How hospice became big business. A new investigation in The New Yorker reveals an industry that at times puts profits before patients.
Kurdish fighters say they’ve retaken control of a key town in Iraq in an assault on ISIS, backed by coalition airstrikes. U.S. aircraft carry out an operation in Syria targeting the militant known as Jihadi John. ISIS claims responsibility for a double suicide bombing in Beirut that kills more than three dozen people and wounds hundreds. In Myanmar, the party of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi wins a landslide election victory. In Europe, Sweden begins border checks to stem the influx of migrants. And Russian athletes are under fire by the World Anti-Doping Agency. A panel of journalists joins Diane for analysis of the week’s top international news stories.
- Tom Bowman Pentagon correspondent, NPR
- Missy Ryan Pentagon reporter, The Washington Post
- Shawn Donnan World trade editor, covering international economics for Financial Times
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. ISIS claims responsibility for two suicide bombs that killed dozens in Lebanon. Kurdish forces say they've taken back an ISIS-controlled city in Iraq, cutting of a key supply route. And the party of Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi will take control of Myanmar after an historic election.
MS. DIANE REHMHere for this week's top international stories on the Friday News Roundup, Tom Bowman of NPR, Missy Ryan of The Washington Post and Shawn Donnan of The Financial Times. I do invite you, as always, come and be part of the program. Join us by phone at 800-433-8850. Send us your email to email@example.com. Follow us on Facebook or send us a tweet. Thank you all for being here.
MR. SHAWN DONNANGood morning.
MS. MISSY RYANThank you.
MR. TOM BOWMANGood morning.
REHMGood to have you all here. And Shawn Donnan, welcome.
DONNANThank you for having me.
REHMTom Bowman, let me start with you. Yesterday, Kurdish fighters in Iraq launched that offensive against ISIS to take back the town of Sinjar. What's the significance of that area?
BOWMANWell, the significance is particularly the highway. It's Highway 47 and it stretches between Mosul in Iraq, held by ISIS, and Raqqah in Syria. So they're trying to cut off the flow of fighters, weapons and oil from Raqqah across into Iraq to Mosul. So it looks like they have taken that stretch of highway. In the reports this morning, is they're moving into the city of Sinjar, but one of our reporters on the ground, Alice Fordham, has been told by a military officer that there's a concern that they were lured into the city by ISIS and that the place is seeded with roadside bombs, vehicle bombs, maybe even house bombs.
BOWMANSo it could be a tough struggle rooting them out from the city of Sinjar. But the bottom line is, this is a pretty big move, stopping that flow between Syria and Iraq, but they have a long way to go. I was talking to a general not long ago and estimated that it would take three years to take back Mosul.
RYANYeah. Sinjar isn't a big city. It's a town, but it has symbolic -- strategic importance because of its location between Mosul and Raqqah. It also has symbolic importance because Sinjar is the area where, in 2014, there were thousands of minority Yazidi trapped and this is what drew the first American military involvement in this campaign against the Islamic State in Iraq.
RYANAnd I think what Tom just said about the potential for IEDs and entrapment within this urban area is really important because this is something that the Iraqi forces are going to face in all of the future battles in Mosul, in Ramadi and in Fallujah. And this is something really that the Iraqi forces are not yet -- have not demonstrated an ability to do well and so this is why the Obama administration has recently made a decision to intensify some of their lines of effort in Iraq, such as expediting the provision of anti-IED equipment, putting American advisors closer to the front lines.
RYANSo this is kind of the first test of this evolving strategy in Iraq.
BOWMANAnother thing about Sinjar is it's the Kurds that do a lot of the fighting, you'll notice, in Iraq and also into Syria. That's a big problem going ahead. The Iraqi Security Forces just are not aggressive enough.
REHMThat's very interesting. Shawn Donnan, we've heard reports this morning that the U.S. targeted the ISIS militant, Jihadi John. We don't know yet, do we, whether he has actually been killed.
DONNANWell, that's exactly it. David Cameron, the British prime minister, has said he's 99 percent certain that this has happened, but there's been no official confirmation beyond that. I mean, he clearly is a very important symbolic figure in the ISIS movement and important also in the UK and in Europe in terms of as a figure of radicalization among European Muslims. Jihadi John, as he was known, Mohammed Emwazi, grew up in the UK, was born in Kuwait, was educated at University in London, was part of something called The North London Boys, who -- a group of London boys who went off and fought alongside jihadis in Somalia, Afghanistan and in Syria.
