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Week of September 3, 2002

Program 0236


US/Europe on Iraq | Transcript | MP3

Persian Gulf Update | Transcript | MP3

Seeds of Peace | Transcript | MP3

Pakistan Economy | Transcript | MP3

Swiss Neutrality | Transcript | MP3

Russian Mob | Transcript | MP3

This text has been professionally transcribed. However, for timely distribution, it has not been edited or proofread against the tape.

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Saddam Hussein is a man who poisons his own people, who threatens his neighbors, who develops weapons of mass destruction.

KRISTIN MCHUGH: This week on Common Ground, Washington debates plans to topple Saddam.

KEITH PORTER: And Europe voices its opinions on the Persian Gulf.

CHRISTOPHER LANGTON: It’s not a question of “Can we do it?” It’s more a question of “Can we cope with the consequences?” And these are the extra dimensions which really go beyond the complexities of Kosovo and Afghanistan.

PORTER: Plus, details of Iran and Iraq’s search for nuclear weapons.

DR. JUDITH YAPHE: Possession of a nuclear weapon does give a country like Iran, like Pakistan, like Iraq, what I would call strategic parity in the sense that that gives you some kind of leverage—puts you in a bargaining position with a country like the United States.

PORTER: All coming up next.

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US/Europe on Iraq

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PORTER: Common Ground is radio’s weekly program on world affairs. I’m Keith Porter.

MCHUGH: And I’m Kristin McHugh. The possibility of Gulf War Two has dominated military and diplomatic circles in the United States and Europe for weeks. The White House says it wants regime change in Iraq but has made no public decisions about military action.

PORTER: Still, there seems to be a belief that military action is nearly inevitable. This week on Common Ground, we ask, “How close are we to another Gulf war? What are the remaining options short of armed conflict? And will our allies lend support? We begin our special report with Malcolm Brown in Washington.

MALCOLM BROWN: Most of the summer talk inside the DC Beltway is not about whether a military strike against Iraq is in the offing, but how it will look and when it will happen.

GARY SCHMITT: There is a minority of experts and some folks within the administration who think that they could operate, or could go into operations, before the New Year.

BROWN: Gary Schmitt is the Executive Director of the Project for the New American Century in Washington.

SCHMITT: Now, I tend to doubt that. I think we’re talking about anywhere from January to March is more likely, but there is a, are a few folks who are sending out signals that it could be earlier than later.

BROWN: Nor—despite press leaks outlining various general plans—is it clear exactly what strategy the Pentagon would favor, if ordered, to fight another war with Iraq.

[The sound of tanks firing their main gun and moving through the desert.]

BROWN: Any new military campaign could look very different from what might become known in the history books as the “first” Gulf War.

NORMAN SCHWARZKOPF: This is sand from the liberated beaches of Kuwait.

BROWN: Then allied Commander General Norman Schwarzkopf marking the success of Operation Desert Storm, back in 1991. But, if the Bush administration decides to force regime change in Baghdad, the key measure of success will be the fate of Saddam Hussein. President Bush has made it clear that the Iraqi leader must go.

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Saddam Hussein is a man who poisons his own people, who threatens his neighbors, who develops weapons of mass destruction.

BROWN: Plenty of testimony at hearings held by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee this summer supported the ouster of the Iraqi leader. Former Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger.

CASPAR WEINBERGER: He cannot be believed and he’s an implacable and a permanent foe of the United States and that’s why I think he must be removed. We can have no peace in that most volatile of regions until he is gone.

BROWN: Other prominent ex-officials are also warning about the dangers of a new military campaign and the difficulties that would lie ahead, even if it succeeded in removing Saddam Hussein. In the hearings, held just before the Senate’s August recess, Bill Clinton’s National Security Adviser Sandy Berger urged lawmakers not to underestimate the challenge.

SANDY BERGER: Mr. Chairman, there is no question that the world would be a better place without Saddam Hussein’s regime. But if we don’t do this operation right, we could end up with something worse.

BROWN: Elsewhere, opponents of military action don’t dispute the Bush administration’s position that the Iraqi leader is a brutal dictator, but they say that’s not the issue.

PHYLLIS BENNIS: We can’t forget that the real goal here is weapons of mass destruction. It’s not who’s in power in Iraq.

BROWN: Phyllis Bennis is the Director of the Middle East Project at the Institute for Policy Studies.

BENNIS: The US simply does not have the right—nor does any other country—to decide what is and what is not an acceptable regime; who is and who is not an acceptable leader.

BROWN: Instead of military action, Phyllis Bennis argues, the United States and the rest of the world community should seek the resumption of United Nations weapons inspections, as carried out by the UN Special Commission on Iraq between 1991 and 1998.

BENNIS: We can’t forget that in the seven years that UNSCOM was on the ground they destroyed far more of Iraq’s weaponry than the bombing—the massive bombing campaign—that preceded it, despite Iraqi efforts to derail them.

