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Nations react to an historic deal reached with Iran on its nuclear program. Germany’s parliament approves opening up negotiations on a new Greek bailout package. Greek banks prepare to reopen after European officials remove key obstacles to desperately needed loans. Mexican authorities continue the search for the drug kingpin known as “El Chapo,” who escaped from prison. And a German court convicts a former SS soldier for complicity in mass murder at the Auschwitz death camp. A panel of journalists joins Diane for analysis of the week’s top international news stories.
- Elise Labott Global affairs correspondent, CNN.
- Yochi Dreazen Managing editor for news at Foreign Policy and author of the book "The Invisible Front."
- Joanna Biddle State Department correspondent, Agence France-Presse.
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. Nations react to the nuclear deal with Iran. The German parliament approves opening up negotiations on a new Greek bailout package and drug lord, El Chapo, escapes again from a Mexican jail. Here for the week's top international stories on the Friday News Roundup, Elise Labott of CNN, Yochi Dreazen of Foreign Policy and Joanna Biddle of Agence France-Presse.
MS. DIANE REHMWe'll be taking your calls throughout the hour. Join us on 800-433-8850. Send your email to email@example.com. Follow us on Facebook or send us a tweet. And happy Friday to all of you.
MS. ELISE LABOTTGood to be with you.
MR. YOCHI DREAZENHi, happy Friday.
MS. JOANNA BIDDLEHello.
REHMJoanna Biddle, you were in Vienna while the negotiations were going on. How did these top negotiators get beyond the biggest hurdles?
BIDDLEI think through a lot of negotiating and a lot of shouting sometimes, you know, a lot of behind the scenes haggling and just going for it and just being relentless and not giving up on what they wanted to achieve. So it was long hours, long days. I think Secretary Kerry said, at one point, he sat down about a week ago and he thought it was actually going to slip away.
BIDDLEAnd then, he had a tough talk with Foreign Minister Zarif and however they managed to do it, they overcame that particular hurdle and they went forward. And then, of course, they had final sticking points with the last draft in the final drafting of the agreement, which they reached in the early hours of Monday to Tuesday night. So it was a lot of work.
REHMAnd President Obama is meeting today with Saudi Arabia's foreign minister, Yochi. What could the U.S. do to sort of try to ease the concerns about Iran?
DREAZENIt's going to be hard. I mean, you have those meetings today. You have Defense Secretary Ash Carter hop-scotching across the Middle East next week to the Gulf states, to Israel where it will not be a fun meeting for him. General Marty Dempsey, the outgoing chairman of the joint chiefs, will be in the Middle East right now, Iraq and Afghanistan. I wouldn't be surprised if he also is sent to go around the region.
DREAZENWe know what the Saudis and the Israelis say and frankly, if you took some of the quotes from one and took away the name and added the other's name, you'd have a hard time telling which was Israeli and which was Saudi. I mean, they both hate this deal. The U.S. will say, I think, what they've always said with the possibility of adding in a sweetener, of trying to say we will give you more than we have. We will give you more money. We will give to the Israelis.
DREAZENWe will sell you more things, to the Saudis. There are weapons packages both countries have asked for they haven't gotten in the past. In particular, in the case of Israel, advanced (unintelligible) bunker-busting bombs, BBB. In the case of the Saudis, certain American war planes and drones. So I wouldn't be surprised if that kind of package was offered, but it will take a lot to get the Saudis on board.
DREAZENI mean, one thing that's interesting is near the end of the talks, one of the last sticking points was not related to the nuclear program. It was related to embargos on conventional weaponry and on ballistic missiles. And if you talk to the Saudis, one of the last conversations I had was with a Saudi before this was announced. That, actually, to them is as scary, in some ways, as the nuclear deal because they don't, in many ways, think Iran is going to nuke Riyad.
DREAZENThey do think that Iran might use conventional weaponry itself, give it to Hezbollah, give it to the Houthis. They do think missiles might hit the refineries which would cost them hundreds of billions potentially. So the last sticking point was not nuclear. The thing that may worry the Saudis today, again, is not necessary the nuclear deal itself.
REHMAnd we've learned from Wikileaks that Saudi Arabia is said to be obsessed with Iran.
LABOTTThat's right. And if you read some of these documents about the intelligence, on the obsession by the Saudis and you've seen, you know, the reaction from not only the Saudi government and the foreign minister, but the former, you know, infamous ambassador, Saudi ambassador to the U.S., Prince Bandar, really not only criticizing the deal, but in a lot of ways, President Obama's policy in the Mid East.
LABOTTAnd don't forget, you know, there was this whole plot by Iran to, the U.S. believes, to assassinate the Saudi ambassador. So there's a long -- to the U.S. -- so there's a long history here and, as Yochi said, it's not necessarily about fears of a nuclear weapon. It's about growing Iranian influence in the region. It's about having what they and the Israelis say is a nuclear umbrella to conduct some of these other activities.
LABOTTIf they're going to go after some of these allies with terrorist activity, if there's a nuclear umbrella there and they feel that after this deal Iran is not going to be a reformed state. They're going to go for a nuclear weapon eventually and have a lot more money in the meantime to do other nefarious activities.
