The Pulitzer Prize-winning creator of "Bloom County" on the revival of his beloved comic strip after a 25-year hiatus and a new book about the origins of Bill The Cat.
In Syria, rebel leaders kill top military officials in Damascus, a brazen attack against the Assad regime. There is growing concern over the country’s chemical weapons stockpiles. A suicide bomber kills five Israeli tourists on a bus in a Bulgarian resort town. Officials have identified the bomber as a member of the Iran backed Hezbollah. Secretary of state Hillary Clinton visits Israel to address the Iranian nuclear threat and Egypt’s struggle to transition to democracy. And British government officials grapple with a major security shortfall days before the Olympics begin in London. Diane and guests discuss this week’s international news.
- Abderrahim Foukara Washington bureau chief of Al Jazeera Arabic.
- Natasha Mozgovaya Washington bureau chief for Haaretz newspaper.
- Mark Landler White House correspondent for The New York Times.
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I’m Diane Rehm. Fighting rages across Syria. Russia and China once again block U.N. action. America's U.N. ambassador calls the veto dangerous and deplorable. U.S. officials say a bus bomber in Bulgaria who targeted Israeli tourists belonged to a Hezbollah cell. Secretary of State Clinton visits Israel and Egypt. And security for the London Olympics comes under scrutiny.
MS. DIANE REHMJoining me for the week's top international news stories on the Friday News Roundup, Mark Landler of The New York Times, Natasha Mozgovaya of Haaretz newspaper and Abderrahim Foukara of Al Jazeera. I invite you to join the conversation. Call us on 800-433-8850. Send us your email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Facebook or Twitter. Good morning to all of you and welcome to you, Natasha.
MS. NATASHA MOZGOVAYAGood morning. Thank you.
MR. MARK LANDLERGood morning, Diane.
MR. ABDERRAHIM FOUKARAGood morning, Diane.
REHMGood to have you all here. Mark Landler, three top Syrian national security officials died in Damascus early this week. A fourth died later of injuries suffered in the blast. Tell us what happened and who they were, why they are so important.
LANDLERWell, Diana, the four of them collectively represent the core of the security apparatus of the Assad regime. The defense minister and ex-defense minister, a brother-in-law of Bashar al-Assad, who was also a key security official overseeing the regime's crackdown, and then lastly, the gentleman whose death was reported a day later, another senior official, Hisham Bekhtyar. The significance of it is that the suicide bombers were able to penetrate to the inner sanctum in Damascus, that the four gentlemen were killed during an emergency meeting and it raises all kinds of questions about if they got this close to Assad's security inner council could they get to Assad next?
LANDLERAnd so it's certainly, in the view of some analysts, is definitive evidence that the regime is really on its way out. That does not settle the debate of how long Assad may hang on. There's some folks that still believe he could hang on for a matter of a few more months. But there seems to be now a sense that really it's only a matter of time and that he can't recover in the long run from such a devastating attack.
REHMNatasha, who took responsibility?
MOZGOVAYAWell, the problem is that the Syrian army and any other organization that are there -- nothing is definitive. The problem is who is gonna take the responsibility on the day after Assad because the fact that their position is so divided, you know. It was used an excuse not to intervene in this situation, but the problem is that you don't have one clear responsible person who is ready to step in.
REHMAnd Abderrahim, there's confusing information coming from Russia's ambassador to France about Syria. What's going on?
FOUKARAYes. I mean he's been reported as saying that Bashar Assad has accepted to step down and leave Syria, but obviously his government in Moscow soon after that said that that's not true. They don't know if that's going to happen. We know that Bashar Assad has not been seen since the attack on his top security officials.
REHMHe was nowhere near that meeting?
FOUKARAWell, we don't know. Where the bombing happened is about 10 minutes away from the presidential palace. We don't actually know if he was part of that meeting or not and the top security officials that Mark was initially talking about. That's what's been reported. We don't actually know if perhaps there were others who were either injured or killed. In fact, today it's been announced that a top Baath party official who is part of the core of the regime did in the end die in hospital from a couple of days ago in the bombing.