BROWN: But the inspection commission’s former deputy chairman believes the current regime in Iraq will eventually acquire a nuclear weapon, to add to its existing chemical and biological arsenal. Saddam Hussein has indicated a willingness to negotiate the return of UN weapons inspectors to Iraq, but Charles Duelfer says, based on his experience, weapons inspections won’t work.

CHARLES DUELFER: We tried very hard for seven years but we found, frankly, that, you know, A) that these weapons were much more important to the survival of the regime, as they perceived it, than we’d anticipated. And, second, that, you know, we really didn’t have the full backing necessary from the Security Council.

BROWN: Charles Duelfer argues that the failure to force Iraqi compliance leaves no choice but the removal of the regime in Baghdad. He says the United States should try to get the backing of the Security Council, but also be prepared to go it alone, if an international consensus can’t be reached. Even European allies have expressed concerns about our opposition to the prospect of a US attack on Iraq, but Simon Serfaty at the Center for Strategic and International Studies believes that they can be persuaded.

SIMON SERFATY: The administration must assert that the decision to use force is a decision of last resort and to that extent we must go to the United Nations—we in the United States—and at least pretend that we are working on the development of alternatives to the use of force.

BROWN: The debate sparked by the Bush administration’s insistence on regime change in Iraq isn’t confined to the United States. It’s a controversial topic in capitals around the world. For Common Ground, I’m Malcolm Brown in Washington.

ALASTAIR WANKLYN: I’m Alastair Wanklyn in London, where the UK government traditionally stands beside the US on matters of this kind. Enforcing United Nations resolutions, it’s American and British warplanes that defend the no-fly zones in the north and south of Iraq.

[The sound of Parliament debating.]

WANKLYN: But in London, the Parliament is divided over whether to support a potential invasion, making any decision a difficult one for the UK Prime Minister Tony Blair. He plays down concerns, saying military action, if any, is still a ways off.

BRITISH PRIME MINISTER TONY BLAIR: As I’ve said before, action is not imminent. We are not at the point of decision yet. And there are many issues to be considered before we are at the point of decision.

WANKLYN: Tony Blair says ultimately it’ll be members of Britain’s parliament that decide what to do on Iraq. But elsewhere in Europe, nation heavyweights France and Germany have demanded United Nations approval for military action. They say they will not support intervention by the United States outside a clear UN mandate—regardless of what justification Washington may provide. But military action is only one element of a possible campaign, and many of those allies that America hopes will come on board are concerned about the political settlement that follows. Inside Iraq, the political opposition is split into many factions. And analysts fear the country risks civil war if the administration of Saddam Hussein’s Ba’ath Party is removed from power before a new regime is ready to take over.

CHRISTOPHER LANGTON: It’s not a question of “Can we do it?” It’s more a question of “Can we cope with the consequences?” And these are the extra dimensions which really go beyond the complexities of Kosovo and Afghanistan.

WANKLYN: Christopher Langton, an analyst at the International Institute of Strategic Studies in London, says there’s no clear successor to the Ba’ath regime.

LANGTON: What is the opposition inside Iraq? There is the Kurdish population in northern Iraq. There are the Marsh Arabs, who are Shias, in the south. There is the opposition group based in Iran, the Supreme Council for Revolution in Iraq. And there are the Iranians themselves. Now, none of these groups are united.

WANKLYN: But unity is something some Iraqi exiles have had time to work on as they ponder how to return to a country that does not tolerate political pluralism. Here in London, a coalition of opposition parties calling itself the Iraqi National Congress says, given time, it could replace the Saddam administration. But spokesman Sharif Ali Bin Al Hussein warns the transition would bring about bloodshed.

SHARIF ALI BIN AL HUSSEIN: We expect that the change of regime will entail a certain amount of violence and disruption. But our objective is to reduce that as much as possible, to transit immediately to a safe, stable system, and that, to ensure that we begin to reconstruct Iraq.

WANKLYN: But the opposition in and outside Iraq is telling the US that unseating Saddam might not require much effort. Sharif Ali says the Baghdad administration has run into the ground Iraq’s civil administrators and military officers.

SHARIF ALI BIN AL HUSSEIN: All Iraqis, at the highest levels, even at the ministerial level, even in the senior military positions, look forward to the day that this regime collapses. Because there isn’t a single person in Iraq that hasn’t suffered at the hands of this regime.

WANKLYN: In the 1980s, Saddam waged chemical war against his own people in the Kurdish north of Iraq. And then fought a conventional war against his neighbor Kuwait. These memories linger in Middle Eastern Gulf states. But there’s no clear support in any Muslim country for military action. Moreover, some have warned invasion could destabilize the whole Persian Gulf region. Analyst Christopher Langton says Washington should pay attention to these warnings.

