War in Ukraine: airstrikes, drones and a looming counteroffensive
This week saw heightened tensions in the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. A wave of drone strikes hit the Russian capital Tuesday morning, bringing the war to Moscow for the first…
Turkish authorities work to identify the three suicide bombers who killed 44 people and wounded hundreds in an attack at the Istanbul airport Tuesday. Fallout from “Brexit” continues, as EU leaders meet without Britain for the first time in decades. In an unexpected move, Boris Johnson announces he will not run for prime minister of Britain. Iraqi forces retake the city of Fallujah from the Islamic state, now turning their attention toward key targets near Mosul. And the Colombian government begins the process of demobilizing FARC guerrillas after a historic peace deal. A panel of journalists joins Diane for analysis of the week’s top international news stories.
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. Turkey mourns dozens of people killed in the attack on an Istanbul airport as authorities arrest suspects with possible links to ISIS. Brexit-backer and former London mayor, Boris Johnson ends his bid to become Britain's next prime minister. And Columbia begins to demobilize FARC rebels after an historic peace agreement to end a 52-year insurgency.
MS. DIANE REHMHere for the week's top international stories on the Friday News Roundup, Nathan Guttman of Channel 1 Israeli News and The Forward, Kim Ghattas of the BBC and Matthew Lee of Associated Press. Throughout the hour, we will be taking your calls, questions, comments, 800-433-8850. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Facebook or Twitter. And it's good to see all of you.
MS. KIM GHATTASGood morning.
MR. NATHAN GUTTMANThank you.
REHMNathan, there are reports out today that Turkish officials think that the Istanbul airport attack was planned by leaders of ISIS. What do we know?
GUTTMANWell, we know that even though ISIS hasn't assumed responsibility for the attack so far, all the leads show that it is an ISIS attack. And we know the nationality of the three suicide bombers. One of them came from Russia, one was an Uzbek and one was a Kyrgyz. There are reports that point to one of the leaders of ISIS, Akhmed Chatayev, as the person who masterminded this attack, a person known as one-armed Akhmed, who is one of the most dominant ISIS forces from Chechen background.
GUTTMANAnd the assumption right now is that this is -- it wasn't an ISIS-inspired attack, as the attacks we've seen here in the United States. It was actually planned and carried out by ISIS. They brought in the people from Syria with their explosive vests and the machine guns. They planned the attack. They knew exactly how to penetrate the airport by first attacking the security guards outside with machine guns and then moving into explode the -- to use their explosive vests.
GUTTMANSo definitely all the signs are that this was an ISIS attack, a well-planned ISIS attack.
REHMAnd Kim, what's the significance of the attackers being from Russia and former Russian states?
GHATTASWell, the so-called Islamic State has long been recruiting members from many Muslim parts of the former Soviet Union. The Russian president, Vladimir Putin, put the number at about 5,000 or 7,000 even so that's quite a high number. There are several layers to this story. Obviously, there's the impact on Turkey, disastrous for its economy, for it tourism industry, you know, an attack that really goes to the heart of what Turkey is trying to be in a region at the crossroads of the east and the west.
GHATTASThis Ataturk Airport in Istanbul is really where everybody meets and everybody puts their identity, religious or sectarian, or ethnic to the side. They all come together in that airport. I've been there myself. But what it also tells us is that wherever the Islamic State militants come from, they have declared war on countries like Turkey that are now realizing that their, let's say, malign neglect of the very poorest border between Turkey and Syria has come back to haunt them.
GHATTASThey say, initially, even if they never publically said so, that the, you know, Islamic State was one way of weakening President Assad -- Bashar al-Assad, with which President Erdogan had a good relationship before 2011. And in the end, he called for President Assad's departure. And there was a kind of a policy of closing, you know, turning a blind eye to what the Islamic State was and what the threat it represented in the hope that it -- that this would end up weakening President Assad.
GHATTASUnfortunately, it has come, as now, to come back and haunt Turkey itself.
REHMAnd Matthew Lee, what do we know about the people that the Turks have now rounded up?