FOUKARASo we still don't know all the details about the bombing. There's been reports saying that Bashar Assad left Damascus a couple of days ago. And that now he's directing the security crackdown from his birth place in the region of Latakia. So as Natasha said, there's still a lot of confusion. But these guys, in any event, the free Syrian army, they have been able to live up to the threat a few months ago that they would be able to take the fight to Bashar Assad in his den, Damascus.
MOZGOVAYAYou know, there was much talk that all these economic sanctions. Their main goal is not to convince Assad to step down, but to change the calculus of those around him. So there is nothing more convincing than, you know, an explosion inside Assad's apparatus. So whoever is responsible for the plan, the men inside, you know, we are talking about very suspicious people, very experienced people. The men who were able to get inside were obviously familiar, you know, to those around him.
REHMAnd now rebels are reported to have taken control of several border posts. Is this civil war, Mark?
LANDLERI think that most independent observers would say that it is civil war. There's no question that you now have fighting across a range of the country, fighting in the capitol. And the fear of the neighbors of Syria, both Turkey, Israel and Jordon, are that you'll see influxes of refugees crossing the border. And the Syrian strife, which always had the potential of spilling over and becoming a regional conflict, seems evermore headed in that direction.
LANDLERAnd I think what we'll see in the coming days is a great deal of anxiety on the part of the Turks, the Israelis, the Jordanians, about how an end game, a further deterioration in Syria could affect their own country's security and the security of the region as a whole.
REHMBut there's another concern and that is chemical weapons, Natasha.
MOZGOVAYAChemical and actually the Syrian regime also has biological weapons. And their chemical arsenal is one of the biggest in the region. And they have dozens, possibly, of sites where it's hidden. So the possibility of this stuff falling into the wrong hands is bad, at least in, you know, I’m talking from the Israeli perspective, if it falls into hands of al-Qaida. As the king of Jordan hinted a couple of days ago, it's bad for Israel if this stockpile is transferred, you know, in an orderly way to the hands of Hezbollah.
MOZGOVAYAIt's still bad for Israel, I think, for the region. And there is no easy way to secure it because if you bomb it maybe you don't have the full intelligence, maybe some agents will be released into the air. If you send ground troops, well, it's an escalation of the mess.
REHMIs there any indication that Syrian forces themselves might be prepared to use those chemical and gas weapons against Syria's own people, Abderrahim?
FOUKARAI don't know. But what I do know is from what the Syrian permanent rep to the United Nations said after the vote yesterday, he did address the issue of Syrian chemical weapons. And he gave his assurances, for what it's worth, to the opponents of the Syrian regime that the regime would not use those chemical weapons.
REHMBut Syrian soldiers have been issued gas masks.
FOUKARAThey have been issued gas masks. Some of them have been seen wearing them, but we don't know if they've been wearing them out of intent to use them against their opponents or out of fear that…
REHMOr to protect them…
FOUKARA…their opponents would use them against themselves. They would protect themselves.
REHMI see. I see. And Jordan's King Abdullah now says al-Qaida is in Syria. What's the evidence of that, Mark?
LANDLERWell, there are always linkages drawn between extremist Islamic groups and al-Qaida. So I think the evidence is not that concrete, but there's a fairly good suspicion that al-Qaida generally has made inroads into countries that are in an unstable situation. I think what's interesting to me about this recent surge of violence in Syria is the continued inability of the international community to marshal any kind of a diplomatic response. The U.N. Security Council vote was, as Susan Rice put it, kind of a deplorable spectacle.
LANDLERAnd it's just going to be fascinating to see exactly what the Russians need to observe on the ground before they finally shift their stance. Or are they really truly willing to cling to Assad until the bitter end with all the costs that that will cost them?
MOZGOVAYAWell, I don't think that Russian authorities ever were bothered about the human costs, not in their country and not in other countries. I don't think they have any personal sentiment for Bashar al-Assad. I think they actually consider him a weak leader. It's more of the structure that they helped to build in the past several decades. I think they're very pragmatic. They are ready to give up on this regime, but they are not keen, let's say, of the Western approach. They think that Americans are acting in irresponsible way.
