War in Ukraine: airstrikes, drones and a looming counteroffensive
This week saw heightened tensions in the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. A wave of drone strikes hit the Russian capital Tuesday morning, bringing the war to Moscow for the first…
Supporters and opponents of Egypt’s deposed president began mass protests today. Meanwhile, the White House has decided aid to Egypt can continue to flow. Secretary of State John Kerry pressed Syrians to commit to peace talks, saying there is no military solution to the conflict there. Kerry also called on Russia to return Edward Snowden to the U.S. where he says the N.S.A. leaker will have a fair trial. Al qaeda-linked militants claimed responsibility for an assault on Iraq’s Abu Ghraib jail. President Obama nominated Caroline Kennedy as U.S. ambassador to Japan. And Pope Francis called for new efforts to fight poverty on his visit to Brazil. A panel of journalists joins Diane for analysis of the week’s top international news stories.
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. Muslim Brotherhood protesters are posed for a showdown with Egypt's military. The UN says more than 100,000 have died in Syria's civil war. And the pope is warmly welcomed by Brazil's 120 million Catholics.
MS. DIANE REHMHere with me for this week's top international stories on the Friday News Roundup, Moises Naim of El Pais, Anne Gearan of The Washington Post and James Kitfield of National Journal magazine.
MS. DIANE REHMYou are welcome to be part of the program, give us a call, 800-433-8850. Send us an email to email@example.com, follow us on Facebook or send us a tweet. Happy Friday, everybody.
MR. JAMES KITFIELDHappy Friday.
MS. ANNE GEARANHello.
MR. MOISES NAIMHello.
REHMGood to see you all. James Kitfield, it sounds as though these protests in Egypt are pretty big today. What's going on?
KITFIELDWell, it's Friday so it must be protest day after the Friday prayers. This is really a volatile situation in Egypt. I actually think that the military rulers having, you know, launched the coup are playing with fire here because they basically called for their supporters to come down the streets to sort of counteract what they knew was going to be a huge Muslim Brotherhood protest against coup.
KITFIELDSo you've got this really volatile situation where, you know, both sides if they come within proximity of each other there's going to be violence and, you know, we look back at Algeria how Algeria did the very same thing. Islamists were about to win an election, the military stepped in, took power and it sparked a civil war that lasted for years and killed over 200,000 people.
KITFIELDNow the Egyptians are saying that they are going to, perhaps the state media is reporting that they're going to perhaps try Mohammad Morsi for murder, for a jail break going back to 2011. I mean, this is, that's exactly the kind of the sort of spark that you don't want in such a volatile situation. So I'm very worried about these protests.
GEARANYes, the news last night that the military, well, a judge but we assume with military support is moving to charge Morsi with a criminal offense after having detained him for roughly a month for his own protection. That was the rationale, is pretty dire and worrisome news.
GEARANThis really sets up a direct confrontation between the military regime and the considerable loyal forces of Mohammad Morsi but also in a way to anyone who may have been on the fence in Egypt and there are an awful lot of them, people who are staying home, secular Egyptians who want no part of this.
GEARANBut they certainly don't want the recipe for civil war and they don't want to see their judicial system being misused and so this in a way may have a rebound effect to get a little bit more popular for Morsi.
NAIMSo today's an important test to see if Egypt is going to be ruled by the mob in the streets or by the rule of law and is going to be a democracy that has all the workings of a democracy, of an imperfect, an incipient and defected but still a democracy or is it going to be ruled by who can get more people in the streets.
NAIMAnd the new protagonist here is the army General Abdel Fatah al-Sisi who on Wednesday called for the people to take to the streets and...
REHMWhy? Why did he do that?
NAIMHe said, "I urge the people," these are his words, "I urge the people to take to the streets this coming Friday to prove their will and give me the army and police a mandate to confront possible violence and terrorism."
NAIMSo, you know, and he did it wearing dark sunglasses with his army regalia so it echoes all sorts of very bad signals and let's see what happens today but as my colleagues have said, today is a very complicated day in which we're likely to see a lot of street violence in Egypt.
REHMAnd meanwhile you have the White House saying they're going to continue with getting aid to Egypt following the coup. What's the thinking here, James?
KITFIELDWell, the thinking is that you want as much leverage as you can right now especially with the Egyptian military. We have strong ties to them as a result of them receiving $1.5 billion every year, second recipient of our aid after Israel.
