Early August 18, a car bomb blew up at police headquarters in the Turkish city of Elazig, killing five people (including three police) and injuring more than 200 people. The force of the blast left the building largely in ruins and turned nearby vehicles into blackened, mangled wrecks.

Early August 18, a car bomb blew up at police headquarters in the Turkish city of Elazig, killing five people (including three police) and injuring more than 200 people. The force of the blast left the building largely in ruins and turned nearby vehicles into blackened, mangled wrecks.

The State Department concedes a $400 million payment to Iran was delayed to add “leverage” for the release of three U.S. prisoners. Russia launches airstrikes on the Islamic State in Syria from a base in Iran. Officials investigate Donald Trump’s campaign chairman for financial ties to a pro-Russia party. The UN says it played a role in Haiti’s cholera epidemic. And Brazilian police accuse U.S. Olympic swimmers of fabricating a story about being robbed at gunpoint during the Rio games. A panel of journalists joins Diane for analysis of the week’s top international news stories.

Guests

  • Yochi Dreazen Managing editor, Foreign Policy; author, "The Invisible Front"
  • Nancy Youssef Senior defense and national security correspondent, The Daily Beast
  • Shawn Donnan World trade editor, covering international economics for Financial Times

Transcript

  • 11:06:53

    MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. The U.S. admits it delayed a $400 million payment to Iran as leverage during a prisoner release. And a photograph of an injured child goes viral and draws attention to the plight of civilians in Aleppo, Syria. Here for the Friday International News Roundup, Yochi Dreazen of Foreign Policy, Nancy Youssef of The Daily Beast and Shawn Donnan of the Financial Times.

  • 11:07:27

    MS. DIANE REHMThroughout the hour, we'll welcome your calls, comments. Give us a call at 800-433-8850. Send an email to drshow@wamu.org. Follow us on Facebook or send us a tweet. Well, welcome to all of you.

  • 11:07:45

    MR. YOCHI DREAZENThanks, Diane.

  • 11:07:46

    MS. NANCY YOUSSEFHi, Diane.

  • 11:07:46

    MR. SHAWN DONNANThanks for having us.

  • 11:07:47

    REHMYochi Dreazen, state department's statement that the money was used as leverage, fine line between leverage and ransom. How do you see it?

  • 11:08:03

    DREAZENIt's a fine line and, you know, the initial explanation they gave, it always rung false to me and I think to a lot of our colleagues. And I think that's part of the reason why the story blew up. You know, if you think back, the initial explanation was the U.S. effectively owed Iran this money. It had to pay Iran this money and wink, wink, nod, nod, it was sort of a coincidence that the money happened to arrive there on -- pallets of cash on the same day that these three of the five Iranians -- Americans, excuse me, held by Iran were released.

  • 11:08:31

    DREAZENSo the idea that this was pure coincidence always seemed sort of a laughable thing to try to spin. They're finally edging closer to what I think most reasonable people would say was a ransom. You know, this White House has struggled with how to fund ransom before. They've said for years that they would never pay a ransom and then they released five Guantanamo Bay prisoners to get back an American soldier. By most definitions people would say that if you pay something to someone to get someone back who'd been kidnapped, that's a ransom.

  • 11:08:57

    DREAZENSo they've struggled with this in the past and they're going to struggle with this here. And the fallout was immediate. There were calls on the Hill for hearings. They are being criticized, as you might imagine, from Republicans up and down in the Senate and the House and it's a big gaffe. It's a big mistake.

  • 11:09:10

    REHMNancy.

  • 11:09:11

    YOUSSEFWell, I think that's correct now. This all came out in a strange way, really, at the podium at the state department after they had been denying that there was any ransom or anything close to that. John Kirby, the state department spokesman, said that this was paid forward to retain maximum leverage and the U.S. position was that this was money owed, this was part of a payment, that this was essentially Iranian money.

  • 11:09:37

    YOUSSEFI think what's interesting is President Obama was at the Pentagon just a few weeks ago and was really indignant at the idea that the U.S. paid this as part of a way to get the hostages back. And so the U.S. has drawn this fine line. It's not ransom in the traditional sense. It was maximizing leverage. The president's explanation was that this all came together because this was the first time given that the U.S. and Iran didn't have a relationship, that everybody was sitting at the same table and could negotiate essentially multiple issues at the same time.