MR. MATTHEW LEERight. Well, I think that there's maybe an element, as there often is in these cases, of kind of rounding up the usual suspects. It's been the experience, I think, not just in Turkey, but all across Europe, when they do these roundups of 13, you know, a couple dozen people that most of them are eventually released, found not to have been particularly involved, even if they had some kind of loose connection.
MR. MATTHEW LEEI think the point that Kim was making is true. Istanbul, you know, the crossroads of Europe and the Middle East or Asia, and it's hard not to see this as an extension of the attacks in Europe. Turkey has been hit before because of its approximate...
LEE...location to Syria and to all these people and I think, but this is really, I think, takes it up a step because it is this intermingling of the cultures there. And the other thing is, is that I think it's probably that there's a high possibility that these attackers might have transited this airport on their way in to Syria in the first place because as Kim was making a point, the Turks, if not overtly encouraged, but they certainly did seem to turn a blind eye to the influx at the beginning of these foreign fights.
REHMAnd that's the question, whether, in fact, the Turks will now step up their offense on ISIS.
GUTTMANWell, clearly, that's their plan. And they were very late in the game of understanding that ISIS is a problem for them. Turkey was focused, obviously, on the PKK before. As we heard, they saw some advantages to having ISIS operate as another force in Syria. According to some reports, they even purchase oil from ISIS at a certain point. So but all this changed once they decided to join the coalition and allow the United States use its air force base in Incirlik for -- to launch attacks on ISIS in the region.
GUTTMANAnd after that, Turkey became a target of ISIS and it was very slow in understanding that and understanding the need to counter this attack. And this is basically what we're seeing now, both in the crackdowns inside Turkey and in further attacks.
REHMBut there's also some speculation that this attack on Turkey came about because of a Turkish-Israeli accord.
GUTTMANThere are those who claim that, but it seems kind of unlikely given the timing and the planning of this event. Just to remind the -- Israel and Turkey finally signed, after years and years of negotiation, this normalization agreement, which would basically mean that Israel pays compensation to the families of those killed in the attack six years ago against the Turkish flotilla and in return, normalization -- ambassadors will be returned to Ankara and Tel Aviv.
GUTTMANBut this is something that happened this week and the ISIS attack seems to be planned for weeks or months and it doesn’t seem that this would be something that would trigger it.
GHATTASI think the question that no one has the answer to right now is how Turkey is going to handle the next step. They are going to want to be tougher on ISIS. They will probably ramp up their participation in the anti-Islamic State coalition. They're just making nice again with the Russians as well, as well as their, you know, normalization pact with the Israelis. But what are the Turks really prepared to do when it comes to fighting the Islamic State? What is the public in Turkey prepared to support?
GHATTASThere wasn't a lot of support in the past. Will there be now support for ground troops, for more participation of the Turkish air force? This is what we're going to find out in the next few days and weeks.
REHMAnd what about Turkeys' relationship with Russia?
LEEWell, exactly. That's the -- I mean, if there was to be a cause, other than just a planned attack, I think that it's more likely that it was the Turkish/Russian relationship, a rapprochement, rather than the Turkey/Israel rapprochement behind it. But I don't think that was the case because that came -- the Turkey/Russia rapprochement came as something as a surprise, whereas the Israel/Turkey rapprochement had been, you know, as was said, years in the making.
LEEI think what's going to be very interesting is to see if the Turks finally, after having agreed more than a year ago to seal off this 98 kilometer border area in which ISIS fighters have been able to go back and forth, the Turks -- whether that actually happens or not because it has not happened, although there have been some improvements. But it has not happened and the border is still very porous. And this is something...
REHMSo they can just slip back and forth.
LEECorrect. And this is something that the Russians, in particular, have been really going after the Turks about.
GUTTMANTurkey actually has served as the main entrance point for foreign fighters joining the battle of ISIS in Syria and actually joining any other force in Syria as well, thanks to these open borders and to the very lax security there. So that's why we've seen this established route of foreign fighters coming either from Europe or even from North America through Istanbul.