MOZGOVAYAThey think that Americans don't really know what to do in this case. They don't have instruments to actually influence the situation. And they don't really want to intervene. So for the Russians it's all merely rhetoric. And they don't like escalating rhetoric. So they will wait patiently. And they are stressing that they do not attribute that big importance to the basically only Russian military base outside of the former Soviet Union in Tartus.
FOUKARAThe Russian position is very interesting to me in so many different ways. One of them, the attack two days ago, as much as it is a blow to Bashar al-Assad, I think it's also a blow to the support that the Russians, including intelligence support that the Russians have been giving him.
REHMAbderrahim Foukara of Al Jazeera Arabic. And when we come back, we'll talk further, take your calls. I look forward to hearing from you.
REHMAnd we're back with the International Hour of our Friday News Roundup this week with Natasha Mozgovaya, Washington bureau chief for Haaretz Newspaper, Abderrahim Foukara, Washington bureau chief of Al Jazeera Arabic and Mark Landler, White House correspondent for the New York Times. Natasha, suicide bomber killed five Israeli tourists in a resort town in Bulgaria. Do we know who was responsible?
MOZGOVAYAWell, the Israeli authorities had no doubt about it. The Israel prime minister almost immediately got with a statement that Hezbollah and Iran, the Kurd force, were responsible for this attack and that it's part of the worldwide campaign that in the last 14 months, there were attacks or attempts of attacks against Israeli diplomats or the Israeli or Western targets in (unintelligible) in Thailand, in Cypress and several other countries. So he pointed the finger immediately. And now we have American sources saying that indeed the bomber was from Hezbollah.
MOZGOVAYASo I'd say for yesterday evening, it was the United Nations Security Council condemned the attack, but they didn't mention for example Iran or Hezbollah or anyone else specifically.
REHMSo how does this attack escalate tension with Iran, Mark?
LANDLERWell, the question -- the obvious first question is what do the Israelis do? I mean, if there are reprisals against Hezbollah at a time when Syria is in such a calamitous state, I mean, that's yet another piece of tinder to throw on the fire. What's interesting is the linkages between the Syrian story and this story because Hezbollah, which has vowed its intense support for Assad and is allied with Iran, is viewed as a huge threat by the Israelis. But the Israelis at the same time are looking at Syria and the security breakdown there and questioning what it means for them.
LANDLERSo you have these extremely complex cross currents where action on one front could have affects on another front. And I assume that Prime Minister Netanyahu, who, for all his bluster, is actually a fairly cautious leader, is probably going to calculate all of this out before he actually takes action.
REHMWhat do you think, Natasha?
MOZGOVAYAWell, I think we had in the past few months a whole row of former Israeli top military chiefs who expressed their resistance to an attack, especially if we're talking about Israel attacking, for example, Iran unilaterally. We have very low support within Israel, the public support for a unilateral attack. So, you know, I don't think Netanyahu would risk it unless he thinks that Iran, for example, won't retaliate.
MOZGOVAYABy the way, we have already this covert war going on anyway. We have these attacks that Israel won't admit it has anything to do with it. Iran is saying that of course we know who's behind it. So, you know...
MOZGOVAYAWe had attacks against -- we had assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists. We had attacks against bases, facilities where missiles were stationed for example and produced. So we had the virus -- computer virus attacks so, you know, the question is who is to benefit from these attacks?
REHMAnd of course, Israeli's parliamentary coalition was falling apart as well.
MOZGOVAYAWell, it fell apart actually yesterday night already. It's just -- the Kadima party left the historic coalition that held only 73 days. And it's -- the question is, you know, some people said that Kadima joined the coalition in order possibly to provide Netanyahu support for attacking Iran. I think that Kadima just wanted to survive as a party. And when their bill of -- draft for the bill (unintelligible) service fell down basically when Netanyahu rejected it and offered some sort of a smaller bill.
MOZGOVAYASo Mofaz just left and, you know, now we have less hopes for peaceful Palestinians. And the war with Iran, I'm not sure it's that close.
