Dreams And Shadows Author Robin Wright On The State of the Middle East
HH: It’s a special broadcast. Sit down, get your pens out, get ready to take some notes. I’ve got a very special guest. Robin Wright may be America’s most experienced reporter abroad on the nature of the Arab world. She has reported for the Washington Post, the L.A. Times, the New Yorker, the Sunday Times. She’s won all the journalism awards you could possibly want. And she’s got a brand new book out, Dreams And Shadows: The Future Of The Middle East, which is as comprehensive and riveting an assessment of the region that you will find. And Robin Wright, welcome to the Hugh Hewitt Show, great to have you.
RW: I’m delighted to be with you.
HH: Now if I recall correctly, are you a daughter of Ann Arbor?
RW: I am.
HH: Yeah, I took my tax from Doug Kahn, and not from your father. But boy, would he be proud of the way you wrote this book. This is an amazing piece of work here.
RW: Well, I’m honored that you know the family connection.
HH: Well, let’s start with a little bit about you to put this in the light for the audience. You’ve been in 140 countries. When did you start reporting on the Middle East?
RW: I first landed in the Middle East on October 6th, 1973, which was the day the war, the fourth Middle East War broke out. I landed there by…the timing was accidental, but it also got to the point that it was a harbinger of my career. I covered more than a dozen wars, most of them in the Middle East, and to the point that my father once said to me that he wouldn’t go to Bermuda on vacation, because he was sure there’d be a coup d’etat.
HH: (laughing) The fact is, though, it’s odd for women to be able to have the access. As I went through Dreams And Shadows, you’ve sat down with Nasrallah. You’ve been in the room with Ahmadinejad. You’ve interviewed Khamenei. This is very unusual for a woman reporter to get that kind of access to the senior figures in Islam, is it not?
RW: Well, I think you’d be surprised at how many female foreign correspondents there are these days. It’s true that I’ve probably been covering the region longer. It just means I’m older. But I think that it’s surprising to me that I think there’s such an appetite in the region to be listened to, that when people sit down and hear folks out, that they give them the time. I remember I went to see, after losing a lot of friends at the first embassy bombing in 1983 in Beirut, which was the first attack by a suicide terrorist, I went to see the man in Iran who was allegedly behind a lot of it. And I was told I wasn’t allowed to speak with him, I could only meet him. But when I said I wanted to ask one question, he said what was it, and I said I wanted to know what the successes and failures of the Iranian revolution were. And two and a half hours later, I had to excuse myself, because I had another appointment.
HH: Wow. That is remarkable. Now I want to begin with some generalizations. And for the benefit of the audience, in the first hour, I’m going to focus primarily on Lebanon and Palestine, hour two, Egypt and Syria, and hour three, Iran, Iraq and Morocco. But the big generalization question at the beginning, Robin Wright, I put the book down after reading it this weekend, and was just stunned by the pervasive cruelty of the region. Now I’m a student of dissident literature. I’ve read Vladimir Bukovsky and Armando Valladares out of Russia and Cuba, respectively. But still, the savagery of this stuff, whether Driss Benzekri in Morocco, or Riyadh al Turk and Riyad Sayif in Syria, the butchery in Hama, the crackdowns in Egypt. What’s the name of the prison there? Lazoghli prison? Is this the worst that it gets in your experience, Robin Wright?
RW: No, unfortunately, it’s actually been worse. But the reality is that you have a region, it’s the last bloc of countries to hold out against the democratic tide that has swept over the world over the last three decades. It has some of the last and most autocratic regimes. Especially with the fall of the Taliban in Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia remains one of the most autocratic and difficult countries in the world. And yet, it’s one of our allies. It’s going to be a difficult period of change, probably harder than anyplace else, probably longer than any other region, and potentially more violent. It’s going to be a difficult period. But I do think that the process has begun, and that’s the point of the book.
HH: Is there something about the conditions of living in the Middle East that makes people more brutal, though, than say, in other regions of the world?
RW: Well, not necessarily. I mean, if you’re implying that Islam is more violent as a religion than any other, I don’t think that’s fair. Clearly, in its current incantation, and the current leaders of some of the movements, it’s more violent than potentially many past eras. The reality is, though, that what makes the region brutal is first of all, the current leadership, and the fact that it has ostracized, outlawed, exiled, or even executed a whole generation of democrats, liberals, nationalists who might pose some kind of serious opposition, which in many cases, has forced people to turn to Islamist movements, or even Islamist extremist movements, because there’s no alternative. And we get caught up in that process, in part because the United States is seen, or the West is seen as a prop that holds these regimes up, whether it’s because we buy the oil of the sheikdoms and emirates and sultanists of the Persian Gulf, or because we have allies in, like Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, who’s been important to the peace process, but has certainly not been interested in creating peaceful democratic conditions at home.
