Leading Arab nations suspend efforts to help Lebanon end a government crisis; Iraq is shaken by a sharp spike in violence; and South Korea agrees to military talks with the North. A panel of journalists joins Diane for analysis of the week’s top international news stories.


  • Moises Naim Chief international columnist, El Pais.
  • Elise Labott Senior State Department producer for CNN.
  • Abderrahim Foukara Washington bureau chief of Al Jazeera Arabic.


  • 11:06:55

    MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us, I'm Diane Rehm. Tunisia's new coalition government began working to gain the nation's confidence. The U.N. said 100 people died during five weeks of unrest. Arab Ala is at Lebanon suspended their efforts to end a political crisis there. In Haiti, the ex-dictator known as Baby Doc made a surprise return from exile after 25 years. And in Iraq, deadly attacks on security forces and Shia pilgrims ended a period of relative calm.

  • 11:07:41

    MS. DIANE REHMJoining me in the studio to talk about the week's top international stories on the Friday news roundup, Moises Naim of El Pais, Elise Labott of CNN and Abderrahim Foukara of Al Jazeera. Do join us a little later in the program, give us a call, send us an e-mail, join us on Facebook or Twitter. Good morning to all of you.

  • 11:08:15

    MR. MOISES NAIMMorning.

  • 11:08:16

    MS. ELISE LABOTTGood morning, Diane.

  • 11:08:17


  • 11:08:18

    REHMMoises, let's talk about these latest developments in Tunisia. The new government says it will recognize all banned political groups.

  • 11:08:28

    NAIMWhich is a natural consequence after the demise of the dictator. This is a dictator that ruled for 23 years, was in power. He banned all sorts of alternative political parties in a position, especially the Islamist party, that it's now allowed to operate politically. And so the question is, when these things happen, what is the nature of the successor government? We are -- as usual, when this happened, we are surprised that, all of a sudden -- no one had anticipated that Tunisia's government would go down.

  • 11:09:05

    NAIMAnd all of a sudden, it happens. After 23 years, one day, it happens. And then what is not clear is what happens next and what is not clear is will there be any contagion? Will all the regions, all the countries, rather, in the region that also have long serving dictators, will that be botched by...

  • 11:09:28

    REHMSuch as?

  • 11:09:29

    NAIMSuch as Libya, such as Egypt, even Syria. And at this point, it doesn't look that way, but one never knows.

  • 11:09:37

    REHMPeople are calling it Wikileaks Revolution, Elise.

  • 11:09:41

    LABOTTWell, they're calling it Wikileaks Revolution and you had an excellent show, Diane, yesterday on Tunisia. Because it showed that in these Wikileak cables, that the U.S. had known about the corruption of President Ben Ali for some time. And we've known about the corruption of his family, what's yours is mine and how the family had kind of appropriated all of this -- all of these money and goods. And the U.S. largely turned a blind eye about this because they needed Tunisia's help for terrorism.

  • 11:10:11

    LABOTTBut they're also calling it the kind of first twitter revolution because when you look at what social media has done in terms of this situation and now we're seeing it in many other cases. We saw it in Moldova in 2009, that people are able to communicate, they're able to send messages, they're able to organize. And the use of technology in terms of getting the oppressed people to stand up against their government is really a new phenomenon that I think we're going to see.

  • 11:10:39

    LABOTTAnd you see now, as Moises said, leaders in the region see the writing on the wall. They think that this is the gadownsed (sp?) if you will, of what happened in Poland with the solidarity movement. And then all these leaders are going to be next. And so you saw at the Arab Economic Summit, leaders are taking measures to their people to mitigate some of this damage. Yemen, Libya, Jordan, Kuwait, even Egypt saying, we're going to introduce subsidies. We're going to introduce taxes. We've heard you. We've heard this call loud and clear."

  • 11:11:11

    LABOTTAnd it'll be interesting to see, as people are communicating across the internet, across Facebook, across Twitter, whether these leaders have truly heard these calls from the Tunisian people.

  • 11:11:22


  • 11:11:23

    FOUKARAI think it's obviously an extraordinary time for people of the region. It's also an extraordinary time or could be an extraordinary for the U.S. Conventionally, it's been said -- or it's been asked for decades, why is the Arab world so resistant to democracy? Well, the question now is the reverse that people in the region are asking. Why is the U.S. so resistant to helping democracy? And that harks back to the initial reaction that the Obama administration had. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton before -- just a few days before Denali was toppled, she was asked while on her trip in the Gulf about the riots that were going on in Tunisia.