REHMSo Abderrahim, there're likely to be early elections there in Israel. What could that mean for Netanyahu? What could it mean for, as Natasha pointed out, the Palestinians?
FOUKARAWell, I think at least for the remainder of Barack Obama's mandate, whether he wins a second term or not, we don't know. But for the remainder of his first mandate, I don't see anything significant happening between the Israelis and the Palestinians. What happens beyond the election in November, if Barack Obama wins a second term, the feeling in the Arab world is that obviously Barack Obama right now is shackled by his own electoral considerations.
FOUKARAOne of those considerations is that he should not be seen as pressing Netanyahu too hard on the Palestinian track. And that may be once he's secured a second term you may see different dynamics between the Israelis and the Palestinians. I'm not sure to what extent Benjamin Netanyahu's -- Natasha probably know better about this than I do -- I'm not sure to what extent Netanyahu's government is actually undermined, to what extent it's really undermined by Kadima party leaving it.
FOUKARAI mean, he still has a majority in the Knesset of 64 seats. And so he can still administer things. I'm not sure how important the Palestinian track for him is at this particular point in time, particularly given what's happening in Syria and particularly given what the ramifications of Syria for Iran might be.
MOZGOVAYAWell, you're talking about majority. The question is what kind of majority? When he's again, let's say, in bed with the right, right, right two-winger parties I don't see there are any perspective for, you know, any willingness for a peacemaking. And now, for example, we had Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal visiting Egypt. I don't think that the moderate Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, I don't think he feels he has backing of any external actor right now. Not the U.S. That's obviously back to Israel. Not -- there is no Mubarak anymore to vow for him. So I don't think either side now is in a hurry to close any deals.
REHMAnd of course, Secretary of State Clinton visited Israel for the first time in two years. What was the purpose of her visit, Mark?
LANDLERWell, she's one of a cavalcade of U.S. officials that are going to Israel this summer. Tom Donnell and the National Security advisor went. Leon Panetta the defense secretary is going. Interestingly he will arrive shortly after Mitt Romney, the Republican nominee, makes his visit to Israel, which infuses a dose of American domestic politics into the situation.
LANDLERI think the general message that American officials have been bringing to the Israelis is simple. It's, we've got your back. We will not allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon. And because we're willing to make that pledge so publicly, you should feel comfortable in holding off on any preemptive military strikes that you may be contemplating. That particular drumbeat has actually lessened a bit in the last two months in Israel. There was a period in the spring where Ehud Barack and Netanyahu spoke openly about how long Israel would be willing to wait before it took unilateral action. You don't hear as much about that now.
LANDLERBut I think the Americans continue to make that point to the Israelis because, as Abderrahim pointed out, there is a huge premium in the White House right now on keeping a lid on all of these various issues until November 7.
REHMAnd here's an email on Syria from Travis in Louisville, Ky. who says, "In additional to Venezuela and Russia we come to find out Cuba, Ecuador, Bolivia, Nicaragua, China, Lebanon, Iran and Iraq are against regime change as well. And on top of that Pakistan and South Africa abstained in yesterday's UN vote for more sanctions. Are you sure Assad is as isolated in the world as you say?" Mark.
LANDLERWell look, a lot of the countries on that list will reflexively vote against something that they perceive as being directed by the West or the United States. That said, it's true that several of these countries that historically were not aligned don't like the suggestion or implication that the west is somehow pushing out an Arab leader. My own view on this is it's all rather academic. You've got Damascus in flames. You have his entire security inner council killed in a bombing. So I think that whether or not he's isolated internationally now is less relevant than how he's faring within his own country.
REHMHow fast is this story likely to move, Abderrahim?
REHMWith Assad, yeah.
FOUKARAThe fall of Assad.
FOUKARAWell, I mean, I tend to try and be conservative and relativist in my judgment on how quickly Bashar Assad will fall. I think he is finished, politically, militarily he is done.
REHMHe doesn't know it yet, though.
FOUKARAHe doesn't know it yet. It may, as Mark said, take some time before we actually get to that clear outcome when he's either killed or captured or he leaves the country, whatever the outcome...
