America’s Collision Course With The Debt Ceiling
As the nation counts down to default, Diane talks to longtime Congress watcher Norm Ornstein about the debt limit negotiations, what's at stake and whether he sees a way forward.
Guest Host: Katty Kay
France and Britain criticize the roles of NATO and the U.S. in Libya. Egypt detains former President Mubarak. And Japan says its nuclear crisis is on par with Chernobyl. A panel of journalists joins guest host Katty Kay for analysis of the week’s top international news stories.
MS. KATTY KAYThanks for joining us, I'm Katty Kay of the BBC sitting in for Diane Rehm. To break an impasse in Libya, Britain and France pressured NATO to step up air strikes against troops loyal to Moammar Gadhafi. Egyptian authorities detained former President Mubarak for questioning. Japan's nuclear disaster was placed next to Chernobyl in severity. And in the Ivory Coast, U.N. Peace Keepers destroyed weapons used in the struggle for control of the world's largest cocoa producer.
MS. KATTY KAYJoining me in the studio to discuss this week's top international stories on the Friday News Roundup, Tom Gjelton of NPR, Karen DeYoung of the Washington Post and Jonathan Landay of McClatchy Newspapers. Thank you all so much for joining me this morning.
MR. TOM GJELTENHi Katty, good to be here.
MS. KAREN DEYOUNGGood to be here.
MR. JONATHAN LANDAYGood morning.
KAYThe phone number here is 1-800-433-8850. The e-mail address is email@example.com. Please, do send us our questions and comments. We'll be opening the phones in just a while. And, of course, you can also find us on Facebook and on twitter as well. Tom, let's start with this letter that's been signed by President Sarkozy, David Cameron and Barack Obama that's been printed in the International Herald Tribune saying that, of course, there is unity in the approach to Libya, but also suggesting that they can't imagine a Libya in which Coronal Gadhafi stays.
GJELTENRight, Katty. What I think is significant about this letter is how much farther it goes than the U.N. -- the original U.N. resolution that authorized this military action or even the statement that the United States, Britain and France put out 24 hours after the U.N. resolution. Remember when President Obama came out and gave very specific orders to Gadhafi. What he had to do in order to accommodate the demands of the allies. This letter goes even beyond that.
GJELTENIt -- first of all, it makes it clear that in their view Gadhafi has to go. They write, "It is impossible to imagine a future for Libya with Gadhafi in power. It is unthinkable that someone who's tried to massacre his own people can play a part in their future government -- governance." So this shows that at least as far as the western -- the leading western members of this coalition, they will not be satisfied with anything less than the removal of Gadhafi from power.
GJELTENBut it leaves unanswered the question of how do you get to that part.
KAYRight, all very well, Karen, but, you know, how do they actually get there? And this morning we have the French defense minister suggesting that he would seek a new U.N. security resolution that would allow the international community to go further in Libya.
DEYOUNGWell, I think, the problem throughout has been the difference between the military goal of what the coalition and NATO are doing. Which is to, quote, "Protect civilians in civilian areas in Libya." And the political goal of the United States and France and Britain and really everyone whose participating, I mean, you've had NATO, you've had the Arab League, you've had the Gulf Cooperation Council, all say Gadhafi has to go. But the military campaign that they have gotten authorized by the United Nations, in fact, it's not allow them to do that.
GJELTENAnd now they're in a position where their strikes on Gadhafi's forces that are moving up to attack civilian areas have been, certainly in terms of what the Libyan opposition thinks, are insufficient to actually give the opposition the edge to push back Gadhafi's forces. So they're in a bit of a quandary. They can't get this political aim accomplished by the military means that they've chosen. They, as you said, the French defense minister suggested perhaps, they need a new U.N. security council resolution that would authorize regime change in Libya.
GJELTENI think, that's a very, very unlikely -- you already had five members of the security council abstain from the original resolution. I think, you would likely get more than a few veto's. The U.N. does not want to be in the position of regime change. And many of the members who are, sort of, tacitly allowing this operation to go forward while criticizing it from the margins, certainly do not want to approve that.
KAYJonathan, meanwhile you have the rebels saying that they're upset with the NATO mission. That they don't feel that it's gone far enough. You have the foreign ministers of NATO meeting in Berlin yesterday and making it pretty clear that there isn't unity on pressing this military operation further.
LANDAYIn fact, I think, the image that really brings all this out was yesterday. While this foreign -- where the foreign ministers of NATO and disagreeing behind closed doors as how to do this, Moammar Gadhafi is being shown on state run Libyan television driving around Tripoli standing in the roof hatch of his SUV with shades on and black jacket, shaking his hands, waving his hands, clasping his hands over his head in the pose of a champion boxer almost. And being praised by his people.