HH: You know, I wasn’t implying Islam, because obviously, you go to an Islamic country like Indonesia, and there’s nothing like this. But Hama, the massacre by Assad of what, thirty to fifty thousand of his own people in Hama, Syria? That’s sort of unprecedented since the Nazis, isn’t it?
RW: Well, you think about what Stalin did in Russia, in the Soviet Union. There have been terrible massacres. And there are, you know, South African rule during Apartheid was hardly gentle when it came to black opposition. There are a lot of people in the world, in Latin America, the military dictatorships that have long histories of brutality. Clearly, because we’re learning a little bit more about what’s happening inside a lot of these countries, we’re hearing a little bit more about the scope of their repression.
HH: Let me ask you about Iran, and then we’ll go into them country by country. Are we on the brink of a confrontation with Iran that you think is going to go violent, other than…obviously, the Quds forces have been operating in Iraq, and we’ve had attacks from Iranian-sponsored terrorists for a long time. But I mean, a state to state confrontation, Robin Wright?
RW: I think last summer, we saw the drumbeats of war in Washington, with the same kinds of people who were advocating a confrontation in Iraq, advocating to confront the Iranian regime because of its nuclear program, and for other reasons. But I think the National Intelligence Estimate in the end of last year, indicating that Iran stopped the weaponization program, the weaponization potential of a nuclear weapon in 2003, pulled the rug out from under the carpet of those who advocated military strikes on Iran. I think it will be very difficult for the Bush administration to generate any momentum, given the fact that the international community is not enthusiastic, our military forces are stretched thin already with Afghanistan, Iraq and other commitments, that the U.N. would take, I think, a pretty strong stand against it. I think the best the administration can hope for is international economic sanctions as a main tool. But it is clear that Iran is going to remain a chief priority of whoever assumes power in the United States next year.
HH: How dangerous do you think a nuclear-armed Iran would be, Robin Wright?
RW: It’s a very good question, and I think it depends on who’s in power. The reality is that Iran wants, I think, a nuclear capability. Does it want a nuclear weapon? I think it would like to have the sense that it’s in the same category of countries. After all, five of the eight nuclear powers in the world are either on its borders or very close by. And it feels threatened, because as an Indo-European people, the Persians are not Arabs, they feel like they’re outsiders in that part of the world. They feel vulnerable in the aftermath of Iran and Iraq. But do they want a weapon to use? And I think there are some serious questions about that. One of the things that struck me when I interviewed the defense minister in Iran a few years ago, he said if only we were as naughty as the North Koreans, maybe we’d be receiving American aid. In other words…
RW: If they had a weapon, that the outside world would pay attention, and be offering them perks, basically, to give it up.
HH: But if we…and we’ve got about a minute to our break, Robin Wright, if they did, to the satisfaction of all the intelligence world, seemed to be on the brink of a acquiring a nuclear capability, weaponizing their missiles, would you think the West would have to act against them?
RW: That’s a very tough call, and I wouldn’t want to have to be the one to make it. It will be one that certainly Israel will be very nervous about, the Gulf Arabs will be very nervous about. My speculation at this point is that there would be serious efforts by the outside world to try to push for some kind of, whether it’s a security arrangement that the grand bargain, which offers Iran the security it feels it needs or deserves, to try to preempt that. But it may well get to the point that there’s some kind of tough decision to be made.
– – – –
HH: Robin Wright, to set up our conversation about Palestine and Lebanon, I want to start with the very basic question. In your opinion, is radical jihadism metastasizing or contracting? And by that, I mean radical Islamists who are willing to use violence up to and including suicide violence in order to further their perceived agenda.
