For this month's Readers' Review: "Drown" -- the debut collection of short stories by Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Junot Diaz. Twenty years ago, Diaz published ten heart-breaking tales about a fragmented family from the Dominican Republic finding their way in 1980s America.
Ukraine accuses Russia of sending troops across its border. The U.S. investigates the death of a second American fighting in Syria. And Israel and Hamas agree to a cease-fire. A panel of journalists joins Diane for analysis of the week’s top international news stories.
- Nathan Guttman Washington correspondent, Channel 1 Israeli News and The Jewish Daily Forward.
- Kim Ghattas State Department correspondent, BBC; author of "The Secretary: A Journey with Hillary Clinton from Beirut to the Heart of American Power."
- Susan Glasser editor, Politico magazine.
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. Ukraine accuses Russia of sending troops over its border. The UN says Syrian refugees surpass three million, calling the crisis the biggest humanitarian emergency of our era. And Israel and Hamas agree to a ceasefire. Here for a look at the week's top international stories on the "Friday News Roundup," Susan Glasser of Politico Magazine, Nathan Guttman of Channel 1 Israeli News and the Jewish Daily Forward. And Kim Ghattas of the BBC.
MS. DIANE REHMDo join us. 800-433-8850. Send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Facebook or Twitter. And it's good to see all of you.
MS. KIM GHATTASGood morning. Great to be here.
MR. NATHAN GUTTMANThanks for having us.
MS. SUSAN GLASSERHi Diane.
REHMSusan Glasser, what do we know for sure about Russian incursion into Ukraine?
GLASSERWell, first of all, that's a key word that you used, incursion. The President Obama, yesterday, was very careful in using the word incursion rather than invasion. The Ukrainian government itself not only has called it an invasion, but they have gone out of their way in the last few days to say, we have suffered what amounts to a direct military invasion by Russia. What's striking is that the US government, despite President Obama's cautious words, has been increasingly involved in putting out information and sources, talking to the press, suggesting that there's really beyond a shadow of a doubt that official military are operating inside Ukraine.
GLASSERThat it is beyond a question of shadowy support for these Russian allied separatists in eastern Ukraine and it's gone into actually having regular Russian military units. The Ukrainians, of course, the other day, paraded publicly these four Russian soldiers who they had captured, who were part of Russian military units and were now in the hands of Ukrainians. They claimed somewhat implausibly to have been lost, which occasioned much commentary on Twitter. I'm sure you've all seen the maps helpfully presented to the Russians that say Ukraine/not Ukraine. Russia/not Russia.
GLASSERSo, you know, basically though, and not at all facetiously, we are now looking at a situation where Russia and President Vladamir Putin has decided to up the stakes and to escalate the conflict in eastern Ukraine, rather than to back away from it.
REHMBut, at the same time, Russia continues to deny that it's involved in Ukraine.
GUTTMANWell, at least formally, they continue to deny this, but when you look at the signs on the ground, they're not trying to hide their involvement very well. It starts with a convoy that they depict as a humanitarian convoy. And then we have reports of maybe civilians or servicemen in the free time joining. Then we hear from Russians themselves, from Russian parents and mothers, about their kids being sent to the Ukrainian front. So definitely, Putin isn't doing a very good job of trying to hide his involvement.
GUTTMANAnd you do get the impression that formally he's still denying that there is a military incursion into the Ukraine, but he wants everyone to know that he's behind these actions.
REHMBut at the same time, Putin is calling for a humanitarian corridor for Ukrainians. What's all that about?
GHATTASYes, we've seen, we've seen these calls, and we've seen some of those trucks go in already. I mean, it certainly looks as though the Russians are trying to push into Ukraine in whatever way they can. And I was reading an interesting article, and Susan will be able to speak to the exact wording of that, but the word peacekeeping translated into -- the Russian word for peacekeeping actually really translates into peacemaking. And so, the idea that they are offering themselves up as potential peacekeepers, or helping to stabilize those parts of Ukraine is perhaps a prelude to them imposing some sort of peacemaking force.
GHATTASI was also reading about what could be the strategy behind this further incursions into Ukraine. And the idea that perhaps what Vladamir Putin is trying to do is establish a land corridor on the southern edge of Ukraine, between Russia and Crimea.