REHMNathan Guttman, he's Washington correspondent for Channel 1 Israeli News and The Forward. When we come back, we'll be talking with Lionel Barber, editor of The Financial Times about the fallout from Brexit. Stay with us.
REHMAnd welcome back. Joining us now from London is Lionel Barber. He's an old, old friend of this program, one of the first journalists who joined our "Friday News Roundup" when it was first created. Lionel, welcome.
MR. LIONEL BARBERHow lovely to hear your voice, Diane. And what a privilege to appear on the show.
REHMThank you. So you've had another wild week in the fallout from the Brexit vote. Talk about why Boris Johnson took himself out of the race to succeed David Cameron.
BARBERWell, he didn't have a plan. He was unprepared. He led the campaign to take us out but didn't know what the next chapter was going to be. And this is a bit strange because he's a former journalist. I remember him in the Brussels days. Some people, and I am including myself, think that this was a bit of a -- he thought he was in a student debate. And he won the debate and then somebody said -- well, actually, do you remember that in, Diane, that wonderful movie with Robert Redford, "The Candidate."
BARBERAnd he wins. And at the end, the camera zooms in and Robert Redford looks out and says, what do I do now?
BARBERWell, that was Boris Johnson yesterday.
REHMTell us about the other candidate, Michael, is it Goves?
BARBERIt's not Gove, as in government, it's Gove...
BARBER...as in stove. He's a Scot. He comes from a modest upbringing, didn't know his father. And he was a reforming education secretary, actually justice secretary, very impressive on prison reform. He's a liberal whose main objection to the European Union was on constitutional grounds, saying that Britain should not be bending before European law. So I see him. But also I think that his problem has been that he says, I have no charisma. I have no intention of running for prime minister. That's what he said two years ago. And he was of -- the man who stabbed Boris Johnson in the back, having been his campaign manager, and then he said he didn't think Boris was fit to be prime minister or to lead.
BARBERSo this has -- there's a bit of the Marx Brothers' Ruritania about Britain at the moment.
REHMAnd, Lionel, you know that Nathan Guttman, Kim Ghattas, Matthew Lee are here in the studio. They will enter into the conversation as well. But before that, I wanted to ask you about Theresa May, who does seem to be gaining support.
BARBERShe's a formidable lady, a little bit in the Margaret Thatcher mold. She keeps herself to herself. She's been home secretary. That is, in effect, here, what you'd say in Europe would be the Interior Ministry, sort of Department of Homeland Security, with a sort of law and or function -- law and order. And most home secretaries don't last more than two or three years. They've also got the counterterrorism portfolio. But she's lasted more than five. But she's -- she was in the remain campaign, she wasn't a Brexiter, which has enabled her to say, well, I've been loyal to David Cameron.
BARBERBut now she's come out. And I think a bit -- it's very strange, Diane. You'd say Boris Johnson, if he you really scratched him or woke him up in the early hours of the morning, he would be a remainer, but he campaigned for exit. Well, with Theresa May, if you woke her up at 3:00 in the morning, she probably be for exit, even though she campaigned for remain anyway. But the point -- if you're not confused by now, I am. This is what is so strange about this whole affair. But Theresa May has definitely got an early lead...
BARBER...and she's being seen as an early favorite. And maybe doesn't have the kind of charisma of Boris Johnson, of showbiz variety, but as she said yesterday in a rather telling sentence, it's time -- these are serious times and they require serious people.
GHATTASReminds you of other politicians in the United States, women who say I'm here just to get the job done, I'm not about the showbiz, right? And that's very much the type of thing that we hear from Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee. But it's interesting, the point that Lionel was just making, the contrast between what Boris Johnson really believed in but what he campaigned for, and those who say that, you know, Theresa May is actually a closet leaver, but campaigned to remain because she was loyal to the prime minister.
GHATTASAnd there are some who say that that's also the contrast between feigned nativism -- the Boris Johnson style who was all about the showmanship -- and authentic nativism. Because she does get criticized as home secretary for actually being very harsh on immigration. She has made some very harsh statements, including saying that you cannot have a cohesive society if you have immigration. So there is now an effort as well to, you know, slightly rewrite her profile to present her as a moderate in this campaign.
