From The Archives: A 2008 Conversation With Barbara Walters
A conversation from the archives with Barbara Walters about her 2008 memoir "Audition," a story of family challenges, celebrity gossip and blazing a trail in TV news.
Guest Host: Laura Knoy
President Barack Obama takes on critics of the Iran nuclear deal. More airplane debris is found near Madagascar possibly connected to the missing Malaysian flight. And the world marks the 70th anniversary of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings. A panel of journalists joins guest host Laura Knoy for analysis of the week’s top international news stories.
MS. LAURA KNOYThanks for joining us. I'm Laura Knoy of New Hampshire Public Radio sitting in for Diane Rehm. She'll be back on Monday. President Obama takes on critics of the Iran nuclear deal. More airplane debris found in Madagascar possibly connected to the missing Malaysian flight and the 70th anniversary of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings.
MS. LAURA KNOYJoining me for the international hour of the Friday News Roundup, Tom Bowman with NPR, Lara Jakes with Foreign Policy and Abderrahim Foukara with al-Jazeera. You can join us as well, 1-800-433-8850, 1-800-433-8850. Send us an email, firstname.lastname@example.org. Find us on Facebook or Twitter. And welcome to all of you. Thank you for being here.
MR. TOM BOWMANGreat to be here.
MS. LARA JAKESThanks for having us.
MR. ABDERRAHIM FOUKARAGood to be here.
KNOYWell, let's start off with the Iran nuclear deal. Lots of new around that, both on this side of the country and also abroad. President Obama, Tom Bowman, making a big speech this week, chiding critics of the Iran deal. What was his key point there, Tom?
BOWMANWell, his key point was -- and it was a long speech, a very detailed speech. And, of course, the reason they went to American University was parallel with John Kennedy who went there famously in June of '63 and gave his address. When Kennedy gave his address, it was more an olive branch to the Soviets and also to the Russian people. What President Obama did, he was more of bludgeon against the critics of the Iran deal and particularly the Republicans.
BOWMANAnd his argument was basically, listen, if you don't go with this deal, you're looking at war and that's what got a lot of people upset.
KNOYPretty stark language.
BOWMANVery stark language. And I think a lot of analysts said that it was a little too over the top, a little too pugnacious, but I think what the White House would say is, listen, there's going to be millions of dollars of ads from people who don't want this deal. He had to come out swinging and he swung hard and he made some serious hits, I think.
KNOYWell, and, Lara, he made the point that the deal's opponents are the same people who supported the Iraq war. Now, why did he do that?
JAKESWell, because it's just such red meat to his base, right? I mean, there's -- you look at what's happening in Iraq now with the rise of the Islamic State. It's a complete mess. He's hoping that people will take the long view at this, at what's happening in Iraq, that we remember that perhaps if there had not been an invasion in 2003, that the Mid East, while it may not be stable, it wouldn't be exploding into this massive war.
JAKESI thought it was very interesting that he made that comparison, however. And he makes the risk of reminding people that he's the one who decided and followed up on the full withdrawal of the U.S. military from Iraq in 2011, even though some of his advisors at the time were saying that Iraq was too unstable at the time. And now, of course, we have seen the rise of the Islamic State after al-Qaida in Iraq had been all but decimated and now it's come back.
KNOYSo a lot of finger-pointing there, Lara.
JAKESAbsolutely. And, you know, he also talked about the fact that if the United States backs away from this deal now after world powers and Tehran have agreed to it, that the U.S., again, risks losing credibility. That was an argument that was made after the invasion of Iraq in 2003. And, you know, he says that if we don't adhere to diplomacy, we probably will, as Tom mentioned, at some point in the future, see war again.
KNOYSo some very strong points, as we've been saying. Abderrahim, what do you think? What's your broad takeaway from this speech that Obama gave?
FOUKARAWell, I mean, it was always expected that he would defend it and it was always expected that, you know, he was going to criticized for it. The fact of the matter is that he only has about a year left in office and he's come so far down the road in terms of concluding this deal with the Iranians. This is, by the way, a process that has been going on since the Bush administration, W. And you know, even if he hyped up the possibility of going to war if this agreement doesn't hold, I do not necessarily see it as a leap of faith that if the agreement doesn't hold the United States would necessarily go to war.
FOUKARAI don't think the Iranians are set up to go to war and as we just heard from Lara, the regional configuration in the Middle East now is so complex that, yes, anything could spark war, but I think the powers that really matter in the Middle East, they're not ready for another war. So even if the Republicans attack this deal supported by Benjamin Netanyahu, who did have Arab support at some point in his opposition to the deal, even if they do persist and, you know, there are hurdles to actually ratifying the agreement in Congress, I do not necessarily see that the result of that inevitably as going to war against the Iranians.
KNOYI'd love to get your reaction, Tom, on what Abderrahim mentions about Congress and its reaction to this speech. Does this change hearts and minds or not?
