Guest Host: Melissa Ross

On Monday in Caracas, a Venezuelan opposition supporter celebrates the results of the country's legislative election, which took power from socialist President Nicolas Maduro.

On Monday in Caracas, a Venezuelan opposition supporter celebrates the results of the country's legislative election, which took power from socialist President Nicolas Maduro.

Negotiators from governments around the world work past a Friday deadline in Paris to forge an agreement limiting man-made, carbon emissions. French authorities identify the third attacker in last month’s Paris attacks, while police search for more suspects in Geneva, Switzerland. Thousands of migrants are stranded in Greece as European nations tighten immigration policies. In Saudi Arabia, Syrian rebel groups agree to form a united bloc ahead of negotiations with the Asaad government. And in Venezuela, the opposition wins control of congress. Guest host Melissa Ross and a panel of journalists analyze this week’s top international news stories.


  • Tom Bowman Pentagon correspondent, NPR
  • Lara Jakes Deputy managing editor for news, Foreign Policy magazine.
  • Jim Sciutto Chief national security correspondent, CNN.


  • 11:06:54

    MS. MELISSA ROSSThanks for joining us. I'm Melissa Ross with WJCT in Jacksonville, Florida, sitting in Diane Rehm. She's out today, but will be back Monday. Negotiators in Paris extend talks on a global climate agreement. Geneva police hunt for possible terrorism suspects and in Venezuela, the opposition wins control of Congress. Joining me for the international hour of the Friday News Roundup, Tom Bowman of NPR, Lara Jakes at Foreign Policy magazine and Jim Sciutto with CNN.

  • 11:07:25

    MS. MELISSA ROSSWe'll be taking your comments and questions throughout the hour. Call us at 800-433-8850. Send us your email to Join us on Facebook and Twitter. And since it's Friday, you can watch the live video stream of the show online at Today, the deadline for a global climate deal to come out of the talks in Paris. Tom Bowman, where do things stand and what are the final sticking points?

  • 11:07:54

    MR. TOM BOWMANWell, it looks like they could be signed tomorrow. That's the latest we've heard. And the sticking points, one of them, is basically how do you make this things stick, so to speak. You know, one of the issues if, you know, enforcement. Will it be enforced? And China and India, two of the greatest polluters in the world are against any sort of enforcement mechanism. And trees are a great thing. There was a treaty in the 1920s that outlawed war and ten years later, we had the worst war in history, World War II.

  • 11:08:24

    MR. TOM BOWMANSo the big thing is will these countries actually abide by the reduction in emissions by 2030 or will they just skate? And recently we've seen China have one of their worst days for air pollution. They cancelled classes and people couldn't go outside. So that's gonna be the main thing. Will these countries, particularly China and India, adhere to these restrictions?

  • 11:08:46

    ROSSThat's right, Jim Sciutto. Beijing seeing horrible air quality measures. At the same time, developed countries, including the U.S., members of the European Union, are partnering with other countries most vulnerable to climate change to form this high ambition coalition in Paris, calling for even more ambitious targets to stem emissions, even more ambitious targets than the 2 degree Celsius redline that's been talked about.

  • 11:09:14

    ROSSThis high ambition group wants an even lower target, but China and India are absent from that high ambition coalition.

  • 11:09:21

    MR. JIM SCIUTTOWell, I'll tell you. My family and I lived in Beijing for two years recently. We lived through the air -- even worst days than the day where they declared this red alert, which is a new system. It's the first time they used. Listen, China faces this threat every day in extremely tangible terms. And as a result, we all do, right, because, you know, there are no borders when it comes to climate issues and pollution issues.

  • 11:09:48

    MR. JIM SCIUTTOAnd the truth is, China actually domestically is taking steps. They are. You know, some big steps, things like they have alternate days to, you know, with licenses to reduce traffic in the cities, et cetera, but even bigger steps in terms of retrofitting factories and introducing battery, electric vehicles, all this kind of stuff. But China's a big country and it pumps out a lot of the stuff. It's gonna take a long time to rein it in and like a lot of countries, China struggles with the balance of the costs of that because, you know, they're, of course, committed to lightning fast economic development.

  • 11:10:30

    MR. JIM SCIUTTOAnd with that has come this horrible pollution problem. And it's interesting, when you look at the climate talks, you know, follow the money, right? I mean, one of the big issues here is they want to create this $100 billion fund to help developing nations get through this. And, of course, China, which has touted its economic success as a developed nation is sticking in that developing category here.

  • 11:10:54


  • 11:10:54

    SCIUTTOIt doesn't want to join -- it wants to join the elite group of countries in so many levels, but not when it comes to paying for developing nations.

  • 11:11:01

    ROSSLara Jakes, can China credibly cry poor when it comes to simply the purposes of climate negotiations?

  • 11:11:09

    MS. LARA JAKESWell, clearly, this is a case where China wants to have its cake and pollute it, too, right? I mean, it was designated a developing country back in the '90s when its GDP was the size of that of small African countries and those treaties, as Tom noted, really haven't been changed since then. And China is saying, hey, why would we, why should we? I mean, we're trying to do so many other things for developing nations at the same time with the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank, with the Silk Road investments that are happening in the central Asia countries right now.

  • 11:11:41

    MS. LARA JAKESAnd China is saying, look, we are also taking these steps. We have slowed our consumption of coal over the last couple of years and we are doing more than many of the developing nations and far more than some of the industrialized nations are doing. So why, really, should we do more here?