GUTTMANI think, clearly, whoever it is and who's chosen to lead the Tories in a couple of months, the main goal would be to negotiate these terms of divorce with the European Union. And I'm just interested in hearing Lionel's take on that. How would they be different? How will they negotiate this differently, whoever is chosen?
BARBERThe way I look at this -- and I should have said, by the way, Diane, that Boris just wanted to be prime minister, he just hadn't quite figured out how he was going to do it.
BARBERIt's as simple as that. This was a real power play, for all, what he said in the campaign. But let's come back to the terms of divorce and what happens. The fact is, none of the leave campaign has come forward with a plan for the terms of divorce or indeed, even more important, what the new relationship they want between Britain and the European Union. So I would describe this as, who wants a soft Brexit, which is essentially saying, well, we want to have full access or pretty near full access to the single European Market for our services industry, for business. And we hope -- we know we'll have to take some freedom of movement but maybe we can sort of do some kind of deal with the Europeans.
BARBERAnd then there's a hard Brexit, which basically says the two goals of access, full access to the single market and free movement of people is incompatible with our firm opposition to more immigration or freedom of movement. So, in fact, we want a full divorce and we're just going to operate according to world trade organization rules, which will mean facing some industrial tariffs. But we'll just have to then negotiate with the EU and do our best. We don't know what any of these candidates really want.
BARBERTheresa May was a little bit clearer. But that's the problem. Nobody has a clear plan.
REHMAnd there's the question -- there's the question, Matthew Lee, of how quickly...
REHM...all this is going to get done.
LEEAnd I'm not sure. Exactly. And I'm not sure that the prevailing mood in Europe -- the continent -- Continental Europe, at the moment, is for -- is in favor or will allow a soft exit. They're pretty upset and angry. You know, we talk about showmanship and all this, in this, and Boris Johnson and his removing himself, taking himself out. And just this whole thing reminds me of one of the greatest showmen of all time, P.T. Barnum, who, you know, in his traveling road shows, to get people moving through, would post a sign saying, this way to the great egress. And people would not realize what egress was and they'd go out and find themselves on the street looking around saying, what have I done now?
LEEAnd I think that that is pretty much an accurate representation of how many people are feeling right now, particularly the leaders of the leave movement. It's sort of, what do we do? Where are we?
REHMAnd, Lionel, you've got one of the many large questions posed at this point is how the financial center of Europe is going to shift. Other European countries are certainly considering this.
BARBERWell, Paris has put out the red carpet. You've got Dublin, they think they can take a share, Luxemburg, Amsterdam, even Warsaw. But actually we need to take a bit of a chill pill here, because the fact is that the U.K. government is not going to see a new prime minister before September I think, at the earliest, unless all the candidates suddenly drop out. And I wouldn't exclude anything at this stage but it's unlikely. And then, of course, you have to have some idea of what you want. You need to bring -- come forward with a plan. And only then do you invoke the so-called Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which in effect then sets the clock ticking on a two-year negotiation period for divorce.
BARBERAnd then, after that, according to the Europeans, you start negotiating your trade agreement with the EU, et cetera. Now, that means that things are going to take quite a long time. And I spoke to a very senior official today and he made the correct observation that the people are not going -- very unlikely to just jump now or abandon all their operations in the city. They're going to take a little bit of time. And the other point I guess is that, yes -- I mean the crucial point is that we risk losing, for example, the euro-clearing business. We risk losing the banks' passporting arrangements where they can easily operate throughout the European Union. But there will be other opportunities.
BARBERAnd these sharp-minded people in the city of London are still looking -- are looking at that right now. Like, okay, we lose euro, but maybe we can get the rmb. So it's important not -- I know all our listeners in New York, your listeners, will be saying -- rubbing their hands and saying, right, the business is coming New York's way. But I wouldn't write off the city just yet.
GHATTASI think there's always opportunity in crisis. You know, I think the -- what's happened over the last week in the U.K. has been, you know, heartbreaking for those who voted to remain. It has been a surprise for some who voted leave. They didn't expect these consequences. But, you know, speaking to British friends who voted either way, there is also an understanding that now it's time to figure out how do we make the most of this?