KITFIELDSo you want, at a time like this you want as much leverage as you can. You don't want to sort of call this a military coup which would kick in a law that says you can't, you'd have to cut off all our aid.
KITFIELDSo they've said, the administration said yesterday that they're not going to call this a coup. They don't think legally they have to make a statement one way or the other. They have held up the delivery of some F16s and that's the incremental approach they're going to take if, you know, they're going to sort of push, you know, nudge them towards a democratic transition. If they don't respond, you know, find something else you can hold back until you find the, you know, the sweet spot of how you can leverage our aid basically.
GEARANWell, we'll see how that plays in Congress. This was a dodge by the administration. It's an escape hatch so that they cannot make a very uncomfortable public choice. Clearly this was a coup, everyone knows it's a coup, they know it's a coup but they can't say that word out loud which just puts...
REHMAnd they certainly didn't call it that when it first happened.
GEARANNo, no, they're not. But now to make a legal determination that they don't have to make a determination is going to put the Republicans in Congress who want to suspend or revoke the Egyptian aid absolutely over the edge. And so that's, I mean, we're really waiting to see what happens there.
REHMBut the U.S. did halt plans to deliver fighter jets to Egypt?
NAIMWhich is a largely symbolic gesture because those fighter planes, these are F16s that at this point are not critical in the military structure or in the needs, in the military needs of Egypt. The other point that is related to this decision, the determination not to call what happened in Egypt a coup in order to sustain aid, is the fact that no government around the world has recognized a new government in Egypt.
NAIMAdly Mansour is the interim president, has a cabinet, appointed a cabinet but no one recognizes that he has no support from, no official recognition. And so it's very important that we see if this government and the army move forward with elections and with restoring democracy and especially if they are inclusive and can bring the Muslim Brotherhood and be less, be more inclusive than what the brotherhood was when they were in power.
REHMAll right, let's turn to Israel. Anne Gearan, I know you just got back from traveling with Secretary of State Kerry. What did he say, what did he reveal about restarting talks?
GEARANHe got an agreement to start talking but not an agreement about what they're going to talk about. So he got about 75 percent of what he wanted, but the -- he would say the most important part of that is he got both the government of Benjamin Netanyahu and the Palestinian authority led by Mahmoud Abbas to agree to send negotiators to sit down face to face for the first time, at all in about three years and the first really substantive talk in more than five.
GEARANAnd that is likely that negotiator level initial meeting is likely to take place next week somewhere in or around Washington. And it will be there that they'll really start to get to nuts and bolts. They have some of the four corners of terms of negotiation but they don't have it all filled in and so we'll have to see whether the negotiators can say, all right, here it is, here is what we are going to decide when we begin negotiating in earnest.
GEARANAnd then sometime down the road from there it would become the sort of classic Camp David style, leader to leader, U.S. making the hard, making them come together and make the hard decisions but that would be months in the offing.
REHMBut you know, James, you've heard the complaints as well as I have that Secretary Kerry is focusing all this attention on Israel while Syria continues to go up in flames.
KITFIELDI've heard that, I don't agree with it. I actually think that he senses an opportunity in this fact that Syria's got everyone worried, the Muslim Brotherhood's gone from Egypt so that's a big supporter of Hamas that has been taken out. Iran, you know, Hamas has distanced itself from Iran since Iran's helping Assad stay in power in Syria.
KITFIELDNetanyahu's getting pressured, the EU just passed a ban on any investment in the occupied territories. So he senses that in this turmoil there might be an opportunity in the chaos and I credit him for that.
KITFIELDAs Bill Clinton has said in the past sometimes it's worth just to get caught trying and I think if you're trying to keep your Arab allies on board with whatever you're going to do in Syria and your concerns about Iraq, you have to be seen as trying to resolve the Israel-Palestinian peace process.
NAIMI agree with, James, sorry, and it's Secretary Kerry has been there already six times in six months that he has had in office. Hilary Clinton went to Israel five times in four years. So one has to admire the willingness of Secretary Kerry to risk political capital in pursuing a goal that everybody tells him it's almost impossible, that everyone has failed, that it's untouchable and better leave it alone because nothing's going to happen.
NAIMSo it's very likely that nothing is going happen but things are already happening if they're microscopic. The fact, as Anne said, that they are willing to sit down and at least start talking and even very surprising things. Yuval Steinitz, the minister for strategic affairs in Israel said on Saturday that they were willing to consider that a prisoner release, that Israel would release some prisoners, was on the cards now which is something that they had said it would never happen.
