Guest Host: Tom Gjelten

US President Barack Obama (4th R) meets with Jordan's King Abdullah II (4th L) during a meeting on the first day of the NATO 2014 summit at the Celtic Manor Hotel in Newport, South Wales, on September 4, 2014. The NATO summit billed as the most important since the Cold War got underway with calls to stand up to Russia over Ukraine and confront Islamic State extremists.

US President Barack Obama (4th R) meets with Jordan's King Abdullah II (4th L) during a meeting on the first day of the NATO 2014 summit at the Celtic Manor Hotel in Newport, South Wales, on September 4, 2014. The NATO summit billed as the most important since the Cold War got underway with calls to stand up to Russia over Ukraine and confront Islamic State extremists.

At a NATO summit in Wales, western leaders promise new sanctions against Russia if peace talks fail between Russia and Ukraine. As fighting continues in eastern Ukraine, NATO leaders establish a rapid-response military force. President Obama urges NATO to confront ISIS after a second American journalist is beheaded. U.S. military forces launch an operation in Somalia against the Al-Qaida militant Al-Shabaab network. And world health officials say U.N. budget cuts are hurting the response to the Ebola crisis. A panel of journalists joins guest host Tom Gjelten for analysis of the week’s top international news stories.


  • Elise Labott Global affairs correspondent, CNN.
  • Yochi Dreazen Managing editor for news at Foreign Policy and author of the upcoming book "The Invisible Front."
  • Lara Jakes Associated Press national security reporter based at the State Department; former Baghdad bureau chief.


  • 11:06:53

    MR. TOM GJELTENThanks for joining us. I'm Tom Gjelten of NPR. I'm sitting in for Diane Rehm because she's having a voice treatment. She'll be back later this month. The UK, France and other NATO allies agree to form an international military coalition to protect European neighbors from aggression and to thwart Islamic extremists. NATO leaders meeting in Whales express muted optimism about a ceasefire agreement to stop the fighting in Ukraine.

  • 11:07:21

    MR. TOM GJELTENAnd a third American infected with Ebola in Africa is back in the USA and begins treatment today. Joining me for this week's top international stories on the "Friday News Roundup," we have Elise Labott of CNN, Yochi Dreazen of Foreign Policy Magazine and Lara Jakes of The Associated Press. This is your chance to comment on the news, as well. To get your questions answered. Call us at 1-800-433-8850. You can email us at You can send in your questions via Facebook or Twitter. Good morning everyone. Hello. Thanks for being here.

  • 11:08:01

    MR. YOCHI DREAZENGood morning, Tom.

  • 11:08:02

    MS. ELISE LABOTTGood to see you, Tom.

  • 11:08:02

    MS. LARA JAKESThanks, Tom.

  • 11:08:03

    GJELTENLara, welcome to "The Diane Rehm Show."

  • 11:08:05

    JAKESThank you very much.

  • 11:08:07

    GJELTENI'm looking forward to having you as a panelist on future hours, as well. But we always begin with our newest panelist. Bring us up to date on the one story -- one of the stories that we're following, minute by minute, and that is what is happening, if anything, in these ceasefire talks in Belarus between the government of Ukraine, the government of Russia and the separatist forces there?

  • 11:08:31

    JAKESWell, this agreement was just inked and the ceasefire just began. Just minutes ago. Right now, there are very few details about what the plan will call for and what everybody agreed to. But the rebels say that they are still going to push for secession from Ukraine, which could signal that this may not last very long.

  • 11:08:56

    GJELTENIt certainly could. In fact, that's the reluctance on the part of the rebel side. Elise, there is probably less than an enthusiastic view of this accord on the Ukrainian side as well.

  • 11:09:11

    LABOTTThat's right. Well, the deal that they were talking about yesterday, that was proposed by Russian President Putin, was that Ukraine would freeze in place, basically, the gains made by the Russian backed separatists. And so, there would be an end to the rebel offensive, but there would also be a Ukrainian pull back of troops. And that kind of leaves a quasi-permanent, you know, rebel state in Ukraine and, in effect would really have the kind of frozen conflict that we've seen elsewhere in (word?), in Transnistria, for instance, in Moldova.

  • 11:09:44

    LABOTTAnd that is really what President Putin, a lot of people think, was after all along. Which is basically to keep Ukraine on the back foot, have borders in dispute and then, in that scenario, Ukraine really would never be able to move forward, would never be able to join NATO. And a lot of people think that's what Putin was looking for.

  • 11:10:03

    GJELTENYochi Dreazen, here we are starting this discussion with news from Putin's directed ceasefire talks in Belarus. Meanwhile, there was this summit here in NATO. Has Putin here sort of stolen the spotlight from all this NATO activity to sort of present a tough front against Russia?

  • 11:10:22

    DREAZENYou know Tom, he has, but he also is the one who gave NATO a spotlight and even a dose of relevance in the first place. NATO is an aging, bloated, somewhat irrelevant alliance that was tested and kind of didn't step up to the test in Afghanistan. Also in Libya. Its mission, a bigger issue is its funding. Almost no European countries are funding their defense commitments. Two percent of GDP is what they promised. Almost no one is doing it. Putin has briefly made it relevant if he pulls back from Ukraine, it falls back into relevance.

  • 11:10:48

    DREAZENBut he's given an out, because the EU and NATO are getting for their next round of sanctions, which they frankly did not want to impose. NATO did not want to get involved in any sort of arms race with Russia. No one was anticipating NATO troops and Russian troops shooting at each other, but NATO didn't want to have troops even across the border from Putin. So this is a step back from sanctions they did not want to impose, a fight they did not want to fight. And that's potentially one of the key takeaways of the ceasefire if it sticks.

