to euro bonds, you've created basically an economic and a much more of a political union in the European Union. I mean, the Germans are now sort of espousing this grand vision of even having a common European army, of having a directly elected European Commission president, of having a finance minister for the European union that has veto power over the nation states. I mean, all this drives France crazy, but I mean, that's really the bargain that she's kind of squeezing bit by bit, more union. She's going to put up her hard-earned German money.
STROBELYes, it's basically like a United States of Europe, which the Eurozone has sort of approximated in the past, but it's much more. I think that historically, just going back a month or so, the balance of power has shifted dramatically within inside the Eurozone and it started a little more than a month ago when Francois Hollande was elected president of France.
STROBELHe traveled shortly thereafter to Camp David for G8 summit and was greeted very warmly by President Obama. Obama does not have a lot of skin in the game in terms of being able to influence things, but having Hollande there has allowed him to put, if not his thumb, his pinky on the scale a little bit and push things towards the idea of more growth and less austerity.
KUBEI think it's also indicative of how low the expectations for the summit were, the way that the markets are reacting, frankly. I don't think that anyone -- analysts that were going into the summit were saying, well, there's not going to be any kind of real change. They were even calling this like the last chance summit. So I think that's really indicative of just how much progress they did actually make. They literally were up all night long fighting out the details of this.
KUBEAnd Spain and Italy, you know, another important, something important that came out of this meeting was the fact that there's a new program for growth, $150 billion of investment in the Eurozone that's meant to stimulate infrastructure and growth. So they're really moving these summits to a new side of versus the austerity measures, they're moving more towards a growth package.
REHMAnd what about Cyprus? It's now become the fifth country to seek protection.
KITFIELDYes. Well, I mean, Cyprus is very closely tied to Greece. I mean, it's sort of a little Greece actually. I mean, these Greek recipients who run Cyprus and their banks are exposed to all the Greek debt. So as go Greece, so goes Cyprus and Cyprus needed bailout. The good news is it’s a tiny little island.
REHMJames Kitfield of National Journal, Courtney Kube of NBC News, Warren Strobel of Reuters and if you'd like to join us, 800-433-8850. Let's talk about Syria and the Turkish plane shot down by Syria. What happened here, Courtney, and how did Turkey respond?
KUBEWell, it was a Turkish reconnaissance plane. It's sort of he said, she said. The Turks say that they were in international water. They may have strayed into Syria. Syria says that they were close enough that they actually shot it down with a short range anti-aircraft missile. We don't really know which side is telling the truth here, but it does appear that they were in international waters when they were shot down.
KUBEYou know, what's really interesting about this is initially people said this is a side that Assad is losing control, that he has rogue actors in the military that are shooting down Turkish plans, that they're going to escalate this tension and escalate the regional conflict. In the end, NATO's response was very telling to this. There was a meeting in turkey, an Article IV meeting in Turkey where everyone condemned the actions.
KUBEThey condemned the Assad regime, but there was no real practical change with the exception of the fact that Turkey has now deployed some anti-aircraft missiles, some battery, some troops to the border and they've also now changed their rules of engagement for if they see Syrian military troops, equipment, anything of that sort coming near the border, they consider that a provocation.
REHMSo there's no real talk of retaliation against Syria by Turkey?
STROBELNot yet, but Turkey has been moving military conveys to the border. It has warned Syria that it will respond quickly and immediately and vociferously to any further incidents. And, Diane, I think there's an underlying fear here in the Obama Administration that if things get worse between Turkey and Syria, Turkey will invoke not Article IV, but Article V of the North Atlantic Treaty, the NATO treaty, which is a common defense and the United States and other NATO members would have no choice but to come to Turkey's defense. And you can see it very quickly devolving into a situation where NATO is at war with Syria and that frightens Obama.
REHMOf course, you've got these global powers meeting in Geneva, James?
KITFIELDYou know, I've said all along that, you know, NATO has no appetite and neither does the United States to get involved militarily in Syria. But the one thing that could change that would be if this civil war, if it evolves into a civil war, that has all the detrimental effects that an intervention has anyway. In other words, dragging in your neighbors and that's already what we see happening with Turkey. And also in Lebanon, there's been unrest on that border, absolute outright armed rebellion and killing that the civilians get caught in the middle.