REHMWho is going to sit down at the table next week?
GEARANWell, I don't know whether the names will mean a lot to your listeners but it's Tzipi Livni, who is the justice minister in Israel who is a Dovish holdover from the previous more Dovish government and has really sort of been the odd woman out in Netanyahu's cabinet.
GEARANShe also has a minder, Isaac Moho, who is essentially a BB spy somebody will sit next to her and make sure that she doesn't make any mistakes and Saeb Erekat is the long-time chief Palestinian negotiator. We do not know who will be the chief U.S. person. Kerry will convene these initial talks but he's going to have to name someone to do it day to day.
REHMAnne Gearan, diplomatic correspondent for The Washington Post. Short break, we'll be right back.
REHMAnd welcome back to the International Hour of the Friday News Roundup, this week with James Kitfield of National Journal, Anne Gearan of the Washington Post, Moises Naim. He's at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and chief international columnist for El Pais. You can join us, 800-433-8850. Send us your email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Facebook or send us a Tweet. Secretary of State Kerry really has been busy this week. He asked Russia for clarification on the NSA leaker, Edward Snowden. What's the latest, Moises?
NAIMThe latest are that a spokesman for President Putin says Russia has not changed its stance on extraditing leaker Edward Snowden. He said that Putin is not involved in those reviews and that Russia has never extradited anyone and never will. And there is no U.S./Russia extradition treaty. And so it looks like they're not budging. And at the same time, of course, Eric Holder has stated that the United States will not seek the death penalty for Mr. Snowden.
REHMIf he is returned.
NAIMIf he's returned to the United States.
REHMWhat do you make of all this, James?
KITFIELDWell, the Holder thing's interesting. I don't think he was talking to the Russians when he said that because the Russians quite honestly couldn't give a hoot about whether he faces the death penalty or not. But the Europeans would very much like to hear that, especially if we're going to ask them to take a plane that goes over their air space with him in it to sort of capture him. The Europeans will not extradite someone if he's under -- because they don't believe in the death penalty. So that might be one audience.
KITFIELDIt might be progressives in America who are very upset, that what they see is a leaker or a whistleblower, may face a death penalty. So there's probably multiple audiences but I doubt any of them are in Moscow.
REHMSo what do you think, Anne? Are the Russians sort of taunting the U.S. by keeping Snowden there at the airport, not allowing him either out to go elsewhere or outside into Moscow?
GEARANIn a way they are. I mean, this was just, you know, a gift-wrapped present to Putin as a way to stick, you know, a shiv in the side of the United States on so many levels. It was just absolutely irresistible to him. But at the same time, Russia is really having a bit of an internal debate about this. And some discussions, not only among people on the street in Moscow which probably isn't going to make a great deal of difference, but within the leadership itself about what the right thing to do is here.
GEARANThey don't want to be seen as knuckling under to the United States by shipping the guy home on a plane. But they also really have a reputational issue here where one thing that Russia says all the time is that it is, you know, a creature of law. It is a country -- is a full modern country that abides by the rule of law. And it is a member of all sorts of international bodies that require the rule of law. And whatever you think of some of the skullduggery that does take place in Russia, the leadership really likes to be seen internationally as wholly responsible and worthy of international regard.
REHMIt's interesting that apparently Snowden's lawyer said that Snowden wants to learn Russian. So what does he give him but a change of clothes and a copy of Dostoyevsky's novel "Crime and Punishment."
KITFIELDThe ironies keep mounting here. But what is interesting is, I mean, it was reported that he actually got some sort of interim asylum that would allow him to leave the airport. Then his lawyer said, no the papers haven't quite been signed. So we don't know what...
KITFIELD...but that's what Kerry reached out to Lavrov about. He wanted to know, you know, are you going to let this guy out of the airport? And it's unclear but if they do that it will be a poke in the eye. And the State Department has said as much. You know, they'd be very disappointed if that happened. So, you know, Putin, as Anne says, likes to stick, you know, his finger in our eye whenever possible. But he doesn't want to spend a lot of political capital on Snowden. So thus he has said, Snowden can stay but -- as long as he doesn't have any more releases, you know, of, you know, classified information.
KITFIELDSo he's playing an interesting game here but I think eventually the Russians are going to tire of this game and want to get rid of him. But they're not going to give him back to the United States.
