From The Archives: A 2008 Conversation With Barbara Walters
A conversation from the archives with Barbara Walters about her 2008 memoir "Audition," a story of family challenges, celebrity gossip and blazing a trail in TV news.
Guest Host: Frank Sesno
Turkey’s President Erdogan purges tens of thousands of judges, teachers and military officials following last week’s failed coup attempt. Turkey increases pressure on the U.S. to extradite a cleric in Pennsylvania accused of coup links. An appeals court upholds a ban on Russia’s track and field team in the Rio Olympics. A French prosecutor says the driver who killed 84 people last week in an attack in Nice had accomplices. And outrage in Pakistan over the honor killing of a celebrity. A panel of journalists joins guest host Frank Sesno for analysis of the week’s top international news stories.
MR. FRANK SESNOThanks for joining us. I'm Frank Sesno, director of the school of media and public affairs for the George Washington University, sitting in for Diane Rehm today. She's on vacation. Well, Turkey declares a state of emergency and retains thousands after last week's failed coup. Europe reacts to Donald Trump's suggestion that he put conditions on protecting NATO allies, which happens to be a condition of the treaty that establishes NATO. And an appeals court upholds an Olympic ban on Russian track and field athletes.
MR. FRANK SESNOHere to discuss the week's top international stories on the Friday News Roundup is Yochi Dreazen of Foreign Policy, Courtney Kube of NBC News and Tom Bowman of NPR. Welcome to you all.
MR. YOCHI DREAZENGreat to be here.
MS. COURTNEY KUBEThank you.
MR. TOM BOWMANThanks.
SESNOLet us start in Turkey right now, which continues to be a very tumultuous place. Yochi bring us up to speed on what is taking place on the ground right now.
DREAZENYeah, it's purges of really unprecedented scale. You're now up well above 50,000 if you combine the number of people arrested and detained, which, incidentally, is a very important distinction that gets lost in a lot of coverage. A lot of the coverage just says 50,000 people arrested, which is not true. Turkey can detain people and then release them. Typically in the past, that's what happened. They've done this kind of roundup -- not this big, but done big roundups before and then released a lot of people.
DREAZENSo it's important 'cause that gets lost, often, in the coverage.
SESNOAnd who's getting rounded up?
DREAZENSo you're seeing generals, a huge number, by some estimates 125 of the 375 generals they have. So fully a third of the generals of the Turkish military. Its police, its teachers, its principals of schools, schools also being closed. So you look at civil society, pretty much everything in it from education on the one end of the spectrum to police to the military on the other end, you're seeing huge numbers of people either detained, arrested or in some combination both from every sphere of that country.
SESNOAnd Courtney, as a suggestion that all of these people were involved in this failed coup?
KUBENo. So there are some of the military leaders that have been implicated in the failed coup, military coup, but many of them are followers of a powerful, secretive Muslim cleric who President Erdogan sees as an existential threat to both him and to Turkey. His name is Fethullah Gulen.
SESNOWho happens to live in Pennsylvania.
KUBECorrect. He's living in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania, but he leads this Hizmet movement, which is a secretive, widespread -- it may be the largest Muslim movement in the world, actually. We don't really know because we don't know how many millions of people belong to it. But it preaches a very tolerant, almost mystical version of Islam. It calls for charity and tolerance and integration. They have schools around the world. They have charities and whatnot. President Erdogan sees this man as a direct threat to him and he believes he is the one behind this failed military coup.
KUBEOf course, U.S. military intelligence officials that we've spoken to say there is no evidence of that, at this point.
BOWMANThe real concern here for the Americans is the fight against ISIL, of course. I mean, how many generals are you going to take out? How many competent generals who worked closely with the Americans, including the commander of the Incirlik air base, has been arrested. And I'm told that some generals who held senior positions in NATO recently have also been arrested. So there's great concern among American generals that people they know personally and work with closely have been rolled up in these arrests.
BOWMANSo again, it's -- where is this going? They call it a cleansing. Is this really going after people who took part in the coup or is this just to get rid of everyone that's against Erdogan? And that's the sense, clearly, that this is a cleansing of any opposition to Erdogan. So that's one concern. The other concern is what does this mean for the ISIL fight? Are you putting in incompetent officers who know nothing about their jobs and maybe people who aren't as interested in dealing with, let's say, foreign fighters crossing the border from Turkey into Syria.
SESNOIs there any...
BOWMANSo this, you know, those are some other concerns here. The ripple effects of this are quite interesting.
SESNOIs there any indication as to what's going to happen to all of these people who've been rounded up, especially generals and judges?
DREAZENSo a good example, as sort of a precursor to this, was, in 2010, there's something called Operation Sledgehammer, which was when Erdogan did a -- again, not to this scale, but a similarly large roundup of generals. Many of them were put on trial. Many of them were convicted, using evidence that was clearly fabricated. Some number of these generals will be put on trial. Turkish television has shown these very depressing videos of generals kind of stripped down to their T-shirts, in some cases, underwear.
DREAZENA couple cases, bloody noses or signs of being beaten up. These are generals who, a few days earlier, would have been in uniform venerated by their country. Some number will be put on trial. Previous indications don’t do justice these will be a fair trial. One point I wanted to make, a friend of mine who was in Istanbul the night of the coup called me when phone service was still working and said that what alarmed him the most were the mosques calling for people to come defend the country. People streaming out of the mosque saying, jihad, waving Turkish flags.
DREAZENHis point was Erdogan's succeeded now in saying, I, Erdogan, am the same as the Turkish state. The Turkish state is tied to Islam. Therefore, if you attack me, you attack not just all of Turkey, you attack Islam itself. And that combination of personifying it just in him was, to my friend, the most dangerous thing he saw in all of Turkey.
