The Cook Political Report's Amy Walter discusses why President Biden's popular policies haven't translated to popularity among voters.
The U.S. questions whether Pakistan had a role in harboring Osama bin Laden. Syrian government troops storm Damascus suburbs. And a cholera outbreak in Haiti is traced to the U.N. A panel of journalists joins guest host Katty Kay for analysis of the week’s top international news stories.
- James Kitfield Senior correspondent, National Journal magazine.
- Jill Dougherty Foreign affairs correspondent, CNN.
- Abderrahim Foukara Washington bureau chief of Al Jazeera Arabic.
Read James Kitfield’s National Journal article on bin Laden’s Death
MS. KATTY KAYThanks for joining us, I'm Katty Kay of the BBC, sitting in for Diane Rehm. U.S.-Pakistan relations sour after the dramatic raid on Osama bin Laden's compound. U.S. lawmakers demand if Pakistan knew that al-Qaida leader was living within its borders. The U.S. calls for using frozen Libyan assets to aid rebels fighting to overthrow Moammar Gadhafi. Syria arrests hundreds in a Damascus suburb and Bahrain targets doctors and nurses who treated injured protesters.
MS. KATTY KAYJoining me in the studio to discuss the week’s top international stories on the Friday News Roundup, James Kitfield of National Journal Magazine, Jill Dougherty of CNN and Abderrahim Foukara of Al Jazeera Arabic. Thank you all so much for coming in.
MR. JAMES KITFIELDGood to be here.
MS. JILL DOUGHERTYGood to be here.
MR. ABDERRAHIM FOUKARAGood to be here.
KAYThe phone number here is 1-800-433-8850. The email address is email@example.com, you can find us on Facebook and Twitter, as well. We will be taking your calls and your questions later on in the program. But let's start. Wow, what a busy week, another busy week. We had the first new roundup news hour on domestic news, also very busy and, of course, dominated on the political side by the news of Osama bin Laden's death. Now, of course, more on that.
KAYAnd, Jill, what's the latest that we know from the assassination? What happened? How did -- what's the fallout been? All the latest details.
DOUGHERTYWell, you know, the very latest, as I was out in the entrance hall, there was -- now al-Qaida has said that they are confirming that he was killed. And they are saying, you should not mistreat the body or bodies of anybody else who was killed. But interestingly, they say that Osama bin Laden recorded a message a week before he died. And this was on, what's being referred to as, the Arab Spring.
DOUGHERTYBut these -- excuse me, Arab Uprisings and that this will shortly or soon be released. So I think that's very intriguing because this is -- it's a larger question. But this Arab revolution -- the revolutions sweeping many countries are very much one of the issues that we'll be looking going forward in the implications of Osama bin Laden's killing.
KAYWell, Abderrahim, what does that news about the al-Qaida website putting up a confirmation that bin Laden has been killed, what does that do to doubters who might have said, we don't believe it. We think that this is misinformation coming out of the American government? Does it change any minds, do you think?
FOUKARAWell, I mean, first of all, there are still a lot of people going around saying that that information still needs to be verified. But I think the simple fact that we have reports of al-Qaida confirming the death of Osama bin Laden is, obviously, very significant. It's very significant for a particular segment of public opinion in that part of the world, especially in places like Pakistan and Afghanistan, in that it provides confirmation of the closure that Osama bin Laden is dead
FOUKARARemember that, after 9/11, there were a lot of people throughout the Muslim world who doubted that he had anything to do with the 9/11. And certainly, subsequently, who doubted that he was still alive. People were wondering, how many decades does it take a super power like the United States to track down one man in a specific geographical area. The fact that now we have these reports confirming his death, I think, will play to that particular audience, confirming that he's dead.
KAYAnd, James, this morning the U.S. carried out the first drone attack inside Pakistan since bin Laden's death. It killed 10 people in this attack. Are we going to start seeing -- because of the intelligence cash that was taken from bin Laden's compound, do you think we are going to see now a rash of strikes against other al-Qaida leaders who might've come out from that -- whose names might have come out from that intelligence cash?
KITFIELDWell, certainly, I think that's the hope. I think that, you know, they're going to be very careful right now. This is, obviously, ruptured U.S.-Pakistan relations in the short term. So they're going to be careful about trying to find, you know, the uneasy even keel that exists between us and Pakistan. Right now, it's almost a rupture in relationships. But they have all this intelligence and I think, especially if they have intelligence on the number two Zawahiri, they will probably be looking to sort of gain even more momentum.
KITFIELDI mean, I think that they see -- and I've talked to White House officials who sort of confirmed this to me that they a see a possibility here to really put an end to quote/unquote, "The mindset of the war of terror." That the al-Qaida is this organization that is constantly fed by legions of new jihads who want to wage war on the West, you know, at the inspiration of Osama bin Laden. You know, he's been revealed as one man whose message was already losing a lot of power in the Muslim world.
KAYWe saw al-Qaida's poll numbers in the Middle...
KAY...East, for example, declining...
KAY...quite dramatically in the last few years.