  • 11:11:13

    GJELTENBut Lara, if NATO, if the European governments did not want to toughen sanctions, and if they did not want to support a stronger military response, how long are we going to continue to pay attention to NATO, if when faced with this critical test, they sort of blinked.

  • 11:11:29

    JAKESWell, I'm not sure how long that might be, but, I mean, let's also remember, this gives NATO something to do. They were coming out of Afghanistan in large numbers and there will still be some numbers there, of troops there, after the end of the year. But now they've created this quick reaction force.

  • 11:11:45

    GJELTENYeah, tell us about that.

  • 11:11:47

    JAKESSo there will be several thousand troops from NATO countries rotating in. I think it's interesting that the United States has not committed to a number of troops that might join this quick reaction force. Although apparently, there is going to be a US force exercise in Ukraine sometime later this year. So, I mean, I think we'll just have to see, but I think Yochi's right. It does give NATO a little bit more of a spotlight now than what it had been expecting with the drawdown of Afghanistan.

  • 11:12:17

    GJELTENWell, what do we expect next week, Elise? I mean, if you, if you're prediction is accurate, and I have no reason to doubt it, this ceasefire is not all that promising. Might we still see consideration, for example, of providing more military assistance, intelligence support to the Ukrainian government?

  • 11:12:38

    LABOTTI think it's gonna be limited. I don't think you're gonna see a wholesale end to sanctions. I think it's possible that some sanctions officials I'm talking to are saying, listen, this is not gonna put a wholesale onto the sanctions. A lot more things need to be done. I do agree that President Putin was probably trying to divert NATO's attention to avoiding sanctions and to you know, further action at this NATO summit. But, you know, things are already in train.

  • 11:13:04

    LABOTTNATO is gonna be putting more forces, more resources in the Baltic States surrounding the area that are very fearful of what Putin might do. And I think, you know, Lara's right, it does give NATO an opportunity to go back to its original mission. You know, NATO over the last decade or so has been going in Afghanistan, they've been working on piracy, they've been working on counter-terrorism. Now we're going back to the original mission of what NATO is.

  • 11:13:33

    LABOTTAnd that's what this rapid reaction force is, is gonna be in large part to counter Russian aggression. And so, I think, while you might see a calming of the situation, I mean, if you look at what's happening in Georgia, for instance. I mean, things are not really back to normal since the war in 2008. I think you're gonna have a very shaky period for some time to come.

  • 11:13:54

    GJELTENWell, Yochi Dreazen, the prospect of Russian aggression, the dangers facing Ukraine were just one of the subjects that the United States and its allies were dealing with in Whales this week, and yet today, there's also the Islamic State, ISIS, whatever you want to call it. And just today, the Obama administration announced there is apparently a meeting on the sidelines of the NATO summit where the Obama administration announced that the United States and its allies have formed a coalition to fight these militants. What are they talking about? What are they actually planning to do?

  • 11:14:26

    DREAZENIt's interesting. In some ways, this is a flipside of the coalition of the willing, to use that much discredited and mocked term from the run up to the Iraq War. What the White House is trying to do as part of this very slowly evolving strategy, which a short time ago, they admitted they didn't really have, is to build a coalition that is a broad one. That would military support, certainly from the British, potentially from the French. Possibly from the Australians.

  • 11:14:47

    DREAZENTurkey would be involved. Turkey would seal its borders and make a better attempt to prevent ISIS fighters from going back and forth to rearm. The Saudi and UAE and other Gulf powers would make a better attempt to cut off funding to ISIS. So what they're trying to do, gradually, gradually, gradually, is build what could be a very large, very important coalition where you have military, direct military aid from the British and the French.

  • 11:15:07

    DREAZENDirect aid on the security front from Turkey. Direct financial aid from the Saudis and Emirates. And what they're trying to do is basically squeeze ISIS as much as they can militarily, financially and religiously. The other piece of this is they want the religious authorities of Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, Egypt to say ISIS is mocking Islam, they're blaspheming Islam. This is a fake caliphate. They want that message spread as often as it can be.

  • 11:15:30

    GJELTENWell, Lara, the criticism of the United States and this administration has been that it was unprepared for the rapid advance that the ISIS forces made in Iraq. You could say the same thing about these Arab and Middle Eastern governments, that they didn't take seriously enough the threat that this group represented. And as Yochi said now, allegedly, these governments are now saying, along with the United States that they're ready to present a united front against ISIS.

  • 11:15:58

    GJELTENHow likely, with your experience on the ground in the region, which is substantial, how likely is it do you think that these governments now recognize what they're facing and are really serious about doing something?

  • 11:16:09

    JAKESWell, a lot of the nations in the Mid-East have been reluctant to get involved in Iraq for years. Largely because Iraq has been led by a Shia Prime Minister who didn't get along with very many of the Sunni led Arab states. And now, with a new government in Baghdad, a new cabinet that needs to be seated by September 10th, and even Iran saying that al-Maliki needed to step down. Iran being al-Maliki's top ally. There's an opportunity for a better coalition, even within the Mid-East.

  • 11:16:42

    JAKESYou know, leaving aside what states in Europe and Australia and elsewhere might be doing, I think the US really also wants the Mid-East allies to take a larger part in this. But I would note that much of what is going to be asked of the Mid-East states are things that are already being done. I mean, they've already asked Saudi to -- or, you know, Saudi is already doing a lot for financing, for reaching out to the Sunni tribes in Iraq.

