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.
Egyptians went to the polls in the country’s first-ever free presidential elections. Leaders at a European summit clashed on how to save the eurozone economy. Al-Qaida said a suicide bomb attack that killed 96 soldiers in Yemen was revenge for what it called a U.S.-backed war on its followers. Abderrahim Foukara of Al Jazeera, Courtney Kube of NBC News and Markus Ziener of Handelsblatt join Diane for analysis of the week’s top international news stories.
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. In Europe, battle lines are drawn over the future of the euro zone. Two days of nuclear talks with Iran failed to produce any breakthroughs and Egypt holds its first free election for president in 60 years. Joining me for a look at the week's top international stories on the Friday News Roundup, Abderrahim Foukara of al Jazeera Arabic, Courtney Kube of NBC News and Markus Ziener of Handelsblatt. Throughout the hour, we'll take your calls, 800-433-8850. Send us your email to firstname.lastname@example.org, join us on Facebook or Twitter. Good morning to all of you and happy Friday.
MR. ABDERRAHIM FOUKARAGood morning, Diane.
MS. COURTNEY KUBEGood morning.
MR. MARKUS ZIENERGood morning.
REHMLet me start with you, Markus Ziener. This euro zone summit this week did not go so well. Failed to produce any results. Tell us what happened.
ZIENERWell, it was another meeting of the heads of the European Union and the euro zone and actually what was the real sticking point this time was the rumors about what's going to happen if Greece might exit the euro zone. And the second sticking point was how to deal with euro bonds and to talk about Greece. We are all looking now on the election date of June 17. The head of the Far Left Party, Syriza, was in Germany this week.
ZIENERHe had a press conference. Very interesting, the way he actually phrased his political positions and he was saying, basically, well, we want to stay in the euro, but we don't want to cut back our budget. We have saved money enough. So this is a message that's not going to go down well and so I think it really depends on the outcome of that election.
ZIENERAnd the second point was euro bonds. Euro bonds is a very tricky issue because it basically says that the euro zone is going to issue bonds in the name of all the 17 member countries of the euro. And that would mean that, for instance, Germany and other countries would be accountable for debts of other members of the euro zone as well.
KUBEYes, the summit marked two sort of new directions for the euro zone crisis. The first one was, for the first time in two years of this crisis, France and Germany did not present a united front. Angela Merkel and former President Nicolas Sarkozy had been coming in and presenting these austerity measures and fiscal discipline.
KUBEWell, now the brand-new French President Francois Hollande, he's now emphasizing growth and job development and infrastructure development. And he's strongly pushing the euro bonds that Markus mentioned. So for the first time, there was this split and Angela Merkel seems to be somewhat sidelined, the woman who had been warned in the forefront of this argument.
KUBEThe second thing is, you know, they came out of this summit with this consensus that something needs to be done. Something has to be done here, but no one can say exactly what. They couldn't decide on anything and the problem is that really makes these European leaders look like they lack either a political will to figure out the problem here, to figure out the direction forward here and stop this recession that's really spreading throughout Europe and that has terrible implications for the global marketplace.
FOUKARAThe Greeks have been interesting about this because they've used violent protests to say no to austerity. They've used elections to say no to austerity. And I think for the Europeans to keep on pinning hopes on the election next month about them changing attitude and heart about it, I don't see how that's going to happen. Obviously, legally speaking, when the euro zone was created, there were no legal steps outlined to say if you do not comply with the rules and regulations of the euro zone, this how we could proceed to kick you out.
FOUKARAAnd even if they wanted to kick the Greeks out of the euro zone, the specter of other countries following, I mean, the Greek is -- Greek and Portugal are one tier. The next tier obviously, Spain, Italy and Ireland, the bigger economies of Europe. So even if you kicked out the Greeks, you may open a Pandora's Box where you could potentially make it easier to kick out others and hence the euro zone would fizzle out.
REHMDo you believe that Greece is either voluntarily or with a shove going to leave the euro zone?
FOUKARAI think I agree with, I can't remember if it was Markus or Courtney who said that, that the Greeks do not want to leave the euro zone, if they had a choice. Of course, there are a lot of Greeks who were talking about let's restore the old Greek currency, the drachma. But if they had to be pushed out I guess some of them would argue that there is a winning side because they could just say okay we're going to restore our own old currency and we don't have to pay anybody the money that we owe them, hundreds of billions of dollars in euros.