REHMAnd then what would the outcome be?
FOUKARAWell, that's the thing. The thing is that his departure, whatever shape or form it takes, may not necessarily be a good outcome for everyone. It may not necessarily be a good outcome for Syria. It may necessarily be a good outcome for the region. It may not necessarily be a good outcome for the west and its regional allies in the fight against Bashar Assad.
FOUKARAActually, if you'd like, I'd just like to take a wider circle on the issue of Russia because it seems to me that for Russia, as Natasha said at the outset, Russia doesn't -- Putin doesn't really care about Bashar Assad. It seems to me that he's real interest is Iran 'cause he knows that if Bashar -- if Syria goes than the position of Iran regionally is undermined. And Iran is a Shiite country that is supporting Russia.
FOUKARATurkey is an ally of the west. It is a Sunni country and not only that, it has very strong ties to some of the Muslim republics surrounding Russia. They're not just Muslim. They're Turkic. They're from the same family. And an extension of Turkish influence into that part of Asia means an extension of Western influence around Russia. That is why the Russians are extremely concerned about Syria. And to forestall the undermining of the position of Iran, they have taken the position they have on Syria.
REHMAnd the Associated Press is reporting the UN Security Council has unanimously approved a resolution extending the 300 strong UN observer force in Syria for a final 30 days. While leaving open the possibility of an extension Russia said it would veto the original British draft but join the 14 other council members Friday, today, in supporting a revised British text. It would end the observer mission in 30 days, but renew it if Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and the Security Council confirm that the use of heavy weapons has ended and the level of violence in Syria is reduced.
MOZGOVAYAThey obviously want help, over 300 people were killed in Syria yesterday...
MOZGOVAYA...find what's wrong. And this mission, with all good intentions so far didn't save the lives, which was its core mission. And I think we're looking maybe at the wrong question because Israeli, for example, intelligence chief recently warned that the biggest threat to the so-called (word?) of Syria that it might just, you know, become a country with regions controlled by different forces. And the question is whether removal -- maybe not of Assad, but of his apparatus is really a good thing now.
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Secretary of State Clinton also visited Egypt over the weekend. With whom did she meet? What was accomplished, Mark?
LANDLERWell, she had the first meeting between a senior U.S. official and the newly elected president Mohamed Morsi, Muslim Brotherhood representative. She also met with the top military official Field Marshal Tantawi. And it was a visit that sort of dramatized the awkward position the U.S. finds itself in, that the U.S. wants there to be a transition to a democratically elected government. But no sooner was Morsi elected than the supreme military council stripped him of many of his powers. And he is engaged in a very bitter feud with the military.
LANDLERThe military historically has long ties to the United States and is the recipient of 1.3 billion a year in military aid from the U.S. So at some level Hillary Clinton and the U.S. are comfortable with Field Marshal Tantawi and have been careful to pressure him without being -- appearing to bully him. There's suspicion toward the U.S. on literally all sides in this equation. The Muslim Brotherhood believe the U.S. fears them and wants to undermine them. The generals feel that they could be bullied by the U.S.
LANDLERAnd Hillary Clinton, who's been received warmly in the past in Egypt, had tomatoes and shoes pelted at her motorcade in Alexandria. And the crowd was screaming Monica, which was an awkward reference to her family's past, her husband's past. So it was -- it's been an extremely awkward -- it was an awkward visit, an important one that probably accomplished a few things, but demonstrated the ambiguous position the U.S. finds itself now in Egypt.
REHMWhat did you make of Michele Bachmann's accusations toward Huma Abedin, Secretary of State Clinton's aid -- closest aid, that she was somehow too closely linked with the Muslim Brotherhood, Abderrahim?
FOUKARAWell, that was an amazing statement. It was an amazing letter that Bachmann sent to Keith Ellison about that calling for an investigation. And, as Mark said, in Egypt she was pelted with tomatoes and eggs and shoes. Here in the United States the administration is being pelted with something much more serious and much more insidious, particularly as we're drawing closer and closer to the election in November.