LANDAYQuite obviously not ready to abide by all of these calls for him to leave. The -- his forces continue to besiege Libya's third largest town, Misurata. A bunch of people killed there yesterday in rocket strikes. There are reports today that those rocket attacks continue. And his forces pressing again in the east toward the rebel stronghold of Benghazi. The United States, under pressure from its allies behind closed doors and actually in public, to take a leading role in the air strikes to bring back specialized aircraft that only the United States has that are capable of much more pinpointed strikes on Gadhafi's forces in urban settings.
LANDAYAnd the United States, the Obama administration, not ready to do that for a whole bunch of different reasons.
KAYThe Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Tom, said yesterday that Gadhafi's testing the resolve and the unity of the West on this and you see -- and we all saw those pictures of Gadhafi being driven triumphantly. We don't know exactly when they were recorded or exactly where in the circumstances. But it seems, from the outside, that he does sort of have the upper hand at the moment, doesn't it? I mean, to get back to your question of, it's okay for the West to say he has to go, but if they don't know how, he's staying.
GJELTENIt certainly seems that he does. But what you said, at the moment, I think a real critical issue is, how long can he hold out because the international community, the United Nations, the European Union, the United States, between them have imposed the toughest sanctions on a government anywhere in the world. Tougher even then North Korea. We saw this, something we talked about on this program a few weeks ago, is when Britain -- when a shipment of cash, of currency -- new currency, to Libya was confiscated. So depriving the regime of cash.
GJELTENWe see it's now impossible for Gadhafi to sell the gold reserves that he has. He is running out of cash and he needs cash in order to pay mercenaries, in order to pay salaries, in order to maintain the loyalty of people who are still supporting him. So, I think, there really is a question of whether, in the long run, whether time is on his side. I mean, it's real -- it's an interesting question because on the -- because from that point of view, time is not is -- on his side. On the side, I think, that we see great impatience as we've been discussing on the part of the coalition members.
GJELTENAnd real nervousness that the longer that this goes on, the danger that the coalition will unravel, the danger that radical Islamists might highjack the rebellion, the danger that hordes of Muslim refugees will come ashore in Europe, something that terrifies European governments. So it really is a battle of wills right now. And time is really, in a sense, on neither side.
KAYKaren, from your conversations with state department and military officials here in Washington, do you think that when they launched this operation or signed up to this operation, when was it now a month ago? They thought -- what did they think was going to happen? I mean, did they have a vision of how this would play out and was this it?
DEYOUNGI don't think they did play it out. I think, that they assumed that their military might was so tremendous that the -- they could so cripple Gadhafi's forces that they would not advance. I think, they under estimated or perhaps over estimated the abilities of the oppositions. You know, remember this -- right immediately after the first round of strikes, you saw great gains by the opposition. They pushed to the west, they took over a bunch of towns, they've been back and forth a few times now but they've been completely pushed back.
DEYOUNGAnd so I don't think that they thought through how long this would take. I think, Tom is right. It is a battle of wills now. You know, the NATO members and the administration say, look, this can't go on. Give it a month, give a two, we've only just started. They keep saying, we've only been at this -- first they said, we've only been at this a week. Now, we've only been at this a month. And in the sort of history of military campaigns, that's relatively nothing.
KAYAnd we know that no-fly zones have a habit of taking much longer than you think, two years.
DEYOUNGGoing -- you -- well, and the Balkans have went on for three years. But I think that there are other countries, Turkey for example, which is the only NATO member that has an operating embassy in Tripoli and a consulate in Benghazi, and really does talk to both sides, has said at the ministerial meeting in Berlin, look, you need to start coming up with a plan for Gadhafi. We need to talk to him. I mean, that's easier said than done. But if you want him to get out, you got to figure out a way for him to get out of there.
KAYOkay. Let's go to Egypt, Jonathan. Former President Hosni Mubarak and his two sons are in detention for the next 15 days. Was this a surprise that they were taken in?
LANDAYI think it was. And I think it was seen by many people as the military committee that -- has been running the country. Military men who were appointed and served under Mr. Mubarak reacting to renewed demonstrations in Tahrir Square last weekend, the main square in Cairo, the biggest demonstrations that had been held since Mubarak left office. Two people were killed. And those demonstrators were not just calling for the prosecution and investigation of Mubarak and his sons and their cronies in terms of corruption and business deals.