KITFIELDRight. And, you know, as it's already been said, the Arab Spring was really a refutation of his whole dialogue and narrative. And, you know, the Arab world shrugged at the news that Osama bin Laden was dead. You know, much different from the reaction in America, which was really an interesting, sort of, dichotomy. I think, that's also important because it suggests that America needed a sort of closure on this, in a sense. And they may be able to get it.
KITFIELDEver since coming into office, the Obama administration has been sort of widening the prism of our foreign and national security policy beyond just the war on terror. That phrase has been dropped by this administration. Even Bush, in his last, you know, months of his term, had sort of tried to move beyond that. This shows every sign of possibly helping us do that.
KAYWe had other nuggets of intelligence that are coming out from that compound, Jill, in the form of interviews with some of the women that were there, particularly the wife, the young wife, who was in the room...
KAY...with Osama bin Laden. I thought some of the things that she has been saying allegedly to Pakistani police...
DOUGHERTYThe -- one of them being that she -- and I'm not quite sure whether we pin it down as Osama bin Laden himself, but that she was in that room and presumably he was, for probably five or six years...
DOUGHERTY...never coming out and...
KAYI'm effectively under house arrest. Self imposed house arrest.
DOUGHERTYYes. Well, which it speaks to a lot of discipline in terms of how he could stay here. Paranoia, of course.
KAYAnd paranoia, I guess, about fear of...
KAY...you know, of somebody having reprisals.
KITFIELDIs it paranoia when they are actually are after you, though?
KAYHe was probably exactly right not to leave that room. But she also said, I think, that there had been splits within al-Qaida and that the organization was having financial problems.
DOUGHERTYYes, especially Osama bin Laden himself. His faction was having, we understand, financial problems and that lead to a split. And, you know, that -- I think that's very important, you know, to James' point that al-Qaida already was losing steam. And as I look at this event, you know, so huge it feels as if it's happening in a different world, you know, the different world certainly from 10 years ago and even just a few years ago, because the revolutions that are going on have really transformed and have been an expression of a transformation in that part of the world.
DOUGHERTYI was looking, -- for example, we were looking at -- CNN was looking at some of the social media response to the death of bin Laden. And they're saying bin Laden, dead or alive, no longer matters and that al-Qaida's ideology and Islamism, in general, have been marginalized by these protests. And that also these protests are a great source of pride for young people. So there's a very different dynamic going on, I think, in the region.
KAYAbderrahim, what do you make of the reaction in the Middle East? I'm very interested -- Al-Jazeera Arabia, of course, must have been reporting this and monitoring reaction. And we did have, you know, the kinds of reactions from some leaders, for example, of Hamas, of the Muslim Brotherhood, that you might expect.
KAYBut actually the general reaction, would -- did that surprise you?
KAYThe general lack of reaction, I may say, is how we might describe it.
FOUKARA...the general lack of reaction, yeah, a limited degree only. I think that the irony that both James and Jill were talking about that there has been actually far more attention given to the event in the United States than there has been in that part of the Muslim world. I mean, the Arab world is really interesting. And I think it's just testimony to the fact that people have decided, in that part of the world, that they want to move on.
FOUKARABut having said that, there is obviously a very compelling overlap between the narrative of bin Laden and the narrative of young people who've led these demonstrations for democracy and freedom in the Middle East.
FOUKARAWhich is that he wanted to get rid of rulers like Mubarak or Ben Ali and he saw them as lackeys of the West, carrying out agendas of the West against the interests of their own people. And I think these demonstrations, these revolutions in the Middle East, they've obviously toppled Mubarak, they've toppled Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in Tunisia, but I think that's where the overlap starts because the -- during the demonstrations, the protests in Tunisia, in Egypt, even now in Syria, we're not hearing any anti-West slogans.
FOUKARAThese are done, at least at this particular point in time, for purely local reasons, freedom and democracy for people in that, you know, part of the...
KAYAnd, of course, totally different in the method that they use and is a peaceful protest, absolutely.
FOUKARA...totally different, peaceful, at least in Tunisia and Egypt.
KITFIELDHey, can I just add to that?
KITFIELDTo the -- I mean, that is absolutely a fundamental difference that really gets to the point that we're all three making here. Is that what you saw in the Arab Spring, you know, bin Laden wanted to leave the new generation of youth to this -- to over -- to topple the dictators, but then to install a 7th century fundamentalist Islamic caliphate. And what the Arab Spring showed is that is not the aspirations of the young Muslims and Arabs in the Arab world now.
KITFIELDAnd that is what I'm -- when I say that it's sort of the end of bin Laden as this inspirational figure that, you know, at one point, you know, five years ago, had more approval rating in the Muslim world than America. It's a spent force, I think.
KAYJill, let's talk a little bit more, and James raised it earlier of course, the big question raised about relations with Pakistan going forward. What are the Pakistanis saying at the end of this week about bin Laden being killed so close to this place?