BOWMANAnd I'm told this morning, Turkish officials have arrested another one of the London Boys or they're called -- dubbed The Beatles by the hostages they had taken, all British people. And this person is Aine Lesley Davis, arrested in Turkey and, again, one of The Beatles, one of the jihadis that was holding hostages.
RYANI would just add even if Emwazi's death is confirmed, I don't think it's going to have a big impact on the military strength...
REHMYeah, that's what I was going to ask, yeah.
RYAN...or the, yes, overall potency of ISIS. He didn't occupy a really high -- a senior operational role. But it is a symbolic victory just because he really was the face or the masked face, if you will, of ISIS and its brutality and its sort of appeal to people in the West. You know, he was one of the militants who traveled from Western Europe to Syria and that's a phenomenon that people are really struggling to get a hold on.
REHMDo we know if he was actually killed, how he was killed? Drones or airstrikes or what?
BOWMANWe know he was targeted with a reaper drone, which is a massive drone, carries as much ordinates as an F-16. They fired two missiles at a car he was believed to be sitting in maybe outside of a mosque. They think he is dead, but they say it may take weeks before they can actually determine whether he is dead or not. The term symbolism is being thrown a lot here now. Sinjar and Jihadi John, very symbolic, but as we've talking about, this is a huge, long struggle. And it's not going to end anytime soon.
BOWMANAnd what I think is interesting, particularly in Iraq, as this thing moves forward, you may see a lot more American effort in this to push the Iraqis forward in especially Ramadi and later on in Mosul. I'm not sure you'll see actual combat troops on the ground, but maybe more advisors, maybe Apache attack helicopters down in Ramadi, a lot more bombing and a lot more planning and goading them to move ahead.
BOWMANOne other thing, Diane, you also may see more of the Shia militias taking part in these efforts because they do fight up in Baiji and Tikrit. You saw the Shia militias with the Iraqi special forces who are quite good, but they can't be everywhere so watch for that. Watch for more American participation, more participation of the Shia militias and Iraqi special forces.
DONNANBut I think that propaganda point is an important one and it's going to be a political story that's going to unfold, especially in the UK in the weeks to come. Jeremy Corbyn, who is the new opposition leader in the UK, has already come out today and said it would've been much better if Mohammed Emwazi had been arrested and tried before a court, had actually had a fair judicial process. Now, that is something that would've been incredibly unlikely, but that it a story that, in the UK, is going to have some legs.
RYANJust to add to what Tom said before, I don't want to use the word slippery -- the term slippery slope, but it really is a gradual, incremental expansion of what the United States is willing to do militarily in both countries. And I think what it reflects is it acknowledgement that the very limited approach that the White House wanted to have when this whole thing kicked off in the summer of 2014 is just inadequate.
REHMSo when we hear now U.S.-lead forces or U.S.-lead strike, what does that mean to us here in this country? Do we know actually how many of our troops are participating in these airstrikes, in these ground...
BOWMANWell, in the airstrikes, it's probably 90 percent if not more. And of the U.S. airstrikes, the B-1 bomber has been used more than any other platform by the Americans. They keep saying there is 60 nations that are involved in this and that's, frankly, window dressing because most of these nations really don't do much at all. The heavy lifting in the air, clearly, is being done by the United States. And on the ground, you do have some advisors.
BOWMANWe saw the poor man, Master Sergeant Wheeler, who was killed going into that ISIS prison. I think they would like to see the U.S. advisors stay back a bit to the first point of concealment, but you could see some others get hit in the coming weeks and months as well, and also west of Baghdad in Taqaddum airbase where you have Marines serving as advisors and trainers. They are taking a lot of rocket and mortar fire.
BOWMANI'm told it hit a bladder there and it looked like a mushroom cloud when it exploded that fuel bladder. So you could see some casualties among the Marines if those rockets and mortars keep going. And they are increasing down there. That's another thing that people aren't aware of.
REHMSo is the White House being straight with the American people about the extent of the involvement of U.S. forces?
RYANI think, I mean, it's safe to say that the role of American forces -- and there are about 3,000, a little over 3,000 on the ground now in Iraq and there will be 50 or so on the ground in Syria whenever the Special Forces are inserted. Their role in Iraq is totally different than it was in the last Iraq war. You know, they're not kicking in doors and doing night raids every night like they were at the peak of the last Iraq war. But I will say I do think there's some sort of creative flexible semantics when it comes to their advisory role and the fact that they remain out of combat.