REHMAnd, of course, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu is speaking out so strongly about this deal. It's interesting. In the last statement I heard him make, he took great pains to say, I respect President Obama. I respect his decision, but -- and then, listed so many reservations. Has he gone a little too far, do you think, in protesting this deal?
DREAZENIt's a great question and I think you have to sort of split it about was it too far in terms of relationship with the U.S. and was it too far in terms of his own standing within Israel? And they're different, which is kind of interesting. Part of what we now know is that the U.S., in advance of the deal, offered Israel different sweeteners. They offered them some -- we don't know the details, but some amount of money, some amount of additional weaponry and Israel said, no, because they said, they thought that if they accepted it, they were subtly saying we can also accept the deal.
DREAZENSo Washington offered something and it's very interesting Israel pushed it back because they didn't want, in any way, you know, acceptance of it. There is a rupture, unquestionably, with this White House that is reparable. The question, I think, will be the next president, if it's Republican, that issue will fade quickly. If it's Hillary Clinton, I don't know how much time it will take to repair 'cause there was so much fury about his speech on the Hill and his language has been literally apocalyptic.
DREAZENHe's described Iran as trying to conquer the world. Iran -- the darkest day in history. I mean, he really, in terms of the language, has been extreme. It's interesting, though, that this one issue is the one that has broken in Israel is -- and they had one of the narrowest elections in recent history, his majority is 61 seats. It's very fragile. But the quotes that came out of the opposition parties left and center after the deal were not as critical as his were, but they were very critical.
DREAZENSo within Israel, there is near unanimity of opposition to this deal, even if the language other Israelis are using isn't quite as extreme as what he is using.
REHMAnd Joanna, you have to wonder how that language affected those who were in Vienna trying to negotiate that deal.
BIDDLEWell, I think that both the United States and the Iranians actually discarded or dismissed a lot of what the Israelis were saying. I really don't think it played much into the negotiating room. I think for the seven parties that were around the table -- because, of course, this isn't just between the United States and Iran. It's also between the Europeans, Russia and China. They all had their own domestic and international concerns.
BIDDLEI think they were less concerned, to a certain extent, about what Israel had to say about it.
LABOTTI actually think that that speech really backfired on Netanyahu just in terms of the influence that he had on the deal. I mean, right before the negotiations start, you have this leader of one of the closest allies of the U.S. coming to the United States -- and I was there. I was in Israel at the time and flew over with him. And basically asked the United States Congress and their people to go against their president to the U.S. was just unacceptable.
BIDDLEAnd I think that had he had been more of a, you know, kind of silent party in the room, but, you know, talking with the U.S. and having...
LABOTT...more influence on the deal, right, you know, through back channels, I think they would've had more influence in the deal.
LABOTTBut I think he wasn't a factor in the -- I agree with Jo. I don't think he was a factor in these talks at all and, in fact, I think the briefing by the United States of the Israelis in the last few months as the deal was coming together, I think, was a lot less as a result of that speech.
REHMYochi, there's an article in TIME magazine this week by Ambassador Dennis Ross titled, "Iran Will Cheat. Then What?" What are your thoughts?
DREAZENI think that's been the question that critics have raised about this from the start. And the question that, I think, hangs over this deal in particular is the inspections regime, the inspections agreements. Are they tough enough? And to the U.S., the U.S. would say yes. Interestingly, some of the Iranians who are citing the grand Ayatollah, the Supreme Leader Ali Khameini's own words about what he said were his red lines, he said he would never accept a deal that went beyond 15 years, never accept a deal that went beyond 25 years, never accept a deal that involved any access to Iranian military sites.
DREAZENAt least, theoretically, all of those things are true. Parts of this deal do last 15 years. Parts of it do last 25 years. Parts of it do last -- do allow for inspection of military sites. That said, there is a loophole in some of the inspection language which is a source of concern, I think, for a lot of weapons experts, which is if the IAEA wants to visit a site and Iran says no, the IAEA then has to present a case to Iran.
DREAZENSo theoretically, the same Iranian officials who said no the first time would then be weighing a dossier prepared by the IAEA. If they say no again, it then goes to another body, this other -- it's called the Joint Commission. There, it's majority vote. But that process could take 24 days. 24 days you can't erase plutonium, you know, radioactive stuff will still be there, but you can erase a lot of other things. And that 24-day period, which is buried kind of in the back, is something that's a very deep concern.
LABOTTYou know, what the president said and what Secretary Kerry says is don't trust, but verify. But if you listen to what Secretary Kerry is saying and some of the other diplomats and even if you kind of read the, you know, between the lines of what the president is saying, they really do not think -- and I'm not saying I believe this or, you know, I'm not arguing that -- whether it's naive or not, but they don't think the Iranians will cheat.
LABOTTAnd I'll tell you why. Because first of all, the amount of cheating that they would be able to do without being seen is infinitesimal to the growth of the program and secondly, they feel that they'll get enough during this program that it's -- during this deal that it's worth it not to cheat. Whether they do it after the 10 to 15 years is entirely other question.