GLASSERWell, all of those are possibilities. I think one big picture fact to keep in mind is that this is actually a response to the Ukrainian military's relative success in beating back the separatists, and this follows on a couple months of basically the Ukrainian military having made gains and being on the verge of recapturing key cities such as Donetsk, which had been held by the rebels. And so, basically, that, what that did was push Putin even further into a corner where he had to either abandon in potentially a very embarrassing way this rebellion that of course he had funded and supported.
GLASSERAnd fomented all along. Or he'd have to double down on it and actually send in more reinforcements in order to push back the Ukrainians. And so one of the really unfortunate results of that is that the Ukrainian government have really invested in affecting this military strategy and said, we're gonna win. We don't want to have a negotiated peace with the Russians. We're just gonna defeat these separatists. And now, you know, one of the consequences of Putin's escalation is a realization that for Ukrainians, the costs of a military victory either just went way, way up, or became, in fact, impossible.
REHMDo the Russian people believe Putin? Nathan.
GUTTMANNo, not at all. According to press reports we see coming out of Russia, they don't believe him. And in fact, there is, surprisingly, some kind of pushback from the Russian people who seem to be feeling that they're going back in history to the days of Afghanistan, in which the military followed orders by the government, but people never knew what exactly is going on on the ground. And who is being sent where.
REHMAre they feeling the sanctions?
GUTTMANWell, they are feeling the sanctions. There is definitely evidence that Russia is feeling the sanctions as an economy. And of course, the counter-sanctions are also something that is being felt by the Russian people. The fact that imports into Russia are being blocked now by the Putin government. That's definitely being felt.
REHMAnd President Obama has said there is no military option for the US in Ukraine. So, what is the US to do?
GHATTASMore diplomacy. The problem here is how much are Europe and the US willing to do? What are the costs that they are willing to incur militarily, economically, as they stand up to Putin? Yes, people in Russia are starting to feel the impact of the sanctions. But does Putin really care at this point? He cares much less than Angela Merkel, for example, and what she would have to deal with if the sanctions that Europe imposes on Russia have an economic impact on the economy of Germany, for example.
REHMSo, Ukraine's president met with President Putin on Tuesday. What came out of that, Susan.
GLASSERWell, not very much. You know, remember that this military escalation actually as occurred in exactly the same week and in the exact same context of this basically failed meeting in Minsk the other day. At which, both Poroshenko and Putin were present along with European leaders. And what it underscores is that we're not at a diplomatic phase right now. And I want to make the point, actually, around the sanctions. One of the problems is that there's pretty clearly a mismatch between, you know, what's actually happening on the ground.
GLASSERAnd the tools that the western Europe and the United States has brought to bear on it. And so, President Obama was in this very awkward position yesterday of both defending his sanctions and yet, at the same time, not denying the reality that there's been this escalation on the ground. And yet, you know, he doesn't want to say, well, my sanctions have failed. It leads to the question, okay, obviously, if these sanctions were meant to deter Vladamir Putin, they have not succeeded. So we're not talking about deterrent sanctions anymore.
GLASSERSo, the goal then, is it punitive? And if so, are we hurting the Russian people? Are we punishing Vladamir Putin? To what end, basically, would we impose further sanctions? And that's where this question, just quickly, right. It's not so much US military action, which not only has President Obama ruled out, but everybody understood from the beginning, the United States or Germany for that matter, is not going to be flying airplanes and sending troops to war to defend the borders of eastern Ukraine.
GLASSERHowever, there is, I understand, a pretty raging debate inside the United States government and elsewhere around the question of lethal aid. And there are many more things that we could do on the security front that may happen, beyond sanctions.
REHMNow, the other question is timing and why this is happening now. When you've got all these fronts. We'll talk about Iraq and Syria in our next segment, but is it that Putin sees Obama in a particularly vulnerable situation, Nathan?
GUTTMANI think this is clearly part of his consideration. Of course, there are other events on the ground that dictate how this crisis is unfolding. But definitely, there is this perception, I think, in the Kremlin, that since you have right now a US leader who is viewed, pretty much by all the world, as being weak or hesitant. And definitely as being reluctant to use force or any kind of military power. This is seen as an opportune moment for anyone who wants to grab any gains on the ground.