  • 11:12:08

    FOUKARAAnd she said, we don't take sides. When in fact, clearly, two summers ago, when there were similar trouble in Iran, the U.S. did take sides and supported the demonstrations, who incidentally were also young. Now, it's not too late for the U.S., I don't think.

  • 11:12:24

    REHMShe also said that if Arab leaders did not take a stronger role, they would sink into the sand, Moises.

  • 11:12:35

    NAIMAnd this is as much as Elise was rightly saying about Twitter and social media and the new tools that have been labeled liberation and freedom tools that allow activists to connect and organize and so there is some of that. But even more important is the youth bulge that exists in the Middle East, where a large majority of the population is young and under...

  • 11:12:57

    REHMAnd they have no jobs.

  • 11:12:59

    NAIM...and unemployed. And so unemployment of the youth without any prospects for a better future is undermining a lot of these regimes.

  • 11:13:09

    REHMOkay. So what happens next in Tunisia?

  • 11:13:13

    LABOTTWell, in Tunisia, they're going to call for elections. They're going to have elections. And right now, it's a very delicate balance that this caretaker government has right now because the opposition that's in the government has these protests on the streets. The people are saying, we've toppled the dictator, but we haven't toppled the dictatorship. And everybody from this old regime must go. But the opposition says, if we do that, if there's chaos, it could invite a military takeover.

  • 11:13:39

    LABOTTAnd right now, the military has been largely a comforting force. In fact, helping the opponents -- the opposition against the police, really trying to mediate and not intervene in anyway, largely been neutral. And so in Tunisia, it'll be interesting to see how this caretaker government bouts, as you've seen, the resignation of several ministers because they're under pressure for all these old people of the regime to go.

  • 11:14:08

    FOUKARAIt's a -- I agree. It's a serious situation on, at least, two different counts. One, we can understand that the prime minister, the interior minister, the defense minister are clinging to power from the old regime, that -- the Tunisians have a problem with it, but it could be understood that these are the remnants. They're fighting for their survival. What is really hard to fathom -- well, harder to fathom is the new figures in the government, the so-called opposition.

  • 11:14:40

    FOUKARAWhy they decided to join a government like that, which was still dominated by the old guard is an issue, now, they've become tainted. The larger issue here, given that this whole situation in Tunisia started with that young man self-immolating himself because he couldn't find a job and because he was humiliated by the authorities. The larger issue is, regardless of the political outcome, what is Tunisia going to do given that Ben Ali had actually -- in a way, he had just implemented the policies.

  • 11:15:12

    FOUKARAHe'd liberalized and restructured the economy and those were the stipulations of the international community, the IMF, the World Bank, The European Union. Tunisia has serious financial commitments to those organizations. What will a new government in Tunisia do?

  • 11:15:27

    REHMAnd in the meantime, did Ben Ali's wife actually take billions in gold bars out of the country?

  • 11:15:45

    NAIMAnd that is going to be, as it often happens with dictators that are ousted, is search for their money. They are hiding the money and laundering their wealth. And the country's going after at it. Tunisia has a big economic problem, as many countries in North Africa, concerning economic policies. There is no economic model at this point that can generate employment levels, the new jobs that are required to produce hope for the great majority of Tunisians, especially the young Tunisians that are not well trained, that are not very competitive in the globalized economy.

  • 11:16:21

    NAIMSo there will be -- there are high expectations. Tunisia is one of the most cosmopolitan European oriented, European dependent countries in North Africa. It has a modern sector. It is highly dependent on tourism. And tourism can be affected by political instability. So the crocks of the matter here is, yes, it is what kind of politics and what kind of coalitions and how is power going to be distributed among the successor government? But they -- regardless of what -- of that, the big issue is what kind of economic model that we have to generate the jobs that the country needs.

  • 11:17:03

    LABOTTWell, on the investigation of the family, now the Swiss bank -- the Swiss government is moving to freeze assets in the bank. And, you know, his wife is considered the Imelda Marcos of the Middle East. And, you know, I'm not sure whether she kind of took the gold bars out with her, you know, and said, you know, I'm going to check these.

  • 11:17:19

    REHMOr had a...

  • 11:17:19

    LABOTTI might...

  • 11:17:20

    REHM...plane load...

  • 11:17:21

    LABOTTOn a plane, exactly. Exactly. But I mean, I think that there will be a real investigation of the family and a move to have some kind of justice for that. But...

  • 11:17:31

    REHMBut you talk about investigations and here you've got Baby Doc coming back to Haiti. Why is he coming back? Maybe follow the money.

  • 11:17:42

    LABOTTThe money.