BOWMANWell, it's interesting 'cause now they've gone home to their districts and states and clearly this is going to be a huge topic of interest throughout the summer and, you know, we had Chuck Schumer come out against the deal, which was kind of surprising. A lot of people I talk with at NPR that cover these issues day in and day out, they basically said, well, we think Schumer will probably wait till the very end to see if he's needed to support this agreement. He came out very early -- last night, much earlier than anybody thought.
BOWMANOf course, Gillibrand, of course, came out in support, his compatriot from New York State. So it will be interesting to see -- and clearly you're going to see, listen, a lot more TV ads over the coming weeks throughout the summer. I'm sure the president and his people will come out swinging again in favor of this agreement. So it's going to be a long, hot summer when it comes to this agreement. The key question is this, that even if Congress is against this agreement and the president vetoes, you know, their efforts, do they have enough votes to override it.
BOWMANAt this point, most people I talk with say the votes aren't there to override this thing.
KNOYIt's going to be close, though.
KNOYLara, go ahead.
JAKESWell, I just wanted to point out that there's been a very strong push, a very strong lobbying effort on both sides of whether or not to approve this Iran deal. The president's speech was very much a part of that. It's notable that he spent a sizable amount of time in the speech talking about the United States' relationship with Israel and, you know, he said, essentially, this is one of those situations where we can be friends, but we can also disagree. It's no secret that President Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have had a lot of tensions throughout the last six and a half years.
JAKESThe speech came a day after Netanyahu gave a webcast to American Jewish groups and it received, as I understand it, a very lukewarm response. There are a lot of American Jewish groups who felt, okay, we understand where the prime minister is coming from. Obviously we support the state of Israel, but Israel should not be telling American Jews how to feel about American policies or what to do with American policies. I think it's also worth noting, very quickly, that Netanyahu has had some massive domestic things on his own place back home.
JAKESThere was an attack, what's being called an arson terrorist attack on a West Bank home and also a fatal stabbing of a teenager at a gay rights parade in Israel. And, you know, we'll have to see how Netanyahu tries to balance the continued lobbying push here with what he has to deal with at home.
BOWMANAnd also, you would wonder if he could overplay his hand here, really get so involved in American politics that some people maybe in the Jewish community, others around the country just say, you know what, this is a little out of line for a foreign leader to be lobbying our law makers and our people.
KNOYIt's the international hour of the Friday News Roundup on "The Diane Rehm Show." You can join us with your questions, comments, concerns, 1-800-433-8850. Send an email to email@example.com. One more question on this Iran deal. This is for you, Abderrahim. So we talked about Israel's lobbying against this deal. Diplomats from five countries that helped negotiate the Iran deal are also lobbying here in the U.S. Who's coming to Congress to say, hey, support this?
FOUKARAWell, I think this is part of the story that often gets missed out, particularly here in the United States, that this is essentially not just a deal between the United States and Iran. There are others in the United Nations Security Council. There's Germany. And the fact that the Obama administration and the Bush administration before that had managed to sustain the sanctions against Iran, they've managed to sustain those sanctions because this was an international effort. It had an international -- but the sanctions regime had a international part to it.
FOUKARAAnd the fact that you have these countries who have so much stake -- we've seen the French president, for example, Francois Hollande, even when the negotiations were still going on with the Iranians, sort of try -- he even tried to grandstand Obama and tell the Israelis, in particular, look, I'm going to be much more stringent on this issue than Obama has been. But we all know what it came down to, ultimately, what he was angling for. He was angling for business with the Iranians and he was angling for selling weapons to the Gulf Arabs.
FOUKARASo these international powers, they have every interest to come to Congress and lobby Congress to actually approve the Iran deal at the end of the day.
KNOYHow receptive do you think they'll be, those members of Congress?
FOUKARAWell, I think it depends which way you look at it. If you look at Obama, who is the commander in chief, he's American and he's having these tough times in Congress, it gives you a sense of the challenge that these foreign powers would have in Congress. But, as I said, it cuts both ways. The other side of the coin is precisely because they -- there's distance between them and the Obama administration. They're not American.
FOUKARAIt makes the argument much more powerful that, look, this is a good deal not just for the Europeans and Russia and China and the United States. This is a good deal for everybody. This is a good deal for peace. And they can always wave the card that Obama did. If we don't conclude this, we go to war. Look at what's been happening in Iraq. Great mess. Iran could be even a greater mess.
KNOYLara, real quick.
JAKESJust very quickly to pick up on Abderrahim's very good point. It's not just the Europeans, as he noted, who are lobbying for this. We saw the ambassadors for China and Russia up on the Hill this week as well. That's very rare. It signifies how big -- how hard they're trying to push for this as well.
KNOYComing up, more of the Friday News Roundup, the international hour. Stay with us.