SESNOOn the Friday News Roundup, we'll be taking your comments and questions throughout the hour so give us a call if you'd like at 800-433-8850 or send your email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Tom...
BOWMANJust a quick point that Gulen, the exiled cleric who lives in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania, of all places, he suggested -- he said he had no part in this, even though Erdogan says there's evidence that he was the mastermind. He's suggesting this was a staged coup by Erdogan himself. There's no evidence that that happened. But supposed coup was so inept that a part of you believes that it could've staged. I mean, they took over state TV without ever realizing this thing called social media these days that could send people to the streets in an instant. It was incredibly incompetent.
SESNOWith no designated leader, with nobody clearly in charge.
BOWMANWith still just no face of this coup.
SESNOExactly. Tom, what I wanted to ask you, though, is what we were just hearing from Yochi, which is this massive roundup, purge, all this connection of Erdogan to Islam and almost the Islamic State as a result. This is a key U.S. ally. This isn't just another country out there. This is a key U.S. ally, a key ally in NATO. It's just had a -- something of a rapprochement with Israel. What are the internal thoughts, concerns that you're hearing expressed by the U.S. government and how to perceive this?
BOWMANWell, there have been a flurry of meetings at both the Pentagon and the White House. Where is this going? What's going to happen? And, again, as I was saying earlier, the big issue in Turkey is stopping the flow of foreign fighters across the border. That's been a key issue for the Americans in the anti-ISIL fight for quite some times. And also, Incirlik air base, the benefit of Incirlik, of course, is you can hit targets very close as opposed to flying from carriers in the Indian Ocean or the Persian Gulf or from other bases in, let's say, in Jordan that gave you -- once you have actionable intelligence, you can hit those very quickly.
BOWMANSo, again, there's a concern about, let's say, they don't turn over Gulen like Erdogan wants. What will be the repercussions of that? Will they close Incirlik for a time? So there are a lot of questions here that they have no answers to at this point.
SESNOThat's what I was going to ask you, Courtney. What's at stake if the U.S. agrees or doesn't to extradite Gulen?
KUBESo it's a difficult conundrum because the U.S. has very strict extradition rules. They have to -- Turkey has to provide actually facts. They can't just provide anecdotes or allegations. They have to provide actual evidence that he was involved in this coup, in directing it. So far, they have not done that. They have provided some sort of a formal paperwork that is the beginning of an extradition request, but they have not provided any actual evidence, according to U.S. officials that we've spoken to.
KUBESo the real question here is what happens next? How far does Erdogan go? As I said, he sees this man as an existential threat. Will he, as this now wounded leader, will he use Incirlik as leverage to get the -- to force the U.S. to extradite his opposition?
SESNOIs there great concern over that?
KUBENot really. So the reality is, yes, Incirlik is a strategic base. It provides -- I mean, frankly, not to mention the fact that NATO has tactical nuclear weapons based there, but they also -- there's U.S. air ops flying in and out of Iraq and Syria there. But the reality is the U.S. has other options if they take Incirlik away. I don't see the U.S. being pressured into extraditing someone without evidence that...
SESNOYochi, how is the European Union responding to all this? They're their neighbors.
DREAZENI mean, it's interesting because you remember when President Obama took office, one of his first stops was Istanbul. And in Istanbul, he said, we proudly and loudly support you, Turkey, joining the EU, to which Germany immediately said, no chance. And that's kind of where things have been since. So the EU, almost immediately after the purge started, said, you cannot do this. You have to stop. You have to use the rule of law, to which Erdogan basically said, you know, go to hell. Like, he made very clear he doesn't care what European leaders say and, frankly, doesn’t care what Americans say.
DREAZENAnd what you've seen also is in insinuation, this is more U.S. focused than Europe focused, but that the U.S. was involved. Not just by harboring Gulen, but that the U.S. government was, in some shape or form, involved in the coup. A newspaper that's very close to Erdogan had a whole column which -- reading it was startling, but it said basically, the U.S. government with its bloody proxies was trying to take down this democratically-elected leader. And when you think about that, this is a freely elected democratic country, NATO ally, U.S. nuclear weapons based in its soil, accusing the U.S. government of a coup. It's startling.
SESNOAre anti-American conspiracy theories then migrating to Turkey?
BOWMANWell, I mean, you know, there's been anti-American sentiment in Turkey for quite some time, I think whipped up by Erdogan. And Yochi's right that they've publically said that we think foreign governments were involved in this coup. And clearly, with Gulen in the United States, you would have to say that the United States is number one on that list. So we'll just have to see what happens. I mean, the EU is calling for a calmness in Turkey. You know, don't go overboard on this. Respect human rights and so forth. But there's no indication that Erdogan will do any of that.
SESNOBiggest central concern for the U.S. government right now?
KUBEThat Erdogan feels a sense of vindication after this, that there was a failed coup that was, you know, as Tom was explaining, it didn't have any of the real elements that were necessary for it to be successful. It didn't have military backing. It didn't have international backing. That Erdogan's sense of vindication and power leads him to not only continuing this crackdown and this, you know, state of emergency, but to imposing real human rights abuses. And that puts the international community, you know, namely, especially the U.S. in a very difficult position of having to look at this as an ally who's potentially carrying out dangerous human rights...
SESNOAnd some security implications in all of this.
KUBEAbsolutely. The reality is, the military is fractured. The government's in disarray. This causes a security problem for Turkey.
SESNOComing up, more of the Friday News Roundup on "The Diane Rehm Show." I'm Frank Sesno.
