Week in Review: Iraq; Iran; North Korea; Gaza

Scott Simon reviews the week's news with Daniel Schorr, senior news analyst. Topics include the drafting of an Iraqi constitution; speculation about troop withdrawals; the Gold Star Mothers' protest; Iranian nuclear ambitions; and North Korean nuclear talks; and the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza.

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SCOTT SIMON, host:

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

Secretary DONALD RUMSFELD (Department of Defense): It's important that they stay with their time table. This will be a critical step in persuading the majority of the Iraqis that the new Iraq is worth fighting for, that they have a stake in it. Indeed, their new constitution, a piece of paper, could well turn out to be one of the most powerful weapons to be deployed against the terrorists.

SIMON: Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld speaking on Tuesday at the Pentagon. NPR senior news analyst Dan Schorr joins us.

Hello, Dan.

DANIEL SCHORR reporting:

Hi, Scott.

SIMON: A lot now does seem to center on completing that constitution by Monday.

SCHORR: Yeah.

SIMON: Certainly, as we just heard, Secretary Rumsfeld made it clear that completing the document is a top priority for the interim government and, for that matter, the US administration. What issues seem to be standing in the way of their completion right now?

SCHORR: Well, they're not telling everything that's going on there, but as I understand it, one of the big issues is the relationship between the capital of Baghdad and the provinces under the new regime. Another, and perhaps even more important, is the rule of Islamic law and the position of the Islamic clergy, whether laws will have to derive from Islamic law, which is obviously a problem with those who are not Sunni Muslims. Then also the status of women and also minority rights. So there's a fairly large group of very important issues still to be resolved.

SIMON: If there's not resolution on Monday, where does that put the reputation and the effectiveness of the central government?

SCHORR: Well, what it would have to do--was always thought they would end up doing is to ask for an extension of time, for up to six months. But it would be a rather a blow, at least for the Bush administration. They really want to keep to that time table if they can, but they may not be able to.

SIMON: President Bush held a press conference this week on his ranch in Crawford, Texas, where he'll be vacationing for the next few weeks but continuing to work. Now at some point this week, there had been reports in the press and certainly some people in the military were quoted as talking about US troop withdrawals.

SCHORR: Yeah. That is what the president calls speculation. It comes from the generals who would like to see troop withdrawal and therefore talk about it, as General George Casey did. And the president is apparently saying, `They may think that and they may speculate about that, but I make these decisions and as of now we are staying here.'

SIMON: Now, in fact, aren't there some talks about increasing some troop levels...

SCHORR: That's right.

SIMON: ...in accord with elections coming up in October.

SCHORR: Temporarily, as they did during the January 30th election. They brought in some extra troops because they find with a lot of troops around, people are more inclined to go and vote. And so apparently, as they get towards December and the most important election of all, they're talking about having an infusion of troops at least for that period.

SIMON: Let me ask about a scene in Crawford that has been gathering more and more attention. There's a group of Gold Star Mothers led by Cindy Sheehan who has been camped out on the road leading up to the president's ranch. Ms. Sheehan's son Casey was killed in Iraq. She apparently did have a meeting with President Bush in June, but she says she wants to meet with him again and has some questions about the war. She's in favor of immediate and total US troop withdrawal.

SCHORR: Yes.

SIMON: Do you see a meeting as coming about?

SCHORR: No, I don't. As a matter of fact, the president left his ranch to go and speak at a fund-raiser, passed right by these people in his car, passed by them again coming back and didn't stop. The president has said that they don't agree, and they obviously don't agree because Cindy Sheehan really is now totally anti-war, and she really wants to challenge the president on that, and the president doesn't care to be challenged.

SIMON: Iran this week announced it's already started processing uranium at a facility in the city of Isfahan, refusing a package of inducements that the European Union had offered to stop uranium processing. The French say that there's still some hope for a negotiation. How serious do you see this as a development?

SCHORR: Well, apparently, it's very serious because the three great European powers--Britain, France and Germany--have spent an awful long time making up a wonderful package of inducements to give to Iran if they would knock off their intention of doing all this work on their nuclear development, and it was just flatly turned down.

SIMON: Now does that suggest to you that Iran in the end, at least at the moment, is more interested in developing nuclear power...

SCHORR: I think...

SIMON: ...than it is in any other economic inducements?

SCHORR: Well, it's either more interested--this is an interesting question. They're either more interested in developing nuclear power than accepting inducements or they want more inducements.

SIMON: Yeah.

SCHORR: You never quite know.

SIMON: What's the likelihood that the UN Security Council would vote for sanctions?

SCHORR: Well, first of all, you have to have it come from the Atomic Energy Agency. And if they make a demand and that's turned down, as apparently it has been, then the next step is to go to the Security Council. You got the Security Council, and there you can vote for sanctions. However, I'm sure that at least China, if not China and Russia, would veto such sanctions. So that would not do much good.

SIMON: North Korea has just finished participating in multilateral talks on its nuclear program. The parties met for 13 days, recessed, but agreed to come back to talk later. Is that an encouraging development?

SCHORR: Well, compared with Iran, it certainly is encouraging. The Iranians say, `No, goodbye, get lost, we're going ahead,' and the North Koreans say, `Well, we talked 13 days, we seem not to have agreed yet, maybe we should meet and talk some more.' The way you judge these things is that if they're polite to each other and shake hands before they leave and set a date to return, that is going pretty well, as things go in that area.

SIMON: The Israeli withdrawal from Gaza is scheduled to begin on Monday. That will require the Israeli army, not doubt, to remove some settlers from their territories in Gaza. There's already been one high-profile resignation, Benjamin Netanyahu, from the Israeli government.

SCHORR: Yes.

SIMON: The Sharon government does not have a large majority in the Knesset.

SCHORR: No.

SIMON: What do they confront in what might be a series of pitched resistance between settlers and the Israeli army?

SCHORR: Well, the truth is nobody exactly seems to know. There are a certain number who are already leaving and asking for compensation, which they get if they leave without trouble. There are others who are saying, `We'll be here to the bitter end,' and they're putting in food and so on. There've been some infiltration of Israelis from the main part of Israel to help them. And this may be a bloody battle or it may go off very, very quietly. Now I remember when I was there the last time there was such a transfer to the Sinai, and I was in one of the places that didn't want to be transferred, but in the end--that was Yamit at the edge of the Sinai--and in the end, after talking for weeks and months about it, `We're not going, we're not going,' they went. So one can just hope for that.

SIMON: Let me ask you about this, finally. NARAL Pro-Choice America, of course, an abortion rights group, ran a couple of days of television ads critical of Judge John Roberts, who, of course, is President Bush's nominee to succeed Sandra Day O'Connor on the Supreme Court. They pulled the ads after a couple of days. What happened?

SCHORR: Well, what happened was that they apparently made a very, very big tactical mistake. They misread the position of Judge Roberts and thought they would make it appear that he was condoning the bombing and shooting at abortion clinics, and it wasn't what he had done at all if you read what he had done. It was, as seen by everybody, probably as seen by NARAL today, it was a big mistake.

SIMON: Thanks very much, Dan Schorr.

SCHORR: Sure.

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