Congress expert Norman Ornstein on what the debate over the debt limit says about dysfunction in Congress, and his ideas for how to fix it.
German’s parliament today approves sending aircraft and other non-combat support to aid the U.S. coalition in the fight against ISIS. Britain begins airstrikes in Syria, targeting oil infrastructure held by the Islamic State. NATO invites a small Balkan nation to become the first new member of the military alliance in six years, drawing rebukes from Russia. The foreign ministers of Turkey and Russia meet for the first time since the Turkish military downed a Russian warplane. And the UN’s nuclear watchdog submits a mixed report on Iran’s past nuclear activity. A panel of journalists joins Diane for analysis of the week’s top international news stories.
- Jonathan Tepperman Managing editor, Foreign Affairs; author of the forthcoming book, "Survival of Nations: How Countries Thrive in a World in Decline"
- Nancy Youssef Senior defense and national security correspondent, The Daily Beast.
- Edward Luce Chief U.S. columnist and commentator, Financial Times; author of "Time to Start Thinking: America in the Age of Descent"
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. Britain begins airstrikes against ISIS in Syria and the German parliament votes to send military support to the fight. NATO plans to expand for the first time in years, drawing threats from Russia. And as the White House prepares to lift sanctions on Iran, the UN says Iran worked on weapons design longer than previously thought.
MS. DIANE REHMHere for this week's top international stories on the Friday News Roundup, Jonathan Tepperman of Foreign Affairs, Nancy Youssef of The Daily Beast and Edward Luce of the Financial Times. You are always part of the program. Give us a call, 800-433-8850. Send us an email to email@example.com. Follow us on Facebook or send us a tweet. It's good to see you all.
MS. NANCY YOUSSEFHi, Diane.
MR. JONATHAN TEPPERMANLikewise.
MR. EDWARD LUCEHi, Diane.
REHMThank you. Nancy Youssef, the New York Times, NBC, CNN are now reporting that the woman who helped carry out the shooting in San Bernardino had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in a Facebook posting and that posting had been taken down, but then retrieved, which raises so many questions.
YOUSSEFFor me, I wonder -- what she did, the allegiance in Islam is called the bayat and that -- we used to see this in the past with members pledging to Osama bin Laden. Now, this has become now to al-Baghdadi.
YOUSSEFYeah. And so the question on my mind is was this an ISIS-directed attack or an ISIS-inspired attack? Because up until yesterday, we hadn't seen ISIS claim responsibility for this attack or anything along those lines and yet, you have this young couple with a house full of weapons. This was a woman, Ms. Malik, immigrated from Saudi Arabia recently and so you see this sort of possibility of her being inspired by ISIS, if this report turns out to be true, and it speaks to this wider threat that it's no longer that we have to worry about people who go on the internet, search for ISIS, ask for direction, ask for funding.
YOUSSEFWe now, potentially, have people who are simply inspired, take the bayat and therefore feel that they have a moral high ground to go out and do these kinds of barbaric attacks.
TEPPERMANI think she's absolutely right. And what this points to, in my mind, is just how difficult it is to fight these kind of decentralized terrorist networks. We saw this in the battle with al-Qaeda as well because we can take out the headquarters. We can take out AQ Central as we did, but because these organizations now have the ability to inspire followers around the world to launch attacks on their own recognizance, without any coordination with the center.
TEPPERMANThat means that even if we do take out the guys at the top, that won't stop individuals, who may, by the way, have their own grievances, that have very little to do with the actual causes of IS. In the case, you know, there are some suggestions that this was really about workplace disgruntlement, but combine that with some kind of jihadi, millenarian, end-of-the-world religiously-inspired motivation, and you get a very toxic and dangerous mix that's very hard to combat.
REHMI must say, it makes me concerned about how this young woman was cleared to come into this country on a fiance visa, Ed Luce.
LUCEYeah. It's obviously an issue of great concern. That, and the fact that, you know, the European bombers, six out of eight of them, could get in on a visa waiver system. So we are seeing reviews on Capitol Hill of the system of clearing people to come into the U.S. on tourist visas, fiance visas, student visas. It's clear that in a case like this, there ought to have been a red flag. The system didn't catch her and I have no doubt there's gonna be a lot of calls for reviews of how these procedures are carried out.
TEPPERMANThere's one other takeaway there that I think that we shouldn't overlook, which is this is yet another reason, or yet another reminder that refugees are not the problem, right? That refugees do not pose the greatest risk, security risk to Western countries like the United States because, in fact, refugees go through intensive, intensive screening.