FOUKARARemember Barack Obama at various times was accused, so to speak, of being a Muslim. And I'm sure there are some people who will buy into Michele Bachmann is saying. But obviously it just shows you first the level of fear that exists from the advent of the Muslim Brotherhood as a powerful player in Egypt, but also the interconnectedness of what happens in the United States and what happens in Egypt.
REHMTwo seconds, Mark.
LANDLERTwo seconds. I traveled with Hillary Clinton for two years as a State Department correspondent and got to know Huma Abedin fairly well. And I just can concur with those who say that these charges are baseless.
REHMMark Landler, White House correspondent for the New York Times. Short break, right back.
REHMAnd welcome back to our Friday News Roundup in this hour dealing with international aspects of what's happening in the world. Let's go first to Wichita, Kan. Good morning, Gary, you're on the air.
GARYYes, good morning, Diane. Thank you very much for taking my call.
GARYMy question is, what would the United States do or say or feel if someone back in the '60s or the '50s or even in the '70s had supported some of the "rebels" that were against the American regime. In addition to that, I look at the internet and I see all the escalation of white supremacist groups and as an African-American, I'm quite concerned about that. So suppose someone were to assist these rebels against taking down President Barack Obama?
REHMAll right, sir. Thanks for your call. Mark Landler?
LANDLERWell, I guess I'd say that the difference between a representative democracy even in a difficult time like the '60s and a brutally repressive regime that practices killing tens of thousands of its citizens to put down unrest, it's just -- to me, the analogy doesn't work. And while I take the caller's point about fears of white supremacist groups, I just think this is a very different situation. And the question of supporting the rebels is different when you're looking at a humanitarian slaughter, something we haven't seen in this country in the last several decades.
REHMAll right, to Orlando, Fla. Aiden, you're on the air.
AIDENI'm a fan of yours.
AIDENI'm a little bit nervous, but I just want to make the point that the outrage that is coming from Michele Bachmann and the other representatives that wrote that letter about infiltration from the Muslim Brotherhood, I think, has nothing to do with them being fearful of the Muslim Brotherhood. I think this has everything to do with Barack Obama.
AIDENThis is, in a way, to imply that Barack Obama is a secret Muslim, is in cahoots with the Muslim world, with the Muslim Brotherhood.
MOZGOVAYAYeah, well, in the age of uncertainty conspiracy theories are just flourishing. I'm not sure that it has everything to do with this theory that Barack Hussein Obama is a secret Muslim. I think it has, by the way, some echo in Egypt where people actually -- some protestors claim that Hillary Clinton supports the Muslim Brotherhood and she wanted an Islamist president.
MOZGOVAYAThere were theories like this because of the U.S. you know, release of the aid. But I think it's indeed, it's deplorable because, you know, I was born in the Soviet Union and I know what is the feeling when, you know, fellow party members are writing letters against you, you know, with these conspiracies. And I think that even if in the past, during the McCarthy era, people later discovered that there were some Soviet spies in the government, you know.
MOZGOVAYAThe atmosphere that McCarthy created was, you know, unjustifiable at any level and that's what this letter sounds like, you know, so singular to.
REHMThanks for calling Aiden. And to Bali, in Syracuse, N.Y.
BALIMy question is in relation to the attack on Bashar al-Assad's inner circle and considering the complexities of such an attack, what does the panel think of about involvement of foreign intelligence services setting up the situation for the attack to be successful? It seems like a very difficult mission and it seems like -- it smells to me that there was some foreign involvement in terms of intelligence services.
FOUKARAWell, I mean, remember that the Free Syrian Army has been described over months and months and months as being a total fiasco and then, all of a sudden, they have actually taken the fight to Damascus. And then, all of a sudden, they were able to claim that they were behind this attack that almost decapitated the regime.
FOUKARAI think what the caller is saying, certainly there's a lot of credence to it. I find it almost inconceivable to think that this ragtag army, as it has been described, the Free Syrian Army, was able to take the fight to Bashar al-Assad's den. And Assad, by the way, in Arabic, means lion. But without the help of foreign intelligence, whether from neighboring countries such as Turkey or, as we have been finding out, the CIA has been in Turkey trying to help the armed opposition in Syria.