SESNOWelcome back. I'm Frank Sesno of the George Washington University, sitting in for Diane Rehm in our "Friday News International Roundup." We're talking with Yochi Dreazen, managing editor at Foreign Policy, author of "The Invisible Front: Love and Loss in an Era of Endless War," Courtney Kube, national security producer at NBC News, and Tom Bowman, Pentagon correspondent at NPR. And video of this hour, of the "Friday News Roundup" is streaming live on the web, at drshow.org. If listening to the show is not enough for you, you can watch it as well.
SESNOYou can also contact us and call in at 1-800-433-8850 or send an email question to email@example.com. Our website, drshow.org, as I mentioned. We've had, folks, a number of emails and questions from people. Here's one comment on the website. "The purge will sabotage Turkey's cooperation with the anti-ISIS coalition." That's a statement. I'll turn it into a question. Tom, will it?
BOWMANWell, we don't know yet. I mean, right now Erdogan, even while he's rounding up everybody in the country it seems like, he has said that he is a strong supporter of the anti-ISIL campaign and Incirlik will continue to remain open and they'll continue to work with the coalition.
SESNOCourtney, here's one I'll direct to you, from Jim in Florida, "Had the military coup been larger and more powerful, as a NATO ally, would the U.S. have been obliged to come to the defense of the Turkish government under Article V of the NATO treaty?"
KUBESo it's funny, I actually asked someone that question at the Pentagon yesterday. And they couldn't answer it. But when we were later talking about it here, you know, Turkey has had other coups since they became a member of NATO. So -- and NATO did not come to their defense. So I guess the answer is no.
SESNOAll right. Yochi, while we're talking NATO, let's turn a slight corner here 'cause it's come up in other contexts from a fellow by the name of Donald Trump. I think you probably have heard this. He had some comments on NATO in the limits of where he might respond if another country were attacked from the outside. What did he say? What's the significance of it?
DREAZENI mean, basically he said, Vladimir Putin, you've got a relatively free hand. I mean, he said that…
SESNOThat's not what he said.
DREAZENI know. Everything, I mean (unintelligible)…
SESNOI'll call you on that one.
DREAZENYeah, no. I know. Everything he said was framed in economic terms, everything. His view of the world is purely economic. That every interaction the U.S. has with allies, with enemies, is purely based on economic terms. Is it better, in his view, for us economically, is it worse, are we getting a fair shake, are we not. And when he was talking about NATO what he said was most NATO countries are not spending enough on defense, which is factually true.
DREAZENNATO mandates 2 percent of GDP on defense. Only five countries hit it. Several of those countries, additionally, are in eastern Europe, including Estonia. And he was saying NATO doesn't spend enough. And, therefore, when he was asked, if Russia were to invade, would you come to the defense as Article V mandates. He said if these countries have done enough, if they've spent enough, yes. The hint was, if they haven't, no.
DREAZENAnd what was interesting, the reason why I very flippantly and said he has a free hand, which you called me on, was since several of those countries do not spend it and many of the bigger of Europe also don't spend it, the implication is should Vladimir Putin roll across the borders of another sovereign NATO country. If they're not hitting 2 percent under President Donald Trump, Article V, which has been sacrosanct for decades, is no long sacrosanct.
SESNOSo how significant is that comment, Courtney?
KUBEWell, you have to -- it depends. 'Cause we just -- we never know how honest Donald Trump is being. Is this just part of a negotiation tactic? Is this like another "Art of the Deal" tactic, where he's saying that he'll threaten with an extreme position to get the allies to pay up, but in fact, he would actually come to their defense? I think an interesting question would be what would he do if Slovenia, where his wife is from, what would he do if they were threatened? They're a NATO ally, you know. Would the -- would President Trump come to their defense?
KUBEBut the reality is, you know, it's a dangerous comment because if -- it provides framework for NATO to become obsolete. The -- NATO is a trans-Atlantic security alliance, U.S. led trans-Atlantic security alliance that really functions on deterrence. And it has functioned for six or seven decades now and discouraged another world war in Europe, frankly, because of the deterrent element of it, which, you know, Yochi mentioned Article V, the attack on one is an attack on all. So the idea that it not only harms the value of the deterrence for the alliance, but it also hurts the U.S. as a leader of that alliance.
BOWMANAnd I think this issue of NATO clearly now is gonna be a huge part of the presidential campaign going into the fall. And there have been legitimate concerns about NATO, questions about NATO, the issues of you're not carrying your weight have been raised by Defense Secretary Bob Gates, Leon Panetta, Chuck Hagel, over the years. But no one has questioned the relevance of NATO like Donald Trump has.
BOWMANAnd I was talking with one of his advisers, actually, a few months ago. And he was talking about NATO as well. And we were talking about Article V. And he says, well, actually, if you read Article V, it's not automatic. It's not attack on one is attack on all and we just roll in. He said if you look at the close language of Article V, it says countries will do "what they deem necessary, including military action." So you could say, Estonia's been attacked. I don't think it's necessary to do anything, but send out a demarche to Vladimir Putin saying I think what you're doing is wrong.
SESNOAnd, Yochi Dreazen, this is coming, of course, at a time when Vladimir Putin has been flexing his military and other muscles along the way. So this is a signal that is clearly being received, but we don't know how, in Moscow.
DREAZENWe -- there's also the kind of broader narrative of Donald Trump's admiration, which he states publicly, repeatedly, which is aides also say, towards Vladimir Putin. You know, this question of how much of a strong man Donald Trump is is a legitimate one that can be talked about for a long time.