GUTTMANThis may be a wrong calculation on their behalf, but since there is this perception out there, I'm sure it plays into the calculations of Putin.
REHMNathan Guttman, Washington correspondent for Channel 1 Israeli News and the Jewish Daily Forward. Short break here. And we'll be right back.
REHMAnd Susan Glasser, you've got some new reporting from Bloomberg on the Russian incursion into Ukraine?
GLASSERWell, we were just talking about this question of what else can the west do? And clearly Russia's escalated what will the response be? In Bloomberg right now as we're reporting an interesting thing that the United Kingdom is pushing the European Union to think about even stricter financial sanctions that would affect Russia's ability to operate in the international banking system known as SWIFT, which is a very stringent sanction of the sort that the west has imposed on Iran, for example.
GLASSERSo that would represent an escalation. I think you'll see a bucket of sanction proposals like that considered. I think you will see -- remember, next week is a big NATO summit. And President Obama and all the leaders of NATO will be gathered in England next week, the foreign ministers, the defense ministers. This is going to be a big Russian conversation. They'll also be talking about military measures. Not military measures inside Ukraine but proposals are already on the table to increase NATO's military presence in NATO countries such as Poland, potentially the Baltic states.
GLASSERThere will be a move afoot to do more of that. President Obama will be visiting Tallinn, the capitol of Estonia to reaffirm the United States' commitment under Article 5 of NATO, which requires us to come to the defense of all NATO members. It is the core principle of NATO. And of course, lots of people are really worried, will the United States really honor that if push comes to shove and President Putin decides to take action inside the Baltic States, which are very vulnerable, of course, to Russia or Poland.
REHMAnd in the meantime, Kim Ghattas, today Britain raised its terrorist threat level to severe. What does that mean?
GHATTASWell, it means that the UK, just as the U.S., is increasingly worried about the possibility that people from the UK who are joining ISIS, this Islamic militant group, very radical group that has been fighting in Iraq and Syria and holding territory there, that some of those Jihadists from the UK fighting there might return to the UK. And that proposes, of course, a big threat to the UK. Now, the threat level was raised from substantial to severe but there's no sense -- there was no indication that there was an imminent threat.
GHATTASSo this is both about raising awareness. This is about perhaps deterring -- trying to deter people from joining the organization. But also I do wonder, without wanting to speculate too much, whether there is some sense that, you know, the UK leaders need to prepare the people in the UK for the possibility that perhaps sometimes down the line the UK will be involved in some of those military strikes targeting ISIS and Iraq.
REHMSo you would say that the threat level was raised simply to raise awareness?
GHATTASNo. There is definite intelligence, of course, when these threat levels are put out. But Theresa May, the home secretary, also said that there was no intelligence about an imminent threat.
GHATTASSo it's a generalized sense that this is becoming a real problem for Europe.
REHMSo how would that change ordinary Brits' behavior?
GHATTASWell, there is already a sense in Europe because of the news coming from the -- from Iraq and Syria and the beheading of the American journalist James Foley in which a British sounding man seemed to have been involved that, you know, this isn't a far away problem anymore. And the problem of ISIS in the region is two-pronged. It is about Sunni grievances locally. This is why some people are joining ISIS or ISIL or IS the Islamic State in Iraq and in Syria.
GHATTASBut there's also the separate problem of disaffected youth in Europe and even in the U.S. who are joining this organization. And that's a separate problem that needs to be dealt with within Europe.
REHMSo at news conference, Nathan, yesterday President Obama was asked about plans for Syria. The president responded quote "we don't have a strategy yet." The media and Obama critics in congress latched onto that quote. Was that fair?
GUTTMANWell, yes and no. I'm sure Obama regrets making that statement because that's not exactly what he meant it to say. But when the President of the United States comes -- stand up in front of reporters to state his policy regarding a world crisis and says, we don't have a strategy yet, that doesn't come across well under any circumstances.
GUTTMANHowever, his full context was basically trying to say, we did not make a decision yet to launch airstrikes against Syria. He even said, let's not put the cart before the horses. We're not there yet. We're examining -- we're actually thinking about the airstrikes but we're not there yet. So he again wanted to stress the fact that he's very cautious in using force.