  • 11:11:58

    ROSSAnd Tom Bowman, there's also the question of how much responsibility developed countries should have in the final deal. Can you explain in a little bit more detail about how that element of the deal might play out?

  • 11:12:12

    BOWMANWell, one of the issues is a fund to help the smaller nations, the poorer nations. There's a $5 billion fund, I think, put into effect by the European nations. They would like to see others kick in money as well. One of the issues is deforestation in places like Brazil. How do you prevent that from happening? Give people alternative livelihoods so they just don't take out the rainforest and lead to, you know, adds to the problem of global warming because the forest, of course, suck in carbon dioxide.

  • 11:12:45

    BOWMANSo that's one of the issues as well. And will there be more money for some of the smaller nations, developing nations? That's a big question going forward.

  • 11:12:54

    ROSSJim Sciutto, what will make this deal a success?

  • 11:12:58

    SCIUTTOEnforceability, really. Commitment and enforceability. And like Tom says, I mean, that's been the struggle with, well, really, all treaties in the last century, but particularly climate treaties. That's a big deal. I will say that when I was out in Paris, sadly, for the terror attacks -- but that was, you know, a couple of weeks before these climate talks set to begin. And when you speak to officials out there, they did have a different level of optimism about success in these talks than you've heard before.

  • 11:13:29

    SCIUTTOSo, you know, let's hope as human beings on this planet that that turns into something.

  • 11:13:34

    ROSSYeah, so a third assailant, meanwhile -- oh, go ahead, Tom Bowman.

  • 11:13:35

    BOWMANYou know, one other issue, too. The New York Times has had some really good coverage on, you'll really see a change not only when countries reduce their emissions, but when the markets start, you know, investing in alternative energies, you know, getting away from oil, that will be the key. Once you can make a buck off it, that's gonna be very important. I have a friend of mine who's an analyst for wind power and she keeps telling me one of the problems is it's hard to raise money to put these things into effect.

  • 11:14:03

    BOWMANThe oil lobby is against it. There's a lot of, you know, a lot of lawsuits against it as well. But once that money starts heading in that direction, that is key.

  • 11:14:12

    ROSSThat will be the sea change, Lara Jakes.

  • 11:14:14

    JAKESRight. So what we're seeing right now is that it's becoming cheaper for countries to invest in alternative fuel mechanisms and solar power and wind power, the types of things that Tom was talking about. And we're also seeing what one of our writers at Foreign Policy has called the slow death of coal and fossil fuels, noting that just in the last year alone, the coal industry earnings have dropped by 25 percent. So people are starting to pay attention to this, but it's not just one cure-all when we talk about the climate change conference.

  • 11:14:44

    JAKESIt is enforceability. It is getting larger nations to invest more money. But it's also in making sure that countries are trying to look at alternatives to fossil fuels.

  • 11:14:54

    ROSSAs the COP conference wraps up in Paris, Jim Sciutto, a third assailant in the Paris attacks has been identified. He was a French citizen. What do we know about him?

  • 11:15:06

    SCIUTTOWell, it's interesting. So you have another reminder that these attacks were largely carried out by Europeans, right, French and Belgian citizens. We knew that already. This is confirmation that yet one more. And what's also key is the recruiter, also a French citizen. So I don't want to use the word mastermind. You know, this has been used many times. But senior people involved in this plot and this group come from Europe. Now, in addition to that, they also have experience fighting on the battlefield in Syria.

  • 11:15:37

    SCIUTTOAnd we've seen that now with really most of the attackers. So you have this pipeline, in effect, back and forth and it's really a perfect storm, in effect, because you have people who already live there, reside there, carry passports in these countries and therefore, you know, have freedom of movement not only in their countries, but around Europe. And they get training on the battlefield. They get inspiration on the battlefield and Europe is facing the consequences of that.

  • 11:16:03

    ROSSAnd as we speak, seven people, we are hearing, were just wounded in Kabul. Tom Bowman, as these headlines are breaking, the discussion continues about European countries revisiting their longstanding open borders agreement. Your thoughts about that.

  • 11:16:22

    BOWMANWell, yeah, I mean, they're gonna be much more restrictive now because of what they've seen in Paris and elsewhere. You know, there are a couple problems. First of all, it's the open borders in Europe and also the lack of assimilation for Muslim residents. They don't see as being a British citizen, really part of Great Britain or part of France. They're seen as other. So those two problems are very serious for Europe and the open borders one is particularly a concern.

  • 11:16:49

    ROSSLara Jakes, police in Geneva, meanwhile, are hunting for suspects in connection with the investigation into the Paris attacks. What's the latest on that?

  • 11:16:57

    JAKESWell, the link here is the same recruiter that Jim was just talking about, a Mourad Fares, who is in jail right now, having been arrested in Turkey last year. It's believed, and this is based on U.S. intelligence, it's believed that the same people who carried out the Paris attacks were recruited by the Mourad Fares and the Geneva -- the police in Switzerland are looking for up to five people who they believe were also recruited by Fares. We don't know a lot of details right now, but it looks like there may be some intelligence that suggests violence in Geneva, in Chicago, in Toronto.

  • 11:17:35

    ROSSThat's right. They've raised the security alert level, Jim, in Geneva. In Australia, police have charged five people including a teenage boy with terrorism charges.

  • 11:17:45

    SCIUTTOLooking like another case of homegrown terrorism. And here's the thing. Yes, border security is an issue, but you have homegrown volunteers and we saw that in San Bernardino as well. So you can close the borders, but you still have a problem.