REHMElise Labott, she's global affairs correspondent with CNN. And we are going to take your calls, your comments during this hour. Call us on 800-433-8850. I look forward to speaking with you.
REHMAnd welcome back. Let's talk about Greece and its lawmakers who have now voted to accept austerity measures, a close vote, Elise.
LABOTTA very close vote and even the, you know, the many members of the prime minister's own party voted against him. But basically, the Greeks have agreed to the bailout. The Germans have agreed to go ahead and do the bailout.
REHMThey voted this morning, I guess.
LABOTTThey voted this morning, that's right. And I mean, look, this is a very painful time not only for Greece but for the Europeans. Many of them feel that they don't have to bailout Greece one more time. That, you know, and there was a lot of questions about whether the Greeks would leave the Eurozone. But in the end, I think the Europeans realized that this would hurt them as much as it would hurt the Greeks (word?)
REHMNow, what about the prime minister? Is he going to have to put together a new government now?
DREAZENI think his immediate question is will he stay in power at the head of any government: new, existing or old. He lost 40 of 149 members of his own party. The criticism of the deal coming from his former foreign minister -- finance minister, excuse me, who was not known for understatement and diplomacy even before this, but some of the phrasing that came out in the last couple of days. The speaker of the Greek parliament called it fiscal waterboarding. The former finance minister referred to it as the new Versailles and sort of -- there was the reference to likening Germans to Nazis, which did not play well in Germany as you might imagine.
DREAZENSo he's deeply unpopular in his own country. I mean, the deal he accepted was the one he told them to reject in referendum, which they did. It's a worse deal than had been offered a short time ago. It's hard to imagine how a leader who so misjudged this, so misplayed his hand, how he survives it. I mean, these measures are awful, they're painful.
REHMAnd how does the IMF work itself in here, Joanna?
BIDDLEWell, the IMF has released a document just as the bailout was -- just as it was agreed on Monday, the IMF released a document saying that in fact what they needed was more money. And they...
REHMGreece needed more.
BIDDLEGreece needed more money. And so the figures that the Greeks have been putting forward and the Eurozone have been putting forward that it was a -- the Greek debt was 180 percent of GDP is actually not enough. It's something more like 200 percent of GDP. And so the IMF has been pushing to sort of say to the Eurozone, "You actually need to be thinking about haircuts. You need to be thinking about rolling back some of this debt," and trying to push them to go forward on that.
REHMDo you think they will?
DREAZENEventually, yes. I mean, this is something where, you know, the Greeks are not stupid and the Germans are not stupid. And at some point, they reach a middle ground. I mean, Europe will have to accept that they will get less than 100 cents on the dollar -- or on the euro, or else Greece will collapse again and they'll be right back doing this a year from now, five years from now, ten years from now.
REHMAnd here's an email from Deborah. She says, "Having just returned from one of many trips to Greece, I'm heartbroken by the suffering of the Greek people that I've seen building and getting worse ever since they joined the Eurozone. The euro gives Germany a currency valued below what the deutschmark would be, giving them an advantage in exporting and consequently contributing to their economy."
DREAZENRight and makes it easier for them, even regardless of what the value of the euro is relative to where the deutschmark had been, the ability to have free trade within continental Europe and also the easier way of having free trade to the U.S. is a huge advantage for the wealthier economies, no question. But Greece is an interesting case because it's easy to sympathize -- and naturally, an one should with ordinary Greeks who are suffering. You see the retirees lining up to try to get slips of paper to then get $67 and, that's it, bank's closed. Places are running out of toilet paper. Newspapers running out of paper on which to print the news.
DREAZENAt this same time, this was a corrupt, broken country. I mean, this was not a country that just randomly stumbled into a massive debt crisis. It had -- didn't collect taxes. It offered benefits that were unsustainable. So it's a hard one because you sympathize on a human level, of course. But this was a country that broke itself and allowed itself to stay broken. So some measure of accountability has to go to successive Greek governments.
LABOTTI think that, you know, we've been talking about Greece. But also other countries having other fiscal problems in Europe throughout the last year or so. And I think this is, you know, while Greece obviously is the main problem right now, you've seen similar problems in Italy, similar problems in Spain, Ireland. And I think the Europeans are tired of bailing out all of these countries. But at the same time, this comes down to a kind of debate with those from Germany, for instance, that say it's all about austerity and other countries, in particular the U.S., and you remember how fervently the U.S. had argued for growth.
LABOTTAnd I think, you know, it's not only about fiscal mismanagement or that type of thing but it's about, you know, fundamental financial policies and the direction of where these economies should be going in Europe.
BIDDLEWell, I was going to say, it's the question that we're seeing throughout the world actually, where you've got people -- you haven't got -- you've got a workforce that's diminishing and an older population that's growing. So if you look at the figures in Greece, I think it's something like 2.6 million pensioners, 1.2 million people unemployed, and a workforce of 3.5 million. So you have fewer people actually in work to sustain the kind of benefits that are being paid out by the government to those who are out of work or retired.
REHMSo when the IMF says it might not back the new bailout unless the pact substantially reduces the debt for non-Athens, what does that mean, coming at the last minute?
