David Ignatius of the Washington Post on Moscow and President-elect Donald Trump, then, questions for Attorney General nominee Republican Senator Jeff Sessions.
A short time into a three-day cease-fire between Israel and Hamas, the truce collapsed. Israel said Hamas militants attacked Israeli soldiers who were dismantling a tunnel. For the first time the E.U. agreed to impose broad sanctions against Russia over its actions in Ukraine. The U.S. also announced tougher sanctions. Ukraine declared a pause in fighting to allow international investigators to reach the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17. In Libya the worst fighting since the overthrow of Colonel Gadhafi led the U.S. Embassy to evacuate. And Argentina defaulted on its debt after talks with bondholders failed. A panel of journalists joins Diane for analysis of the week’s top international news stories.
- Bruce Auster national security editor, NPR.
- Susan Glasser editor, Politico magazine.
- Yochi Dreazen managing editor for news at Foreign Policy and author of the upcoming book "The Invisible Front."
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. A temporary cease fire agreement between Israel and Hamas unravels. The US and the UN impose tougher sanctions on Russia over Ukraine. And Argentina slips into debt default. Here for the international hour, the "Friday News Roundup, Yochi Dreazen of Foreign Policy, Susan Glasser at Politico Magazine and Bruce Auster with NPR. I do invite you to join us. Call us on 800-433-8850. Send us an email to email@example.com. Follow us on Facebook or Twitter. Well, it's certainly not a happy news week, but welcome to all of you.
MR. YOCHI DREAZENThanks, Diane.
MR. BRUCE AUSTERHi Diane.
MS. SUSAN GLASSERThank you.
REHMYochi, talk about how and why the cease fire between Israel and Hamas broke down and the international reaction.
DREAZENI think, in some ways, it's as non-surprising as it is heartbreaking. You know, Washington went to sleep last night, as did other parts of the world, thinking there was a slight glimmer of hope.
DREAZENThat there was -- 72 hours brokered by the UN Chief, brokered by John Kerry, that Egypt was involved. Qatar, which is close to Hamas was involved, that this was a slight glimmer. And the world woke up and that glimmer had been extinguished, and things, perhaps, are heading downhill even faster. What you have right now is -- there had been a quirk to that deal. And the quirk to that deal was Israel was allowed to keep its troops in Gaza. Israel was allowed to keep searching for tunnels. That had been a pre-condition Prime Minister Netanyahu set before this was under discussion.
DREAZENObviously, that's something that would have led to friction, led to violence at some point, and led to violence eight hours in. You had soldiers dead, you had Palestinians dead and the potential game changer is you had an Israeli soldier kidnapped. That issue has such emotional resonance in Israel. They've given back, in the past, a thousand prisoners for Gilad Shalit, 700 prisoners for the corpse of an Israeli soldier. So, depending on what Netanyahu does, he has a choice. Choice one is go even further to the mat to try to get this soldier back, to batter Hamas.
DREAZENChoice two is negotiate and I'm not sure which way it's gonna go.
REHMSusan, how is Egypt involved? How is Qatar involved? What are they doing?
GLASSERWell, it's really important to look at the bigger picture of the region. I think, in part, that's why this war is happening right now is we've seen an unraveling of the order all around Israel's borders. And of course, that's affected the dynamics there. Remember that there was the failed peace talks and that was, of course, the immediate pre-cursor, in some ways, to this. John Kerry tried and failed with President Obama to broker a new round of serious talks. That didn't work out. Now you have a regime that's come to power in Egypt, military regime in Egypt that is determined to take on the Muslim Brotherhood inside of Egypt.
GLASSERAnd I think they are really de facto, probably enabling and allowing Netanyahu to continue fighting in a way that might not have been the case a year or two ago.
REHMBecause they'd like to see Hamas destroyed.
GLASSERAbsolutely. They do not have the same tolerance for Hamas and for the status quo that prevailed before. And so I think that really has changed the big picture. It is important to note that you haven't seen the hue and cry from elsewhere in the Arab world, that you might have seen. And unfortunately, that has enabled the Israelis to rewrite the script here, in a way, that every day, the rest of us are sitting slack jawed and looking with horror at these images of the fighting play out.
AUSTERNo, that's exactly right. What's interesting here is that we see on the television every day the pictures of mostly Palestinians being killed. And you wonder how is it possible for the international community to tolerate that, and that's really what drove, to a large degree, the move for this cease fire effort. And yet, as Susan suggested, the political dynamics work against that. There is pressure on both sides to keep this thing going. Neither side is satisfied with where it is. And normally there's a point which everyone is tired of the killing.
AUSTERWell, we're not hitting that point for some reason. And I think it has to with what each side's objectives are, and they are not willing to sort of stop where it is, even though they agreed to this cease fire. And the fact that it's resumed so quickly suggests how this is really a fight that's deeper than in the past, when these things did end. You know, in the past two times this happened, it was resolved and there was a sort of resolution to, you know, they called it quiet for quiet. We won't hit you if you don't hit us. That's not working this time.