LANDAYBut they were also expressing frustration with the military men who have been running that country over the pace of reforms and over a crackdown on people who had participated in the protests against Mr. Mubarak. There are reports of large numbers of people being put in prison, being mistreated and tortured. And there are also a great deal of dissatisfaction over the pace of reforms and over the fact that there haven't been prosecutions or investigations, at least until this point, of the people who were responsible for killing protesters in Tahrir Square during those 18 days of protests against Mr. Mubarak.
LANDAYNow, these -- this move may have silenced people for a while but we'll have to wait and see.
KAYJonathan Landay, senior national security intelligence correspondent with McClatchy Newspapers. Karen DeYoung from the Washington Post is also with me. Tom Gjelton from the NPR and author also of, "Bacardi and the Long Fight for Cuba," is also here. The phone number is 1-800-433-8850. The e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org. You're listening to the international hour of the Friday News Roundup. We're going to take a quick break. Do stay with us.
KAYWelcome back. I'm Katty Kay of the BBC sitting in for Diane Rehm. You've joined the International Hour of the Friday News Roundup. The phone number here is 1-800-433-8850. We'll be taking your calls, questions and comments in just a while. Just before the break, Karen, we were talking about Egypt. And we were all mentioning during the break how amazing it was that if somebody had said to you on January the 1st that Hosni Mubarak was going to be in detention and Gamal Mubarak was going to be in detention, I think we would never have believed it.
DEYOUNGOh, absolutely. And I think that as Jonathan was saying, you know, the Egyptian military, which has sort of been orchestrating this lately, I think is kind of reeling in trying to get control of the situation. They're used to being in very close control of everything. Now, they're in a situation where they've taken over. They feel like they've made some concessions to the protestors and said, okay, now go home. Let's all go back to life. Yeah, we'll get these reforms underway. We'll have some elections. And yet people are still there.
DEYOUNGSo I think the arrest of Mubarak is part of their attempt to separate themselves further from the old days, but also to kind of draw a line to the protestors and say, look, you know, enough is enough. Okay. We've got Mubarak and his sons in prison. We will prosecute them. There's a line that you can't cross though. Whereas the protestors are saying, wait a minute, we still have the emergency loss, we still have (unintelligible) ...
KAYPeople are still being locked up.
DEYOUNG...we've got bloggers being picked up, we've got violence against protestors in Tahrir Square. This is not what we were fighting for.
KAYHosni Mubarak says that he is going to fight the accusations against him and his family. He reportedly suffered a heart attack and was hospitalized for it, Tom, this week. Do you think that having him now in detention is going to draw that line that the military hopes it is, as Karen suggests? Or do you think actually now we're seeing kind of -- I mean, there was talk a couple of weeks ago that the revolution ended in Egypt. Are we...
GJELTENWell, there was a planned demonstration...
KAY...is it starting again?
GJELTEN...which was called off because the demonstrators -- because the, you know, the democratic forces in Egypt were so pleased that Mubarak and his sons were taken into custody, that they actually called off a demonstration. But, you know, what I think this underscores is the irony here of the military being the force that is supposed to build democracy in Egypt. I mean, it was the protestors themselves that sort of put the military in that situation. It was the military that really resolved the crisis with Mubarak, and the demonstrators were rejoicing at the prospect of a military government in Egypt. And I think -- it's a little bit unfair, I think, to hold the military to a standard. I mean, what military anywhere knows how to build democracy? I mean, this is not the role that a military can play.
GJELTENAnd what you see -- and I think that Karen alluded to it -- is the military really doesn't know what to do. I mean, what are you going to do? Are you going to order free press? That's what the military is good at. They're good at issuing orders but it's a very unnatural position for a military to be in the role of deciding when elections are going to be held, how elections are going to be held, how political parties are going to be organized. And yet, ironically, that's the precise position that the Egyptian military is in right now.
LANDAYAnd I think that that was ably demonstrated last weekend during these demonstrations when military officers actually joined the demonstrators before the crackdown in the square to back the demonstrators' call for reforms at a much faster pace. I think there are members of the opposition, in fact, would like to see the military step aside for some kind of caretaker government. That's not going to happen. And indeed the man who's basically running the military right now is General Tantawi, the defense minister's -- the very same man who was the defense minister under President Mubarak. So I think there may be a pause right now, but I think as long as we see things being drawn out in a way that the reformists in Egypt aren't satisfied with, that there's going to be a potential for this to restart.
DEYOUNGAnd also, you know, the military has an enormous conflict of interest here. There's no question. Not only -- obviously they have an interest in stability for its own sake, but they also have an economic conflict of interest. I mean, they are in positions of power all across our society. And any democratic government, I think, that is truly democratic and is what the reformists have pushed for is going to lessen their influence in the society and lighten their pocketbooks a bit.