LANGTON: I think the main issue is the complexity of the Middle East and the feeling at the beginning of this crisis that the Arab states in particular were with the United States. Now that position is quite clearly not the case any longer, and there are big divisions on this issue within the Middle East, including with traditional allies such as Jordan.

WANKLYN: From Jordan, King Abdullah has told President George Bush that attacking Iraq could open a Pandora’s Box of problems in the region. Jordan, as a neighbor to Iraq, could be a critical player in any attack. And even Britain, traditionally one of America’s closest allies in matters like this, has yet to say whether it would support a potential invasion. For Common Ground, I’m Alastair Wanklyn in London.

MCHUGH: Does the US need the world’s permission to invade Iraq? Send us your comments and we may use them on the air. Our e-mail address is [email protected] Or, visit our Web site at

[Musical interlude]

PORTER: The story behind Iran and Iraq’s bid for nuclear weapons, next on Common Ground.

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Persian Gulf Update

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MCHUGH: The desire for weapons of mass destruction in Iran and Iraq can be partially explained by looking at what nuclear weapons have done for Pakistan. The Taliban rule of Afghanistan was largely a creation of Pakistan. And prior to September 11th, Pakistan did almost nothing to contain the Taliban.

PORTER: Therefore, one expert says, after September 11th the United States could have chosen to blame Pakistan as well as Afghanistan for the terrorist attacks. But Pakistan has nuclear weapons. And Dr. Amin Tarzi of the Monterey Institute of International Studies says that made a big difference.

DR. AMIN TARZI: All of that we just swiped off because of the fear that either Islamists will take over and will have the nuclear weapons, or else there will be chaos in Pakistan and the nuclear weapons may fall into the wrong hands. Or maybe Musharraf will be cornered into a place where he’ll go to war with India. Whatever. I do not disagree with all the policies. But I do think nuclear weapons had a big role. And my fear is not only what happened in Pakistan but the message that it sends. If I am an Iranian, I will—one thing I want is a nuclear weapon because that changes your response.

PORTER: So you think we may be sending the wrong message here, that nuclear weapons…

TARZI: …do matter.

PORTER: Do matter?

TARZI: Not as a, as an issue, as a means of war. As a means of changing US policy. And more importantly, not only safeguarding your country but safeguarding your regime. And this will apply like, specifically like Iran.

PORTER: Dr. Judith Yaphe, a Senior Fellow with the National Defense University agrees.

DR. JUDITH YAPHE: The point is the value of nuclear weapons for achieving strategic parity with the United States. Whether it’s Pakistan or Iran or Iraq, these countries that are looking to acquire them, either from outside and to develop them as well from within—the point is defense of the homeland. And tied in with that is probably defense of the regime. It’s hard to separate the two. But the real point I think is also if you feel encircled by enemies—and Iran certainly does—if you fear the United States and if you fear Iraq and you have an economy which is in shambles, you can’t afford to rebuild your conventional military. But that wouldn’t get you anywhere anyway. Conventional military forces can’t challenge US military power. But possession of a nuclear weapon does give a country like Iran, like Pakistan, like Iraq, what I would call strategic parity in the sense that that gives you some kind of leverage or equality—puts you in a bargaining position with a country like the United States.

PORTER: Would you contrast for us the way Pakistan was treated as opposed to the way Iran was treated by the United States, post September 11th?

YAPHE: We may not have liked Pakistan or the regime but I think, Amin is right in that we opted for the lesser of two evils. Better to have a regime under Musharraf, the military, who do not necessarily support the more radical Islamists and hope that he will clean out those elements in the government. For example, the, their intelligence service, which did create the Taliban—it was their creature to a great extent—it’s hard to compare that to Iran. Because with Iran—Iran, first of all doesn’t have nuclear weaponry at present. Iran is in the process of acquiring them. They don’t have it yet. But I think it’s fairly clear that that’s the road they’re embarked on. So the question with Iran is how do you prevent—do you apply sanctions? You try to embargo so that people will not sell and they cannot buy. That delays but it doesn’t prevent. We’ve also tried to work with the suppliers—for example, Russia, China, other places.

My own belief is that you can’t prevent a country, which is determined to acquire some form of these weapons. Not knowing, you know, do they want—One? Six? Sixty? Six hundred? Six thousand? And their purpose being defense? Strategic parity? Barter? Deterrence? I mean there are a lot of factors involved that I want us to look at. And each country is different.

PORTER: Dr. Tarzi, do you think that Iran is clearly on a path to acquiring nuclear weapons?