REHMHe's not rushing.
GUTTMANRight, exactly. That's exactly what Obama has been doing since he came into office. He's trying to be not George Bush. He's not -- he wants to say time and again, we're very cautious in using our military force. But this saying that there is no strategy yet definitely played into the hands of his critics.
REHMBut what kind of surveillance is the U.S. flying over Syria, Kim?
GHATTASWell, the U.S. is apparently already flying drones over Syria to gather some intelligence. And surely I think that some of that may have already happened before we were made aware of those drone surveillance because there was, as we now know, an effort to try to rescue some of those Americans being held by ISIS earlier this year. And that surely must have relied as well on some kind of over flights and surveillance.
GHATTASBut going back to the question about was it fair or unfair that everybody picked on the president for his statement no strategy, I think it's important to keep two things in mind. No strategy actually means, in my view from my reading and speaking to American officials, there are the outlines of a strategy but it requires a regional coming together. And the allies are not there yet. He needs the Saudis, he need the Emirates. He even needs the Egyptians and the Jordanians. And it's just unclear whether they're ready to buy into a comprehensive regional solution.
GHATTASAnd the second point is, President Assad has the U.S. right where he wants them to be. This is what he'd been warning about for a long time, that it was him or the Islamists. So he would really like the United States to start bombing ISIS positions in Syria because it would help his position. Why would the president announce to President Assad that he's about to do just that? So I think there is some calculation there as well.
GLASSERWell, I think Kim's point is super important when it comes especially to the question of the regional actors. And clearly if you listen to President Obama's news conference, a lot of his remarks, specific remarks were actually very much aimed at the Gulf countries. He specifically made the point that Secretary Kerry was going to be traveling to the region. Why is he going out of his way? Because actually they have been part of the problem in many ways and not part of the solution up until this point. And so unless they can get that to stop, it's going to continue to be kind of this disaster unfolding.
GLASSERThe Saudis, the Qataris have been funding and supporting different factions in the civil war. Many of the weapons and fighters that are there who have been both opposing Assad but also fighting with each other inside the opposition, are direct result of these different U.S. partners backing different factions. They have contributed to the growth of this civil war to the metastasizing of it into a series of hard-line internecine fights between different Islamic militant factions. And so they have created the problem as much as their part of the solution.
GLASSERAnd Assad himself -- I think this is really the sort of horrible part of the calculation, right, because the United States has been publically committed to his ouster. The idea that we're somehow just going to get in bed with him again because there are some really horrific, you know, almost medieval-style fighters who have emerged and are wreaking mayhem across the region, you know, that's a pretty unpalatable policy option for Washington first of all.
GLASSERBut second of all, there's increasing evidence that has emerged in reports in the Wall Street Journal, in our own magazine, that Assad himself very cynically has helped to create this ISIS threat in order then to produce exactly this kind of crisis that we're...
REHMAnd tell us about Douglas McCain, the second American Jihadist killed fighting with ISIS.
GUTTMANDefinitely. A 33-year-old young American from Minnesota who went to join ISIS in Syria and was killed in the fighting. There are reports of a third American who was also killed by Syrian or pro-Syrian forces. But the United States was not able to identify him yet. And this is all part of the phenomena, which Kim mentioned, in context of the British warning, the fact that there are foreign fighters, even Americans that are going there.
GUTTMANNow the estimate is that while there are hundreds, maybe a thousand Europeans that already joined in the Jihadists in Syria, there may be a dozen Americans. So the problem isn't that significant but the threat is the same, not only of Americans who have been radicalized for one reason or another and decided to join the fighting there, but what will happen when they come back? Is this kind of a terror boot camp which will be used later on against U.S. targets?
REHMAnd have they all clearly been identified and their passports sort of earmarked so that they couldn't easily come back to the U.S.?
GUTTMANWell, authorities believe that they identified at least a dozen of them that are there. And there's a close watch of many others. A lot of them aren't -- based on what I'm reading about this -- aren't very sophisticated. They talk on Facebook and online forums about their plans. Everyone is well aware of their intention to go to fight there. They post things that alert people that are watching this. So definitely there's a very close watch. And many people have been called up by the FBI even before leaving. And they were warned not to go out and join the fighters.