TEPPERMANTwo years, more than 12 reviews, four or five fingerprinting, multiple agencies involved and there are so many easier ways to get into the country, like the fiance visa, as this shows.
REHMI had no idea of the length of time it takes. We know that he met her online. We know that they became engaged online. We know he traveled to Saudi Arabia. Did he then go with her to Pakistan? She had to go back to her country of origin to obtain the visa. Do we know if he went with her there?
YOUSSEFI've actually seen conflicting reports. And I would just point out, though, we talk about the search process. Remember, her husband was born in the United States, raised in the United States. And so...
REHMAnd they had a good life.
YOUSSEFRight. So you would say, okay, well, we have to do a better job in screening. Even if you do a better job on screening, if you have now people who are born in the United States who come from, by any measure, a successful family is susceptible to this kind of idea, it's chasing a constant threat that is constantly evolving.
LUCEThis is the problem. With each attack, we extrapolate and think the next attack's going to follow pattern of that one. Again, if you look at the European one, none of the kids involved from the suburbs of Brussels were devout, were mosque-attending, had any history of showing an interest in Islam until they did. In this case, it's very different with the San Bernardino couple. They were clearly devout. So I mean, we can go off chasing different hairs with each different attack. It's not helping us to establish a pattern because there isn't one.
REHMWhere did the money come from to amass all of that weaponry? I'd be fascinated to know.
YOUSSEFThat's the key question in all answer. Inspired or directed? We'll know if we can follow where the money trail came from because we're talking thousands and thousands of dollars worth of equipment. He made, according to public record, $70,000 a year. So is that enough to support a family and build this kind of arsenal? I don't know. We'll see.
LUCEYeah. I mean, I'm sorry to sound a European note here, but it's not just where the money came from. It's how easy it was for them to acquire the weapons.
REHMHa-ha, yes, of course.
LUCEAnd that's the other side of the coin.
REHMAnd that’s our problem.
LUCEIt is, it is. And, of course, the European attacks, it was how easy it was to acquire the weapons in Belgium, which has lax gun control laws.
REHMSo I presume that these reports, if confirmed, will now mean that we are investigating -- the FBI is investigating. The United States is investigating an act of terrorism.
YOUSSEFRight. And the FBI has already been involved in this investigation. To give you a sense of sort of what potentially we're dealing with, I keep thinking of Nidal Hassan, the Fort Hood shooter, someone who was Muslim, was part of the armed forces and had a personal grudge and then used sort of radical form of Islam to then justify terror acts. I'm just trying to think of sort of a comparable -- if these reports turn out to be true and we have this hybrid of sort of personal grudge plus radicalization, that this is sort of the -- this is the kind of pattern that potentially...
REHMBut there did not seem to have been a personal grudge in the workplace. At least, that's what's been reported by his fellow employees.
TEPPERMANRight, no. I think we're -- the only thing that's giving credence to that or that's raising that speculation is that they went to the party, they left the party and then came back.
REHMShe did not go.
TEPPERMANBut he did, right.
TEPPERMANRight. Which seems like a strange pattern to follow if you plan on launching an attack. And has, I think, given rise to speculation that something happened, something was said to him, something triggered a rage in him. But I agree, it's confusing because...
REHMBut he was already planned.
TEPPERMANExactly. They seemed prepared.
REHMI mean, you had all this weaponry in the house ready to go.
LUCEYeah. I mean, the pattern of lone attacks, whether it's on schools or in workplaces, is very different to this one. First of all, it's usually almost always one person, not two, never husband and wife, as far as I know. Second, you don't have armories of that extent back at home.
REHMExactly. Waiting to be unleashed.
YOUSSEFBut we do have husband and wife instances overseas. This is something in the Middle East, which is not as unusual as we think of here. Remember, most notably in Amman in 2005 with the hotel bombings in which it was a husband and wife team, albeit a temporary marriage and husband and wife in name only, but we are seeing, in the Middle East, an increased deployment of female attackers and certainly an increased dependency of women as part of the ISIS movement as wives, as recruiters and other things.
YOUSSEFAnd so I agree with you, it's unusual in this country, but it is not as unusual in the Middle East.
TEPPERMANI want to make a general point on this subject. My fear is that in response to this attack, coming on the heels of Paris, we will see a further intensification of Islamaphobia in the United States and further marginalization of Muslims who already live in the country. And what I want to emphasize is that there's a reason that we've had so many fewer attacks in the United States launched by Muslim Americans compared to the number of attacks in Europe launched by Muslims living in those countries and that's because Muslims have it very good here.