REHMSo, what's changed here?
AUSTERI think that in both cases, each side is starting to see this in absolutes. You know, for Hamas, it's a question of what are we fighting for? They're fighting for, at some level, their political lives. And so their objectives are maximalist. They are seeking open borders. They want to end this sort of embargo of goods and so forth. For the Israelis, it's enough of, you know, it's demilitarization. Eradicate them. The tunnels, the firing of the rockets. And so, half measures, partial solutions don't seem to satisfy either side.
DREAZENIt's -- I agree, with one small caveat. Netanyahu, when this began, has talked about destroying Hamas. Other Israeli leaders talked about destroying Hamas. The rhetoric coming out of Jerusalem was initially very, very maximalist, very, very apocalyptic. That's not what they're saying anymore. What they're saying, in part, because they realize if Hamas left, the next group could be much, much worse. They're no longer talking, at all, about destroying Hamas. And in fact, they're very open about saying that's not their goal.
DREAZENTheir goal, and this part I agree with completely, is to degrade Hamas, to demilitarize Gaza. They're open now to the possibility of an international force. The problem is, who wants the job? But for an international force to be in Gaza, to be basically a buffer between the two. So, they're open to things that they were not open to in the past. And they're not saying that their goal is what it used to be. They're no longer talking about destroying Hamas. They want a weaker Hamas, but Hamas still there.
GLASSERI think this point about the status quo ante being unacceptable now in a way that three weeks ago, we didn't envision that to be the case, is important in thinking about why is this happening right now. There's a sense that otherwise, we have a cease fire and the same horrible game kind of prevails and then, a year from now, two years from now, the same, you know, rockets come over the border, the Israelis retaliate. The tunnels are rebuilt. That nobody wants to do that. But what's so terrifying, right, is that we've gotten rid of the old playbook.
GLASSERWe've said, okay, that's not gonna work. But there's really no clear sense of what comes after and while I agree with Yochi, that you're hearing some change and modification in the rhetoric from the Israelis, what you don't hear is a sense of what policies they really might be open to that would represent a change in the status quo ante.
REHMWhat about John Kerry? What about Cairo? What happens next there?
AUSTERWell, and that's a good question. I mean, the work it took by Secretary of State Kerry to get to the point where things were yesterday. Where it seemed as if there might be hope was really an extraordinary effort, where he had failed over the course of a better part of a week to get any kind of a cease fire. And then, you know, he's traveling in India, and yet, in the middle of the night where he is, they announce this cease fire, this 72-hour pause. The idea was that Egypt would essentially then convene talks. Now, all bets are off.
AUSTERBecause, you know, as Yochi suggested, the capture of an Israeli soldier is something that Israel is going -- they, I mean, they have already said in their statements this morning, you know, the cease fire is over. There are extensive operations on the ground. That becomes the priority. That is something that has to be addressed first. And so, what that does to anything involving Cairo is not clear yet.
REHMAll right, so, you've got nearly 1500 Palestinians dead. You have 7,000 wounded. Now, you've got the Arab world really wanting to clamp down on Hamas.
DREAZENYou know, I agree with the point that Susan made earlier. The silence is deafening. You hear from Egypt. In fact, you've seen on Twitter -- the editors and the deputy editors of a lot of the Egyptian state media openly praising Israel, which to my mind, is unimaginable in the past, when there wasn't fighting, let alone unimaginable now. You're hearing nothing from the Gulf, nothing from the Saudis, nothing from the Egyptians. Nothing from much of the rest of the Arab world. They do want a better Hamas. There is this turn, this belief that Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood, in the words of some Egyptians, were cousins.
DREAZENFirst cousins. So, to get rid of the Muslim Brotherhood threat, you have to also degrade Hamas, to a degree. But, when we think about what used to be the case, whenever there was fighting, the traditional case was fighting broke out, raged for a little while, the US used its leverage, Egypt used its leverage. Gradually, there was a deal, usually mediated or brokered by Egypt. That's gone. The Israelis do not trust John Kerry. In fact, they're open with their contempt for him in a way that, again, would have been unimaginable a few years ago.
DREAZENHe's mocked by the right. He's mocked by the left. The leverage they have over Israel is minimal. The leverage Egypt has over Hamas is basically non-existent. So now you have this hodgepodge where the US is trying to do something, Egypt's trying to do something. Qatar, which has very close ties to Hamas, is trying to be the Hamas sort of leverage pusher. But the traditional ways that these things were resolved are gone. So, there is no clear path in a way that there used to be, where you can say, we know how this will eventually play out. That's gone.
REHMSo, how will Israel deal with the kidnapped soldier?
GLASSERWell, I think Bruce is right. That we're talking about something that, for the Israelis, they have historically shown this is something that takes priority over almost any other security priority in wartime. And so, I think we're looking at that cycle of retribution and retaliation and escalation, potentially, which makes this such a dangerous situation. Which is why every single day that the fighting continues, you know, new events happen on the ground. Today, August 1st, is the 100th anniversary of the declaration of World War I by Germany.