REHMBut in the meantime, do we see Spain sliding back into recession, Courtney?
KUBEWe do. Spain is really suffering right now from an increase in interest rates for borrowing money and they -- just this week, there was a new economic forecast that determined that their economy was not likely to recover next year and unemployment is likely to continue to fall. And that they would, of course, also, you know, if Greece were to leave the euro zone, that would have bad implications for Spain as well as other nations in that area because it would make other countries that are tittering on a bad economic area, it would make them look even more vulnerable and then you have the potential for, I mean, really sort of catastrophic scenarios like runs on banks.
ZIENERYes, there was a piece of real bad news actually in Spain. Because this week it became clear that one of the big savings bank, Bankia, has to be bailed out. I think they're talking about $15 billion euros that's needed really to save that bank. Savings bank that was a bank that was kind of merged together from two other banks and the big problem's here the housing markets. What is pulling this bank down is the dismal situation on the real estate market.
ZIENERBut let me just add one thing on the European situation. I think Germany's isolated on the one hand. On the other hand, there are still others who are also really not convinced that the issuing euro bonds is the right way to go. I mean, there's Netherlands, there's Finland. Austria is undecided, other countries as well.
ZIENERBecause it's not about the debt that has accumulated to this point, but we're talking really about debt for the future. If you want to introduce that, it's much, much easier for other countries to get more money from the market, but it's easing the pressure on these countries to get their physical housing in order.
FOUKARAJust wanted to add I think there's probably a historical dimension to this because the Greeks look at what the Germans and the Europeans generally are trying to do and the Germans in particular. And they see the hand of history there. There's still a lot of apprehension about the role of Germany in Europe and a lot of Greeks are saying, we will not be dictated to by the Europeans and certainly not by the Germans, who during the Second World War tried to dominate Europe and they raise the specter of the return of Germany in that sense.
FOUKARAAnd the fact that the Germans have been able to borrow money a couple of days ago, interest free, is probably not going to help their cause. That's obviously a perception problem because there are a lot of Europeans who would argue that the Germans are strong by the sense of history. They're strong because they've got their house in order for decades and their economy is the strongest economy in Europe. It's the cleanest way to run the economies of Europe is in Germany and therefore it's natural for them to want to tell the Greeks and others, if you can't get your house in order, we're not going to step in and do it for you.
ZIENERJust a pour water into that wine actually. I mean, the German situation looks good, but it’s not as good as you might think.
REHMIndeed. Isn't the economy contracting more quickly?
ZIENERWell, there were some signs that the confidence of companies is actually losing steam. But what's really troubling is we have a lot of debt as well and we're still accumulating debt. It's not as if we don't -- as if we have a balanced budget. Not at all. I mean, even Spain had -- I think they're still a little lower than Germany if it comes to debt, to GDP ratio. So Germany's doing well because they have a lot of export. The economy's running well, but in terms of the indicators, well, there's reason to worry.
REHMMarkus Ziener. He's U.S. correspondent for Handelsblatt. Courtney Kube is National Security producer for NBC News. Abderrahim Foukara, Washington Bureau chief of al Jazeera Arabic. Do join us, 800-433-8850, send us your email to email@example.com. Talks in Baghdad over Iran's nuclear program have stalled. Any surprises there, Courtney?
KUBENo, not really. I mean, the only real outcome of the talks this week, the two-day talks, were that they're going to meet again in June, in Moscow. This was the P5 plus one...
REHMLots of things going to happen in June.
KUBEExactly, elections everywhere. The runoff election in Egypt now.
KUBEThe P5 plus one nations, which are the permanent five Security Council members plus Germany, met with Iran this week to talk about the potential for Iran accepting some of the international conditions. No longer enriching uranium to 20 percent, getting rid of any stockpile that they have of 20 percent enriched uranium, allowing IAEA inspectors in, you know, several different things that the international community is asking.
KUBEIn response, the Iranians want the U.S., Europeans to halt any sanctions, some upcoming sanctions, on their oil exports, on banking. I mean, ultimately the talks were for two days in Baghdad and they didn't really come to any conclusions. The P5 plus one offered to ease some technology restrictions on the Iranians. Iran said that wasn't enough.