DOUGHERTYWell, they're obviously very angry. And this came out -- I think you'd have to go back probably to Panetta's statement, Leon Panetta, head of the CIA, his statements quoted from testimony on Capitol Hill in which he said that if you look at the fact that Osama bin Laden was in that compound for that time, how could he have been there? And he said, they'd either -- the Pakistani officials were either involved or incompetent.
DOUGHERTYWell, of course, that did not go over well in Pakistan. And so you have General Kayani saying, yes, there might have been some type of, you know, issue with how we handle this, but that any type of repeat of what we are seeing, which is, he would argue, a violation of the sovereignty of Pakistan, will call into question this entire relationship, review of the military and intelligence cooperation. And then, you also have this juggernaut on Capitol Hill. I don't know how long it will last.
DOUGHERTYI'd be interested in your views, gentlemen. But the juggernaut for funding, cutting funding.
KAYAnd we'll have more on the relationship with Pakistan after the killing of Osama bin Laden in the international hour of the Friday News Roundup. Stay with us.
KAYWelcome back. I'm Katty Kay of the BBC. You've joined the International Hour of the Friday News Roundup. I have in the studio with me, James Kitfield of the National Journal. Jill Dougherty of CNN is here. Abderrahim Foukara of Al-Jazeera Arabic is also here. We will be opening the phones in just a while. 1-800-433-8850 is our phone number. Drshow@wamu.org is the email address and, of course, you can find us on Facebook and Twitter as well.
KAYJust before the break, we were talking about relations between Pakistan and America in the light of this killing. And one of the things that kind of has struck me during the course of the week, actually James, is just how careful the White House has been in its language when it talks about Pakistan, whilst raising suspicions, as Leon Panetta has done, about, you know, incredulity really, about whether the Pakistanis could've had bin Laden so close to their military base without knowing about it. But also wanting to give the Pakistanis credit for what they have done in terms of their actions against Al-Qaeda leaders and against extremist leaders. So kind of trying to tread this fine line of not pushing Pakistan totally away because that's really a position America can't afford.
KITFIELDRight. Anyone who's dealt with this, and especially has dealt with it from inside any administration, but certainly the last two, the Bush and the Obama Administrations, knows you can't walk away from the Pakistani relationship. It's impossible. They are too big to fail and they are the home of a really witch's brew of extremist groups. They have a nuclear arsenal that we have to worry about if they're...
KAYWe don't want to end up in a relationship with Pakistan like the relationship we have with Iran, for example.
KITFIELDWell, exactly. And this is a very key point. You know, we have -- we really hope that this will help facilitate reconciliation talks with the Taliban next door in Afghanistan. Pakistan is key to that whole discussion. They are the benefactors, in many ways, of the Taliban -- of the Afghan Taliban. That's key. We have a July deadline coming up and we're going to announce some withdrawal of U.S. troops. They're going to hope to -- the administration hopes to announce fairly significant withdrawal. So this is a very key time in the whole Afghan war. Pakistan is absolutely vital to all of those issues.
KITFIELDAnd as I said about the nuclear weapons, if they -- if the military is so inept that Osama bin Laden, the most wanted man in history, is living under the noses of the military then you have to wonder about the security of those nuclear weapons, how competent they are to ensure the security of those nuclear weapons. So for all those reasons we can't back away from it, but what they really hope to do is use this embarrassment to gain leverage over the Pakistanis. To do some of the hard things we've been asking them to do for a long time. Go after some more of these high-value targets, as well as start denying sanctuary to some of these groups like the Haqqani network and others who are killing American soldiers next door in Afghanistan.
KAYAbderrahim, in that context, when you have Republicans and Democrats in Congress raising the question of the validity, the justification for American aid to Pakistan, does that help or hinder the relationship going forth?
FOUKARAWell, I think James is right in saying that in the short term obviously this is a crisis -- this is a crisis of confidence. And incidentally, the crisis of confidence, the crisis of credibility in the Muslim world with regard to Osama bin Laden being reportedly killed on Pakistani soil, the lack -- the perception of lack of credibility extends to both Pakistan and to the United States. Because a lot of people in the Muslim world are saying, the United States, the super power that controls the earth, the air, space, investing endless resources, human and financially, in that part of the world, both Afghanistan and Pakistan, and cannot track down one man in Pakistan. Give me a break.
FOUKARASo a lot of people going are around saying that. And I think some of them are Pakistanis also repeating that refrain. Now, it seems to me that the relationship, despite the looming crisis between the United States and Pakistan is a Catholic marriage -- or I should say since Pakistan is part of the Muslim world, it's a Muslim marriage. It's equally difficult to get a divorce in both religions. The -- Pakistan obviously does need the United States in more ways than one. One of them is financial.
FOUKARARemember that Pakistan feels that it faces a mortal or existential threat from India and it feels that it needs the support of the United States and others on that front. And the United States equally, as James said, for the United States the role of Pakistan in getting any reasonable agreement in Afghanistan is absolutely crucial.
KAYOkay. There was news just coming up being reported by the Associated Press about some of the intelligence that's being found in that compound. And we know that the Seals, while they were in there, took out hard drives, they took out thumb drives, a whole lot of documents. And the Associated Press talks in reference to the website that's just gone up from Al-Qaeda and the announcement that Osama bin Laden has been killed.
