A panel of journalists joins Diane for analysis of the week's top national news stories.
American airstrikes and Kurdish fighters break the siege on Mount Sinjar in Iraq. Negotiators for Israel and Gaza continue to work for a lasting truce. And Ebola deaths in Africa surpass 1,000. A panel of journalists joins Diane for analysis of the week’s top international news stories.
- Nancy Youssef national security correspondent, McClatchy Newspapers; she's back from a two-year posting as McClatchy's Middle East bureau chief.
- Greg Myre international editor, NPR.org; co-author of "This Burning Land: Lessons from the Front Lines of the Transformed Israeli-Palestinian Conflict."
- Jim Sciutto chief national security correspondent, CNN.
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. Iraq's Prime Minister Maliki steps down, Israelis and Palestinians continue negotiations in Cairo to work for a lasting truce. And Ebola deaths in Africa surpass 1,000. Joining me for the international hour of "The Friday News Roundup," Jim Sciutto with CNN, Nancy Youssef with McClatchy and Greg Myre of NPR. You're welcome, as always, to be part of the conversation. Give us a call at 800-433-8850. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Facebook or Twitter. Happy Friday everybody.
MS. NANCY YOUSSEFHappy Friday.
MR. GREG MYREHappy Friday.
MR. JIM SCIUTTOGreat to be here.
REHMGood to see you all. Jim Sciutto, what finally made Iraqi Prime Minister al-Maliki agree to step aside?
SCIUTTOI think the loss of the support of the support of both the U.S. and Iran. And once you had public statements. For the U.S. statement, somewhat more predictable, but once the Iranians said they wanted a transition, they wanted a more inclusive government, he saw the writing on the wall. But it was touch and go, because on Sunday night, and we were on the air Sunday night, as you had tanks in the streets, bridges closed in Baghdad. Forces loyal to Maliki being ordered -- you know, accounts from Baghdad police telling us ordered around key buildings.
SCIUTTOIt looked like, for a moment, he was gonna make a power grab. So, you know, it appeared he had some second thoughts towards the end, but once that support disappeared, even he could see the writing on the wall.
YOUSSEFSo, the reason he gave, in his speech, in which he was surrounded by members of his party and his successor, was, in part, that he didn't want to see Iraq return to dictatorship, which arguably was code for that he didn't think that the militias and the armed forces he put on the street could actually keep him in power. The only other list -- person I would add to that list is Sistani, Ayatollah Sistani, who's the leader of the Shias in Iraq had called and supported his transition.
YOUSSEFAnd so, internally, that was perhaps the most important loss for his support. And so, once all those factors came in to play, it was impossible to see who would support him. In addition, I would add also are the court systems, because the last time he had sort of been challenged, the courts had supported him, and constitutionally, he didn't have the ground to stand on to continue his fight.
MYREJust looking back, Maliki came to power in 2006. At that moment, Iran was facing this Sunni insurgency that was tearing the country apart. The U.S. felt a real sense of urgency to intervene. Here we are eight years later going through the same thing. And you can go back, and the U.S. military involvement has now been over 20 years in Iraq. And are we moving forward anywhere, or are we just going in circles?
REHMSo, President Obama gave his support to Abadi earlier this week. How much support does Abadi have in the Iraqi government and around the country?
MYREWell, we'll see. He's got 30 days to put together a government. And in the past, this has been a very difficult, drawn out process in Iraq. I mean, on the upside, if this happens, it's the first time in Iraq's modern history that we'll have a peaceful transfer of power. But it remains to be seen. He's from the same party as Maliki, his policies are similar. The Kurds are gonna certainly have some demands before they agree to it. The Sunnis have all sorts of issues with any Shiite leader. So it may not make much difference whether it's Maliki or...
REHMSo, is Abadi likely to be more inclusive, Nancy?
YOUSSEFWell, the Kurds have indicated that in their dealings with him, that he has been just as aggressive with them as Maliki has. And so the only sort of tangible indication that we can look at shows no real difference. That said, it seems impossible that he cannot be more inclusive than Maliki, because Maliki, by his very nature, was incredibly, incredibly sectarian. So, the expectations for him are that he'll be better than Maliki. How much better, as Greg mentioned, is really the most important thing, because just to be better than Maliki is not enough at this point, given how tumultuous things are in Iraq right now.
YOUSSEFWe'll see. Does he put a Sunni Parliament member in a key ministry or just a, sort of ancillary one? Those kinds of things. Will he hold on to the Defense and Interior portfolio as Maliki did? Those are all gonna be sort of key metrics. But the fact that the Kurds are only showing sort of tepid support for him portends of someone not as inclusive and as moderate as I think people want to see in him.
REHMAnd what about U.S. support for Iraq militarily, Jim Sciutto?