KNOYWelcome back. I'm Laura Knoy sitting in for Diane Rehm. It's the international hour of the Friday News Roundup. And let's hear from you, 1-800-433-8850, firstname.lastname@example.org is the email. Again, 1-800-433-8850. Our guests this week are Abderrahim Foukara. He's regional director for the Americas for Al Jazeera Network. Lara Jakes, deputy managing editor for news at Foreign Policy magazine. And Tom Bowman, Pentagon correspondent for NPR. And, all of you, let's go right to our listeners. And Jordan is in Princeton, N.J. Hi, Jordan. You're on "The Diane Rehm Show." Go ahead.
JORDANHi. So my question is, why is Israel against the Iran deal? As, you know, a Jewish person, as someone who is pro-Israel, to me it seems like there's not really a better deal to be had. And my only fear is that Israel is against it because this deal provides Iran international legitimacy, that they can compromise and that they are a player on the diplomatic stage.
KNOYJordan, thank you for the question. Lara, you want to take that first?
JAKESWell, sure. I mean, you have to remember that the supreme leader and the mullahs in Iran have repeatedly shouted things like, "Death to Israel," that would, of course, raise some suspicions in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem about what Iran's intentions are here. It's also worth noting that once the sanctions are lifted -- and it will take a matter of years for the sanctions to be lifted in total -- that it's going to freeze tens of billions of dollars in frozen -- or, I'm sorry, unfreeze assets that Iran has in banks around the world. Israel fears, and other people fear, many Republicans in Congress fear, that Iran will then take this money and build weapons, including mass-destruction bombs.
JAKESIran, in the past, has not been totally forthcoming about its nuclear program and to the extent that it has tried to build these weapons and, even today, is still balking. We're hearing from the U.N. nuclear watchdog that they have not gotten full access to some of these sites. And so Israel is raising these points to say, "How can we trust Iran now, when we clearly haven't been able to trust them in the past?"
KNOYTom, do you want to jump in?
BOWMANYeah. The bottom line is, Israel just doesn't trust Iran. It's an existential threat. And they see agreement as far too weak. And Chuck Schumer picked up on that a little bit when he said he was going to be against this agreement. He said, you can't have inspections anywhere at any time. You have to wait 24 days before you go into a certain site. And that's just too long. And Schumer said, as many Israeli leaders have said, that what happens after 10 or 15 years? They could start down the road to building a bomb with a lot more money -- tens of billions of dollars, that were sacrificed during these sanctions.
FOUKARAQuickly, I think there's history and there's geography. History -- Lara mentioned it -- there's the whole thing about the Holocaust and Jews, whether they are in Israel or here in the United States, that's something that is of great importance and concern to them. There's geography. Israel is right there. Obama and the United States are geographically far removed from Iran. But then, by the same token, if the Iranians or the Israelis -- because they are in such close proximity to each other -- if they use a nuclear weapon, basically it is in no one's interest in the region. If you use it against me, it's going to boomerang against you. So geography is actually making that less of a threat.
FOUKARABut convincing Benjamin Netanyahu, who speaks as a politician, he is concerned about history. But he's also concerned about his historical record and political fortunes.
KNOYLet's take another call. This is Roger in Utopia, Texas. Roger, I love the name of your town. Go ahead.
ROGERWell, I'll just make it really quick. People on both sides of the aisle, both Democrat and Republican, give a great deal of lip service about, you know, whether they approve of this deal, don't approve of it, what the Iranians should be allowed to do. I think people lose sight of the fact that, whether we like them or not, whether we think they're nuts or not, Iran is a sovereign nation. I mean, and for us to go in and inspect anything, either tomorrow or 24 days from now, is by their good graces. Certainly, if they demanded to inspect any of our nuclear facilities, we'd tell them to take a hike.
KNOYOkay. Roger, thank you for calling. Real quick, Lara.
JAKESOh. I mean, that's...
KNOYHe mentioned the inspections, you know, the concern about the inspections this week.
JAKESSure. But I think the caller's point is very valid. Iran is a sovereign nation. Iran has been saying for years that it should be -- it should have the right under the non-proliferation treaty to have a nuclear program. And it has said from the get-go that its nuclear program is not for military purposes, it's only for peaceful purposes. Some people are willing to take Iran at face value and others are not.
KNOYThanks for that call again, Roger. And the number for you to join us: 1-800-433-8850, email@example.com. Again, 1-800-433-8850. And, all of you, let's turn to a new threat from al-Qaida. Tom Bowman, this week, the group called for new attacks on the U.S. How serious is this?
BOWMANWell, you know, American officials take this quite seriously. They don't believe that al-Qaida at this point could mount the kind of attack we saw on September 11. But there is great concern about some kind of attack and also lone wolves, which we've seen in recent weeks, either on behalf of ISIS or al-Qaida. So it is a concern. Officials we talk with basically say, you know, we think this country is much safer than it was back before 9/11. But still there's that concern. And it's going to be very difficult to combat a lone wolf, whether someone does it on behalf of al-Qaida or ISIS or is just delusional, just downright crazy, has no ideology and just does it on his or her own.