KAYIt writes, "The confirmation came as newly uncovered documents found in bin Laden's residence revealed Al-Qaeda plans for derailing an American train on the upcoming 10th anniversary of the September the 11th attacks. I'd heard about the train plots, James, but nothing specific. Could you?
KITFIELDI've not heard specific reference to the train plot. We should not be surprised that Al-Qaeda was desperately trying and they have been desperately trying for ten years now. We have, you know, unfolded and revealed many of these plots desperately trying to follow up with 9/11 with something that really restored their relevance. Because, you know, operationally they were becoming -- especially the core in Pakistan were under such heat from the drone strikes on these manhunts that they operationally were marginalized. And we've seen that time and time again.
KITFIELDSo they were trying desperately to get back in the game. Certainly the 10th anniversary of 9/11 would be an opportunity. Now with bin Laden's death they're vowing revenge so we can -- you know, in the short term the danger from an attack has grown. And I imagine that their affiliates like Al-Qaeda and the Arabian Peninsula are also going to try to do something to avenge him. So in the short term you could probably argue that the terrorist threat has grown, and indeed the FBI has said as much. That they're on sort of wartime alert 'cause they think this will happen.
DOUGHERTYYou know, I think we have to define exactly what that planning was. I mean, I've heard it described more like jottings on a piece of paper or something. But, need that as it may, it still is a very important moment because the narrative so far was that bin Laden had been, you know, hiding, that he was no longer operationally involved. That he was more a figurehead, an inspirational person. So even if, as James says, he was trying to get back in the game, there was apparently an indication that he was to some extent involved operationally, or at least giving some direction.
KAYOkay. I know you and I, Jill, are interested in the fate of the wife who was found. And the AP again reporting she has been talking to Pakistani intelligence. And they feel that she might be an important source of information about how he managed to avoid capture for so long, because she never left the upper floors of the house the entire time she was there. And that was five years. So quite an extraordinary detail that we're getting again, these kind of amazing details about how Osama bin Laden was living, Abderrahim, in these last few years when, of course, everyone was hunting for him.
FOUKARAYeah, absolutely. I mean, to -- first of all, for him -- I mean, if all these reports that the Pakistani's knew or had an inkling all these years, for him to be -- if they were true, for him to be -- actually to have lived in the eye of the storm for five years is just absolutely incredible. And then the details about how the household was actually managed inside is also another fascinating aspect of the story.
FOUKARABut I think more importantly, especially for the Obama Administration narrative about what actually happened, these details coming from inside the household, I think if anything, they sort of shed more light on the doubts and suspicions surrounding that narrative. Because initially bin Laden -- in the statements that the White House put initially, bin Laden was armed, he put up a fight, he used a woman as a shield and so on.
FOUKARAAnd all that was subsequently changed. Now, it could be argued that obviously these things happen in the fog of war. But especially if you're addressing an international audience that has been over the last ten years highly skeptical of anything that the U.S. has done or said about bin Laden, I think that's a potential problem.
KITFIELDYou know, I agree with that. I think this has been an absolutely great week for this White House and for this president. And I think he can probably be forgiven a small mistake. But it was a mistake for John Brennan, the counterterrorism head, to get up and suggest that Osama bin Laden was a coward. You know, that fits into their narrative, but it doesn't fit into reality. We know this guy. Of all the things you can say about this guy, he's not a physical coward.
KITFIELDAnd the idea of him grabbing his wife as a shield, it didn't even ring true. They had to back it off -- you know, back off of it within 24 hours. It was really clumsy, probably argued, as your earlier guest said in your domestic hour, to have gotten your stories straight. Because it did make us look ridiculous. And -- but again, I think this --
KAYAlmost -- it might be kind of, in the grand scheme of things, a bit of a storm in the teacup...
KAY...some of the details here in America. Of course, as Abderrahim says, it's very interesting around the world at the kind of thing that can be picked up to shed some sort of doubt on what happened.
KITFIELDAnd it was unnecessary.
KITFIELDIt was unnecessary. It was an absolutely, incredibly well-run operation. No Americans were killed. This guy had, ever since 2001, a wanted-dead-or-alive sign on him anyway. We have -- you know, Congress gave the president authority. We've seen in any number of cases that we've dropped bombs on these guys, which is a death sentence as well. We don't sit there and ask, you know, are they a threat right there? They have done the deed, they have been, you know, basically as I said, put a sign of dead or alive on them. And those commandos were within what we consider their rights.
KAYOkay. We're already half past and we've been speaking only about Osama bin Laden. And a huge amount else has been happening around the world, of course. And I want to get back to Afghanistan and what the impact of this is on troops in just a moment. But let's quickly talk about another couple of events because there has been a lot going on in the world. Not least in Libya, Jill, where yesterday in Rome 22 countries got together, agreed to give millions of dollars in aid to the rebels trying to overthrow Moammar Gadhafi. Will that make a difference, that money? And they're also talking now about releasing some of the frozen assets that Libya has.