TARZI: Yes. I don’t have a doubt. I cannot tell you, nor I don’t think anybody can, where they stand right now. But my belief is that Iran is right now putting more—most of its efforts on one specific issue. And I agree with Dr. Yaphe on that one. That Iran sees nuclear weapons as the only deterrent. They showcase their missiles. They actually exaggerate, they lie about them. They change names in order for us to actually think that they have more. They don’t. Their air force, their armed forces, is absolutely in a shambles. Up to September 11, but specifically up to the State of the Union speech of President Bush, the Iranians—the ones I spoke to—always saw Iraq as the greatest threat. The Iranians that I spoke to after that said that after the “axis of evil” speech, Iranian military and some of the Iranian intelligence people are actually thinking that US will target them next. And that, if that perception changes then again the nuclear weapons becomes more important. But I think beyond the US, don’t forget, the Shah of Iran wanted to build nuclear weapons.

YAPHE: Iran does not want to fight Iraq. And they don’t want to go to war on behalf of Iraq either. Which brings us to a very interesting point in terms of all, of these issues that are on the table. And in particular, this, the nuclear option. In my own view, first of all Iran does want, and there is consensus that this is the way to go because we must protect ourselves. This is a cheaper way to afford us maximum protection in the short term. Fine. They feel themselves encircled. Pro US government in Kabul. The American military is turning Central Asia into a militarized zone just the way we did in the Persian Gulf. And we want to put a pro-US government in Baghdad. Now, I’ll agree with Amin in the sense that this is all seen as a threat. He’s quite right.

But I think their strategy for this is a bit different. And again, everyone talks to their favorite Iranians and comes away with, for as many Iranians as many different opinions. I have a feeling, though, that the answer for them is not greater hostility but let’s find a way that we can deal with the US. Let us know what you’re going to do in Iraq. We do not intend to fight for Iraq. Yes, they are afraid that if we make a war on Iraq, a campaign, based on weapons of mass destruction—that the Iraqis have, will have, have had—the Iranians will say, “See. We’re gonna be next on that list.”

On the other hand, it may be that they will say the way to resolve one of our great, get rid of one our worse enemies—Saddam Hussein—there is no love lost for him—might very well be to talk to the Americans, find out if we could have some kind of transparency or clarity on what they intend and assure us that we are not threatened. ‘Cause I don’t think the American government, even in its hardest line moments, intends to do anything about attacking Iran. I just, I’ve not heard that anywhere.

PORTER: Dr. Tarzi, I’ll give you a chance to respond there. And also, just tell us, if Iran is on this path, what should the rest of the world be doing?

TARZI: I personally do not believe the US is even thinking right now about Iran. I mean, there are—Iran on the surface is a dilemma even for the ones who believe that Iraq should be militarily, the regime should be changed militarily. So I don’t think that—and the Iranians are sophisticated enough, by and large, to understand US policy. They know this country pretty well. US views and Iranian views on a lot of things are the same.


TARZI: But we just don’t talk. That is the dilemma. When you look at it, we view the region in a lot of aspects the same way.

YAPHE: The Iranians were deeply strung by our criticism that they were undercutting us in Afghanistan. Which wasn’t a fair criticism. They were also deeply stung by being put, kept on the terrorist list published by the State Department annually. And by being labeled “axis of evil.” The Iranians have a lot of pride and sense of their independence. And this really stung. So both sides—both Iran has to be ready for this, the Americans have to come to terms with some of these things, and find a way at a simple level to begin a limited engagement.

PORTER: That is Dr. Judith Yaphe, a Senior Fellow at the National Defense University’s Institute for National Strategic Studies. We also heard from Dr. Amin Tarzi, Senior Research Associate at the Monterey Institute’s Center for Nonproliferation Studies.

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Seeds of Peace

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MCHUGH: Suicide bombings and retaliations for them are an unfortunate part of life in the Middle East. In India and Pakistan, the threat of nuclear war hangs over every attempt to solve the two countries’ decades-old conflict. But halfway around the world, in the woods of Maine, teenagers from both sides of those two divides spent the summer living together, playing together, and learning how to work together. Judith Smelser has this report on the internationally acclaimed Seeds of Peace summer camp.

[The sound of young people singing.]

JUDITH SMELSER: Over a hundred teenagers from all over the world gathered on the steps of a White House office building and serenaded Vice President Dick Cheney. They had just spent a month together at a summer camp in Maine, playing games, making friends, and learning how to get along with kids from the other side of the conflicts that divide their nations. Vice President Cheney said he felt gratified that young people had been able to overcome conflicts that world leaders have spent decades trying to resolve.

VICE PRESIDENT DICK CHENEY: For someone like myself to see an organization like Seeds of Peace and the work that all of you are able to do—bring people together and overcome hostilities and animosities that have existed for a long time—is sort of the, the real positive result that we all hope for.

SMELSER: Seeds of Peace was founded nine years ago, and back then, it focused primarily on the Arab-Israeli conflict. Over the years, participants have grown in number and in geographic diversity, with youths coming from Cyprus, the Balkans, the Indian subcontinent, and for the first time this year, from Afghanistan. Aside from typical summer camp activities, like sports, games, and arts and crafts, campers also participate in “coexistence sessions” with their counterparts from the other side of their region’s conflict. Madhumida Venkataramanan, a 14-year-old camper from India, said when she sat down with Pakistani young people to discuss the two countries’ longtime dispute over the province of Kashmir, she was surprised by how many things they agreed on.