REHMAnd one of the journalists being held by ISIS is Steven Sotloff. His mother made a plea yesterday.
GHATTASIt was -- I watched the video and it was so heartbreaking to watch this mother appeal to the leader of ISIS to spare her son. It was interesting. She was, in many ways, you know, I wouldn't say deferential but she called him by -- with his title, the caliph. You know, no westerner would address him like that but this is a message where she's trying to, you know, talk to him, human being to human being.
GHATTASShe talked about how her son had traveled to Syria to cover the suffering of people at the hand of tyrants, that her son was there to shed light on the suffering of people in the country. And the tyrant in this case, I assume she means President Assad. So she was trying to show that her son wasn't a bad person and that his life should be spared.
GHATTASOne of the demands made by ISIS when they killed James Foley was an end to military strikes against ISIS positions in Iraq. And who knows, potentially Syria. That hasn't happened. So it's a very difficult spot that the president is in. How do you spare one life and what do you do about America's national security?
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." And that brings up the whole question of paying for hostage release. And the U.S. has a policy of not doing so. France, other countries have done so. Should our policy be changed, Susan?
GLASSERWell, you know, Diane, there's nothing that I think is more agonizing when you think about the risk that journalists already are taking to be in the warzone. I think, you know, what most American journalists would tell you, and I agree with this, is that it's unfortunately a terrible development that European countries have created this market. It is one of the main funding sources for al-Qaida-affiliated terror groups, not only in Syria but in other parts of the world that are very dangerous. And that the paying of ransoms arguably is -- you know, it's probably in some ways what led to the killing of Foley.
GLASSERBecause look, you know, who was he sharing a cell with? The French captive who was released. You know, no one's confirmed, you know, what was paid and when and where. But, you know, I think it is a highly reasonable conclusion to believe that someone paid for the release of his fellow French journalist while this poor American was directly -- lost his life as a result of the creation of this market. I think it's just a terrible, terrible thing and it needs to be talked about openly with European governments and the American government.
REHMDoes Israel pay for release of hostages?
GUTTMANIsrael doesn't pay a ransom for the release of hostages but it definitely negotiates very generous prisoner swaps that some would say are too generous. We know that the United States doesn't like the Israeli policy but it's a very strong feeling among the Israelis and within the Israeli public that if a soldier, but even a civilian is caught by the enemy, you have to do anything you can to release him, including releasing murderers from prison. And in this context I think paying ransom would be seen by Israelis as the reasonable thing to do in order to bring American citizens back home.
REHMYou've also got Syrian militants detaining UN peacekeepers in the Golan Heights. More than 80 others trapped elsewhere in the region. Who's responsible, Nathan?
GUTTMANWell, everyone is responsible. In the Golan Heights is the al-Nusra group that abducted the UN peacekeepers. It's a historical mission that's been there ever since the 1973 war and protects the Golan Heights, usually a very peaceful border but not anymore. And I guess one of these questions is what is the goal of these kidnappings? And it's one thing to kidnap journalists for ransom or to get any kind of political concessions, but what can the UN possibly give these people?
REHMAnd Kim, what do we know for sure about Egypt and the UAE the United Arab Emirates launching secret airstrikes in Libya?
GHATTASNot so secret anymore, I think, because I think enough American officials have acknowledged on background without wanting to be named, that they know that it's the Egyptians and the emirates who did this. I spoke to American officials who told me that they had seen Emirate military deployments -- movements for many months already and were suspicious about what that might mean. The suspicion is that -- or, you know, the surveillance indicates that emirates had positioned their war planes on Egyptian airbases. And it's from there that they took off to bomb those targets in Libya. They were trying to push back against the advances of Islamist groups in Libya.
GHATTASNow, you could say, well, what's wrong with the emirates and the Libya -- and the Egyptians, you know, taking to the skies and bombing Islamists in Libya. But the problem here is that the Libyan government did not explicitly openly ask for that intervention unlike, for example, the Iraqi government which very explicitly asked the U.S. to get involved and help against ISIS.
REHMKim Ghattas. She's State Department correspondent for the BBC. She's author of "The Secretary: A Journey With Hillary Clinton From Beirut to the Heart of American Power." Short break here. Your calls when we come back. Stay with us.