  • 11:17:58

    ROSSAnd coming up, more of the Friday International News Roundup. Stay with us.

  • 11:20:02

    ROSSWelcome back. I'm Melissa Ross sitting in for Diane Rehm today. The International Hour of the Friday News Roundup featuring Tom Bowman of NPR, Lara Jakes of Foreign Policy magazine and Jim Sciutto of CNN. Lara Jakes, Defense Secretary Ash Carter telling Congress this week that the U.S. is ready to send more U.S. personnel and helicopters to Iraq.

  • 11:20:24

    JAKESThat's right. He also said that the United States and the coalition of 65 countries have so far failed to contain the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. This was really noteworthy, because the Obama administration so far has poured something like $5 billion in, in airstrikes alone, in just the last 16 months. And it really calls into question whether the administration is doing enough to try to fight this, especially as we are seeing the growth of the Islamic State across the world.

  • 11:20:51

    ROSSJim, the president facing withering criticism from both Democrats and Republicans on the administration's strategy to defeat Islamic State militants. Senator John McCain is demanding to know when the U.S. expects forces to retake the cities of Raqqa and Mosul. The vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Paul Selva says he cannot give a timeline.

  • 11:21:16

    SCIUTTONo. And it's interesting. You'll remember, it's been almost a month now since the president said in an interview on the morning of the attacks in Paris that ISIS was contained on the battlefield in Iraq and Syria. Since then, he's been contradicted, in effect, in public by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford and again this week by his Defense Secretary on the Hill saying that it's not contained on the battlefield. And really those are the facts on the ground. When the president took time this Sunday for a national address, there was an expectation there was going to be something new. And you've heard criticism now not just sort of the policy but of the absence of something new in that speech.

  • 11:21:55

    SCIUTTOAnd that fits with a larger criticism you hear really from both parties of a sense of a lack of urgency and kind of a digging in on the existing strategy. So perhaps, in response to that, you have this force going to Iraq now, an expeditionary force they're calling it. And it's going to have more ability to put U.S. special operators closer to the front lines, calling in airstrikes, et cetera. But, you know, the question I will hear often from former commanders and others involved is, you know, what real difference do those pinprick steps have on the ground when you have major operations needed in a place like Ramadi or even Mosul. No one's talking about Mosul now.

  • 11:22:37

    ROSSTom Bowman.

  • 11:22:37

    BOWMANHere's the central problem with the strategy. The strategy is, have local forces to the ground effort and the U.S. serves -- and some of the allies, mostly the U.S. -- serves as the air force. But the problem in Syria is you don't have enough local forces to take Raqqa. They've admitted that already. There are 4,000 Syrian Arabs, there are thousands more Kurds, but Raqqa is an Arab town. No Kurds are going to go in there. So you don't have enough forces -- Syrian Arab forces to go in there. That's one problem.

  • 11:23:06

    BOWMANNext door in Iraq, outside of the Kurds, in particular, who are quite good fighters -- if you call yourself Peshmerga, those who face death, you're probably going to be a pretty good fighter. They're also -- Kurds are fighting well in Syria. But the Iraqi forces -- now we're finally seeing them push into Ramadi after many, many months. They're still having trouble. The U.S. is bombing that place, you know, unbelievably, particularly in the last few days. But the problem is the way ahead. We were told that Mosul would take up to three years to take back. Raqqa, there's no timeframe for that. So if these guys don't even give you a timeline for taking back something, that tells you something.

  • 11:23:48

    ROSSLara Jakes, Iraqi forces, as Tom said, are advancing on Ramadi. What is the latest?

  • 11:23:53

    JAKESSo I'm going to be the nattering nabob of negativism here. I mean I just can't help it. I've lived and worked in Bagdad for three years, have been to Ramadi many times. The latest -- what's happening right now is that the Islamic State has bombed the bridges that are leading into Ramadi, so that the Iraqi forces and the Shia militias that are in Anbar Province and advancing can't get in. It creates a problem for them, right? Because it means that they have no way of escaping. And so we will see how long they can hold out. For the last two months, it looks like some of the Daesh, the Islamic State fighters and their families, have been fleeing Ramadi. This is seen as a signal of they're about to fold.

  • 11:24:34

    JAKESI would just like to say, however, that we -- Ramadi has been under Daesh control for almost two years now. We have seen this movie before. We have heard everybody say before that, oh, Ramadi is about to be liberated. And then we'll go on to Fallujah, and then we will go on to Mosul. As Tom points out, we are nowhere close to that.

  • 11:24:54

    ROSSJim, yeah, what about General Selva testifying that 40 percent of U.S. war planes return each day without having struck targets in Iraq or Syria.

  • 11:25:05

    SCIUTTOThere has been this criticism that the airstrikes, when you add it all up -- we're more than a year in, 14, 15 months now -- that the number of strikes have been disappointing. There was a great comparison I saw that in the two months after 9/11, beginning of the air campaign in Afghanistan, more strikes during that very tight period than we've seen in -- against ISIS in more than a year. You know, there's a reason for that. There's attention -- great attention given to avoiding civilian casualties. Also, it took some time to ramp up good intelligence on the ground, frankly, to find good targets.

  • 11:25:39

    SCIUTTOYou know, the sense is, they're getting better intelligence. And you've seen some of that not just in the airstrikes on ISIS positions but also on the HVTs, the high value targets, you've seen a number of ISIS leaders taken out, some very recognizable -- a guy like Jihadi John, et cetera, drone strikes. So you're getting -- and I've spoken to U.S. intelligence officials who describe how they're getting better intelligence on the ground. You may see that ramping up.