GLASSERAnd it is a reminder that once war starts, we don't know where it's going to go. And escalation, of course, especially because of these two pieces of important context that Yochi just mentioned. Number one, this is in the immediate aftermath of the failure of American intervention to create a meaningful Israeli-Palestinian peace dialogue, at the moment, that has led to a serious diminution of US influence at exactly the moment when clearly it's urgently needed. Number one. Number two, Egypt right next door, it didn't get the attention here in Washington or around the world.
GLASSERBut has been undertaking a massively bloody, even more deadly, potentially, campaign against the Muslim Brotherhood and political Islamists inside of Egypt. So, of course, on some level, they're not going to be raising a hue and cry over Israel's similar crackdown.
REHMWell, in addition to Israel, we had many other international subjects, about which to talk. We'll raise them right after we come back. Stay with us.
REHMAnd welcome back to the International Hour of our Friday News Roundup, this week with Susan Glasser. She's editor of Politico magazine. Bruce Auster is national security editor at NPR. Yochi Dreazen is managing editor for news at Foreign Policy, author of the upcoming book "The Invisible Front." We are going to open the phones shortly but first let's talk about Russia. Tell us about the new round of sanctions, who and what is being targeted, Susan.
GLASSERWell, this represents a very significant escalation both in the United States' response and at last in the European response to the aggression -- there's really no other word for it -- aggression of Russia with its neighbor Ukraine. And, you know, on the U.S. side what we're targeting really is the financial wherewithal of Russian companies, and especially state-owned banks.
GLASSERAt the same time starting to look really seriously at how to curtail the energy sector of the economy, which of course is the real heart of the Russian economy. They've never modernized or really significantly diversified beyond their extraordinary natural wealth in oil and gas. And so that's a very significant escalation to target more precisely those sectors, financial and energy.
REHMBut we had to have agreement from the EU to be able to make that effective, didn't we?
GLASSERWell, you know, there's a big debate, and I'm no expert on this part of it. There is a big debate over that. Many people remember that P:resident Obama actually announced unilateral sanctions. He went first because the Europeans were balking. And there was a view that perhaps European companies would follow behind that anyways, that it would have a significant impact even though initially it was just the United States.
GLASSEROf course, this dynamic wouldn't be happening without the horrible downing of the Malaysia Airlines plane, the majority of the people onboard that were Dutch. The Dutch actually had been among the most resistant European Union members to having significant new sanctions against the Russians. And so that dynamic completely changed. I think it's fair to say, these sanctions with this level of harshness would not exist had it not been for the downing of the airplane.
DREAZENI completely agree again with a couple of caveats. There are loopholes in this deal. And it's important to recognize that even though this is in escalation, it could've gone much further. Some of those loopholes could've been closed. The fact that they're open is not accidental. Two of the biggest ones, existing defense deals are allowed to proceed. The most controversial is France has a deal to sell two warships to Russia. The first one will be delivered in October. France has said it will deliver it. The second one was slated to be delivered early next year. They've now said they're reconsidering, but they're wobbly on whether they will actually not sell it because of the money involved.
DREAZENThe other is, even if Europe were to curtail its energy purchases, which is not at all a given, China won't. In fact, Russia and China, over the last few weeks, have signed 30-year deals, 20-year deals where Russia will sell to China. China has equipment and expertise to replace what they lose from the west. So it isn't, unfortunately, that we have now -- we being, you know, the U.S. and its allies have now closed off the Russian economy. We haven't.
DREAZENThe other piece of it is, Vladimir Putin and his allies have offshore accounts. This has been known by U.S. intelligence for more than a decade. Those are not being touched. So, again, if you really want to hit him there are other things that can be done that are not yet being done.
AUSTERI think that's absolutely right. I mean, there's no, I think, claim here that this is iron clad but it is in escalation. And I think there are kind of two aspects of it that are interesting. I mean, I think all of those loopholes are, you know, a really important point to make. I mean, there are workarounds here for Russia. But one thing that was different this time and is important is the way in which the EU and the United States coordinated this. I mean, they are acting in concert in a way that they didn't really last time.
AUSTERAnd, you know, that's important because it is the Europeans who suffer the most. I mean, there is a sort of blowback problem. I mean, if you sanction the Russians, then if you're the neighbor you're the one who pays some of the price. The other thing is that they moved beyond sanctioning sort of -- the first round was individual companies, it was individuals.
AUSTERThey went to sectors this time. You know, as Susan said, you know, energy, financial and the military. It's not comprehensive. It doesn't shut down everything but it's broader. And they did target a few people who were very close to President Putin himself.
REHMSo what's Russia's response thus far?