TEPPERMANThe population does very well and have been treated very well. And we risk changing that if we change the way that we treat them.
REHMJonathan Tepperman at Foreign Affairs, author of a forthcoming book, "Survival Of Nations: How Countries Thrive In A World In Decline." Short break, right back.
REHMAnd welcome back. Our guests in this hour of the International News Roundup, Nancy Youssef of The Daily Beast, Edward Luce, he's U.S. columnist and commentator at the Financial Times and author of "Time to Start Thinking: America in the Age of Descent" -- and that's Descent not Dissent -- and Jonathan Tepperman, managing editor at Foreign Affairs.
REHMGermany has approved measures to help in the fight against ISIS. What's that going to look like, Jonathan?
TEPPERMANIt's going to look like Germany doing more of what Germany does in these kinds of situations, which is to provide support and logistics and not combat troops. Germany is the...
REHMWhat is support and logistics?
TEPPERMANWell, in this case, what it means is refueling aircraft for Iraq.
REHMNot providing aircraft?
TEPPERMANThey are providing aircraft. But aircraft -- planes that refuel other planes in the air...
TEPPERMAN...but not fighters that are going to be bombing or strafing targets on the ground.
REHMHow significant is this for Germany, Ed?
LUCEIt's very significant. I mean, of course, they have broken the taboo of operating outside of NATO area before. They've operated in Afghanistan quite extensively and they've assisted the French in Mali. There's been several hundred German military personnel in Mali, again, providing logistical rather than direct combat support. I think, though, that this is -- this pushes that a little bit further because this is really in the heart of -- in the eye of the storm.
REHMAnd Britain launched first air strikes.
YOUSSEFThat's right, after a ten-hour debate about interventional. And finally at a vote of 397-223...
YOUSSEFAnd then hours later they launched strikes in eastern Syria against oil fields there that are believed to be controlled by ISIS, this effort to go after ISIS revenue. And sort of speaking to this challenge of confronting ISIS, we've now had over a year of airstrikes. And you're starting to get the sense from the coalition that these strikes, in and of themselves, are not enough and...
REHMNot going to do it.
YOUSSEFWell because you don't have, in part, you don't have those ground troops there to develop the intelligence on the effect of those strikes and where to do new strikes. And so it's one of the reasons we saw the U.S. this week announce an additional hundred troops. And I think it's also one of the reasons we saw the first strike by the U.K. to go after oil revenue, to expand the breadth of the strikes, not just on those who are members of ISIS or where their sanctuaries are, but really after the source of revenue with which they are able to thrive, really.
TEPPERMANI think Nancy's absolutely right, that the biggest significance both in the German and the British moves is symbolic. It's not really technical or in terms of burden sharing, because the contributions are quite small. Interestingly, on Germany, I think the most important thing that they are doing to aid the fight, which is not getting much attention, is providing what are known as MILAN anti-tank missiles to the Kurds. These are very important because one of ISIS's favorite tactics is to load a pickup truck full of explosive and drive it at the Kurds or the Iraqi Armies' front lines, where they then detonate and cause enormous damage. The only way to take them out is to fire a missile at the truck when it's coming.
TEPPERMANThe Americans have given the Kurds anti-tank missiles as well, but these are known as TOWs and they have such a short range...
TEPPERMAN...that by the time that they explode, the truck will be within the blast radius. The German missiles have a much longer range. And I met with Kurdistan's foreign minister last week. And he was telling me that of all the help that they're getting, it's these German missiles that are making the biggest difference.
REHMInteresting. Interesting. And what about the British public? Are they in support of what parliament did?
LUCEInterestingly, they are. I mean there has been, since the last time Prime Minister Cameron tried to get through a vote on Syria -- which was 2013, of course, just as Obama was preparing to go to Congress -- and parliament rejected it. The public opinion then was very strongly against any involvement in Syria. But I think the two attacks in Paris this year have changed public opinion. And I think the fact that the leader of the opposition, Jeremy Corbyn, was so feeble and so ineffective in arguing against this, also helped the government considerably.
REHMInteresting. What about ground troops? Do you believe that Britain is going to send ground troops? If the U.S. does.
LUCEI think that Britain would consider small numbers of ground troops if the U.S. put big numbers in. But, you know, it was ever thus. There are special operations capabilities. But there have been huge cuts to the size of the British Army in the last few years. And it's actually very difficult to put, logistically, large numbers of British forces in the fields anywhere in the world. There are, you know, whole new generations of Reaper drones. And there sort of investments in special operations. But boots on the ground on any scale is a thing of the past, at least for the time being in Britain's case.