SCIUTTOThis is an open question. The administration has not defined what help it's going to give Iraq to fight ISIS. It has said that it will stand by and it will give assistance, but it hasn't defined what that assistance is. I speak to a lot of administration officials, Pentagon, intelligence officials. They know that Iraqi security forces, to this point, are not up to the fight. They know that. So, the question is, does that really change with a more inclusive government? Remains to be seen. There is some understanding among officials that I speak with -- they will need some help.
SCIUTTOThat said, the President has said the U.S. will not become Iraq's air force. But the trouble is, what happens if ISIS continues to advance on Baghdad, for instance? There's U.S. personnel there. The U.S. has said they will act to protect Americans. They've proven that they will act to protect Iraqi minorities, such as the Yazidis, if they come under threat from massacre. Will they act to protect and to help Iraq push back against ISIS? Still an open question.
MYREWell, I think, you know, I was looking at a map. If you start in Pakistan and go west, across seven countries, Pakistan Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Israel, Hamas, Egypt, Libya -- you have seven countries where you have Islamists groups knocking on the door -- difficult situations. The U.S. has been involved to varying degrees in all of these places. None is working out well. Right now, this week, we're looking at the Yazidis in a rescue effort in the north of Iraq, but I think it also needs to step back and say, which areas are important? Which areas are critical here and which is just the burning issue of the week that changes?
REHMAnd what about President Obama's statements regarding foreign policy in those areas? Has he been clear enough? Has he been strong enough? Are Hillary Clinton's comments justified? Jim Sciutto.
SCIUTTOWell, they're certainly -- there is a widespread view, outside the administration, some -- but inside the President's party and outside the President's party that he has not been clear enough. That he has defined in the negative but not in the positive things that the U.S. won't do. It won't become embroiled in long land occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, et cetera. So then, what are the circumstances under which it acts? It did not act in Syria. It is now acting in Iraq.
SCIUTTOAir strikes, et cetera, support for the Kurds and others who are fighting ISIS. There are those, Hillary Clinton included, who are searching for the strategy that ties this all together, and they can't find it. Now, I speak to, in fact, I was speaking to one last night, you know, about this point that Hillary, that Secretary Clinton zeroed in on, the "don't do stupid stuff" line that became sort of the mantra for the administration. But there are still administration officials who defend that, to say listen, we will not, we will do no harm, in effect.
SCIUTTOAnd that there's something to be said for that, after eight to 10 years of long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
REHMSo, what kind of action do you think we might expect from the U.S. and Iraq in the coming weeks?
MYREWell, I don't know exactly. And I think it would be silly just to pretend anybody does. The President says that limited airstrikes could continue. He seems adamant about not sending U.S. troops on the ground, but I think we're looking at several issues going on. There's the political discussions in Baghdad. There's the advance of the Islamic state in the north. There's the Kurds and how they will play out in all this. Should the U.S. bulk up and double down on the assistance and the military training it's given to the Kurds? So I think you're looking at several different scenarios here.
MYREAnd I think you'll see continued U.S. involvement, but I think it will be at a limited level.
YOUSSEFI think the immediate thing we'll see is weapons and munitions going to the Iraqi security forces and particularly the Peshmerga in the north. What we can determine, so far, from the Obama administration approach to Iraq is that they will try to stop ISIS's progression into Kurdish areas. That's about as explicit as the administration has been so far.
REHMWhat about the refineries in the north, Nancy?
YOUSSEFWell, that's an interesting question, because last week, when Obama was speaking, just before he headed to Martha's Vineyard, he said that one of the things the United States should be looking at is protecting Iraqi infrastructure. The Mosul Dam and other parts, and the challenge becomes to do that, it seems quite difficult to do it just by sending munitions, just by using air power, just by striking ISIS artillery launchers and the like. And so, I think that's why so many people have questions about whether this is approaching mission creep.
YOUSSEFThat in the effort to protect infrastructure, that's a much broader mission than the limited one that has been defined so far as what the administration will use the word limited in terms of protecting U.S. personnel and ethnic minorities. The challenge in all of this is that the Obama administration is arguing a limited mission and one that deters ISIS. And those seem to be two contradictory messages, that you can't have both, essentially.
SCIUTTOWell, there was an interesting moment in the President's comments yesterday, when he said the U.S. would still feel the urge to protect other Iraqi peoples who come under threat from ISIS. Then he goes on to list those peoples, and he says Christians, Shias, Sunnis and Kurds. And I thought to myself, you've just listed the entire population of Iraq. Now, I pursued that point with the Pentagon, and they said listen, we have not been tasked with coming up with missions to protect Christians, Sunnis, Shias and Kurds.
SCIUTTOBut I did speak to another administration official last night who said listen, this does not mean we're going to launch Yazidi like operations for everybody. He said the administration's preference continues to be UN led humanitarian efforts. That this is humanitarian aid, not the U.S. extending some sort of protective umbrella over all these people. But this is still a challenge, because what happens if you have hundreds of thousands of Christians on a mountain in northern Iraq? Does the U.S. not act then?