LANDLERWell, I think the U.S.'s position, while of course never publicly articulated, is that they are willing to act in a sort of a coordinating role with other foreign countries that are active in Syria. And one of the things the U.S. wants to do is to ensure that to the extent that foreign countries, Qatar and others, being to supply weapons to the rebels, that those weapons go to the right people and not to al-Qaida affiliates or others.
LANDLERSo the U.S.'s role in this is -- there clearly is one. It's not been described in any detail, but there's no -- there's little doubt that the U.S. is active and playing some sort of a coordinating role in intelligence.
REHMI want to ask you all about a totally different subject. We have news this week that thousands of extra troops have been called in to help with Olympic security in London. What happened, Natasha?
MOZGOVAYAWell, the largest or the second-largest security firm, shortly before the Olympics, announced that they're not able to provide the required number of trained guards for the Olympics. And we're talking about a huge city over seven million people and we're talking about one million guests, I think, coming to the Olympics so now they have somehow to fill this gap.
MOZGOVAYAAnd they're bringing in the army and some people are saying, oh, you know, what a shame that soldiers will have to check bags. And, you know, coming from Israel, I'm saying that soldiers do check bags sometimes. It's not that shame, maybe, you know. Maybe it's a pity, but it's not a shame.
LANDLERThere's obviously been some finger-pointing, this being England and a lively democracy. The Home Secretary's come under some fire for not being aware of this earlier. There's some suggestion that the security firm G4S actually did let the government know there was a shortage and they didn't act on it.
LANDLERAnd it's contributed to a sort of a general sense of grousing that surrounds these Olympics. We have a story today from our London correspondent saying that there's been just a tidal wave of complaining about the police state, about the weather, about the cost, about the traffic jams and so the Brits, who on the best of days, are good at complaining are apparently complaining even more now.
LANDLERAnd we're going into these games on a bit of a grouchy note. Typically, this happens and then the games begin and people forget because there's such a spectacle.
MOZGOVAYABy the way, there was one other story that was also good from the train company, I think, that it published some sign in several languages and there were complaints that the sign in Arabic was complete gibberish, that it read like nothing so it's part of the complaints.
REHMAnd add to that the clothing that the Olympians are going to wear being made in China. Let's go to Dallas, Tx. Good morning, Andy.
ANDYHi, Diane, and hello to your guests. My comment is, you know, why we never hear on your station or in just the Western media about the Christians in Syria because 10 percent of Syria is Christian, you know, probably over two million Christians. They, for the most part, are staying neutral or supporting the Syrian government because, you know, they know what will happen to them if the Syrian government folds.
ANDYBut then also we never hear about when Christians are being expelled from territories controlled by rebels or churches being burned, looted, you know. And we never hear about how rebels treat people. Those people, that same -- that they don't support.
FOUKARAThe tragedy of Christians in Syria is the tragedy of Christians in many other nations in the region. And in fact, the tragedy of these Christian communities is the tragedy of many other minorities, not just in Syria, but in Egypt and other parts of the Middle East.
FOUKARAWhat's so sad is, in fact, when these uprisings or revolutions started, everyone thought that they should be about citizenship. They started off peacefully in Tunisia and Egypt and everybody thought that the issue of minorities, such as the Copts in Egypt would be dealt with adequately and appropriately.
FOUKARAAnd many Copts, in the same way as many Christians in Syria and Iraq and Lebanon, many of them are now saying that these revolutions have been militarized and the conversation is no longer about the citizenship and the right of minorities and everybody. It's about who has the hardware to actually pull off the victory to arriving at power.
REHMAnd a final story that certainly has gotten huge publicity in the last few months, the Eurozone and what's happening there, the IMF has warned against a sizable risk for some Eurozone countries. What's the IMF saying, Mark?
LANDLERWell, the IMF is saying that there's a, as you say, a sizable risk that several European countries could fall into a deflationary spiral which is an economic condition where prices, consumer prices continue to fall. And it takes what is usually already a weak situation and makes it even weaker.