KITFIELDThat has increasingly happened, we saw, you know, an attack on the Assad supportive TV station where three journalists and four other civilians were killed. There's bombings nightly now in Damascus, in the capital, so this is really evolving into an all-out civil war. So Russia has agreed to this meeting this weekend. We're going to be there. We froze Iran out. Saudi Arabia's not going to be there either, that might've been Russia, that might've been a quid pro quo there, we don't know. But I think that this meeting they're going to, you know, Kofi Anon, the UN envoy here has basically raised the red flag and said something has to be done. So I think this is an interesting meeting. If nothing comes out of it, the violence will just spin out and escalate.
REHMWhat can Secretary of State Hilary Clinton do to, you know, lay the groundwork for a new approach with Russia, Courtney?
KUBEWell, she's meeting with her Russian counterpart today and she's meeting with foreign minister Lavrov. At this point, it looks like the next steps may be some sort of an agreement for a political transition that may include Assad. The problem is the opposition is not going to agree to that. The opposition is increasingly pushing out on its own, it's getting weapons from Cutter, from Turkey, from Saudi Arabia. So at this point it doesn't really look like there's going to be some big decision out of Geneva tomorrow that will make a difference.
KUBEAnd meanwhile, as you know, as James was just saying, the violence continues to escalate. There were 50 more killed today, 150 yesterday. The violence has moved into the Syrian capital. I mean, it does not appear that there is any end in sight and now President Assad has also said that he considers this to be a war, which means that presumably he's going to continue to escalate it from his side.
REHMCourtney Kube of NBC News, James Kitfield of National Journal, Warren Strobel of Reuters. When we come back, we'll talk about elections in Egypt and the new president Mohamed Morsi, as well as other stories around the world. Stay with us.
REHMAnd welcome back to the international hour of our Friday News Roundup this week with Warren Strobel of Reuters, Courtney Kube of NBC News and James Kitfield of National Journal. On Syria, here's an email from Jeffrey in Indianapolis. "If Turkey is dragged into war with Syria and NATO is brought in, so will Russia." Warren.
STROBELI think that's absolutely right. I mean, that has been the greatest fear here this will turn into a proxy war between the West and Russia. And Iran is very much involved. Assad has been their satellite or proxy for a long time. I mean, that's why -- part of the reason why the United States and NATO have been so reticent about getting involved in the first place. It could get really bad.
KITFIELDI actually disagree with that. You know, Russia is struggling -- Warren's right -- struggling to retain its influence. It has a port in Syria, but there is no indication that Russia would want to get involved in, you know, sending troops that would get, you know, in a shooting war with NATO. Russia is playing a weak hand well so far. That would be playing a weak hand very poorly to get in a shooting war with NATO.
KITFIELDYou know, NATO is not likely to take part in any offensive operations in Syria, but it certainly could, you know, move defensive weapons to the border. And, you know, again, if this does -- if NATO does agree to do something at some point, if this war becomes just too much to bear, you would see something, I think, like Turkey leading a Libya-like operation just like France and Britain read -- I mean, led that operation in Libya where it's basically air power to establish safe zones.
KITFIELDBut that, you know, that doesn't solve the problem. You still -- you have been coming on one side of a civil war, but you haven't won the civil war yet. So that, you know, the preferred outcome here is that one of these summits, if not this one, agrees to a transition that Assad takes some exile.
KITFIELDYou know, whether it's in Russia, would probably be the most logical, but some transition that leaves the institutions of Syria in place, maybe not the guys who are most -- in the army who are most responsible for the killing, but leaves the institutions in place. And you have a unity govern -- that's what Kofi Annan's trying to push, and it eases Assad out in some face-saving way. That is -- that or a further escalation are what we have in front of us.
REHMAll right. Let's talk about the elections in Egypt with Islamist Mohammed Morsi elected as the new president. What kinds of challenges does he face early on, Warren?
STROBELDiane, he faces every kind of challenge imaginable, economic, his relationship with the military. Tourism, which has been the mainstay of Egypt's economy, is down. Relations with his neighbors. You know, Reuters had two, what I think were very interesting stories over the last couple of days on this. First, was on the U.S. approach. The Obama Administration now is in a situation where it has to deal with both sides. It has to deal with the military, which is taking some anti-Democratic moves but it still has a lot of power. And then it has to deal with this new Islamist president. And the United States has had a very iffy relationship, at best, over the years with Muslim Brotherhood.
STROBELThe second story, real quickly, was about how the -- in some sense the generals still hold a lot of sway in Egypt. And it talked about what is known as the deep state in Egypt. And the deep state is the business interests, the military, the bureaucracy and it has really ruled from behind the scenes there for decades, if not millennia, if you want to be a little bit stereotypical. But change is going to happen slowly.