KAYOkay. Meanwhile the protests, of course, continuing throughout the Middle East. We've seen them in Syria, we've continued to see them in Yemen. And let's talk a little bit about Bahrain 'cause I'm a bit confused about what's really going on here. Yesterday we had the Bahrainis saying that they were going to ban the country's largest opposition groups, the Shiite groups. Today the government seems to have moved back from that position, Tom, but what's really happening in the Gulf state there?
GJELTENWell, I think that one of the things that makes the situation in Bahrain different from the situation in other Arab countries is that the protests there have a sectarian element that is absent in other countries. I mean, this is a state that is ruled by the Sunni monarchy and the reformists are largely Shiite. And therefore you have the prospect of a Shiite Sunni split. And, as you say, the opposition party that was disbanded was a Shiite party.
GJELTENAnd I think the -- one of the reasons -- and Karen had a great piece about this this week -- about the -- one of the reasons that the United States has been apparently so ambivalent about supporting the forces of reform and democracy in Bahrain is precisely because there is looming on the horizon the prospect of a Sunni Shiite clash that could bring in Iran on behalf of the Shiite population, and Saudi Arabia on behalf of the Sunni population. We've already seen some indication that this may in fact be happening. That is a terrifying prospect. And given the U.S. concerns and ally concerns about Iran, having an opening for Iran to get involved in these uprisings is something the United States and other countries really want to oppose. So it's a far more complicated situation in Bahrain than it is in some of the other countries.
KAYAnd, Karen, to what extent do we know the facts of Iran's involvement, and to what extent is the Bahraini government using the specter of Iranian involvement with the Shiite majority as motivation or an excuse for cracking down?
DEYOUNGWell, I think both are true. You know, have the Iranians long been involved in Bahrain, long been supportive of the Shiite majority there? Yes, no question. They sometimes refer to Bahrain in Iran as the 14th province of Iran. And many of the Shiites there come from Iran. At the same time, certainly as far as the United States is concerned, the repression against the Shiites is real. The reformers are real. They have real concerns. The -- as Tom was saying, I mean, the United States is trying to balance its interests here. Don't forget we also have the fifth fleet based in Bahrain, so we have our own interests in stability there.
DEYOUNGMore important I think is the question of the Saudis. The Saudis have made it very, very clear to the Americans, this is...
KAYWe are not having a Shiite (unintelligible) ...
DEYOUNG...this is their backyard.
KAY...in our backyard.
DEYOUNGDo not interfere. They've sent more than 1,000 troops in there at Bahraini request to (unintelligible) ...
KAYAre those troops still there, Karen, the 1,000?
DEYOUNGYes, they are. And they -- theoretically they're not there to fight against the protestors. They're there to protect Bahraini infrastructure to free up the Bahraini forces to deal with the demonstrators. You know, both Bahrain and Saudi Arabia essentially deny that there -- that there's any deep legitimacy to the protests. They believe it is all a question of Iranian interference. Their position now is that the Crown Prince has offered negotiations. The opposition has turned it down and the ball is in the opposition court. If they don't want to come to the table and talk then what else can we do? We have to end the chaos there.
KAYJonathan, what do you read into the news today that Bahrain is rowing back from banning the opposition party? Is this in response -- 'cause I know the U.S. State Department said that they were disappointed with that ruling. Is this in response to American pressure at all? I mean, America's in a very tricky position here but is Bahrain reacting to some extent to Western influence?
LANDAYThat does seem to be the case that yesterday they were intended -- they announced they intended to take the Wefaq party to court to have it banned, and another -- and a smaller party as well. And today we're hearing that that move is going to be at least deferred while an "investigation" continues into the party's involvement in the prodemocracy protests that took place. And I think, yes, that, you know, you had this statement out of the State Department yesterday. But I also think that, you know, Tom is right, that the United States has not been as aggressive in terms of its statement about what happened in Bahrain. It did criticize the fact that the Saudis moved in to Bahrain at the "invitation" of the ruling family. And that actually added to tensions between the Obama Administration and the Saudi royal family.
KAYRight. And to try and quell perhaps some of those tensions, Karen, we learned this week that President Obama wrote a letter to King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. It's a pretty rare move for him to write a private letter. It was delivered by Tom Donilon. What was in the letter? Do we know?
DEYOUNGWell, and it's also important to know that this comes just five days after Secretary of Defense Gates was -- had a very long meeting with King Abdullah in Saudi Arabia. In fact, the first outsider, the first foreigner to meet with him since this long illness that he had -- Abdullah had surgery here, basically been gone for months. The -- I don't know exactly what the letter said. I would assume it said, you know, we have a long history of working together. We have a lot of joint equities. Let's continue to work together. Our objective is the same to bring rights to the people of Bahrain and throughout the world. I would suspect that there were no threats in it.