REHMAnd now we have in France further measures with the closing of mosques, for example, Nancy.
YOUSSEFThat's right. This week they announced the closing of three mosques and four prayer rooms our of fears of radicalization. This comes in mid of a state of emergency in France that will be in place until February. And you're starting to see a really rampant and aggressive campaign by the French to get after, sort of, ideas, right -- by, that start in mosques. We've seen 340 weapons seized so far, 2,000 raids, and more than 200 people detained. And so this was part of it.
YOUSSEFThe interior minister, I thought he had a very interesting description as for why they were going after these three. He said that they were, in one case, that they were preachers of hate, self-proclaimed pseudo-imams and cultural-pseudo associations calling for hatred. And so this was an attack after places where they believe these ideas originate.
LUCEI mean, we've talked a little bit about self-radicalization. And I think there is a real concern that the very understandable wave of revulsion and fear that's followed the most recent Paris attack is leading to overreach in terms of the expulsion of people who are French born with French citizens in terms of moving in and closing down people's habeas corpus rights. And that this, in itself, can become a source of motivation.
TEPPERMANThe French are playing a very dangerous game here. On the one hand, they do need to move against those who expound and teach hatred. On the other hand, there are two problems that they need to attend to. One, by closing down mosques, of course, they're playing directly into ISIS's game, which is to try and provoke a massive culture war between the West and Islam and to show Muslims everywhere around the world that the West is not their friend, that they have no real home but in the Islamic State, number one.
TEPPERMANAnd number two, the French will never make real, lasting progress until they address the causes of radicalization among their own young Muslim population. And that's not preachers. Preachers provide the pretext. Preachers provide the way to get there. But the causes deal with -- have to do with the very poor integration and the systemic discrimination against Muslims or people of color of any stripe within France.
REHMAnd meanwhile, we have another beheading by ISIS, Nancy.
YOUSSEFThat's right. It was an eight-minute video released of a Russian Chechnyan who ISIS said was a spy. And in the video -- it appears that it was filmed in Raqqa -- they vowed that this was sort of the beginning of more attacks that will come upon Russia. And so the executioner was interestingly not covered. His face was not covered. You could see his face, which was something we hadn't seen before. We all remember, last year, in the videos that we saw of Americans, Jihadi John was blindfolded. In this case, this was somebody who showed his face. And that was sort of an interesting change that we had seen from the past videos.
REHMAnd I wonder what that beheading might mean for Russian involvement in the fight against ISIS? Ed.
LUCEWell, we asked the same question, remember, after the Russian civilian jetliner was shot down in Egypt. And there was an expectation in the aftermath of that, that the Russian strikes within Syria would be more directed against ISIS. Because clearly it was an ISIS affiliate that shot down that airliner. But it didn't happen. It hasn't happened. There's still a lot of disquiet amongst Russia's interlocutors -- the United States and others -- about the fact that it is targeting groups that ought to be the good guys from our perspective, but which are clearly the bad guys from Assad's regime's perspective.
TEPPERMANI mean, that's the great irony here, right, that ISIS is going after Russia despite the fact that Russia is not going after ISIS.
REHMBut you now, finally, after Turkey shot down the Russian plane it claimed flew over Turkish territory, you now have the prime ministers of Russia and Turkey meeting for the first time since that incident. What are we learning about that meeting?
TEPPERMANWell, from what I've read, no progress came out of it. And the threats from Russia of unspecified sanctions are continuing. So far, they've taken some economic measures to punish the Turks -- cutting down on agricultural imports, some construction projects already in the pipeline and tourism, et cetera, but not more than that. The Russians have said, expect more to come. Although they've been very careful to say that military measures are off the table. Putin gave a speech yesterday or the day before where he said, we're not rattling our sword.
YOUSSEFBut it was a week of vitriolic language. My goodness. We started on Wednesday with the defense minister, in an unusual move, calling reporters in and showing them satellite photographs of ISIS oil tankers crossing the border and saying that the Turkish president was personally benefiting from ISIS. And then we saw, the next day, Putin essentially condoning this. Russia demanding an apology for the shoot-down of its aircraft. The Turks expressing condolences and stopping short of that. And Putin promising that there was going to be repercussions, without offering any specifics outside of these sanctions.
YOUSSEFAnd so you're right, the result was not real progress. But the language that we saw this week was quite a step up from what we had seen even last week.