REHMAnd how is he going to declare himself the president for all Egypt when he's got the military, the Muslim Brotherhood? How does he do this, Courtney?
KUBEYou know, he's been talking about building alliances and bringing women and Christians and all these people into his cabinet. He still has the power, despite the fact that the military, you know, usurped so much of his power before he was officially named as the new president. He still has the power to appoint his own cabinet. The problem is there's a lot of skepticism about what his long term aspirations really are. Whether he's -- he's talking about building bridges, he's talking about being an inclusive leader. And then down the road once it's more stable in the nation maybe he'll turn all of that on its head.
KUBEI mean, there's one very clear and almost immediate indication that the military is really pulling the strings behind the scenes, is the fact that tomorrow Morsi's supposed to be sworn in. It's always been historically that the president has been sworn in before the parliament. Well, the court abolished the parliament several weeks ago, the first democratically elected parliament in Egypt. And so now the military has decreed that he will give -- he will be sworn in in front of the court.
KUBESo it's -- there's protestors in Tahrir Square that are upset about this already saying the military can't decide where the president's sworn in. It's a small distinction, it seems to us, but it's actually very indicative of who's really controlling this behind the scenes.
KITFIELDYou know, I think we all predicted that, you know, Egypt's transition to democracy was going to be messy and there'd be two steps forward and one step back. You know, what was interesting to me is that we -- you know, here's a Muslim Brotherhood guy elected president and Washington breathes a sigh of relief. What we really didn't want is for the other guy, who was basically backed by the military, would've been seen as a total refutation of the revolution itself. We want to see a democratic transition.
KITFIELDNow the military has signaled that it is going to release the reins of power very, very carefully, very incrementally and it's going to try to, you know, protect its own equities here. But, I mean, I think the first thing Morsi did was invite, as Courtney says, a woman, a Christian and one of the youth movement secular leaders as vice-presidents. So that's a good first step.
KITFIELDAnd, you know, I did a story, it was in the region shortly before the election, and that everyone told me that it's the second elections in these Muslim-dominated countries that matter the most. If he cannot deliver and make the economic situation better for the average Egyptian...
KITFIELDWell, he has four years I believe. So he has four years to sort of bring some economic goodness to the people or they'll throw him out too. And I don't think the military's going to relinquish power in a way that would allow a sort of Iranian takeover of all instruments of power by the Muslim Brotherhood. That's not in the cards. So he's on notice now and he apparently understands this that unless the Muslim Brotherhood actually delivers and makes people's economic life better and creates unity coalitions, then they're going to get thrown out and they'll be blamed for all -- and that's the problem of being accountable.
KITFIELDYou know, Muslim Brotherhood has been a party in opposition forever and they've milked that very well. But once you're accountable, you've got to make things better for people or you'll get -- I mean, you'll get tossed out.
REHMAnd what does all this mean for Egypt's relation to Israel, Warren?
STROBELWell, up until now, Morsi has said that he -- he hasn't specifically said I am going to abide by the 1979 peace treaty with Israel. But he has said, I'm going to abide by and stick with treaties that Egypt has signed. So for now, at least, it seems like...
STROBEL...a signal. Is the relationship going to be like it was before? No way. I mean, not that -- there's no history -- there's nothing in the Brotherhood's history that would indicate that. Israel's very worried so we're going to have to see, of course, how this plays out.
REHMAnd what about Egypt's relationship to the United States, Courtney?
KUBEWell, you know, the U.S. is in a strange position here because they -- you know, as James is saying and as Warren was saying, you can't -- they -- this was a democratically elected leader. But the U.S. has to say that difficult relationship with the Muslim Brotherhood is understated. And at the same time there's still a little part of the military that the U.S. can appreciate, and that's that they would be more likely to protect the -- Egypt and Israel peace accord.
KUBEMorsi is -- he has made indications this week that he would not -- they wouldn't get rid of the accord, that they wouldn't break it down. The problem is again he's still enough of an unknown entity. And the biggest question mark that still exists is the constitution. The military has veto power over this constitution. We have no idea what they're going to ultimately write into that. We don't even frankly know whether Morsi will survive the full four years or whether they'll say that after a year when there's a new parliament, when there's a cabinet there has to be a new election.
KUBESo there's just so much up in the air right now it's difficult to say. And the one thing that the U.S. really has going for it is money.
REHMAnd what about the condition of Mubarak's health?
KITFIELDApparently, he's on death's door. You know, he's...