REHMAnd it's time for your phone calls during the International Hour of our Friday News Roundup. Let's go first to Sarasota, Fla. Hi there, Brian. You're on the air.
BRIANHi, Diane. I just wanted to say it's an honor to be on your show.
REHMAw, thank you.
BRIANBut I just think the -- all of these leaders like Putin and Netanyahu, I think that they're just being opportunistic right now and taking advantage of the fact that the U.S. is really spread thin. But also my question is, would one of the strategies the Ukraine situation be to open up the visa and passport requirements, free those up for the Ukrainians as its response from the State department? Could they do anything with that, that would possibly create a non-military type of response?
GLASSERWell, I'm not quite sure what the caller is getting at in terms of the visas and the passports.
REHMJust letting Ukrainians into the U.S.
GLASSERYeah. That's not going to stop the Russians from, you know, making incursions in eastern Ukraine unfortunately. You know, I think the caller's first point is a very interesting one. This question of whether a perception of American weakness or lack of leadership has contributed to what feels like proliferating crises is one that we're going to be probably debating for a long time about Obama's presidency. Certainly it is a narrative that Republicans here in Washington have been pretty aggressively promoting in recent months. And it is something that you will get if you talk to people outside of U.S. parties and politics.
GLASSERIf you go to the Middle East, certainly Gulf Arabs, you know, over the last couple of years, have been very vocal in telling any American interlocutor that they can that they feel that Putin, I mean, that Obama has created a vacuum in the region.
REHMAll right. To Josh in Dallas, Texas. You're on the air.
JOSHThank you for taking my call.
JOSHI just had a quick comment or question. I'll take my response off air. I'm hearing a lot of different media outlets pointing blames towards Qatar and towards Saudi Arabia for funding, and even pointing fingers toward Assad supposedly backing up ISIS somehow. I want to know when the United States is supposed to take responsibility for the fact that many members of ISIS actually came from the training grounds in Jordan where we had Syrian rebels that we were training to fight Assad. And I'll take your response off air. Thank you.
REHMAll right. Thanks for calling. Kim.
GHATTASWell, the caller, Josh, raises a very good point. And there are a lot of people who always oppose the idea of arming the rebels, because you never know how that -- what are the unintended consequences of arming the rebels? I think that those who support that idea will say, well what went wrong was that the U.S. didn't take ownership of that program of arming the rebels. It allowed others to participate. It didn't want to be the leader. It let the Saudis, the Qataris, the Turks take control. And that's when it all went terribly wrong. But then you have those who say, well and that's exactly why the president should have gone for targeted airstrikes when he was about to do so last year.
GHATTASAnd in fact the President of France, Francois Hollande, said just a few days -- just a few weeks ago, that if the U.S., if the international community had enforced a transition in Syria last year, we wouldn't be here today. But just going back to the point of the vacuum and, you know, whether, you know, this narrative of a vacuum is fair, whether Putin and others are taking advantage of, you know, American retreat. To some extent, yes, we do have a president who is trying to reposition America on the global stage, who doesn't want the U.S. to have to carry the burden of doing everything.
GHATTASBut I also remember 2008, when President Bush was president and Russia invaded Georgia and there was a war in Gaza. And a lot of people were up in arms about President Bush and his terrible policies. So, you know, it's a fine line trying to be the world's superpower without being a bully. And I don't think anybody's figured it out yet.
REHMNathan, tell us about the ceasefire agreed to between Israel and Hamas.
GUTTMANWell, it's the third time basically since this war broke out that both sides are agreeing on a truce. So this is a longer truce and almost ceasefire. It's timed for a month, which is longer than previous ones. And it's being kept so far. There is a sense that both sides, for the first time, are really interested in maintaining this truce. Over on the Israeli side, definitely Netanyahu is emerging from this military conflict weaker than he entered it. There's a lot of criticism in Israel. He's spending a lot of time now trying to reinforce the message that Israel actually prevailed in this struggle and that his leadership put Israelis in a safer place vis-à-vis Hamas.
GUTTMANHamas, on the other hand, is of course trying to show their people that there was a reason for the heavy price they paid in terms of the complete destruction of Gaza and over 2,000 people killed in the conflict. And definitely they're -- both sides seem to be turning inwards right now, trying to work with their own people, rebuild and reshape their leadership, rather than prepare for the next round.