AUSTERWell, this is the thing. I mean, so far they've just -- they mock the thing. I mean, they're -- and as would be expected. Sanctions are not a short term solution to a problem. I mean, look how long -- there have been sanctions on Iran for how many years now and there's still a debate about the fruits of that. I mean, it takes years for these things to play out. And in the end what you're trying to do is influence a political decision-maker in another country to get that person to do something.
AUSTERSo far, you know, there's no sign that Putin has decided that, you know, the pressures he's feeling to keep the pressure on Kiev are abating because of the pressure on his economy.
GLASSERWell, and in fact there's actually a scenario where exactly the response we don't want is an outcome of this. And that's what's been so striking to me in talking with, you know, either longtime Russia watchers. There is really a sense that although it's not necessarily the likely outcome that a very possible outcome of the western escalation right now could be to cause Putin to feel, well, you know, there's no constraints anymore. I mean, you know, I'm in totally new territory, and that it may actually make it more likely that there will be some kind of a Russian military intervention in Ukraine.
GLASSERAnd, you know, privately that's what very senior people inside and outside of the U.S. government recognize is a very real scenario right now. And I've never, you know, heard that before. And, look, you know, that's why there's such a serious debate over escalation when you're dealing with a volatile leader who's made it clear that he doesn't like to be backed into corners.
AUSTERSusan mentioned that it's the anniversary of the start of World War I, you know, the classic war of miscalculation. And there is a sense now that Putin may be misjudging the west's willingness to punish him. And the west may be misjudging Putin's willingness to be more aggressive in Ukraine.
DREAZENJust to put a few numbers into this conversation, I was at a security conference this past weekend in Aspen -- tough part of the job -- where it was pointed out that prior to the D-Day -- I mean, again looking back at history, prior to the D-Day commemorations in Normandy, Russia had about 28,000 troops according to the best U.S. estimates. In the run up to it there were 27,000. So Putin was able to say to the other world leaders, I hear you. Pulling back. And there were actually only about 1,000 left.
DREAZENSince then there's been a drip here, a drip there to the point that there are now 15,000 and rising. So the little bit of good will he pretended to care about is gone. One thing that's sort of on a slightly lighter note on this, but I think it's back to Bruce's point on the mockery of the U.S., yesterday a top Russian diplomat tweeted out a photo that immediately went viral where it had Obama cuddling a puppy, Putin cuddling what appeared to be a tiger or a leopard. And the text of it was, we just have different values.
DREAZENAnd I think this is just -- this is a top Russian diplomat basically saying, you know, go to hell.
REHMSo are political analysts saying you needs tougher sanctions?
DREAZENThere's a sense that you do need tougher sanctions. There's also a sense that so far there's been no military response from the west whatsoever. The NATO secretary general was here a few weeks ago. When I asked him to respond he said, well we're sending more training missions in a few months maybe. We have a couple more jets flying over the border maybe. So there's been nothing. There's been no ramped up training mission. There have been no significant numbers of NATO or U.S. troops.
DREAZENThe aid beginning with the Ukrainian military is minimal. It's sort of a replay, in some ways, of Syria where what's being given is very, very minimal nonlethal aid for the most part. So Putin is pushing militarily. The west is not responding at all. And you can argue that's a good thing because the fear of a miscalculation is high. You can also argue that sends exactly the wrong message.
GLASSERWell, I think Yochi's right that I expect that that's where the Washington political debate is likely to turn. Increasingly I think, especially among Republicans, there is a sense that there are many more tools available to ratchet up the military and the security pressure on Putin then Obama so far has been willing to look at. And I think so much focus has been on the economic end of it and the sanctions that that's likely where the political debate is going to turn, whether that actually changes the situation on the ground. Remember that, you know, it takes a lot of military assistance to change the situation on the ground.
GLASSERAnd in the end certainly Obama and his advisors at the White House are also looking at this. And they understand, you know, simple geography. And the bottom line is that there are 15,000 Russian troops on the border. It's unguarded. They can walk across any moment. There's all this intelligence evidence that they've started to release that shows that in fact that border, they're going back across already back and forth with weapons like that which was likely used to shoot down the Malaysian Airlines.
AUSTERI think the point Yochi raised is a really important one about the role of the military. And I think this is a growing critique of the Obama Administration across the board. You know, I don't know that greater military response in any form in Ukraine would make a significant difference. But what's interesting about this administration is that it takes the option off the table at the beginning. They make flat statements from the start that say, we're not sending troops to deal with Ukraine.
AUSTERAnd they say that in places like Syria. They -- you could go place after place and they take it off the table. And I've heard people who are senior people in the military say one thing you never do is you never tell your adversary what you're not going to do. And I think that there's a growing critique of the Obama Administration that it limits its options from the start.
REHMDo you see that this picture of President Obama's foreign policy is simply diminishing by the day?