DEYOUNGI think that this is a relationship that the administration very, very much wants to keep solid. We have a lot of equities with Saudi Arabia. It's our primary counterterrorism partner in that part of the world. Obviously oil. We have defense relationships. Since 911 we've set up a very intricate network of, again, counterterrorism infrastructure, financial infrastructure. And I think that at the end of the day that is the relationship that's important to the United States.
KAYTom, do you know how much strain the popular protests throughout the Middle East have put on the relationship between Riyadh and Washington?
GJELTENThere is some -- there is -- I don't see so far evidence that the U.S. Saudi relationship is seriously strained. Nor that this wave of uprising has really had much of an impact in Saudi Arabia. I mean, the situation in Saudi Arabia appears to be more stable than it is in virtually any of the other Arab countries. And I think the United States...
GJELTENWell, I think that the -- you know, that the monarchy there is -- has just a much firmer grip on the population. I don't think there is the level of -- obviously it's a very wealthy country -- I don't think there is the level of unemployment and, you know, concerns about corruption. The kinds of concerns that have really driven these protest movements in other countries have been less evident in Saudi Arabia. And as far as the U.S. Saudi relationship the United States -- I think what we have seen is that these uprisings from the U.S. point of view have almost reached the limit of our concerns about democracy and are now getting into the strategic concerns.
GJELTENWe -- there's a country we haven't talked about , which is Yemen. Yemen, again another place where, like Bahrain, the United States has very serious strategic interests. The Saudis are now playing a very important role in mediating a transfer of power in Yemen. And the United States is deeply grateful. This is one of the things that Donald had mentioned to King Abdullah, that the United States is grateful for the efforts by Saudi leaders to mediate a transfer of power in Yemen. So I think at this point the United States is, one, grateful that the Saudi government is not in -- destabilized and, two, grateful for the Saudi role that it has been playing in this region.
KAYI'm Katty Kay of the BBC sitting in for Diane Rehm. And if you'd like to join us do call 1-800-433-8850 or send us an e-mail to email@example.com. Karen, I just -- we're going to go to the phones in just a second, but I wanted to ask you a little bit -- to get to Pakistan, Apparently the Pakistanis have asked the U.S. to limit the number of drone strikes and quite significantly number -- limit the number of CIA agents in the country. What's going on there?
DEYOUNGI think that this was a crisis that was bound to happen. You have a very up-and-down relationship between the United States and Pakistan on all levels, certainly between the two intelligence communities. Last year there was a bit of a thaw where the Pakistanis allowed more CIA agents to come in there. They had a lot of joint operations inside Pakistan. The Pakistani's now charge that the Americans took total advantage of it, took -- sent too many people in, sent people in like Raymond Davis, the man who was arrested earlier this year and charged with shooting and killing two Pakistanis. The Americans, of course, claimed that he had diplomatic status, and he did have a diplomatic passport but never would say what exactly he was doing in Pakistan. Pakistanis charged that he was in -- working for the CIA and, in fact, he was.
GJELTENThe Pakistanis have now said, we want you to give us the names of everyone who's working for the intelligence agencies here in Pakistan and specify what exactly their job is. And they've also extended it to the drone campaign, which of course is operated by the CIA in Pakistan. The Pakistanis feel like, although they have cooperated despite their public denials, they do provide intelligence, they do sign off on the campaign. They say it's too much now. It's gotten to be too much. You're hitting, you know, the number...
KAYToo many political sensitivities, correct?
DEYOUNGWell, and too many strikes.
DEYOUNGYou've had -- you had 118 last year, which was more than all the other years combined. They say, you're hitting foot soldiers. You're not getting high value targets and that's not worth it to us. They asked the United States to cut back. The head of the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence was here earlier this week to meet with Leon Panetta, the CIA head. I think that they didn't really decide anything in those meetings. The Pakistanis said, look, if you don't trust us to really cooperate with us, then what's the point? And, of course, the CIA does not trust them. They believe that the Pakistani intelligence is involved with militant groups, that it aids them and in some senses even directs them.
KAYOkay. We're going to take a break in just a minute or two but I want to get to Japan before we do. We've got an e-mail here from Kevin in Albuquerque. "If there were an eight or a nine on the nuclear reactor scale Chernobyl would be an eight or a nine, but Fukushima would stay at seven. Chernobyl was much worse than Fukushima, which the media continues to exaggerate." Jonathan, could you talk about that and the fact that it -- the Japanese officials took a month to reveal the extent of the radiation problems in Fukushima.