REHMBut aren't Palestinians also upset that they have been the ones to bear the burden of this war?
GUTTMANWell, of course they are. And we see here two elements of it. First of all, the residents of Gaza that suffered greatly in this war, more than any other conflict in the recent years. And it was heavier damage than we've ever seen before. There's also another aspect of it and that is the broader Palestinian public and the Palestinian Authority that seems to have lost from both ends. On the one hand, Israel ignored peace overtures and did not go ahead with the peace process with the moderate Palestinian Authority. And on the other hand, it's now negotiating with Hamas.
REHMSo what happens to Fatah in the process? Kim.
GHATTASWell, there are different theories out there about who really won this conflict. And is it perhaps possible that you could see President Abbas, Mahmoud Abbas, who is in the West Bank, and his party, Fatah, emerge from this as perhaps the only winner? That perhaps, you know, the prime minister of Israel might turn again towards President Abbas to restart these talks. I think we're not there yet. But I really find it very striking that both the Israelis and Hamas said that they had achieved victory.
GHATTASI just don't see how you can declare victory when there are so many civilians who have died. And unfortunately, in the Arab world, particularly, you know, in countries like Egypt and Syria, you know, there have been so many victories over the past few decades, you wonder why the Arab world is still, you know, why we're still where we are, if we have been victorious so often?
REHMAll right. To William in Concord, N.H. You're on the air.
WILLIAMOh, thank you for taking my call.
WILLIAMThe question I had, and I'll just take your comments, is so far the Russians have been adamant that they have not invaded Ukraine. Why doesn't NATO or the United States park a couple of war ships in the Black Sea and just get the coordinates from the Ukrainians and we'll blast those forces out of there. And if Putin says anything, we'll say, well wait a minute, you told us there were no Russians there.
GLASSERWell, I think it's pretty clear that there are Russians there. And so that's not something that is an option that's on the table. President Obama was unequivocal about that. He pointed out that the United States does not have a treaty relationship of mutual defense with Ukraine. And that's clearly not going to happen, period. Actually there has been some softening on the Russian front on this question of denial. What they've started to say this week, over the last couple of days, is not, "No there are no Russian military there." They're saying, "Well, yes, there are Russians there. But it's not an invasion." And so...
REHMThey're vacationing is what several of them said.
GLASSERWell, you know, again, I don't think any -- but that's not really a serious debate that's being had, period. And, you know, NATO, while it is not contemplating an offensive military operation against the Russians, you know, has been putting out its intelligence. They've been releasing it publicly, very convincing documentary evidence of the Russian Regular Army military presence inside Ukraine. And so they have actually gone out of their way to engage in this public debate over the Russian presence. They've seen that. That's been a very concerted, clearly strategic effort on the part of the United States and NATO to put out the evidence publicly so that it would be irrefutable, so that they could stop playing Putin's game of, you know, denial.
GLASSERRussians, the Soviets before them, were experts in the art of sort of the big lie and the pretense of doing actions in Eastern Europe that, while under cover of saying that they were not. It's not plausible deniability. I think we can all agree on that.
REHMAll right. Let's go to Bobbi in Detroit, Mich. You're on the air.
BOBBIHi, Diane. I love your show.
BOBBII've got a question -- it's a comment and a question. During the conversation, your panelists, they spoke about the image of America, the United States, being weak. And that Congress, and this is not a party issue that Republicans jump on that and when they're -- and then some of the people on the panel said when they're in the East that this is something that's brought into the conversation, that President Obama is seen as weak.
BOBBIBut do we not, as Americans, have a responsibility -- we've contributed to that image -- how we treat our president. Do we not understand? And this is a comment and a question. Is there not the responsibility of us, Congress and citizens alike, how we treat our president? How the rest of the world will treat him? And so I'm just curious what this panel thinks about it.
REHMSure. I think you've raised a really, really good point, Bobbi.
