Saturday, August 08, 2009





Three US citizens were allegedly hiking and allegedly crossed from Iraq into Iran and are now -- the only point of the story which doesn't require "allegedly" -- being held by Iran. The issue was raised on the second hour of NPR's The Diane Rehm Show, where Diane was joined by McClatchy Newspapers' Nancy A. Youssef, Foreign Policy's Susan Glasser and National Journal's James Kitfield.

Diane Rehm: And what about the three Americans who were arrested for apparently crossing the border from Iraq into Iran, Nancy?

Nancy Youssef: That's right, that's right. These are three hikers in Iraq in Kurdistan who somehow crossed the border and we learned this week and again there's a question of what their fate is and what-what --

Diane Rehm: But they were warned. That's what bothers me. They were warned by Iraqis that they were getting close to the border.

James Kitfield: Can we -- can we put out an all points bulletin now: "Please American hikers don't go into the Kurdistan mountains near the border with Iran because that's not helpful. It's not helpful to you and it's not helpful to our diplomacy with Iran."?

Susan Glasser: And it's not helpful to Iraq which is so trying to change its image and saying that this is a place you can come to and this is a safe place and trying to revamp it's image and, um, this does not help it.

Diane Rehm: So what happens next or is there some ongoing communication, Susan?

Susan Glasser: Well, I think, unlike in dealing with North Korea, there is a much more established, you know, track record of Americans being able to engage with Iran through back channels. Europeans, of course, several countries actually have relations with Iran. So, you know, there's a much more filled out relationship that's ongoing even in times of stress than with North Korea for example. One question and I didn't see what the follow up was, I think these hikers actually were still being kept in Iranian Kurdistan which probably bodes well for their fate. You know, if they're trucked all the way to Tehran --

Diane Rehm: I see.

Susan Glasser: -- and they're put on trial as spies and that sort of thing, then they're going to -- you might need another President Clinton mission at that point to get them out. If it remains at that level, I think you're dealing with something, once the Iranians verify these do indeed seem to be semi-clueless students who were language students in the region in Syria, at least, a couple of them were. So perhaps they can still be handled at the level of clueless interlopers.

James Kitfield: History suggest they'll use them as pawns in whatever game in whatever diplomatic game they decide to play with us and eventually let them go. What-what I will say about this is interesting to me right now is that the clocks that are ticking on the Iran issue are almost out of sync. We -- Obama has set for next month, as a deadline for Iran to-to-to respond to his offer of engagement. A lot of people are saying we should have a tactical policy because you don't want to be engaging with a regime that's lost significant legitimacy because of these elections. On the other hand, the Israelis who are trying to sort of push them to peace negotiations are saying "You have got to at least put a deadline on your dealings with Iran and your sanctions because we think they're going to get the bomb sometime in the next year to sixteen months." So it's very difficult right now this-this problem, these internal problems with Iran, although interesting have really sort of skewed the diplomatic schedule that Obama has set for Iran and it's difficult to know how you put it back in sync.

We'll come back to that program in a bit but that is covering what's known about the three Americans. And it is, as serious news consumers know, The Diane Rehm Show that you count on to provide you information about Iraq. Each Friday, there's a strong chance it will be addressed in the second hour of the program (the international hour). (In addition, Iraq was touched on by the increasingly flaky Senator Barbara Boxer on Wednesday's program and it was addressed in much more depth by Diane and her guest Anthony Zinni on Thursday's program.) These are discussions, not 15 second headlines. And that needs to be pointed out because Pacifica can't do a damn thing on Iraq as is most obvious with Democracy Now! where Goodman wastes one hour after another each day. Camilo Mejia is on (this week) and maybe we'll get to hear about Iraq? Hear about Iraq? Goodman doesn't even know he's the chair of Iraq Veterans Against the War. Camilo has to correct on air. That's how pathetic and uninformed she is. Because one of the American citizens is a 'journalist' who filed a 'report' on Iraq six months ago for her program, Goodman re-airs that today. And that's supposed to thrill us all. Hey, maybe if Dahr gets detained, she can re-air one of his segments -- though she'd have dip back very far because she hasn't had Dahr on in forever, despite the fact that he's just released a new book. (We'll be noting Dahr's book later in the snapshot.) It's embarrassing and it's shameful and she, not Diane Rehm, claims to go "where the silences are." She, not Diane Rehm, rests her reputation -- in every public appearance -- on her supposed Iraq reporting. When it's time to beg for more money, she's on air reminding people that she did this on Iraq or that and my goodness what about the New York Times' Judith Miller????? It's about time someone told her she looks cheap, disgusting and flithy as she falsely uses the Iraq War to raise money for her increasingly useless program. If you're a serious news consumer considering making a donation to public radio before the end of the year, make a point to remember that it has been The Diane Rehm Show in 2009 which has regularly covered Iraq. Don't buy Amy's self-hype and self-promotion and posing. She's done nothing. So if you do have it to spare before the end of the year and you're wanting to donate to public radio, remember Diane Rehm's the only one who regularly covers the ongoing war.

Today Iraq was rocked by violence. Getting the most attention was a bombing outside of Mosul, targeting a mosque, in which Reuters counts at least 38 dead and and at least one-hundred-and-forty injured. (Despite that and despite the fact that the bombing was known early this morning, Amy Goodman didn't even include it in headlines. Typical.) Sam Dagher (New York Times) informs the bombing utilized 1 Kia truck with reports conflicting over whether it was parked or "was driven by a suicide bomber". Liz Sly and Saif Hameed (Los Angeles Times) report, "The massive bomb exploded as worshipers were leaving the mosque in the village of Shraikan after attending Friday prayers, officials said. The bombing, which demolished 10 nearby homes, is certain to raise tensions between Kurds, who control the area, and the Sunni Arab administration of Ninevah province, of which Mosul is the capital." Ernesto Londono and Dlovan Brwari (Washington Post) add, "Zuhair Muhsan Mohammed, the mayor of Mosul, said many people at the mosque were attending a funeral when the bombing occurred. He said the assailant, driving a Kia truck, got through a checkpoint by telling guards he was there to pay condolences to the dead person's relatives." They quote eye witness Hussein Abbas Farhat stating, "I was screaming, but I couldn'te ven hear myself scream." CNN provides this context, "Friday was the end of a Shiite Muslim celebration in Karbala celebrating the birthday of Imam al-Mahdi, the last of 12 historic imams revered by Shiites. Pilgrims participating in such celebrations have been the target of similar attacks by Sunni Muslims."

RECOMMENDED: "Iraq snapshot"