  • 11:26:01

    ROSSAnd, Tom Bowman, Defense Secretary Carter is saying ISIS is contained tactically but not strategically. And he's urging U.S. allies to really ramp up their efforts. How difficult is it to ramp up a war-weary American public at the same time?

  • 11:26:18

    BOWMANWell, first of all, the American public may be war weary, but they're really not invested in it. There's one percent or fewer people in this country who are -- actually have a stake in this. They have -- they're either in the military or have a family member in the military. That's one thing. And secondly, you know, some of the European countries are providing more airstrikes. But, again, the Americans provide 70 to 80 percent of all the airstrikes. The real issue here is trying to get the Sunni states involved here. The Saudis are only focused on Yemen now. The Jordanians are worried about the problems on their border with refugees and ISIS as well.

  • 11:26:57

    BOWMANThey're not willing to put Arab boots on the ground. And that's what's necessary here. You have to have a Sunni inclusion here. They've been pressing these countries for years now to help out here and they have not done it. Ash Carter talked about that. He talked about the Saudis focus on Yemen, when he was asked by a senator. And he also said, some of this I have to talk with you privately.

  • 11:27:19


  • 11:27:19

    BOWMANSo they're not being open and honest with the American people about why this is not happening.

  • 11:27:23

    ROSSThat's right. Lara Jakes, Saudi Arabia hosting Syrian opposition groups this week. Word yesterday that one of those groups pulled out of the talks. Why?

  • 11:27:34

    JAKESWell, that's Ahrar al-Sham. I think they came back. I think that they were part of the final agreement that did agree to set a framework for selecting negotiators who will eventually sit across the table from the Assad regime, hopefully as early as the beginning of next month. Ahrar al-Sham is a fighting group in Syria that has had some of the biggest ground successes in Syria. It has taken a lot of ground back. However, it does have some links to Jabhat al-Nusra, which is an al-Qaida linked group in Syria. They say -- the Ahrar al-Sham says, listen, we don't share Jabhat al-Nusra's ideology. We just fight next to them. Why? Because we want to beat Assad. And so for that reason, they were allowed into the talks in Riyadh yesterday.

  • 11:28:22

    JAKESWhat goes on from here is that there will be a meeting in New York on Friday among world powers and some of these -- the Syrian opposition groups, to discuss the way forward. Again, namely, how to start the negotiations with representatives of Assad's regime in January.

  • 11:28:37

    ROSSJim Sciutto, did anything meaningful, in your view, come out of this meeting? Do you feel it was productive?

  • 11:28:43

    SCIUTTOWell, here's the question. I mean, in these meetings, for instance, Ahrar al-Sham came and went. ISIS in on this were not involved in the talks -- of course, that makes sense -- but neither were any of the Kurdish fighting parties, who control large parts of Syrian territory. And it just shows you that, listen, what is the ultimate value of peace talks that don't include several of the most powerful fighters on the ground, right? I mean, you do want to build a viable, quote, unquote, "moderate" opposition, you know, to be at the table. But if you want to start -- stop the actual fighting, you need all the players involved.

  • 11:29:16

    SCIUTTOAnd that's been an issue as well with, you know, the U.S.-led attempt in Vienna. You know, that's a challenge you're going end a bloody civil war.

  • 11:29:25

    BOWMANAnd the bottom line here is Assad's at a better place now than he was a year or two ago. He has the help of Russia now. Russia doesn't necessarily want to see him go. I suppose it's positive that you have these groups getting together in Saudi and talking about this. But I don't see -- think anybody has hope that this can go anywhere anytime soon. So that's going to create more deaths on the ground of civilians. It's going to create more refugees heading into Europe, which is a particular problem as we all know. There are, I think, 4 million have left the country, another 7 million displaced within the country. Those people are going to start heading for the exits as this intensifies.

  • 11:29:58


  • 11:29:59

    JAKESYeah. Just the -- one of the most important things to come out of the meeting yesterday in Riyadh, a massive concession, is that these groups have now said, we think that Bashar al-Assad must go at some point in this transition process. He cannot be a part of the Syrian future. And that's a concession because months ago, years ago, they were saying, he has to be gone by the time these negotiations start. We are not going to negotiate with Assad or his cronies. And now they are -- have largely adopted what's been an involving U.S. position, which is, okay, Assad can't remain in the long term. But we're not going to push him out at the forefront.

  • 11:30:38

    BOWMANAnd Kerry has said that too. Initially, they said he has to go. Then it was, well, he doesn't have to go right now or next month or whenever. That's what Kerry said.

  • 11:30:44

    JAKESIt really calls into question if there will ever be an ever in terms of Assad's longevity and whether or not four, five years from now, we could see a Syria that is still ruled by an Assad.

  • 11:30:56

    BOWMANHe could die of old age.

  • 11:30:57


  • 11:30:57

    ROSSMeanwhile, women go to the polls for the first time ever, tomorrow, in Saudi Arabia. This, in a country where women cannot marry, enroll in college or even travel abroad without permission from a male relative. But tomorrow they will vote, they will run for office in a nationwide election for the first time. Jim Sciutto, how significant is this change?

  • 11:31:20

    BOWMANListen, it's a big, symbolic step in a country where driving are barred to women as well.

  • 11:31:25

    ROSSThey still can't drive.