DREAZENThey're basically saying that the German insistence that debtors get paid back -- the creditors, excuse me, get paid back in full, they get back 100 percent of what they're owed -- is unsustainable. That Germany, as the leading creditor, has to say publicly and has to accept that they will not get all of it, that maybe they'll get 70 percent, 80 percent, whatever the figure is. But that 100 percent is just too much and unsustainable. It's interesting, especially coming from the IMF, which has been criticized all over the world because the austerity measures it's imposed have in many cases led to skyrocketing unemployment.
DREAZENYou know, as Joanna indicated, in Greece it's at least 25 percent and certainly will rise when this goes in. They've pushed for deep, painful cuts to social welfare systems across the planet. So the IMF is in a weird position to be lecturing anybody about austerity versus debt. But what they're saying makes sense. This is an impoverished country, a broken country. And thinking that it, in some miraculous way, can pay back tens if not hundreds of billions of dollars in full, it's impossible. It's folly.
REHMSo how much is the infusion going to be to allow the Greek banks to reopen on Monday?
LABOTTWell, the bailout itself, the larger bailout program, is about $96 billion. But they have a $4-and-change billion payment due Monday.
BIDDLEAnd so the Europeans have just agreed to allow them...
LABOTTSo they -- that's what they just agreed to this morning.
BIDDLEThey're going to give them $7 billion so that they can meet their payment on Monday. So it's kind of ironic because it's the European Commission agreeing -- bridging another $7 billion so that it can pay back the European Central Bank $4 billion.
LABOTTAnd I think what the IMF is saying is, "Listen," to the Europeans, "the alternative to all of these things we're proposing -- debt cancelation, debt relief, you know, longer grace periods -- is Greece pulling out of the Eurozone." And then the European holders of the Greek debt themselves will be paid back in worthless Greek currency. So, I mean, as painful as it is to bail them out, it'll be even more painful if they don't have some larger program to cancel or forgive some of the debt and keep Greek (sic) in the Eurozone.
REHMSo you said the total bailout was something like 96.
LABOTTNinety six -- 96 billion.
REHMOkay. And what the IMF is saying is, "You got to forgive substantially the debt that Greece owes, or else it's never going to catch up."
LABOTTThey put forward a couple of options. One is debt relief, transfers to help them make it go forward. Then they're talking about longer grace periods where Greece would be relieved. And the third is canceling it altogether. And they've made it pretty clear that that's their favorite option.
REHMCanceling the debt altogether.
LABOTTBecause you're never going to -- not all of it, but substantial portions of it.
BIDDLEYeah, do a haircut off the top.
BIDDLESo, you know, some of it would go and, you know, some of it would stay. And then it would be a different program to pay back the rest.
REHMSo how long is it going to take the ordinary Greek people to get back in business, back on the ground, buy food, go to the bank? How long is that going to take?
BIDDLEWell, I think with this bailout that's been agreed by the European Commission now that the banks hopefully will open again on Monday. I guess what the Greek authorities want to prevent is any kind of capital rush on that. Because so far, as we've seen over the past three weeks, they've only been allowed to -- one single withdrawal of 60 euros a day.
BIDDLEAnd just be enough though. A lot of Greeks have been using credit cards and debit cards, which wasn't much of a culture before. So we actually ran a story, we did a report from Athens that people are buying up gold necklaces or they're buying up luxury items on their credit cards, because you can still use those, of course. So there is some kind of economy still going on.
LABOTTThat could cause a whole other problem of, you know, a credit nation that we've had.
DREAZENI mean, additionally, with the IMF also that Greece -- they're not just putting their mouth here and not just talking, Greece owes them money. I mean, Greece is one of the only developed countries and they're the only euro country to have ever defaulted on an IMF loan. So they actually defaulted. So when the IMF is saying this could cause wider, broader problems, that you have to accept debt forgiveness, they are speaking about money they, themselves, are owed with.
DREAZENI mean, when Greece defaulted to the IMF, this was a historic moment. And for the IMF to then -- they're not taking Greece's side by any means. But they are saying, just by having Greece defaulted to them, other countries have to accept pain and have to accept that they're not getting back all they're owed.
REHMSo the fact of the matter is, Greece will very likely not be able to pay back?
LABOTTOh, they definitely won't. They definitely won't be able to pay back the debt, first of all, without this bailout program. But even then, unless you cancel some of the debt -- unless, as Jo said, you give a haircut off the top. And that's what the IMF is saying is, you can take these kind of stop-gap measures, these, you know, band-aids on the problem right now. But unless there's a major restructuring and, in part, cancelation of the debt, Greece is never going to recover from this.
LABOTTAnd ultimately the Eurozone won't either.
REHMLet's talk about one of Mexico's most notorious drug kingpins, known as "El Chapo." He made an incredible escape from prison and we all watched it on television.
BIDDLEYes. They put out the video -- it's a surveillance video from his cell. What he seems to have been able to do, somehow -- obviously with help -- is dig a hole in the shower unit of his cell, which was one of the few isolated cells in this jail in Mexico, which was behind 17 steel doors. So they'd obviously tried to keep him in. But he dug a hole in the shower unit. And went...
REHMOr somebody dug...