  • 11:17:04


  • 11:17:04

    JAKESJordan is already providing a lot of intelligence and it's worth noting that Jordan, right now, is facing some domestic issues. There are several parliamentarians in Jordan that do not want to get involved in this war.

  • 11:17:16

    GJELTENElise, we were talking about this rapid reaction force that NATO is putting together. We were talking about it in the context of Russia and the Ukraine. Is there any prospect that this rapid reaction force might be used against ISIS itself?

  • 11:17:31

    LABOTTWell, they use -- they left the door open to the possibility of that. I mean, certainly, when the NATO leaders are in Whales, that's what they're discussing. How NATO can play a role. And you heard the Secretary General Rasmussen, you heard other NATO leaders like British Prime Minister Cameron saying that NATO has a role to play. And President Obama, in his speech the other day, said that NATO has a role to play. I think all NATO members have said that there is a role, but they've all drawn the line at boots on the ground.

  • 11:18:04

    GJELTENWell, in fact, the Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said, I'm sure that if the Iraqi government were to forward a request for NATO assistance, that would be considered seriously by NATO allies. This is the international hour of the "Friday News Roundup." My guests are Elise Labott. She's Global Affairs Correspondent for CNN. Also Yochi Dreazen, Managing Editor for News at Foreign Policy. And author of the upcoming book, "The Invisible Front." And Lara Jakes, Associated Press National Security Reporter. She's based at the State Department. She formerly was the Bureau Chief in Baghdad. I'm Tom Gjelten. Stay tuned. We'll be right back.

  • 11:20:01

    GJELTENAnd welcome back. I'm Tom Gjelten. I'm sitting in for Diane Rehm for this discussion of international news on our Friday News Roundup with my guests Elise Labott from CNN, Yochi Dreazen from Foreign Policy and Lara Jakes from the Associated Press.

  • 11:20:18

    GJELTENFirst of all, we have an email here with some advice. This is from a listener named Tom. He says, "There are Russian battle tanks, antiaircraft missiles, advanced military equipment and several thousand Russian troops in the Ukraine. This is all according to NATO," he says. "Putin wants to deny any involvement. You're aiding Russian propaganda when you frequently quote Putin's denial or talk about advances by rebel troops rather than advances by Russian-aided rebels. If we can't supply arms, at least do not assist the false Russian propaganda." There you go, Elise.

  • 11:20:52

    LABOTTWell, actually it's a very good point because, you know, the U.S. and clearly the Ukrainians but many other nations have said over the last week that Russian troops are indeed in Ukraine. Now, one of CNN's reporters on the ground in the last week actually found, you know, kind of Russian-made rations that were, you know, thrown on the ground and a lot of equipment that was specifically made for Russian troops and Russian forces.

  • 11:21:22

    LABOTTAnd so it kind of does belie the claim by President Putin that there are no Russian troops on the ground. And President Obama said the other day in his speech that these troops are not Russian-backed separatists. They are Russian troops, Russian tanks, Russian equipment. And what's interesting to me is about, you know, back in May was it, the president said that that would be a kind of redline, a trigger -- it was -- president -- his ambassador to the UN Sam Powers and others said that would be a trigger for further action.

  • 11:21:53

    LABOTTAnd so now the president has said that redline has been crossed. What does the United States do if the ceasefire does not take hold? And not just the ceasefire but that the Russian troops withdraw back over the border.

  • 11:22:07

    GJELTENYochi Dreazen, speaking of redlines, there was no redline about what would happen if American citizens were beheaded on television. Nevertheless, these two beheadings that we have seen of U.S. journalists seem to have really changed the feeling on Capitol Hill and the country about the threat that the United States faces from this group and changed the way people are talking about how it should be confronted.

  • 11:22:34

    DREAZENI mean, must a very quick point first on the two men who died that we should remember, James Foley and Steven Sotloff. Lara and I both spent enough time in Iraq and Afghanistan that we've met and interacted with people like this who go without the institutional backing of a major paper who live project to project, who don't have money necessarily. These are extraordinary people and it would behoove us, I think, to think of their lives as well as their deaths.

  • 11:22:57


  • 11:22:58

    GJELTENActually we should point out that Steve Sotloff is from Miami. And there is a memorial service for him today in Miami, which is going to be expected to draw a lot of people.

  • 11:23:09

    DREAZENYeah, and just one other quick thing, I mean, he was a Jew, Steven Sotloff. This was known but not publicized while he was in hiding. Someone who's held with him said that Yom Kippur, the most important Jewish Holiday, he fasted. And, you know, as a Jew I find that just really kind of awe inspiring on a personal level.

  • 11:23:24

    DREAZENBut back to your point, ISIS initially asked for a ransom that was comically large. They asked for $100 million. They then said, call off the airstrikes and maybe we'll release him. What's very clear is that they had no intention ever of negotiating. The intelligence community believes -- many in the intelligence community believe they were killed at the same time, that there wasn't even a delay between the murder of James Foley and the murder of Steven Sotloff. But regardless, ISIS never intended to talk.

  • 11:23:50

    DREAZENAnd to the degree that they may have thought that there was any chance that they would change American public opinion in favor of winding down an attack against ISIS, it's the opposite. I mean, the level of brutality means that the voices you're hearing on The Hill, the words you're hearing that I've heard the last couple of days are, exterminate ISIS. Joe Biden said, follow them to the gates of hell. A general I spoke to yesterday said, we have to go Old Testament on ISIS. So any sense they may have had of changing public opinion in favor of winding down, the brutality of these murders, the shock, it's going the other direction.