DOUGHERTYRight. Clinton -- Secretary Clinton was in Rome at that meeting with allies about Libya. And she is talking about freeing up, in some fashion more quickly, that $30 billion in frozen assets that the treasury department grabbed a while ago. You know, one of the questions I think would be exactly what would this money do? I mean, one of the problems is that you have this opposition, which is not really capable at this point of carrying out the mission, you know, which would be to protect civilians and get rid of Gadhafi. They are not capable at this point of doing it. How long will it take? Will money help to train them? So far that money...
KAYWill it go to arms?
DOUGHERTYWell, that was raised there too. You know, Qatar at that meeting was talking about that. They put it on the table. I guess it didn't go anyplace but they already are providing some light arms. But all of this, there's a time factor. I mean, right now we're stuck in the mud and they are not succeeding. So what do you do to help them succeed without transgressing the boundary of that U.N. resolution and keeping everybody aboard? But you can bet that right now they really want to help as quickly as possible because it's not going well.
KAYI'm Katty Kay. You're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." And if you'd like to join us do call 1-800-433-8850 or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Abderrahim, under the terms of that resolution -- and I know this resolution is being debated and what exactly it means to take all necessary measures to protect civilians in Libya, is it possible for the International Community to arm the rebels? And would that be the thing after 11 weeks, now that we're effectively at a stalemate in Libya, that could topple Gadhafi?
FOUKARAWell, I mean, it seems to me that everybody in Libya is in a pickle. Gadhafi is definitely in a pickle because after this, regardless of how long this conflict in Libya goes on, eventually there's no future for his regime in Libya, especially in the environment in the region at large. So that's number one. The rebels are definitely in a pickle because, as Jill said, they -- initially we were all led to believe that they were within the -- you know, helping Tripoli in running over Gadhafi. It turned out that wasn't the case.
FOUKARAThey do not have the training, they do not have the military capability any time soon to bring about that kind of change themselves. NATO is definitely in a big pickle. I mean, yes, they have protected civilians but when you say by using by any means necessary, a lot of the Libyans, a lot of Arabs see the sheer continuation of the Gadhafi regime as a threat to civilians. So they want him gone.
FOUKARABut just to go back to Afghanistan, remember that NATO is very active in Afghanistan. And the credibility of NATO in Libya, the Afghans I'm sure -- the Taliban I'm sure are watching what NATO is doing or not doing in Libya. So, you know, NATO is -- NATO's credibility is on the line. Whatever they can achieve in Libya will have repercussions on their performance in a place like Afghanistan.
KAYAnd quickly on Syria where the EU has agreed on an assets freeze and a visa ban for 13 government officials in Syria. But the sanctions will not apply to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. James, it's been an extraordinary week in Syria. I mean, the pictures are coming out and they're all slightly grainy cell phone videos because it's very difficult for journalists to operate in Syria at the moment. But the pictures that were coming out of these protestors, unarmed protestors who seem to have lost all fear against one of the most scary regimes in the Middle East, And now are being attacked by President Assad. What's going on there and what are the chances that there's tips in the protestors direction?
KITFIELDWell, you know, it's a very good question. You know, Syria, to me, is the next key lynchpin because this is a regime. And certainly his father had no compunction about killing thousands to stay in power. I must say, I think if you're Assad and you're looking at what's happening in Egypt where Mubarak is now in jail -- well, his entire ministry has been convicted and sent to jail, that doesn't really inspire a lot of confidence. You could reach him...
KAYAnd some of Assad's closest allies...
KAY...are now saying watch the way the wind is blowing here.
KITFIELDRight. So I think that he's in -- as he said, he's in a pickle but -- so I think he's digging in his heels. And so far, I mean, they've launched a sort of siege on this town in the south, Daraa, that was really the heartland of the original protest killed scores apparently. Now, they're pointing out and saying, you know, job done, we'll see. I doubt it. This is Friday. Friday prayers is usually -- after Friday prayers is when you see the biggest, you know, demonstrations. You know, it's at a stalemate.
KITFIELDThere was a time when a lot of people thought that Assad was a reformer. And I was just in Turkey and certainly the Erdogan government thinks that his instincts are to reform, but that he's been sort of backed into a corner by, you know, the senior generals and security services saying, you gotta show a strong hand here. So, you know, I don't think it looks good for him, but there's probably a lot of bloodshed between now and the end of this story.
KAYJill, we are getting reports that security forces are arresting all males over the age of 15 in Daraa.
DOUGHERTYOh, it has really gone beyond what it was even just a few days ago. I mean, you have house-to-house arrests, raids, people being taken off. It's brutal. State Department Secretary Clinton has called it barbaric, alarming. Right now, the question however -- I just want to say on Turkey. Losing his best friend is very significant. Prime Minister Erdogan saying, it's time for him to step down, that he's no longer committed to whatever he was in reform. That's really significant, I mean, once you get that. But Syria is hugely important in ways that many other countries that we're looking at in that region are not.