BIDDLEOr somebody dug a hole for him.
BIDDLEHe went down the hole, into this tunnel. And in the tunnel, they had waiting for him, a motorcycle...
BIDDLE...with a steel cart on the front and rail tracks. And he rode to freedom, literally, along this tunnel and popped up in a house that was -- that had been built or was constructed sort of a bit further down the track and disappeared and vanished.
REHMApparently, digging that tunnel and providing transportation and everything cost about $5 million. Sort of penny change...
DREAZENRight. I mean, this is a...
DREAZEN...for the head of one of the wealthiest and frankly most violent cartels on the planet, the Sinaloa cartel, you know, this tunnel had lighting, it had ventilation, it had some form of air-conditioning. It's -- on one level, it's funny. I mean, he also escaped previously from another maximum-security jail by hiding in a laundry cart. So this is not the first time he's gone out. Part of it, that he's very short. Some deride him as a midget.
REHMFive foot, six.
DREAZENSo it makes it a little bit easier for him to escape. But it shows, too, kind of serious these things among -- a lot of this we can laugh at because it is so absurd. At the same time, the astounding corruption of the Mexican legal system and the notion that you're building a tunnel -- I wish Washington could build tunnels quite as effectively, the Red Line Metro up to your studio was delayed again.
DREAZENBut here we have Mexico building a corrupt tunnel under a jail and built it on time. It's easy. It comes in under budget. But this is a man responsible for thousands of debts, right? So we...
DREAZEN...that tends to get lost a little bit.
REHMAnd here's the thing. The U.S. knew that something was going down.
LABOTTWell, the U.S. had warned the Mexicans of this, okay? And don't forget, like, when he escaped the first time and then you, you know, it's not brain surgery that he'd...
REHMThey even offered to imprison him here.
LABOTT...try it again. And then he was rearrested in a -- in one of the kind of most widely publicized and celebrated joint sting operations between the U.S. and Mexico to put him back in jail. The Americans wanted him to be extradited to the United States because they foresaw this. And the Mexicans kind of put them at bay and said no. You know, a lot of Mexicans wanted, you know, him to be tried in Mexico for the crimes that he committed and all the violence that he committed against the American people. But this issue has really become reflective of a larger strain between the U.S. and Mexico over the drug issues.
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." The question becomes, help from inside or help from outside, or both, Yochi?
DREAZENI think all of the above.
DREAZENI mean, there's no possible way that you could dig out a tunnel that went for at least close to a mile, if not a little bit longer than a mile, with -- as Jo said -- with tracks and with lighting and with air-conditioning, without people above at the prison, people who knew the layout of the prison, having a sense of A. to build it without being noticed, but B. to have a tunnel -- a ladder that goes straight from this tunnel to his cell. You can't possibly build that without guards having provided information on the exact layout of the cell, without other Mexican officials having some sense of the construction, (unintelligible) without someone on the other end, the house in which he popped out of.
DREAZENBut when you look at the video, I mean, he -- it's not like he's, you know, squeezing his way through the bars. It's...
LABOTTHe just walks...
DREAZEN...he shoves in and there's the little ladder and down he goes. And there's the motorcycle and away he drives.
BIDDLEI mean, I agree. And with this huge hole in the middle of his shower floor, you would have thought that somebody would have spotted that. And actually I believe the Mexican authorities have now arrested at least 22 prison officers. And they're being, you know, questioned into this. But I think, as Yochi said, I mean, the problem with it is, this is actually very serious. I mean, this guy is the head of one of the nastiest, most notorious cartels in Mexico, responsible for drug trafficking, responsible for thousands of deaths. I did see a report somewhere that, in Chicago, he's the most -- he's the number-one public enemy because they believe he's behind something like 88 percent of all the drugs that go into Chicago. So, you know?
LABOTTAnd I mean, just one more fun fact. I mean, it's true. It's a very serious issue of the corruption. But, like, just to go to the lengths that, you know, the prison officials inside the prison and outside, they apparently put like song birds through the shaft to see if there was a...
REHMCheck the air.
LABOTT...check the ventilation. And then there were oxygen tanks waiting for him there. So, I mean, there's nothing of this that doesn't wreak of corruption inside and a lot of help outside.
REHMSo his band of servers clearly continued to exist and operate and get money and do everything it needed to do while he was in jail.
DREAZENWhich, itself, is very interesting. Because there's always this theory that if you, you know, to use the cliché, you cut off the head of the snake and then things crumble, particularly in drug cartels. There's a feeling that if you eliminate the leadership, then the next tiers start to fight among themselves and the hierarchy crumbles and maybe you then have -- in an optimistic case, they're easier to break -- in a less optimist case, there's more violence than there was before. Clearly, here, he was retaining incredible loyalty.
DREAZENI mean, these are people putting themselves at risk to not only try to figure out a way of getting him out but then think of all the ways that they could have been caught, when they're digging this tunnel, laying the track, putting in the air-conditioning, the lighting, the ventilation. And he had a lot of people willing to do a lot, to risk their own lives, to spend a lot of money to get him out.
REHMDo we know how -- at what depth the tunnel was?