GHATTASI think the biggest clash remains -- and I don't think we've heard a clear answer yet -- is how does the U.K. negotiate the schedule of what happens with the EU? Because the EU is saying, you exit first and do it quickly and then we'll negotiate the settlement, you know? But we want the divorce first. And, you know, people like Theresa May are saying, you know, we're going to take our time. We're not going to rush into this. You know, we will have our leadership contests, et cetera. And then we will exit when we're ready and we'll renegotiate the terms then.
BARBERYou can't force the British government to...
LEEIt's interesting though that you mention the U.K. I'm not sure that that's an appropriate acronym anymore or will be, you know?
LEEIt's interesting that we're talking about this on the anniversary of the return of Hong Kong to China from the British. But, you know, one result of this may very well be that England really becomes England.
REHMAny possibility in your mind, Lionel, that this whole thing will be revoted?
BARBERAgain, I wouldn't exclude everything. But even though there are more than three million signatures on a petition to have a second referendum, I think that there's, whatever, 20 percent chance, 15 percent. It is possible, once you've invoked Article 50. People say it's irrevocable. There are way -- there are some get-out clauses. But it's going to be very difficult. And the fact is that Theresa May has made it very clear that Brexit means Brexit. And I think it's very, very unwise at this stage for anybody to start talking about a second referendum.
BARBERThe fact is, the people voted. They voted narrowly. It wasn't -- it's amazing that we had a referendum that never had a ceiling, say, of you had to get to 70 percent. It was just any vote above 50 percent. And suddenly the most important decision for our economic and foreign policy is taken, and that's it. So I would say, Diane, I think it's highly unlikely.
BARBERWe're moving out.
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." We have an email from Gary, Lionel, who says, if there are important differences between Theresa May and Michael Gove on immigration, if the EU insists on the free movement of EU people for a trade agreement, would they both agree or refuse?
BARBERNo, I think they will and would refuse. Because Mike -- one of the reasons Michael Grove said he was abandoning or stabbing in the back, it's actually the same thing, abandoning the Boris Johnson campaign was because he didn't trust Boris Johnson on freedom of movement and immigration. And Theresa May has been a real hardliner on immigration. And I think, on that, they won't -- they know that they're going to have something short of full access to the single market. And the question is, what kind of trade deal, what kind of access we will have and for which sectors.
REHMAnd, Nathan, we've seen the global movement sort of go up and down all through this past week. Do you think they're now settling into a new reality?
GUTTMANI think so. At least in terms of the financial markets, we've seen in the United States a rebound. Of course it was the initial shock that sent all the markets plunging. But after that, it seems that there is a realization that, first of all, as we just heard, it will take a long time until this process is completed. And no one really knows right now what shape it will take at the end of this process. And therefore there is some confidence coming back into the markets, at least in the United States. Of course, for the British economy it will be more difficult and it will be a long-term challenge to deal with. There's talk about a loss of 2 percent of the GDP in the long term. So definitely that is something that will take time.
GUTTMANBut the world, itself, is starting to realize what has happened, despite this initial shock.
REHMAnd in the few seconds we have left, Lionel, what's your outlook for the British economy?
BARBERI think it's very difficult, given what the Governor of the Bank of England said yesterday when he talked about post-economic traumatic stress that's already affecting -- we've had a chill earlier with the uncertainty about the result. We've now got even more uncertainty. There is a big risk about investment -- foreign investment kind of drying up or at least on hold. You're going to see consumer behavior, spending affected. So it's hard not to think that there could be a, you know, a setback or recession, technical recession in the U.K. for the next two quarters.
BARBERAnd the governor -- and low interest rates. So it's hard stuff.
REHMWe'll leave it. Lionel Barber, always good to hear your voice. We'll talk to you again soon.
BARBERThank you, Diane.
REHMLionel Barber is editor of the Financial Times. Short break. We'll be right back.
REHMAnd welcome back. Before we move on to Iraq and Fallujah, let's take a call from Roshaun in Houston, Texas, you're on the air.