REHMBut clearly sanctions, more sanctions and more sanctions still on the horizon. We'll take a short break here. When we come back, we'll talk more about Iran, talk about Egypt, Pakistan, Yemen. Stay with us.
REHMAnd we're back. Just before the break, we were talking about what's happening with talks in regard to the development of either nuclear power or nuclear weaponry by Iran. More sanctions ahead, Abderrahim?
FOUKARAWell, that seems to be the U.S. position that we're willing to talk and we're willing to cut you slack, if you're willing to cut us slack. But at the end of the day, more sanctions are a way of trying to leverage the Iranians into getting to the position where the P6 plus Germany want them to be. But just as a follow up to what Courtney said before we went to break, to me, in addition to what these talks in Baghdad may have achieved or not, the choice of the venues is really the significant thing here, Baghdad first and then Moscow.
FOUKARAJust think that ten years ago it would've been unthinkable for anything relating to talks with Iran to actually happen in Baghdad. And the fact that they've compromised on the venue, the West and the Iranians, it's an indication that both share influence in that part of the Middle East, Iraq, which has, according to a lot of people in the region, has become an ally of Iran as much as it is an ally of the United States since the invasion of 2003.
FOUKARASame thing goes for Moscow. Moscow is obviously an ardent supporter of Iran and probably the Iranians would feel much more comfortable talking to the West in a place like Moscow. And probably the West consented to the choice of Moscow as a venue because they want to push the Iranians to accept things that they may not otherwise accept.
REHMAll right. We've got a number of emails from people wanting to talk about Pakistan. And most especially the Pakistani doctor, Shakil Afridi, who ran a vaccination program to help the CIA find bin Laden, he's now been sentenced to 33 years in prison for treason. What's going to happen to him, Courtney?
KUBEWell, the U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Secretary Panetta have both said that they're engaged in talks with Pakistan to try and get him released. But really, from a Pakistani perspective, they don't have a lot of incentive to release him. President Zardari's son is in the U.S. this week. He did a couple of media interviews and he spoke up in New York and said, you have to respect our laws. You know, our laws found him guilty of treason and of violating the sovereignty of Pakistan.
KUBEOf course, on the Hill yesterday, this just ignited a firestorm, in addition to denying -- the Senate Appropriations Committee is now denying $1 million a year in aid for every year he's supposed to spend in prison, so $33 million. And they're also talking about now the Senate Arms Services Committee cutting off all coalition support funds, which is upwards of $2 billion in aid to Pakistan unless the Pakistani's agree to several conditions, one of which is to release Dr. Afridi.
REHMBut of course, the Pakistanis are also so upset about the drones and the continued use, Markus.
MR.MARKUS ZIENERThey're upset about the drones and they're upset actually about the fact that -- well, the relationship between the United States and Pakistan is really very contested. I mean, that was played out at the NATO Summit in Chicago as well when Obama was meeting the Pakistan President Zardari. There was continuous talk about how to open supply lines, how much the U.S. might have to pay or the coalition partners have to pay. There was talk about $5,000 per truck that's crossing the border.
MR.MARKUS ZIENERAnd we're talking about 100,000 U.S. containers with military equipment that has to be shipped out of Afghanistan once the coalition troops are actually leaving Afghanistan. So this is really a tit for tat, I would say. And you mentioned the drones. We had two drone attacks this week with four and ten people killed. So this has the potential of really getting the whole Afghanistan issue into trouble.
REHMHere's an email which says, "It's long overdue that the Obama Administration must call a spade a spade. Tell the Americans and the rest of the world that Pakistan is the real problem in the Afghanistan war. And then deal with it accordingly, the sooner the better." Abderrahim.
FOUKARAWell, it depends who you talk to. I mean, certainly from a certain American perspective, it does look that way. If you talk to the Pakistanis, the Pakistanis will say at least two things. One is that the level of violence that Pakistan has experienced in recent years, particularly since the invasion of Afghanistan, has been unprecedented. And they use that to make the argument about their commitment to counterterrorism and to working with the United States and the West, both in Pakistan and in Afghanistan.