  • 11:10:08

    REHMShawn.

  • 11:10:09

    DONNANI think the point of this story is really one of language and just of tangled language and tangled explanations, but it is worth remembering that when they say that this was Iranian money that was going back to Iran...

  • 11:10:21

    REHMThat's true.

  • 11:10:21

    DONNAN...that's absolutely true and that this is money from a 1970s arms deal that the Shah made for arms that were never delivered and that the U.S. has held every since. So, you know, they do have the facts on their side in that one point, but my god, what an awful mess in terms of trying to explain it all.

  • 11:10:43

    REHMAnd do you think we're gonna see more kidnappings, more hostage taking as a result of this, whether it was leverage, whether it was ransom, whatever you want to call it?

  • 11:10:59

    DREAZENYeah, I mean, that's always been the fear. And there's a colleague, a journalist, some of us know that Austin Tice who's been missing now in Syria for several years -- I think the sad reality is that in the current battlefield in which U.S. aide workers, journalists, soldiers might possibly kidnapped, the odds of them being held alive long enough to pay ransom are not very high. You know, the case of these Americans held by Iran was interesting in the sense that Iran, for all of its many, many flaws, is a sovereign country.

  • 11:11:25

    DREAZENIndirectly and directly, the U.S. has communication with that country so there was a way to communicate. When you have Americans who are held by the Islamic State, by any of the offshoots of the Islamic State, if they're capture, the odds of their being -- I'm not saying this, obviously. This is a grim reality. But the odds of them being kept alive long enough to even try to negotiate let alone to think, well, you can negotiate over are not high.

  • 11:11:43

    REHMThere's a tweet from Jeffrey who says, how did the president make the $1.3 billion interest payment without a congressional appropriation? Would he need that?

  • 11:12:01

    DREAZENHe would not. I mean, this was money that was held by the Treasury department and that's an executive branch agency so no, he would not.

  • 11:12:07

    REHMAll right. Let's move on. There's a heart wrenching photograph of an injured boy who was pulled from the rubble in Aleppo after a bombing occurred. I don't think I shall ever, every get that boy's image and another image of the little boy found drowned out of my head.

  • 11:12:40

    YOUSSEFHis name was Omran Daqneesh. He was a five-year-old who was in Aleppo, which has been just -- I don't -- you know, a lot of us at this table are war correspondents and have seen war in a very intimate way and what's happened in Aleppo is something that I don't think any of us have ever seen. And so you've had a ramp-up of strikes in Aleppo this week. Some of it has been because Russia has been able to do closer strikes from a base nearby in Iran. Part of it has been an increased Syrian offensive and so the reality of is, on average, about 12 children are treated every day in hospitals in Syria.

  • 11:13:17

    YOUSSEFThat's a statistic. And yet, it was the image of this boy being pulled out of the rubble covered in gray dust, staring blankly as he was sitting in a chair too big for him in an ambulance. He reaches for his face, near his eye, sees the blood, wipes it on the chair. And I think, for a lot of people, it was an image of a failure by the international community that, for years and years, you can have these kinds of atrocities happening that they're happening on an increased rate in Aleppo, that we're hearing about food shortages and just a humanitarian crisis in Aleppo and yet the international community has been unable to stop it.

  • 11:13:56

    YOUSSEFI think there was sort of an every child in that -- In Omran's face. There was concern for his family who have survived the strike on that house, but the house itself has been destroyed. And I think for journalists, it was interesting, because so many of my colleagues who go and cover the conflict in Syria, this is not an unusual image, but somehow -- sometimes there's just that image that just resonates with the international community and this week, that happened.

  • 11:14:20

    REHMAnd you remember during Vietnam, the children running away in flames...

  • 11:14:24

    DONNANYeah, the burning girl.

  • 11:14:25

    REHM...screaming. Will this photograph make a difference?