ROSHAUNYes, hello, love the show, by the way.
ROSHAUNYou're welcome. Just a question on the attack in Ataturk Airport. Is there any consideration that the Russians might be involved, considering that ISIS didn't jump on the opportunity to take responsibility, as well as the Turkish army shooting down the fighter jet?
REHMWhat do you think, Matthew?
LEEWell, I think that that's unlikely because, as we've discussed earlier, there is this rapprochement now between the Russians and the Turks. President Putin has lifted the travel ban on Russians for Turkey, which is a boost for Turkey's ailing tourism industry. And so I don't think so. They seem to have agreed to let the plane incident be a bygone.
REHMWhat about questions about the U.S. and Russia relationship? There was some news this morning of messages going back and forth.
LEEWell, this idea of closer cooperation in the Syrian theater...
LEEBetween the United States and Russia is not a new thing. In fact the Americans have been -- the U.S. has been pushing it for a long time, as have the Russians. Of course they're on vastly different pages.
LEEIn terms of what that cooperation might take place. But I mean, this idea that we've heard about this week was actually floated originally in Vienna at the last meeting of the International Syria Support Group. So it's not particularly new. It would -- what would be interesting is if something actually came of it, and I don't think that that is at all a foregone conclusion.
REHMBecause there wasn't any clear indication which sites Russia would continue to bomb?
LEERight, well in particular, the issue has been that groups that the Americans could -- that the U.S. considers to be moderate and have supported have intermingled themselves with groups that even the U.S. believes are terrorist organizations, like Al-Nusra and de-mingling them has been a priority that's become even more of a priority as the Russians continue to go after Al-Nusra and what they say are just hardcore terrorists.
GHATTASOne of the key questions here is, you know, as Matt says, will it actually happen, the sort of closer cooperation, and it is more than deconflicting because obviously the Russians and the Americans are operating in the same areas or the territory, and a lot of the conversations have been about making sure they in essence don't crash into each other. But is it going to be more than just that?
GHATTASAnd that raises a lot of concerns amongst the Syrian opposition and those, you know, countries and political leaders in the region that are still opposed to Assad. Are we going to see the U.S. and Russia, you know, join hands...
GHATTASTo fight ISIS and forget about Assad or not? But all of this has been rumbling for some time, and we haven't seen things go in that direction just yet.
GUTTMANOf course there's a difference in the endgame that the U.S. and Russia see for Syria, and Russia still believes that its military involvement there can in a way sustain the Assad regime either over all Syria or parts of Syria. But the fact that the U.S. has gradually basically walked back its initial position that Assad has to leave, now by American standards he doesn't have to leave immediately, he can be part of a solution in a certain way, the fact that this position has moderated in time does allow some kind of cooperation between the Russians and the Americans if they can agree on the targets on the ground.
REHMAll right to Brian in Baltimore, Maryland, you're on the air.
BRIANYes, hello, I wanted to know if there was any option for a future election for prime minister where maybe a liberal democrat could run on the ticket that, you know, we cancel the Brexit.
LEEWell, you know, it's not as if you run for prime minister in a national election. I mean, the prime minister is essentially the leader of the party. I don't think that -- unless the -- unless the liberal democrats stage some kind of comeback, it's very unlikely that their leader is going to be the prime minister.
GHATTASYou know, both parties, both leading parties, Labour Party and the Tories, are in a, you know, leadership crisis, and I think until, you know, until we know who's -- you know, what is going to emerge from both those crises, it's hard to make any predictions, and I think as we've seen over the last week following the referendum, every hour brings new development.
GHATTASAnd every minute feels like a decade. So who knows?
REHMTo Denise in Tampa, Florida, you're on the air.
DENISEThank you, Ms. Rehm. Today is 100 years since the 1st of July, 1916, the first day of the Battle of the Somme, when I think it lasted from July through to November. More than 20,000 died on that first day. Most were from 36 Ulster Division, from the North of Ireland, and of course those people did not have to go. They were trying to take something on a slope, didn't get any reinforcements, which they had requested.