KAYLibya, for example.
KAYAnd unfortunately, it's also important to Iran, which is probably, you know, telling him -- I mean, it's Iran's conduit to Hezbollah and Hamas and they're telling him to dig in his heels. And so far, Iran seems to have the argument.
KAYYou're listening to the International Hour of the Friday News Roundup. We'll be taking your calls just after this short break. 1-800-433-8850 is the phone number, email@example.com. An awful lot to get through this week.
KAYWelcome back. I'm Katty Kay of the BBC sitting in for Diane Rehm. And you've joined the international hour of the Friday News Roundup. The phone number here is 1-800-433-8850. The e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org. And we will go straight to the phones to Richard who joins from Haverhill, Mass. Richard, you've joined "The Diane Rehm Show."
RICHARDYes, thanks, Katty. Katty, I think our forces were told not to take him -- not take Osama Bin Laden alive. I think they were told to kill him. And the reason for that, Katty, can you imagine capturing him and trying him and where would we keep him as a prisoner? Would we try him in military court? Would we try him in civilian court? We're having a hard time deciding on the prisoners down in Guantanamo Bay.
RICHARDAnd also, Katty, he was an international terrorist. So, you know, he killed people in two countries in Africa, the embassies, in Indonesia, in Spain. So the ICC, the International Criminal Court in The Hague probably would want also to try him. But the problem with that is, is that someone like Charles Taylor, he's been, what, on trial for four years and he's still there. And I don't think the American people would've put up with something like that. Could the panel please discuss that, please?
KAYYeah, Richard, I think that's all really interesting stuff, isn't it, James, about whether they went -- those Naval Seals basically went in with a shoot to kill mission. Is that how you read it?
KITFIELDI think that was essentially what it was. Your listener -- our listener raises some very smart points. The last thing they wanted, the Obama administration wanted, was a trial of this guy. He would hijack that for his propaganda purposes, there would be hostages taken all over the world with threats to kill them unless we let this guy go. He had sworn that he would not be taken alive, that he was gonna go down in martyrdom.
KITFIELDAnd -- but we can't really say 'cause by the laws of war -- and we were fighting this conflict by the laws of war. By the laws of war, if someone surrenders, throws their hands up, you cannot execute them. So I think the understanding was that all things being equal, if you have any doubt that he is surrendering, throwing his hands up and then they'd wonder what to do. I think the assumption was you're gonna go in there and he's gonna come out dead.
KAYJill, some people have raised questions about the legality of this. And we actually had the Archbishop of Canterbury in England saying that he felt a bit uncomfortable and that there were questions about the way that this operation was executed and Osama Bin Laden was killed when he was unarmed. Is there some legal validity to these questions or not? I mean, are people raising objections when, basically, you know, this was the right thing and legally the right thing, as well as politically, the right thing to do?
DOUGHERTYWell, I think you have to look at the law of war. If you look at that, it -- the United States would argue that under the law of war, internationally they had the right to respond to somebody who was an imminent threat to the United States. And Osama Bin Laden certainly meets those criteria. Now, they had to go into another country to do it and that gets sticky. Pakistan has said it's -- you breached our sovereignty. The United States would say, we had to go where this man was because he was going to get somebody or get us one way or the other.
DOUGHERTYThe killing itself, I think James is right. I will bet that legally they had everything dotted. I mean, I would presume that they went in with kind of, you know, two things. One is, yeah, if he throws up his hands, which he's not going to do, you'll deal with that. But he's not going to, so you are authorized to kill him. But legally, they would have to think this through. There's no way that they are -- that they would just run in and kill him, you know, willy nilly and...
KITFIELDAnd you won't find that on paper.
KITFIELDI mean, that's the point. There'll be no -- there'll be no order...
KITFIELD...to shoot to kill. So -- but the understanding is what I was pointing out. I think that's right.
KAYLet's talk a little bit about what this all means for the war in Afghanistan. We've got several listeners writing in to us about this. David writes in from Facebook, "If now is not the time to draw down from Afghanistan, when will it be? How many deaths will it take until we know that too many people have died?" Jill.
DOUGHERTYWell, that reminds me of a song from my years ago. But seriously I think that it's a false argument. Osama Bin Laden doesn't make a lot of difference right now. You know, the war in Afghanistan is going to be winding down or at least they will begin to pull out troops. That process is underway. What I think is interesting is that the administration now is trying to leverage this to pull over the Taliban and to say, look, the leader is gone, you don't need to be with him anymore, renounce al-Qaida, come over, be part of the political process. That's the hope and that's where the administration is going. You heard it from Hillary Clinton the day after he was killed.
KAYChuck writes to us by e-mail, "What did Obama do differently from President Bush that he was able to engage bin Laden within two years of taking office?" Abderrahim, did Obama just get lucky with the intelligence? Or was there a specific shift in policy?