  • 11:24:18

    GJELTENWell, Lara, as Yochi said, Joe Biden said, we're going to follow these guys to the gates of hell. We've already seen at least one rescue attempt by the U.S. military. And, you know, in Britain David Cameron has talked about going after this group. Militarily, you know, what has been attempted? Why did it fail and are there any serious practical military options for doing what Joe Biden and others are talking about, and that is to sort of go after the people responsible for these killings?

  • 11:24:54

    JAKESWell, I mean, a couple of different issues there. Why did that rescue mission, last summer, fail? Because the intelligence was not up to date basically. The Special Forces dropped into the prison in Syria. By the way, I might note that that was the first time the administration had admitted that there were actual U.S. military boots on the ground in Syria. But nonetheless, by the time they got there everyone was gone.

  • 11:25:18

    JAKESSo I think that shows one of the major challenges that any force, whether it's the U.S., whether it's coalition, even whether it's Mideast forces might face in going into Syria, which has been a sort of black hole over the last three years since the rebellion began in March, 2011.

  • 11:25:35

    JAKESRegarding, you know, following ISIS to the gates of hell, even John Kerry, Secretary of State, today discussed the issue of destroying ISIS. And I think he was right when he said this may take years. This is not something that is going to happen over a short period of time. And, like Yochi said, you know, there's a lot of outrage that's been spurred by the killings of James Foley and Steven Sotloff. Also we know there are other hostages -- western hostages being held. There's outrage and has been outrage in the Mideast over the thousands of Arabs and Yazidis and Christians that ISIS has killed in their quest to create this caliphate.

  • 11:26:20

    JAKESBut one last point, you know, the United States had, over the course of about eight years, a million U.S. soldiers rotating in and out of Iraq. And they did not destroy ISIS. They did not destroy the al-Qaida and Iraq predecessor to the Islamic state. So I'm not really sure what any strategy could do to really destroy ISIS. And I have not seen, in my reporting or the people that I've talked to, anything definitive that actually would destroy this group.

  • 11:26:54

    GJELTENWell, Elise, here's what Secretary of State John Kerry said today. There is no containment policy for ISIL, ISIS, whatever. They are an ambitious avowed genocidal, territorial-grabbing, caliphate-desiring quasi state with an irregular army. And leaving them in some capacity intact anywhere would leave a cancer in place that will ultimately come back to haunt us. Same question for you, big talk, what can the United States actually do?

  • 11:27:21

    LABOTTVery big talk and kind of a little bit in dichotomy to what his boss, the President of the United States, said the other day which was, you know, we need to make sure that the problem is manageable. I think that there's a short term goal which is to kind of contain the area of operation. You know, make sure that they're not advancing. And then the long term goal of destroying them. But the question is, are they going to -- this is the question on the table, Tom. Are they going to go into Syria?

  • 11:27:50


  • 11:27:50

    LABOTTYou know, the president has been reluctant to do so. But just yesterday the U.S. -- or Martin Dempsey the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said that ISIS militants cannot be stopped unless their Syrian sanctuary is destroyed. Now what does that mean? Does the U.S. launch airstrikes from Iraq into Syria? Do they -- what do they do? And, you know, the question I think that people are starting to ask about is where does President Assad fit in?

  • 11:28:16

    LABOTTThe U.S. has been on the table saying quite clear that Assad must go. He is not going. Would an attack on ISIS in Syria aid him or are they going to in some way find some kind of acquiescence from the Syrian regime, maybe not President Assad, maybe President Assad to -- you know, because originally ISIS was not the main enemy, Assad was. Now ISIS is not -- Assad is not their biggest problem, ISIS is.

  • 11:28:44

    GJELTENOkay, Yochi. So we're not going to work with President Assad. We're not going to send in combat troops. And so far we're not even willing to talk about airstrikes in Syria. That rules out an awful lot.

  • 11:28:54

    DREAZENI think we are working with President Assad, just we aren't saying we're working with President Assad. He is mounting airstrikes against ISIS not only in Syria. He's also mounted airstrikes in Iraq. And we're working with the Iranians. The U.S. is saying we're not directly communicating with them, which is true. The U.S. is relaying information to the Iraqi military. The Iraqi military is then immediately relaying it to the Iranians. So they're, in a literal sense, not cooperating but in every other sense they are.

  • 11:29:17

    DREAZENAnd there is a fascinating strange bedfellows alliance here. I mean, Assad, for all intensive purposes, is an ally in this fight even though that's abhorrent in some ways for the White House to admit. Iran is an ally in this fight and the Russians are an ally in this fight. When the U.S. was hesitating to provide any kind of significant airpower to the Iraqi government, Russia sold them mig fighters and sent them pilots and trainers.

  • 11:29:36

    DREAZENSo in this fight -- and I agree with both of our other friends -- destroying ISIS seems impossible. But in the fight even to contain it, we're willing to fight effectively alongside Iran, fight effectively alongside the Russians and to a lesser degree with Assad. And that's staggering when we think about where we were in relationships with all three of these countries six months ago or a year ago.

  • 11:29:55


  • 11:29:56

    JAKESI think it's also important to note that the White House has said that they are deciding whether or not airstrikes might be a possibility, which is kind of a 180 from where we were exactly a year ago, right. I think that a lot of that comes from Prime Minister David Cameron saying that he's not going to rule out the possibility of airstrikes. The Obama Administration, if they do this, they're not going to do it alone. They want to go in with another partner to actually launch these strikes.