BRIANSo it's very important to remember the sacrifice, and there is a plaque on the wall in their city of Belfast, pass not this spot in sorrow but with pride, and may you live as nobly as they died. And the people who came from what is now the Republic of Ireland, their sacrifice was ignored for all those years, until about 20 years ago, when Mary Robinson, the president, finally went to the war graves in Europe. But they took part, as well, and we have to acknowledge that from all of Ireland. Thank you very much.
REHMI'm so glad you called. And again, it reminds us of the devastation of these conflicts. And we're speaking -- she spoke about the 100th anniversary of that battle, and now we're talking about taking Fallujah back from ISIS, Nathan.
GUTTMANYou know, definitely it's probably the most significant achievement that the Iraqi army has had so far, winning back Fallujah from ISIS after months of battling there. And what we've been seeing in recent days is not only the successful, in a way, takeover of the city but also the fact that the Iraqi forces, aided by the Americans, were able to take out many ISIS fighters fleeing the city. And they view that as a significant blow to ISIS by the fact that it means that they're gradually shrinking the foothold of ISIS on the territory and actually managing to push the group into a more defensive position.
REHMBut you know, reflecting on that 100-year anniversary, it's as though the world never tires of war, it just goes on.
GHATTASAnd it goes on everywhere. It's not just in the Middle East.
GHATTASI mean, wars in Europe weren't that long ago.
GHATTASAnd, you know, it gives you comfort in the sense that you think, okay, well, wars do end at some point, so when you look at the Middle East today you think there is hope, and what you saw with Fallujah is a tiny sliver of hope, the retaking of that city from the so-called Islamic State, which took over Fallujah two years ago. That was the first city to fall into their hands. It was, you know, the hub of their operations. They had hundreds, if not thousands, of fighters based there. And it rattled the Iraqis, it rattled the Iraqi -- national cohesion, it rattled the United States, which had invested so much in trying to build an Iraqi army.
GHATTASAnd so what we've seen now is an Iraqi army, and so what we've seen now is just the potential beginning of the Iraqi armed forces feeling like they have a stake in this, and they can come together to push back against the Islamic State and particularly...
REHMAnd they want to take Mosul next.
LEEExactly, but I think that what we need to remember and not forget is the role of the Iranian-backed militias in all of this because it is a success for the Iraqi army and for the Americans, but it is also a success for Iran, who -- which was also very rattled by the fall of Fallujah. And I think that the rise of Iran, even more than it has in terms of influence in Iraq, is a key point that should not be overlooked.
LEEAnd on the anniversary of the Battle of the Somme, this just reminds -- the school I went to in Scotland, and the chapel back in the 1980s, every single -- virtually every single boy that left that school between 1914 and 1916 died, and their names are on plaques on the chapel wall, and it's just stunning, the absolute devastation of the First World War and conflicts since. It's just -- it's incredible.
REHMAnd as I said, we continue with war in all kinds of places.
GHATTASJust one last word to pick up on what Matt was saying, it is absolutely key to remember Iran's role in Iraq and the role of Shiite militias, which have been sometimes as brutal, if not more brutal, than the Islamic State. But what we saw with the Iraqi armed forces operation to take over, to retake Fallujah is that the so-called popular mobilization forces, those Shiite militias, were not at the forefront, were not the public face of this retaking. And that is important, as well.
GHATTASOptics are important, even if they remain in the background.
GUTTMANAnd also if we're thinking of the next step, there's all this talk now of after Fallujah going to Mosul, but that will be quite different, first of all because of the magnitude, because of the size. You know, Mosul is 10 times bigger than Fallujah. But also it will -- it could, or it has a potential of bringing into conflict all these different forces that are fighting there, whether it's the Iraqis and the Shiites, the Iranian-backed and the Kurds, all these fighting together in a major battle and then having to deal with the outcome of driving ISIS out and dividing power and influence, that could -- that could have the potential for further tension.
REHMAll right, to Kathleen in Athens, Ohio, you're on the air.