REHMWhat about all these plans that were talked about earlier, a Latin American country willing to take him in, Moises?
NAIMWell, that -- the Latin American countries are Nicaragua, Venezuela and perhaps Ecuador. But it looks like Snowden has reconsidered those destinations and is now hoping to stay in Russia, from what we know. But we don't know much. Now the larger broader context for these things is the U.S./Russian relationship which, as you know, there was a reset -- the famous reset in which things were going to change. And there were all kinds of initiatives to try to reestablish closer ties and develop all kinds of new relationships.
NAIMWell, this week Senator McCain Tweeted in a very ironic way, he said, keeping hitting that reset button. Essentially conveying that nothing's happening and their relationship is as dire and at a low level as it has been in a long time.
KITFIELDIt's true. I was at a function last week where the Russian ambassador was present and there were a lot of American NGO people who were saying -- you know, because the Russians have really cracked down on any NGO that accepts money from foreign sources and really have cracked down under Putin against anything that could be deceived as sort of a democracy promotional organization. They've jailed a number of people on political show trials who dare to sort of, you know, have a different opinion from Putin.
KITFIELDSo relationships with Russia really are low and Syria is the fulcrum. Russia is bolstering Assad, we want him out. And they keep talking about this Geneva peace process that might get the parties to a negotiating table. But it's impossible for me to see how that works.
REHMJames Kitfield. He's senior correspondent for National Journal. If you'd like to join us, 800-433-8850. More than 500 inmates escaped this week during al-Qaida raids in Iraq raising worries all over again of al-Qaida, James.
KITFIELDYou know, we've said for a long time, on this show as well, that one of the problems with Syria is that it inflames this Sunni versus Shiite sectarian divide. So now you've got the situation where al-Qaida and Iraq is all in in Syria. They're fighting Hezbollah, which is a Shiite terror group that fighting the side of Assad. And that fighting is coming right back to Iraq. It's strengthened al-Qaida in Iraq. The situation in Iraq is really dire.
KITFIELDMolokai who is a Shiite has made almost no effort in his years in power to sort of incorporate the Sunnis into any kind of a governing coalition. He has charged the former Sunni vice-president with murder and sort of drove him out of the country. He's cracked down on Sunni protests. So there's every danger sign out there that the sectarian civil war that's going on in Syria is starting to spill over into Iraq.
REHMAnd clearly these attacks were very carefully synchronized, Anne.
GEARANYeah, the degree of planning required to pull this off is really pretty extraordinary. Twelve suicide bombers in a coordinated assault with a follow-up. I mean, you know, the guards had no chance. They were just -- the whole place was completely overrun. It's as if, you know, an army was attacking a Boy Scout camp. And the idea that that kind of firepower and that kind of organizational skill is present in what a year ago was regarded as a largely sort of vesticle, you know, semi-extinct bunch of criminals is really, really remarkable, as James said it shows you the effect of Syria.
NAIMThe numbers are staggering. Al-Qaida said that 500 inmates had escaped from the two prisons.
NAIMAll of them Mujahedeen. Then, Iraqi officials said it's 800 just from Abu Ghraib of whom they claim that 400 have been recaptured. But I agree with Anne and James, what we are seeing is emboldened Sunnis. Sunnis that are looking at what's going on in Syria and want to have an opportunity -- and again, Molokai has been very exclusionary in his government. And what we're seeing in all of these Arab Spring posted dictatorial -- you know, Iraq was not an Arab Spring example, but it holds -- we saw it in Egypt. We saw it elsewhere in Libya.
NAIMAll these governments that emerged after a dictator, continue to have -- even if they are democratic -- once you have a democratic party there, they still have highly dictatorial authoritarian behaviors. And we're seeing that in Iraq clearly in the ways in which Molokai's governing.
REHMAll right. We have a caller here who wants some clearer understanding. Good morning, David, in Indianapolis. You're on the air.
DAVIDThank you for taking my call.
DAVIDWhat stake does Russia have in Syria beyond the naval base and why is Czar Vladimir trying to take us back to the bad old days of the Cold War?
KITFIELDIt's their last ally in the Middle East. They don't have -- you know, the Arab Spring is something that really scared the Russians because they don't like the idea of a populace, you know, overthrowing authoritarian governments. It's something that gives them a lot of nervous thoughts. And really Assad was, you know, their traditional ally in the Middle East. And they feel very comfortable that they've backed this guy, that he's fighting against what he calls terrorists. That, you know, international law, in some ways, sits on Assad's side because he is the head of the government recognizing the United Nations.