REHMWe heard that and then he was fine again and now he's back on death's door?
KITFIELDYeah, I mean...
STROBELSort of like a health care decision.
REHMYeah, yeah, right.
KITFIELDI mean, we don't -- obviously he's in a prison hospital bed and so we can't -- there's no independent reporting from him. But apparently his family has indicated that he's really, really sick and going in and out of consciousness. He's 84 years old, apparently extremely depressed by this, you know, turn of events, which is understandable since he's in prison, and as his son is I believe. So, you know, we're seeing the passing of Mubarak as well as his era.
KUBEI think you have to take it all with a grain of salt, frankly, because five days ago we were told he's clinically dead. And it was all over the headlines, he's dying, he's going to be dead in an hour. But then earlier this week, there was a report that he was in the hospital and he was very depressed that Morsi was the new president. So I don't -- I'm not a doctor, but I've never heard of someone being clinically dead and depressed at the same time so...
REHMAll right. Let's talk about Vladimir Putin's visit with Israel's top leader. What's happening there?
KITFIELDA lot less than meets the eye. I mean, the idea that Russia's still, as with Syria, wants to retain what chance it still has as an influence broker in the Middle East. So it visits Israel. There are -- I mean, what's interesting about Israel and Russia right now is there are basically a million Israelis who came from Russia who are now in Israel. They're changing the whole body politic there, skewing it much more to the right.
KITFIELDSo there was this commemoration of a new monument that honors Russia's role in World War II in liberating the death camps and defeating Nazi Germany. He stops by -- the fact of the matter is the Russians and Israelis agree on very little. Russia is propping up Syria which is something that Israel is very much against. Russia is blocking tougher sanctions on Iran which, you know, is Israel's existential number one concern right now.
KITFIELDRussia has a tendency, as many countries, to support the Palestinians and their claims to a state...
REHMSo what is it that Israel is asking for from Russia?
KITFIELDThey only get I think -- I mean, they're asking for Russia to consider tougher sanctions on Iran. That's the first thing they would want. Russia has shown no sign that they're willing to do that. I mean, the sanctions that must be set on Iran right now are pretty darn tough. And we and the Europeans have taken, you know, lateral steps to even increase them. They are saying that Russia stopped a sale of antiaircraft missiles that was going to go through to Syria. That may be one thing they can hold up as a get from this brief little summit, but it's not a lot.
REHMAll right. Courtney?
KUBEAnd, you know, Israel also said that they want Russia to use some of their influence with Iran beyond just supporting the sanctions. They want -- it seemed from the reports that Netanyahu said to Putin, you know, go to Iran and try and get them to come back to stop their nuclear program. Now it doesn't look like it's going to probably happen. But what I thought was really interesting was what Putin's message seemed to be for Israel, which was on Iran but also on Syria. And that was remember the devil you know is maybe better than the devil you don't know.
KUBEIsrael, right now, does not want a big conflict in the Golan Heights. And keep in mind they -- allegedly Putin said to Netanyahu, you've already got a Muslim Brotherhood leader elected in Egypt. Do you -- you have no idea who's going to come up in Syria. You could be looking at two regional players that are very anti-Israel if you continue to push to get Assad out.
STROBELYeah, absolutely. And let's not forget that Israel's initial reaction to the crisis in Syria, to the revolt there 14 months ago was to support Assad quietly because they were very concerned exactly what...
REHMAbout the devil they know.
STROBELExactly. And they've evolved overtime in situations, but I think Putin made a good point.
KUBEIt's interesting because those two they -- Israel and Russia on the surface you would think -- foreign policy makes such strange bedfellows, but in the end, they both have a very serious concern about Islamist extremism. So they sort of had that to come together on. It's probably not going to change any major Russian foreign policy or Israeli foreign policy, but it's interesting to see that one tie brought them together for this.
REHMCourtney Kube of NBC News and you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." There was a big symbolic gesture this week in Northern Ireland, Warren, between Queen Elizabeth and Martin McGuinness.
STROBELYou know, this was a fascinating moment. I spent some of my younger years in the UK during the '70s and the troubles were, as they called them, terrible 30 years of war. So in a week of very busy news, a lot going on, this should not be overlooked. What you have on one side is the Queen of England whose cousin Earl Mountbatten was killed in 1979 by an IRA bomb off the coast of Ireland.