  • 11:31:25

    BOWMANYeah. So you can't -- you can vote, but you can't drive to the voting station. The, you know, other countries in the Gulf have experimented with this. Kuwait, about 10 years ago, started as well. I mean, does it change the ultimate gender balance in that country dramatically? No. By that country's standards, though, it's a step. You know, it's a step. So it, you know, it's certainly something to watch.

  • 11:31:48

    ROSSWe're looking at 980 female candidates in Saudi Arabia. Few, if any, on the slate for office are expected to actually win a seat, Lara Jakes. And some women who were asked their thoughts about this have said they see this as window dressing. They'd rather have basic civil rights first, like the ability to drive themselves.

  • 11:32:09

    JAKESRight. I mean, as Jim said, this is very symbolic. And, listen, who are we to kick down a symbolic step. Maybe this is the first step in a path towards greater gender equality in Saudi Arabia. Although, that will take a long time in coming for anybody who's been there knows. I would just like to, again, be the nattering nabob here and just note that, you know, voter registration among women in Saudi has been way down. Women have not been able to register. So that means that the actual women participation in this election is going to be way down.

  • 11:32:39

    JAKESFemale candidates have been arbitrarily told by the Kingdom to -- that they cannot run without much reason. I was listening to an interview this morning of a woman who had wanted to run and was told by the police that she could not, was not told why. She assumes it's because she was a protestor and an activist against Saudi policy.

  • 11:32:58

    ROSSI'm Melissa Ross, host of First Coast Connect, WJCT, public broadcasting in Jacksonville, Fla. And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." If you'd like to join us, give us a call at 1-800-433-8850. Emails to Find us on Facebook or send us a tweet or watch the live video stream at And we will go to your calls in just a moment. Tom Bowman, let's discuss news from Venezuela. The opposition there won a major victory in legislative elections this week. How significant is this change?

  • 11:33:37

    BOWMANWell, it is pretty significant. And I'm not sure if all the votes are counted yet. But if they can get a supermajority, they'll have obviously a lot more power down there. And the irony here is that this election was held on December 6, which is the anniversary when Hugo Chavez became president in the Bolivarian Revolution. And one of Bolivar's most famous sayings was, America is ungovernable. And the man who serves a revolution plows the sea. So it's just, again, ironic that now they're getting swept away by this opposition. And it's also in the face of huge inflation, 200 percent inflation. Oil prices, of course, have slumped. That's led to problems with everything from food shortages to lack of jobs and so forth.

  • 11:34:23

    BOWMANSo, it's as James Carville famously said, it's the economy, stupid. And they found out that when they called these elections, they got pushed aside. It seems like the existing government is doubling down, saying, listen, our Socialist revolution has only just begun. We're going to keep moving forward. But it's going to be interesting to see what happens in the coming days and weeks. Are we going to have some sort of a, you know, separate governments here? And what can they achieve? Is it going to be a stalemate down in Venezuela? We'll have to see.

  • 11:34:53

    ROSSJim Sciutto, turnout a remarkable 74 percent in Venezuela. We'd love to see that kind of voter turnout in the U.S. Is this proof of the diminishing appeal of leftist leaders in Latin America?

  • 11:35:06

    SCIUTTOWell, Melissa, I've been to Venezuela a couple of times. And, you know, under Chavez -- who was, you know, in effect, an elected dictator, I suppose you can say -- but Venezuela still has a functioning democracy, right? I mean, you still have an opposition party. It has the ability to win an election and then push out the ruling party. People take part there. And if you've ever met a Venezuelan, you know that they don't -- they're not shy about letting their feelings be known. So -- and so we're seeing that there. And, again, you know, it gives some hope. Venezuela is very close. It's still a major exporter to the U.S. of oil. You know, there's an enormous business relationship there and it's right, you know, it's right in the U.S.'s back yard.

  • 11:35:44

    ROSSAnd Lara Jakes, just like his predecessor, Hugo Chavez, there are fears that Mr. Maduro could maybe take some steps to weaken the authority of the legislative branch before the new parliament convenes. He's packed the courts, other institutions with his loyalists.

  • 11:35:59

    JAKESTrue. But he also, yesterday, came out and confronted a protest on the streets and said, I am going to listen to you. He has fired most of his cabinet, many of the presidential advisors. I don't think there's any doubt that he is working out of some element of fear here. He is worried. This probably took him by massive shock. You'll probably see a lot more President Maduro press conferences in track suits, as he tries to appeal to the people. But, clearly, this was a referendum in Venezuela against corruption, against poverty. As Tom noted, the price of oil has really contributed to this.

  • 11:36:35

    JAKESI mean, Chavez was powerful when oil was $100 a barrel. It is now $40 a barrel. And Venezuela is really hear -- feeling that squeeze.

  • 11:36:43

    ROSSAnd as you mentioned, the world's highest inflation, Tom, 200 percent.

  • 11:36:47

    BOWMAN200 percent, it's unbelievable. Yeah. Yeah. And, again, that's what led to 74 percent of the electorate turning out and voting them out. So we'll have to see what happens. Again, will they get a supermajority? I'm not sure what the latest is on that. But that will be significant.

  • 11:37:01

    ROSSAnother big question facing the opposition is, what to do with the new majority? One alternative is to try to govern jointly with Mr. Maduro's party. And we will be right back. You're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show."

  • 11:39:58

    ROSSWelcome back, I'm Melissa Ross, in for Diane Rehm today, and you're listening to the Diane Rehm Show as we continue the international hour of the Friday news roundup with Tom Bowman of NPR, Lara Jakes of Foreign Policy magazine and Jim Sciutto of CNN. Let's go to your calls and comments right now. Scott is on the line from Richmond, Virginia. Hi Scott, good morning. Go ahead.