DREAZENBut the fact that he speaks warmly of other autocrats, whether it's Vladimir Putin, whether it's Erdogan in Turkey, is unquestioned. And so you -- this broader question, this broader narrative of exactly what does Donald Trump think of Vladimir Putin, how much is he willing to give to have a warm relationship with Russia. That's a huge key question. The most recent nominees for several of the jobs on the Joint Chiefs of Staff all said the biggest existential threat to the United States is Russia. That was almost a uniform view.
DREAZENDonald Trump's view of Russia is I can do business with them. Vladimir Putin is not this bad guy. We can sit across the table and come to a deal. That is emphatically not the view of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who look at Russia and say they directly threaten the existence of the United States.
SESNOTom, you work at the Pentagon.
BOWMANNo. That's absolutely right. Joe Dunford, in his confirmation hearing said that the biggest threat is Russia. I think Marine Commandant Bob Neller said the same thing. So, you know, the problem with Donald Trump is, you know, he'll make these statements, he'll make these broad generalizations and he'll say I can sit down in a room with anybody and work things out.
BOWMANWell, we don't know that. And we may never know that. So a lot of this is just posturing. We don't really have a sense of who he is outside of his pronouncements, outside of his generalizations. That's one of the problems that'll we have -- will -- that will -- obviously, will come up as the campaign progresses.
SESNOAnd the foreign policy is gonna stay a threat in this country.
SESNOAnd absolutely and magnify as some of these questions really get zeroed in on by the media and foreign policy experts and people from around the world. Let's turn to another place in the world now. This horrific attack last week in Nice, France. New developments there. Very interesting new developments that completely contradict the first instinct that people had when this man mowed down and killed 84 people in Nice. Yochi?
DREAZENI mean, the initial first narrative was here's a lone wolf who radicalized, rented a truck, carried out this horrible attack. May have been inspired in some loose way by ISIS, may have read the ISIS magazine, which explicitly said use trucks as ways of killing people. Now, there have been arrests, four people, excuse me, four men, one woman, who are suspected of being actively involved in helping to plan this.
DREAZENOne of them was arrested because there was imagery of him going back to the scene the next day to film it, to take photos and video of the aftermath. And so if there was a cell involved in planning this and it wasn't just him, that was a major change. 'Cause that makes it more similar to Brussels, more similar to Paris. So you have an idea of this European Security Service is not missing lone wolf, but missing an entire cell of people willing to carry out these horrific attacks.
SESNOTom, what are U.S. officials saying, as this picture emerges?
BOWMANWell, it's very troubling. As Yochi said, if you have cells in these various cities, only more of this will likely happen down the road. And, you know, Brett McGurk who's the -- in charge of the anti-ISIS fight at the State Department and also Ash Carter on NPR this week, said basically that a lot of this -- these attacks are being planned out of Raqqa, the de facto headquarters of the Islamic State.
BOWMANThe problem is it's gonna take months, many months according to people I talked with in the Pentagon, before they can take Raqqa back. And that's been one of the challenges with this whole strategy. You're working with local forces who are either insufficient in number or competence. And you're being their air force and some people say, will send in more troops, send in American troops to deal with the situation, just take Raqqa.
BOWMANAnd they're saying, no. We think our plan is better. We'll work with these local forces. We'll build up Syria and Arab fighters. We'll build up the Kurdish forces. And over time we'll be able to take Raqqa. But if you're sitting in Europe and you're hearing these stories about, you know, some sort of a cabal working to, you know, do these attacks, and you're hearing that these are being planned out of Raqqa, you should be very scared.
SESNOI think that's gonna be very interesting to watch how that plays in the campaign because I can see where that could easily become a key point between the two candidates.
SESNOMeanwhile, inside France there is intensifying pressure and political fallout from this attack. The president, who already is at rock-bottom popularity in France, has ordered an internal investigation. What's going on?
KUBESo there's been some criticism about the security services. And one specific allegation that there weren't enough police forces there the night of the attack and that they -- the place where the truck actually gained accessed to The Promenade, there was only one vehicle there blocking it. That there should have been some -- a way to block it so people could, you know, move freely and vehicles wouldn't get on.
KUBESo the French has ordered -- the French government has created an inquiry into this to look into the policing that night. I think that this really opens up a larger terrifying side of ISIS, in my opinion -- this attack. And that is we don't know. We don't know exactly what this cell was. Were they actually linked to ISIS or were they ISIS inspired?
KUBEWere these a group of disenfranchised people living in another country and they were fringe elements in the society and they had -- they were able to cloak themselves in this somewhat legitimacy of ISIS to carry out what may have just been an act of -- based on anger and unstable, you know, mental state. And this is something that I find more terrifying than anything else. The attack on the German train is another example of that.
SESNOThis last week with…
KUBEYeah, a 17-year-old, they don't -- it's unclear whether he's from Afghanistan or Pakistan at this point. But he was -- he came from Afghanistan or Pakistan last year. He was living seemingly without any trouble in Germany as an unaccompanied minor there. And then all of a sudden he went on a train with an ax and a knife and he started hacking at people. He injured four people.
BOWMANThat's a very going point. How many are being inspired by the ISIS state and how many are actually being planned from places like Raqqa, maybe Mosul, you know, more well-planned attacks, like we saw in Paris. Yes.
KUBEAnd since most of the attackers die, we really don't know. All we can do is say oh, there's a hand-painted flag in this kid's room. And so maybe he was an ISIS-inspired.
BOWMANAnd the problem all along has been the Islamic State, the caliphate is the center of gravity for them. And so the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Geo Dunford said, you have to take out the caliphate. But it's been two years. There's no since of really any movement on taking back Mosul or Raqqa, despite what we're hearing from these meetings they had at Andrews Air Force Base. It's gonna take a long time with this strategy.