LANDAYWell, there isn't an eight or a nine on the international scale of radiation, the nuclear and radiological scale. There is some dispute. Experts say that perhaps the Japanese and the International Atomic Energy Agency went a little too far in elevating this to the level of Chernobyl. There hasn't been the kind of release of radiological elements of radioactivity...
KAYAs far as we know, no radiation-related deaths yet from Fukushima.
LANDAYAbsolutely. But at the same time there have been releases of radioactive iodine and other elements. There have been some selective readings, my understanding is, of radio -- higher than normal radioactivity in agricultural produce and some fish, although many, many samples don't show that. And Japan extended the zone again of communities that should evacuate. And so, yes, it does appear like the Japanese did, at least in the beginning, underestimate the effects of this.
KAYOkay. 1-800-433-8850 is the phone number. And I promise that after this break we will be taking your calls.
KAYWelcome back. I'm Katty Kay of the BBC sitting in for Diane Rehm. You are listening to the international hour of our Friday News Roundup. Let's go straight to the phones to Siad in Herndon, Va. Siad, you've joined "The Diane Rehm Show." You have a question for the panel. Siad, can you hear me? Let's see if Siad is there. No, we don't seem to have Siad there. Just let's go to Joseph in Baltimore, Md. Joseph, can you hear me?
JOSEPHI wanted to revisit the Egyptian revolution topic and ask whether we've been looking at the wrong narrative and whether what we might've seen is actually a coos dressed in revolutionary garb that the interest of the Egyptian military was to make sure that Mubarak's son didn't come to power, and they realized once the protest started that the street and their -- and the military elite's interests were in the same direction. But now that Mubarak and his sons are out of the way, they've started to crackdown on journalists and on the protestors and all this in the name of making sure that the elections will be clean and fair come September.
KAYOkay. Karen, you were talking about this a little bit earlier, about the military's involvement in its business interests in Egypt. Would you go as far as Joseph is suggesting?
DEYOUNGI certainly think it didn't start out that way. I think the military -- I don't know what the military thought about Gamal Mubarak, but I believe that they're cracking down now is, as I was saying before, partially endemic just to their personalities. You know, they don't like chaos. They're used to being in charge. They don't want to give up what they have. They are certainly willing to take a backseat to a Democratic government as long as their interests are protected. So I think that they're -- again as Tom was saying earlier, I think they're in a bit of a muddle right now trying to figure out how far they can go without going too far to protect their interests.
GJELTENWell, the military endorsed this move for parliamentary elections on a very short timeline. And there's a referendum and a great majority of the Egyptian people supported quick parliamentary elections. But there was very interesting commentary this week by David Ignatius, one of Karen's colleagues, quoting Amr Moussa and Mohamed ElBaradei, probably the two highest profile sort of opposition people in Egypt, both saying that it would be a mistake to move too quickly to parliamentary elections given the weakness of the political infrastructure in Egypt and the fact that the only political party that is really well positioned to exploit elections in the short run is the Muslim Brotherhood. So it's not clear I think from anyone's perspective just how exactly does it make sense to negotiate this transition to democracy in Egypt.
GJELTENAnd the fact that the military is still as powerful as it is for all the reasons that the caller and Karen have mentioned is certainly complicating the situation. But I don't think even those most -- even the purest advocates of a democracy -- of a democratic transition are unsure about how fast this transition needs to proceed if it is to be successful.
KAYOkay. Let's go to Ed in Cincinnati, Ohio. Ed, you've joined "The Diane Rehm Show."
EDYes, thank you very much. On back to the Libyan situation as well, I'm concerned at the mental status of the rebels. I wonder if they are prepared to put aside tribal differences. Libya's a tribal society and we Westerners aren't used to dealing with tribal societies. I'm thinking that the only -- the only enemy that the Libyan rebels have right now is Moammar Gadhafi. But after Gadhafi is gone, what are the -- what are the chances that a viable government that meets the real needs of the Libyan people will come out of that situation?
KAYWell, Ed, you know, that's a very pertinent question. It's certainly a question that's being asked here in Washington D.C. as well. We had Gen. Ham up in the Senate recently saying, we just don't know enough about these rebels. Do we feel now that we've got a clearer picture, Jonathan Landay, of who the rebels are, who's making them up and how well organized they might be? Are they a viable alternative to Gadhafi?
LANDAYYou know, I think there's an action taken, but very quietly yesterday, not so quietly by the European Union, that I think raises -- goes to the very point that the caller raises. And that is the European Union yesterday lifted sanctions on a man by the name of Moussa Koussa who was Moammar Gadhafi's foreign minister, but before that his top right-hand man when it came to his external security. He ran sort of the Libyan's equivalent to the CIA. And before that he ran the group within the Libyan government that coordinated with international terrorist organizations.