  • 11:17:44

    NAIMAnd that also shows a new standard in the international community. It used to be that dictators that stole money were -- felt safe putting their money in secret bank accounts in Switzerland or elsewhere. And he did that. And he, you know, in 1986, when he was ousted, it was rumored that he had taken out $300 million from a very, very poor country. He squandered the money and there is not much left.

  • 11:18:09

    NAIMThere is a new law in Switzerland that says -- that enters into effect in February 1st, that says that the authorities there have the discretion to decide when these funds have been...

  • 11:18:23

    LABOTTWas named after Baby Doc.

  • 11:18:24

    NAIMAnd is the Baby Doc Law.

  • 11:18:25

    LABOTTBaby Doc Law.

  • 11:18:25

    NAIMExactly, yeah. And so they have the discretion now to decide what to do with these funds. And that explains why he came back because if he could show that he was free to come and go from Haiti, then the courts cannot argue that he was not entitled to the funds (unintelligible) .

  • 11:18:45

    REHMAnd then, they would unfreeze the...

  • 11:18:47

    NAIMAnd would freeze four...

  • 11:18:48

    REHM…...$5.5 million...

  • 11:18:50


  • 11:18:51

    REHM...in Swiss accounts. Short break, stay with us.

  • 11:20:03

    REHMFor those of you who may have just joined us, this is the International Hour of the Friday News Roundup, this week with Elise Labott. She's senior State Department producer for CNN. Abderrahim Foukara is Washington bureau chief of Al Jazeera Arabic. And Moises Naim. He's chief international columnist for El Pais. Do join us, 800-433-8850. Send us your e-mail to drshow@wamu.org. Join us on Facebook or Twitter. The situation in Lebanon, Abderrahim, seems to me pretty darn fragile.

  • 11:20:58

    FOUKARAIt is. And it became all the more fragile after the Saudi foreign minister yesterday said in a statement on a Saudi-owned television station that he -- that Saudi Arabia now takes its hand off Lebanon. Meaning that the mediation efforts that the Saudis were engaged in together with the (unintelligible) the Turks, that the Saudis were disavowing. He corrected himself today saying that that position was misinterpreted and reiterated support for the majority government.

  • 11:21:38

    FOUKARAObviously, the situation in Lebanon is fragile and the crux of the matter there is what happens with the issue of the international investigation into the assassination of the former prime minister Rafic Hariri. There's an indictment list, which is still confidential. And the fears among Hezbollah, for example, is that it may include names from that party in Lebanon. If it does, then the Lebanon could see some very tough days ahead, which possibly, possibly could lead to some sort of civil war.

  • 11:22:22

    FOUKARAJust a quick reminder that just a little while ago, a very crucial player in Lebanon who is the (sounds like) drews leader, (unintelligible) has come on the side of the opposition. Meaning Hezbollah, for example, in terms of casting doubts over the credibility of the international tribunal. So now it's going to be interesting how the next government, if it's dominated by the opposition, it's going to be interesting to see how the current caretaker government led by Hariri's son, it's going to be interesting where it goes with the United States and the French.

  • 11:23:05

    LABOTTWell, what the Saudis were trying to do along with the Syrians is to get Prime Minister Hariri to kind of disavow this tribunal, stop Lebanese support, whether it's emotional support and statements or financial support for the court before the tribunal ever came out. So that if these – before the indictments came out so that if Hezbollah was indicted, that Lebanon had already spoken out against it. And Prime Minister Hariri, there was some doubt as to whether he was going to do it. But finally, at the end of the day, he said, no, I'm not going to give a license to whoever killed my father. I'm not going to do that.

  • 11:23:43

    LABOTTAnd now the Syrians are really upping the ante. They want Saad Hariri to go. And so the question is, what is going to happen now? His government has fallen. He's really more of a caretaker prime minister at this point. And the Lebanese are looking for who is gonna stand by Saad Hariri, which means standing by the tribunal, which means standing by Lebanon. Because the fact that Saudi Arabia is withdrawing its support, this is giving more hand to Syria, more hand to Iran and the country and it also shows the lack of influence that the United States has over this situation. If you look at who's mediating right now, it's Cutter and it's Turkey.

  • 11:24:20

    REHMAnd on Monday, they're supposed to begin consultations on forming a new government, Moises.

  • 11:24:29

    NAIMAnd the most powerful player there is not the government, but Hezbollah. And...

  • 11:24:34

    REHMAnd it was Hezbollah withdrawing...

  • 11:24:36

    NAIM...who pulled out -- exactly.

  • 11:24:38

    REHM...from the government...