KITFIELDSo Russia feels that they've finally got a -- kind of backing a winner, which is not something they're very famous for. And that's their in to be an influential player in the Middle East again.
REHMAnd, you know, that we've been talking about Iraq, Syria, Israel, Egypt. There's also bad news coming out of Tunisia today, where the Arab Spring actually began.
KITFIELDAnd was supposed to be the good news story of the Arab Spring where they had a government that very much tried to be inclusive to all factions, including the Islamist, as well as the moderates.
REHMSo what's happened?
KITFIELDWell, their opposition figure who is a moderate -- you know, he's a secularist was murdered, and was murdered by the same gun used to kill a predecessor. And the situation is very much on the hard line Islamist groups. So if Tunisia's, you know, starting to show some of the same fissures that you see elsewhere, it's a very bad sign.
GEARANYeah, I mean, it's another sign that the Arab Spring is still happening. Whatever started two years ago hasn't finished. And it rolls from country to country and it has all sorts of spillover and cross pollination effects. But it is very much still a work in progress. And it's one that the United States has very little leverage really to do much about. And oftentimes very limited visibility on what's really happening.
NAIMAnd the irony here is that this assassination took place in the very place where the Arab Spring started. This is a little town or the city in the interior of Tunisia where a fruit vendor essentially self mutilated. And that's part of the (unintelligible) in Tunisia that then overthrow the government and moved in contagion elsewhere in the region.
REHMMoises Naim. He's the author of "The End of Power: From Boardrooms to Battlefields and Churches to States, Why Being in Charge Isn't What it Used to Be." And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." The Pope is in Brazil, Moises. And he's getting quite a warm welcome. I think so warm that his security police have been kind of concerned. He's been on the street in the mud stepping out in the rain with the people.
NAIMAnd this is a pope that is generating huge enthusiasm. He's energizing people. He's bringing people back to be interested in the church and in faith. He's also a younger pope. We have not seen such an energetic pope in a long time.
REHMWhat's he concentrating on that's different from his predecessors?
NAIMWell, poverty. He has placed poverty at the center of all of his statements. He has made even -- taken initiatives that are quite amazing. And recently he went to Lampedusa which is an island where very poor African illegal immigrants try to come to Italy. And they live in very dire conditions. He went there and just spent time with them. These are really, really poor people.
NAIMAnd in Brazil again, he has done the same. He has gone to see the -- a lot of meetings in the favelas. He said Brazil is such a large country but here I am with you in the poorest sections of Brazil. However, it's very important to state that this is taking place in a Brazil that is now -- is the largest country in Latin America. It has the largest Catholic population in the region, in a region that is highly -- densely populated by Catholics. But at the same time is a country that is going -- a lot of social turmoil. People are taking to the streets and protesting against the government. It's also a very unequal country.
REHMI thought it was interesting, James, that the Pope was saying to young people, stir things up.
KITFIELDYeah, you know, this might be a pope for the times actually because certainly the church's future seems to be in places like Latin America and Africa, where the church remains very strong. You know, Catholicism has really been in a decline in Europe and it's sort of at its, you know, place of its origin. And what's going on in Europe and Africa is, you know, this awakening, as we've been talking about, all over the world, of people who are just unhappy with their Latin life, with governments that don't provide, you know, good services, with corruption.
KITFIELDAnd he's put himself very much on the side of that tide saying, you know, we stand with you. And I think that's a smart place for the Catholic Church to be.
GEARANYeah, he's also addressing something that is happening at the same time as the decline of Catholicism in Europe and its changing dynamics in Latin America, which is the rise of the Evangelical Church. We've seen a lot of the same things that led to the rise of alternate evangelical Christianity in the United States is starting to happen in Brazil and other places. And that's worrisome to the Catholic Church.
GEARANAnd if you're the Pope you want young people to join you and not the church that has many of the same tenets but also connects much more directly with people's lives, preaches less about sex and more about social justice. And that's really what he's trying to do. You hear -- although he holds very conservative views personally, you hear him talking about contraception and the other things that have been the hot button issues in the Catholic Church, almost not at all.