FOUKARAWell, I mean, there were possibly points of luck that, you know, nobody can talk about with any degree of authority. But one fundamental difference obviously was that Obama came into office saying that Iraq was a war of choice and Afghanistan was a war of necessity, and that President Bush had made a mistake going into Iraq instead of focusing on Afghanistan. So Obama obviously refocused attention on Afghanistan militarily and it could be argued that, you know, within that realm, he was obviously much more effective in getting Osama bin Laden.
FOUKARAJust go back to the issue of withdrawal, I mean, to the extent that there are people who think in the United States and throughout the world who think that killing Osama Bin Laden is a good thing. Well, no good deed goes unpunished. The flipside of the argument now is that, well, if Bin Laden is dead, then what are you doing in Afghanistan? You gotta get out of Afghanistan. And obviously Obama, as we can see here in the United States, is coming under increasing pressure to contemplate that.
FOUKARAThere are reasons why I personally think it's gonna be very difficult for the U.S. to pull out of Afghanistan. One of them has got to do with the psyche of 9/11 in the United States. The other one has to do with what happened after the Soviets were defeated in Afghanistan and the United States just cut loose, which many people argue that opened the door for al-Qaida and bin Laden to get established in Afghanistan.
FOUKARABut it's even much more complicated than that and it harks back to what I said earlier about Pakistan and India. The Pakistanis will not be amenable to helping find an accommodation for the Taliban and for the United States in Afghanistan, unless they are absolutely sure that a U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan is not going to undermine the Pakistani position with regard to their nemesis, India.
KITFIELDYou know, I actually think that you should look at the hunt for bin Laden as a continuum. I mean, both administrations can claim partial credit. I mean, the original intelligence was done from interrogations that were conducted while Bush was still in office.
KAYBack in 2007.
KITFIELDRight. And it's a long trail. But there are a couple things that Obama did do. He -- you know, Bush had become so distracted, I think, by the Iraq war and the fact that there was nothing but cold leads with Osama bin Laden that he disbanded the group -- the cell that was devoted strictly to trying to find him. Obama, as I recall, put that cell back together. And what might've had some impact was more than double the drone strikes in the sanctuaries. Now, why is Osama bin Laden sitting in a city way away from the tribal areas where these drone strikes are killing lots of very senior guys? 'Cause he's probably afraid that if he was in that area moving around, which would've been the other...
KAYHe's more in reach of the drone strike.
KITFIELDHe's more in reach. So that might've been why he felt he had to sort of hunker down in this place. And if he hunkered down in one place for too long, the people who are hunting you can sometimes get you.
KAYLet's go to Frank in Washington, D.C. Frank, you've joined "The Diane Rehm Show," and you have a question, I think, about Libya.
FRANKYes. In stating that the United Nations Security Council asked NATO to intervene to do everything -- take all measures to protect the civilians, NATO's actions sort of contradict that, in my opinion. Firstly, the most prominent one, by killing Gadhafi's son and his grandchildren and then two, I think NATO sort of let its ambitions get ahead of its practical and planning time. Firstly, by declaring support for the rebels, you're choosing sides.
FRANKYou're no longer impartial peace keeper or even protecting civilians by choosing sides, choosing the rebels and NATO's gone in one side of the equation, and thus Gadhafi has no choice but to defend himself. Now, I am an anti-Gadhafi person for his actions in Syria and West Africa, vis a vis Liberia, so I have no reason to defend him. But here I think it's a question of international law and fairness.
KAYAnd perhaps also, Frank, of international effectiveness when you raised the question there of NATO's mission and whether it had been effective. There were a lot of nodding heads here in the studio. Jill, what did you make of Frank's comments?
DOUGHERTYYou know, Frank brought up classic right from the beginning, this is what people have been saying about the NATO mission, that there's a lack of clarity. Yes, you want to defend civilians. But how do you do that? I mean, do you -- in defending them, do you have to help the guys who are going after Gadhafi? I mean, it's almost a tautology. You could say, well, the -- you know, the person who's ultimately, you know, directing this operation is Gadhafi, ergo, we ought to go after him.
KAYAnd the killing of Gadhafi's grandson and son, I think it was this week, James.
DOUGHERTYBut they can -- oh, I'm sorry. But they can defend that. NATO can say, look, we weren't going after him specifically. He happened to be there where we had a command and control target. Sorry he's dead.
KITFIELDI think that's their excuse, that they're going after command and control. No, but they clearly have -- you know, I said and many other said at the beginning of this, this was designed for mission creed because your goal, getting rid of Gadhafi, was not matched by your U.N. sort of sanction and it wasn't matched by your ambition in terms of a no fly zone and protecting civilians, so they're stuck with this situation. They came in -- no, the comment's exactly right. We came in one side of a civil war and that civil has stalemated and we are now gonna have -- you will see us -- that slippery slope's gonna get constantly slipperier. There will be at some point arms to the rebels. I mean, we cannot sort of back out.
KITFIELDAnd that's -- and your listener's exactly right. NATO's, you know, thinking on this was not very clear about what would be required to achieve your strategic goals here. And now they're caught on that dilemma and they're having to get farther in and farther in and that will happen until he's gone.