REHMAnd what was the justification of backing off from protecting the Yazidis?
MYREWell, it looks like the number of people still on the mountain is -- has declined, or was perhaps even lower than originally estimated. Some managed to get off. Perhaps the U.S. involvement did assist in that. So, when U.S. forces went up there and counted the number of people there, it was not the 40,000 figure that had been bandied about. Now again, maybe it was that high and they just got off, but it's a much lower number now.
REHMGreg Myre. He's international editor for npr.org. Co-author of "This Burning Land: Lessons From the Front Lines of the Transformed Israeli-Palestinian Conflict." Short break. We'll be right back.
REHMAnd welcome back for the International Hour of the Friday News Roundup, this week with Greg Myre of NPR, Nancy Youssef of McClatchy Newspapers, Jim Sciutto of CNN. Let's talk about Israel, Greg Myre. After a shaky start, that five-day cease fire in Gaza seems to be holding.
MYREYeah, I think both sides are pretty exhausted right now. And I think the most depressing thing though is having seen this up-close, first-hand for many years, the circular nature. We keep going round and round and round. They fight. Nothing changes. You return to the status quo. There may be some minor movements here in terms of slightly increasing the amount of goods that flow in and out of Gaza, that sort of thing, maybe, maybe. But this is the third war in six years and obviously you could go back decades. And these last three wars have been Israel versus Hamas over Gaza.
MYRENothing here in a significant way has changed. And so these things that could be negotiated -- the amount of goods in and out -- that's a simple thing to sit down and negotiate. It doesn't require this month of very nasty fighting.
REHMBut now Israel is gearing up to defend itself against allegations of international war crimes.
MYREIsrael certainly hasn't done itself any favors by the way it's carried out this, with so many civilian casualties, and perhaps even the fact that they were unaware of the extent of the Hamas tunnel networks. So I think Israel, both in being not fully -- it's intelligence failures, the slaughter of so many civilians, it's international reputation have all been hurt. So I think the Palestinian people are perhaps the biggest losers. But there are no winners here, just survivors.
YOUSSEFSo we're looking at another truce, another temporary truce that is set to expire by midnight Monday. And this is the latest effort to essentially buy time to deal with some of the more substantive issues, as Greg mentioned, that keep resurfacing and that they've had a challenge in several of these temporary truces to try to address. And so we're starting to hear talk about a two-point plan, one in which the Israelis allow more exports and imports into Gaza. And a second plan in which there's talk about opening up the seaport, which has been so important to the Palestinians.
YOUSSEFSo, the challenge is that these cease fires are temporary. And these issues seem to be so intractable that, what happens Monday? Is it another five days? Is it another two weeks? It seems to be the perpetuation of the unwillingness by everybody to deal with these substantive issues -- in part because of the challenge of them and in part because of the internal politics that everybody involved is facing -- Egypt, the United States, Israel and the Palestinians.
SCIUTTOWell, it's interesting. On the Israeli side, now you have this idea brought up and mentioned more frequently of demilitarization of Gaza as a condition for some this economic relief. The trouble is, that is something that Israel didn't accomplish during 38 years of occupation of Gaza. So the idea that that is a precursor to other concessions to help the Palestinian people, to break the blockade, it just raises the idea that, you know, you're going to talk and talk and talk and not make any progress. It basically -- it makes it almost impossible to reach an agreement when that is the standard for success.
MYREJust back in 2000, the Palestinians had their own airport in Gaza. They were flying their own planes from Gaza to Europe. Every morning 100,000 Palestinians from Gaza and the West Bank came into Israel and worked, went home at night, like they were just suburbs of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. So the absurdity of negotiating now over something that the Palestinians had 10, 15, 20 years ago just seems so crazy. And it literally shows the way we are working backwards in this conflict.
MYREAnd now what about this Wall Street Journal report that arms are being sent to Israel for use without the White House knowing?
YOUSSEFThat's right. The terminology used was that they were caught off guard. And this caused quite a shockwave in Washington as you can imagine. A little background. There has been a sale that has gone -- there's a storage stockpile, if you will, in Israel that is there for when the Israelis need munitions. That it's supposed to be essentially a way for quick sales between the United States and Israel. And the controversy started because the U.S. comes out and says that they were outraged -- that was the administration's term -- about the number of civilian casualties, and yet was providing sales of the very munitions, arguably allowing for those casualties to happen.
YOUSSEFAnd so the Wall Street Journal reported that the U.S. -- that the Pentagon had continued these sales without the acquiescence of the State Department and White House. The State Department had a very labored exchange with reporters yesterday, in which they struggled to say, yes, we're reviewing this policy, without actually saying it -- it went on for several minutes. And I think what's happening is there is an effort by the United States to put pressure of some kind on Netanyahu to sort of suggest in some way that these sales are in jeopardy.