SESNOYou know, Donald Trump and others have said declare war on ISIS and go in on it all the way. What is the response out of Europe? Europe is, you know, absorbing most of these attacks. Is there a growing sentiment to take more aggressive military action, Yochi, and really knock ISIS out decisively? Or is the debate there being mirrored, as Tom was explaining earlier, here in the U.S.? We'll we've gotta go using the local forces on the ground. This is not a place where we want our boots on the ground.
DREAZENThere's no government anywhere that wants to have large numbers of its own ground troops fighting ISIS. No one. No Middle Eastern country, no European country, certainly not the U.S.
DREAZENDonald Trump has been kind of squirrely when he said we should take the fight to them.
SESNOWhy don't they want to fight ISIS?
DREAZENBecause they've seen what happened in Iraq. They've seen what happened in Afghanistan. They've seen what happens when you send in tens of thousands of Western troops to a country to wage -- to do counterinsurgency against a well-trained force (unintelligible).
SESNOAnd yet Secretary Kerry said -- and I'm quoting here, ISIS is "on the run in Syria and Iraq."
KUBENo. They -- ISIS has lost a significant amount of territory in Iraq. And they've lost some in Syria, but they are not militarily on the run. They have suffered some tactical, some strategic losses. There was one that didn't get a lot of attention, the Qayyarah Airfield near Mosul recently. That was -- that will become a key logistics hub for the U.S. in the fight against Mosul. But the reality is the -- defeating Iraq, ISIS in Iraq and Syria is just the beginning. That's not going to stop these attacks in Europe and in the West.
SESNOI'm Frank Sesno and you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." If you'd like to join us call 1-800-433-8850 or send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Find us on Facebook, send us a tweet. If you want to watch the video of this hour, you can do that by joining us at drshow.org on the web. Let me go to the calls then and go to Mohammad from Indianapolis, Ind. Mohammad, hi.
MOHAMMADHi. Quick question, is there any way you guys can draw a parallel between the coup that happened in Egypt and the coup that happened in, you know, the attempted coup in Turkey? Now, we all know at the end of that coup Mr. Sisi came into power and sooner or later he became legitimate over there. And then he started his purge. Now, while the coup in Turkey failed, wouldn't it actually legitimize their purge and anybody who was sympathetic to that coup should basically be prosecuted?
SESNOOkay. Let me ask Yochi to chime in on that.
DREAZENIt's a great question. I mean, there is one key difference between what happened in the two. When the coup in Egypt started, the U.S. did not call it a coup. Actually, Secretary Kerry referred to it as the generals restoring democracy, which was an interesting phrase. And the U.S. was criticized for not calling it a coup, when it very clearly was.
DREAZENHere, by day one, President Obama said this was a coup. We stand with the elected Turkish government. Even though the U.S. hates this elected Turkish government and has issues with him for quite some time. So there are similarities, certainly. But that difference is an absolutely key one. Turkey, we see it as a coup. Egypt we didn't.
SESNOOn the same subject of Turkey, Germania is on the phone from Washington, D.C. Go ahead.
GERMANIAThank you, sir. My question is always something is happened, after that we came on different kind of media all talk line. We surprised why this thing has happened. But our foreign policy, why it didn't predict, why it didn't study simply day to day, something it comes unknown day.
SESNOWhy could we not have predicted the Erdogan crackdown preceded by a coup, Tom?
BOWMANWell, there was a lot of, you know, concern with Erdogan and where he was going, more authoritarian rule in his country. I'm sure some of the NATO generals, some of the Americans probably were picking up some concerns from their counterparts over there. But what the U.S. is saying is they had no advance warning of anything like this happening. And I talked to a few people about that.
BOWMANAnd they said, well, you have to understand the Turkish military intelligence services are very compartmentalized. They're a little fiefdoms. So it's not all that surprising that someone didn't know. But clearly it is, I think, kind of surprising that no one got wind of any of this happening.
SESNOAnd Charlie joins us from Ann Arbor, Mich. Hi, Charlie. Briefly, if you would.
CHARLIEYes, sir. About Turkey. I read, you know, the Ataturk recognized the difficulty in that part of the world of taking on the mullahs on their power. That's why he required the army to maintain a secular state. And twice when Erdogan first came out of hiding, he raised his forefinger and he emphasized that this is -- Turkey is a nation of one faith. And I've never seen anymore references to that since.
CHARLIEThe other point being that he allowed ISIS recruits and weapons to cross that (unintelligible) 600-mile border for years before any of the Kurds (unintelligible) to go in and then he started bombing. And according to most of the Kurds I know, he was bombing them and not before he turned on ISIS.
SESNOOkay. Yochi, let me let you answer that. And first on the theocracy angle.
DREAZENI mean, Turkey has been by its constitution, a secular state. President Erdogan, first when he was prime minister, then when he became president and made the presidency all powerful, he has steadily made it more and more Islamist. That was what this coup, in some ways, was about and what operating the sledgehammer to the degree that there was an attempt was to bring Turkey back to what it constitutionally is supposed to be, which is secular.
DREAZENYou know, to the second point the caller is exactly right. The U.S. concern has been the border. And the U.S. concern has been him bombing Kurds and not bombing ISIS. They -- that's exactly why the U.S. has looked to President Erdogan with some alarm.
SESNOComing up, and when we return, more on what has taken place in this turbulent world over the last several weeks. And more of your calls and questions for our panel as the "Friday News Roundup" continues. You're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." I'm Frank Sesno.