DREAZENI think that, you know, we can and probably will jump around to other places that are melting down and going off the cliff. But let's think back to Libya, I mean, in Libya you had this famous phrase that's now become sort of viral of leading from behind. There is something that in the immediate aftermath the White House could say, look no American troops on the ground, no Americans are dead. Gadhafi's out of power, mission accomplished. Wash your hands of it. No debts.
DREAZENLibya is now a failed state. You had Benghazi, one of the biggest cities, now it's fallen to Islamists who have claimed it's now a caliphate. The government in Tripoli is so weak it can't find a place for its parliament to meet.
REHMAnd the embassy in Tripoli, is U.S. Embassy empty?
DREAZENAgain, as were the 80 heavily-armed marines who were there to guard it, they've all been taken out. And their convoy is guarded by F16s and armed drones because of fears that it will be attacked.
GLASSERThey're shooting the international airport. I mean, you know, that's almost the definition of a failed state if you can't fly in and out of it, right.
DREAZENAnd this was a place that, in the same model, which I completely agree with, ground troops are taken off the table. The White House made clear it wants to have as little to do with as it possibly could. And this is the result three years later.
REHMSo it is as though after ten years of war, the U.S. simply does not want to be involved with troops on the ground any further. Isn't that the feeling of the American people, but at the same time it's seen by the foreign community as making us look extremely weak?
GLASSERI think that is the tension. Certainly it's important to note that this is a widely held view across the American political spectrum, and that the bottom line is that President Obama here is reflecting, in fact, the views of many, if not most Americans. At the same time, interestingly you're seeing polls that suggest Americans not withstanding their desire to stay at home, are also judging his foreign policy increasingly harshly, because they don't want to be seen as weak either.
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Before we leave Ukraine, the international investigators finally made it to the crash site, Yochi. What have we learned about that Malaysian airliner and why it went down?
DREAZENSo the sad thing is they got there and then they had to leave very shortly after because a convoy of Ukrainian soldiers was ambushed. Ten more Ukrainian soldiers killed, so the international observers rightly thought, we're not being protected. This idea that there's a ceasefire around the crash site is gone. There was an extraordinarily powerful article in the New York Times a few days ago where the reporter went, and basically there was no one there. There were corpses and body parts and luggage which had been looted.
DREAZENSo again, think about the morality of somebody who loots the luggage of a plane crash victim. But that was it. There was no control over the site whatsoever. So the observers got there. They started their work. Then they had to leave because the violence flared up again. I don't think they're going to find anything beyond what we already know. Even Russia is no longer really questioning what happened. They're questioning exactly where -- it came from exactly. Maybe it was bought somewhere.
DREAZENBut the narrative of pro-Russian separatists shot down this plane with a Russian-made missile, no one doubts that. There's no question even on the weapon that was used. So I don't really know what it is they're going to find that would in any way change the narrative.
GLASSERIt might not change the narrative but I do think this really underscores, in a way, you know, the consequences of both, not just inaction but inattention. There were basically probably a thousand civilians killed over the last couple months of increasingly intense and horrible fighting in the middle of European cities in eastern Ukraine. And the United States was more or less content not to pay attention. European capitals were more or less content not to pay attention aside from this debate about what kind of targeted sanctions we can have on Russian economic entities.
GLASSERThe bottom line is, the conflicts say in Gaza got way more attention, not necessarily of the constructive sort but it really shows that had this plane not fallen on the ground, we are talking about a hellish war in Europe itself, in European cities, peaceful cities solely, as far as anybody can tell, the result of a very aggressive decision on the part of Russia. And look, these people won't even allow access to dead bodies in the middle of a field.
REHMAnd you know just a few weeks ago some people were saying that Putin may have realized he had gotten too close to the edge, to the brink of another full scale war and backed off. I don't see him backing off.
AUSTERNo. That's exactly what is so striking to me is you feel every now and then that there will be a shock the conscience moment, right. Something -- a plane with civilians flying overhead gets shot down and you think surely this will be the point at which people will kind of come to their senses. And yet, it doesn't happen. And now we're left in this situation where Putin may in fact escalate rather than somehow step back.
REHMI want to come back to Libya. What in the world began the violence that started there? It's now the worst since Gadhafi.
DREAZENI mean, it's the worst frankly since before Gadhafi. It's, I think, what shows what happens when there's a vacuum. Something fill it. In this case you had Islamist militias, you had quasi -- there's a general that had lived in the U.S. who's now gone back to say, I will retake Libya and crush the Islamists. Nobody really knows or really believes has the power to do it.
DREAZENAnd it's not just Libya. I mean, Libya and of itself, one reason why the White House could say lead from behind, is no one cares. It's not Syria. It's not Egypt. The issue of Libya though that makes it such that we should care is that the weapons depositories Gadhafi built up over decades have been looted. Those weapons are now all over the Middle East, all over Africa.
DREAZENI spent a month in Mali earlier this year and the fighting in Mali, the conquest of northern Mali by an al-Qaida affiliate was because they had weaponry looted from Gadhafi's Libya. So it isn't just that this is a small conflict we can kind of ignore. It's that when there's a vacuum things flow in and things flow out.