DREAZENI think I remember reading that it was like 11 feet or 15 feet.
REHMEleven feet down.
REHMFifteen feet down.
DREAZENBut I'm not 100 percent sure.
REHMSo a ladder to take the...
LABOTTOh, a ladder. You can -- if you look at the video, he just seems to kind of, you know, go there...
REHMWalk down, maybe stairs.
LABOTT...it seemed like, you know, one person -- one person in Mexico said that he basically, you know, went down that like Alice in Wonderland went down the rabbit hole.
LABOTTIt's really quite amazing.
REHMI should say. Elise Labott of CNN. Yochi Dreazen, he's, pardon me, at Foreign Policy, author of the book "The Invisible Front." And Joanna Biddle, she's state department correspondent for Agence France-Presse. When we come back, we'll open the phones, take your calls, your email. I look forward to speaking with you.
REHMAnd welcome back. Time to open the phones. First to Galax, Virginia. Hi there, Bill. You're on the air.
BILLThanks for taking my call.
BILLYou had mentioned Mr. Netanyahu's visit to the US some time ago. And he was well received, but were there any particular representatives, Senators, who were particularly friendly toward him? Maybe to the extent of being less supportive of Mr. Obama? Thanks.
DREAZENYes. I mean, virtually every Republican in both Houses. I mean, the Republican leadership are the ones who arranged the visit. The Republicans gave him more standing ovations than they've ever given President Obama. The more interesting question, where I thought the caller was going, was were there any Democrats who were particularly opposed to it, and there, the answer is again, kind of yes. But in particular, it was the leadership. Nancy Pelosi went to the speech, others, many others boycotted.
DREAZENShe went to the speech, but if then the cameras cut to her and she was shaking her head, she was visibly angry, interestingly, the Congressional Black Caucus took this not totally, not totally surprisingly, but very personally. And some of the comments they made back were, basically of the gist that it was disrespect to a black President. So, there was fury among many Democrats leadership and rank and file.
REHMHere's a caller in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Hi, James.
JAMESHi. How are you, today?
REHMGood, thanks. Go right ahead.
JAMESWhat I got to say is I'm just finding it really difficult to understand the thought process of a few people in our government as far as going and dealing with known terrorist country and lightening sanctions against them. Basically getting in bed together with them. And they're turning around there and imprisoning our fellow Americans over there. And Pelosi wants to turn around there and say basically that one don't have nothing to do with the other, and we need to stay focused and all this kind of stuff.
JAMESI don't understand that. Maybe I'm just a simple man, but it just sounds ludicrous to me.
REHMNo, I think we're all simple people. And we all have questions. Many people have many questions about the deal. This was a question that came up yesterday at President Obama's news conference.
DREAZENYeah, he was asked why -- the question was asked in a way that infuriated him and Obama, you could tell from the response. This was Major Garrett from CBS, that he was just livid. The question was...
REHMWho is a frequent guest on this program.
DREAZENAnd is a very well respected reporter.
DREAZENBy both parties. He wasn't -- he was at Fox News before and had a good reputation there, too. But it was asked as, this deal is being celebrated. How can you celebrate it, one, when there are so many Americans still missing? Obama took offense at the notion of celebrating the deal. But there are reports, there are Americans still missing. One of them is Jason Rezaian from The Washington Post. There is a movie that came out last year about a journalist who was held, a movie called Rosewater that Jon Stewart directed.
DREAZENJason Rezaian has now been held longer than the subject of that movie. He's in poor health, there's still no sign of when he will be released. There's another American who may be dead, that, again, no sense of if or when he'll be released or if his body will be returned if he is dead. The question was a legitimate one. I mean, there does not appear to have been, there's certainly not an agreement to maybe that...
REHMAnd there weren't any negotiations.
DREAZEN...right. Or, that maybe it's a wink nod. That they'll be released in a week or a month. But it was certainly not something where there is happy news of we've signed a deal and we're bringing back these three Americans.
BIDDLEWell, I spoke to the family of Amir Hekmati, when I was in Vienna, who's another one of the Americans -- he's a former Marine, who'd gone over to visit his grandmother. It was his first trip to Iran. And on the day before he was due to leave, he was arrested and charged with spying. And actually, initially, he was given a death sentence, and that's now being commuted to 10 years imprisonment. But when I spoke to his sister Sarah and to his brother in law, they were actually quite adamant that they did not want his fate to be tied to the fate of the nuclear negotiations.
BIDDLEIf there was an agreement, fine. You know, but if there was no agreement, why should he be punished for something that ultimately had nothing to do with him? He was not part of the Iranian, of the negotiations with Iran. So, I think whereas the State Department and Secretary Kerry said this again this morning. On every single time that they met with the Iranians, they would raise the question of the fate of these four prisoners. And of course, Bob Levinson, who's missing, we don't really know where he is at all.
BIDDLEAnd the Iranians aren't even saying. They would raise their cases, but they have insisted that they be treated separately from the negotiations.