RYANIt was just last month that there was a raid in which an American soldier was killed and that was an advisory role, but it ended up to be a firefight and it was the first U.S. casualty in this war.
REHMMissy Ryan, Pentagon reporter for The Washington Post. We will be taking your calls, questions. 800-433-8850. Stay with us.
REHMAnd welcome back the international hour of the Friday News Roundup. This week, with Missy Ryan, Pentagon reporter for The Washington Post, Shawn Donnan, he's world trade editor covering international economics for the Financial Times, and Tom Bowman, Pentagon correspondent for NPR. Here's an email from Jonathan in Boston, who says, concerning the Kurdish gains in northern Iraq and Syria, looking at pictures of newly reconquered areas, the Kurds are winning back territory utterly destroyed by war. Is the U.S. coalition planning to help rebuild the areas, so as to prevent ISIS and other groups from finding vulnerable people to lure as new recruits? Tom Bowman.
BOWMANWell, I'm sure they would help rebuilding the areas. The important thing is the Kurds have a lot of oil up there, so they do have money. They're not going to be a ward of the international community. But, clearly, there will be international help in rebuilding some of these areas, moving people back into the villages and towns they live in. Once again, hundreds of billions of dollars will be spent in Iraq, rebuilding and helping people out, in the coming years.
RYANI think that the United States certainly will do what it can, once there are areas that are under opposition or Kurdish control. But I think that, you know, we've got to remember that this was the plan in the beginning to create a sort of separate administration -- an American-backed administration all across Syria and it didn't happen for the reasons that we all know well. And I would be cautious in thinking about that really taking root this time as well.
RYANWe've got -- Russia is conducting airstrikes, which of course has complicated the whole situation.
REHMHere's an email from Andrew in Arlington. The death of Jihadi John is not only about symbolism and propaganda, also about justice. This is someone who beheaded innocent, non-combatants. A legal trial in a courtroom would have been nice, but absent the reasonable possibility of that happening, his death is a measure of justice for his victims. Would you agree, Shawn?
DONNANI think that's certainly how a lot of his victims and the families of his victims will be seeing it this morning. I think that that is absolutely a fair point. I think the question is also how that gets digested in the Muslim community, the Islamic community in Europe, and in places like the U.K. where he has been an effective recruiter for a lot of the young...
REHMAre you suggesting it may spur even greater numbers of recruits out of the U.K. and elsewhere?
DONNANIt's very hard to say how people are going to react to that. But that's certainly a possibility, I would have thought.
REHMAll right. Let's talk about terrorism in Lebanon. There was a double suicide bombing in residential areas in southern Beirut. And there has been a report that there may have been a third suicide bomber. They are trying to spread their influence. Are they after Hezbollah? What was going on there?
RYANI think this was absolutely targeted at Hezbollah. This was an area of southern Beirut. You know, it targeted civilians, but it was an area under the protection of Hezbollah, the Shiite militant group. And the key point here is that Hezbollah is present in Syria. They are fighting on the side of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a Shiite ally. And they are on -- they're adversaries of the Islamic State. And so this is indicating the vulnerability of Lebanon, in its capital, in the heart of its civilian population, to militant attack. And I think it's just -- really underscores the fragility of the whole region and how the Syrian conflict is destabilizing not just Syria but all the countries around it.
DONNANAnd I think that's the greatest fear really, here, is that this grows into a regional conflict and that it becomes a Shia-Sunni conflict that is -- that grows beyond Syria and Iraq where the main battlefield is now and that we start seeing more attacks in places like Beirut. We saw also an attack earlier this week in Jordan, a single police officer. We still don't quite know the circumstances around that. But there's some reports that it was religiously inspired. It was targeted at some Western advisors there in Jordan. Jordan is clearly a country that's been affected heavily by the conflict in Syria as well. So it -- I mean, that is the big question out there is, where is this going?
BOWMANAnd also the Russian airliner, we still don't know what that was. They believe it was a bomb. Was it ISIS? That would show one more instance of ISIS expanding out and hitting civilians as well.
REHMBut isn't there kind of an irony -- if it does turn out that ISIS targeted that Russian airplane -- that this whole crisis could, in fact, bring Russia and the United States back together in some way?
BOWMANWell, I think that's the hope. That's what Secretary of State John Kerry would like to see. Whether that happens or not, who knows? Russia still wants to see their -- Assad in power or at least have their interests adhered to in Syria. They have a naval port there. They may not want to see Assad necessarily stay but they want an ally in Syria. So whether or not -- they have made some strikes against ISIS, a little here and there. But if you look at all their bombing runs, it's all against those, you know, going against the regime of Bashar al-Assad -- including the CIA-supported rebels around Aleppo, and also in the south.