  • 11:30:23

    JAKESI also think we should not look at this as an either-or type of situation. It's not whether we go after Islamic state or we go after Assad. There are ways that have been discussed that the United States and its allies could go after both at the same time and try to minimize civilian casualties. There could be airstrikes on ISIS against some of their oil refineries, for example, and knock out some of their funding streams. There could be airstrikes against some of the 15 to 17 airstrips that Assad controls, that he relies on from flights that come in every day from Iran and from Russia that supply him with arms and funding and, you know, all this type of help. And I suspect that this is what the administration is looking at doing.

  • 11:31:11

    GJELTENWell, as you yourself said, airstrikes alone don't really do that much. Meanwhile, speaking of airstrikes, we had a strike this way in Somalia. It was a drone strike rather than a strike from a fighter. Elise Labott, the target was the leader of al-Shabaab. What do we know about -- and the Pentagon has actually said that that was the target, that they were trying to kill Ahmed Godane. What do we know, as of this hour, about whether he was actually hit in that strike or not?

  • 11:31:45

    LABOTTWell, they think that they've killed him. I mean, it started from, we're not going to say anything until we know for -- even -- it's argument was until we know for sure. Then they've been gradually acknowledging that he was the target. And now, you know, this morning officials were saying that they're pretty sure that they got him. We’re expecting some kind of statement sometime today. But we've been here before, Tom. In January the U.S. launch strikes against al-Shabaab leaders including Godane, and they thought he was dead and he wasn't. So as they say in the Wizard of Oz, is he nearly dead or most sincerely dead?

  • 11:32:18

    LABOTTBut if they were to get him, clearly this guy is one of the most powerful figures, the leader of the group. He was really responsible for a lot of the extreme brutality that you've seen from Shabaab, the alliance with al-Qaida, the reaching out beyond Somalia's borders, for the West Gate attack, for other types of attacks outside, really trying to extend the group's breath. And so if they were to get him I think it would be very significant.

  • 11:32:46

    LABOTTThe one question is, who would take his place? There's talk some of his deputies, including one of them who goes by the name Karate as in...

  • 11:32:56

    JAKES...Karate Kid.

  • 11:32:56

    LABOTT...Karate Kid, is supposedly even more brutal and espouses more of an ideology that is more aligned with ISIS. And now that you see ISIS being the flavor of the month, the question is, does al-Shabaab, and in fact a lot of these al-Qaida affiliates, do they want to be real players in the region and do they move more towards ISIS?

  • 11:33:16

    GJELTENElis Labott is global affairs correspondent for CNN. You're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show. And Yochi, al-Shabaab, very bad terrorist organizations, and one of the few that openly says it wants to be part of this Islamic caliphate that ISIS has proposed or says it is...

  • 11:33:38

    DREAZENIt's interesting 'cause there is a shift from in the past groups would add al-Qaida to their name and partisan advertising and things. They're a player the world over. You do have many of those groups now saying, we want to either be part of the Islamic state or at a minimum cooperate with them.

  • 11:33:51

    GJELTENBoko Haram is another one.

  • 11:33:52

    DREAZENBoko Haram -- I was in Mali a month last year and these groups are very dangerous. In some ways the most dangerous one is one that we've sort of taken off our radar screen, al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula. They have a master bomb maker who's thought to be the most dangerous bomb maker in the world. He's thought to be the only person capable of building bombs, capable of taking down airplanes, liquid bombs, bombs that are nonmetallic.

  • 11:34:11

    DREAZENSo there is a question about whether a group in a rhetorical sense allies itself, given the physical distance between Somalia and the Islamic state. It's not clear what that would mean. And a question of, do they share technology and people. There's also a strategic question. Al-Shabaab, this was a strike -- it was a decapitation strike. This was going after the leader of al-Shabaab specifically.

  • 11:34:29

    DREAZENRight now, with the Islamic state, those strikes have not been mounted. They have not been attempts to kill Baghdadi. There have not been attempts to identify or kill his deputies. The attacks have been pickup trucks, humvees, fixed checkpoints. So there's a question also about what should the U.S. do? Should the U.S. try to keep bombing inside of Mosul, inside of other cities in Iraq to kill top leaders like they've just done in Somalia? Or do they do a different approach?

  • 11:34:51

    DREAZENAnd you are already hearing from allied countries in the Middle East saying, what gives? Why are you trying to kill the leader of a group that's in Somalia and not the leader of a group that's threatening Jordan, Iraq and Syria? So that is...

  • 11:35:03

    GJELTENWell, one difference is that ISIS has so far been much more of a conventional kind of military foe where they're actually taking territory and holding it and fighting with conventional tactics.

  • 11:35:14

    DREAZENExactly. And they're building governments. I mean, they're operating a lot like Hezbollah in Lebanon. They aren't simply moving into a town, killing everyone and moving on. They're moving into a town, killing people to make their points and then setting up schools, hospitals, tax systems. So you're right, they're operating both like a conventional army and like a state.

  • 11:35:30

    GJELTENWell, Lara, as Yochi said, the rise of ISIS has sort of taken attention away from traditional al-Qaida. And yet we did have al-Qaida's leader Ayman al-Zawahiri announcing in a video message this week that he has created a new branch of the organization in South Asia in the Indian subcontinent where he says his fighters will raise the flag of Jihad. We haven't heard of al-Qaida operations on the Indian subcontinent before. What's the significance of this? Is he just trying to get some of this attention back from ISIS?

  • 11:36:05

    JAKESThat's certainly what it's looking like. That's certainly what a lot of experts believe. And, you know, India and the subcontinent are predominantly Hindu but there's 150 million Muslims there that is hoping to pick off and to kind of re-bolster al-Qaida central, which, as I think many people have said, Yochi including, you know, have kind of branched off over the last ten years or so.