SESNOWelcome back. I'm Frank Sesno of the George Washington University, sitting in for Diane Rehm today on the Friday news international round-up. Our guests, Yochi Dreazen, managing editor at Foreign Policy, Courtney Kube, national security producer at NBC News, and Tom Bowman, the esteemed Pentagon correspondent at NPR. And your calls and comments are most welcome. Please contact us at 1-800-433-8850 or through the Web and our website at email@example.com.
SESNOAnd Courtney Kube, let's go to another place for a few minutes, and let's go to the United Kingdom. Britain's new prime minister, Theresa May, met with European leaders over Brexit. What are they talking about?
DREAZENSo she met first with her German counterpart, Angela Merkel, and this was the more probably influential of the two meetings. She also met with Francois Hollande from France. It was somewhat surprising because Theresa May obviously went in there wanting breathing room for Britain. She said that she was not going to trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which starts a two-year time clock for Britain to actually leave the EU, that she won't trigger that until sometime next year.
DREAZENOther allies, France included, have said no, we need to do this quickly, we need -- any kind of delay has a potential for trouble and is a danger.
SESNOAnd builds uncertainty was one of the comments that the French president made.
DREAZENPrecisely, so Angela Merkel came out and said while we do want some sort of a timelines, we are willing to give them some time and some space and that -- and it's absolutely understandable that the British need some time, and let's not be hasty about this. So it was a good first meeting for her, for Theresa May. This was her first meeting as prime minister with another counterpart, with a foreign counterpart. It seemed to go well, they seemed to get along well, and they agreed on this, giving the British more time, more breathing space.
SESNOYochi, Theresa May, the new prime minister, is trying to thread a very interesting needle. It's like we're getting divorced, but I still want you to come over for the holidays, you know, and she's saying things along those lines to her European counterparts. What's that sounding like?
DREAZENWhat she's saying is this in both of our interests to try to maintain a relationship. On trade, we are vital to you, you are vital to us. On finance, we are vital to you, you are vital to us, on some defense issues, on some foreign policy issues. Don't sever this. It would be bad for your economy, it would be bad for our economy. I mean that's fundamentally her argument, that the two sides simply cannot make this a complete break.
DREAZENWhat we're going to hear from Europe in some ways is you can't cherry-pick, you can't simply say we, Britain, want and will accept only all the benefits economically, but we don't want any of the other stuff, we don't want free migration, we don't want passport-free travel, and that's where the tension's going to be. Whenever Article 50 is invoked, that's where the tension's going to be.
SESNOWhere is this going?
KUBEWell so far with France, you know, as we said, Francois Hollande said that uncertainty is a danger and that there needs to be some sort of a timeline attached to this. It seems like France will give the British time, as well, that they're going to be okay with them not invoking the Article 50 until next year. But I think the French and the Germans both want this to look like a difficult process for the British because they want to discourage any other allies from thinking about leaving the EU.
KUBEFrankly France wants to discourage its own country from any kind of uprising to try and leave the EU.
SESNOAnother major issue that we've been, excuse me, tracking throughout the week is Russian track and field and the Olympics. Tom Bowman.
BOWMANThat's right, the ant-doping agency rejected a Russian appeal. So it looks like their track and field athletes will not be going to the Olympics. This is a really bizarre case. You know, it came out of the Sochi Olympics, where they looked at some of the samples from the athletes and found that they had been tampered with, and the Russian anti-doping guy said he looked the other way while some Russian operative actually went into the, you know, storage area and tampered with the samples.
BOWMANSo it's really a crazy story. As far as where does it go from here, do they take out the whole team? I think that's something they're looking at, as well, the IOC.
SESNOYochi, how big an irritant does this become between Russia and the West? Because the people I've heard commenting, and read, from Russia, are making it a sort of national insult, not just about the sports team by any means, and they're certainly not accepting the results of these findings.
DREAZENRight, I mean, and this Sunday is a pivotal day. This Sunday is when the decision will come down about whether it is all of the Russian sports teams, across everything that might have been in the Olympics, or just track and field. And if the decision is Russia is banned, full stop, you will hear Vladimir Putin go publicly and say this is part of the Western, U.S.-dominated war against Russia, they're scared of us, they don't like Russia being dominant on the world stage, they will make it a nationalist issue.
DREAZENYou're hearing some of that now, but if it happens that they are just completely banned, which is a real possibility, this will be, for Vladimir Putin, another way for him to say to his people, as a way of building his own popularity, which is already high, there is a Western conspiracy against us, I've warned you about it for years, it's NATO, it's the U.S., it's this, and now look what they've done, now they've banned us from Rio.
BOWMANI agree 100 percent. I think, you know, he's such an egotist, and his whole persona is one of this tough guy riding horseback, you know, bare-chested. The Olympics, when they had them in Sochi, was such a big deal for him, such a -- you know, almost like a coming-out party for Putin, that this, I think he'll take this very, very hard.
SESNOAnd there's been some talk that he would just go off and march on his own and start a separatist Olympics.
DREAZENRight, I mean, they've talked about it. Sort of colloquially they've joked about it as the Soviet Games, but, you know, it's remarkable. I mean, just -- when you think about where we are now just in the world that it's sort of back now to, like, the '70s and '80s. It's a different issue, obviously, it's not Russia invading another country, but again, it's sort of Russia being banned from the Olympics.
DREAZENBut also some of these athletes can go to the games as neutral, as I understand, too. So you could see them, if they do well, put the flag around them and say, see, even though they tried to push us out, so-and-so won the pole vaulting or whatever.
SESNOWell, if it's the Soviet Games, we can have the hammer and sickle toss or something and create a new event just for old times' sake. Let's go back to the phones now and some issues that people would like to bring up. Conner joins us from Toledo, Ohio. Hi Conner.
CONNERHello, how are you gentlemen doing?