KNOYWell, and there's an interesting piece, Abderrahim, in The New York Times this week about ISIS and al-Qaida, who's the bigger threat. What's your take on that whole question?
FOUKARAWell, I think, to people who are seriously worried about both, I don't think they -- including the Americans, obviously -- I don't think they are necessarily inclined to make any distinction. They see one as just as dangerous as the other. However, when you think about where ISIS is today, the kind of prowess that ISIS has -- technological, in terms of being able to use social media and online tools, not just to strategize but also to recruit in far-flung places, such as the United States, and their military ability to actually take over two huge chunks of two major countries in the Middle East, Iraq and Syria, not to mention places closer to Europe, such as Libya -- then you begin to get a sense of how big the challenge of ISIS is.
FOUKARAOf course, al-Qaida, yes, of course. They have a base in Yemen. And given the security situation -- the current security situation in Yemen now, it's not making their threat any less than what it could otherwise have been. They also have offshoots in North Africa. But I think, in terms of ISIS, in terms of being able to mobilize supporters, strategize and achieve goals -- at least at this particular point in time -- it seems to me that they are much bigger on the radar than al-Qaida is.
KNOYLara, I'd love your take on that question too.
JAKESSure. I was talking to a senior Western diplomat this week and he made a similar point to what Abderrahim just said, which is that this is not a binary choice. This is not, which is the bigger boogeyman? It's not, al-Qaida or ISIS. But the way he explained it was this: That al-Qaida, especially its affiliate in Yemen, is more focused on big attacks, going for the big bang. We think about the underwear bomber on Christmas day in Detroit with that airliner, for example, in 2009 -- attacks where many, many people will be killed.
JAKESAnd on top of that -- so that's always going to be a concern -- and then on top of that, you have the threat from ISIS, which is -- or Daesh, which is, you know, more of the lone wolf, more of the shootings that maybe we saw in Chattanooga or in Garland, Texas. Not that those were necessarily linked or even necessarily inspired by ISIS -- it seems like there's a lot of band-wagoning going on with both of the terror networks, that everybody wants to take credit for being linked to some of these lone wolf attacks -- but it's not an either/or, which is the worst, big bad wolf.
BOWMANAnd what's interesting about both groups -- you look at al-Qaida, it was a very secretive organization, it was hard to join and get close to those who were running the organization. Nobody really knows where they are. They believe that Zalfari (sp?) is in -- somewhere in Pakistan. But look at ISIS. Fighters are streaming across the border from Turkey. They have a caliphate, as you say, that straddles two countries. They're very savvy with social media. They put videos up of themselves killing people. So I think there's a concern that these people are so open and so really good at recruiting.
BOWMANI was in Afghanistan in April and May and they were seeing Taliban actually, they say, switching jerseys -- saying, I'm not fighting for the Taliban anymore. I'm going to fight for these guys, ISIS, because these guys are winning. I want to be on a winning team.
KNOYMaybe it's a generational thing. It's sort of...
BOWMANIt could be generational. And also, there's a lot of money out there from ISIS, from their illegal oil sales and so forth. They're cutting that down a bit now. But there's a lot of money out there. And, again, everybody wants to be on a winning team, including terrorists.
KNOYAll right. Well, speaking of ISIS, Tom, I did want to talk to you, specifically, about the drone strikes from Turkey against ISIS. These are U.S. drone strikes. What's the significance of this. This was big news.
BOWMANRight. Well, people at the Pentagon say that this could be a game-changer. That's what some of them are saying.
BOWMANThat, now that they're able to fly out of Incirlik Air Base in Turkey, right now, using armed drones. And soon they expect to start using manned attack aircraft, F-16s out of Incirlik. They also hope to open up one or two more bases. The next base would be for combat search and rescue, command and control. But you could have still another base where they're flying aircraft out. What -- this makes a difference because you don't have to fly hours away from other parts of the Middle East. You can just shoot right across the border. You can move quickly on a target -- actionable intelligence, as they say. So this really is a big deal.
BOWMANThe downside though, is they sent these American-trained rebels in and they were attacked by this Islamist group, the Nusra Front, linked to al-Qaida. They got all shot up. Some of them were scooting back into Turkey. Some of them never even made it across the border from Turkey. So they're calling it a challenge. Others are using the term, disaster.
KNOYYeah. It's very complicated. And then you bring Syria into it, Abderrahim. Now, the U.S. obviously doesn't coordinate with Syria but what is Syria saying about these drone strikes against ISIS being launched from Turkey?
FOUKARAI think, the Syrians are obviously not very happy that the Turks are doing this. They're not very happy, generally. But when you come down to the small print, on that level, the Turks are obviously doing the regime of Bashar al-Assad a favor.
KNOYWell, exactly, right?