RYANI would just add that the White House, the Obama administration has shown a willingness to compartmentalize its relationship with Russia. It cooperated with Russia for the Iranian nuclear deal at the same time there are these pretty serious tensions over Ukraine, for example. And now you have a situation where they're very unhappy with what Russia's doing in Syria. But you -- there's the potential perhaps for some sort of allied position or a potential action if, you know, there actually was an attack by the Islamic State on a civilian aircraft.
REHMIt's interesting that Ukraine has kind of dropped out of the front-page news these days, perhaps because of what's going on in Syria, Shawn.
DONNANI think it's still rumbling along. In the background there, Jack Lew, the Treasury Secretary, is in Ukraine today, where he was meeting with economic figures in the cabinet there. And there's a bit of a geo-economic battle going on there as well. So it's -- Ukraine will be back.
BOWMANAnd you talk to American military officials in Europe, they're frustrated, because they want to focus on Ukraine. They want to focus on what they see as a Russian threat in Eastern Europe. And they're getting no interest at all, it appears, by the administration, by Congress or even reporters. They keep pushing that issue.
REHMWe have a tweet from Reuters that the Pentagon now says, it's reasonably certain that the airstrike killed Jihadi John. I want to ask about airline, airport security after that Russian plane went down. There are indications that we're going to tighten up security all over this country as well as urging other countries to do the same. I mean, we're not just talking about baggage handlers. Food handlers, people who are sweeping the carpet, Shawn.
DONNANYeah. No, absolutely. I think that's going to be a theme that's going -- that all of us are going to experience in the months and years to come is another round of security crackdowns. I mean, already, the British -- there were 20,000 British tourists who were caught in resorts -- Red Sea resorts at the time of the Metrojet crash and they were flown back. And they were -- could not bring their baggage with them. There was no hold baggage allowed. There was a big crackdown.
DONNANI mean, this brings us back to really the old days in terms of our fears of terrorist attacks. And airliners, if we think back to the Lockerbie bombing and bombs, we've gone through a period after 9/11 where we worried about individuals and not bombs. And now the bomb...
REHMExcept for the shoe bomber, who did get aboard.
DONNANAbsolutely. Yeah. That was a -- but this is a -- we really -- there's so much mystery surrounding this, it's really going to be interesting to see where...
BOWMANYou raise a very good point, Diane, about baggage handlers, food workers. You're going to see a lot more about that in the coming weeks in the United States. There's a sense that we take our belts off, our shoes off, our coats...
REHMAnd they walk through and completely around.
BOWMANAnd they walk through. They sometimes have multiple cellphones on them. That's a concern. Why do you need so many cellphones? But, again, keep an eye on this. You're going to hear more about this in the coming weeks. There's a lot to be said about this and the concern about the safety involved and the lack of scrutiny with some of these baggage handlers and food workers.
RYANBut I still think the position on the emerging -- evolving position on this is sort of a little bit contradictory because there have been steps in recent years to relax the airport security rules just for efficiency sake. And so I do think this might be a sort -- we might see sort of periodic spasms of increased and then relaxed security for the foreseeable future.
DONNANAnd there's also this tension between what we see in public and what actually happens behind the scenes.
REHMOf course. Yeah.
DONNANAnd a lot of it, for security reasons, they want to keep behind the scenes.
REHMLet's talk about Myanmar and their election commission announcing the party of Nobel Peace Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi has won a majority. Apparently, what she is going to do, I gather, is step over, somehow, the president and at least attempt to take charge of the government. Shawn.
DONNANSo this is an -- really a remarkable result. This is -- today is actually five years to the day since she was released from house arrest. She spent almost two decades under house arrest, under the military junta, and was released in 2010. Here, we have this result where all of a sudden she is in command of a majority of the parliament -- 364 seats in a 664-seat parliament. There is this caveat that the military has 150 seats in that parliament constitutionally and will always have the ability to block constitutional reform.
DONNANAnd that's an interesting and very important point because they amended the constitution recently so that no one who is married to a foreigner or has foreign-born children can serve as president of the country. And that was very specifically targeted at Aung San Suu Kyi, who was married to an Englishman and has two children who are British citizens. So the big question now is exactly how is she going to serve -- what leadership role is she going to serve? Already, the state department this week has been saying, it's time to revisit that constitution and allow the Burmese leader, who the people elected, to serve in that role. But that's going to take another fight ahead.