LANDAYAnd yet yesterday the EU lifted sanctions on him freeing him to travel. And this is a man who knows basically how to run bureaucracies, how to run essentially a government. And I think that this was a move, the Europeans looked at him, at Moussa Koussa who defected obviously, and said perhaps this is the only guy who's around who might be capable of offering a viable alternative to Mr. Gadhafi as far as knowing how to run, put together a government.
KAYSo the implication was that whatever Moussa Koussa might've known about Pan Am, we're prepared to overlook his past if we feel that this can help us in getting rid of Gadhafi, Karen? Or was that too simple?
DEYOUNGThat might be a little too simple, but I do think that one of the things that NATO and the EU and the Arab governments are really pushing on the opposition is to come up with a process to come up with not only the names and the identities of people who are involved, but also to come up with a process that will convince the world that they're prepared to govern. And they've also said, look, you can't pretend that Tripoli doesn't exist. You can't pretend that if you want to avoid a partition, if you want to have a truly democratic government, you've got to start thinking about how to incorporate the rest of Libya into a government that represents everybody.
DEYOUNGAnd so again as they've come to know these people and have had more and more meetings with them, this has been one of the themes. You know, you've got to figure out how you can represent everybody and who's really capable of running a government and understand what all the elements of running a government are. Now, certainly there are a lot of people, former ministers, who are now part of the opposition who understand that, who understand finance, who understand commerce, who understand the oil business. But I think that...
KAYThe governor of the Central Bank for example...
KAY...is one of those that defected.
DEYOUNGRight. And so -- but again they're pushing them to say it's -- you need to get yourself in a position to actually run a government.
KAYRight. And at the same time we're still hearing that the actual rebel forces are a pretty ragtag bunch, Tom.
GJELTENRagtag, but one of the thing -- the caller said that the rebel forces need to consider their own tribal differences, but mostly what we know of the rebel forces are those who are in eastern Libya who are tribally more or less of the same background. The question is, the one that Karen raises, what about those so-called anti-Gadhafi forces in the rest -- in the west of Libya for example? And I would just underscore a line in the NATO Communiqué that came out a couple of days ago where NATO reaffirms its support for the territorial integrity and national unity of Libya. Almost -- what they almost seem to be suggesting here is don't think about the partition of Libya, don't think that this is a scenario that is going to get us out of this. We are not going to support a partition of Libya. Anything that -- any satisfactory resolution of this conflict has to maintain the territorial integrity and national unity of Libya.
KAYOkay. Let's go to Lee who joins us from South Bend, Ind. Lee, you've joined "The Diane Rehm Show." Lee, can you hear me? Lee?
KAYYeah, hi, you've joined "The Diane Rehm Show." You have a question for our panel?
LEEThis is Lee.
KAYYes, I can hear you, Lee. Can you hear me?
KAYGo ahead. You have a question for us.
LEEWell, it was more of a comment regarding the Mid East situation in general. I just feel that we get ourselves overly involved in these things. Taking Libya for example, I think the president at this point is doing the right thing by having a stand back-ish attitude about getting more involved with military issues. The Mid East needs to solve some of their problems on their own. We gotta stop being the big brother to these things.
LEEIt's just -- we do this and we create, how I guess the best thing I could say would be, a bad persona where there people just have more aggravation with us and don't want us over there. I think we're just getting too deep in these issues. Saudi Arabia already is now moving off to the east to China and Russia because of their displeasure with how we're getting involved with things and how we treated the Egyptian situation. It's -- you know, I just don't think there's any good way we can be involved in this situation and come out in any way, shape or form a winner.
KAYWell, I think there's two separate points there on that, Jonathan. I mean, is it in America's interest to get involved in these situations at all and do we have a choice about that matter? And then, I mean, one of the things that sort of surprised me is actually not what Lee was suggesting, but that these have not -- these protests have actually not taken on very much of an anti-American or anti-Israeli tone so far.
LANDAYAnd when I think the administration was considering -- was deliberating what do we do about Libya, what do we do about Egypt, how do we react. I think one of the considerations was, well, is this opportunity to rebuild America's image that had been so very badly shattered and damaged by the -- under the Bush administration with the invasion of Iraq and Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. And I think to a certain extent they've managed to do that. You haven't seen American flags being burnt in the -- in the streets. You haven't heard demonstrations going to the American embassy and chanting outside, you know, down with America.
