Week in Review: Iraqi Killings, Kabul Riot, Iran Talks
LYNN NEARY, host:
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Lynn Neary.
Prime Minister NOURI AL-MALAKI (Iraq): (Through Translator) We shall never compromise with the dignity and security of the Iraqi people. That is why the cabinet directed the Security Committee to hold talks with the coalition forces, to lay down regulations about house raids and arrests.
NEARY: That was Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Malaki speaking from Baghdad, Thursday. Tensions are mounting between Iraq and the United States over allegations that U.S. military misconduct has resulted in the deaths of innocent Iraqis. The U.S. and Iraq are conducting their own investigations into incidents in Haditha and other areas of that country.
NPR's senior news analyst Dan Schorr joins us now.
DANIEL SCHORR reporting:
NEARY: Dan, Iraq's Prime Minister says that he wants to form a government security committee to coordinate the rules of engagement in Iraq. How much damage has this alleged massacre at Haditha and other alleged incidents of misconduct, how damage has it had on the U.S. military's ability to secure Iraq?
SCHORR: Well, it has caused a lot of damage, clearly. As to what the investigation will show, I guess, we have to wait. But as of now, you'll find Prime Minister Malaki saying he wants to investigate it. There's a test of whether Iraq is sovereign again. The answer is we're not going to turn the investigation over to you, but we will.
This reminds me, I must say, of My Lai in 1968. There were a larger number of people involved there, but there was then, as now, first the cover-up. But first you have to find out that it happened. And if Time magazine hadn't first reported it, we might still not know it today. Then, having found that out, then it is a question of what happened and who was responsible for it?
NEARY: On Sunday, Iraq's new ministers of interior and defense are scheduled to be presented to parliament. Now these are the ministries that will ultimately be responsible for Iraq's security. So far, Sunni, Shiite, Kurdish politicians, appear unable to reach a consensus on who should fill those posts.
SCHORR: That's right. And apparently now, Prime Minister Malaki is intending to go ahead and name them, even though there isn't any consensus. I'm not exactly sure how that will work. But the first thing he'll have to do, of course, as you suggest, is to have first on their plate investigating on behalf of the Iraqis what happened in Haditha and who should be blamed for it.
NEARY: An in Afghanistan, what appeared to be a traffic accident involving a U.S. military vehicle provoked a riot in Kabul this week. An investigation is underway there. Afghan lawmakers are calling for U.S. troops involved to be prosecuted. How much authority do the Afghans have in this situation?
SCHORR: That is the question. They said that they wanted to investigate this and take action them self. And the ambassador said no, you can't do that. They don't have the authority to deal with American service people. And so, how sovereign is a country that can't take action when their citizens are killed?
NEARY: Let's turn to Iran. For the first time this week, the U.S. said that it would join multi-lateral talks over Iran's nuclear program, but only under the condition that Iran agree to suspend its nuclear activities. Was there any real expectation that this strategy, this kind of strategy would work with Iran?
SCHORR: It is an interesting situation that's now being created. Iran clearly would like to deal directly with the United States, which the United States has so far refused to do. United States and the European countries and Russia as well, and China as well, would like Iran, if possible, to stop enriching uranium, which is one way of getting ready to build an atomic bomb.
So what happens now? What happens now is that package of goodies that's been prepared, and I don't know what's in it, but they've offered a lot of goodies to Iran if Iran will simply suspend enrichment of uranium and then come and sit and talk to everybody. You can assume that the Iranians have said no, they won't under any conditions stop enriching uranium. Well, maybe. And then if not, then you have to start talking about sanctions. And then you run into trouble with Russia and China.
NEARY: China and Russia, of course, have long resisted any international sanctions against Iran to stop this nuclear program. Are they any closer now to calling on sanctions? Do we know that after this week?
SCHORR: It really is all up in the air. As of now, it does not look very hopeful. If the condition for the meeting is that they suspend their enrichment of uranium and if Iran's says, as it just said again, they will not do that, I'm not sure where they go from there. But, you know, I'm not a diplomat.
NEARY: How large a role would you say Secretary Rice played in this week's negotiations in Vienna?
SCHORR: Secretary Rice?
SCHORR: Yeah, I think she played a very important role there. I mean, you'll always find that in the U.S. government, the Pentagon, and some of the more right wing people don't want to bargain at all. But Rice believes that you can get somewhere by diplomacy. She has set up a situation in which she has the six countries all on the same track, at least for now. And that really isn't bad. It may not go anywhere, but not because - not because Secretary Rice hasn't done a good job trying.
NEARY: Let's move closer to home now. There's been a change at Treasury. Secretary John Snow is leaving his post. President Bush nominated Henry Paulson to replace Mr. Snow. Now, Mr. Paulson has headed the investment firm Goldman Sachs since 1999. Will Mr. Paulson's Wall Street credentials give him kind of instant credibility at the Treasury Department?
SCHORR: Oh, he'll have instant credibility at least with the people in his community. That is the Wall Street people. There are other things he has to learn as the Secretary of the Treasury dealing with the international aspects of what he has to do. But you know, if he's going to have his name on the dollar bill, what else can you ask?
NEARY: And he's going to have some big economic issues to deal with: huge budget deficits, a possible return to Medicare and Social Security overhaul, unstable international economies. How much of his job is going to be damage control?
SCHORR: Well, a lot of his job will be to do the things which the administration has not succeeded in doing. President Bush wanted very much to reform Social Security, hasn't been able to make a start on it. He wants to reform Medicare, hasn't been able to make a start on it. And so now the new Secretary, Hank, as he's known to his friends, of which I am not one, but Hank Paulson now takes over some of the toughest assignments in this administration.
NEARY: And in Congress, President Bush again encouraged the House and Senate to reach a compromise on immigration this week. Any progress being made on this issue?
SCHORR: Not visibly. I mean, President Bush has a way of trying and keeping on trying. The basic problem with trying to do something about immigration is that there is a real split between those who want to have cheap labor, and those who don't want to have cheap labor coming into the country. And however much the President tries, I don't see him bringing the two together very quickly.
NEARY: And finally, Dan, East Timor. There were riots there. Clashes broke out between government officials and army soldiers who'd been fired from there jobs in March. The defense and interior ministers resigned in frustration because they had failed to stop the violence. And Foreign Minister Jose Ramos Horta announced that he would be taking over both of those posts.
SCHORR: Yes. Well, I'll tell you, Horta won a Nobel Peace Prize for the work that he had done in achieving the freedom of a tiny bit of an island. And what East Timor is a symbol to me of theses disappointments that followed World War Two, when one country after another country was given its freedom and its sovereignty and the result is that many of these countries, be it in the Sudan or be it Zimbabwe, you see so much suffering that goes on there and you sort of wonder, is this what we lifted colonial rule for?
NEARY: Yeah. Thanks very much, Dan.
SCHORR: Yes, Lynn.
NEARY: NPR Senior News Analyst Dan Schorr.