SESNOJust great, thanks for calling, and thanks for your patience.
CONNERCertainly. Well, my question went back to a bit of a previous subject regarding ISIS with kind of Donald Trump's thoughts on it. And being a former Marine and Iraq veteran, I know that it would take a considerable amount of resources and a long occupation to defeat them. And I was wondering if the analysts could kind of give everyone an idea, both time wise and resource wise, of what it would take and how long we would have to occupy Iraq and that area to be successful against ISIS.
SESNOOkay, we'll take your question, Conner, and thank you for your service. Tom Bowman.
BOWMANWell, how long has the U.S. been in Afghanistan and Iraq to date? I think that's clearly an indication of how long this would take. It's interesting, this former Marine Conner, Commandant of the Marine Corps Bob Neller said, you know, we could bang ISIS like a tent peg, I think he said at one point, but he said, we could go over there and take them, then what. That's the concern here, that you could -- and there has been some serious talk in the Pentagon by outside people about sending a brigade of U.S. troops to Raqqa to take the air field, push into Raqqa and then from there down the river valley into Iraq.
BOWMANThe Pentagon looked at that, and some people were in favor of it, but then the question is, okay, you do that, you take out ISIS, when do you leave, especially when you head into the Sunni areas, and they all say why don't you stay and start another Sons of Iraq Program for us.
KUBEISIS has shown to be resilient. They have shown that they will reconstitute themselves. So taking them out in Iraq and Syria, which would take thousands of U.S. troops, should the U.S. decide to do it, and I think it would take years, frankly, that wouldn't -- that would just be the beginning. They have shown that they are a decentralized organization that if they -- if they are forced to go underground, which is what I think is what we would actually see in Iraq and Syria, as opposed to actually taking out every single ISIS fighter, they would just go underground, they would reconstitute.
KUBEWe saw it in Mosul. We saw it in Iraq with al-Qaeda in Iraq. They came back. They came back as ISIS. So the notion that this decentralized group is going to be anything but a very dangerous entity to the world for decades is crazy.
BOWMANAnd one other thing, you know, everyone's talking about what more can be done, interesting in an op-ed piece recently by Michele Flournoy, who could be the next secretary of defense should Hillary Clinton get the White House, she's calling for, you know, a tougher policy, more airstrikes, more support to rebel fighters, which I think is significant because I think if Hillary Clinton is the next president, you could see an even tougher policy against ISIS than you're seeing now.
SESNOYochi, while we are on the subject of the global threat from ISIS and others, we were talking a moment ago about the Olympics. They just rounded up 10 people in Brazil who they said may have posed a terror threat. What was that all about, and how serious was it?
DREAZENI mean, the arrests right now suggest that they were kind of in an early stage. they're not saying that these were a specific plan, they're not saying that this was something that they found huge caches of weapons. That said, the Olympics are an obvious target. They were an obvious target during Sochi, they were an obvious target pre-Sochi, they'll be an obvious target well into the future.
DREAZENI mean, one point, I think Courtney is exactly right. ISIS has morphed into an idea. The Islamic State for a long time was a tangible thing in a tangible place. It had territory, it thought of itself as a caliphate, a physical caliphate. It's now an idea, and you cannot defeat an idea. We saw that with al-Qaeda, we've seen that with other militant groups, even pre-Islamist terror groups. If it's an idea that inspires others, that cannot be defeated.
SESNOThis last week in Pakistan, fallout continues over an honor killing there of a social media celebrity. Remind us who she was and what happened, Courtney.
KUBEHer name was Qandeel Baloch, and she was the first social media star in Pakistan. About a year ago, she started posted videos and selfies of herself in provocative, for that area, clothing and saying somewhat provocative things, very tame by Western standards of course. But of course the conservative views of women in Pakistan, it was, you know, it shook the waters there a bit.
KUBEAnd about a week ago, her parents came into her room, her mother came into her room, and found her strangled to death, and her brother several days later admitted that he did it. He said that he did it because she had besmudged the honor of his family, and...
SESNOYochi, Pakistan authorities decided to press charges. Why and to what effect?
DREAZENI mean, that will be interesting to see if he is convicted and, if so, if he gets a prison sentence. There have been previous convictions that were immediately overturned. It's also interesting -- some of the previous honor killings, and this, as a parent I just find this unimaginably horrific, the mothers were involved. And in two previous cases, the daughters were burned alive by their mothers and by their siblings. And just as a parent I just find that impossible to conceive.
SESNOOne of the interesting things with the Pakistani government deciding to press charges, that makes it legally impossible for the family to officially or formally forgive, isn't that right?
KUBEThat's right, there's this loophole in Pakistani law where -- they call it the family loophole, actually, where a family can -- an honor killing is considered a crime against a family. So if the family forgives the murderer, the person who carried it out, then there's no sentence, there's no crime. By the Pakistani government actually stepping and becoming the complainant, the family no longer is who the crime was against, and that closes that loophole.
KUBEThe one bright spot, if you can find a bright spot in this whole thing, is this has brought more international attention to this, the idea of honor killings, and there's the potential for some minor legislation in Pakistan to pass that would actually fully close that family loophole.
SESNOThis is not just a problem in Pakistan. How extensive and pervasive is this?
DREAZENI mean, you see it in Egypt, you see it in parts of Africa, you see it in Libya.
DREAZENIn India. And this is something that is not only -- it's not limited just to the Muslim world, it's not limited just to the Arab world. It is a huge problem, and it's something that doesn't get attention.
SESNOIs the tide turning with attention like this?
KUBENo. I mean, you don't see -- look at Afghanistan. There was a time, you know, where the U.S. -- when the war there was really raging where they were saying, oh, more girls are in school, and women are getting their rights. We're seeing a degradation of that since -- as the US...