LABOTTAnd this is part of a larger thing, right? That the caller also makes the point about Iran's other activity, terrorist activity. Including, you know, US, Americans have been killed, you know, directly or indirectly at the hands of Iran. And so, what the President Obama has said, and what Secretary Kerry has said is that the US, you know, has made a lot of effort to de-link the two. They said that the nuclear threat was the bigger threat and we're going to address this threat.
LABOTTAnd that's what he said he did. Now, there are a lot in Congress who are negotiating, who are saying that, you know, this should have been a larger issue. Iran's nefarious activity in the region, but nobody else was ready to negotiate that, including the Iranians. So, they were saying, this is the deal that we could get. It's not the best deal. It doesn't deal with all Iran's other activities. And it certainly doesn't mean that we agree with Iran on everything.
BIDDLEAnd I think there has been a misunderstanding that when we talk about sanctions lifting. You're actually talking about the sanctions that are related to the nuclear industry. All the other sanctions, which are related to terrorism or other issues, will stay in place, including the US sanctions. So, there will still be methods of trying to stop Iran getting, you know, spreading these activities. Of course, the problem is that they're now going to get quite a lot of money.
BIDDLEAnd the fear is that instead of using that to help their people, who really want to see the economic benefits of this deal, they might actually pump it into other activities such as propping up Assad in Syria.
REHMBut now, considering the fact that the Iranian population is made up more of young people at this point, who weren't even alive when these sanctions first went into place, they were cheering in the streets. They were clearly very delighted. I mean, could the Iranian government legitimately, as far as their own people are concerned, use that money for things other than helping the people?
BIDDLEWell, I, I think the fear is that a lot of it will go to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. Rather than -- they really do need economic help. We had an Iranian reporter with us from Tehran and every day, he would get a text from his cousin and his sister saying, what's happening, what's going on? They're really very eager to see this happen and to get the relief that they're hoping for. But I think the fear is that yes, the Iranians can spend their money probably how they like. I don't think there's any sanctions on that.
REHMAll right, let's go to Ingram, Texas. Hi there, Bill.
BILLHi, Diane. Thanks for having me on.
BILLThe previous discussion, the immediate previous discussion about what Iran was going to do with the 100 billion dollars of oil money to be released under the agreement brings to mind that Iran has always been -- Iran's leaders have always been second and third level game players. And the US and Western allies tend to be first level game players. I'm wondering whether -- I haven't noticed any item in the nuclear negotiations that would, in any way, prevent Iran from purchasing nuclear weapons as other countries have done.
BILLAnd it seems to me that with 100 billion new dollars in its pocket, there ought to be plenty of people in the world who would be more than happy to sell Iran nuclear weapons. And nothing we are talking about now could prevent that.
BIDDLEI think the first paragraph of the deal actually states that Iran commits to never developing, acquiring or researching nuclear weapons. So, yes, there is a ban on purchasing.
LABOTTAnd just back to the issue of what they're going to do with the money, and I think that there is a big concern that the IRGC will get it, that President Assad will get it. And you've heard the Syrian opposition, very upset with this deal, because they think that this is going to hurt them in many ways and the Syrian people. But President Rouhani was elected on the promise of improving the economy. So, I think he has a very small window before the next election, to show some improvements in the economy. And I think that the Supreme Leader has always been a kind of arbiter of public opinion and a balancer of public opinion.
LABOTTAnd so, he's really going to need, to address the legitimate demands of the Iranian people for an improved economy, because, you know, the fate of his regime is also tied up in that.
DREAZENI'm zero for two, because I thought Bill's question was going for a different direction in the same way that the previous caller. The concern on this has been not so much Iran buying a nuclear weapon, but the Saudis. The fear, all along, and Americans have acknowledged this, that the fear of some form of nuclear arms race in the Middle East where, other countries, Egypt, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, wealthy powers, try to either develop a nuclear weapon or more likely, buy one.
DREAZENIn particular, there's been concern about the Saudis buying weapons from Pakistan, from whom they've had other military relationships, from whom they've both bought and sold weaponry. That's been the concern for quite some time and there is legitimate reason to think that the Saudis might try to do that. That said, buying a nuclear weapon -- it's not easy. And transporting a nuclear weapon is not easy. So, whether we're talking Iran, which as Jo said, is kind of barred from doing it. Whether it's Saudi Arabia who might want to do it, it's not something where the US wouldn't be able to detect it, find it, track it.
DREAZENThese things, of all the things that are trackable and where they could cheat is probably the one that's hardest to cheat upon.
REHMLet's talk a little bit about Japan. Its parliament passed a bill to give the country's military limited powers to fight in foreign conflicts. How significant is this, Jo?
BIDDLEWell, I think it's quite a big shift, actually, in Japanese domestic thinking and politics. And it's not accidental. I think that you've actually seen some of the largest demonstrations against it on the streets of Tokyo recently. So, just to scroll back a bit, what happened was after Shinzo Abe came back in again as Prime Minister, he wanted to change and amend the constitution to give the Japanese military a bigger say and to actually operate more like armies do around the world.
BIDDLEThey're constrained at the moment in the constitution, which was drafted after World War II, with the help of the Americans. He couldn't do that, so then he thought a couple of other things. He's brought in bills to try and change the role of the Japanese military abroad. And also, they signed a US/Japanese defense corporation agreement earlier this year, which also changed the way that the Japanese will be able to help. Basically, if there's an American now in trouble somewhere in the South China Seas, because it's under attack say from another foreign navy, the Japanese could now intervene. Which is something that they couldn't do before.