FOUKARAThe other argument they make is that obviously whatever happens in Afghanistan long term will be of extreme importance to the Pakistanis. And influence in Afghanistan is used obviously to counter Indian influence in the region. So it all keeps circling back through. If I may just say one more thing about the word upset, because I think on one level they are upset about the drones because Pakistani public opinion is enflamed. So they have to be seen to be reflecting that in policy.
FOUKARABut I would put some water in that wine, Rose -- some people like Rose Velvet.
FOUKARABut they get a lot of money. They get a lot of aid from the United States and they know that they will have to pay a price for getting that aid. So they may make these protestations, but at the end of the day, they get money.
REHMHow far is the U.S. willing to go to make sure that Dr. Afridi does not go to jail for 33 years, Courtney?
KUBEThat's a good question. At this point, the Hill is going to deny all money to Pakistan. Pakistan need -- they need the money. They need the money to support their frontier corps in Surat and in north Waziristan. So this is by far the strongest bargaining chip that the U.S. has. And after the NATO Summit last week, President Zardari left without any promises, without any real meetings with President Obama. I mean, money is the best leverage.
KUBEThis week General Allen made what I thought was an amazing proclamation during a briefing. When he was asked about the ground lines of communication, the g-locks, he said, the closure of the g-locks will have no impact on our campaign this year, no impact. So it's still a problem for them not to have them open especially as the drawdown goes into high gear next year. But for right now, he's throwing down the gauntlet too and saying, look, if you're not going to open those, that's okay, we can deal with it.
REHMAll right. I'm going to open the phones and take a caller on that very subject. Good morning, Christine. You're in Tampa, Fla. You're on the air.
CHRISTINEGood morning, Diane. Enjoying the show.
CHRISTINEJust a follow up to the current conversation on Pakistan. Is it realistic or feasible, given what we're seeing now, that we can continue to regard Pakistan as an ally? We must be realistic and put it in the perspective that the government -- that government is moving away from its relationship with the U.S.
ZIENERThat's a great question. I think that's the question that's really debated now after all these tensions and incidents. Is Pakistan an ally? I'm not so sure. I mean, since Abbottabad, since the killing of bin Laden, the relationship has very much deteriorated. And I think there has to happen something here to kind of build a new fundament for this relationship. It's kind of a muddling through what we are seeing in the last 12 months.
REHMWhat I don't understand -- perhaps you all can explain it. Obviously the U.S. did go in to Pakistani territory to get bin Laden. And yet, despite their denials that they knew where he was, aren't the Pakistanis happy that bin Laden is gone?
FOUKARAI mean, I approached this with a little bit of skepticism, which I hope is healthy criticism and skepticism and not paranoia. I find it extremely difficult to subscribe to the notion that the Pakistanis, at some level, did not know about the Osama bin Laden operation on their territory. Having said that, there are obviously -- in terms of allies, there are many different tiers T-I-E-R-S of being an ally. There's a natural ally and Pakistan. It’s very easy to make the argument that they're not a natural ally of the United States.
FOUKARABut they are an ally of necessity because I don't see how the U.S. could reach any kind of satisfactory conclusions, satisfactory from the point of view of the United States, without the help and cooperation of Pakistan in Afghanistan.
REHMAll right. And here's a final email on the Pakistani doctor. "How did the Pakistan government find out about him in the first place?" Do we know?
KUBEI was actually asking that question yesterday 'cause there were some allegations that the Obama Administration leaked his name. And so it was their fault and they should be making stronger strides to get him out of jail or to talk to the Pakistanis. The best I can find out -- or I was able to learn yesterday was that it was the Pakistanis. Someone within the Pakistani government may have put his name out, but that was the best I could find. I don't know if Markus...
ZIENERWell, I think, was it really helpful that Leon Panetta and Hillary Clinton were naming him and actually praising him for his work? I don't think so. I mean, they did that earlier this year. I think they should have rather worked behind the...
REHMAnd what about bringing him out immediately? That could...
KUBEAllegedly, they tried to bring him out immediately before his name was known, but that's another thing I've not been able to get a clear answer on is why they couldn't. And it's totally possible that he may have not wanted to leave immediately. Maybe he did not feel he was in danger and didn't want to leave his family. We just don't know. But the U.S. says that they allegedly tried to get him out.