  • 11:24:39

    NAIMBut behind...

  • 11:24:39

    REHM...that created this crisis.

  • 11:24:40

    NAIM...and Hezbollah has the militias, it has the guns, it has the streets and it has social support.

  • 11:24:45

    FOUKARAAnd Iran.

  • 11:24:46

    NAIMAnd it has foreign supporters. It has Iran and it has others. So this is just one more sad episode in Lebanon strategy where Lebanon is the football between all the powers, between Syria and Iran and the United States and Israel. And Lebanon is in the middle and it's impossible to govern in many ways because you have all these factions allied with different contending forces. And we will see, and let's hope that this does not end with more violence.

  • 11:25:23

    LABOTTThe fear is right now is -- the future of Lebanon is either in the hands of Syria or it's in the hands of Iran. And you have countries like France, like Saudi Arabia, and to some extent even the United States, that really hasn't given Syria a real firm message about meddling in Lebanon. That Syria might be more of a benign force back in Lebanon than Iran. I mean, it's certainly, as Abderrahim said, it's a football right now. Lebanese does not have the sovereignty of its own government, of its own people, because Hezbollah is a proxy of Iran. And Syria wants to meddle as well. So it's really -- the Lebanese people have been fighting for so many years for their own independence, even after the Syrians were thrown out in 2005.

  • 11:26:06

    REHMAnd talk about a bloody fight, look at Iraq this week, Elise.

  • 11:26:13

    LABOTTWell, you had a bombing in Baghdad that killed 60 -- over 60 people as police recruits were waiting to sign up. This really shows that the government -- there's the idea that the government has been able to provide security and you saw that violence in Iraq, for the most part, has been decreasing. December was one of the least violent months since the war really began. But by showing that these police recruits are not safe, the government cannot provide security, they're trying to sow a little discontent with the government as the U.S. is trying to withdraw its troops.

  • 11:26:51

    REHMAnd will that change the date at all for U.S. withdrawal, Moises?

  • 11:26:56

    NAIMWell, it depends because it's not only the bombs that killed the police, their recruits waiting at a police station on Tuesday. Yesterday, there was another attack on pilgrims -- on Shiite pilgrims going to Karbala in what -- it was a very important pilgrimage that was banned under Saddam Hussein.

  • 11:27:15

    REHMAnd who perpetrated all of this?

  • 11:27:16

    NAIMAnd so no one has taken credit for it, but is widely suspected that this is either Al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia or remnants of the Ba'ath Party and Saddam Hussein's supporters. But the fact of the matter is that in -- yesterday, 52 people -- 52 innocent pilgrims were assassinated and 150 were wounded. Two days before 52 police recruits waiting to the -- at the police station were also killed. So if this continues, these are the typical events that spark reactions and counterattacks. And if the thing escalates, then I guess there will be some rethinking of what needs to be done.

  • 11:28:01


  • 11:28:01

    FOUKARAWell, two things. One is the United States and the other one is Iran. The United States -- the Obama Administration has been saying that Iran is no longer the war that used to be. And these events actually are a disavowal of that. Iraq continues to be a security problem, not just for the Iraqis, but also for the Americans. As to whether that's going to change the calendar, I don't think -- I personally don't think it will, particularly that now in the next two years -- we're already talking about the election of 2012 -- and the Obama Administration is on the record as saying that he's moved on. And I don't think he would want to make -- to go back to changing and fiddling with the dates in -- of withdrawing from Iraq.

  • 11:28:45

    FOUKARAIran. The event that Moises was referring to yesterday in Kabala has been a lot of fear that the Iranians have all this strength in their hand in Iraq. And just today we heard from the Iraqi government, basically, a position which is tantamount to giving the Iranians licenses to protect their own pilgrims in Iraq. And it just gives you the extent of the complexity of the situation and of the stronger impact influence that the Iranians wield nowadays in Iraq.

  • 11:29:23

    REHMNow let's turn to South Korea and its agreement to talks with North Korea. How big a breakthrough is this, Moises?

  • 11:29:35

    NAIMIt may be one of the positive consequences of the visit of the Chinese leader Hu into the United States. We know, or there has been reported that a very important part of the private conversation between President Hu and President Obama was about North Korea. North Korea is completely dependent on China, is a client state of China. China looks -- has to play a very complex game because unified peaceful Korean Peninsula dominated by the South Koreans will be a pro-American ally just adjacent to China.