RW: There’s no question that it’s metastasizing in the sense that there are al Qaeda cells now operating in virtually every Arab country. But at the same time, one of the things that struck me in going back to the region after covering it for 35 years, trying to get an assessment of what’s going on inside countries, is the sense that people are growing increasingly angry or frustrated with militant Islam as a potential solution, because while the al Qaeda cells can destruct, they can’t provide constructive alternatives to the challenges of everyday life, be it jobs, education, some kind of independent future, housing, health care. There’s a recognition, and we’ve seen this even in Iraq, where the trial sheiks in Anbar Province, the most volatile of all Iraq’s regions, turned on al Qaeda after fostering them, aiding and abetting them, because they were just too brutal. The tribal sheik that turned the movement had lost his father and two brothers to al Qaeda. And there are people who were increasingly angry. And the tribal sheik, Sheik Sattar, mobilized not only his peers to form an awakening council, but also recruited 90,000 Iraqis, Sunnis, to form a police and a military unit to push al Qaeda back. So I think this plays out in so many regions, where they’re tired of the violence themselves, and they’re tired of living in fear.
HH: Let’s start with the portrait where it hasn’t turned around yet, which is on Gaza and on the West Bank. Hamas has been linked to fifty suicide attacks since 2000. Your account of Hamas is just brutal. But Gaza still looks to be worsening, not improving. Do you concur with that assessment, Robin Wright?
RW: Oh, absolutely. I think that Gaza is a…the living conditions, where something well over 70% of the people have to rely on handouts in order to get basic food to survive on a daily basis, that’s a miserable existence. That’s the kind of thing you see in the poorest part of the world. And the Palestinians have always been the most educated, the most self-sufficient, the best prepared to take care of themselves. So this is a real travesty.
HH: Now you write in the book, Dreams And Shadows, no one saw Hamas’ triumph at the ballot box coming, and that Fatah did things like run too many candidates, just basic mistakes in political land. If it was to rerun again, do you think Hamas would still win the majority in parliament, Robin Wright?
RW: It’s a very good question. I think the numbers would be very different. Who knows about who’d come out with the majority, but even Hamas didn’t fully anticipate that it would win. There were calculations that it would be the largest opposition in parliament, but you know, very few of them understood until the very last couple of days that they might actually win the thing. There were terrible mistakes. I think that given what’s happening in Gaza, given the fact that all the public opinion polls show that both Israelis and Palestinians still want a two-state solution and a peaceful outcome, that you might see a different vote. It would depend very much on who’s running. But one of the things we don’t understand in the United States in looking at that election is that people voted to reject a party and a leader who had dominated Palestinian politics for a half century. So the election was important in a sense, going beyond the Hamas victory, because they were saying no to those who’d controlled their lives for so long. That’s a major breakthrough, changing the status quo. Getting beyond one party that’s dominated for so long is pivotal to the transition in the region.
HH: One of the things that didn’t leave me feeling at all cheery is the fact that when you went to Beirut to talk to Osama Hamdan and other representatives of exiled groups, that they are adamant. Israel must be destroyed. Not necessarily all the Jews, although that’s a fine point to Israelis, but that…are they ever going to reconcile to the U.N.’s decision of 1948, Robin Wright?
RW: That’s a very good question. I think it’s the $64,000 dollar question when it comes to the future of the Arab-Israeli peace process. Hamas is very much like the PLO was in the 1980’s. It has a number of different ways of thought, a number of different kind of factions within Hamas. There’s some who are prepared to engage in what’s called a hudna, or a cease fire, where there would not be a formal peace, but there would be a cessation of hostilities. That’s the best that’s on the table at the moment. But there are others, like Osama Hamdan, who believe that they should go back to Palestine, and those Jews who want to stay can, but it’ll be one man, one vote, and therefore, given the demographics, there will no longer be a Jewish state. So there’s a full range of opinion within Hamas. And it’s clear that it will not be a party to the peace process. It will not be tolerated by Israel, the United States, the Europeans, the U.N., until it takes the same steps that Yasser Arafat did in 1988, in renouncing violence, and recognizing Israel’s right to exist.
HH: So what do you see happening there? You know, every day rockets fall, the Israelis move in, the international press gets excited, the secretary of state goes over, people pledge cooperation, then it starts again, only worse.
RW: Yeah, I think that’s a fair description. I think the reality is that the Bush administration cannot expect to make any headway by the end of the Bush administration’s term as they set out to do with the Annapolis conference last year. The realities on the ground, and the events on the ground, which is always true, overtake diplomacy, and they have yet again. You have no longer just two parties, the Palestinians and the Israelis in these talks. You have two very different Palestinian groups that control each one of them a half of what was once the Palestinian Authority.
HH: You write on Page 57-58 that al Qaeda is definitely in Gaza. To what level, do you think?