YOUSSEFFrankly, it seems like the latest effort by the United States to put pressure -- the comment about the outrage over civilian casualties was perhaps the latest effort. But it really speaks to the strained -- ongoing strained relationship between the Netanyahu government and the Obama administration. And so, whether they're reviewing, whether they were caught off guard, there's some dispute about in town. But I think that the larger issue is of this ongoing strain going on between the administration and the Netanyahu government. And how relations between Israel and the Pentagon actually are better in that building than they are in the White House.
SCIUTTOWell, it's interesting. I agree with you. There was some mincing of words in the State Department yesterday about whether -- the word, it was not under review, it was just part of the normal interagency process of discussing this. But clearly, something happened with this latest weapon shipment that did not happen, for instance, when they resupplied ammunition right in the height of the Gaza crisis. So -- and I think it is. It's another subtle message here similar, for instance, to the closing of the Tel Aviv -- or U.S. flights to the Tel Aviv airport during the worst of the Gaza crisis.
REHMAnd you had two Associated Press journalist killed this week in Gaza during a bomb disposal accident, Greg.
MYRERight. Right. So the shooting has stopped, but there are still a lot of dangerous situations there -- buildings that are in bad shape. And in this case that you mentioned, they were doing some ordnance or weapons disposal. And an Associated Press cameraman and his interpreter were out looking at this and there was an explosion as they were -- as some, I think, I can't remember if it was Palestinians officials or U.N. officials were trying to dispose of a bomb -- an Israeli bomb that hadn't gone off. And they were killed as they were filming.
REHMIt just shows to go that the numbers of journalists at risk in these situations has gone up steadily. In Turkey, the prime minister was elected on Sunday with about 52 percent of the vote. How much support does Erdogan have in Turkey, Nancy?
YOUSSEFWell, that's the key question. He's been in power for more than a decade as prime minister. And this was the first direct election of a president in Turkey, as part of this effort to move to a presidential system. The expectation is that he will reform the constitution to allow for that and essentially give himself more power. The 52 percent figure is a telling one because it's certainly not resounding support. And the fear with him is that he was once branded as an Islamist who could embrace the democratic process and show that you could have plurality.
YOUSSEFCritics say that what he's actually done is use the mechanisms of democracy to consolidate his power and that that has hurt his support. One of the ways that he was able to get around this is economically the Turkish economy tripled under his leadership. That's now waned a bit. And he has arguably been more oppressive in the last few years, arresting opposition, arresting journalists, cracking down on protesters. And so there's a real fear that he is consolidating his power and that has...
REHMAnd creating an authoritarian state.
SCIUTTOIt is. It's pretty remarkable that he wins this election, granted with a lower margin than some had expected, when you look at the series of crises that he's faced just in the last year or so. You had this mine disaster. It killed dozens of people. He kind of said to the public, you know, live with it. This just sort of happens. You had street protests that were dealt with brutally in the middle of Istanbul. You even had bad optics, like one of his chief aides caught kicking a protestor in the head. And yet he manages to win. But he did, as Nancy said, have advantages.
SCIUTTOFor instance, he's running for president while he's still prime minister, while he still gets most of the state media coverage, you know, with tremendous advantages. But that said, at the end of the day, you triple the size of an economy during your leadership -- he's created what they call this great -- he's benefited this great Islamic bourgeoisie, you know, this middle class there that say, you know, he's got his problems. But I'm a lot better off today than I was four or eight or ten years ago.
REHMSo how is his election going to affect Turkey's relationship with neighbors and with the U.S., Greg?
MYRERight. Well his -- he had a very ambitious regional policy of making Turkey the major player in many conflicts. And that has really taken a hit along with these other issues that Jim and Nancy mentioned. He wanted to be the main player in Syria and help drive out Assad. That has been in shambles and Turkey's been overwhelmed by the refugees. Remember, Turkey sent the flotilla down to Gaza a couple years ago -- was really trying to confront Israel and be the savior of the Palestinians. Turkey was a nonfactor really in this latest round.
MYREThe U.S. has been fairly annoyed a couple times with Turkey's involvement with some radical groups. So his standing -- he's not been effective and he's lost some of his support in the West.
REHMSo what does that mean going forward, Nancy?
YOUSSEFWell, the challenge for him is that he has, as Jim mentioned, this new intellectual class of liberals. And whether he'll be able to hold on to them, arguably on the surface he won't. But the advantages that he has is that the liberals don't have a charismatic leader like himself who can really rally people around them. And so there is going to be that push-pull in the weeks and months ahead. And this Islamist sort of form of government, in the context of what's happening across the region, is under attack. And so how he survives that will be interesting in the weeks and months ahead.
REHMAnd you mentioned the economy. How strong is it?
YOUSSEFWell, in the earlier years, he was really able to make it grow. But in the last few years -- the last growth figures I saw were 3.2 percent, much lower than the -- than at the peak of its growth. That was lower than 4 percent just a year before. And so economically he has not enjoyed the benefit that he did early, early on. And so that's a factor because it's leveled off at a time when he is cracking down arguably more. So how he maintains that will be a challenge.