  • 11:14:33

    DONNANWell, the past few years tell us no, unfortunately, and that is the pressing thing about the conflict in Syria. We have seen the Russians in the last 48 hours call for a 48-hour ceasefire in Aleppo. The UN pushing for a ceasefire. Maybe we might see a very short ceasefire that might allow some humanitarian help. But really, this is, as Nancy says, it's a story of the international community really standing by as this has happened.

  • 11:15:04

    DREAZENAnd I think you're reference, unfortunately, to the photo of Aylan Kurdi, the boy who drowned on the shores trying to get to Europe, I mean, that horrified me, in part, because in that photo, you see him wearing shoes and you realize that his mother dressed him that morning carefully and this boy died. And not much changed. I mean, Germany -- it's refugee policy is the most generous in Europe, but the hatred of refugees is higher now than it was then.

  • 11:15:28

    DREAZENThe return of borders, the use of force by countries like Hungary against those trying to cross in who are desperately seeking help. There are still migrants drowning almost every day trying to cross the sea, drowning the way that he did. Aleppo has been a catastrophe. And in Aleppo, you had a catastrophe when Syria was bombing it and now you have more of a catastrophe when Russia is bombing it. Both countries using barrel bombs.

  • 11:15:47

    DREAZENBoth countries using napalm. So when you referenced the burning girl from Vietnam, you have, again, people burning from the use of napalm that is continuing unabated. The previous attempt was Russia there would be a three-hour ceasefire every day, which was laughable, made fun of immediately and sort of dismissed by the UN. Now, they're saying maybe it's 48 hour ceasefire. There is nothing Russia has done or said, literally nothing, in their time in Syria that makes you think there's going to be any truth to this ceasefire any more than there was to the previous promises they've made to withdraw, to have a three hour ceasefire and on and on.

  • 11:16:18

    YOUSSEFOne of the frustrating things tactically is what you're seeing is this onslaught of airstrikes by the Russians, by the Syrians to reclaim ground in Aleppo and they are able to take it back from rebels, but only for a short period of time, that the Syrian ground forces are not able to hold that territory. And so what you have is repeat of this fight over and over and over again. And I think that's just adding to the frustration. One of the interesting things that came out today from the Syrian network of human rights is that they attributed more deaths to the Russian airstrikes in Syria than to ISIS.

  • 11:16:49

    YOUSSEF2700 deaths they attributed to the Russians compared to 2686 to ISIS. And so it also kind of -- if those statistics are true and that's just one organization, but regardless, that we're now having a question about this war that intended, in part, for the U.S. side at least, to stop the spread of ISIS is actually leading to more deaths than the terror group that the U.S. was targeting, I think, is especially troubling. And, again, tactically, we're not seeing a change.

  • 11:17:16

    YOUSSEFWe're seeing ground forces that are able to hold territory for a very small period of time. They lose it again, the strikes begin again.

  • 11:17:22

    REHMSo with this horrific devastation, will nothing change until the whole city is completely destroyed?

  • 11:17:37

    DREAZENOne thing that we've seen is that they've basically fought each other to a stalemate. The rebels can't break the siege. Assad can't fully retake their half of the city and when there's a stalemate, both sides suffer and the fighting goes on.

  • 11:17:48

    REHMYochi Dreazen, managing editor of Foreign Policy and author of "The Invisible Front." Short break, we'll be right back.

  • 11:20:02

    REHMAnd welcome back. There are lots of questions regarding that issue of the money paid and the hostages returned. Let's go first to Mark in Orlean, Va. You're on the air.

  • 11:20:19

    MARKGood morning. I was really disturbed by the journalist who opened your program with the use -- the sloppy use of the term ransom. This was not, you know, that's a form of extortion. And it's entirely different for something like leverage, where the money is something that is owed to the party. It's not being paid so the party won't do harm, as is the case with the ransom. And to equate the two as equivalent is just simply incorrect use of both terms. I really wish that people would try to be more careful.

  • 11:20:57

    REHMYochi.