AUSTERAnd I think the related point is we see how all of these conflicts are related. So the weapons from Libya turn up in other places. Well, what's happening in Iraq is in so many ways connected to what happened in Syria. And the way in which the situation in Syria spun out of control allowed the Islamic state to become a force. And then it takes its gains inside Iraq.
REHMBruce Auster of NPR. Short break here. We'll open the phones when we come back.
REHMAnd welcome back. There's just been a statement released by Secretary of State John Kerry. I wonder, Yochi, would you read the important parts for us?
DREAZENSure. First, very broadly, what's interesting is it's entirely about Hamas, entirely. There's nothing in this condemning Israel. There's nothing in this pushing for a response. Just a couple of the key points. Condemns in the strongest possible terms today's attack. "It was an outrageous violation of the cease-fire." Hamas must immediately and unconditionally release the missing Israeli soldier. There's a little part here, which I'll come back to. "I call on those with influence over Hamas to reinforce this message. Horrific loss of life in this attack. A tragedy if this outrageous attack leads to more suffering."
DREAZENBut it is entirely about Hamas. The last launch is also key. The international community must redouble its efforts "to end the tunnel and rocket attacks by Hamas terrorists on Israel and the suffering and loss of civilian life." Nowhere in that is, Israel must ratchet back its offensive, it must withdraw its troops, it must stop its airstrikes. It is entirely, entirely about Hamas. And the line about those with influence, that's a direct line about Qatar. That's saying to the Qataris, you need to say to Hamas, stop this. And that's interesting. This is bypassing, as we talked about earlier, Egypt.
DREAZENIt's saying, Qatar, you need to do this. But it's just very striking that amid so much condemnation of Kerry within Israel, where the right and the left have been really openly, openly hating, contemptuous of him, comes a statement that's entirely about Hamas.
REHMHelp me to understand Israel's charges that Hamas has deliberately and accurately put housing, civilian housing, civilian schools on top of tunnels. Do we know that for a fact?
DREAZENI don't think there's much doubt about it, frankly. I mean there's -- you can argue it from the Hamas perspective. What they would say is, Israel is overwhelmingly more powerful, they have drones, they have surveillance, they have planes, so of course we have to put them where they can't be seen. The Israeli argument, which also has validity to it, is you will then guarantee civilian deaths. If you put this in a house in a densely-packed neighborhood, no matter how accurate we try to be, separate out whether we think that's true, civilians will die.
DREAZENYou've had Hamas rockets found in U.N. schools. You've had tunnels uncovered in schools, in mosques, in houses. And again, you know, we can probably talk on -- when the callers start calling in about the validity of one argument versus the other, Israel has said for years that the reason the Rafah border crossing was closed -- one of the reasons was to prevent the import of things that could be used against it. Concrete was a specific example. It now turns out that a huge amount of concrete was used for tunnels. So there's a spin game going on here. But there is truth to some of the things that Israel is saying.
REHMAll right. I want to open the phones now. To Marsha in Orlando, Fla. Hi, you're on the air.
MARSHAYes, thank you. Egypt has destroyed a thousand tunnels from their side of the border. You know, the tunnels going into Israel have been there a long time, from what I understand. Why couldn't Israel dismantle the tunnels from their side, instead of going into Gaza and bombing the people?
REHMThat question has been asked again and again, Yochi.
DREAZENYeah, shameless play. But we have a long story on our site exactly on that. That this was an intelligence failure on the part of Israel. The caller's exactly right. When Gilad Shalit was captured almost seven years ago now, he was captured and brought back through a tunnel. So she's exactly right, that the idea that tunnels existed was known. Israel -- there will be, after this war is over, very, very harsh self-critique of how Israeli security services did not know how many there were, did not know they were built from concrete, with lighting, that these were really sophisticated.
MARSHAThat even knowing, if the caller stated correctly, that they existed, they didn't do more to stop them. There will be a very, very harsh moment of self-recrimination.
REHMInteresting. All right. To Dan in Watertown, N.Y. Hi there, you're on the air.
DANWell, thank you very much. It's been quite a while since I've called you, but it's nice talking to you again.
DANI wanted to go back to the conversation, not just -- on Libya primarily, but Egypt and Syria, the whole area, the whole region over there. You know, once these radicals and terrorists and brotherhood and what have you, whoever gets into the power, the way that they're doing right now, they're very disorganized too. So my question for the panel is -- from their knowledge and their research and, you know, their sources and what have you, without revealing sources, of course -- who is really behind this quote "movement"? And I think it's more than just people carrying Qurans and, you know, praising Allah and what have you.
DANI think there's more to it than that, because they're highly equipped, good sophisticated weapons and what have you. So I'd like to know what's really the driving force or country, if you will, behind all of this?
