Letters: Indian Gambling, China, Iran

Listeners write in and comment about Indian gambling in the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal... China... and Iran. Joe Cirinicione, senior assiociate and director of the Non-Proliferation Project at the Carnegie Endowment for Internation Peace answers questions about the growing tension over Iran's nuclear program.

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NEAL CONAN, host:

On Tuesdays, we read from your emails. We heard from several Native American listeners about our program last week on the role of Indian gambling in the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal. Listener Jeri Doney(ph) heard a familiar note. She's a member of the Little Shell Band of landless Ajibway Indians of Montana.

I watched my father fight, and my people lose money to lobbyists for years as we tried to gain federal recognition for our people. The system of influence-pedaling is corrupt, and to express surprise that the Indian people have been taken for one more ride is ludicrous.

We also heard from Nigh Crow(ph), a member of the Eastern Band Cherokee, who wrote in defense of Indian gambling.

Our casino in North Carolina is half-owned by Bally's. Some of the profit is distributed among the tribal members once every six months. Each of us receives a breakdown of the use of the money. It not only helps me pay my rent, but it also helps to build schools, and fund social and medical programs on the res. In the past, the only way to make money was to cheapen ourselves through the exploitation of our tradition and heritage.

Last week's program on China focused on the prospect for political change there. Kieran Goldman recently worked in Yunnan Province, and wrote in with an eyewitness report.

One of the biggest issues I learned about was the growing gap between urban and rural life. Many of the people living in the Tibetan village where I lived have very little knowledge about their rights. I think this is happening all over rural China.

Steve Friess covered China for USA Today, and offered a more optimistic report on the pace of change.

One of the most interesting developments in China is that gay culture is flourishing there now. There are several gay bars in Beijing and Shanghai. In 2001, I covered an attack in a gay bar in Beijing, and shockingly, the police investigated the incident, and found the culprit.

Last week, we also discussed the growing tension over Iran's nuclear program. It's a story that's not going away, so we've asked Joe Cirinicione to join us to answer a couple of email questions. He's the Senior Associate and Director of the Nonproliferation Project at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and he joins us by phone. Good to talk to you, Joe.

Mr. JOE CIRINICIONE (Senior associate and director, Nonproliferation Project, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace): My pleasure, Neal.

CONAN: Our first email is from another Neal, this one in Washington, D.C., who notes that Israel set back Iraq's nuclear ambitions more than twenty years ago, when it bombed a nuclear reactor in Baghdad. He asks, would your guest please comment on the likely Israeli reaction to Iran's actions?

Mr. CIRINICIONE: Well, Israel has made a number of statements in recent months, indicating that an Iranian nuclear bomb is unacceptable to them, and they would not tolerate it. Meir Dagan, for example, the head of Mossad, testified last month that, in a few months, in his view, Iran would be past the point of no return. All of this has led to speculation that prompts your listener's question. I think it's highly unlikely that Israel would take any action against Iran at this point.

It would be physically possible for them to strike the plants, but they'd have to fly over Iraqi territory, which is controlled by the United States, so any Israeli action would immediately involve the United States. There is no point of no return coming up any time in the next few years. Iran is still years away from having the ability to either enrich uranium, or make material for bombs, so I think there's a lot of rhetoric, but very little likelihood around an Israel nuclear, a strike on the nuclear facilities.

CONAN: Another listener email, why would Iran consider using Russia as a source of enriched uranium when Putin has proved that Russia is an unreliable source after attempting to cutoff or blackmail the Ukraine over natural gas supplies?

Mr. CIRINICIONE: The Russian proposal that's on the table is that as a compromise, they take some of the enriched, or rather, converted, uranium that Iran is able to turn into a gas at its facility, take that to Russia, convert it into enriched uranium there, and ship the fuel rods back to Iran. It's a costly, complicated Rube Goldberg type operation, but it might be the political compromise that could bring both sides together. It's very unfortunate, this conflict between Ukraine and Russia, and it makes the Iranian point. We cannot depend on any one nation to supply fuel, they say, we have to make it ourselves.

CONAN: Thanks very much.

Mr. CIRINICIONE: My pleasure, Neal.

CONAN: Joe Cirincione is Senior Associate and Director of the Nonproliferation Project at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Before we leave, an update. Yesterday, we spoke with writer Michael Ignatieff about his campaign as a liberal party candidate for parliament in Canada. Well, the big story there was the victory of the conservative leader Stephen Harper, and the stinging defeat of Prime Minister Paul Martin, who promptly resigned as leader of the liberals.

Candidate Ignatieff did win, though, and, according to today's Calgary Sun, could have a big future. Quote, "Michael Ignatieff, the acclaimed Harvard academic who won election for the first time in Etobicoke-Lakeshore, has been touted as a possible future leader, but his supporters had hoped he'd have time to learn the ropes as an MP before having to contemplate a shot at the top job."

If you have comments, questions, or corrections for us, the best way to reach us is by email. Go to our website, npr.org, and click on contact us. Follow the links to TALK OF THE NATION. Please tell us where you're writing from, and give us some help on how to pronounce your name.

I'm Neal Conan. This is TALK OF THE NATION, from NPR News.

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