MADHUMIDA VENKATARAMANAN: We both agreed that, you know, the Kashmiris should have a say in what is happening between the two countries, and that is important for both of us. And maybe we should try and like, withdraw troops and maybe have an international border or something. We tried to come to an agreement and that was really an accomplishment.

SMELSER: Many campers expressed the same sentiment, as they reflected on their experiences during a trip to Washington at the end of their month-long visit to the US. But many of them said that the real eye-openers came not during political discussions but in just realizing they could be friends with people from the other side.

LIAV HAREL: You have those few beautiful moments at camp where you just find yourself lying on the grass with one of your best friends and just, you know, talking about life, about shared interests, about each other. It’s just—those are the moments I cherish.

SMELSER: Liav Harel is a sixteen-year-old Jewish Israeli from the town of Haifa. Earlier this year, a suicide bomber blew himself up at a restaurant there, not far from the home of a friend of hers. But what did she talk about most with her Palestinian friends at Seeds of Peace?

HAREL: Boys! [giggles] I, one of my best friends here at camp is Arine. She lives in the same city as I do, but like, and we barely get to see each other because we’re not in the same school, we don’t hang out with the same people. But at camp we got together so much. We would talk about boys, we would talk about girl stuff, about school, about just, you know, camp in general. And we’d discuss politics too, but everything is always so friendly she’s just—I love her so much.

SMELSER: Just to clarify, Arine is a Palestinian. And friendships like hers and Liav’s flourished at Seeds of Peace. Camp leaders encouraged the young people to make at least one close friend from the other side—and most of them seemed to have done so. The campers were exuberant about all the activities that they got to experience with their new friends, but it wasn’t all fun and games. Madhumida Venkataramanan from India lost an uncle in one of the Indo-Pakistani wars, and during one coexistence session, she was finally able to talk about her loss.

VENKATARAMANAN: Well, I’ve never talked about it to anyone, especially not to a Pakistani. And yeah, we talked about it, and then like we all maintained a moment of silence. We did that for everyone. Everyone had lost someone.

SMELSER: Madhumida was impressed that none of the Pakistanis got defensive and that instead they were all sorry for her loss. So, it was the shared sorrows of the past, as well as the shared joys of the present, that brought the Seeds of Peace campers together. Outside the White House, Vice President Cheney urged them not to forget those experiences when they return home.

VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY: And of course all of you are the—represent the future of all your countries. So we hope after you’ve spent some time here and you go back home you’ll keep up those ties and relationships and learn to work together, as you obviously have here.

SMELSER: Most campers said they did plan to keep in touch with their new friends when they got home and many of them also vowed to try to change attitudes in their own communities. Liav Harel from Haifa, Israel, is a second-year veteran of Seeds of Peace, and she said she could see easily the difference she’d made after her first year at the camp.

HAREL: When I came back, I, it’s like I had proof for my people. They would say, “How can you get along with Arab-Israelis or Palestinians?” And I said, “Well there’s your proof. I just spent an entire month with them, and these are my closest friends. In just a few weeks, I got to know them like people that I’ve known for years” And people challenge me with, with their beliefs, and I come and I tell them “No, it’s not true. It’s not impossible.” So I feel like I do have an impact.

SMELSER: That’s exactly the impact Seeds of Peace organizers are hoping their campers will have. They believe that the only way to end conflicts that rest on decades and sometimes centuries of hate is to start chipping away at that hate in the younger generation. It’s a small step but one they hope will meet with more success than the myriad of diplomatic efforts that have gone before.

[The sound of young people singing.]

SMELSER: For Common Ground, I’m Judith Smelser in Washington.

MCHUGH: This is Common Ground, radio’s weekly program on world affairs.

PORTER: I’m Keith Porter.

MCHUGH: And I’m Kristin McHugh. Coming up this half hour on Common Ground, Pakistan’s shaky economy.

HAMID GU: We have received only $700 million in direct grant. That’s a pittance.

MCHUGH: Plus, Switzerland’s bid to join the United Nations and the New York mob scrambles to fill John Gotti’s shoes.

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Pakistan Economy

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PORTER: He is—it is fair to say—America’s man in Pakistan. General Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan’s President, has been a pivotal US ally in the months since September the 11th and throughout the ongoing war on terror. But at home, the general, who seized power in a bloodless coup in October 1999, is running into trouble. And in the first of a series of stories he’ll be bringing you from Pakistan and neighboring India, Common Ground‘s Simon Marks reports that the general’s handling of the Pakistani economy could prove to be his Achilles’ heel.

[The sound of a large street crowd chanting “Go Musharraf!”]