SCIUTTOThis has ramifications beyond Turkey, as well. Because Turkey is seen as potentially something of a model for the Islamic world. A leadership, something of it -- it's a democratic government. But the more he goes authoritarian, that's a bad model. And remember, this is -- Turkey is a member of NATO. You know, it's an aspiring, at times, member of the EU. How does Europe respond to an increasingly authoritarian Erdogan, that's a problem going forward about the relationship.
REHMAnd moving now to Africa. The World Health Organization convened a group of medical ethicists this week. They support giving experimental drugs to Africans who are afflicted with AIDS and Ebola. Now, who's going to get these drugs, Greg?
MYREWell, I -- it's apparently not clear now. And again, what we've got is a company that's made a drug, ZMapp, for research purposes in very small amounts. And it's by no means -- it hasn't been tested on people. They don't know what does you need to give them at what point in the illness. So it's not -- it's not like there's a big vat of this sitting around ready to be put on a plane for Africa. But the WHO has said it would be ethical to give this to people with Ebola and there's nothing wrong with doing it in principle.
REHMBut you know the crazy part is that the manufacturer says he's -- they're out of the drug. They don't have any more to give, Nancy.
YOUSSEFThat's right. There was a reported shipment to Liberia, and this is a -- but, as Greg said, this isn't going in droves and immediately, even as the crisis continues to spread -- not only spread, but spread in urban areas, which has made it all the more challenging to confront this problem.
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." I think that you've got an awful lot of people worried about whether the borders ought to be sealed, Jim.
SCIUTTOIn response to Ebola. This is the thing, you know, you speak to folks at the WHO, they will say, it is spreading more quickly than we can contain it. That's a worrisome thing to hear from that organization. How do you respond? Now, from a U.S. perspective or a European perspective, how concerned should we be? But you speak to Dr. Fauci of the NIH and others and they make the point, listen, that this is a lot about the response and the health care response in those countries. If you get a case in the U.S., we have the resources to handle it, to identify it, confine it, contain it, et cetera. Something to keep in mind.
SCIUTTOThat's not true of a lot of the countries that are worst off in this crisis.
MYREYeah. I hate to talk about the silver lining in Ebola here, but we're talking about, about 2,000 confirmed cases -- there may be more -- a little over 1,000 deaths, so about a 50 percent death rate at this point.
REHMThey claim it's underreported because people are not coming forward.
MYREQuite -- quite possibly. So these are the numbers that we have...
MYRE...acknowledging there may be more. But we're six months into this now. So we're talking about 10 to 15 new cases a day on average over the past six months. Though it is hard to spread Ebola. As deadly as it is, it often kills the person who has it very quickly, which limits its ability to spread. It's not an airborne sickness like SARS or MERS, the kind that we've had in the past couple years. So if there's any positive note on that, it doesn't spread by the thousands. It seems to be spreading by the tens, rather...
REHMWhat do we know about the two individuals, the missionary health workers who were brought back to the U.S. and given this experimental drug, hospitalized under very confined conditions. Are they improving, Nancy?
YOUSSEFThat's our understanding. And that's one of the reasons that there was so much enthusiasm for this ZMapp drug, because that was one of the drugs that was used to treat them. And one of the things I'll note is that in the United States, what they have here is the resources. When we talk about personnel shortages -- if someone has Ebola, the amount of personnel required to treat that person is something that is a luxury in the United States that most of these countries don't have. And in fact, in Sierra Leone, which has been the most-afflicted by this, we've seen a doctor who's killed just by treating patients.
YOUSSEFSo often, these doctors, when they are confronted by an Ebola patient, think it's malaria, and therefore interact in a way that puts themselves and those around them in harm's way. And so the ability in the United States to treat its patients -- when you look at how they're treated and the number of people around them is such a luxury that is not even afforded to most countries around the world, let alone in these four countries that are so hit by it, where there's a shortage of doctors already, before this disease struck it.
SCIUTTOWell, as usual, you speak to the experts, NIH, CDC, and they make the point that ZMapp, although it may have had some success against the two Americans, it's not a silver bullet. It's not even confirmed that it is actually a cure for this. So that's one question. You don't want to overemphasize that this is the grand solution. The other thing is when you get into the ethical dilemma of, you've treated Americans but not Africans. Now they say they're going to treat Africans as well. But again, it was really a no-win situation early on. Because if you treated Americans first, but not Africans, you say, hey, but you're getting special treatment.
SCIUTTOBut if you treated Africans first with an experimental drug, you'd say, hey, wait a second. Are you trying this thing out on us? So it was a difficult thing. And I know that you dealt with this earlier in the week on your show with Dr. Fauci and the head of the CDC. And they've come to this conclusion now, best to sort of at least give everybody a shot. Because it may be the best answer we have.
REHMBut isn't Liberia the only country that has discouraged visitors from coming?