REHMAnd now China has condemning that, believing that it's a threat.
DREAZENThe optics and the politics of this are fascinating. The Japanese public opposes it. The US, who fought a brutal war with Japan, favors it. And they've been pushing for this, openly, for many years. So, it's just a fascinating reminder of how destabilizing China is. You know, China changes everything around it. It's like, you throw a huge rock into a pool and suddenly water splashes in various, different directions. It changes domestic politics in Japan. It changes how the US views Japan. It changes the way Japanese, one time rivals, view Japan.
DREAZENThis is similar to what Australia is doing. This is similar to what other navies, that are trying to modernize, other countries, they're trying to buy submarines to combat China. So, you have this entire re-alignment in ways that would have been unpredictable 15 years ago. Solely because of China.
LABOTTWell, and it's not only China. I mean, a lot of the government was suggesting that ISIS had kidnapped some Japanese, and there was a question whether, in a case like this, that the Japanese could try and take some efforts to rescue them or whatever. I think the main concern in Japan is that, is this going to put their citizens, or their troops, in war? And I think that, you know, there are provisions that prevent them from doing, you know, conflict. From going into conflict zones. But they could take part in, you know, peacekeeping missions around the world.
LABOTTI think the main concern, though, that they -- you know, the whole idea of Japanese pacifism, not going to war, would be maintained, and Prime Minister Abe suggests it will be.
REHMAnd you're listening to The Diane Rehm Show. And Yochi, finally, a German court convicted a 94-year-old, former SS soldier of complicity in mass murder at Auschwitz.
DREAZENThis is a man named Oskar Groning, and he was convicted of complicity in the murder of 300,000 Jews at Auschwitz. More particularly, he was known as the accountant of Auschwitz, which is sort of weirdly glib when you think about it. But the idea isn't that he was somebody who operated the gas chambers or who, himself, might have been involved in killing and executing, but that he saw what was happening, kept track of what was happening, was part of the kind of massive bureaucracy, which is also a little bit creepy to think about, that existed around killing.
DREAZENThe bureaucracy of tracking, of keeping very precise records. And that was his role. He, when he was asked in court if he felt guilt, interestingly, he said he felt moral guilt and morally guilty, but that it was to God to decide. But he couldn't ever bring himself to say that he felt other guilt. Guilt other than moral guilt.
LABOTTBut the judge was pretty clear in a very impassioned address to the court, and to him, to say listen, just because you took a desk job, a safe desk job and you weren't involved in flicking the switch didn't mean you weren't complicit in the mass murder of thousands of people.
REHMAnd yet, there was one survivor of the death camp that embraced him and said, publicly, as a 94 year old, we should not be sending him to prison. And she said, I forgive you.
BIDDLEI think that's extraordinary. I hadn't heard that story and I think it's an absolutely extraordinary sign of forgiveness. I think the problem with -- they actually said this could be one of the last Auschwitz trials or Nazi trials, because time has passed. A lot of these people have died or they're getting too old. But out of the 6,500 people who worked at Auschwitz as part of the Nazi regime, only 49 of them have ever been brought to a court or to a trial. So...
REHMSo, what does that mean? Are they continuing to live ordinary lives in Germany, many of them quite elderly.
BIDDLEI guess many of them did, or many of them have died and passed on without ever really having to pay any kind of atonement for what happened.
DREAZENAnd a very sad and dispirited thing about this is it comes when anti-Semitism in Europe is spiking, you know, not just in France, but in Germany and Russia, throughout the continent. The trials of Nazi war criminals were a tangible, visible reminder of what anti-Semitism could lead to. As you have anti-Semitism come back, as you have Holocaust denialism come back, as you have survivors and perpetrators die off, it's a very depressing mix.
REHMWhy is that anti-Semitism coming back in Europe?
DREAZENI mean, it's a hard question. If you were, I think, to take it at its most simple level, it's coming back because of radicalized Muslim populations that are conflating Israel with Jew. And you have, on the far right, you have Christian groups, as well, that have been anti-Semitic for decades. But you have a large, angry minority of Muslim immigrants to Germany to France, et cetera who are taking their anger at Israel out on the Jewish populations of those countries.
BIDDLEBut I think it's also the fear of the other, sometimes. What we see in Europe now is we've got a very difficult economic situation for many European countries. There's a flood of immigrants, particularly from eastern Europe, into countries like Britain, and I think part of that is also to kind of explain why there's a growth of anti-Semitism.
REHMAnd we cannot exclude the United States, where anti-Semitism also seems to be on the rise. Joanna Biddle, she's state department correspondent for Agence France-Presse. Yochi Dreazen of Foreign Policy. And Elise Labott of CNN. I want to thank you all and to tell our audience I'm going on vacation as of next week. I'll have some wonderful hosts in this chair. I'll be back with you on August 10th. And I look forward to seeing you again. Thanks for listening, all. I'm Diane Rehm.
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