RW: You know, I don’t know, and I think that most of the al Qaeda cells are actually very, very small. One thing that is striking in terms of the hope for the region is that they are able to dominate headlines, because their acts are so violent. But in fact, their numbers are very small. They do not represent probably even one percent of the population in terms of the active cells carrying out these atrocious bombings.
HH: 30 seconds to our break, do you think Hamas leadership knows who they are and where they are, and are allowing them to remain as the Taliban did? Or are they operating independent of Hamas?
RW: I think they’re probably operating independent, and I suspect some of the Hamas intelligence people have suspicions about where they are and who they may be, but I also suspect that in the true Taliban way, or al Qaeda way, they’re moving around all the time and hard to track.
– – – –
HH: Let’s turn to Lebanon, Robin Wright. I am fascinated by Nasrallah. This is the best portrait I’ve read of him by a Western journalist. How much time have you actually spent with Nasrallah, the head of Hezbollah?
RW: Well, I’ve spent a lot of time with Hezbollah, dating back to the five years I lived in Beirut. And I saw the emergence of Hezbollah in the attack on the American embassy, two American embassies and the Marine compound, where I lost a number of friends. And it was because of that trend emerging, the first Islamic extremists, that I set out to understand who was responsible. And I wrote one of the first books on Islamic extremism. I went to Iran to track down the militants, and Damascus, and I followed that all the way through to tracking the Taliban operating in Afghanistan. Nasrallah, I spent some time with in 2006, just before the war between Israel and Hezbollah, and talked to a lot of his aides, a lot of the senior members of Hezbollah, to try to understand where it’s headed in the future.
HH: Now you’re very clear-eyed about the history of Hezbollah, and you talk about the Argentinian attacks, you talk about their attacks on the American embassies, and of course the Marines, and about his rhetoric. In fact, Nasrallah’s rhetoric, on Page 180, from the 1998 Ashoura celebrations, Israelis are descendents of apes and pigs. I mean, this is a man who is a fanatic. Is that fair?
RW: He is definitely a fanatic. He is one of Iran’s most active arms in expanding the revolution, exporting the revolution throughout the region. He clearly is a force to be reckoned with, even in Lebanese politics.
HH: Well, given all this, his extremism, what does his rise to almost Nasser-like status, and if that’s a fair comparison, I take it from you, that after the 2006 war, which we’ll discuss in detail, he’s become the galvanizing, sort of superstar face of Islamic radicalism.
RW: Well, one of the problems for us as a nation, as the chief broker on Arab-Israeli peace, is that Hezbollah has achieved more in a tangible way than all of the peaceful politicians have managed to. It forced Israel to withdraw after its invasion of Lebanon in gradual phases until it left completely without any kind of peace treaty, without any kind of guarantees. That was the first time any Arab country, community or faction had managed to force Israel to back down. In 2006, it was one of the longest clashes between Israel and an Arab neighbor, and Israel came out with very little to show, and there’s still two Israeli soldiers held by Hezbollah almost two years later.
HH: But it was a tremendous, as you point out, he even admits it was a tremendous miscalculation. He had no idea what he was getting into when they launched the operation that led to the 2006 war. But it didn’t hurt him, it seems like. It might have hurt a lot of Lebanese Shiites, but it didn’t hurt him.
RW: Well, it didn’t kill him, but at the end of the day, Hezbollah paid a price in public relations inside Lebanon. He’s a very charismatic figure, and appeals, interestingly enough, not just to the Shiites of Lebanon, but to many others, including a good handful, or more than a handful, many of the Christians I met who admire the fact that he was standing up for the Arab world in a way that the Arab politicians had been unable to. So he had a following, but I think the fact that there was such huge devastation in Lebanon, and enormous loss of life for a small country, led a lot to question. And certainly, he is now operating totally from the underground again.
HH: Yeah, you write here there’s only one solution for Nasrallah, quoting a senior Israeli official. Do they intend to do to him what they did to Imad…
RW: I suspect that Mugniyah’s assassination was a harbinger of what could happen to Nasrallah. But you know, I’m not in Israel. I don’t know.
HH: What is the aftermath of Nasrallah if he is removed, if he is assassinated? Is there anyone of his stature standing behind him?
RW: Well, there’s what they call a Shura council, basically a body of senior clergy who advise, it’s like a cabinet that advise Nasrallah, and he has a deputy named Qassem, and he would probably succeed Nasrallah.