  • 11:40:25

    SCOTTHey, how are you? I really wish I was on the panel today. But anyway, every problem we're discussing is economic in nature, and to go to the Paris climate talks, I wish your panelists could comment on the fact that, you know, here in the U.S. we burn about 400 pounds of coal per person annually. In China, their numbers are, the best we can figure through satellite data and some other numbers that they put out, about 200 pounds of coal per person annually. So it's all about how we develop, and I wish the developing nations -- or the developed nations would give technology, not money, to these developing nations.

  • 11:40:56

    SCOTTAnd I don't know if that's being discussed there. I know we're not in the room, but...

  • 11:40:59

    JAKESWell, it might come down a little bit to, you know, the money is supposed to pay for the technology, right. I mean, different sockets plug into different walls in different countries. So I hear what you're saying. I wish that, too, but it may just be what countries feel like they can do at any given time.

  • 11:41:17

    SCIUTTOAnd listen, China has no shortage of access to Western technology on these things. There are a lot of Western companies in there doing business, and sometimes that -- they get that technology by other means. So it's happening. But it is a fair point. Listen, China is the biggest polluter by volume, and the U.S. is the biggest polluter per person, per capita.

  • 11:41:38

    ROSSHere's an email from Jonathan on the show Facebook page about the Paris talks. Tom Bowman, he writes, I hear there are a lot of upset folks about the draft release of the Paris agreement on climate change, that it doesn't go far enough, and it just stinks in general.

  • 11:41:54

    BOWMANWell right, I mean, you're going to get all sorts of people complaining about the draft agreement. I haven't seen it yet. I guess there's one floating around. I think the New York Times has it. But again, as we were talking about earlier, with what we've seen so far, a number of people think this maybe is pretty ambitious what they're calling for. And can this be put into effect in the coming years, by 2030? That's not that far away to make drastic reductions in emissions.

  • 11:42:22

    BOWMANSo, you know, again we haven't seen the draft. I'm sure you're going to have some people, particularly in the environmental community, say this just doesn't go far enough.

  • 11:42:29


  • 11:42:30

    JAKESWell, just to follow up very quickly, I'm sure there are people who are skeptical because after all the Copenhagen treaties and agreements didn't stick. Kyoto was seen as a very limp agreement. So I think it's probably smart and right to be skeptical of how much change we are actually going to see out of Paris, especially when it comes to the enforcing mechanism, how we are going to get countries to stick to what they promise to do in Paris.

  • 11:42:52

    ROSSAnd breaking news coming into our studio now, as NBC reports that two guards were killed and six other people injured as the Taliban is claiming responsibility for an attack in Kabul, Afghanistan, as we continue to focus on international terrorism. Let's take a call from Louis in Orlando, Florida. Louis, thanks for holding. Good morning. Go ahead.

  • 11:43:17

    LOUISHey, I'm a former Marine. I was in during the Cold War, late '80s, and I helped to train what turned out to be Taliban fighters. They were mujahedeen, and we taught them how to shoot rockets and stuff. And I have a little guilt about it, but at the time, it was, like, hey, we felt the Russians dissed us in Vietnam, and we were going to, you know, return the favor. There was that movie with Tom Hanks.

  • 11:43:37

    LOUISBut getting to the point, I agree with Vice President Biden. We should invade and create a Sunnistan, Shiitestan and Kurdistan, and let's get it over with because that's what happened. It was the French and the British carved this area up without any regard to tribal boundaries, and we're trying to piece together something that was never meant to be. I just want to see what your guys think about that point.

  • 11:44:00

    ROSSThanks, Louis, and I think he's referring to the movie "Charlie Wilson's War."

  • 11:44:04

    SCIUTTOExactly right.

  • 11:44:04


  • 11:44:06

    SCIUTTOBut he raises a very interesting point about cutting up Afghanistan and probably Syria into, you know, Kurdistan and Sunnistan and Shiitestan. And, you know, it's -- I find that absolutely fascinating because there's a lot more talk about that, not publicly but behind the scenes, in the diplomatic area and also in the military, that are we going to be at the point -- well, how do we manage the breakup of these two countries. And there's not enough publicly said about that, but privately everyone is talking about that, and I think it's absolutely fascinating.

  • 11:44:32

    ROSSJim Sciutto, here's an email, a related email from James in Raleigh, North Carolina. He writes, ISIS has geography, revenue streams and no air capability. The U.S. has always had difficulty with insurgencies. Why is ISIS so different? Isn't a traditional ground war feasible?

  • 11:44:49

    SCIUTTOWell, here's the thing. Well, ground war is feasible. The question is who would bear the cost of it. I mean, ISIS is unique and really unprecedented as a terror group in that it controls an enormous amount of territory, more than al-Qaeda certainly ever did in pre-U.S.-invasion of Afghanistan. They've got more revenue. I mean, it's a functioning state. And they operate like a state in those areas. They issue driver's license, they are making passports, we know that now, that kind of thing. It's an enormous challenge.

  • 11:45:17

    SCIUTTOPlus they've proven themselves capable of radicalizing people far, far away, even in the West, even here in the U.S., which gives them an ability to project power abroad. It is an unprecedented threat. So how do you respond to it? I mean, one lesson of the last year is that air power alone, with local forces on the ground, hasn't worked, right. I mean, either you don't have enough local forces in Syria, or you don't have good local forces in Iraq. I mean, they haven't proven themselves capable.