RYANI think we also just want to watch what -- the military controls some pretty important business holdings as well and, currently, key ministry positions. So we'll need to watch in coming weeks how they handle that. And, you know, whether or not this victory for the Pro-Democracy forces actually leads to an increase in foreign investment and how the military deals with that.
BOWMANRight. At this point, they're saying all the right things. But, again, what will happen in the future? They held sway in that country for, what? Since 62?
BOWMANSo they may not be as willing to give up power when things start moving down the road. But it is -- with so much bad news in the world, it really is a remarkable story. But whether it -- how it moves forward is going to be something quite interesting to keep an eye on.
DONNANAnd I think we should also -- we shouldn't underestimate the challenges facing and the kind of -- there's all this hope invested in her and in the NLD. But this is an incredibly poor country. I was there a couple of years ago. This really is a place that has suffered badly from 50 years of authoritarian rule and has some huge challenges in terms of recovering as an economy. It's also a place that has some big social problems. There's a big minority Muslim population that has been targeted by majority Buddhists with some quite brutal ethnic cleansing, effectively. And she has always really walked a tightrope on that issue. And at some point, she's going to have to step up and to take the decision.
REHMHow do you see her making her first move?
DONNANWell, I think her first move -- and it's, we've already seen it this week -- is really to reach out to the military and to try and bring them to -- on her side. And she needs to look very carefully at who succeeds at the head of the military. We've had this military ruler, Thein Sein, who's led this kind of quasi-military, quasi-civilian government since 2011. But he's going to be stepping aside. And the big question is, who comes after him?
REHMShawn Donnan. He's world trade editor for the Financial Times. And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." I'm going to open the phones. 800-433-8850. First to Lee in Fairfax, Va. You're on the air. Hey, Lee.
REHMYes, you're on the air, sir. Go right ahead.
LEEYeah. I had a question for the gentleman that was saying it'll take three years for Mosul to fall. I was just wondering, isn't it better to put troops on the ground rather than, you know, give them that time so they can devise a plan, you know, get their hands on something, you know, totally dangerous then? You know, I understand that it's not an easy -- to do. But with the Russians in on it, the U.S. is on it, Iran's on it, you know, just a coalition of ground troops that, you know, they would get it over with.
REHMAll right. Tom Bowman.
BOWMANI think everybody would like to see troops on the ground. It depends whose troops you're talking about. Some would like to see -- Lindsey Graham is talking about sending a lot of American troops, thousands, I think 10,000 American troops in to deal with ISIS. The president has said, no combat boots on the ground, whatever definition that means. And I talked to someone in the Pentagon who said, you know, we'd like to see the Saudis or Jordanians get involved here. They're willing to hold our coat but they're not willing to send any troops in. So they're relying, as we've said many times, on Kurdish troops, also Iraqi Security Forces as well.
BOWMANThe Kurdish are very good fighters. If your name is, Peshmerga means those who face death, you're going to be a pretty good soldier. But Iraqis, not as great soldiers. So it's going to take some time. Don't expect to see large numbers of American combat troops go in there anytime soon.
RYANUndoubtedly, the tactical effect would be impressive if there was, you know, a significant number of American soldiers dispatched, actually do the frontline fighting. But the reality is that there is zero appetite on the part of this White House to have that happen. President Obama made a decision and ran on ending the wars that -- started by his predecessor. And while they've been sort of dragged into this incremental expansion that we talked about earlier, they are not going to stomach the actual return of American large-scale combat.
DONNANAnd I think we also really have to remember the last decade of history, the presence of American troops on the ground in the Middle East has always inflamed the situation.
BOWMANYou're absolutely right. And then the question people would ask is, okay, American troops go in -- 10,000, 15,000, 20,000 -- when do they leave? How do they get out?
BOWMANThe other interesting question -- we talked about this earlier -- is, are we seeing now the end of Iraq and the end of Syria? Are we fooling ourselves to think these two countries are still whole anymore? And as the Kurds move to the west, into Syria, across the Euphrates in Syria, that's when Turkey got interested and that's when they got nervous. That's when they allowed the U.S. to fly planes out of Incirlik. So are we seeing the creation already of a Kurdish state de facto? And then the Sunnis eventually will -- may say, you know what? We don't belong in this country anymore.
REHMTom Bowman, Pentagon correspondent for NPR. Short break here. More of your calls, comments, when we come back. Stay with us.