LUCEYeah. And Nancy's right, there's been a lot of invective on both sides. I think that one piece of the invective that the Russians have been very pointed in their accusations that the Turkish have been buying ISIS oil is not fire without -- is not smoke without fire. There is something to this. President Erdogan has imprisoned journalists in Turkey who've written about this. The fact that his son-in-law, Bilal Erdogan -- and this has been reported in some detail by my newspaper, the Financial Times -- his son-in-law is part of a company, BMZ, that buys oil. And that this used to go through from Mosul, controlled by Kurdish groups, through various networks to a Turkish port, and was then exported in tankers there.
LUCENow, of course, that territory -- formerly controlled by Kurds -- around Mosul, is ISIS controlled. And the oil production is ISIS controlled. But the network remains. So Erdogan is absolutely neuralgic on this point. He imprisons anybody who whispers it and the Russians know that full well. They are striking him rhetorically, where it hurts.
TEPPERMANLooking forward, there are tensions or pressures that are pointing in opposite directions. On the one hand, both countries have good reason to deescalate. They have a very close and long-standing trade relationship. Russia is Turkey's number-two trading partner. Total trade figures are something like $30 billion a year. The two countries have a huge tourism industry, lots of connections. On the other hand, there is a problem, right? Which is that Erdogan and Putin are similar, very similar, in a bad way. Both are strongman leaders with weak economies, limited domestic legitimacy, and both rely on nationalism to bolster their domestic credentials.
TEPPERMANAnd that means that they have political reasons to keep ratcheting things up.
LUCENo, I would agree with that entirely. I mean, knitting together an international coalition out of this will take a Henry Kissinger. It's a tall order.
REHMSo, at the same time all this is going on, NATO decides to add a country, Montenegro. Why Montenegro? Why now? And Russia is, once again, furious.
LUCEWell, there are four countries that are sort of in that category of preclearance for NATO, and that is Montenegro, which, as you say, has just joined, Macedonia, Bosnia Herzegovinian and Georgia. Now I think, if you think of the old sort of Iron Curtain line, three of them are the western side of that line and will provoke -- including Montenegro -- will provoke Russian rhetoric but nothing more. So we probably will see Bosnia Herzegovina, if it meets conditions, joining at some point, and Macedonia. Georgia, on the other hand, is the near abroad. It's the former Soviet Union. And I think that Putin, by all his record and all his past actions with the Ukraine, et cetera, would consider that to be a casus belli -- a bellum, a casus bellum. (sp?)
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." So Russia has already acted in regard to Montenegro, at least with words, Nancy.
YOUSSEFAnd with some talk of cutting economic ties and business ties with Montenegro, and which enjoyed a very close relationship dating back more than a hundred years. And so the U.S. and NATO said this was not designed to provoke Russia. It wasn't targeted at Russia. But at the same time, it's hard to argue that you need Montenegro in your alliance, a country of 600,000 people, the size of Connecticut and a virtually non-existent military. And so the official line was this was not directed at one country. But it was hard, I think, for a lot of people to see it that way, given the climate, given the ongoing tension between the NATO countries and Russia.
LUCEI have to agree with Nancy. I mean the ineptitude of the timing here is quite extraordinary. It may be this was just a bureaucratic thing and nobody thought about it. But I can't believe that.
TEPPERMANI disagree slightly with Ed on this point because I think that this was already in the pipeline. And it would have sent a very bad signal to all of our Eastern European friends, especially the Eastern European NATO members, if we had effectively said that Russia gets a veto on who gets to join NATO. Remember, the countries of Eastern Europe -- especially the Baltics, which are experiencing frequent incursions by Russia into their airspace and other provocations by Russia -- are very, very worried about the value of the Western commitment to these Eastern European NATO members.
TEPPERMANAnd if we had done anything to signal that we're willing to horse trade with Russia over NATO, it would have made them much more nervous. I think what we're doing with Russia is actually smart and it's analogous to our policy towards China -- which is, on the one hand, we demonstrate strength and resolve and we say that there are certain core issues of ours where we will not give you a veto and where we will not bend, on the other hand, we also say, but we are willing to engage.
LUCENo, I agree, just to sort of clear that up. I agree generally. You know, I think Montenegro is qualified to join NATO and Russia should not have a veto. That's -- I absolutely agree with you on that. I just think, you know, the timing could have been slightly better managed.
TEPPERMANIt is awkward.
YOUSSEFEven a week would have been better, lately or eventually.
REHMYeah, but to what extent could it affect U.S. and Russian cooperation over ISIS?
TEPPERMANAnd here I'm skeptical that it'll make a difference. Because I don't think there's any chance that Russia will do us any favors in Syria. If Russia ever decides to take moves that will be helpful to us -- namely, pushing for a transition that would get Assad out of the government in Syria -- it will be because at some point Russia decides that it's in Russia's core national security interests to do so. And it will not be because the United States has made various cosmetic gestures or diplomatic gestures that the Russians see as favors.