  • 11:30:16

    NAIMSo the Chinese have an interest in not generating too much of unification in the Korean Peninsula. But at the same time, their support for this regime is creating all sorts of ripple effects. And the U.S. government has told them that unless they are contained, unless the North Korean regime is more or less put into a context that is not as belligerent, the United States will have to change its status, its military posture in Asia. It will have to increase its presence. It would have to take measures that the Chinese clearly don't want.

  • 11:30:56

    NAIMSo what we're seeing is the United States pressuring China and China pressuring North Korea and North Korea telling the South Koreans, let's talk.

  • 11:31:04

    REHMAnd how soon could those talks realistically come about, Elise?

  • 11:31:11

    LABOTTThey could come pretty soon, but the question...

  • 11:31:13


  • 11:31:14

    LABOTT...the question is what is going to be produced from these talks? Now, obviously, after the tension over the last couple of months between the sinking of the South Korean ship, the shelling of that island and then this whole idea that North Korea would respond to South Korean exercises, it does seem as if North Korea has the message that the U.S. has South Korea's back, that China really wants it to behave now. And it seems to be taking some steps. You can't forget that Kim Jong-il is trying to transition his son to power, and really needs a little less tension in the region.

  • 11:31:48

    LABOTTBut the question is, what are these talks going to produce? Is North Korea just coming to the table in order to lessen the tension? Is it going to apologize for these incidents, which South Korea wants? Is it going to abide by the armistice that ended the Korean War? Is it going to promise not to attack South Korea anymore? Is it going to take steps for its denuclearization? Unless South Korea is assured that the North is sincere and genuine and willing to really reduce tensions, the talks might be just another set of talks and aren't going to lead to the kind of international cooperation with North Korea on moving forward.

  • 11:32:24

    FOUKARAIt's interesting the concurrence of these two debates. The one about the talks with North Korea already a nuclear power, and the talks -- the debate about talks with Iran, a country that is purportedly trying to get nuclear power for military purposes. Although the Iranians say they want it for peaceful purposes. But I just want to go back to the issue of China. For me as somebody from the Middle East, it's really interesting that the Chinese leader visited Washington at a time when Tunisia was the scene of the events that we were talking about. Because in some case, the Chinese have been most successful in doing what Ben Ali in Tunisia was trying to do, i.e. don't talk about freedoms, but I'll give you a higher standard of living. And Ben Ali tried to convince the Tunisians and the International Community of the same. Well, I'm not going to give you freedoms, but I'm going to give you political prosperity. In the end, turned out he couldn't give the Tunisians either.

  • 11:33:31

    REHMAbderrahim Foukara of Al Jazeera, and you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Now, who would like to talk about Silvio Berlusconi? Moises.

  • 11:33:50

    NAIMSeventy-four-year-old prime minister of Italy, president of the Council of Minister has been accused of having paid for sex with a underage girl. And he's now under pressure. That pressure -- there is an investigation being opened that he rejects in saying that it's just a political entrapment. That has happened before to him. He says that his lawyers continue to be very happy with him because he's constantly under judicial attack. At the same time, his political situation has weakened. He has had one of his main allies, Gianfranco Fini, who was a cofounder of the People for Freedoms Party with him, split from his coalition. He was able -- Berlusconi was able to remain in power after a parliamentary election, but he is under pressure in these ads.

  • 11:34:51

    NAIMHowever, a recent poll by (word?) a French pollster indicates that only 13 percent of Italians believe that this scandal -- this recent scandal with the girl called Ruby, will bring Berlusconi's career to an end. A very...

  • 11:35:09

    REHMExcept that the Vatican has now made it...

  • 11:35:12

    NAIMThe very important statement by Tarcisio Bertone, who is the number two person at the Vatican, who said that the Vatican would encourage and demand legality and morality on the part and the behavior of public officials. And that's a very strong statement in a country where the Vatican is very influential.

  • 11:35:36

    LABOTTI have to say I understand, as Moises said, that the polls don't indicate that the country is, you know, tipping that he should resign over this. But at the same point, Berlusconi has been sacked with these sexual scandals for years. Now that there are wiretaps of him trying to cover it up and, you know, that he has been playing these games, boingo, boingo, that I'll let Moises discuss because he's the expert on that apparently. But the idea is now I think that the Italian people are really fed up, not necessarily with the sexual part, but with the stupid way that he has handled this. And I think they're less inclined to forgive him for being careless in all of this, than for the sexual proloclivities.

  • 11:36:20

    LABOTTAnd you've also seen -- you know, women are really standing up now. You've seen these protests by 2,000 Italian women, mothers and daughters, politicians saying these aren't -- this isn't how women should be treated. So I think eventually this is really going to catch up with him. And as Moises said, his political situation is more tenuous now. It could be the end of the line for him in terms of operating the way he has.