STROBELOn the other side, you have Martin McGuinness who was a member of the IRA. To him, historically, the Queen of England has been a reviled figure. There's no other way to say it. He was a part of the IRA until the '70s at least. Some people say he actually maintained a command role until the '90s. He may have been involved in some way in the bloody Sunday event. And to see those two people shaking hands is just, you know -- it doesn't end that the -- the conflict's over. It doesn't end the tension by any means, which will go on for a long time. But it was quite an interesting moment.
REHMBut there were still gunfights and shots fired by police and the like, Courtney.
KUBEYeah, absolutely. Tuesday there were protests. There were Molotov cocktails being thrown. I mean, I think that this was -- as Warren was saying, this is a small step forward in easing the tensions of this -- of what continues to be. You know, here in the United States we don't recognize that there are still very tense feelings about that there between the -- and especially with someone like Martin McGuinness who, as Warren was saying, you know, he was a commander of the IRA when the Queen's cousin was assassinated.
KUBESo for her to come forward and to shake his hand -- now who knows what they were thinking -- decades-long journey to this point, who knows what the two of them were thinking, those smiles -- behind the smiles on their faces. But really it was very symbolic of the fact that this generation is trying to move forward.
REHMTrying to move forward, James.
KITFIELDOh, and I think they have moved forward. I mean, as Warren said, if anyone had paid attention to this conflict in the '70s and the '80s, I mean, today despite the ongoing tensions, is so much better. I mean, basically Sinn Fein and Martin McGuinness and others are trying to win what they want through the political system. He's now a deputy -- you know, a deputy -- was I think a prime -- first prime minister. So, you know, if they can keep making steps towards normalization where this becomes a political disagreement in terms of an armed conflict, that is all to the good. I just -- I was kind of astounded what a positive moment it was.
REHMBut you've still got lots of Belfast mostly segregated.
STROBELYes, you do, and that's, you know, sadly true with many of these conflicts. Let's look at Bosnia. We don't -- it's not in the news anymore. The war's over but it's still deeply segregated in the same sort of way, and Belfast as well. It just take generations to untangle, if you can at all, the conflict, the violence, the memories, the hurt that goes along with 30 years of conflict.
KUBEAnd the Queen also met with some victims of IRA bombings as well. And there were some quotes from several of them saying, you know, asking for their reaction to the fact that she met with McGuinness. And they said, well as long as she came here and met with us as well so we aren't forgotten -- the victims of this aren't forgotten as well. She also, for the first time -- I believe the first time in history, went to a Catholic church in Northern Ireland, which was also another first that was...
STROBELTalk about history.
KUBE...yeah, that was also sort of lost in all of the other news this week.
KITFIELDYou know, I think we should probably, you know, just to sketch the importance of this, I mean, what the Catholics and the IRA want is unification with the Catholic Republic of Ireland to the South. That's not going to happen probably in anyone right now's my age life time. But you can see if -- as the wounds begin to heal in Northern Ireland, you know, basically the Catholics aren't -- there's no prejudice against them because they were seen as a lower tier from the Protestants.
KITFIELDAs it normalizes you can see a future, I think, where Ireland would be unified some time. But it's not going to happen any time soon.
REHMAnd of course, Ireland's economy is not in great shape. And that's probably intensifying feelings there as well.
KITFIELDAbsolutely. And, you know, everyone -- Ireland is really hanging on just like Portugal and Greece. It was just crushed by, you know, the economic meltdown.
REHMSo how might it be affected by this deal arrived at this morning?
REHMThe deal in Brussels?
KITFIELDOh, I mean, it's banks. I mean, basically the Irish banks, from my understanding, squandered a whole lot of money, but they're still fairly solid. But they have said now if they get in trouble, there is a bunch of money that can be loaned directly from Brussels.
REHMJames Kitfield, national correspondent for National Journal. We'll take a short break. When we come back, we'll open the phones. Stay with us.
REHMAnd we'll go right to the phones to St. Louis, Mo. Good morning, Susan.
SUSANGood morning, Diane, thanks for your wonderful work.
REHMOh thank you.
SUSANMy question is this, what do these decisions that were made for the Eurozone mean to Greece?
KITFIELDWell, it means that if Greece banks get in more trouble, they could be loaned to from this $500 billion recapitalization. It was the firewall they emerged so that if, you know, other countries' banks got in trouble. Now Greece could be loaned that money, their banks could be loaned that money without that going on Greece's terrible debt load.
REHMBut what about the Greeks and other people pulling money out of Greek banks?
KITFIELDThat's a very good question because one of the next shoes that's going to have to fall is something like what we have at the Federal Deposit and Insurance Corporation where your first $200,000 in any bank in America...