LANDAYAnd I think this very much weighs on the administration's deliberations when it looks at what's going on in Bahrain and comes out with a statement yesterday basically condemning what the Bahrainis were doing visavi the opposition party. But it's a very fine line the Americans have to walk. Now, as regard to Saudi Arabia, I don't think there's very much of a chance that you're going to see Saudi Arabia reorient its foreign policy alignments to Russia and China. Certainly could use them to express its displeasure at the way the United States -- the Obama administration reaction in places like Bahrain, places that are very, very important to the Saudis to express its displeasure, but at the same time, as Karen was saying earlier, there are too many equities that the United States has with Saudi Arabia and Saudi Arabia has with the United States.
KAYI wanted to ask a little bit about Ivory Coast, totally separate issue. Although, when I listen to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton talking about, it made me think there's some relationship between what we've been talking about for the last hour in the Middle East and what happened in the Ivory Coast this week where the former president, Laurent Gbagbo, was arrested and taken by the opposition forces. And Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that what happened in the Ivory Coast sends a strong signal to dictators around the world that they cannot disregard the voice of their own people. Tom, is that true?
GJELTENWell, that's a bit of -- a bit of wishful thinking. I think my prediction here is that we are going to continue to see dictators disregarding the voice of their own people. But we did have a situation here where the forces who -- the forces loyal to President Gbagbo were just not powerful enough to resist the demands of the opposition. President Ouattara -- Alassane Ouattara who by all accounts won the presidential election and had the support of other African government. And I think that was a very important element here. The -- he and his people were able to get the support of UN peace keeping forces largely from African countries. They intervened. The UN -- this is one of these rare situations where UN security forces actually played a pretty aggressive and critical role in ousting President Gbagbo.
GJELTENAnd they are still there. They are right now providing some security to make sure that there -- the big concern right now, Katty, is the danger of reprisal killings because there were hundreds of people killed in the violence in the last few weeks and a great deal of anger on the part of the supporters of President Ouattara. And the UN forces are there sort of helping maintain order. And, you know, I think this is a good news story in the sense that we have seen UN and other African forces playing a critical role in, boy, if you look at Libya, if you look at Somalia, if you look at a number of places, if the peace keeping capabilities of other African governments can really be improved, that would be really a terrific development.
DEYOUNGWell, I think you also can't forget that the French sent in a lot of war planes and were a pretty decisive factor in getting...
KAYWe're seeing a lot of French muscular foreign policy at the moment.
DEYOUNGI think to some extent you're seeing President Sarkozy looking towards his own reelection prospects in 2012 and trying to figure out where his advantage lies, but also obviously France is a former colonial power. They have a lot of interests there. And this was, unlike a lot of other situations certainly in Africa, pretty clear cut and pretty low risk for the -- certainly for the West. You had the United Nations, the European Union all on the side of Ouattara. You had the French willing to send in their jets. You had the -- as Tom was saying, you had the UN forces, so I think that it was, as I say, pretty low risk and to some extent, at least in Africa, kind of -- Sub-Saharan Africa, kind of a one off in terms of what the region and what outside powers were willing to do there.
KAYWe have a lot of callers who have called in asking about the double standard of American foreign policy, one caller who's suggested that America sees when countries -- likes countries until they decide that they don't, whether or not there's a dictator there. And, you know, we've been talking about all of these issues, Libya, Egypt. It's a tricky balance for America at the moment, how to justify its foreign policy, whether it's in Libya with its humanitarian grounds or you're looking at Bahrain and we're looking at national security interests. How do you think, Jonathan, that Washington is stacking up on the barometer of judging its foreign policy at the moment and justifying it?
LANDAYAll you have to do is listen to the administration's explanation for its various stances visavi the Arab spring. And as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said and other officials, you know, each country is approached according to the way the U.S. perceives the situation and the interests that the U.S. has in that particular country, which I think is actually a pretty refreshing way to talk about this, because they're essentially saying there is no consistency in our foreign policy. If we think that there's an important American interest in a particular place, we're going to get involved there. If we don't think there's a strong American interest, we're not.
KAYJonathan Landay, senior national security and intelligence correspondent with McClatchy Newspapers, Karen DeYoung, senior diplomatic correspondent with The Washington Post, Tom Gjelten, correspondent with NPR and author of "Bacardi and the Long Fight for Cuba." Thank you all so much for joining me.
GJELTENGood to see you, Katty.
KAYI'm Katty Kay. You've been listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Thanks for much for listening. Have a great weekend.
ANNOUNCER"The Diane Rehm Show" is produced by Sandra Pinkard, Nancy Robertson, Susan Nabors, Denise Couture, Monique Nazareth and Sarah Ashworth. The engineer is Tobey Schreiner. Dorie Anisman answers the phones. Visit drshow.org for audio archives, transcripts, podcasts and CD sales. Call 202-885-1200 for more information.
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