  • 11:45:47

    SCIUTTOThe president would make the argument that you send Western troops in there. That only helps them more. It gives them exactly the confrontation they want. It's a recruiting tool, et cetera. But military history teaches us you want to take ground away from an enemy, you have to fight a ground war to some degree. They haven't found that mix yet.

  • 11:46:04

    ROSSThen what is the effective strategy, Lara Jakes?

  • 11:46:06

    JAKESWell, what some military leaders have said recently is retired Army General Ray Odierno, who was the commander of forces in Iraq at one point, you have to have intelligence from what's happening on the ground. That is what is the main thing that's missing here in the U.S. and the coalition fight against ISIS. They don't know exactly where the fighters are, how to get to them, who might be peeled away, who could become the Judas here. They need to have ground intelligence, and they are not getting that from the local forces.

  • 11:46:39

    ROSSTom Bowman?

  • 11:46:39

    BOWMANRight, and as Ash Carter, defense secretary, said in The Hill, you're starting to see an intensification of the American effort now. They're sending this targeting team into Northern Iraq, special operators. And roughly 100 of them, most of them will be aviators and intelligence analysts, but there may be a couple of dozen actual trigger-pullers, as they would say, they're going to work the scene between Syria and Iraq, go after ISIS leaders. So the big thing is will that have any impact.

  • 11:47:06

    BOWMANAnd next door in Syria, you're going to send upwards of 50 special operators to assist this Syrian-Arab coalition we were talking about, as well as the Kurds. But they may ramp that up even more, send more special operators in. And in fights like Ramadi, there's talk about sending Apache attack helicopters and special operators to actually accompany the Iraqi forces into battle. So keep an eye on that and particularly as Ramadi keeps going.

  • 11:47:32

    ROSSAnd let's go now to Andre in Battle Creek, Michigan. Andre, how are you today? Good morning.

  • 11:47:38

    ANDREGood morning, folks. As a first-generation American with two naturalized parents, one from Canada and a war bride from Belgium, I'm just wondering why this -- Canada is accepting 25,000 Syrian refugees, and it's really an embarrassment to know that we're hesitant to bring these people that have suffered so much into the country. And I'm just wondering, what would the rational explanation be? I'll take my comment off the air, thank you.

  • 11:48:12

    ROSSAndre, thanks for the call. There has been a difference in approach when it comes to the issue of Syrian refugees when you look at Canada versus the U.S., Jim Sciutto.

  • 11:48:22

    SCIUTTONo question. I mean, just look at the numbers, right, that you just topped one million Syrian refugees in Europe. Obviously Europe's going to get more, they're closer, they're right across -- they can literally walk across, bike across, swim across. But the U.S., you know, figures in the thousands. You're -- it's basically a measure of where U.S. politics are right now. I mean, you certainly have enormous opposition on the Republican side, and you don't exactly have virulent support on the Democratic side or at least to push it through.

  • 11:48:55

    SCIUTTOI mean, you have a lot of public comments. And that's -- you know, that's the state of play right now. You, I mean, one thing to keep in mind is that when Syrian immigrants come to the U.S., or Syrian refugees, rather, come to the U.S., they go through a long process. It takes a couple years. It doesn't happen overnight. They're pretty well-vetted, more vetted than most people who come into this country. But, you know, it -- those numbers haven't moved yet, and it's certainly a big point in the 2016 campaign. It's kind of hard to see how that changes dramatically before November of next year.

  • 11:49:29

    ROSSAnd Tom Bowman, Lara Jakes, new statistics, meanwhile, about the number of people seeking asylum in the EU this year, record applications of mainly Syrian refugees but not only refugees from Syria.

  • 11:49:41

    BOWMANWell that's right. Some of them are economic refugees. Some are coming from Afghanistan. And Joanna Kakissis, one of our reporters, was along the border with Macedonia and Greece, did a really interesting story about people desperately trying to get into Macedonia and then on to Europe. They're being turned away, sent back in buses to Athens. And some of these people are -- they say are from -- you know, they say they're from Syria or from Afghanistan. Others are basically admitting to her we're lying, we're saying we're from Afghanistan, we just have to get to Europe, we're economic refugees.

  • 11:50:15

    BOWMANBut -- and again, this is going to continue. We talked about this earlier. As the war intensifies in Syria, you're going to see a lot more of the seven million displaced people within Syria start heading for the exits, and they're going in through Turkey, and they're going to head right into Europe. This situation is only going to get worse, particularly as the spring comes, and the warm weather comes, and they'll start moving in droves again.

  • 11:50:36

    JAKESI just want to jump in really quickly. I mean, what we are seeing on the Macedonian border right now, there has been a decision by the EU to allow in refugees from Iraq, from Syria, from Afghanistan. Unquestionably these people are trying to escape war, are in danger in their homelands. But there are hundreds of thousands, I think it's something like 1.2 million refugees right now are trying to get into Europe. So hundreds of thousands of people from other countries. Yemen for example has been torn apart by a civil war over the last year. They are not being given the same considerations that these other refugees are being given.

  • 11:51:08

    JAKESThere is a drought, there is oppression in many North African countries, and they are not being allowed in. So we need to recognize that there's been a political decision made in Europe on who gets in and who does not, like, and I'm just going to make one more quick observation, what we're seeing in Washington right now. Today the House is debating a spending bill for the next year. One of the -- two of the things that are holding it up is the Obama administration's refugee program to allow in another 10,000 Syrian refugees over the next year and also more limits on gun sales and gun R&D.