FOUKARABut only to the extent that there is no clear connection between Bashar al-Assad and ISIS or Daesh because there have been reports for months now that he did actually encourage ISIS -- if not directly then indirectly -- in order to consolidate his grip on power in terms of being able to fight the other opposition groups in Syria described as moderate groups, whatever that means. But I think, this, as you said, it comes at a very complicated time in the Middle East. The game is getting really, really complicated for everyone, not just -- not the least for Erdogan, the Turkish president.
FOUKARABecause up until the last election, he had the upper hand within Turkey. He could do -- he had the parliamentary majority. He could do whatever the heck he wanted to do in Syria. Now that's changed. He's lost that majority. And there are now Kurds in the Turkish parliament. And they are maneuvering against his moves in Syria, because he's moving against, ostensibly, ISIS. But he is also moving against the Kurdish group, the PKK. So his situation is becoming politically very tenuous. He may have been given a little break by this talk that he and Obama have agreed on a safe or a no-fly zone in Syria. But nobody really is clear where that's ultimately going.
KNOYOkay, Tom, that's really tricky for the U.S.
BOWMANIt's very tricky.
KNOYBecause the Kurds are helping us out in Iraq.
BOWMANAbsolutely. And if I could just say, the PKK, the group that's now in northern Iraq, the Turks are hitting them. They've also hit the Syrian Kurdish group, the YPG. American officials are very concerned about that, if that continues. Because this YPG, these Syrian Kurds, are the best fighters against ISIS right now in Syria. Very concerning.
KNOYWow. Well, I'm Laura Know of New Hampshire Public Radio. And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." If you'd like to join us, call 1-800-433-8850. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. It's the international hour of the Friday News Roundup. And we'd love to hear from you. 1-800-433-8850. Lara, I did want to ask you about another big international headline this week. And this is just more trouble with migrants from some of these troubled countries that we've been talking about trying to get into Europe. This week, a fishing boat carrying as many as 600 migrants capsized off the Libyan coast. What's the latest on their fate, Lara?
JAKESWell, so there were 600 people on this boat. It was, like you said, just off the coast of Libya. It looks like 400 people have been rescued or retrieved. And so that brings us at about 200 people who are missing, are presumed dead.
JAKESYou know, it's just another example. This has been happening all summer long. In April, 800 people were killed in a capsizing of the -- in the Mediterranean Sea. I was in Rome a couple of weeks ago and talked to migration officials about this. They're very concerned about this. They know that this is going to be continuing. We have twice as many migrants who have already crossed the Mediterranean from North Africa into Italy and Greece so far in the first six months of this year, compared to the first six months of last year. They know it's not going to end. And they say, listen, we have a moral obligation to go get these people. Otherwise they will continue to die.
JAKESAnd how can you let somebody who is just seeking a better life, die, when we have the capabilities to pick them up? I mean, as you can imagine, it is a very emotional argument for the rest of Europe right now. We're seeing, I think, 3,000 migrants who are sitting in northern France in the city of Calais -- Calais, sorry, who are trying to get into Britain. And, you know, again, diplomats are very worried about this. They say, "We don't have the resources to help support these people once they get into our countries." I mean, if you look at what's happening with Greece right now, with the economic situation there and how the euro is plummeting, that's, you know, a very fair argument.
JAKESThere's a rise of the right-wing parties all across Europe right now, who are very, very nervous about North Africans, who they fear -- maybe without a lot of evidence -- are going to come in and be agents of terror or crime in their countries.
KNOYSome of these groups that we just talked about. And I definitely want to ask all of you about the Chunnel, the Channel Tunnel, in a minute. But one more thing on these migrants and these boats and, you know, it's terrible. And as you said, people in Italy and Greece feel an obligation to pick them up. You don't want to let them drown. But then what's the policy, Lara, after they do pick them up? They say, you know, "Okay, now we rescued you and go back?" Or what do they do?
JAKESWell, I mean, the EU has been very -- hasn't given a lot of very clear guidance on this and the policies have been changing over the last couple of months and over the last year. I think there's going to be another policy change coming up. I mean, a lot of the migrants go to Germany. Germany has seen a huge influx of migrants in the last couple of months. Apparently, Sweden gives something like $1,000 to each migrant who is granted asylum in Sweden. So there's a huge flow to those states.
KNOYSo some European countries are still welcoming these folks?
JAKESYes, welcoming if they are granted asylum. And that's a hard legal bar that people have to cross. And they would say, of course, they have to get into the countries and establish their asylum claims before they -- you know, they need to get there before they can actually be granted asylum. So it's a very difficult situation.
KNOYAll right. Well, coming up, more of your calls and questions for our panel. It's the international hour of the Friday News Roundup. We'll be right back.
KNOYWelcome back. I'm Laura Knoy of New Hampshire Public Radio, sitting in for Diane Rehm. It's the International Hour of the Friday News Roundup. And let's hear from you. Join us at 1-800-433-8850, 1-800-433-8850. Send an email to email@example.com. Our guests this week are Abderrahim Foukara, regional director for the Americas for Al Jazeera Network, Lara Jakes, deputy managing editor for news at Foreign Policy Magazine, and Tom Bowman, Pentagon correspondent for NPR.