  • 11:36:31

    JAKESSo al-Qaida central really doesn't have the might or the strength that it had very -- you know, a very short time ago. And I love the timing of the -- of Zawahiri's comments, right, because it's no surprise that there was, you know, the split within Shabaab between whether or not the leadership should stay with Qaida or should join the Islamic state. And just days after this airstrike in Somalia, you have Zawahiri coming out and saying, now we are going to start moving our strength into the Indian subcontinent.

  • 11:37:08

    GJELTENLara Jakes is Associated Press national security reporter. She's based at the State Department. We were talking about this strike in al-Shabaab against the leader of al-Shabaab. And we're just getting reports now from the Pentagon saying that in fact they now can confirm that this strike this week was successful, the one targeting Ahmed Godane, and that he -- they now are saying that he was in fact killed. We're going to pick up again with this conversation. First we're going to take a short break. Stay tuned.

  • 11:40:01

    GJELTENAnd welcome back. I'm Tom Gjelten. I'm sitting in for Diane Rehm for this discussion of international news in our Friday News Roundup with Elise Labott from CNN, Yochi Dreazen from Foreign Policy, and Lara Jakes from the Associated Press at the State Department. We've been talking about Ukraine. We've been talking about ISIS. We've been talking about Al-Shabaab. And as I said just before the break, the Pentagon has now confirmed that that strike against Ahmed Godane, the leader of Al-Shabaab, in their judgment was successful.

  • 11:40:34

    GJELTENWe need to talk now, Yochi, about Afghanistan. We had a presidential election there, but it appears that it is not going to come up with a clear-cut winner because of a dispute between the two top candidates. Meanwhile, U.S. troops, NATO troops are pulling out of Afghanistan. This week's NATO summit was supposed to sort of mark this withdrawal with a bit of celebration I guess. But it's sure hard right now to be optimistic about the future for Afghanistan.

  • 11:41:08

    DREAZENWell, they put it into the category, the negative side, which obviously is a pretty long list. There's been a sharp spike in Taliban attacks. An Afghan official, a senior one I spoke to yesterday said, the feeling in his government is that the Taliban is inspired and energized by the Islamic State. That it's not that there are weapons going back, but that they're looking at the Islamic State and saying, we can do that too.

  • 11:41:26

    DREAZENBut on the rare category of things to potentially be happy about or optimistic about, the letter that was sent by the two candidates that are in this runoff election, Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani, sent to the NATO conference was a letter signed by both of them, pledging to take part in the political process, pledging to form a unity government. And we shouldn't dismiss that. I mean this has been an extraordinarily bitter fight. Even a few days ago, Abdullah's camp was saying, we will not abide by this. We will not be part of the unity government. And the possibility of a unit -- of a government that takes power without violence is an important step.

  • 11:41:58

    DREAZENIt's easy to be pessimistic. It's easy, rightly, to think it may fall apart. But this is a big moment potentially for the country. It's interesting also, just a quick point, they're building a new title called chief executive officer of a country, which is sort of jarring. We hear CEO, we think Wall Street, we think companies. But that's the sticking point. The question is how much power does a CEO have? Can the CEO actually be a check to the president? Or is it subservient? If it has power, you have a unity government. If you don't, you don't.

  • 11:42:25

    GJELTENBut Abdullah Abdullah, as, even though he says in theory he's willing to do this. He says that his conditions have not yet been met.

  • 11:42:30

    DREAZENRight. And in one of those conditions is this -- the power of the CEO position. The other is the audit. The initial reports coming back on the audit from the U.N. auditors who are there is that there is not enough fraud to change the results. That Ashraf Ghani indeed won the election despite the fraud, which they believe took place in both camps for both candidates. But it comes back to this weird CEO title. If the CEO means actual ministers answer to the CEO, it's a job Abdullah Abdullah might want to take. If it means, as it currently does, that he's basically an adviser to the president who the president can fire, who doesn't have control over ministries, it's not clear he would take it.

  • 11:43:05

    GJELTENLet's go now to Joe, whose on the line from Louisville, Ky. Hello, Joe. Thanks for calling "The Diane Rehm Show."

  • 11:43:12

    JOEWell, hello. Thank you for taking my call. I -- this thing about ISIS, it sounds like the same old story. It just has different bad guys. Back in the '90s and before that, there was a lot of radical Islam. They were bombing our embassies and they were causing a lot of destruction. They even bombed the World Trade Center down there in '90s. And then 2001 came along and we find out, wow, most of these guys are from Saudi Arabia. And then it -- with further investigation, it turned out, wow, a lot of these guys were getting funding from some of the Saudi Arabian princes and some of the royal families themselves, and money from Qatar.

  • 11:43:46

    JOEAnd then it sounds like, wow, these guys have been getting this radicalization from the Wahhabis, this radical sect of Sunni religion in the Muslim world. And their whole philosophy is to basically hate and war with the infidels, which is anybody other than themselves. So at that time, you know, they're our BFFs, the Saudi's are and some of the Qataris and some of those countries over there. And it doesn't seem like we've done anything to try to put pressure on them to put pressure on their schools that make these people hate us.

  • 11:44:18

    GJELTENMm-hmm. All right, let's put that question to Lara. Saudi -- the Saudi government, are they part of the problem here, Lara, or are they part of the solution? That's Joe's question.

  • 11:44:27

    JAKESWell, in recent days, they are trying to become part of the solution. We've seen this week that they announced the arrests of some 80 people, most of them I believe Saudi nationals, who are suspected of aiding the Islamic State, whether through money or whether through going to the battleground or even trying to launch attacks within the kingdom itself. The link between Wahhabism and the kingdom is one that is long. It is one that is debated frequently. And there's a lot of credence to what Joe is saying.