  • 11:36:44

    FOUKARAHe's obviously a potent man in more ways than one...

  • 11:36:48

    FOUKARA...especially the financial muscle (unintelligible) ...

  • 11:36:54

    REHMWe'll let this pass.

  • 11:36:56

    FOUKARA...that he wields in Italy. But to come back to a more serious issue. For the proximity of Italy -- and I keep going back to Tunisia. For that part of the world, there are really two models. There's the Italian model. It's a democratic country, but it's a turbulent model. If you look at the recent history of Italy, they couldn't get a solid government together for long. And then there's the Spanish model, which is a little bit more stable. It's going to be very interesting to see how people in North Africa, for example, in light of the turbulence in Tunisia, what they make of those two models.

  • 11:37:39

    REHMAnd we'll take a short break. When we come back, Ben is first up. Stay with us.

  • 11:40:03

    REHMAnd here's our first e-mail from Blake in San Antonio, who says, "of course Berlusconi's lawyers are happy with him. He's had a legion of them on full employment status for years."

  • 11:40:20

    NAIMYes, and the numbers are amazing. But Berlusconi has been placed under investigation 100 times, has been on trial 28 times and he claims that his legal fees have reached more than $400 million. And the reason, a theory that says that initially he went into politics as a protection the legal attacks on him and that he sought refuge on immunities of the presidency in order to avoid the trials and the judicial attacks against him.

  • 11:40:51

    REHMAll right. Let’s go now to Miami, Fl. Good morning, Ben.

  • 11:40:57

    BENGood morning Diane, how are you?

  • 11:40:59

    REHMFine, thanks.

  • 11:41:00

    BENI just want to make a comment about the -- go back to Tunisia. The first comment is about the one of 25 tons of gold that were taken by the president's wife. She actually went to the bank, Central Bank, on Thursday, the day before he left and the governor of the bank refused to give her the tons then the president called and gave him order. He was still, at that time, in power to give her the gold. So she took it on her plane with her to Dubai and, of course, the next day, he left and they joined.

  • 11:41:33

    BENThat's one comment. The other one is all the debates about Tunisia, you know, the program the other day was also very, very informative. One thing that is not mentioned at all is all these good things that have happened in Tunisia, the changes, (unintelligible) the father of the country, Bourguiba, who actually emancipated women and gave them the religious freedom to be 50/50 partners with men. At the same time, he's the one who established schools all over the country, back in the '50s, and he said, I'd rather deal with educated people.' And that's why Tunisians now are highly, highly educated, very much aware of what's going on.

  • 11:42:15

    BENBack in 1967, the '67 war, Bourguiba is the one who told Palestine to go ahead and accept the borders that were offered by Israel and because he said that, all the Arab countries were against him. They actually accused him of being Jew and now they don't even have those borders. In 1969, when (unintelligible) took over, he came to Tunisia and made a speech and it was saying that we defy America, we defy this. And Bourguiba left his office, went to that public speech, sat next to him and he actually gave him a very, very interesting lecture saying, 'how can we defy America with 3 million people? This is not the way. You are a very ambitious, young leader, but this is not the way you do it.'

  • 11:43:02

    REHMAll right. Thanks for calling Ben.

  • 11:43:05

    FOUKARASo many strong points. I don't know which one to start with.

  • 11:43:06

    REHMYes, right.

  • 11:43:07

    FOUKARAPerhaps with the issue of education in the middle class. One thing that, as the caller said, has happened in Tunisia is first the level and the scope of education among Tunisians in recent decades. The other one is the size of the middle class compared with its neighbors in North Africa. Tunisia has had a big middle class, which has actually benefited in some ways from the economic reforms introduced by the regime of the former president.

  • 11:43:40

    FOUKARABut the financial crisis is ahead of them. People have had access to loans more than ever before, for example. And when the financial crisis happened, a lot of them found themselves in dire straits, coupled with the high level of unemployment and we know the rest of the story. Now, the issue of Bourguiba, what was interesting is that the end when he became senile and he started pointing, for example, two ambassadors to the same capital on the same day and Ben Ali decided that he wanted to stage a bloodless coup.

  • 11:44:18

    FOUKARAIt was actually done at least with the blessing of the French and the Americans. As Elise said earlier, in counter-terrorism he was obviously -- he lent strong support to the Bush Administration. You remember his visit in 2005 and so it's going to be interesting now to see what the next government can do with these powers, the French and the Americans and more importantly, since we're talking about Italy and Berlusconi, Italy has very strong interests in Libya.