NAIMSo the church -- the Catholic Church in Latin America is also declining, and especially in Brazil. It is estimated that 500,000 Brazilians per year leave the Catholic Church and join the Evangelical, Pentecostals and other new churches there. And again, the Pope is going to have to deal with both his propensity and his interest and passion for poverty and social issues at the same time that, as Anne said, he's very conservative on a lot of issues that Catholics in Latin America care about.
REHMBut there are other conservatives within the Catholic Church who are not too happy about what the Pope is doing.
NAIMRight. There is -- well, there are with him in his social conservatism, in the issues concerning abortion and gay marriage and all that and women in the church. He's very conservative there. But they are concerned, of course, about his shift in terms of emphasizing poverty.
REHMMoises Naim. Short break. Right back.
REHMAnd it's time to open the phones. First, to Ahmed in Groveland, Fla., good morning you're on the air.
AHMEDYes, I was listening to what you have been saying about what's happening in Egypt and I'm surprised that this is still named as a military coup. On January 25, 2011 about ten million people went to the streets and the arrangement was power to go to the military and the Supreme Military Council for one year under the auspices of the U.S. and there was a pressure to put, facilitate Morsi to come to power.
AHMEDNow, after one year and acting as a tyrant to maintain the three branches of the government in his hands the Egyptian people cannot take it anymore. They went into, more than twice that number that went into the street in 2011 and that's a real revolution. How come you still name this as a coup?
GEARANWell, what the caller has put his finger on here is the ambivalence that a lot of, is greeting what's happening in Egypt on a lot of levels certainly in the United States and elsewhere. There are an awful lot of people who actually think that the military is the most responsible and best able to govern of any institution in Egypt.
GEARANAnd that Morsi had shown himself to be completely incapable of governing the country and at risk of bankrupting it. So what happened when the government ousted him, I mean when, excuse me, when the military ousted him? It's really hard to call it anything other than a coup. That's the definition, right?
GEARANThe military takes over and removes a leader. Whether that leader be a fellow military person or elected and in this case Morsi was popularly elected.
REHMBut I think what Ahmed's point is, is that twice the number of people were out in the street to oust Morsi so therefore wasn't it a popular revolution rather than a coup? James?
KITFIELDNo, it's still a coup. It's a popular coup but still a coup. If the tanks come in the street and they take out the head of a government that's been elected that's the definition of a military coup. It doesn't mean it's not popular and as Anne said, there were plenty of problems with Morsi.
KITFIELDHe did have authoritarian sort of instincts that were not serving this period very well. What I would caution you, you know people even who don't like Morsi and fear the Muslim Brotherhood is, we saw this in Turkey which had four coups over the, you know, less than 100 years history of that republic.
KITFIELDEvery time the military takes it into its hands to steer the democracy in the way it thinks it goes, it sinks its roots deeper and deeper into this deep state where power is wielded not by the electoral, election box but behind the scenes by power brokers who are not answerable to anyone.
KITFIELDSo even if you find this thing, this coup a popular thing I would caution that it's not. It would have been much better if it had been done by the election box, not by the point of a bayonet.
NAIMI go back to what I said before, this is the rule of law or the rule of mobs. And it's very important to see what happens next. As important as defining if this was a coup or not is going to be to see if the military are going to seek power, are going to call elections and we're going to see something that looks like a democracy where all factions and all groups and segments of Egyptian society in the political spectrum will have a chance to be in government and to have some influence.
KITFIELDBut you have to say that calling, you know to say you're going to try Morsi for murder and calling for protest to counteract the Muslim Brotherhood protest is not a very happy sign they're going to be inclusive.
REHMAll right to Salisbury, Md., Millard, you're on the air.
MILLARDUm, hello, Diane.
MILLARDI'm enjoying your show very much.
MILLARDI'm a very old Egyptian TV director and of course I'm a media person there and I've been following this situation. I think there is an incredible contradiction in the policy of America which is fighting terrorists. Everybody knows the Muslim Brotherhood are the godfathers of all the terrorist organizations.
MILLARDThey're the godfathers of Bin Laden (word?) . They're the godfathers of Hamas in Gaza and the Egyptian people have been extremely scared of the Muslim Brotherhood in the last year or so. Even right now, the demonstrations of (word?) and everywhere else are threatening violence unless Morsi comes back. It's like either we come back to power or we resort to violence.
GEARANYes, this is a really interesting juxtaposition of you know, who is the good face of authoritarianism here? The Muslim Brotherhood was banned in Egypt for two decades or more and during that time became both a secretive and very efficient organization that was partly political, partly terrorist, if you want to use that term and emerged as the structure best able to counter the military which is why Morsi was elected.