GHATTASI think it's a great point. It applies to both presidents, President Bush and President Obama. You know, what we're seeing on full today is a continuation of something that started, you know, before President Obama was elected I believe. But also, I think the question that Americans need to ask themselves is what they want for their country as a role on the global stage. I think that is the real key here. You have sometimes conflicting polls. You know, we've seen a historic high in the number of people who don't want the U.S. to get involved in anything that has to do with the rest of the world.
GHATTASBut that has implications for people in the U.S. There is a reason why the U.S. has been prosperous, why it's economy is recuperating. It is because it does play a role in making sure that the world's system continues to function to some extent. So, you know, what happens in Gaza or in Ukraine or in Athens has -- can have direct implications for people's jobs back here in the U.S. And I think that is a connection that people don't often make.
REHMAnd to Mark in Pensacola, Fla. You're on the air. Let's see, have we got Mark?
MARKPeople may remember that when Medvedev, the Russian -- former Russian president was speaking with President Obama and the mike was open, President Obama says, "Tell the prime minister," meaning Putin, "that I can do more after the election is over." Well, I don't think he has any intention to get involved in Ukraine whatsoever. And even though the president, our president may have some question on who the JB Team is, Putin has no question who the JB Team is. It's the Obama administration.
GLASSERWell, just to go back for a second to the previous caller's point. You know, it is often said and there is much truth to it, right, that Americans get the leaders that they deserve. And one thing that is fair to say is that President Obama, broadly speaking, has offered Americans a foreign policy that people in both political parties broadly share -- his desire to extract us from the entanglements of the Middle East and those conflicts.
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Now to Todd in St. Louis, Mo. You're on the air.
TODDThank you. My question kind of goes to the ISIS use of social media. And I'm just wondering why, you know, with Twitter and Instagram and, you know, whatever the flavor of the month is, why are these people allowed to post beheadings and not have them taken down?
REHMGood question. Nathan.
GUTTMANDefinitely. We've seen this problem, very severely now, but it's going on for a while already. This -- where are the limits of social media and should you put limits on it? And there are actually differences between the different platforms. Twitter has prided itself in being the most open and welcoming platform for any kind of expression, which helped, of course, revolutionaries in Iran and across the -- and in Egypt during the Arab Spring. But it also meant that they're open to jihadists and terrorists trying to gain momentum and to recruit people and to praise their own work.
GUTTMANFacebook, on the other hand, Google, they're much more cautious. They will quickly remove anything that they find offensive. It's a different kind of philosophy there. But definitely Twitter ends up as the main platform for anyone who wants to express any view, and that includes also terrorists.
GHATTASI find that there is a discrepancy in the way the social media world reacts to videos of beheading of Americans and videos of beheadings of, you know, dozens of other people in the Arab world. You know, there was a lot of outrage when the video of James Foley was online. And it was taken down. But, you know, we had been subjected to those videos about Arabs being beheaded for many weeks and months. And I didn't see the same kind of outrage, which is an interesting point to debate. But the other thing that I -- I think it was in Politico today, was it's interesting to see whether, you know, they're -- the social media presence of ISIS could eventually also be one of their Achilles heels.
GHATTASI mean, is this a way to trace them, to find them, to find coordinates where they are, where they're operating? You know, they're posting pictures of, you know, their activities. And you can, you know, if you've got the right people, you can figure out where they are.
REHMAnd finally, we are now seeing Ebola in Congo. Is it connected to the outbreaks we've seen in West Africa? Or is it another strain? Nathan.
GUTTMANWell apparently it's another strain. The researchers managed to find out, people from the World Health Organization, the origins of this outbreak in Congo. And apparently it's -- was described one housewife who cooked or butchered an animal hunted by her husband, which was infected with Ebola. And that's what started that outbreak. And the notion is that it is separate and doesn't mean that the Western African Ebola is spreading that far and that quickly. However, it is still, of course, a source of concern in Congo. But it probably has nothing to do with the other cases we've seen.
REHMAnd what a down note on which to end, 1,400 people in four West African countries killed by Ebola thus far. Twenty-four reported cases in Congo as of August 18, with 13 deaths. Somehow we've got to get hold of this. Susan Glasser, Nathan Guttman, Kim Ghattas, thank you all. Have a good and safe Labor Day weekend.
GHATTASThank you, you as well.
GLASSERThank you, Diane.
REHMAnd thanks for listening, all. I'm Diane Rehm.
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