REHMAll right. Let's talk about one piece of good news in the Middle East. The Egyptians went for the first time in how many years, Abderrahim, to elect a president?
FOUKARAOh, decades and decades and decades. I mean, it's probably throughout their long history of 7,000 years they've never had anything even remotely like this. For the first time to actually see these long lines of Egyptians waiting to choose a president is totally unprecedented. For them, a few weeks ago, to have had a presidential debate televised for five hours was absolutely novel and new.
REHMSo is the process more important than the outcome?
FOUKARAWell, that's the thing. That's the thing. You know, the process is the shiny side of the coin. The content, nobody really knows because one is they're electing a president before a constitution has been written to actually say what the powers of that president are going to be, number one. Number two, we don't know yet who the president is going to be, whether he's going to be a pawn of the military, somebody doing their bidding, if it's going to be somebody from the hardcore Muslim Brotherhood candidate, what will that mean...
REHMHow long will this election process go on?
FOUKARAWell, we're supposed to begin to know the results on Sunday, the first round. It's looking increasingly likely that there will be a second round. If that happens, it's...
FOUKARAA runoff -- it's going to happen on the 16th and 17th of June.
REHMAbderrahim Foukara. He's Washington bureau chief for Al Jazeera Arabic. And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." I'm going to take a caller here from Rochester, Mich. Good morning, Sayid (sp?), you're on the air.
SAYIDGood morning, everyone. My question is dealing with Pakistan. I mean, I think it's fairly recognizable that there's a lot of instability in Pakistan and, not withstanding, that the United States has made some cooperative deals with some rather unsavory institutions and individuals. But I'd like to hear from your guests what the perception of American unpredictability and even I would call it schizophrenia regarding a torn policy as how that is perceived by Pakistan.
SAYIDI mean, here we're talking about a relationship that was forged in the crucible of the Cold War, dealing with some rather important issues like CENTO and the Baghdad pact, the U2 crisis, the opening of China and Pakistan's role as a conduit there. And what is being perceived particularly over the last 30 years since the Afghan invasion by the Soviet Union as a relationship which is, A, asymmetric and, B, one that American involvement because of India has seemed to be a shaky issue. And I'll take your answers off the air. Thank you.
REHMThank you, sir. Markus.
ZIENERYeah, I think the caller's absolutely right. It was a rollercoaster policy the U.S. has pursued towards Pakistan. Actually we have seen support for Pakistan. We have seen embargos against Pakistan. We have seen Musharraf not being supported in any way than he was basically after 9/11. He was the one all the hopes were relying upon. So I think what the United States really has to do in terms of Pakistan is they have to have it follow a steady course, that they don't waiver, just stick to your course. I think that's the only way to do.
KUBEIt's interesting that he used the word schizophrenic relationship 'cause someone on the Hill, and I can't remember if it was Lindsay Graham or Senator McCain yesterday, used that word for the Pakistani's relationship. Was that they were a schizophrenic partner and ally. I think that what's -- one point is the U.S. and Pakistan relation at this point is the lowest point it's been since the days of Senator Pressler. And that's a really dangerous position for both nations to be in.
KUBERight now, we're getting to this point and the military talks about the Pressler babies and those are the young members of the military who grew up at a time when U.S. and Pakistan had absolutely no military-to-military relationship. The U.S. couldn't give them any money because of Senator Pressler's amendment. Those young Pressler babies are now becoming leaders in the Pakistani military.
KUBESo the U.S. military, the Pentagon are -- they have since Admiral Mullen, now General Dempsey, Secretary Panetta, they're making extreme inroads and outreach to the Pakistani military to try to stop that from happening, to try to stop that relationship from deteriorating.
REHMAnd here's a posting on Facebook from Tom who says, "It's so sad the U.S. people's support for and apathy about the drone killing program. We can never kill our way out of the mess we've helped create in Yemen, Pakistan, Somalia, etcetera. The day the bad guys get their drones and start killing us is coming. Attitudes might change then." Do you agree with that, Courtney?
KUBEYou know, I read something this week that for every one person killed by a drone strike in Pakistan and Yemen and Somalia, there are ten militants created. I have no idea if that's correct. That was a, you know, Middle East analyst who said that. But I think that's something that people really need to consider. Are we creating more than we're stopping?