KNOYAnd, all of you, let's go right back to our listeners. And Steve joins us from Mobile, Ala. Hi, Steve. Go ahead. You're on "The Diane Rehm Show."
STEVEHey, guys. Enjoying your show, as always. I was calling, again, I guess, to talk about unstable Africa with oil. Also known as the Middle East. Part of the problem that I think we don't, as Americans -- and I've got clients that have done business there. And it's in our economic interests for this area to remain stable because we have oil interests through our affiliation with the Assad family who we put in through their affiliation with the Mousavi etcetera, etcetera.
STEVEBut almost everything in the Middle East is bizarrely complicated and apparently beyond our understanding. I mean the French couldn't figure it out. The English couldn't figure it out. For example, we do business with Saudi families who we have good relationships with and, you know, kids go to school here, etcetera, etcetera. They're our allies or economic partners. And these same people, I know, turn around and write $50,000 a month checks to al Qaida and organizations like that.
STEVEThis is war that's coming between the Arabs. We need to let the Arabs decided whether they -- and the Persians, you know, decide whether they want to live in the 12th century with 12th century or in the modern world. And, you know, we're complicating things.
KNOYSo, Steve, the U.S. should basically get out of that -- get out of the Middle East. Is that your point?
STEVEWell, as crazy as it is, we need to be prepared to oil alternatives. We're more dependent on the Middle East than a lot of the European countries that are not always over -- you don't see the Germans always over there meddling in affairs and getting into wars. Because they're not as dependent on the oil in the Middle East. Even though we…
KNOYOkay. Well, let's talk about that. And pardon me for jumping in on you there, Steve. But let's talk about that point. You know, Tom Bowman, to you first. People have said that the U.S. is energy independent now. We don't need the oil from the Middle East as much. What do you think about Steve's point that you don't see Europeans jumping into the Middle East as much as the United States? Is that correct?
BOWMANWell, I think one reason is the U.S. is the sole remaining superpower so with that comes certain responsibilities. Some would say clearly, you know, the U.S. is more independent with its energy needs now. But, clearly, they're still very dependent on oil from the Middle East. The other thing is support of Israel, strong ally. That's a big part of this, as well. But I think, you know, the administration's trying to pivot to Asia. I think this is a way to focus on something else other than the Middle East. The problem is they keep getting pulled back to this region.
KNOYWell, and, Abderrahim, that's what I'm hearing in Steve's voice. You know, frustration that as much as the U.S. might want to get out, we keep getting pulled back. What do you think?
FOUKARAWell, I mean, let me first of all speak to the point that the listener made, that it's complicated and Americans don't understand what's going on with the Middle East. I think we are at a point where even people who actually live in the Middle East, they don't understand what's going on in the Middle East. Because the forces that have been unleashed over the last four years, since the beginning of this so-called Arab Spring, they are at a stage where they are really defying comprehension.
FOUKARANever before, or at least not in memory, have we had simultaneously so many different wars and conflicts going on and so many different countries being unstable in that part of the world. Europe, I do agree with the logic of the listener, that, you know, the Europeans have a much bigger stake in stability in the Middle East for so many different reasons. One of them is geographical proximity. I mean, you were talking about the migrants. You know, people have been seeking economic refuge elsewhere. We all come from somewhere, you know, since the beginning of history.
FOUKARABut since 2011, what we have seen, we are seeing a migration of a different kind, politically motivated. The Europeans cannot, without the Americans -- this is the bottom line. They cannot tackle the political problems of North Africa and the Middle East without the Americans. So even if you take out -- even if you take oil out of the picture -- and the Americans are interested in oil, it seems to me, not just for the domestic market, for the global market. That's where the real interest is in Middle East oil.
FOUKARABut even if you take out -- oil out of the picture, just look at what's going on now with the Iran and Israel. The United States needs access to the region. If the region spills out of control, then U.S. interests will be dramatically affected, not just in the Middle East, but globally.
KNOYLara, go ahead.
JAKESI just wanted to jump in, just very quickly. One of the things that the caller said that kind of peaked my interest was that, you know, we don't see Germany rushing in down to the Middle East, getting involved in this. No. But we see Germany allying with Russia and with Putin in order to get gas. Germany and much of Western Europe is very dependent on Russian energy. And so it may be one of those situations where you just kind of have to pick your partner, no matter how uncomfortable it may be.
KNOYAll right. Let's take another call. Steve, thank you for that one. Mimi is in Cincinnati, Ohio. Hi, Mimi. Go ahead. You're on "The Diane Rehm Show."
MIMIHi. It seems like everybody wonders where ISIS came from. ISIS came from the creation by Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Brenner. ISIS is some of Saddam's military. When we marched into Kuwait, into Iraq, we disband Saddam's military. Where do you think these men ended up going?