SCIUTTOWhich country, sorry?
SCIUTTOLiberia. Yes. And then you do have a question, how quickly these countries react. Because now you've had some cases in Nigeria. Nigeria is a country with a lot of travel to Europe.
REHMExactly. Jim Sciutto of CNN. Short break here. When we come back, it's your turn to pose the questions. Give us a call. Send us an email or a tweet.
REHMAnd welcome back. First email. "In President Obama's initial speech justifying airstrikes in Iraq near Erbil, he cited two reasons -- rescuing the Yazidis, defending the Americans in the embassy. The first goal, apparently accomplished. The second goal would be easily accomplished by evacuating the embassy. But President Obama did not even discuss that option. I assume there are other things he actually wants to defend, like oil interests."
SCIUTTOWell, it's interesting. Not only is he not evacuating, he's actually adding more personnel, right? Particularly military advisors, because the administration has established that the Iraqis need American help -- and to this point, that help limited, not boots on the ground -- well, boots on the ground, but not combat troops, help advisors assess, et cetera, because they know that the Iraqis need help.
MYREYeah. The U.S. carried out a fairly similar humanitarian operation in 1991 with the Kurds after the first Gulf War. So here we are 23 years later doing something similar. And that's sort of maybe the negative way to look at it. The slightly positive way is, the U.S. involvement there led to the no-fly zone in Iraq, led to the semi-autonomous Kurdish region, led to some successes in peace -- relative peace and prosperity in the Kurdish region. So if there's any success story in Iraq, which is pretty hard to find, it's in that Kurdish region. And I think the U.S. doesn't want to let that go. The U.S. has a large consulate in Erbil.
MYREThey don't want to see the Kurds overrun by the Islamic State. So I think the U.S. doesn't want to jump ship, as it were, in the Kurdish region right now. And I think that we will see the U.S. making a fairly strong effort to maintain the situation there.
YOUSSEFThe only thing I would add is the conundrum for the United states is that some would argue the administration was caught rather flat-footed by ISIS's speed and the expansion into Iraq. And so keeping advisors and personnel allows the United States to get better information, faster information, more accurate information, more direct from its own resources, in a way that cannot happen if you're depending solely on things like ISR surveillance and sort of secondary intelligence, if you will.
REHMAll right. Let's go to Bakri in Indianapolis. You're on the air.
BAKRIThank you, Diane, for taking my call.
REHMSure. Go right ahead, sir.
BAKRIYes. My (word?) here is about what is happening in Gaza, what's happening in Iraq. It's very sad to see that, you know, the war today, you know, people are just killing each other just like nothing. And I think, when it comes to this, you know, we should not stand and take allies on this. When you are doing wrong, I think is wrong. We understand that the United States is sending weapons to Israel. And we believe that most of those weapons might be used in the crimes that have been happening in Gaza, killing the innocent.
BAKRIAnd I don't know, after the ceasefire, what is going to be the international wall effective, if these people go back to killing each other again. I don't know, I mean, because innocent people, people are suffering, people are dying.
YOUSSEFWell, the connective threat, arguably in all -- a lot of the conflicts that we've been talking about over the few weeks -- Libya, Syria, Iraq -- is these armed factions, stronger, better equipped, better trained, better funded than state militaries. And the confrontation that the world finds itself under, because the rules of sort of the engagement and international diplomacy don't apply when you're not dealing with state versus state, but rather armed faction versus armed faction. And so the caller, I think, gets at this frustration of seeing these crises erupt all over the world.
YOUSSEFAnd in fact, even in the Ukraine, it's the only connective thread that I can see between all these issues that we've been talking about today.
SCIUTTOYou do hear from U.S. intelligence officials their great concern about the number of failed states that you have now, partly the result, you know, of the aftereffects of the Arab Spring and other forces. But you have, you could call Gaza that I suppose, Syria, Iraq, Libya today, Yemen, Somalia, and this all creates a fertile ground for these extremist forces. I think Tom Friedman calls them the forces of order in this order. And you have this conflict going on. And there are groups that take advantage of that.
SCIUTTOAnd sadly, they can also be a threat, not just to the countries locally, regionally, but even back to Europe and the U.S.
REHMAll right. And to Kerry in Homestead, Fla. Hi there, you're on the air.
KERRYHey, Diane. How are you?
REHMI'm fine, thanks, sir. Go right ahead.
KERRYThank you. First time calling of the show.
KERRYI'm calling because I've been kind of quite taken back by how, I guess, over here in America, what's been going on in Gaza, as Israel is kind of portrayed. I've done, I guess, a lot of research of the history of it. And whether it's in the U.K. or Germany or in Europe, there's a lot of rallies in the thousands protesting what's going on. But I hear that maybe 43 percent of Americans are in favor of Israel. And I find that people I ask really don't know the history. Whether it was after World War I, the breakup of the Ottoman Empire and the Balfour Declaration, which said that the Jews now need a homeland.