KAYA big mess. Let's talk a little bit about Fatah and Hamas who this week formalized a deal for unity. It comes of course after four years of being at each other's throats. Abderrahim, the Israelis or rather specifically Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu said that what happened was a mortal blow to peace and a great victory for terrorism, he called it. Why did he say that? Is he right? And does this deal stick?
FOUKARAWell, I mean, from his point of view, the accord between Fatah and Hamas is...
KAYWhich, sorry, I should back up a little bit. Fatah and Hamas, of course, the two branches of the Palestinian movement who have been loggerheads in Gaza and the West Bank.
FOUKARAAbsolutely. And the West Bank. I mean, he says that this accord between Fatah and Hamas is a blow to the peace process. The Palestinians say that the position he has taken on the issue of settlements in the West Bank has been a mortal blow to the peace process. But I think within the Palestinian parameter itself, it's just part of the dynamics -- the new dynamics in the region. And the new dynamics in the region have put both Hamas in Gaza and Fatah in the West Bank under increasing pressure to patch things up, to end the division between them because a lot of Palestinians and Arabs at large are going around saying that division has been mortal to the Palestinian cause and something has to be done about it.
FOUKARAWe have now the issue of the Palestinians going to the United Nations in September. And the hope both on the Hamas side and on the Fatah side is that in preparing for that they have to pull together. The important factor though, the crucial factor, is Egypt. The toppling of Mubarak has changed the dynamics in such a way that the Egyptian government now is openly backing the patching up and actually embracing the position of Hamas. Not to the extent that Hamas doesn't want to recognize Israel or wants to destroy it, but in terms of fighting for a Palestinian state on the 1967 bordering the West Bank and Gaza. The Egyptians are unequivocal about that.
KAYYeah, and I thought it was interesting that, of course, this agreement was actually signed in Cairo this week. It did tell us something about the direction of the new Egyptian government. And, James, you know, Israel, of course, watching all of this extremely carefully, what's been happening in Egypt, what is happening between Hamas and Fatah. There have been critics who have said that Netanyahu's comments, and they were very strong, were overblown and perhaps not helpful. Do you think that he was over egging this one or is he right that this is a great prize for terrorism?
KITFIELDYou know, and all the Arabs bring, especially if you're an American concerned about Israel's security, is the sort of -- not the silver lining, but the sort of gloomy lining of this is Israel's increased isolation. And Israel the peace -- there is no peace process to derail and that's Netanyahu's problem.
KITFIELDIt's been stalemate and it's been largely stalemated because he will not reign in his own settlement movement. And because of that, you know, everyone -- Israel is increasing gonna be put in a position. We saw it with Turkey breaking relations. We saw it now with Egypt. All of its former friends in the region are increasingly gonna be looking at Israel and saying you have got to change, you have got to find a solution to the occupation of West Bank and the blockade of Gaza. And until Israel sort of sees that -- and I know the Obama administration's telling them the same thing.
KITFIELDAnd until they get off where they are now and digging their heals in, they are gonna be increasingly isolated and we're gonna increasingly have to come to their defense like we did with the 14 to 1 U.N. Security Council Resolution earlier this year where we were the only country in the world, not France, not Germany, not all our closes allies, who stopped the resolution condemning them for the blockade of Gaza. You know, they are becoming isolated. We are becoming more isolated in their defense. And the status quo as we're seeing with this deal, it's just not sustainable. So hopefully it'll be a wakeup call for Israel.
KITFIELDNetanyahu's coming to Washington later this month. He's gonna have a address to Congress. You know, his ambassador is saying some things that lead you to believe they are starting to recognize that this status quo is not sustainable, but let's hear what ideas they're gonna put on the table.
KAYWell, Jill, that's gonna be a very interesting visit for Netanyahu here and of course Obama administration having had a very difficult relationship with the Israelis. Do you think there's any chance now that there's gonna be some kind of moment between the two countries where they can be clear about what is in both countries best interests in that region?
DOUGHERTYIt's been back and forth for so long, I'm not quite sure. I mean, President Obama was planning some type of major address. That seems to be put back. And if you look at what Clinton and others are saying about this (word?) or the reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah, they're just saying we're waiting to see the details. What is this going to entail? She did not actually close a door to negotiating with Hamas, which is significant. But they put out the same demands, you know, about non-violence, recognition of Israel, so I think they're, I don't know, stuck in a way in how to deal exactly with this.
KAYWell, we'll be watching that visit. Of course when it happens, we'll be reporting on that as well. It's been an extremely busy hour. I didn't get to Bahrain. I didn't get to Haiti. But we did cover an awful lot. Jill Dougherty of CNN, foreign affairs correspondent. James Kitfield, senior correspondent for National Journal magazine. Abderrahim Foukara, Washington bureau chief for Al-Jazeera Arabic. It's been a fascinating hour. I wish we could've gone on for longer. Thank you all so much for joining me.
FOUKARAIt's great speaking with you.
KAYI'm Katty Kay of the BBC. I've been sitting in for Diane Rehm. Thanks so much for listening all of you. Have a great weekend.
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