GEARANMorsi was a Muslim Brotherhood member not a particularly well-known one and he was put up as a political figure to be the nice Muslim Brotherhood. He's not a bad guy. In office he did not govern well. He, not in addition to authoritarian tendencies, he just really mucked it up.
GEARANAnd now you have the military reasserting the same mirrored sunglass authoritarian look that essentially the Muslim Brotherhood was protesting for all of those years. And it is left for Millard and for Egyptians in Egypt and ex-patriots and Americans watching this to kind of suss this out.
GEARANI mean are, do either of these organizations actually have Egypt's best interests at heart? It's really difficult to tell.
REHMAll right, here's an email saying: "What is the likelihood that the Obama administration might select Dennis Ross to represent the U.S. at Palestine/Israeli peace talks? Ross did such a great job for Clinton and nearly got the job done." Moises?
NAIMIt's very hard to know what's going to happen. They haven't announced it yet but the name that is most commonly mentioned is that of former Ambassador Martin Indyk who is now at the Brookings Institution and we don't know, but that's the name that is most commonly mentioned.
REHMAll right and speaking of ambassadors President Obama's nominated Caroline Kennedy to be U.S. ambassador to Japan. Some people may be saying, what are her qualifications? James?
KITFIELDWell, it's a very poorly-kept secret that a great percentage of our ambassadors are people who were fundraisers or a political help to presidents to get elected and then as a gift for their support they're given ambassadorships to places like the United Kingdom and Japan, places that don't require a whole lot of diplomatic heavy lifting.
KITFIELDI don't see this as anything out of the ordinary in terms of that. There was an L.A. Times story that the Obama administration has done more of this than previous administrations, 56 percent of their ambassadors apparently political appointees versus an average of 30 percent in recent years.
KITFIELDBut it is. It's a tradition that we have that the foreign service officer are more typically sent to conflict zones and very difficult situations like Syria or in Africa and that these plum places where you live in a really nice residence, basically palaces and stuff are given to political supporters.
KITFIELDAnd I think actually she has star power and she's smart and in that case...
REHMAnd she will have access to President Obama.
KITFIELDExactly and I doubt very much Japan has any problem with this.
REHMShe'll be the first female envoy selected by President Obama. Anne?
GEARANAt a high level, yes, in a high-level political position and that's interesting. I mean Japan is a very traditional society, very male-dominated society for all of its modernism. And for of the very wide political and economic participation of women in Japan it is still, I mean the governing bodies are definitely led by men. So that will be interesting.
GEARANBut I think that is of less import than the symbolism of somebody with her name, with her sort of dynastic connection with the fairy dust that will come with her walking into a room in Japan or walking into a room in the world on behalf of the United States in Japan.
GEARANJapan very often feels a little bit left out and thinks the United States is spending too much...
REHMThat's what I was about to ask. What would the issues be between the U.S. and Japan today?
GEARANWell, there are a couple of difficult ones. I mean yes it's true that these posts tend to go to people who are not going to have to do an enormous amount of heavy lifting but there are a couple of difficult things.
GEARANThe military bases in Japan are a constant irritant and although that is a military issue it's something that the ambassador does have to deal with it. It's not resolved, it's just you know year after year after year they make some amelioration and they move some people here and they do this and they do that but the presence, the long-term presence of these large military bases in a small country is, you know, this many years after World War II is a constant irritant so there's that.
GEARANThe economic issues and there's a sort of an intangible which is, does Japan matter? Is the United States really going to invest the kind of political capital and hand-holding to make sure that Japan's voice is heard, to make sure that it matters, to make sure that it isn't sort of overpowered by the U.S.'s relationship with China.
KITFIELDThere actually is one very, very sensitive issue on the U.S./Japan agenda which is Japan's confrontation with China over these islands in the South China Sea that are contested between those two. The new head of Japan, Prime Minister Abe is a very assertive nationalist who has really pushed the limits of this in a way that has really gotten the ire of China up.
KITFIELDAnd we've got to be in between making sure that that does not become a hot conflict and that's a sensitive issue.
REHMAll right to Andrew in Grapevine, Tx., hi there, you're on the air.
ANDREWHi Diane, thank you for all your great shows. I really appreciate it.