GLASSERWell, look, I think it's important to search for bigger explanations. The problem is, is that there are multiple conflicts playing themselves out at the same time. And I think that's part of what's made it so difficult to sort through. Remember that there are -- there's a centuries-old sectarian conflict within Islam that is powering some of the fighting that is occurring in Iraq, for example, is a good example, as Shiite and Sunni continue various iterations of really a long-running, a centuries-old conflict. So there's that, layered on, of course, there's simple competition for space in a region that doesn't have it between multiple religions.
GLASSERYou know, Israel and the question of whether it's legitimacy has ever been accepted in the region, of course, has powered many of these. Many people have looked back even farther to the post-World War I settlement that divided up the region and enabled colonial powers such as Britain and France to come in and in the Sykes-Picot Agreement as being one source of ongoing conflict, as those borders and -- artificial borders and agreement finally unravel nearly 100 years later. So we have -- it's not so easy to say there's one conflict.
REHMAll right. To Dayton, Ohio, Shaka, you're on the air.
SHAKAThanks for taking my call, Diane Rehm. I'm a permanent listener.
SHAKAThen my question is, why is it that Israel has the right to always go and murder thousands, there are hundreds of people. This empire, this powerful empire that some of our (word?) are looking at, I say even players. Someone that you can always look to, to do the right thing. That America doesn't do anything. Doesn't it make America look weak?
DREAZENIt's a great question. I mean I -- and that's the question you could ask -- we were talking about it a little bit briefly before -- but about much of the world. Do we look weak in Ukraine? Do we look weak in Syria? Do we look weak in Egypt? Do we look weak in other parts of the Gulf? But it also comes back to this question leverage. The U.S. in the past had better relationships. George W. Bush, his relationship with the Israelis was extraordinarily close. That leverage is gone. They do not trust President Obama. They do not trust Secretary of State Kerry. They do see the U.S. -- it's an important point -- as weak on Iran.
DREAZENThey see the nuclear talks with Iran as a betrayal. So the leverage is gone.
AUSTERAnd the relationship with Israel is particularly complicated. The White House has found itself really pulled in two directions. On the one hand, it's trying to broker a cease-fire. On the other hand, Israel requests access to additional munitions...
REHMAnd gets them.
AUSTER...and the administration grants it. So they're providing the weapons to resupply ammunition on the one hand and trying to broker a deal on the other.
REHMTo Sophie in Annapolis, Md. Hi, you're on the air.
SOPHIEThank you, Diane, so much for taking my call...
SOPHIE...and to your -- to the people who are talking about this. I'd just like to make a comment about what's going on in what I call the Near East, in Israel and the Gaza Strip. I've been to Israel. I love Israel. I've lived there. I have very dear friends there. And because of that, it causes me great grief. And I liken it to -- and I've heard a lot of things in the news and even from people over there and, which -- who say, you know, if this were happening in the United States, if Canada was doing this to the United States, to a city here or to Mexico, you know, we have the right to defend ourselves.
SOPHIEAnd you go, yeah, that's true. Except for the fact that Gaza is not like Canada or Mexico. It would be more like if the, you know, the Native Americans are an indigenous tribe said, you know what? Like, we've had enough of this, and then would do the same thing. So it's -- I just see this great imbalance as to what's occurring. And I also see that the United States has a direct part in this. And that we can actually make a difference and we can do the right thing. We can't keep thinking about, well, if we do this, what is that going to lead to? You just have to do the right thing now.
GLASSERWell, I think the caller suggests, frankly, the difficulty of analogies in foreign policy. And the bottom line is -- of course it's not like Mexico and Canada and the United States. And we're very, very lucky that that's the case, you know, that we are talking about a very different neighborhood. And one of Israel's problems since the day it was born was the neighborhood that it lived in. And we're seeing many iterations of that -- that crisis play itself out.
DREAZENI think also, you know, the caller accurately highlights the fact that, were this one state attacking another state, there are mechanisms for getting the violence down. You could do direct negotiations. You could do clearer accountability, clearer responsibility. The enemies Israel fights now are no longer states. For 40 years it fought Jordan, it fought Syria, it fought Egypt. They no longer fight those countries. They now fight Hezbollah. In Lebanon, they now fight Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Gaza, potentially the West Bank. Fighting a stateless group is very difficult because who do you hold accountable?
DREAZENDo you bomb the civilian government that Hamas runs? Do you hold them accountable for the people firing rockets? I think the caller is exactly right. When it's not a state that's attacking you, figuring out who you respond against is very hard.
REHMLet's talk about what's happening in another part of the world, in Argentina. It has slipped into its second default in 13 years. What's happening? What are the implications, Yochi?
DREAZENA lot of times when there's a global financial crisis, people blame the U.S. A lot of times that's overblown. In this case, you can make a very strong argument that the U.S. had a direct role. You had an issue where Argentina was selling bonds that it couldn't meet the obligations -- vulture funds is how they're called.