YOUSSEFI think that's all true. But at the same time, I worry about just, why antagonize? Why make a country feel that it needs to dig in its heels more? And it's worth noting now that in the population within Montenegro, there's deep division about this decision. And that's an important factor to consider as well.
REHMNancy Youssef, senior defense and national security correspondent at The Daily Beast. Short break here. Your calls, your comments when we come back. Stay with us.
REHMAnd we're going to open the phones, 800-433-8850. First to Roy in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. You're on the air.
ROYHello, Diane. I was wondering if anyone might thing that terrorize might be defined as a form of warfare left only to those without the resources to combat the most powerful country in the world.
REHMEd, do you want to take that on?
LUCEYeah, I mean, it's the old phrase one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter. You know, I mean, I think that -- and of course victims of Assad's very organized regime, very powerful regime, would consider themselves to be victims of terror.
REHMIndeed we had this email from Marsha in Indianapolis. Please discuss how our bombing in Syria and Iraq is contributing to radicalization, especially in our country.
TEPPERMANThis is something that the Obama administration is very concerned about and is one of the reasons that the U.S. effort has been -- the bombing effort has been much less effective than it could have been, precisely because ISIS is no dummy -- are no dummies. They know that if they position their forces within urban centers, which they do, it makes it much harder for us to attack them without causing massive civilian casualties, which is what has been happening.
TEPPERMANSo the reason that coalition airstrikes on ISIS in Syria and Iraq have been so ineffective is because we are trying so, so hard to avoid killing innocent civilians.
LUCEYeah, I'm -- at least was raised in a culture that was all about the Blitz and being bombed, and there's nothing more unifying than being bombed, and there's no greater feeling of impotence and unjustness than these things from the sky attacking you and attacking your children. So I think, you know, people around the world watching the impact of bombing but also people in the countries being bombed are going to feel differently than if it were another kind of war that was going on.
REHMAll right, to Michael in Miami, Florida, you're on the air.
MICHAELThank you for taking my call. The conversation just turned the right direction. What we're talking about is a homegrown terror of all forms that's created by massive responses to very innocent, small, incidences. Totally between 9/11 and Paris, we've got about 45 people, and we've sent two million to Iraq to fight a war. We dumped $49 billion just in Halliburton alone. So when you take the response to such really small actions, look at what happened to Planned Parenthood. You're going to have an army from China come and help us deal with our situation that you have a person making a shooting in a small neighborhood?
MICHAELThe reality is that you've got Israel with nuclear weapons, and that's such a scary thing for the rest of the Middle East, and they've got the Palestinians under control. So it creates such friction. Instead of just talking about peace, we have to get stuck in the minutia of what Russia's doing, what Turkey's doing. Of course they're paying too much for fuel. Why are they paying too much for fuel? They're a free country in the middle of a tightly held area with dictatorships.
REHMAll right, thanks for your call.
LUCEYeah, there's a lot to digest in that question. I mean, I think that it's probably a little unfair in the United States to say that it sent two million to Iraq, I mean, it was a far smaller number than that, and these were 45 relatively insignificant events. You know, one successful attack is terrifying, and 9/11 is the mother of all attacks.
LUCESo I think the response after 9/11 was disproportionate, and I think it was counterproductive, but I don't think it was unmerited for America to respond. It just could've done it better.
TEPPERMANBut it also points to the nature, I'm sorry to interrupt, of the asymmetric threat that we face or that -- right, that we are a country that's very good at fighting big frontal wars. We're good at stopping the Russians from sending tanks through the Fulda Gap in Europe. We're good at preventing nuclear aggression. But what is very hard for any country to prevent is small, especially lone wolf actors from launching terror attacks, which cause mayhem at home and overreactions and can lead to big and potentially disastrous foreign policy choices abroad.
YOUSSEFI would just add, I think it also exposes the limitations of nation-states to stop terrorism from spreading from failed states thousands of miles away. And I just came back from the region, and you see the implications of these fragile states, and their response and their effort to crack down and how that's creating its own form of terrorists. You can see it. I just came back from Egypt, and you can see it. And the challenge for a country like the United States is stop that, you're -- you're battling states that have their own practices and their own approaches that arguably are creating terrorists, as well.
REHMAll right, to Shabir in Springfield, Virginia. You're on the air. Shabir, are you there?
SHABIRYes, I'm here. Can you hear me?