  • 11:20:58

    DREAZENYeah. I mean, it's a fair point of distinction and of difference. And I think that that's in some ways the argument the White House is trying to make. They are saying that, you know, you could use leverage. It's different than paying a ransom. I think, at the end of the day, if you return something someone else wants to get back something you want, functionally you are paying a ransom.

  • 11:21:14

    REHMGo ahead, Shawn.

  • 11:21:15

    DONNANAnd there is also the point that the Iranians have called this ransom.

  • 11:21:18

    REHMYes. All right. Let's to go Earl in San Antonio, Texas. You're on the air.

  • 11:21:26

    EARLThank you for taking my call.

  • 11:21:27

    REHMSure.

  • 11:21:28

    EARLIsn't my question that there's enough of a legal footprint on how this money was owed, to make it kind of, yes, another next-level business deal to get this to work?

  • 11:21:45

    REHMYochi.

  • 11:21:47

    DREAZENThe money is owed. I'm not entirely sure what the next-level business deal would be, unless the argument be -- and this is fair -- we are trying to sell -- Boeing and Lockheed are trying to sell huge amounts of civilian airliners to Iran. Maybe the money could be used as part of that. But I otherwise don't fully understand the connection.

  • 11:22:02

    REHMAll right. And here's a tweet from Christina, who says, I'm confused. Are we and Russia not fighting on the same side? I presume she's talking about Syria, Shawn.

  • 11:22:21

    DONNANWell, this is the murky geopolitics that we're looking at right now around Syria. And this week, we saw this astonishing even where Russia used Iranian bases to bomb sites in Syria. That's the first time that anyone knows of that Iran has allowed a foreign power to use its bases to bomb another country, or to mount an attack on another country.

  • 11:22:43

    REHMBut isn't there also the question that Russia was initially after the revels and now is bombing ISIS.

  • 11:22:55

    YOUSSEFSo when Russia entered on September 30 of last year, they argued that they were -- they had a strategic interest in Russia, that they were going to go after the Islamic State and al-Nusra, because they saw them as a threat to their own sovereignty, given that they've had Russians go in and out of Syria. And since then, they'll hit ISIS and another jihadist elements and then hit rebels. Because the reality is their interests and Iran's interests -- and I think it's one of the reasons you're seeing this agreement that happened this week -- is that Assad stay in power. They have a strategic interest in doing so. Syria has historically been Russia's sort of partner in the Middle East.

  • 11:23:31

    YOUSSEFAnd so the reason I think the person who put out the tweet is so confused is at the same time you have John Kerry talking about negotiating with the Russians and trying to work out some deal. You see the United States constantly trying to come up with a way that there can be some deal where we'll agree to hit Nusra, even though those Nusra forces have been some of the strongest on behalf of the rebels. So it's a very valid reason to be confused because we actually, arguably have two different interests in Syria, for Russia and Iran on one side and the U.S. and the Western powers on the other. And yet, the U.S. has repeatedly, led by the Secretary of State, talked about ways to somehow come up with a joint agreement.

  • 11:24:11

    DREAZENYou know, it was a great question. And you can take it...

  • 11:24:13

    REHMAbsolutely.

  • 11:24:14

    DREAZEN...I'm going to take it one step further. Because the other person who's fighting alongside the Russians and the Iranians, on behalf in some ways of Assad, is the United States. You know, the U.S. is coordinating the airstrikes with Russia because in some cases we're helping to bomb ISIS, who we are fighting as well. You know, the U.S. policy of trying to get Assad out of power has shifted. The U.S. policy now, although to a degree unspoken, is we hope he stays long enough to beat ISIS so you don't have a takeover and a sectarian civil war in Syria, akin to what you've had in Lebanon and elsewhere. But functionally, the U.S., Russia and Iran are fighting with Bashar al-Assad against ISIS.

  • 11:24:46

    REHMBut here's an email from Janie in Durham, N.C. Pardon me. She says, perhaps your guests would comment on why President Obama is withholding any help for the disaster. The argument put forward is his pledge to not get the U.S. into more wars. But why would he want all of these carnage under his watch and failed leadership?