REHMCourtney Kube, national security producer for NBC News. Short break. We'll be right back.
REHMAnd welcome back. Let's go right back to the phones to Ray, who's in Jackson, Minn. Good morning to you, sir.
RAYNo. That's -- if it's a problem, you call me.
REHMRay, are you there?
RAYYes, Diane. How are you?
REHMI'm fine, thank you. Good morning.
RAYGood morning to you. I just wanted to mention on this topic today that I think the cancerous tumor in that region is the un-Islamic, un-Republic of Iran. And in the talks that are taking place as we speak, I think the world, including West, is missing the whole point. This government is not representative of the people of Iran. I think if the western countries support the opposition in Iran to do away with this government, then there's no need for any nuclear talk or atomic energy talk because Iranian people are peace-loving people and they do not want to have atomic bomb or even atomic energy. There is plenty of energy in that country for any useful purposes.
FOUKARAWell, I mean the opinion of the caller obviously echoes the opinion of a lot of people in the region, in the neighborhood of Iran, who are extremely worried about what seems to be its increasing influence. But, you know, regardless of how people feel about the government of the regime of the Mullahs, whether it's representative of Iranians or not, the fact is that they are a regional super power with tentacles reaching into Iraq, reaching into Lebanon, reaching into Syria, reaching into Gaza, reaching in all sorts of places. And it wouldn't surprise me if they were obviously using that as leverage in these nuclear talks. In fact, we know that they are using that as leverage in these nuclear talks.
REHMAll right. And we have an email from Cairo, Egypt from Ray who says, "It looks as if there could be a run-off between Ahmed Shafiq and Mohammed Morsi, however the AP says for the number-two spot, Shafiq and Hamdeem Sabahi are neck and neck." What about that, Abderrahim?
FOUKARAWell, it depends who you talk to in Egypt. Obviously, those who are voting for Ahmed Shafiq, who was the last prime minister under Mubarak, those people who were voting, he's a former military general, so obviously the people who have voted for him, they are the people who want stability. You know tourism has been decimated, the economy is doing very badly, foreign reserves have been depleted. So they think that he can bring stability back to Egypt.
FOUKARAMorsi is hard-core Muslim Brotherhood. They've fielded another candidate before who was disqualified. But if Morsi wins that obviously will compound the fears. They control parliament and now they'll be in the presidency. I’m not sure how much stability that would bring to -- can I just make one more point? Having said all this and we were talking about Spain, the economy, but there's...
FOUKARA...a relevant Spanish angle here, political angle. When Franco died in '75, he chose the current king, Juan Carlos, to actually lead the new government, thinking that he was committed to Francoism. Juan Carlos turned out to be a committed Democrat. And he chose as prime minister Arias Navarro who was a committed Francoist. So the fact that people have voted for Ahmed Shafiq who served under Mubarak may not necessarily mean that he will try to reproduce the regime of Mubarak, but we don't know that because Spain is obviously not Egypt, two different conditions.
REHMAll right. And here's a Facebook posting from Nicholas who says, "How likely is a run on banks in Spain and Greece? And would something like that signal the effective demise of the euro?" Markus?
ZIENERWell, if it comes to Greece, actually the run has already started. We are seeing many Greeks buying real estate in Germany and other European countries. They're trying to bring their euros out because there are so many exit scenarios already in play that you know if the exit's going to happen it's happening overnight. There will be no time really to save your money.
ZIENERSo that's what's happening already. In Spain I think we're not seeing that drain to that large scale as in Greece at this point, but obviously this could happen. And but I mean, just to add one more thing, if Greece is not in the Eurozone anymore the pressure will be high on Spain and on Italy and speculation will be high as well, interests rates will go up and people might be tempted to actually save their money, as well.
REHMAnd here's thinking from this side, from Ron in Ohio. He says, "Is there any real intelligence among the international bankers? How stupid it seems to me they raise interest rates on already struggling economies. It's the same with individuals in America. If one is in a tough spot, the banks want to hurt the situation more by raising interest rates and then complain about the lack of timely payments. I remember my mother saying something about getting blood out of turnips." Courtney?