  • 11:51:39

    JAKESAnd you may see a situation where it comes down to domestic security, i.e, gun control, over refugee aid, i.e, the poor people from Syria who are trying to escape war.

  • 11:51:50

    ROSSI'm Melissa Ross in for Diane Rehm, and you're listening to the Diane Rehm Show. Let's go now to Trudy in Rochester, New York. Hello, Trudy.

  • 11:52:01

    TRUDYThank you for taking my call. I'm originally from Germany, and I just visited my family in Germany. All my friends are there, my family. And I saw refugees everywhere. But Germany acts. I mean, they tried to put these refugees into schools, churches. They buy even buildings and house the refugees in buildings. I give Germans a lot of credit. Angela Merkel is doing a good job.

  • 11:52:33

    TRUDYNow over there refugee, when you listen to the news, when you come here, terrorist, terrorist, nothing but terrorist. Now, we talk about refugees occasionally, but we don't act. Germany is acting. And, you know, if the -- if you ask the people, they say, well, if Bush hadn't gone into Iraq, we wouldn't have this situation we have today. So, you know, I think America is obligated also to accept refugees, not only talk about it, action, action. That's my -- and also you had something on Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia, they're -- that's the worst dictatorship in the world, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, but we are friends with them. I don't understand it.

  • 11:53:32

    TRUDYI think people in this country have not traveled enough, and they fear other countries. And you -- when we come back, we listen to the news, it's all censored. In Germany, you get neutral news. That's the way I like it. Thank you so much for listening.

  • 11:53:48

    ROSSThat's Trudy in -- thank you, Trudy, in Rochester, New York.

  • 11:53:52

    JAKESDanke schoen.

  • 11:53:52

    ROSSYes, danke schoen.

  • 11:53:55

    JAKESNo, I wonder, though, about -- you know, Angela Merkel was just named woman...

  • 11:54:00

    ROSSPerson of the Year.

  • 11:54:01

    JAKESPerson of the Year by Time Magazine. You know, many of the things that Trudy points out, her work for refugees, her ability to try to make the euro stick, you know, regarding the pension reform in Greece, has won her a lot of recognition. She I think is Europe's longest-serving leader. She's been in -- she's been chancellor for 10 years now. I would just like to make another observation. There is...

  • 11:54:27

    ROSSI'm enjoying all of your observations, by the way. They're all good.

  • 11:54:27

    SCIUTTOIs this going to be a negative one, too?

  • 11:54:31

    JAKESI just always like to be the contrarian.

  • 11:54:32

    ROSSNo, they're very good.

  • 11:54:34

    JAKESIn the last year or so, we've seen the rise of far-right parties in Germany, Pegida for one, that is considered a very xenophobic party, very against this refugee traffic. A lot of Germans, and maybe Trudy would disagree, but from what I've seen and heard, a lot of Germans don't know what to do with all of these refugees that are coming in, and it is hurting their...

  • 11:54:55

    ROSSGermany absorbing more refugees than any other country.

  • 11:54:55

    BOWMANYou're going to see that increase throughout Europe. You've seen it in Denmark. Right, but you're going to see more and more of what Lara's talking about is, you know, the far-right parties gaining more and more power. It's happened in Denmark and some of the -- these other countries. As this problem expands, and it will expand, you're going to see more and more political pressure to stop this.

  • 11:55:14

    BOWMANI mean, clearly Germany's doing quite well at accepting some of these refugees, but at some point it's going to be a political problem in a lot of these European countries.

  • 11:55:24

    ROSSWe're seeing it in France, too, with Marine Le Pen's National Front.

  • 11:55:26


  • 11:55:28

    ROSSThere are going to be elections coming up this next week. And Jim Sciutto, Angela Merkel named -- only the fourth woman to be named Time's Person of the Year. But on the right in Germany, she has seen her popularity sink since threw her country's doors to refugees.

  • 11:55:45

    SCIUTTONo question. That's the thing. You know, you talk about politics, to her credit, she has opened the door despite enormous political opposition at home, and she's paid and is paying a political price for it, and that I think is one reason Time, you know, chose her in this. It's one thing, I constantly remind my American friends that when you look at Europe, you know, you have, and partly because of the parliamentary system, they have a voice, they have seats in parliament and legislatures, you have very active right-wing parties there that consistently poll decent numbers.

  • 11:56:17

    SCIUTTOI mean, you see it, we saw Marine Le Pen in France just now. Germany has it, Geert Wilders in the Netherlands, you have the UK Independence Party in London, in the UK. So you have -- and they poll 15, 20, 25 percent. And as they have tensions over, for instance the refugees coming in, a lot of these parties get more popular.

  • 11:56:40

    BOWMANWell not only there but in the United States. Trump's numbers keep going up after the San Bernardino attack, and he made that controversial statement about stopping any, you know, Muslims coming into this country. His numbers went up.

  • 11:56:51

    ROSSThanks for a great conversation, lots of international news, and we so appreciate you joining us. Tom Bowman, the Pentagon correspondent for NPR, Lara Jakes, deputy managing editor for news at Foreign Policy magazine and Jim Sciutto, the chief national security correspondent at CNN, thanks for being here.

  • 11:57:10

    BOWMANGood to be here.

  • 11:57:11

    SCIUTTOThank you.

  • 11:57:11

    JAKESThank you.

  • 11:57:11

    ROSSI'm Melissa Ross of WJCT Jacksonville, sitting in for Diane Rehm today. Thanks for listening.

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