REHMYes, please, go right ahead.
SHABIRYes, big fan of your show. I'm a Pakistani-born American citizen who has been in the country for, like, 33 years, and four years ago I was engaged to a Pakistani girl, who was also a Canadian citizen, in Pakistan. And we went through the visa fiancee process, and with all the background checks and everything, she safely came here, and now she's acclimated to this culture. She was born in Canada, but Pakistani citizen. Now she's a green card holder, and soon she'll be a U.S. citizen.
SHABIRAnd U.S. security was great. They did all the background checks, and sometimes they didn't have enough proof. They asked us, so we submitted more paperwork from here all the way to Pakistan. U.S. government did the right thing...
REHMShabir, Shabir, can you tell me how long that whole process took?
SHABIRThat process was an eight-month process four years ago.
REHMInteresting. All right, and of course we don't know how long the process took in the case...
TEPPERMANBut Shabir makes a very good point, which is that some immigration procedures, especially as they pertain to naturalizing or becoming a permanent resident, are very long and extensive, and I can say that as a naturalized American myself. I was born in Canada. The real threat lies with these visa waiver programs, where we allow citizens from a number of European and other allied countries to enter the United States with almost no screening at all.
TEPPERMANAnd given the fact that there are now significant numbers of radicalized citizens living in these countries, Belgium, France, et cetera, that means it's very easy for them to get into the country, and that's I think where the danger lies.
REHMI want to ask you all about Jason Rezaian and his condition. It -- apparently he has been mistreated, and that mistreatment is increasing.
YOUSSEFThis week he's been held for 500 days, and we are hearing from his family this is someone's who is gregarious and social and has been held in isolation for most of that time and has been mistreated. We heard that he was charged, no one was able to attend the hearing or even know what the sentence was, on spurious charges. And so we saw his brother this week go to the U.N. with a petition, I think with 50,000-plus signatures, pleading with the -- excuse me, 500,000-plus signatures, pleading for his brother's release.
YOUSSEFAnd you have this very opaque state that has, by the way, still charged his wife. She's now potentially facing trial. We don't know how long he's going to be held. We don't know what he's being held for. We don't know the basis for the charges. And everything we're hearing about his treatment is told through sort of a channel, a chain of communication because he has such limited outside contact.
YOUSSEFAnd so the Washington Post put out a very strongly worded statement, and there are protests about this, but the reality is he's now entered the judiciary, and how you can penetrate that in such an opaque state with an even more opaque judiciary is the challenge.
REHMAnd of course the U.N. Nuclear Watchdog submitted a report on Iran's nuclear program. What did it find, Jonathan?
LUCEIt found that as the IAEA and most Western intelligence agencies have suspected for years, Iran did in fact have a nuclear weapons program that lasted in -- until 2003 and then continued to a much lesser extent until 2009. Now that's the headline. Then opponents of the Iran-U.S. nuclear deal are going to use this as more evidence that Iran can't be trusted. But I think that this is actually a bit of a non-story for several reasons.
LUCEFirst of all, people are going to -- this is like that line from "Casablanca," that we're -- you know, we're shocked, shocked that there is gambling in the casino. Of course Iran was building nuclear weapons, despite the fact that the supreme leader has declared them to be haram. We've known that this has been going on for a long time. So this mere disclosure doesn't change the story at all, and this is in fact why we wanted inspectors there in the first place.
LUCESecond of all, I think that the fact that the inspectors were able to find what they did is a reason to have confidence in the deal because it shows that verifications actually worked. The Iranians tried to hide this from us. In particular, they did a -- they worked very, very hard at scrubbing their Parchin military base of all traces of uranium. The inspectors found it anyways. What does this tell us? It's that we actually are pretty good at finding out when the Iranians are cheating.
LUCEBroadly, I broadly agree with Jonathan there. I think, though, that the inspectors clearly in this report joined up a lot of dots. There were a lot of areas where the Iranians weren't providing what they pledged to provide, and there was clearly evidence that some sites had been hastily cleaned up and that there was obstructions put in the way of the IAEA's work. And so there were some blanks that they filled in.
LUCEAnd I think that that will be used by opponents of this deal, and the U.S. is due to begin to start relaxing sanctions early next year, and that's going to create a debate, and it's going to feed into the presidential debate of 2016, and it's going to -- this will be a piece of evidence for those who are skeptical this deal's going to stick.
YOUSSEFI agree. I would just add broadly, what does it say for the IAEA when you have a state that is able to not answer a quarter of questions posed by the IAEA in terms of as it confronts other states. Is this something that other states look at and say that we can thwart IAEA inspections because Iran was able to get a passable grade, if you will, while not being as forthright as many had hoped they would be.