  • 11:45:08

    GJELTENWahhabism, we should point out, is this version of extreme adherence to Islamic law. Mm-hmm.

  • 11:45:14

    JAKESCorrect. The administration in recent days and I think this next week as well, will be going to Saudi and trying to get the kingdom to be more helpful in the fight against the Islamic State. And also I should note that the Islamic State is a distinct organization from al-Qaida. They are not part of al-Qaida and they did not have anything to do, as far as we know because they weren't created at the time, with the '93 World Trade Center bombing or the 2001 terror attacks. Al-Qaida, in fact, has rejected the Islamic State. And many people say that's because the Islamic State is far more brutal than al-Qaida has been. Although al-Qaida has certainly been brutal as well.

  • 11:46:00

    GJELTENYou know, let's talk about another very sad and worrying story. And that is the worsening, it seems, outbreak of Ebola in west Africa. We're now talking about 1,900 people across five countries. The epidemic is accelerating. One official from the National Institutes of Health told Newsweek this week that it is completely out of control. Yochi, what's the assessment of health officials, senior international officials you've been talking to about the prospects for getting Ebola under control?

  • 11:46:38

    DREAZENThe World Health Organization -- which is not usually prone to trying to stir up panic, they usually go the opposite direction -- is saying this unprecedented. They are saying that this is the highest level of epidemic risk. So they're -- I mean the World Health Organization is basically saying you can't get worse than this. One of the major problems here is that it is hitting the weakest, poorest parts of the world. These are the countries that have virtually no medical system. If it was a first-world country, you could identify patients, you could contain them. You have isolation wards, you have quarantine wards. These countries don't.

  • 11:47:06

    DREAZENSo if a person with Ebola has the symptoms and goes to a hospital, that hospital may not diagnose it quickly enough. If they do, they may not be able to contain him. There have been scenes from Liberia, from Nigeria, of people with Ebola who are in a containment ward, having mobs break into that ward to try to either kill them, lynch them, break them out. So it isn't simply that this is spreading rapidly, it's that these countries don't have the infrastructure to contain it. So you have the worst of all worlds. You have a deadly disease racing across a continent that's not prepared to fight it.

  • 11:47:35

    GJELTENAnd, Elise, the World Health Organization is also saying, as Yochi just hinted at, that they don't have the resources to fight this. There have been budget cutbacks. The U.S. appropriations for World Health Organizations have been cut, leaving this organization sort of short on resources just when it needs them the most.

  • 11:47:53

    LABOTTWell and also that they vastly underestimated, you know, the potential for the conflict -- for the outbreak to spread. And so not only are they short in resources, but they didn't, you know, kind of locate the treatment facilities and supplies that they need. And so I think there'll, you know, some kind of international appeal. Obviously they'll need more resources. One bright spot is a new trial of a vaccine for Ebola that is -- once was tested on monkeys, now being injected into human subjects. I'm not sure if it'll be something that people will be able to use right now. But certainly I think that the WHO hopes that once they test the safety of the vaccine, that -- clearly they're trying to expedite it now.

  • 11:48:46

    GJELTENLet's go now to Tess who's on the line from Florida. Hello, Tess.

  • 11:48:50

    TESSHello. Thanks for taking my call. I just wondered why the American Red Cross has not been appealed to on a sort of international scale to raise funds to help with this Ebola outbreak.

  • 11:49:07

    GJELTENWell, I don't -- does anyone here know what the history of the American Red Cross is on raising funds to deal with things like this?

  • 11:49:16

    DREAZENIt's a great question. I think that in aftermath of some of the typhoons and earthquakes that hit Bangladesh and Pakistan a few years ago that killed several hundred thousand people, my memory is that the Red Cross did a fund-raising campaign then. But it's not common. They usually are limited to the United States. But it's a great question.

  • 11:49:31

    GJELTENAnd you're right. And it's mostly in the context of natural disasters as opposed to...

  • 11:49:34

    DREAZENExactly. Yeah, as opposed to disease.

  • 11:49:36

    GJELTENYeah. We did have -- we do have, Lara, another U.S. doctor who was treating Ebola victims has arrived back in the United States. He's expected to arrive, I should say, at Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha on Friday. This is what, now, the third U.S. doctor who's been flown back here for treatment.

  • 11:49:57

    JAKESThat's right. His wife gave -- spoke with reporters recently. And she said, you know, he knew the risks going in. He just wanted to help this horrible outbreak in any way that he could. He has landed in Omaha. And he is being seen, he's being treated. We'll see whether or not the meds that are given to him will work. You know, as Elise very smartly noted, there are trials going on. But very few dosages are actually available or will be available en masse for a very long time. And none of them have, I believe, to date have been approved by any government. They're still all in trial mode.

  • 11:50:39

    GJELTENGo ahead.

  • 11:50:40

    LABOTTI think one of the things that's really interesting about this latest American doctor to be affected is he was not treating Ebola victims.

  • 11:50:46


  • 11:50:46

    LABOTTHe was treating pregnant women in the same hospital.

  • 11:50:48


  • 11:50:49

    LABOTTAnd he was in a separate ward that was away from the unit where Ebola treatments -- patients are being treated. And so no one really knows how he contracted the virus. And that is pretty scary for how this virus spreads. That even if people are contained to a certain area, the trajectory of the virus is completely unpredictable.

  • 11:51:08

    GJELTENWell, one of the things that we have learned is that there are different variants of this virus. And just because you -- even if you were to develop a vaccine against one, you can't be sure that it's going to work against other varieties.