REHMHas to be insured...
KITFIELD...has to be insured. That has to happen in Europe. Everyone understands that. You know, again, that's one of the things that Merkel has been pressing, that, okay, if we're going to do that, you know, we have to have the structures in place so we can, you know, have some sort of a regulation of that from the Central European, Central Bank. But that's one of the next issues that is almost certainly going to drop.
REHMAll right, to Houston, Tx. Good morning, Jerome.
JEROMEGood morning to everyone. Great show, Ms. Rehm.
JEROMEMy question is this. Mr. Assad's regime, is this demise inevitable? And another question I would like to ask also is what is Mr. Assad's humanitarian record towards his people? And I'll hang up and listen, great show.
REHMThat last point is certainly a clear cut answer. Go ahead, Warren.
STROBELYeah, it is. In terms of Assad's regime being -- the demise being inevitable, U.S. and European intelligence officials we've talked to repeatedly tell us that there are not huge cracks in the regime, in the government right now, not yet. They're looking for them. It's fairly stable.
STROBELOn the other hand, his government is starting to lose swaths of territory to the rebels. I think one of the former leaders of the Syrian national council opposition group actually went across the border into Syria to a free area. There are now attacks in Damascus that are taking place directly. Most smart people think that the writing is on the wall. It's just a matter...
REHMA matter of time...
STROBEL...of time. But we don't know how much time. It could be a long time.
KUBEYeah, and one of the concerns is, and this has been the problem for the last 16 months since this began, is what's next. You know, there's concern that if Assad steps down and the Sunni majority gets into power, then there would be revenge attacks against the minority Alawite sect. There most likely would be.
KUBEIt could breed an even larger more protracted civil war than we're already seeing there. There are also concerns for the fact that some of these rebel groups now they believe that there might be foreign -- al-Qaida, other terrorists involved. It's hard to tell how much of that Assad believes that it's the whole -- the entire uprising is al-Qaida, but it's probably a much smaller percentage.
KUBESo the concern is what happens next, if there's any sort of a power vacuum will they come in. Syria has a tremendous stockpile of chemical weapons, VX and Sarin. If that falls into the wrong hands, then that would just be devastating.
KITFIELDI've said it before, I'll walk out on this limb again. I think it's inevitable that he goes. He's got blood not only on his hands, but up to his elbows and it's impossible for me to understand in the sort of post-Arab Spring region anything like Assad leading a normal country. I can't even conceive it. No one wants to even deal with this guy except for to get him out.
KITFIELDHe's got one friend, he's got one and half friends in the world, the Russians and the Iranians and neither one of them are very popular either so I just don't see him lasting. But my colleagues are both right, how he goes could be very ugly.
KITFIELDUgly, could be very ugly. There could be -- I mean, if it's not handled right, which is why this transition deal is so important because that could do it in a sort of stable way. If it goes from a civil war that he loses, there could be a lot of reprisals.
REHMAll right, to Rochester, Mass. Good morning, Nicholas.
NICHOLASGood morning, Diane, I thank you for your public service.
NICHOLASI have a question. Why do we continue to label Mr. Morsi as an Islamist president or president-elect? Should Mr. Romney be elected would we label him a Mormon president?
KUBEWell, keep one thing in mind, Nicholas, that you know we do label him the Republican presidential candidate the same way. So I know it's difficult. You can't translate it directly from Republican Democrat to an Islamist candidate, but that really indicates more about his position, how he feels, that, you know, where he's going to take Egypt, what his platform by calling him the Islamist candidate.
KUBEIt's not intended in any way to be anything more than a reflection of his party.
STROBELYou know, the Muslim Brotherhood stands for a concept of government that includes religion. I mean, that's...
STROBEL...Sharia Law, so it gets its inspiration. It wants to be an Islamist government under Sharia Law so that brings religion into politics and that's what the Muslim Brotherhood has always stood for, still stands for. He has stated that that's what he wants to do.
REHMAnd yet he has brought a woman into power?
STROBELI mean, basically the ruling party in Turkey is an Islamist Party and they want, you know, more open expressions allowed of the veil for women et cetera so that is the hope they'll follow. You know, there are all kinds of ways to interpret Sharia Law in spirit or the letter of the law. We're hoping, obviously, that they mean in spirit because there would be some problems with women's rights and other religious minorities in the country if it was a strict interpretation of Sharia Law.
REHMThanks for your call, Nicholas. To Marilyn in Grand Rapids, Mich. Good morning to you.