LANDLERIn the case of the governments, many of whom are facing risks of sovereign defaults. It deprives them of tax revenue by deepening the recession if people stop buying and prices keep falling they collect even fewer tax revenues. The remedy that many in Europe are pushing is for the European Central Bank to do what the Fed did in the United States after the 2008 crisis here, which is to massively buy government bonds to inject a huge amount of liquidity into the system.
LANDLERThat hasn't been the European Central Bank's mandate and the bank to date has done some of this, but has resisted entering on the very big scale that the Fed did here. And the debate in Europe over the coming weeks will be whether the ECB should finally step off the dime and act in a much bolder way to try to arrest this cycle before it takes hold.
MOZGOVAYAWell, 25 percent, I don't know how big a risk it is, but it's quite certain that the European countries that need to carry this weight, they're not ready to cede their economy in this case and you know to -- let's say this anti-austerity measure would work, I think, much better had the U.S. stimulus succeeded you know 100 percent or at least without such resentment here so maybe it would be easier to convince European colleagues to go for it.
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Finally, to Mount Airy, Md., good morning, Joseph.
JOSEPHGood morning, Ms. Diane, thank you for taking my call.
JOSEPHWith regard to Syria, given Assad's untenable position and given Russia's anxiety, determination to hold on to its bases there, I'd like the panel to consider a possible scenario wherein Assad's invitation to Russia to send her troops, Russian troops to support his regime in Syria is accepted by the Russian government.
MOZGOVAYAI think Russians already saw that Assad is not really invited even to Moscow, you know, not to say anything else. It's not really clear what's going on with the Russian advisors that are usually based in Syria because there are over I think 100,000 Russian citizens living in Syria and there were some. There was some talk of preparations of an evacuation and so on, but to send, you know, troops there...
REHMNot going to happen?
MOZGOVAYA...I don't think it, well, it will become a full-scale proxy war, you know, a very serious scenario that -- I think Russia lost its appetite for interventions, at least big-scale interventions and they made clear, you know, their opinion about Afghanistan and the American attempt to go there again. I think they're now not in a position to do it and they're not willing.
FOUKARAI think if the Russians send troops to Syria, which I cannot envisage any scenario in which they would do that, but if they did, it would become more than just a proxy war. It would likely become a third world war, but I think we've seen a similar scenario in Libya.
FOUKARAI think eventually, the Russians -- and we've seen indications of this over the last couple of days given what's happened in Damascus, whether in terms of the Syrian army taking the fight to the regular army there or in terms of the bombing two days ago.
FOUKARAWe have seen some change in the Russian position because they have been dealt, at the same time as Bashar al-Assad, their strategy in Syria has been dealt some serious blows over the last few days. In the same way that they had accepted the defeat and to let go of Saddam Hussein, who was a much closer ally to Russia than Bashar al-Assad could ever be.
FOUKARAIn the end, they accepted that there was nothing they could do to save him and I think that if the situation changes enough on the ground in Syria, I do not see where else they could go.
MOZGOVAYABut talking about Iraq and Saddam Hussein, they did send an envoy to try to convince Saddam to step down secretly so it was, you know, maybe that's what they're doing now with Assad. That's why this French, this Russian diplomat in France -- what was he talking about?
REHMAnd finally mail from Daniel in Rockford, Ill. "Do we have any statistical insight on how much of the Syrian population actually supports the uprising?"
LANDLERWell, I mean, Syria is obviously a complex country with Christian minorities as we've discussed, the Alawite minority that the government, that the Assad family belongs to. But look, when you've got fighting that ranges across the country into the capital and in all different regions, you have to assume there's a substantial support.
REHMMark Landler of The New York Times, Natasha Mozgovaya of the Washington -- she's Washington bureau chief for Haaretz and Abderrahim Foukara, Washington bureau chief of Al Jazeera Arabic, thank you all.
MOZGOVAYAA pleasure to be here.
FOUKARAThank you, Diane.
REHMThanks for listening, I'm Diane Rehm.
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