MIMIThey formed an ally together and became ISIS.
KNOYThank you for the call, Mimi. And we talked about this before, Lara. The idea that is being floated around that ISIS sprung out of the ashes of Iraq. Do you want to jump in, Lara, on that and Tom, as well?
JAKESI will. So I was living in Iraq from 2009 to 2012. So I was there both before the military withdrew in 2011 and after. And so the caller is right, that what is -- we now call Daesh or ISIS was what we then called al Qaida in Iraq. And these are Baathists, basically. These are basically Saddam's army and some of his political cronies who were thrown from their jobs after the 2003 invasion. And, as one might, when you are -- you no longer have your paycheck coming in, when you are, you know, shamed in front of your people, you might rebel.
JAKESI mean, if somebody invaded the United States and fired all the American military people, they might have a problem with that, as well. So I'm not justifying it, but certainly there was a rebellion. They became al Qaida in Iraq. And now they are Daesh or ISIS. And I just want to very quickly wrap this up by saying in 2012, after the U.S. military had withdrawn, many of us who were still in Iraq at the time saw that these people, these militants were starting to regroup. And the distinct sense of us there was that Washington no longer wanted to listen to this.
JAKESThey no longer cared about this. They said, all right. We have ended the war in Iraq and we are moving on to other things. And those of us who were there on the ground at the time said, hey, this is probably going to come back and we should be paying attention to it. And, boom, here we are.
KNOYWell, and this relates to an email from Gary, that says, "Please stop repeating that Obama voluntarily left Iraq." Gary says, "There was no status of forces agreement. He attempted to maintain a presence, the same as Afghanistan." Gary, thank you for the email. And, Tom, that's one for you.
BOWMANNo. That's right. I mean, this argument about, you know, would the Iraqis have agreed to something allowing the U.S. troops to say -- stay in Iraq? You had Muqtada al -- Sadr, the radical cleric who wanted all U.S. troops to leave. Could they have fought harder to get some sort of a deal? They kept whittling down the number of troops. I think it started 20,000. It ended up at 3,000.
BOWMANInterestingly, that's how many troops are now in Iraq, training Iraqi forces. So could they have come up with a better deal? Most people I talk with say, yeah, if you fought hard you probably could have. It would have made a difference, but you'll never know. It's now left to history, I think.
KNOYWell, Mimi, thanks for the call. And, Gary, thanks for that email. You can join us, too, 1-800-433-8850, firstname.lastname@example.org. All of you, there was a piece of that Malaysian flight found this week on a small -- looks like a beautiful island, Reunion. A piece of the 777 wing from the Malaysian flight. But there's some confusion, Abderrahim. And I'd like to ask you about this. Is this really part of the flight or not? People keep saying, possible. There are other pieces of debris that have washed up and people are saying maybe it is, maybe it isn't. Why is there so much confusion about the origin of these plane parts?
FOUKARABecause nobody seems to have the intelligence to conclusively confirm whether it is or not. Everyone is mobilized. The French are mobilized because, you know, they own the Island of Reunion. They have very close ties with the other island, Madagascar, which is now totally mobilized looking for possibly other debris from possibly the same flight. And this is sowing a lot of confusion because you have different countries saying different things. You have the Malaysians, for example, saying that the debris points in one particular direction. The French are denying it.
FOUKARAAnd that's not helping the case of the Malaysians. They're coming under a lot of attack. Not just -- a lot of criticism. Not just internationally -- not just internationally, that's right, but also domestically. You have families of the victims of that flight basically clamoring for the truth. And the Malaysians may well not know what the truth is, but it's just the way they've gone about dealing with this that hasn't been -- at least in the eyes of many of their critics -- very competent. And therefore, they are actually aggravating the situation rather than helping it.
KNOYYeah, well, it's so hard for families. And it's been so long. And I think Abderrahim's right, though, Tom. The Malaysians have gotten criticized for not handling the public relations part of this very well. Fair critique or not?
BOWMANNo. I think it's a fair critique. I mean, they seem to have bungled this right from the start. You know, there was confusion about where the plane went. Remember, the military got some indication that it was heading in a certain direction. The government didn't come out with that information until much later. So there was a great deal of anger about the P.R. part of this. But also just about the tactical part of this. Where did the plane go? Who has the information? And why did it take so long to get the information about exactly where the plane went, which would have obviously helped in the recovery efforts.
KNOYYeah, well, it's heartbreaking for the families. And speaking of heartbreaking, I did want to mention that yesterday, August 6th, was the 70th anniversary of the first atomic bombing in Hiroshima. And then, as you all know, the U.S. dropped another atomic bomb over Nagasaki on August 9th. This is a very sober story. Lara, first to you. How are these just very sad anniversaries being observed?