MARILYNYes, this is Marilyn.
MARILYNI have a question and a comment.
MARILYNYou know, I've been listening to NPR for years and you're my very favorite.
MARILYNAnd what I've heard is that the Saudis have been supplying schools for the Wahabis in Pakistan. They are behind a lot of things that happen in the Middle East and I think, just personally, that we have been fighting Saudis' battles for the last 20-22 years. My son was involved in two of them with Iraq. My question is -- and I believe the Saudis are looking for dominance in the Middle East or at least some significant influence and control.
MARILYNThe Carlyle Group, I'm asking, what does the Carlyle Group have to do with the control of oil there in the Middle East?
STROBELAh, good question. I mean, I have to agree with you, Marilyn, that, yes indeed, the Saudis have -- not necessarily the government, but certainly rich individuals in Saudi Arabia have for a long time funded mosques in Pakistan and Indonesia, Malaysia and other Islamic countries that follow the Wahabi School of Islam, which is a very strict, purist, some would say, unforgiving school of Islamic thought.
STROBELOur relationship with Saudi Arabia is incredibly complicated because you have that on the one hand, you have the oil that we need on the other hand and on the third hand, it has to be said that the Saudis also fight our battles sometimes. They have funded, over the years, projects that we have wanted taken care of around the world that we didn't want our hands in.
STROBELThey helped fund the rebels in Afghanistan that eventually kicked the Soviet Union out of Afghanistan. So it's a very complicated picture.
REHMWhat about the Carlyle Group and its involvement or not, James?
KITFIELDI'm not sure of the specifics. I know the Carlyle Group, like a lot of American companies, have had huge construction projects and oil field projects in Saudi Arabia and the Middle East. I'm not sure if I've seen anything there that sends up warning flags. We do -- Warren's exactly right. We have a very complex relationship with Saudi Arabia.
KITFIELDWe hope that the Arab Spring doesn't skew toward the Saudi model because that is a very strict, very undemocratic interpretation of how Sharia Law. Women can't even drive in Saudi Arabia. You know we fought for Saudi, but the Saudis have been good friends in certain cases.
KITFIELDWhen the Iranians were trying to isolate Iran over its nuclear weapon by taking its oil off the market, which would cause, you know, oil to spike and the Saudis increased production so to make up for that. So they've been good friends strategically, but we don't share a whole lot of values together.
REHMAll right, to Newbury, Ohio. Good morning, Rita.
RITAGood morning. My question is about Israel and international law. At present, they're building 851 new settlements, which are illegal, you know, in Palestine. And I'm wondering if the pressure of this Arab Spring is going to bring Israel to heel kind of in the area that they're going to begin abiding by international law.
KITFIELDWell, the listener is exactly right. Any settlement activity in the Occupied Territories is illegal under international law. It has been claimed illegitimate by Republican and Democratic administrations in this country for 30 years. We oppose it. We're constantly banging our heads with Israel about this.
KITFIELDThe only way we're going to get a peace deal is if it's stopped. And so she's exactly right. And you know, Israel is feeling very, very uncomfortable about the Arab Spring because the deal it made with autocrats like Mubarak was basically, you know, we don't like each other, but you don't criticize us and we don't criticize you.
KITFIELDIf you have a bunch of democratic governments in Islamic countries in the Middle East, they're going to be very critical of Israel on this issue, which is why, you know, Republican and Democratic administrations in the United States have been urging Israel to reach a two-state solution, take this open sore off the table and move on. But right now, I don't think they have a prime minister who is interested in doing that.
STROBELYeah, I have to agree totally with James. In fact, I don't think Israeli policy is going to change in the way that the caller would like. In fact, all the signs are that they're sort of putting up the walls, pulling back, very worried about what's happening in the Egypt, Syria, all around them and less in a mood to make any concessions or anything like that.
STROBELAnd as we talked about earlier, also there's a different body politic in Israel now where you have one million Soviet Jews, Russian Jews who immigrated who have changed fundamentally the body politic of that country in a much more conservative way.
REHMWell, let's go to Arlington, Va. and follow up on that. Good morning, Steve, you're on the air.
STEVEGood morning, Diane, long-term listener and just love your show.
REHMOh, thank you.
STEVEAbout Putin's visit, I didn't get to read much about it so I did want to hear one or two specifics, specifically to quote a former president. Did we get any essence of peering into his soul, so to speak, and whether or not he visited the Holocaust Museum, the Yadvashem there and have any, gain any sense of the existential threat that certainly Israel feels and is at the core at a lot of their policies.