SIMON MARKS: These are difficult days for President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan. He’s facing more opposition than ever before, just three years after seizing power here and less than one year after he became Washington’s most vital ally in the war on terror. It’s opposition that isn’t scared to voice itself at political rallies like this one in the center of Islamabad, where supporters of the alliance for the restoration of democracy are calling for the president to step aside. Even on the city’s street corners today, you can easily spark a vigorous political conversation. Mohammed Ahmed is a student we ran into at a street corner barber shop.

MOHAMMED AHMED: What is democracy meaning? Government of people and by the people. Why Musharraf in politics? What is his role? He is talking about democracy, and even he don’t know the A-B-C of democracy.

MARKS: And do you think more and more people are beginning to feel like you feel?

MOHAMMED AHMED: I think the people who are jobless, the people who are illiterate, the people who are poor, the people who are searching for food, the people who don’t have shelter, they are totally against the Musharraf policies.

MARKS: Those policies, say the president’s critics, have done nothing to alleviate poverty in this deeply impoverished nation. Despite official figures showing expected GDP growth of 4.5 percent over the next year, the country remains burdened by heavy public debts and very limited success collecting taxes.

GOHAR AYOUB KHAN: The poor man is groaning these days.

MARKS: Gohar Ayoub Khan is a leading member of Pakistan’s opposition—a former foreign minister who was also once speaker of the country’s national assembly.

AYOUB KHAN: The gas prices go up—this is now to heat your home or for cooking purposes. Electricity prices, telephone, cooking, oil, petrol, diesel. All these prices are shooting up. Unemployment is there. Because of this conflict, because of terrorism in the country, foreign investment is not coming in and Pakistani investment is also shy.

MARKS: Even success stories, like the Pakistani textile industry, are running into trouble.

[The sound of a busy textile mill.]

MARKS: Walk into the DM textile mill in downtown Islamabad, and your ears are assaulted by the white noise created as bales of virgin cotton are slowly processed and turned into yarn. Textiles make up more than one-third of Pakistan’s exports. The 500 workers here pack their finished product for shipping to destinations as varied as Korea, Argentina, Portugal, and South Africa. But managers here say market uncertainty since September 11th has lost them vital contracts. They’d like to be trading with the USA, but say trade barriers keep that market closed to them despite Pakistan’s ongoing support for America’s war.

HAMID GUL: If economy is healthy, why are the people groaning under the pressure of unemployment and escalation of prices of consumer goods?

MARKS: Hamid Gul is a former head of the ISI—Pakistan’s all-powerful Inter Services Intelligence agency. He’s a prominent critic of General Musharraf’s support for Washington, and says the country is getting a raw deal.

HAMID GUL: We have received only $700 million in direct grant. That’s a pittance for the kind of services Pakistan has done, even if one were not to take the moral factor into account.

MARKS: The IMF has stepped in with a $1.3 billion aid program, but the growing sense that President Musharraf hasn’t delivered economically in Pakistan is fueling the view that he hasn’t delivered politically either. He’s called parliamentary elections for this October but few here believe they will put Pakistan back on the road to democracy.

[The sound of a busy stock exchange.]

MARKS: At the Islamabad stock exchange, traders shout into telephones and tap away at computer screens. They say they’re worried that the parliamentary election campaign will bring turmoil to Pakistan, and further economic uncertainty. Choudry Iftikhar Akhmad is the vice-chairman of the exchange and a trader himself.

CHOUDRY IFTIKHAR AKHMAD: It is anybody’s guess. Government, of course, is saying at the top of its voice that elections will be fair and there will be no rigging. But experience, as we see, as we have seen in the past, yes, there have been fair elections as well, but in certain elections there had been rigging as well.

[The sound of a busy street market.]

MARKS: All of which does not bode well for the economic future of this bustling, mostly Muslim state. And if the pressure continues to build on Pakistan’s leader, the US could find one of its closest allies in this region battling for survival. For Common Ground, I’m Simon Marks in Islamabad, Pakistan.

[Musical interlude]

MCHUGH: Coming up next on Common Ground, Swiss neutrality. And later, replacing John Gotti.

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Swiss Neutrality

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MCHUGH: Switzerland is famous for its neutrality. So it may surprise you to learn Switzerland has formally petitioned for entry into the United Nations. Proponents say UN membership is necessary in today’s ever-changing world. Opponents argue the move will forever change Switzerland’s neutrality status. For the moment, Jeno Staehelin is Switzerland’s official observer to the UN. I recently spoke with him about his country’s controversial decision.

JENO STAEHELIN: Well, the history is that we have had a vote in 1986 on the same issue. And at that time it was the Swiss government which suggested to the people that we should join the United Nations. The proposal was turned down by a very large majority. This time it was the people and members of Parliament who took the initiative to ask the government to have a second vote. We have this possibility according to our constitution. People can ask that a certain issue be brought before a popular vote. And that is what has happened. They had to collect 100,000 signatures. They did that. And then the proposal went through Parliament and it was submitted to a popular vote.