KATHLEENHi, thank you. I followed what Hillary Mann Leverett and Flint Leverett wrote and said for about the last 10 years, but at their -- they're Middle East experts. I know you guys know who they are. But they had written five or six years ago that the Obama administration, the Obama-Clinton administration with her as secretary of state then, should have taken or should take the power-sharing deal that Assad was allegedly offering five or six years ago.
KATHLEENAnd so hundreds of thousands of dead later and millions of refugees, what would a power-sharing deal with Assad look like now?
GHATTASWell, the problem that the Syrian opposition had at the time and the backers of the opposition in the West had with whatever President Assad was offering was that he couldn't be -- they thought he couldn't be trusted and that whatever he was offering was just, you know, a ploy. He did several times offer reforms and then didn't actually implement them. A lot of opposition leaders were jailed, imprisoned, tortured.
GHATTASBut it is true that if the end result today is going to be a, you know, a fig leaf-type of power-sharing arrangement with President Assad, a lot of Syrians are going to ask themselves what did we all die for.
REHMAnd you're listening to the Diane Rehm Show. Let's turn finally to what's happening in Colombia. Matt, the Colombian government started the process of disarming FARC rebels after last week's historic peace deal. What's in the deal?
LEEWell, what's in the deal is just what you said, the end of 52 years, the longest-running civil war in the Western Hemisphere. This is -- this is a huge deal. It's not getting as much attention as perhaps it should be, given, the events of -- in other parts of the world.
REHMThat's why we're doing it here.
LEERight. But it's very significant. This has been going on, this insurgency, for five decades, and now finally, if everything holds up, and the demobilization continues apace, Colombia, vast parts of Colombia, are going to see peace. And, you know, this is a success for both Colombia, Cuba and, to a much smaller extent, the United States.
REHMBut how realistic, how difficult will it be to maintain this peace that they want to achieve?
LEEWell isn't that -- that's always the issue when you get a peace deal.
REHMOf course. Kim?
GHATTASThere -- we have to remember also popular sentiment in Colombia and what exactly -- what kind of, you know, justice will, you know, will come out of this. Victims, you know, of the war, of the rebels, will want to see some kind of justice, as well. They may not be satisfied with the tribunals that will be set up. But just to, you know, go back to Brexit, actually, and the reason why the popular mood matters, when a final peace deal is signed, it will be put to a referendum in Colombia, as well.
GHATTASSo, you know, the popular say is important, and the president of Colombia will have to do a lot of work to sell the deal. Most people seem to be in favor of it, but it's a slim -- it's a slim margin.
GUTTMANAlso, it's difficult to draw parallels between Colombia and other areas in the world, but I'm pretty sure that for many people in the Middle East, this is an interesting development to watch because you get used to this concept that conflicts are impossible to reconcile, that terrorists have blood on their hands, and here we see a very long process, but that does offer some kind of hope for disarming, for a certain amount of justice and for a transition to a political movement, which could just provide just a little bit of hope for people looking at the Middle East.
GHATTASI could not agree more. You know, I'm from Beirut. I grew up in a war there. Wars do end, in the end, but there's still a lot of conflict and violence around us in the Middle East. And there are times when we wonder, does it -- does it ever end. And then I have a friend who said, well, you know, for the longest time those of us living in Europe thought the Berlin Wall would never fall. And in the end, one day it did. And now we have this, you know, peace deal with the FARC rebels in Colombia, and as Nathan said, it's hard to draw parallels between regions in the world, but it does mean that, you know, at some point conflicts hopefully do end.
LEEWell, not to be a spoiler here.
LEEYes, exactly, but, you know, I think of the last major civil war that ended in Sudan, the creation of a new country, South Sudan, and what a disaster that has become. So let's just hope that the light at the end of the tunnel in the Colombia conflict isn't a locomotive bearing down to shatter the whole thing, again not to be...
GHATTASWe wanted to end on an optimistic note.
REHMAbsolutely, on this weekend before Independence Day. I wish you all peace and health. Thank you.
GHATTASThank you for having us.
REHMNathan Guttman, Kim Ghattas and Matthew Lee, thanks, all, for listening. I'm Diane Rehm.
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