STEVEIf I may just make a very brief comment. I had the privilege and pleasure to do some bicycling in Israel in April, first time there in 30 years. And I was in the Golan Heights and just, you know, as far as one can go before one is in Lebanon and for any of your callers that feel passionately about that region and don't have any empathy for Israel's positions, whether or not one, you know, feels strongly about settlements or not, but just the empathy for the challenge of that region.
STEVEThey really need to go to there and see how close Israel is to countries that have had difficult times with Israel and just sense what it's like to be in a region where you are the sole regime of one faith having a majority.
REHMSteve, I'm glad you called. Courtney?
KUBEWell, Steve, I don't know that Netanyahu saw into Putin's soul, but there's one thing that is pretty clear is his motivation in the trip that took him to several different countries. It seems that he's trying to be a larger player in the Middle East. That's one of his definite -- one of the hopes that he took out of this. I doubt that it's going to end in any real change in Russian policy in the region.
KUBEBut there is one other interesting aspect to it is, you know, Russia right now has just terrible relations with the Arab world. Much of the international community is angry with Russia for continuing to support the Syrian regime, for sending helicopters, attack helicopters to Syria just this past week.
KUBEWhat's interesting is whether this worsening of relations with Russia and the Arab world could, in some way, lead to a better relationship with Russia -- between Russia and Israel. It seems like it's the very beginning of that process, but that might actually be the impact of this.
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Here's an email from Kevin who says, "What if Turkey fights with Syria and calls in NATO? Does Syria have a defense pact with Russia that would pull Russia into a war with NATO?." Warren?
STROBELYou know, as far as I know, Diane, there's no formal defense pact that would automatically bring Russia in. And as James was discussing earlier and Courtney, there are a lot of reasons why Russia may not come in in a shooting war. But that said, there is a defense relationship between Syria and Russia. Arms sales, Russia's only port in the Middle East is Tartus, I believe.
STROBELAnd going back real quickly what you were saying, Courtney, I'm a little mystified by Russian diplomacy here. On one level, you can see why they would continue to support Assad. They thought that they were hoodwinked over the whole Gaddafi thing. They thought they had voted for protection of civilians and they got an intervention that overthrew Gaddafi.
STROBELBut on the other hand, over the long term, they're doing a lot to hurt their relationships with the Arab world by continuing to support Assad. It's a little mystifying.
KITFIELDYou know, the last person who looked into Putin's eyes and saw anything that looked like a glimmer of hope was George W. Bush. And most people look into those eyes and see an autocrat and who is much more comfortable dealing with autocratic governments than he is dealing with democratic governments and that's why he's stuck supporting two of the worst autocratic governments in the Middle East, Syria and Iran.
REHMAnd finally to Cincinnati, Ohio. Nalesh, you're on the air.
NALESHHi, I just heard the comment that they said that if Assad, because he's only supported by one and half friends, one and a half countries all over the world, he will essentially eventually go. We have had other countries like Myanmar or North Korea who just essentially have one friend and they still continue to exist. So what's your take on that?
KUBEWell, those countries, especially North Korea, are also increasingly isolated, even more isolated than Syria is right now. I think the other thing that Syria has right now is a tremendous amount of international focus on it. So it's the United Nations, NATO, there are all these meetings. I think there's just too much pressure on Assad to assume that he's just going to skate this out and survive this. It's a matter of time.
KUBEI mean, it may be a matter of time. We could be months, even years, frankly, before he goes, but I agree with James. I think that he's on his way out eventually.
KITFIELDAnd, Diane, you know, one thing that North Korea and Myanmar don't have is a violent insurrection inside their own country that has proven really resilient.
STROBELOne last quick point here, we can't forget that the Syrian rebels have seen their cohorts in Tunisia and Egypt and Yemen, and I may be forgetting a country or two here, all win in the sense that they overthrew the ruler so they probably think that they can win because they've seen it done elsewhere.
REHMWarren Strobel, he's editor in charge for U.S. foreign policy and national security for Reuters. Courtney Kube, a national security producer for NBC News and James Kitfield, senior correspondent for National Journal. Have a great 4th of July holiday everybody.
REHMThank you. Thanks for listening all, I'm Diane Rehm.
ANNOUNCER"The Diane Rehm Show" is produced by Sandra Pinkard, Nancy Robertson, Denise Couture, Monique Nazareth, Nikki Jecks, Susan Nabors and Lisa Dunn and the engineer is Tobey Schreiner. 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. This is NPR.
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