BOWMANThat's absolutely correct, especially out in the countryside. In the cities it's a little more cosmopolitan, but it's a very conservative, very tribal society, and you'll see things like this happening there. And stories like this will have absolutely no impact.
SESNOThis highlights, doesn't it, Yochi, the incredible disconnect between some of the rhetoric when the West wants to intervene and make change, how deeply embedded elements of culture are, how slow this change actually takes place.
DREAZENYeah, I completely agree. I mean, that's something that you've heard Donald Trump saying, you to a degree heard Hillary Clinton say it, that we cannot go in and just impose the government we want. We cannot go in and impose the value system we want. I think that's kind of a core part of Donald Trump's appeal, interesting. He's running as an isolationist, and part of his argument is we have tried to do this and failed, we shouldn't do it again.
SESNOI'm Frank Sesno, and you're listening to the Diane Rehm Show on our Friday news round-up, trying to get our brain around a very complicated world. I want to go to the phones here, and we've got Jackson joining us from Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Go ahead, Jackson, briefly, if you would.
JACKSONSure, thanks for taking my call. I just wanted to go back. A few minutes ago one of your analysts pointed out that the -- what happened in Egypt was characterized one way by Secretary Kerry versus what happened in Turkey. And I think it's something of an apples and oranges comparison, largely because it's the provision of military assistance by the United States to Egypt and military sales, as well.
JACKSONAnd I think the implications for characterizing what happened there as a coup would have far-reaching implications in Sinai and elsewhere, and I think it doesn't necessarily have the same in Turkey.
SESNOThanks, Jackson, Yochi?
DREAZENIt's a great question, and he's exactly right. Under U.S. law, if we characterize it as a coup, U.S. aid would have to stop. So he's exactly right that some of the money given to them, some of the weapon sales, would legally have to stop if it was called a coup.
SESNOAnd let me go to Nadia in Miami, Florida. Hi Nadia.
NADIAHi, thanks for taking my call. I have to just preface this by saying I'm not a Trump supporter. However, after last night's speech I have to admit he hit many of the great points, first of all that the U.S. needs to abandon nation-building moving forward and regime change. I'm 100 percent behind that. But more refreshing is the fact that he is questioning the relevance of NATO for the United States. I do believe, and I've said it for years, I think that has outlived its purpose, and it's refreshing to hear somebody actually address this.
NADIARight now we have Vladimir Putin in Russia, and actually it would be a much safer world, I think, if there were two major world powers working together instead of what's happening. Hegemony is not going to help the United States or the world. We've already tried that. That's not working. It's putting our nation at risk, financially, militarily, each and every other way. I think that working with Russia, now that Putin is in office and that we understand him, and while he's still in power still working with him, him on his side of the world, us on our side, try to negotiate something so that it can be a more peaceful type of environment in the world because right now us trying to call the shots all the time and, you know, (unintelligible) everywhere, it's working against us, and...
SESNOOkay, Nadia, let me take -- let me take your point and turn it to the panel specifically on the relevance of NATO because that's what this boils down to. Courtney, why don't you start us off.
KUBEI think that Nadia's point presupposes that any -- any relationship with NATO or NATO alliance means that you can't work with Russia, that -- and that's actually not the case. It's a security alliance that's meant as a deterrent factor, but you also have to keep in mind that just because the U.S. is a part of NATO doesn't mean -- and these other countries are part of NATO doesn't mean they can't work with Russia. Also keep in mind that the last time and only time Article 5, which we've all been talking here, was ever imposed was on 9/11, when other NATO nations came to the defense of the United States within the U.S. borders.
BOWMANAll that being said, Trump has raised an issue that others have raised, as well, that what is the relevance of NATO now that the Soviet Union has been gone for, what, 25 years or so. What -- do you still need a NATO, and do you need a NATO with 28 countries, some of whom are closer to the Black Sea than they are to the Atlantic, and, you know, are they all on the same page.
SESNOWe have about a minute and a half remaining. I'd like to ask each of you to think now from last week to next week. Last week was the Republican convention, next week will be the Democratic convention. Thinking foreign policy, thinking of some of these issues, stories, challenges that we've been talking about in this last hour, what do you expect to hear? Where are the hot spots? Are there surprises?
DREAZENI think what'll be the big surprise is you will hear a Democrat come at a Republican from the right. You'll hear Hillary say we have to do more military and not less, we have to do more for NATO, not less, we have to do more to stand up to Putin and to China and not less. And that'll be just fascinating because that will flip 50 years of American politics on its head. To me that'll be the takeaway.
KUBEI absolutely agree. I think we're going to see a Hillary Clinton in my -- who is going to be more hawkish than the Donald Trump that we just saw. I also think that next week there's the potential for more talk about ISIS affiliates and growth around the world, and I think that will have to be a part of Hillary Clinton's campaign speech, her convention speech, dealing with that.
SESNOTom Bowman, what do you expect?
BOWMANSince I agree with both of them, and we have little time, that's it.
SESNOOh, you have enough. I'm not going to let you get off quite that easily.
BOWMANI think that's exactly right that she will be coming from the right here, you know, much more -- stronger on staying with NATO, probably going after ISIS and being much harder against ISIS. And I think, you know, if she chooses let's say a Tim Kaine for vice president, clearly has a lot of experience in the Armed Services Committee, those are things to watch, the national security part of this.
SESNOTom Bowman, Courtney Kube and Yochi Dreazen, thank you all very much for a fascinating conversation on the Friday news roundup.
SESNOHave a great weekend, a great Friday. I'm Frank Sesno, you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show."
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