HH: Does Nasrallah have the potential to go Arafat, or engage the process as the way Arafat did, whether sincerely or not? Well, let’s hold that thought until we come back from break.
– – – –
HH: Robin Wright, when we went to break, I had asked does Nasrallah have the potential to mainstream, in one word, the way that Arafat did after Oslo? What’s your thought on that?
RW: It’s a wonderful question, Hugh. And I guess one of the things that has struck me in looking at Hezbollah is how I remember it when it was a clandestine cell, and engaged only in violence. No one knew who its leadership was or its members. And we’ve seen it evolve. And in 1992, it decided to run for parliament. It set up a huge infrastructure in Lebanon of health clinics, schools, farm co-ops. It is the second largest employer after the Lebanese state in Lebanon. There is clear cut movement toward becoming a mainstream political body. But until it gives up extremism, clearly, it’s going to continue to be viewed by the outside world, first and foremost, as a terrorist group. I think down the road that there is a lot of debate within Hezbollah about going mainstream, engaging just in peaceful politics. But clearly, that’s not going to happen until there is some kind of full, comprehensive peace with Israel.
HH: Now clearly, they are deeply intertwined with the Iranian mullahs, and you make that very, very clear here. But are they independent of them, or do they have to dance to that fiddle?
RW: A little bit of both. I think they’re clearly dependent on Iran and Syria for arms. They give it the kind of muscle that makes it the only militia still standing in Lebanon after all others have been armed in the aftermath of a truce in its civil war eighteen years ago. But I think that Iran does not call all the shots when it comes to Hezbollah, and that Nasrallah has become such an entity, and Hezbollah’s such a force in Lebanon, that he makes many calls himself when it comes to the political decisions of the group.
HH: When you talk, write in Dreams And Shadows about their rebuilding plan after the 2006 war, $12,000 dollars per household, that’s a huge amount of money. Where is it coming from?
RW: Ah, that’s where it comes from, Iran. Hezbollah allegedly has its own investments, would you believe, and its own money producing organizations, including some that are allegedly, or reportedly involving illegal activities. But it also has a lot of business interests as well now, and it has many Shiites who contribute. There’s a tradition within Islam, and tradition within Shiite Islam, to hand over a certain part of your income for charity, for groups and clerics you support. And so Hezbollah makes a lot of money off its own followers.
HH: You obviously have a great affection for Beirut and for Lebanon. And for those of us in the U.S. who only know it through movies, like Caramel or something like that, it seems a very odd, it seems like four or five different countries. What’s going to…what’s your estimate of what it’s going to look like in ten years? Will this confessional system of almost spoils endure?
RW: Well, you have seventeen recognized religious sects in Lebanon that all have a claim, under a power sharing formula, to some role in government. And that’s not just in parliament. That extends all the way to the civil service down to kindergarten teachers and police on the street. So everyone has some vested interest in the system. Confessional? I think there will always probably be some balance, the idea of one person, one vote will be hard to entrench, because there’s long, the whole creation of Lebanon was based on a formula that involves splitting power and guaranteeing the Christians, now in the minority, will have a guaranteed role. It used to be 6-5, Christian to Muslim. Now it’s a 50/50 split in all positions of power, and all civil service jobs. So I suspect there will be some formula in a decade, or even the next generation. But it’s clear that finding a mechanism for co-existence, and…but while still opening the way for all parties to feel they’re fairly represented given the changing demographics is at the heart of the situation. What gives me hope is the fact that I lived through five years living in Beirut of a civil war. Today, you have a real crisis, the failure to elect a president since November, several, more than a dozen times postponed the election, and yet Lebanon has not slipped back into civil war.
HH: That is very optimistic. When we come back, we’re going to be talking about Christians in the Middle East, especially in Lebanon and Syria. My guest is Robin Wright, her new book is Dreams And Shadows: The Future Of The Middle East, magnificent, put out by the Penguin Press, it’s at Amazon.com, I’ve linked it at Hughhewitt.com. When we come back, we’ll talk about that a little bit more. When I…Robin Wright, before we get to break, you write about Nasrallah that, “He’s not a thief,” that this is one of the key elements to his popularity. Is that a definition for new success in the Middle East? Are everyone going to have to be understood by people as not corruptible?
RW: Well, the interesting thing about Iran is that Ahmadinejad was elected in large part because he was seen as Mr. Clean. He was not a corrupt cleric. And this is something that appealed to people. No one knew in, you know, the two week long presidential campaign, what his foreign policy was, or what he was like, how hard line he was. But people were looking for someone who was not wearing a turban, and was not associated with the early days of the revolution, and might clean up society. No one in Iran, I think, bargained on how hard line he would prove to be.