KUBEWell, I understand Ron's point as a credit card holder, but basically it wouldn't be a good investment for a bank to give someone a lower interest rate to encourage them to borrow more money, you know, deficit spending -- or a nation to borrow more money, more deficit spending, when they're already in the hole. So unfortunately, it's a tough situation, but that's sort of the idea behind these euro bonds that we were talking about earlier, where a group of the nations will come together. They'll draw on the strength of one of the stronger financial nations like Germany.
KUBEThey'll be able to borrow at a lower rate, these other nations like, you know, Spain, who's having a hard time and Greece, but the problem is that not only does that spread around the debt, but it spreads around the risk to nations like Germany who may not wanna incur that.
REHMAll right. I want to turn the discussion now for a moment to Yemen and who the intended targets were of the suicide bomber there in Sanaa. Markus?
ZIENERYeah, there was a suicide bombing in Sanaa. It was at the military parade. Close to 100 people got killed. There was a counter attack a couple of days later by the Yemen military. They claim 35 al-Qaida terrorists or alleged terrorists have been killed. The interesting point here is that the United States is very much backing the new president of Yemen. They were supporting the transition of the power when the former president was going out earlier this year. So the interest of the United States to stabilize the situation is extreme.
ZIENERThe State Department has tried to hack a site and actually successfully did so, an al-Qaida site that was launched out of Yemen. And so I think it's kind of a common approach here to deal with the terrorists in Yemen.
KUBEWell, and the Department of Defense has already committed about two dozen special forces, trainers. They're helping the Yemeni military. They're gonna send some more in in the next several weeks. What they're doing, they're providing satellite information, drone information, intercepts, helping the Yemeni military with this major offensive that they've launched in the south in Abyan province. And that's pretty much what al-Qaida, what Ansar al-Sharia, one of the militant wings of al-Qaida who claimed to have carried out this attack in Sanaa this week.
KUBEThey're saying that the attack was a specific retaliation for the offensive down south, that they were retaliating for it. I mean the biggest concern out of this is that offensive and the conflict that had been going on between the Yemeni military and al-Qaida had primarily been down in the south. Now, they're bringing it into the capital. It creates this new element of insecurity. I mean it caught the Yemeni military security forces really by surprise. And it gives this perception to Yemeni people and the military that al-Qaida can really strike whenever they want.
FOUKARAI think there's a strand of opinion in the region now which says that the U.S. and some of its allies, such as Saudi Arabia, were very misguided in lending a hand to the former president Ali Abdullah Saleh as the revolution was unfolding because they stood by him far too long. And that created a vacuum in which al-Qaida became obviously very active in the south. And the south had already been suffering a lot of turmoil because some Yemenis in the south want to secede from the north. But the fact that the outcome of the revolution did not come as quickly as many people had hoped in Yemen, it obviously gave al-Qaida time to organize itself.
FOUKARAThe main difference is that now the al-Qaida movements are reportedly made using heavy weaponries. It's not light Kalashnikovs, tanks that were abandoned by the Yemeni army when Ali Abdullah Saleh, the former president, sort of stepped down. And they left large parts of the south which were taken over reportedly by al-Qaida.
REHMLet's go to Charlotte, N.C. Good morning, Frank.
FRANKOh, hi. Okay. So anyways, I read that book, that Charlie Wilson war. And when you read it, you know, it'll tell you back in the 1980s that the Pakistani people have always been what a -- even since back then. You know these people have been getting killed by Russian bombs and by other people's weapons, you know, because of us. But they have always stood behind us. In Somalia, in the Black Hawk Down, the Americans that got killed over there, they went over there and they picked their bodies up, you know, for us.
FRANKYou know, they always been on our side, the Egyptians and the Saudis. You know, but the thing is, is that we let these people down a lot. And we have to stop doing that.
KUBEThere is one major bone of contention right now that the U.S. has with Pakistan that's tough to dispute. I take your point, Frank, but -- and that's the reluctance to go after the Haqqani network inside of Pakistan. And the argument from the Pakistani side is that they're really stretched thin, their military, their front tier going after Pakistani Taliban. And in their defense they have incurred terrible losses on their military, more than the NATO forces have seen in Afghanistan. But that being said, Haqqani is the major attacker against the NATO forces in Afghanistan in the east. And the Pakistanis have the ability to go after them and they refuse to.