MCHUGH: What was different about this referendum versus the one in 1986? Was the language any different?

STAEHELIN: No. In both cases it was just the question, “Can a country like Switzerland—a neutral country—join the United Nations? And should we?” And in 1986 that was the time when there was still the conflict between the East and West. It was a time of the Cold War. Many people were convinced that Switzerland as a neutral country should not get involved in an organization which is a very political organization. Whereas today we all know that this conflict doesn’t exist anymore. United Nations has been reformed. The United Nations has been able to play a much more useful role than it was able to do 20, 30, 40 years ago.

MCHUGH: And Switzerland doesn’t lose its neutrality in this?

STAEHELIN: No. We will continue to act as a neutral country. But it is a fact that in a world where we have to fight terrorism, AIDS, and other threats to humanity, neutrality is not as relevant anymore as it used to be.

MCHUGH: This was still a fairly close vote. It wasn’t an overwhelming majority.

STAEHELIN: No. It’s true. The fact is that in these kind of votes we need a double majority. We need the majority of the people and we need the majority of the cantons, which would be the states in the United States. The majority we got from the people was quite okay. It was 55 percent, which is not too bad. But when it comes to the cantons we just had a one canton majority, which of course is quite close. Because there are some cantons who are not as densely populated but are more reluctant to see Switzerland involved in international affairs.

MCHUGH: Some say that joining the UN will weaken Switzerland’s foreign policy and its status.

STAEHELIN: I don’t think so. I think it will strengthen. It will strengthen Switzerland’s role and possibility to be not only an active but also a very constructive, I hope, actor in world affairs because it’s very difficult to work today outside a organization which in fact represents all the countries of the world. Switzerland was the last country to join, besides the Holy See, which still is a observer. But all the countries of the world are in the organization. So if you want to change something in the world you have to do it within the organization which represents the world. And you cannot expect others to do it with you outside this system. So I’m firmly convinced that it will help us to become more constructively and positively engaged in world affairs.

MCHUGH: Are there some other benefits, specific benefits, that Switzerland gains from UN membership?

STAEHELIN: You know, the United Nations is a forum. And that is where you can express your views and you have people listening to what you are saying. And of course Switzerland, as any other country, needs from time to time a forum to explain what we do and why we do it. I mean, neutrality in today’s world is not something which is undisputed. Very often people who do not really understand why a country sticks to neutrality to the extent that we do that. And I think we need a forum to explain that.

MCHUGH: Now, although Switzerland has not been a UN member, a lot of UN agencies are housed in Geneva. Will your relationship as a country change because of joining the UN with those agencies? Or will things remain the same?

STAEHELIN: I think they will remain the same. We are, as you know, we have been already up to now, been very actively engaged in all these agencies. And when it comes to the whole UN system we have already now been one of the largest contributors to the system. I think when it comes to figures, I think we have been the 14th largest contributor to the system. So we have been very, very actively engaged and we’ll continue to do that.

MCHUGH: What happens now in a sense that because you had a popular vote to join the UN, is it possible there could be popular vote to withdraw membership in the future?

STAEHELIN: Well, it could, it could happen. But I don’t think that this would correspond to the political tradition we have in Switzerland. I think people fight hard to have their views accepted. Unless there is a dramatic change in the role of the United Nations and a challenge to Switzerland and its neutrality I don’t expect this kind of, of proposal to be made.

MCHUGH: Jeno Staehelin expects to be named Switzerland’s first permanent representative to the United Nations. The General Assembly is expected to vote on Switzerland’s membership when it returns to session this month.

[Musical interlude]

PORTER: You’re listening to Common Ground, radio’s weekly program on world affairs.

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Russian Mob

Listen to This Segment: MP3

MCHUGH: When one thinks of the Mafia, one typically thinks of The Godfather. However, with the death of the former head of the Gambino crime family, John Gotti, that stereotype needs to be updated. Increasingly, organized crime focuses on computer and financial scams, an area not normally associated with the traditional mob. In fact, white collar crime is more closely linked with Russian criminal activity. Nathan King reports from New York on the future of organized crime in the Big Apple.

[The sound of music from the movie, The Godfather.]

NATHANIEL KING: The Godfather Waltz—but for Mafia watchers recently there has been little to sing and dance about.

JEAN KING: He had that way about him. He had a smile about him. And he was a bit mysterious in a way. And he kept beating the rap and we called him the Teflon Don.

NATHANIEL KING: Jean King, a Manhattan court reporter for the Reuters news agency, remembering John Gotti, the Teflon Don, The Dapper Don, who died recently of cancer in federal prison. For many, the years John Gotti ruled the Gambino crime family in New York represented the hey day of the Italian Mafia. And his death begs the question, who is running things now? After all, out of the big five Italian crime families only one has a boss who is alive or is out of prison—which has led some to question whether the future of the Mafia in New York will be Italian at all.