DREAZENWhich is, I mean, it tells you all you need to know. But New York based financial companies bought up those bonds at about 20 cents on the dollar, then sued to say, give us 97 cents, 98 cents. A court in New York, in what was basically a precedent-setting ruling said, you're right, you're entitled to that -- even though other people who held that debt didn't get anywhere near 97 percent. They said Argentina owes you that money. Argentinean stock market plummeted, its currency plummeted, its bonds became basically worthless.
DREAZENSo, it was not a strong country. It wasn't that suddenly a strong country became weak. It's that country that was toppling, now fell over.
REHMSo what happens now?
GLASSERGood question. But, you know, as with so many of these crises, I think Yochi's point is really important, it was a country that already was toppling. The fact that it wasn't at the front of our radar screen, obviously, there's a lot of craziness going on in the world. But it is a story in many ways about bad governance. And of course, you know, there's been a very controversial leader of Argentina, Cristina Kirchner, and the economy, you know, has been plagued by basically serial crises. And so then you have, in that context, a U.S. court decision coming in.
AUSTERRight, I mean, and, I mean, what's interesting here is international financial leaders I think aren't as worried so much about the Argentina default and the cascade effect that will have on the economy. What bothers them more is the fact that a U.S. court sort of instructed who gets paid back first and that the old debtors from the last crisis are first in line. And that, they fear, creates a precedent that will have problems going forward for other issues of debt repayment.
REHMBut you also have to wonder about the people of Argentina themselves and how they could ultimately be affected by this kind of decision.
DREAZENYou're exactly right. It's easy to talk about these numbers in the abstract...
DREAZENBillions, ten billions, I mean none of us can really comprehend it. When you have a currency plummet, your ability to buy food, you're ability to buy cars, you're ability to buy TVs -- and this is a first-world country. This isn't an impoverished country half way around the world. This is a first-world country.
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Let's go now to Jose in Grand Rapids, Mich. You're on the air.
JOSEThank you and good morning. And congratulations on your very well-deserved award.
REHMThank you so much.
JOSEI think we need to, as American citizens -- since we directly and indirectly are a participant in this event in the Middle East and Israel and Gaza -- we need to really widen the information gap, especially in the American media. We have set ourselves still on a template of the Cold War regarding this and also on a very shallow analysis of good guys, bad guys. And we are missing, although I did -- saw for the first time yesterday on the -- on CNN and the New York Times, an effort to try to expand, to move the narrative, the simple and simplistic narrative of Palestinians versus Israel in this conflict -- to move it to understand the ample and widely regional conflict and other actors.
JOSEThis is not just a conflict between Palestinians and Israel. There is a larger subjacent conflict between Palestinians and Arabs and Arabs and other Arabs.
REHMI think you heard that this morning, Susan.
GLASSERWell, that's right. I'm glad that the caller reemphasized the fact that this is a part of the, really, the crisis and the radical destabilization of the Middle East that has been occurring. Remember, we are basically in a chain of events that started with the Arab Spring and that has led to a significant destabilization of many of the countries all around Israel. And of course that has been and become a part of the context here. We've talked about Egypt today and the massive crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood inside Egypt, which clearly is influencing its policy toward Hamas, which it considers brothers of the Muslim Brotherhood next door, for example.
REHMWhere is all this headed? Do you see this struggle, this bombing campaign, this kidnapping campaign continuing for months, for weeks? How do you see it, Yochi?
DREAZENI don't see it ending anytime soon. I mean the analogy -- Susan's point before, is it's always dangerous, and I agree, to use analogies anywhere. But when you talk to Israeli security officials, increasingly what they're talking about is the creation of a security zone, which is an anonymous sort of anodyne term, but what that refers to is in Lebanon. In Lebanon, Israel maintained a strip of land along its border for well over a decade, almost two decades, the goal of which was to prevent rocket attacks and infiltration. Now that sounds familiar. That's the goals here.
DREAZENSo you will very likely see fighting continue and you may likely see an international force. You may likely see some part of the border be fortified, some part of the border be controlled by Israel indefinitely. I don't think this is winding down anytime soon.
GLASSERJust a quick point on this question of where is it headed. In a way, actually this fighting and these political upheavals obscure kind of the bigger crisis of the Middle East that's likely to last for all of our lifetimes, because of demographic, economic and environmental realities. These are, if not failed states yet in security terms -- many of them are, but not all of them -- the bottom line is they have failed to provide for their people at a time of escalating population and reducing resources. And we're going to see that crisis really play itself out.
REHMLast quick word.
AUSTERI think that's right. I mean the one -- I mean it's not that long ago that we were talking about possible peace talks in the region. Now look where we are. I mean one thing that might come out if they get to a -- try to get the cease-fire going in, is whether the Palestinian Authority itself can somehow reestablish a greater role instead of Hamas.
REHMBruce Auster, Susan Glasser, Yochi Dreazen, thank you all so much.
DREAZENThanks, have a great weekend.
REHMYou, too. And thanks for listening, all. I'm Diane Rehm.
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