JAKESIt's interesting. I mean, you -- these anniversaries kind of, I think, always give rise to alternative storylines. And I've seen a lot in the last couple of days. And I think this comes up all the time or every couple of years, that, you know, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the bombs were necessary to end the war and to stop more deaths of American service people. You hear the argument that the bombs also deterred Russia from invading Japan. And Russia colonizing Japan.
JAKESBut I -- to go back to your point, Laura, I think that one of the things that I read this week was a remembrance of victims who had their skin peeling off as a result of the bomb blast. And pictures of, you know, American tourists who were over in Hiroshima, who saw pictures of this. And how horrifying it was or -- for some of the eyewitnesses who survived the blasts. And, you know, personally, I just think that when you reflect on a world-changing event, I mean, it opened the nuclear arms race for the rest of the world. I mean you should kind of go back to the origins and think about the people that it affected.
KNOYYeah, and you have heard a lot of compelling stories, Abderrahim, this week. People who are now, you know, in their 70s or 80s who were kids when this happened. What do you make of some of the reflections that we've heard this week?
FOUKARAWell, I mean, it's very good, obviously, that the memory is being kept within the daily conversations of people, whether in Japan, in the United States, elsewhere in the world, at a time when there is so much turmoil in the world. Turmoil that is actually sparing some people to be so pessimistic about the future and to say, you know, look, we had this 70 years ago. And we now could possibly be living on the cusp of living through something similar.
FOUKARAI mean, if you just listen to some of the comments of John McCain, for example, saying that he'd not experienced anything what's happening in the world today in his lifetime. Well, there were very serious things, much more serious than we are living today. And Nagasaki is, you know, the ultimate reminder of the thoroughly nasty things that happened 70 years ago. And as bad as things are today in the world, I think it would be almost an insult to the memory of the victims to compare, you know, what happened then with what's happening today.
KNOYAnd Japan's Prime Minister Abe, on the day said, I reemphasize the necessity of world peace. I'm Laura Knoy. You're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Tom Bowman, did you want to jump in there?
BOWMANYou know, I did. If you look at, you know, some of the survivors of Hiroshima, who are still around and can talk about it, you also have survivors of World War II on the American side. Some of whom will tell their grandchildren, listen, if it weren't for that decision to drop the bomb in Hiroshima and then Nagasaki, I wouldn't have made it. I would have been one of the 100,000 plus Americans who would have had to invade the island. These are very tough calls. President Truman said at the time, I didn't waste any sleep over this decision.
BOWMANOur science correspondent, Geoff Brumfiel, did a story this -- earlier this week. And I recommend everyone go back and listen to it. And it's a story about how they chose Hiroshima. Initially they thought about dropping the bomb over Tokyo Bay, sort of a, just send a message, this is what we can do. They talked about a military site. They decided it wouldn't have enough impact.
KNOYWow, that is chilling.
BOWMANAnd they decided on Hiroshima. So just think about that, sitting around a table 71 -- 70 years ago, who will live and who will die? What city are we gonna just wipe off the map? I find that just incredible.
KNOYWell, and your point about the American GIs, reiterates Lara's point about, you know, we're still having this debate 70 years later. Let's take one more call if we could. This is Ian, in Boston, Mass. Hi, Ian. Go ahead. You're on "The Diane Rehm Show."
IANHi. It's nice to talk with you guys. I was just listening to your commentary about the nature of ISIS in the Middle East. And I wanted to preface my comments by saying that I used to work for a military contractor and I have quite a bit of experience with the way that our military functions. I think that we drastically overestimate the effectiveness of drone strikes because we don't see them within the long term.
IANIt's considered a very short-term solution. And part of the reasoning behind my opinion on this is because if you talk to people who used to live in Pakistan or Afghanistan that comes to the United States, the way they describe the United States military presence is as sort of phantom force, that that, you know, it's a blue, beautiful, sunny day and then suddenly their farm blows up and their family (unintelligible)…
KNOYOkay. And, Ian, I have to cut you off there, I apologize, in the interest of time. Real quickly, Tom Bowman, this whole idea of drone strikes and the phantom force.
BOWMANNo. I think he's absolutely right. A drone strike is effective if you're taking out a single terrorist. But if you're trying to, let's say, control a 65, 68-mile area along the Turkish-Syrian border, it's probably not that effective. And the only way you do that is to have some sort of ground force. That ground force doesn't exist right now.
KNOYWell, and that gets back to the Republican presidential debate that we talked about in the first hour. Lots of discussion back and forth about whether our foreign policy will put boots on the ground or not. So we'll probably we talking about that in the future. I want to thank all of you very much for joining us. I appreciate it. It was real interesting. Thank you for being here.
BOWMANGood to be with you.
JAKESHave a great weekend.
KNOYTom Bowman, Pentagon correspondent for NPR, Lara Jakes, deputy managing editor for news at Foreign Policy Magazine, and Abderrahim Foukara, he's with Al Jazeera Network. I'm Laura Knoy of New Hampshire Public Radio sitting in for Diane Rehm. Thanks for listening.
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