KERRYAnd what was once a small religious (sic) in ancient Palestine, is now million worldwide religion and is now swarming back to ancient Palestine. You displaced Palestinian people. And this tension rises. And then it trickles on from there. But I see in the media, we label, I guess, Hamas as extreme terrorists. And his actions are a bit extreme, I agree. But they're fighting for something. They're fighting for a land that was once theirs. And they've just been displaced.
MYREWell, the caller is right. There's a very long and tortured history there and we're not moving forward. It's extraordinary looking back at I think some of the missed opportunities over the years. And as we see these other conflicts in the region, there was some thinking that if the Israelis and Palestinians were left alone, maybe they could sort it out. But I think the Israelis, who hold most of the cards right now, don't feel any need to make concessions as they look at all this chaos around them. They're not in a mood or inclined in any way to take a big step or a big risk. And I think that's just further entrenching the status quo.
YOUSSEFThe caller brings up an interesting point in the difference in terms of how Europeans see the conflict and how Americans see the conflict. What I have found most interesting in this recent engagement is that the U.S. position has changed the most I've ever seen it in my lifetime in terms of people becoming a little bit more empathetic with the Palestinian cause. I think part of it was the number of civilian casualties -- almost 2,000 people killed, three-quarters of them civilians -- and a distance in terms of a younger generation looking at the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, the U.S.-Israeli relations in a different light than they did.
YOUSSEFAnd also just the changing demographics in Israel where things have become much more polarized. And so the caller -- Kerry's right when he says that they're having protests on behalf of the Palestinians in Europe. But the shift that's happened here has been marked compared to the past conflicts, as all three have covered these conflicts year after year. And I think there's been a different tone this time around.
REHMAnd to Martin in Detroit, Mich. Hi there.
MARTINHello, Ms. Diane. How are you, darling?
REHMI'm good, thanks. How are you?
MARTINOh, I'm about half. Well I got a question about that relationship between our president and Mr. Netanyahu. During the beginning of the conflict, Kerry had given a preliminary ceasefire plan to Netanyahu. And Netanyahu shared it with the Knesset, that turned it into, you know, like Fox TV on steroids kind of thing. I don't understand it. These people aren't going to do protocol with us. I mean, that's a break of protocol. What are we really doing with our relationship with these people? Are we going to be able to improve this or it's going to stay the same?
MYREWell, the most interesting thing to me is the U.S. is not, you know, the broker here. It's a very funny negotiation that's going on. The Egyptian government is the main player here. And you've got -- and bizarrely, or strangely at least, the Egyptian government seems to be -- is more sympathetic to Israel in many ways than it is to Hamas.
MYREWell, General Sisi, who's now leading Egypt, he obviously had this conflict with the Muslim Brotherhood, and Hamas grew out of the Muslim Brotherhood. So he sees Hamas as just an extension of the Muslim Brotherhood in Gaza. And he shut down their smuggling tunnels that had been there for years. He sees -- has no -- shown no real sympathy for Hamas.
REHMAll right. To Ahmed in Cleveland, Ohio. You're on the air.
AHMEDWhen Netanyahu ran for prime minister the year 2000, I guess, Ariel Sharon and Hezbollah, he told his own people, if we allow the Palestinian a homeland, then the Palestinian homeland will make alliance with Syria and Iran. And the three of them will make war with Israel. This was not between Israel and Hamas. It's not about borders. It's really about trying to -- the Israeli -- the Palestine -- the Hamas and the Palestinian, there's no homeland for you. That's what I think. What do you think?
SCIUTTOWell it has been interesting, in this latest conflict, to hear Israeli officials regularly make a tie between Hamas and other groups -- ISIS, for instance, Boko Haram -- saying they are basically the same thing. Which is actually not true, right? You have global aspirations from a group like ISIS and Boko Haram, a nihilistic view. Hamas, a terrorist organization, but it arose from a local conflict, doesn't necessarily have global aspirations really outside of there. But that -- by making those connections, you see what the Israeli point of view is. That they're not going to negotiate here, their position hardening.
SCIUTTOAnd partly, as a result of that, you are seeing greater distance between the U.S. and Israel than you have in the past. Some of the language that was used by U.S. officials to describe Israeli action in Gaza was remarkably strong -- appalled, outrageous -- by the civilian casualties. Listen, it's still a very close relationship, so we're talking about a little bit of daylight between the two. But it's more than we've seen in recent years.
REHMHere's an email. "Where's the United Nations in this time of world unrest? Why is the U.S. stuck to foot the bill? And is it time for the experiment of the U.N. to be called a failure?"
MYREWell, people have been making that charge against the U.N. for...
REHMA long time.
MYRE...quite some time. So that's nothing new. But to pick up on what Nancy said a little while ago, some of these conflicts are state versus a group -- an armed faction that's not a U.N. member. That you can't take ISIS to the U.N. and sit down and negotiate with them. So this really does complicate the diplomacy. And it's sort of up -- well, who wants to act against ISIS? And that's the -- we have seen that nobody really wants to jump in. The U.S. is doing it in a very small and reluctant and limited way. But you don't have the venue between -- to bring two states together.