FOUKARAAnd there isn't a -- excuse my French -- there isn't a chance in hell that the United States will be able to disengage at any one level from Afghanistan without the Pakistanis holding the fort.
ZIENERIf you withdraw from Afghanistan, I think the major point here is to not stop support for Afghanistan after you have left the country. I think that was the big mistake the Russians did when they left in '89. Actually, the whole financial support for Afghanistan dried out with the collapse of the Soviet Union. And then Najibullah, then prime minister, he was basically left in the cold.
REHMBut the question becomes how much money is there going to be for continued support for Afghanistan?
KUBEThat was one of the problems in the NATO summit in Chicago.
KUBEIt was that the NATO, they weren't able to secure enough funding for the Afghan security forces. Right now I think the U.S. has about $5.7 or about $6 billion this fiscal year dedicated to supporting the Afghan security forces. Now, they're at an elevated level that they wouldn't be at post 2014. They'd go down about 100,000 troops. But President Obama went there trying to secure more money to support them after 2014 and he just did not get that money.
REHMCourtney Kube of NBC news. And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Also coming out this week, what was announced about the NATO missile shield defense, Markus?
ZIENERThe interesting news this week, besides the NATO summit and Russia basically not showing up there, the interesting news was that the Russians were testing a new intercontinental ballistic missile. And it's basically on the basis of a topple missile. And it's intended to overpower the missile defense system. This is a snub against NATO. NATO basically was declaring the missile defense system in an initial phase as operational. They have a radar system in Turkey. They have American ships in the Mediterranean to launch interceptors. And Poland and Romania are going to have launching pads for interceptors, as well.
ZIENERRussians think that this is bad news for them because it's not directed only against Iran and North Korea. And also they are afraid that NATO could actually look into Russia more deeply, which is basically talked up because you can already do that through satellites.
REHMIt would seem there has been quite a transition from President Medvedev to President Putin, Courtney.
KUBEYes, absolutely. And Russia has demanded that the NATO put some sort of a legally-binding document forward saying that their missile defense, their controversial European missile defense system is not directed at Russia. So the NATO came out of the summit with this declaration saying this is specifically to defend against missile strikes in North Korea and Iran, but Russia said that wasn't enough. This could actually work in brand-new President Putin's favor because it could incite some sort of popular support within Russia, who's having, like most other nations right now, having economic trouble.
KUBEIt could incite some support for additional defense spending which would be in his favor; make him look like a stronger president.
REHMAll right. One last quick call from Annapolis, MD. Good morning, Lucille.
LUCILLEHi. This is on the topic of Pakistan and the doctor that was arrested. What message does this action send to the Pakistanian people? And are the Pakistanian people wanting to support America in stopping al-Qaida or everyday persons, I mean, do they care?
KUBEYou know, I get the sense that the Pakistani people are more concerned with their domestic issues, domestic security, than they are. And they face a bigger threat right now from Pakistani Taliban than they do from al-Qaida, domestically. I mean one of the takeaways that I saw from this entire story was that the tribal area where the doctor is being jailed, you know, they've decided to go against the doctor who helped find bin Laden, but they've never come to really any conclusion on who within Pakistan knew bin Laden was hiding there, which we all know people knew.
KUBEThere had to have been high-up people who knew bin Laden was there. So the priority was clearly to go against the people who embarrassed the sovereignty of the nation versus finding out who was harboring a terrorist.
ZIENERThere was always a very strong anti-American sentiment that was there from the beginning. I mean, from after 9/11, it played out. And every Pakistan president, every Pakistan leader was going that fine line, on the one hand in supporting the United States, and on the other hand actually giving a free hand to those forces who are against the United States.
REHMLast word, Abderrahim.
FOUKARAI mean, public opinion is obviously against -- all opinion polls suggest that there's a lot of anti-American sentiment. The drones, the killing of civilians by drones has not helped. But I guess one of the messages that the arrest of this doctor sends to the Pakistanis at large is if you think of cooperating with the U.S. on this level, this is what happens to you.
REHMAbderrahim Foukara of Al Jazeera Arabic. Courtney Kube of NBC news. Markus Ziener, U.S. correspondent for Handelsblat. Thank you all so much. Have a great holiday weekend. Stay safe everybody. Thanks for listening. I'm Diane Rehm.
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