[The sound of men speaking Russian in Brighton Beach, New York.]

NATHANIEL KING: Russian men playing chess on Brighton Beach in Brooklyn. Dubbed Little Odessa, is home to many of the 30,000 Russian immigrants that have settled in the New York area since the collapse of the Soviet Union. The early ’90s saw a surge of Russian organized crime in the area and headlines to match. Even though they’re smaller and less organized than Italian gangs, the Russians attracted a lot of attention.

[A man answers a phone in Russian.]

NATHANIEL KING: Alexandre Grant is the editor of NRS, the only Russian language daily newspaper in the US. He’s also an expert on organized crime.

ALEXANDRE GRANT: Russian organized crime networks in the United States is much more sophisticated than Italians. They are better educated, they are more active, and they are more manipulative because they are younger. They have to survive. After all Italian are living on their cliché, they are living in their old beds and maybe in old coffins. They use the same tactics as they have to use 10 year ago, 20 years ago, and 50 years ago. But in the age of computers, in the age of white collar crime, Russians are much more successful.

NATHANIEL KING: Just how successful became evident back in the summer of 1999 when a worldwide investigation led US authorities to uncover a Russian money laundering scheme which was channeled through the Bank of New York and may have been worth as much as $10 billion. Names like Semyon Mogilevich and Sergei Mahelov became as well known at FBI headquarters as John Gotti or Paul Castellano had once been. Meanwhile, the papers were full of tales of crumbling Soviet society spawning a new Mafia class that threatened to infiltrate the shores of the United States. Alexandre Grant believes Russian crime would have spread much farther had it not been for the vast distances between Moscow and New York.

GRANT: We are lucky that we, that the United States are on the other side of ocean and from Russia is a long way to here. The customs regulation in America is very hard. Passport control. Immigration rules are very hard. Much harder than in Europe. So hard criminals from former Soviet Union prefer to have their havens there.

NATHANIEL KING: Another reason why the Russian Mafia may have found it hard to achieve success comparable to its Italian counterpart may have been the early success of law enforcement. In 1995 the FBI caught Vyacheslav Ivankov or, as he was nicknamed, Yaponchik, meaning “Little Japanese.” He was hailed as the Russian Godfather. His arrest and conviction was seen as a body blow to the fledgling Russian rackets. But the truth may lie elsewhere. Russian organized crime is very differently structured to the Italian Mafia. There is no military structure, there are no captains, and there’s no tradition of Dons. Still, Michelle McPhee, crime reporter for the New York Daily News, thinks it would be foolish to say the Russian organized crime is now contained.

MICHELLE MCPHEE: The cops can’t really just infiltrate them as well as they infiltrated the Italians, You know, or they’re just not as interested in infiltrating them as they were in infiltrating, you know, the five crime families in New York City. Also, I think in some ways the Russians are a lot more dangerous. Certainly journalists are reluctant to go into their territory because they have no qualms about just shooting someone in the head.

NATHANIEL KING: McPhee believes that the Italians and the Russians can coexist, with the Russians concentrating on white collar crimes and scams and the Italians focus on traditional modes of operation. She says the Italians are quietly learning the lessons of the flamboyant Gotti years.

MICHELLE MCPHEE: I think in some ways the mob here is just as powerful but there is certainly no one willing going to do what John Gotti did and to become such a public figure that it also brought—with all the attention that he got from the media and from the public, he also brought the same sort of attention from law enforcement.

NATHANIEL KING: So peaceful co-existence seems to suit both Russian and Italian organized crime gangs for now. But Alexandre Grant believes that despite early successes the Russian Mafia is still a long way to go to catch up with the Italian mob.

GRANT: Maybe it will come but up to now Russian organized crime in the United States is pretty low degree. I can compare it with Italians in early ’20s—something like that.

NATHANIEL KING: And so with John Gotti gone and Yaponchik behind bars the flamboyant years of Russian and Italian organized crime here in New York may be over. But the fact that they’re out of sight doesn’t mean they’re inactive—far from it. But it does make reporting on the Mafia far less fun for court reporters like Reuters’ Jean King.

JEAN KING: It’s just not the same. I mean we keep getting press conferences that tell us that, you know, 23 members of this family or that family are behind bars. And we don’t even know their names or who the hell they are, you know. But you knew who John Gotti was. You know, like he was the epitome of the Mafia. He was, that was what it was all about.

[The sound of music from the movie, The Godfather.]

NATHANIEL KING: For Common Ground I’m Nathan King in New York.

Our theme music was created by B.J. Leiderman. Common Ground was produced and funded by the Stanley Foundation.

Copyright © Stanley Center for Peace and Security

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