ANDREWI have sort of two questions and they're unrelated. I apologize but I'll try to be quick.
ANDREWFirst, I wanted to ask, does your panel feel that the media is being a little bit too easy on the new Pope? You know when I read the coverage or hear their opinions I hear a lot about how the Pope is visiting the poor and all that and that seems to be the sort of thing that a Pope should do.
ANDREWBut I haven't heard any information on him addressing some of the issues within the church itself that are the main issues that even people within the Catholic church kind of feel the church is behind the times on such as contraception and women's roles within the church. So does anybody feel that they're being a little bit too easy on this new Pope?
ANDREWAnd the second question would be, is there anyone who has come out and said whether the military taking out Morsi in Egypt is a bad thing in that it should have been done democratically, you know, to support the government instead of just simply a coup?
REHMAll right. And Moises, talk about the Pope.
NAIMThe Pope has addressed. The Pope inherited two very thorny problems when he was appointed. One was financial scandals in the Vatican and there was a whole issue with the Vatican Bank. He cleaned house. He appointed new people. He fired others and he's trying hard to transform what's going on with Vatican finances.
NAIMAnd the other as we know is the very troubling situation with the sexual scandals that have beset them and even there he has been taking action and been quite assertive. Andrew, the caller is right that we have heard much less about the Pope's positions on gender issues, on maternal, child and family planning and all those issues where he, as I said before, he's very, very conservative.
REHMAnd that's it. I mean, he's very, very conservative. Do you see him making any gestures toward, for example, opening the church more to women?
NAIMHe has been quite clear about that in fact and the answer for now is no. And we need to wait, this is too early in his tenure and remember he came to his position in a situation that had no precedent in 700 years. This was the first time in 700 years that a Pope has resigned.
NAIMHe, as I said, inherited very complicated issues and he has energized the church but as the caller said we are going to hear more and he's going to be more controversial as these other issues come to the fore.
REHMSo you've got the pedophilia. You've got the contraceptives. You got women in the church. At the same time he's clearly wishing to address the issue of poverty.
KITFIELDYou know I, I'm not Catholic so I'll just say as an observer, you know the Catholics who are waiting for a progressive Pope come along and open the, you know, positions of seniority to women, to take a more progressive stance on contraceptives. I don't see any candidates out there that are real (word?). You know, where is that Pope? I've never seen him.
KITFIELDI think the church has pretty much made up its mind on how it stands on those things and you know there's a lot of Catholic nuns in this country who tried to launch a sort of campaign to liberalize the church if you will and the church slapped them down hard and you know, so I think that's been a settled issue.
GEARANWell, should we stay on the Pope or should we go to his second question?
REHMGo to the second question.
GEARANSo Andrew was asking whether anyone has come out and said that what the military did is bad. Well, sure, I mean it's just that you've got this really difficult straddle that the United States is trying to do where they keep saying they're deeply concerned and they call on everybody to make sure that there's no violence and they call on everyone to move quickly to elections and so forth.
GEARANWhich is all to the good, but that's, you know that's a shade shy of saying that what the military did is bad because they can't quite go there because then it becomes the question of whether it was a legal or an illegal action which affects the USA.
REHMAll right, last quick question from Phil in Indianapolis. He says: "We keep hearing about violence in the Middle East between Sunnis and Shites in Syria, Iraq, and Iran. Saudi Arabia and Qatar are trying to influence respective sides. I know West Bank Palestinians view their policies and future differently than from Palestinians from Gaza. Is there the same breakdown along Sunni and Shiites within the Palestinian population?"
KITFIELDNo, there is not. The Palestinians are Sunnis and they're. They're not Shiite at all so that does not flow into the West Bank and Gaza.
REHMAnd that's the last word. James Kitfield of National Journal, Anne Gearan of The Washington Post, Moises Naim of El Pais. Have a great weekend everybody.
REHMThanks for listening all. I'm Diane Rehm.
ANNOUNCER"The Diane Rehm Show" is produced by Sandra Pinkard, Nancy Robertson, Denise Couture, Susan Nabors, Rebecca Kaufman, Lisa Dunn and Jill Colgan. The engineer is Aaron Stamper. Natalie Yuravlivker answers the phones. Visit drshow.org for audio archives, transcripts, podcasts and CD sales. Call 202-885-1200 for more information. Our email address is email@example.com and we're on Facebook and Twitter. This program comes to you from American University in Washington, D.C. This is NPR.
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