LUCEAnd of course the whole deal is predicated on the IAEA's continuous inspection of Iran's compliance with it and Iran's continuing cooperation with the IAEA. So if this is the start, you know, there are grounds to say we should be skeptical of whether Iran is going to comply with that very important part of the, you know, trust -- mistrust but verify nature of the deal.
REHMLet's talk for a moment about Olympic athlete Oscar Pistorius. He's been found guilty of murder after a South African appeals court overturned an earlier verdict that in fact allowed him to get out of prison, to stay at home with simply some ankle bracelet. What could this mean for him, Nancy?
YOUSSEFWell, remember that this was a case that really captivated South Africa. This was something that everybody was watching across the country. The verdict was met with some shock about whether he purposely murdered his girlfriend, and now this pretense of rather than being seen as, as he described it, an accident, that he thought an intruder had come in, and that led him to shoot multiple times at her when she was the bathroom, now you have potentially a prolonged sentence for somebody who was a celebrity in South Africa and a celebrated figure.
YOUSSEFAnd so it's been quite a turn of events for a case that has been really captivating for much of South Africa.
REHMSo what happens now? The appeals court judge sent it back down to the lower court for a sentencing, a re-sentencing.
YOUSSEFRight. I don't know the intricacies of how the South African judicial process works, but I presume that the days of sort of looking at an accident and being sentences as though it were an accident are awash, and now we start looking at this as a murder. And that just simply chances his fate and also people, as a -- will perceive what happened that night when he fired into that bathroom.
REHMAnd you're listening to the Diane Rehm Show. Let's go to Lander in Sherman, Texas. You're on the air.
LANDERThere are two comments that I'd like to make. One is from John Howard Yoder, who said just after 9/11 that we should not respond with great military violence. That would be like hitting a dandelion with a golf club. You've killed the dandelion, but you've spread the seeds all over your lawn. And I wonder if some ways we're reaping what we've sown. The second is from Nicholas Hannon, who was held captive for 10 months by ISIS, and his suggestion is that the way to defeat ISIS is to welcome refugees. It defeats their purpose, and it cuts out their source of new people.
LUCEI strongly agree with Nicholas Hannon, with what -- and the caller quotes from Nicholas Hannon, and I think that the damage done to the U.S. in the eyes of Middle Easterners by what the 32, 31 governors proclaimed after the Paris attacks was huge. And I think that America is a land of refugees, the world knows it is a land of refugees, it is a land of huddled masses and that some of that reputation, which is incalculably valuable to the U.S. in this war, it's ultimately a war for hearts and minds, some of that damage, most of that damage would be undone if America stuck to or even increased the fairly limited 10,000 that the Obama administration has said it will take in.
LUCEThis is the land of the Statue of Liberty. Everybody knows that in the Middle East and around the world, and it cannot be sacrificed in this war.
YOUSSEFLander is I think really getting at, you know, we hear from the U.S. and European officials all the time that there's no military solution to defeating ISIS, that it has to be a political defeat, and yet the primary approach is a military one, and that in tackling al-Qaeda with a military approach, it led to a something more grotesque ISIS. And this fear that with every sort of military campaign, rather than eliminating an idea, which of course Obama cannot, it is just fueling the next iteration of terror groups.
YOUSSEFAnd I think that's the frustration that I'm hearing from Lander and the challenge going forward because the reality is the Western world cannot change ideas or the political framework in these groups are allowed to grow. It is a function of the region and a responsibility of the region.
TEPPERMANAnd by the way, it is this very caution which has kept the Obama administration so restrained in its response to the attacks since Paris and before that. And it's -- it reveals just how irresponsible the debate among the presidential candidates on Syria has become because since the attacks in Paris, everyone is now advocating that we go in, we go in big, we go in hard. The details vary from candidate to candidate. In most cases, there actually are no details. But what -- what Lander's comment highlights is just how dangerous all of those approaches would be.
TEPPERMANIt's, you know, it's significant that even Tony Blair, one of the great advocates for the war in Iraq, recently conceded that ISIS is one of the consequences of that invasion, and it's something that we always have to keep in mind when we contemplate those kinds of big adventures.
REHMJonathan Tepperman, managing editor at Foreign Affairs, Nancy Youssef of The Daily Beast, Edward Luce, chief U.S. columnist and commentator at the Financial Times, thank you all. Let us hope for better times ahead.
REHMThanks for listening, all. I'm Diane Rehm.
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