  • 11:44:52

    FOUKARAAnd the Libyans, the Libyan leader has very strong financial investments in Tunisia and that may be at least one of the reasons that he's been making noises, recently even after Ben Ali fell, that the Tunisians should have kept Ben Ali for life.

  • 11:45:09

    REHMFurther linking all these countries in one-way or another. Here is an e-mail from Florida, ''In conversation with Haiti this morning, a confidante of a close friend to Jean-Claude Duvalier confirmed this suspension that he, Duvalier, is terminally ill due to a form of cancer, hence his wish to die in his country. But the question becomes, how disruptive Duvalier's reappearance could be to Haiti.'' Moises?

  • 11:45:56

    NAIMIt is, can be disruptive, but not as much as the return of the other president that is staging a comeback. Jean-Bertrand Aristide was also a president, a very controversial president that is -- can also be a source of instability. This is a country, let's remember, that just had an election and they have to go through a second round of elections, but they cannot do it because it's not clear who the two remaining contenders are.

  • 11:46:24

    NAIMAnd on February 7, there should be a resolution. If there is no resolution, then the electoral council, the electoral tribunal, doesn't declare which of the two will go for a second of voting, there will be a constitutional crisis in a country that is already devastated the earthquake, by cholera and poverty and by a nonfunctioning government.

  • 11:46:50

    REHMAnd Alec posts a message on Facebook. He says, ''Duvalier's return to Haiti is probably the least helpful thing that could've happened at that country right now. Has there been any update since he left his hotel with the police?''

  • 11:47:11

    LABOTTWell, he's been released and the idea is that he hasn't really said what he wants to do, but that he's going to stay. He really hasn't -- you know, we -- there was some suspicion that he was sick, but no one really knew why he was there. It does seem that he's there for, in some ways, the money. But the fact of his return, he does have a certain following in Haiti as does Aristide and so together, the two men represent, you know, the kind of oppositional forces in Haiti, in Haitian politics over the last half century and together their return could really erupt into chaos

  • 11:47:39

    LABOTTAnd the problem is, Haiti is so desperate right now. After that earthquake, after the cholera breakup, they're desperate for something and the problem is this is nostalgia for a better day. It might've -- they remember that it might've not been that good under Aristide or Duvalier, but we had jobs, we had an economy, life was a little bit better.

  • 11:48:06

    LABOTTAnd so it's not necessarily that they're looking for one or the other, but, you know, even a dictator, a brutal one, might look better than the situation and the desperation that they have right now. And I think their return could really force a kind of eruption of chaos and fights over the various factions in Haiti.

  • 11:48:26

    REHMAnd here's another e-mail. This one from Bob, Syracuse, who says, ''I was told that Duvalier felt free to come back to Haiti because all the records of his corruption, torturing of prisoners, theft were destroyed in the earthquake. Therefore there is nothing there to be used to convict him of anything, is this true?'' Abderrahim?

  • 11:48:55

    FOUKARAI mean, this has been talked about in the French press, for example, because his return to Haiti, obviously because of the historical ties with France as the former colonizer, his return to Haiti has generated a lot of debate there about actually what the role of the French government was in him coming back to Haiti, although the French government had officially denied that they had anything to do with it.

  • 11:49:17

    FOUKARABut it's interesting that his return, as controversial as it is, has brought Haiti back into the limelight. I mean, Haiti -- is it, what, 90 miles off the shore of the United States and it's a forgotten story and it takes something dramatic like that to get the media talking about it. Not that necessarily anything good may come out of it, but at least it has returned to the limelight.

  • 11:49:40

    REHMAll right. To Daniel, he's on Long Island. Good morning to you.

  • 11:49:47

    DANIELGood morning Diane. I have two brief questions. One, if anyone's considered possibly in regards to Korea being -- it's like the small arm of China, its yapping dog, if in fact the saber rattling they've been doing might've even been at China's behest to give them an upper hand to come in as the savior, you know, basically give them a better stand in trade agreements.

  • 11:50:14

    DANIELAnd the other question is in regards to Palestine, why the media plays up -- plays down the fact that they're predominately Christian, but that's why everyone was so surprised that a Islamic government was voted into office and the Jewish state has been playing down the fact that it's mostly Christians so Christians don't have more, basically, an uprising or comments about what they're doing to the Palestine state.

  • 11:50:46


  • 11:50:48

    NAIMAs for Korea, Korea has a long history of being rewarded for misbehaving. There is a pattern here where Korea does things that alarm the international community. The international community enters into negotiations with Korea and provides a lifeline to what is essentially a bankrupted economy that cannot feed its people. And so the nuclear program has to do with that, the selling of other islands, South Korean islands and so on.