REHMWelcome back. Two emails related to ISIS. The first, what level of military equipment does ISIS have? Where are they getting it? Second from Barry in Ashburn, Virginia, can ISIS be defeated by a strategy of taking and holding one city at a time? Is that a whack-a-mole plan? Second, is Senator Lindsey Graham right, we'll need 10,000 troops to do the job? Or will Senator Rand Paul's approach ultimately be the right policy?
BOWMANWell, the first question about ISIS and its equipment, some of it was paid for by the American taxpayer.
BOWMANAnd taken from the Iraqi forces. You have tanks. You have rocket-propelled grenades, Humvees, trucks.
REHMEverything left behind on the ground.
BOWMANPretty much everything left behind on the ground. I mean, you have hundreds, if not thousands, of pieces of equipment. They're using that to the great effect.
REHMAnd there was no way to do anything else with that, you just leave?
BOWMANWell, the Iraqi troops up around Mosul just scooted and left all their equipment.
BOWMANIt was grabbed by ISIS. So they have quite a bit of equipment. Now you're seeing bombs and missiles worth, I don't know, $50,000 to $100,000 destroying American-made tanks.
RYANIt's shocking. They've also seized Syrian military equipment over the border in Syria. You know, so they do have this sort of arsenal of medium-grade military equipment. They don't have an air force yet. If they did, that would be a game-changer.
REHMAnd what about the question of whack-a-mole? Is it one town at a time?
DONNANSo I think there's certainly an element of that, but the other interesting thing that we've seen in the last couple of weeks has been the Americans or the U.S.-led coalition, if you will, targeting some of the economic infrastructure that ISIS has built up and particularly the oil facilities. And that's something that's actually emerged in the last six months as a really important source of financing for ISIS. They're actually -- they are able to finance their operations by refining and selling oil, both locally and regionally.
DONNANAnd we've seen the Air Force, U.S. Air Force, target oil facilities in the last couple weeks and step up that.
BOWMANAnd that's a very key point, and to prevent them from selling the oil and also getting fighters and arms across the border from Turkey, what they're trying to do now is close a 63-mile gap in the Turkish border. And I'm told that there's a Turkish one-star general up there that's doing quite good job working to close that gap. But that'll be really important if they can do it. It may take some time. But if they are able to cut off that area, then you're going to see ISIS start to wither on the vine. They can't move weapons, they can't sell oil, they can't get equipment across from Turkey. There's no other way out.
REHMWhat about the question of 10,000 or Senator Rand Paul's approach, which is what, Missy?
RYANWell, he doesn't want any American military involvement. And, you know, obviously the Obama administration is somewhere in between those two positions and perhaps in the unhappy middle. But what I would just like to add is that, you know, while there's this intense military and political focus on Iraq and Syria, there are -- there hasn't been an ability so far to contain the spread of the Islamic State ideology and the sort of inspired operations that, you know, now we're seeing in the Sinai, we're seeing in Afghanistan and in Libya.
REHMAnd I was in Libya in August and did some reporting on the Islamic State there, and that was an example of a place where the Obama administration just hasn't made up its mind how seriously it's going to take the Islamic State presence and potential for, you know, Western-based targeted threats in places like that. I feel like they think that they have all they can handle right now in Iraq and Syria.
REHMAll right, let's...
BOWMANI was talking to someone who said the Obama administration is wringing its hands over what to do about Libya. They just really have no sense of what to do at this point.
REHMLet's go back to the phones, to Roger in Raleigh, North Carolina. You're on the air.
ROGERYes, I can go to any number of sites and get information concerning the altitude, direction, speed, location, the number of passengers on a plane. I was wondering how insane is it for that information to be available.
DONNANWell, that's the modern, data-heavy world that we live in today. It's insane the level of data you can get about marine traffic, for example, as well. So yeah, that's absolutely a legitimate question.
REHMA worrisome one.
DONNANA worrisome and one that I'm not sure how you address because this is public data that is out there now. How do you roll that back?
BOWMANYou'll never be able to roll it back.
REHMThat's pretty scary. All right, let's go to Rick in Jacksonville, Florida. You're on the air.
RICKHi, thank you very much. I wanted, about Jihadi John, everyone, especially on liberal sites, think he should have a trial. And I think we look back over the history of things, if we don't stop individuals like that, then the whole region could take over like Hitler and spread that indiscriminate killing. We see it going on now anyway. But I think we get the opportunity of people who are killing American and other foreign private citizens by beheading them, including soldiers under the Geneva Convention, any way we can get to them, the better off we'll be. You know, it does send a message. It just says you can hide as much as you want, but we'll still get you.