REHMGo ahead, Nancy.
YOUSSEFI think it's interesting in the email that the writer says that the U.S. is the only one footing the bill. Because there's an argument in the international community that the U.S. has done less than it had done in the past and that some argue it's a retreat. Obama's argument that we have to live in an ambiguous world has actually disrupted the order, because the U.S. was expected to be the sort of staple and vanguard in terms of the international order, if you will.
YOUSSEFSo it's interesting. Some people see the U.S. as sort of being the last force there to bring about negotiations and peace. And some see the U.S. as retreating and that retreat contributing to the disorder because it's a lost...
REHMAnd it's that tension that goes back to the first question. You know, here you've got an American public sick and tired of war and sick and tired of U.S. involvement, giving up lives and treasure. And at the same time, President Obama's foreign policy rating going down, down, down, even though he's giving the public what they want, Greg.
MYRERight. Right. What's really, I think, disheartening, if you look at it from an American perspective over the last decade or so, the Bush administration went in big in Iraq and Afghanistan -- a decade-long commitment. That didn't produce satisfactory results. And now we see the Obama administration taking a much -- a smaller, lesser involvement. In fact, almost seeming to -- wanting to wash its hands of Syria. So the big involvement hasn't succeeded. The sort of hands-off or limited involvement hasn't succeeded. So where does that leave you?
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Where it does leave you is that apparently this convoy to Ukraine from Russia, the suspect trucks, which the Ukrainian government said it was very, very wary about, have been destroyed according to your network.
SCIUTTOWell, there were -- they're -- we're seeing these headlines on CNN...
SCIUTTO...as we're sitting here discussing here. To be clear, there were two convoys. Because you had those white trucks carrying...
SCIUTTO...what purported to be aid.
SCIUTTOBut you also had a number of journalists on the border seeing military APCs, armored personnel carriers, coming in -- about two dozen of them crossing the border as well at the same time.
SCIUTTOThat, of course, more concerning, because there's been this ongoing fear about increasing arms support to the rebels from the Russian side. So it remains to be seen which they're saying has been destroyed here.
REHMAnd we're also seeing that the U.S. is pounding ISIS with airstrikes.
YOUSSEFWell, the question becomes where, and how, and to what end? Because, let us be clear, ISIS cannot be destroyed simply with airstrikes. It can't be destroyed simply with airstrikes and a reconciliation within the Iraqi government.
YOUSSEFBecause it is a quasi-military. This is something that went from being an insurgency to a quasi-military. Among the weapons the United States has destroyed are MRAPs. Remember MRAPs? The ones, the key vehicle in the U.S. -- these are U.S. vehicles that are now in ISIS's hands. They are operating as a quasi-military. They seek to create a state. This is not something that can be dealt with simply by the air or simply by the Iraqi government. It is an incredibly difficult problem that the whole world community faces.
REHMAnd yesterday, we were talking about all of the participants in ISIS and the Syrian rebels who may, in fact, make their way to the U.S.
SCIUTTOA major concern, I've been hearing from U.S. intelligence officials for months. You have, it's estimated -- and they admit they don't have the hardest numbers here -- but about 1,000 Westerners fighting alongside ISIS. And among them, about 100 Americans who, it's feared, are being trained and encouraged to carry out attacks when they come home. You're an American, you've got a passport, you can get into the country very easily. The Europeans also concerned because a number of those countries have visa-free travel to the U.S.
SCIUTTOYou've already had one attack in Europe by an ISIS veteran. This was on a Jewish center in Belgium. You've had another plot foiled in Cannes in France, a number of explosives found there. The worry is that's just the beginning. And in fact, we had a briefing just yesterday from intelligence officials where they are recently upping their estimated number of total ISIS fighters in Iraq and Syria to around 10,000. That's not the Westerners, but it's a bigger force than they initially thought. And in part, because they're getting a lot of recruits from al-Qaida and elsewhere.
SCIUTTOThis is the new big thing. Because they are having a lot of success, and no better recruiting tool than success.
YOUSSEFThat's right. The interesting thing is ISIS has come out and given an ominous warning a few weeks ago that they hadn't take their -- maybe a few months ago, that they hadn't taken their eye off the United States. And one of the things that remains unclear, are they sending fighters with American passports back to the United States? Or are these fighters taking initiative on their own. The organization's system is so opaque, its intentions are so opaque that it's hard to know who has control over these emboldened, armed, trained fighters who now have passports and access to Europe and the United States.
REHMWhat a messy world in which we live. Nancy Youssef of McClatchy Newspapers, Jim Sciutto at CNN, Greg Myre of NPR, thank you all.
MYREThank you, Diane.
REHMAnd thanks for listening. I'm Diane Rehm.
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