  • 11:51:20

    DREAZENRight. And there are -- it turned out to be there are vaccine-resistant strains of other horrible diseases. I mean a major fear in the WHO community is that we have vaccines against TB, against smallpox. Those vaccines are becoming less and less viable because the diseases are becoming stronger and more resistant.

  • 11:51:35

    GJELTENLet's go now to Morgan who is on the line from Long Island, N.Y. Hello, Morgan. Thanks for calling "The Diane Rehm Show."

  • 11:51:41

    MORGANGood morning. I think everybody should know that two former congressmen have registered as lobbyists for Gazcom, which is Putin's buddy, a fight against the sanctions. That's Trent Lot and Breaux, who used to be in Louisiana. The American people should know this. So much for flag-waving politicians.

  • 11:52:00

    GJELTENWell we've had a -- we've had a history in this country of former congressmen becoming lobbyists, haven't we Morgan? And sometimes they do take on clients that some of us may raise questions about.

  • 11:52:12

    MORGANIn America's interest, helping Putin?

  • 11:52:16

    GJELTENWell, I think that you have a bit of a problem, you know, sort of prohibiting people from doing this kind of thing. Nevertheless, we've seen many stories, haven't we Elise, about foreign countries who are not considered friendly to U.S. interests, hiring U.S. companies to help them improve their -- build up their image in the United States.

  • 11:52:37

    LABOTTThat's right. And former political figures and very, you know, well known. Lanny Davis, for instance, a former advisor to President Clinton, has made a real business of representing for dictators and countries that are on the U.S. sanctions lists. And so, you know, it's an issue where the U.S. can't prohibit them. But, you know, that's what the capitalist system does.

  • 11:53:03

    GJELTENExactly. Elise Labott from CNN. I'm Tom Gjelten. You're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." And let's go now to Bob who is on the line from Charlotte, N.C. Hello, Bob. Thanks for calling "The Diane Rehm Show."

  • 11:53:17

    BOBThanks, Tom. I just wanted to go back briefly to what Joe was talking about earlier. In hearing some of the reports, it's been suggested that the royal family in Saudi Arabia essentially views itself as the protectorate of the Islam -- the Muslim religion and that they are the caliphate at this point. Of course as he talked about Wahhabism is from there, we have now this organization ISIL, who is, as I understand the reports, is trying to establish the new caliphate, which, if it is successful, will threaten the royal family in Saudi Arabia and is setting up essentially a conflict within these two organizations. I'm wondering if your guests can kind of talk about where that is today and where they might see that going in the future.

  • 11:54:06

    GJELTENWell, in fact, Yochi, the Saudi government has always been -- one of the reasons that it maybe has accommodated some of this Wahhabism is that they've been afraid of that movement sort of threatening them on their own territory.

  • 11:54:18

    DREAZENExactly. Better in someone else's border than in their own. I think Bob's exactly right that the Saudi family, because of the holiest sites in Islam being in Saudi Arabia, see themselves as guardians of the faith. They don't see themselves as a caliphate exactly. But he's right that they sort of lean towards that.

  • 11:54:33

    GJELTENYochi, we've been throwing this term around. Why don't you give us your educated understanding of what this term caliphate refers to in the historical context?

  • 11:54:41

    DREAZENSure. It's a good question because the historical context is what matters. I mean there are other countries in the world where Islam and Sharia law are the dominant forms of law, so that's not new. The caliphate in a state a finite spreads over an enormous swath of Africa, much of the current Middle East, all the way into parts of Europe, including Spain. So when they say the caliphate, they don't mean something where Islamic law is superior, because that already exists in other countries. They mean a giant, unbroken swath of territory in which...

  • 11:55:05

    GJELTENAnd when was that?

  • 11:55:06

    DREAZENThis, you're talking in the 800s -- the 700s and the 800s.

  • 11:55:08


  • 11:55:08

    DREAZENAnd they want to turn back the clock to -- by more than a millennium to a place that hasn't existed since.

  • 11:55:13

    GJELTENMm-hmm. Well, when you talk about turning the clock back towards something that existed hundreds of years ago, you often end up talking about turning the clock back on methods of warfare that are more appropriate for that medieval period as well. We're running down on time. But, Elise, another important issue -- development this week, and that is a new law from China threatening Hong Kong's autonomy. Can you bring us up to date on what it was that China -- what it was that the democracy advocates in Hong Kong were pushing for that China is now thwarting?

  • 11:55:48

    LABOTTWell, basically, when China, when the British had the handover of Hong Kong to China, until 2047, it was supposed to be a democratic system where people from Hong Kong were able to vote democratically for their own candidate. Now, what has been happening is typically candidates for president and other executive offices were chosen by a Chinese committee. Now, Hong Kong is able to vote on candidates. But those candidates are chosen by the Chinese committee.

  • 11:56:25

    LABOTTSo they are following the letter of the law but not the spirit of the law. And so the question is, you know, Hong Kong was able to maintain some level of autonomy, some level of supposed democracy. But certainly China is moving the clock backwards. And this is -- may be democracy in a name -- in, but only in a name.

  • 11:56:45

    GJELTENYeah. Well, it is a big question. I did want to get to that. We sort of have run out of time. But that was an important development I wanted to take note of. I want to thank my guests -- Elise Labott from CNN, Yochi Dreazen from Foreign Policy and author of the upcoming book "The Invisible Front," and Lara Jakes. Again, Lara, it's been great to have you this hour. I'm Tom Gjelten. This has been the international discussion -- the discussion of international news. And I am sitting in for Diane Rehm. I want to thank our guests. I want to thank our listeners. I want to thank our callers.

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