REHMAll right, thanks for your comment. Go ahead, Missy.
RYANThe Obama administration has in certain instances tried to capture and bring back militants of this ilk to the United States for trial. There were two individuals who were captured in separate raids in Libya, who were brought back to the United States. One is dead. One is still facing trial. Earlier this year, there was a raid in Syria. The militant was killed, but I think if he wasn't, he might have been brought back to the United States for trial.
RYANSo they try, but in certain instances, but I think that there is some sort of risk calculus that they conduct before deciding whether to do an airstrike or a raid and whether or not they're actually going to be able to get that person.
BOWMANRight, it's very difficult to move into Syria these days, simply, you know, a dozen American, let's say, Delta Force or Seal Team Six, to go in there quietly, grab someone and get out, very heavily fortified compounds, always someone watching at checkpoints. It's very, very difficult to do. They tried to get hostages, of course, out. That was very difficult because you have someone sitting with the hostage.
BOWMANSo let's say you do breach the compound. That hostage could be immediately killed by someone just sitting there with him. These operations, they say they'll still mount more raids, as they call them, but they're very, very difficult to do.
REHMAll right, let's move to the question of new EU guidelines set on labeling products made in Israeli settlements. Shawn, why?
DONNANSo this is a debate that's been going on in Europe for a number of years now, and it's come to -- it came to a head on Wednesday, when the European Union, the European Commission, approved these guidelines that mean that now you will have to have very clear labeling that says, and we're talking mainly about agricultural goods, things like fruit and also some wine and so on, that it's been produced in Israel.
DONNANWhat it really highlights is the different politics and attitudes towards Israel that we see in Europe, from here in the United States. Earlier this week, Senator Ted Cruz put out a letter really opposing the European guidelines. I don't think we're going to see anything similar or anything like this in the U.S. In fact...
REHMBut if you did have a boycott throughout Europe, what could that mean economically?
DONNANAnd the Europeans are very -- and the European Union is very careful to say this is not a boycott. This is very simply about educating consumers and letting them know where goods are coming from. Of course the fear, and this is what Ted Cruz and others talk about, is that this a slippery slope to a boycott.
RYANAnd the economic effect will be minimal. The economic effect will be minimal. This is a small share of Israeli exports to Europe. But politically it's a blow, and the outcry has been pretty intense from Israel. Prime Minister Netanyahu said the EU should be ashamed of these steps, and there are obviously fears that this could lead to these greater economic restrictions.
REHMBut tell me exactly why this whole question has arisen.
DONNANIt's arisen because it's something that's been pushed by the left of politics in Europe and that they feel very strongly that there should -- and people on the left in Europe have been pushing for some kind of boycott of goods from settlements. And they see this as a step towards that, and it's been pushed the European parliament, it's been pushed through national parliaments and so on, but it really has taken a couple of years to get to this point.
REHMSo they're trying to strike a blow for the Palestinians or...
DONNANAbsolutely, absolutely. The flip side of something being labeled from a settlement is that they are also going to be labeling goods that come from Palestine.
REHMAll right, let's go to Walter in Pensacola, Florida. Hi there, you're on the air.
WALTERGood morning. First time to call you. Thank you for your willingness to talk about these things.
WALTERJust real quickly, and I don't want to pile on, but all of this discussion today about world politics and specifically in the Middle East I think portrays maybe a wrong-headed by a right-hearted approach, and that's, you know, not put our people in harm's way. And I think what it shows that sometimes policies that are more from the heart don't prove very strong in reason and from practicality. And what I mean by it is it seems maybe, in case the panel doesn't disprove that if we had left a force in Iraq we could've dealt with these issues, both in Iraq, by just simply shutting down 1,500 fighters as they came from Syria.
WALTERAnd, you know, we didn't just lose billions of dollars in equipment. We also had a compound/military presence that we paid almost a billion dollars for in Iraq that we just gave to the Iraqis, that they have since lost. That was supposed to be the base for most American operations, so...
REHMAll right, Missy?
RYANIt's a legitimate question to ask, and it certainly has been asked in Washington, at the Pentagon and by other officials. My feeling is that look, the practical and certainly military effect of the kind of presence that was discussed before the 2011 withdrawal would have been very limited. You are talking about less than 10,000 troops. But there really was a real political effect that the American military presence had in Iraq.
