Week In Review With Daniel Schorr

President Barack Obama appeared on a series of world stages this week: the U.N. General Assembly and Security Council early in the week, then on to the G-20 meeting in Pittsburgh. Host Scott Simon reviews the week in the news with NPR Senior News Analyst Daniel Schorr.

Copyright © 2009 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

SCOTT SIMON, host:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.

President Obama appeared on a series of world stages this week - the UN General Assembly and Security Council early in the week, then onto the G-20 meeting in Pittsburgh.

NPR's senior news analyst Daniel Schorr joins us. Hello, Dan.

DANIEL SCHORR: Hi, Scott.

SIMON: And let us - of course to begin with the developments in the - the ongoing story of Iran's nuclear weapons program.

SCHORR: Yes.

SIMON: This week Iran announced they had a second uranium enrichment facility. President Obama appeared with President Sarkozy of France and Prime Minister Brown of Great Britain to announce that they, to say the least, objected to this.

SCHORR: Yes.

SIMON: What's the significance of this revelation?

SCHORR: Well, it's all really quite amazing. It now turns out that the U.S. has known for some time, maybe for years, that Iran had a second enrichment plant to - to enrich uranium. For some reason they decided on Monday to send a letter to the International Atomic Energy Agency…

SIMON: They, meaning Iran, decided…

SCHORR: Iran, yes. And decided to tell them - oh, incidentally, maybe you didn't know but we have another of these facilities. This one is underground and on some military base. And it really is quite amazing, so now we have crisis within a crisis. There is not one but there are now two nuclear facilities to worry about.

SIMON: Well, as you see it, what are the options that - that face President Obama and other Western leaders?

SCHORR: Well, they - they talk about holding Iran accountable, whatever that means. Clearly they are preparing a new set of sanctions, which will come probably in the fall if things remain as they are. Sanctions don't seem to work very well with Ahamadinejad in Iran. And so the question is, what happens after the sanctions? That is the question that nobody answers.

SIMON: So I could ask it of you right now and you wouldn't…

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIMON: …you wouldn't have an answer.

SCHORR: That's correct. Go ahead and ask.

SIMON: All right, Dan what happens?

SCHORR: I don't know.

SIMON: Okay.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIMON: Well, and you might have lot of company there. President Obama convinced the UN Security Council to approve his resolution on nuclear non-proliferation. But - but given this week's revelation from Iran and for that matter in past few weeks and months from North Korea, does this raise again the question, what's the value of a UN resolution?

SCHORR: The value of the UN resolution is to make governments feel as though they've done something. You've got there - they meet with the Russians, the Russians say okay, maybe we'll support you on this. It is a way to rally countries on a single issue and make at least peace among them if they can't make peace with the others.

SIMON: But does it have any effect on, let's say, Iran or North Korea, the countries that don't think the resolution necessarily is such a good idea?

SCHORR: Well, so far no. North Korea keeps saying, yes, we'll cooperate but then doesn't. Iran at least says get lost.

SIMON: President Obama gave a speech for the UN General Assembly calling for what he called a new era of engagement.

SCHORR: Yes.

SIMON: How do you analyze the - the kind of response that he's received?

SCHORR: It was generally favorable. It wasn't ecstatic the way he gets in some of his speeches. I think they like seeing someone after President Bush, somebody who would use soft power and not use unilateralism. He talks about we must all get engaged, we must all do this thing together, and that's UN talk. They like that.

SIMON: G-20 summit in Pittsburgh met this week. Leaders of the world's largest economies essentially said, look, we averted a big financial crisis and now we're rebuilding.

SCHORR: That's right. There's an awful lot of patting themselves on the back and so they said now that G-8 doesn't count any more, the G-20 is where it happens now. And they talk about international regulations and so on - and they use lots of very, very nice words and sentences. But the important thing is, things have improved since the last meeting in London in April and they like to take credit for it.

SIMON: I want to move to domestic affairs because the clock obviously is still ticking on the health care overhaul debate domestically in the United States, but I have to begin with the foreign question. Here we have a - maybe not entirely unforeseen but certainly as of this week an unexpected development with Iran and the revelation of this second place. Is the president's dedication towards trying to get some kind of health care overhaul necessarily going to be distracted by a foreign crisis?

SCHORR: Yes, I would say yes. I mean there are only so many things you can do all at one time. And here was a president while he's been away gallivanting around with all the foreign leaders and meanwhile not much has happened to advance the cause of getting a health plan. The Senate Finance Committee has been meeting. It is considering, I understand, up to more than 500 amendments, which means at this rate it's not really going to move very fast, while the administration continues to say don't worry, we will have a bill. Hard to see.

SIMON: And of course Afghanistan is still looming over the horizon. Admiral Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff, flew to Ramstein Air Base in Germany on Friday to meet with General Stanley McChrystal.

SCHORR: Yes.

SIMON: It is hardly a well kept secret that General McChrystal has written a report in which he - he says that he would like to have tens of thousands more troops, U.S. troops committed to action in Afghanistan. That creates a political headache for the president, doesn't it?

SCHORR: It does, because the president has been trying very hard to avoid the whole issue of sending more troops, and so what they've been trying to do is to keep the thing at lower levels, to have it go to the Pentagon and so on. But apparently the uniform military doesn't intend to let it happen that way. I think they are intent on pushing the president, who doesn't like to be pushed and especially on a matter of whether you're going to send more troops, and so this thing gets to be rather tense.

SIMON: NPR's senior news analyst Daniel Schorr, thank you.

SCHORR: My pleasure.

Copyright © 2009 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.