  • 11:51:19

    NAIMThe belligerent behavior, which is also associated with, as Elise said before, with the transition from the current Kim Jong-il to his son, 26-year-old youngster, that he has been anointed as the successor. So I think there's more about that, about the Koreans following the pattern that has worked well for them, as served them well, of misbehaving and then being rewarded by the international community, they somehow...

  • 11:51:53

    REHMSo you don't think there's any connection between Kim Jong-il and the Chinese president coming here and using North Korea as a tool for better trade relations?

  • 11:52:13

    NAIMI don't know. I don't think anybody can know that, except people with access to the Chinese government. But I doubt it, I doubt it very much. It is a very risky endeavor to play that kind of games using a very deranged government, which is the North Korean government.

  • 11:52:31

    LABOTTI mean, wouldn't you love to be a fly on the wall between Hu Jinato and Kim Jong-il? I mean, who knows what they're talking about and whether they're planning anything. But at the same time, while I don't think that China -- I don't think China has this much influence over North Korea as we think it does. I mean, they did make -- when they're willing to put their political capital and talk to the North Koreans, you saw the North Koreans turn on a dime. But I don't think that North Korea is a puppet of the Chinese in the sense that they would do that, but I do think that China does appreciate its role as the real interlocketer with North Korea.

  • 11:53:05

    REHMElise Labott of CNN. You're listening to ''The Diane Rehm Show.'' And to Nikki, who's here in Washington, good morning you're on the air.

  • 11:53:20

    NIKKIHi, Diane. I'm calling to ask about, the columnists can explain more about the Swiss bank, who has the Duvalier money and why did these European banks have allowed so many of these exports from so many of these countries in Africa, in the Middle East, to keep putting their money away. In America, we don't let drug dealers put money in the bank. And the other thing is has anybody explored the psychological damage to the people who were brutalized by this brutal man and why aren't we more sensitive to the psychological harm that the people of Haiti are experiencing with the devil that has returned. Thank you.

  • 11:54:06

    FOUKARAIf I may, I -- just to quickly say something about Christians in Palestine. I've never heard that Christians are the majority of the Palestinian population, but they have been a sizable part of that population. It's very sad that Christians from all over the Middle East have been leaving for political reasons, for economic reasons, but it's certainly a drain on the fabric of those societies.

  • 11:54:32

    FOUKARASwiss banks -- I mean, this has been with us, this story has been with us forever. Leaders in the Arab world, in Africa, other third-world countries have been plundering their countries and stashing the money in Switzerland. But more disturbing is the fact that even when there seems to be stability, some degree of stability, in these countries they continue to stash money in Swiss banks and the reason for that is that despite the apparent stability, many of the leaders actually never feel 100 percent.

  • 11:55:09

    FOUKARAThey're always thinking about the bad day, which happened in the case of Tunisia's leader, Ben Ali.

  • 11:55:16

    REHMMoises Naim, talk about the legacy of Sergeant Shriver.

  • 11:55:24

    NAIMHe passed away this week. He was many things. He was a statesman. He was the founder of the Peace Corp. He was an architect of the war on poverty, he was ambassador to France. He was a vice-president (unintelligible) candidate for president. He was, of course, married to the Kennedy family. I want to stress one aspect of his legacy, which is the Peace Corp.

  • 11:55:48

    NAIMHe believed that an America that was better integrated with the world, an America where cities knew all the countries and lived in all the countries not in lavish capitals but in little towns helping others, was a stronger America. And he also, that program also generated immense goodwill towards the United States. This is one of the fantastic innovations in terms of strengthening the United States by using a very good idea, which is letting young idealistic Americans go and help others and that...

  • 11:56:22

    REHMAnd not just young, eventually older Americans became involved.

  • 11:56:25

    NAIMBut there are hundreds of thousands of people that have, that Americans that have lived abroad, made friends and changed their perceptions abroad that they have about the United States and changed their own perception about the world. The United States where the cities (unintelligible) other countries is a stronger United States.

  • 11:56:46

    REHMMoises Naim, chief international columnist for El Pais. Elise Labott, State Department producer for CNN and Abderrahim Foukara, Washington bureau chief of Al Jazeera Arabic. Thank you all so much.

  • 11:57:05

    LABOTTThank you.

  • 11:57:06

    FOUKARAGood to be with you.

  • 11:57:07

    REHMAnd have a great weekend everybody. Back with you on Monday. Thanks for listening. I'm Diane Rehm.

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