RYANI was stationed in Iraq for almost two years, and I saw the sort of convening power that the U.S. military had, that the military-backed political presence in Iraq had in terms of forcing Iraqi politicians to come together and have conversations that otherwise they could avoid. So I think we don't' know. We don't know what the counterfactual is, but I think it's a valid question.
BOWMANAnd I agree. Most people would say that had you left some American troops here, 3,000, 5,000, 10,000, you would not have seen Maliki move so much against the Sunnis. They wouldn't have arrested the Sunni vice president the day after the troops left. They would have kept the really good commanders in the Iraqi army, which led to the, you know, fall of the Iraqi army. And had ISIS or some other group starting moving in, trying to take Mosul or Erbil, you would've seen the Americans move pretty quickly to try to prevent that from happening.
REHMAll right, to Julian in Grand Rapids, Michigan. You're on the air.
JULIANThere have been reports that Israel in the last two weeks has twice attacked military installations belonging to Hezbollah and the Syrian government in Syria. And I'm wondering what the implications would be if Israel continues to do this. Would Russia eventually feel compelled to retaliate in some measure?
RYANYeah, Israeli government, Hezbollah confrontation is nothing new. I don't know the particulars of those attacks, but I don't expect that anything like that would result in a Russian-Israeli confrontation. The two governments have had conversations surrounding the Russian entry, military entry into the Syrian conflict, and I think that there's an understanding on both sides that they are just going to sort of negotiate this perhaps uncomfortable situation.
REHMAnd you're listening to the Diane Rehm Show. You wanted to add to that, Tom?
BOWMANYeah, I think it's highly unlikely that the Russians would do anything against Israel, and I think what Israel sees is Hezbollah getting some heavy weapons, you know, missiles and so forth. Once they see that moving, they'll strike them. But the Russians are not going to do anything against Israel.
REHMAll right, and one last story. There's news out of Spain in Catalan's push for independence. What's going on there, Shawn?
DONNANSo we had a recent regional election in Catalonia, and as a result of that, the pro-independence parties came out with a majority in the local parliament. On Monday they pushed through what they called a solemn declaration that takes them on a path to independence, effectively. That includes a number of points. They would set up their own tax authority, their own social security system. And also very importantly, they've ordered the government to ignore any rulings by Spain's constitutional court about its own independence.
DONNANI think the game here is really the Catalan independence movement trying to force the hands of the Spanish government to get a binding referendum, which has been their goal for a long time, something like the referendum that Scotland held earlier this year. So that is unlikely to happen. The Spanish government has said that it will oppose that...
REHMThey've even warned them not to go further.
DONNANAbsolutely, and the Spanish have their own election looming in December, and Mariano Rajoy is going to be playing this up to a national audience in Spain. So it's -- this has been a long-running story. It's something that's been -- taken years to develop. It's something that clearly is going to be with us for years to come. I think it's -- but it's also one of the stories that's emerged out of the crisis in Europe, and that is for the economic pain that you've had in places like Spain, the austerity that has followed in those places, has caused a lot of people to look at alternatives. In Catalonia, one of those alternatives has always been independence.
RYANI would just add that, you know, you've got to put this in context, as you said, of the economic situation in Spain particularly. They have some of the highest unemployment and youth unemployment particularly in Europe, and it's just a reflection of the sort of growing malaise across Europe with the prevailing political arrangement. You know, look at what happened in Scotland. I think that there are a lot of people asking, you know, would I be better off if, and that's what we're seeing in Spain.
REHMAnd in the meantime, the migrant crisis continues, Shawn.
DONNANAnd the migrant crisis continues, and it's also -- I mean, it's part of that same conversation in Europe about the economic malaise in Europe. They're going to be talking about this at the G20 in Turkey on Sunday, at the weekend, and part of the real big discussion is how do we balance the economic gains from literally having more bodies in Europe. And there is a strong economic case to be made for migration against the kind of short-term fiscal and budgetary and political costs that you have in places like Germany.
REHMShawn Donnan, world trade editor covering international economics for the Financial Times, Tom Bowman Pentagon of NPR, Missy Ryan of The Washington Post, thank you all.
REHMHave a great weekend. And thanks, all, for listening. I'm Diane Rehm.
Most Recent Shows
Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer Jon Meacham on the evolution of Abraham Lincoln's moral principles and political leadership -- and what the era of Lincoln can teach us about the state of our democracy today.
What troubles at Twitter say about the state of social media -- and why one tech watcher argues this could transform the industry in positive ways.
Political analyst Norman Ornstein on control of Congress, the red wave that wasn't, and other lessons from the midterm elections.