HH: But do we know for sure that Nasrallah is not skimming the way that so many of these other corrupt leaders in the Middle East have been skimming?
RW: I don’t know personally, but there is a sense among a lot of Lebanese that he has not pocketed millions or billions into a personal account, and that he leads a simple life.
HH: I also found amazing that his son died in the war, and that this is another source of legitimacy for him, that he did not spare his own family this sort of sacrifice.
RW: And not only that, he didn’t talk about it with others who broadcast the fact that he had lost his son. He made no special provisions to get his body back from Israel. It took over nine months in a prisoner swap.
– – – –
HH: We’re going to discuss Egypt and Syria, so don’t go away. In the last hour, Iran and Iraq, the big two. But Egypt is actually the big one, and we’ll talk about that after the break. Robin Wright, one of the things I appreciated is that you dealt occasionally throughout Dreams And Shadows with the Christian community in the Middle East, often overlooked, often persecuted. How is it faring generally? Is it just going to be erased from history in the Middle East after years and years of oppression and shrinkage?
RW: You know, I don’t think so. One of the things that’s striking is that the diversity that still exists in the region. 10% of Egypt is Coptic Christian. At least a fifth, and some say a quarter of the Palestinian community is still Christian. Now many of the Palestinian Christians have fled elsewhere. Just as many Palestinians have left. But there are, the diversity of the communities in the region, when you look at how many are in Lebanon, how many are in Syria, the place where the first organized Christian Church was formed in Antioch. I was there for an Easter Sunday, and I was struck by how many Easter bunnies and chocolate eggs I found in the stores in downtown Damascus. So there are still minority communities, but then that’s true everywhere throughout the region. I mean, how much do we hear about the Jewish Kurds, that there are…the Jewish Moroccans? There are a lot of minorities scattered throughout the region. The largest Jewish community outside Israel, ironically, is in Iran.
HH: Right, right. But do the new Islamists accord any kind of religious protection? For example, in Gaza, are there any Christians left at all in Gaza?
RW: You know, it’s a good question. I don’t know the answer to that. I think that most of the Christian communities are in the West Bank – Bethlehem, Ramallah…
HH: And how about Nasrallah’s Hezbollah? Are they accepting…I mean, he’s got an alliance with Aoun that you write about here, but that’s a political alliance. How about in the south of Lebanon? Are there any Christians left?
RW: Yes, there are some Christian communities left in the south. And it’s interesting that, as you point out, Nasrallah has this alliance with former General Aoun, one of the right wing Christian leaders in Lebanon. And they, in fact, Hezbollah had backed Aoun as the candidate for the Christian presidency in Lebanon.
HH: Is that a party of one, though? Is Aoun about the only Christian leader that’s aligned with Hezbollah? Or are there others?
RW: He’s the main Christian leader aligned with Hezbollah, yes.
HH: You’ve got so many contacts over there. Are they optimistic about some sort of a settlement, Robin Wright?
RW: On the Arab-Israeli conflict?
HH: No, on the Lebanese political stalemate.
RW: Well, this is another tragedy in the Middle East. Just like we know what the Arab-Israeli solution is, is a two state solution, both sides accept that, it’s just a matter of working out the specifics. The same thing is true in Lebanon. They had a candidate for president, a former general. Both sides have agreed on it. It’s the power arrangement around it that still has to be sorted out. So yes, I think there is a resolution. The danger is it may take a long time to get there.
– – – –
HH: Robin Wright, last hour we talked generally, and about Palestine and Lebanon. I want to begin this hour with the longest segment in any hour by talking about Egypt, because it’s a revelation, really. Egypt is the largest Arab country by far, and yet very little is reported on it. It’s in every story, but very little is reported on it. And I don’t think it was always that way. But what level of American awareness of Egypt do you think exists?
RW: Well, Egypt is a microcosm of our whole perspective on the region. One of the reasons I went back and spent a year looking at what’s going on in all 22 Muslim countries and Israel, was because we know so little. We made a colossal mistake in Iraq in not understanding what the dynamics inside the country. We relied on a group of exiles, the leader of whom had not been to Iraq since 1958, when he left as a teenager. And so what I was trying to look at was inside countries like Egypt, what are the dynamics? Who are the actors? How is the political situation being redefined?