  • 11:25:20

    YOUSSEFSo the U.S. position in Syria is that it is there to stop the spread of ISIS. And I'm talking about militarily, okay? That it's strictly, it's position is to stop the spread of ISIS. I think what we've heard from the president over the years of this war is a reluctance to engage the United States, believing -- not having, I guess, the belief that U.S. intervention can really substantially change the outcome in Syria and potentially entangles the United States in another conflict in the Middle East in which the outcomes are not clear.

  • 11:25:50

    YOUSSEFI think what's become so frustrating for the world community, not only because of the refugee flow, but because of the extent of the tragedy happening in Aleppo, is that the -- that there's nothing in between a quagmire for the U.S. and stopping a catastrophe of epic proportions in Syria. And I think that's the frustration you're hearing. There has to be something in the middle. What's happening in Aleppo, it is unlike something I've ever seen. I've had friends who have been in Aleppo and they just describe it not like anything they've seen in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Libya.

  • 11:26:27

    YOUSSEFAnd so they're having consequences to the international community. And yet there has been this sort of statement from the United States quietly, there's only so much we can do. And it's hard for people to believe that more can't be done.

  • 11:26:37

    DONNANAnd this is the question out there in the world right now, about American power and how America chooses to project power. And this is the consequence, seeing photos like we've seen this week, is the consequence of the U.S. withdrawing from the world and -- or one of the consequences of that. And it's something that the U.S. and U.S. leadership needs to live with, is that if you are not going to take that responsibility to protect, if you are not going to intervene to stop atrocities -- and that is one of the big things that Bill Clinton says he regrets from his presidency, is not intervening to stop the genocide in Rwanda, for example -- then you are going to be confronted with these images and these atrocities.

  • 11:27:20

    DREAZENAnd as there's so much in our world and in the world, there's also the interesting campaign 2016 side to this, because Donald Trump for a long time has said, just leave it to the Russians. Like, we don't need to get involved. Let them bomb ISIS and we can pull out. Hillary Clinton has tried to say, I would have done this differently than President Obama. I would have sent arms to the moderate rebels early on and it might have made a difference. The president overruled me. I would create a no-fly zone and humanitarian aid corridors, which the U.S. has not done. So it's interesting in not just the kind of policy debate in a general sense, but here at home as this election now heads, thank God, into its final few months, there's the political side to it too.

  • 11:27:54

    REHMAll right. And to Kentwood, Mich. Tom, you're on the air.

  • 11:28:00

    TOMHi, Diane. Yeah, I think that an arms embargo, a military arms embargo is the biggest solution to this problem. But it seems to be always obscurely denied by the media or, you know, covered up or -- I just don't know why people don't, in the media, push our congressmen and NATO to have an arms embargo so this war can be stopped. It's not going to be stopped without stopping weapons to this -- to Syria. So, anyway, you see a terrible -- a child being persecuted and our answer is political. And it's really a solution of stop the weapons getting into the hands of everyone and we can solve the problem a lot easier. Thank you.

  • 11:28:45

    DREAZENYou know, Russia is one of the largest arms exporters on the planet. They can't be embargoed because they're the ones making the weapons that they are sending. Iran makes weapons and it sends. And Syria has a lot of weapons already. This is not a case like, for instance, in South Sudan, where weapons are flowing in and an embargo might help. This is unfortunately a case where weapons are already there, being manufactured by the countries who are already fighting.

  • 11:29:06

    REHMAll right. And here's an email from Muhammad. Please comment on the emerging Russia-Iran-Turkey alliance. Shawn.

  • 11:29:18

    DONNANWell, this is back to this question of the alliances forming in the Middle East. And Russia has had Syria as a long-time ally, but we've seen it now align itself with Iran. And then we've seen this amazing turnaround in the Turkish-Russian relationship in recent weeks, following the attempt and then failed coup against Recep Tayyip Erdogan, where he, after having this combative relationship with the Russians, has turned that around and has met with Putin. And we're now seeing this alliance forming, which is an awkward one because he, himself, has been in opposition to the Assad regime. He's sitting next door. He's concerned about the conflict that's developing there.

  • 11:29:55

    DONNANThe initial conflict with Russia was over the shooting down of a Russian fighter jet, which was flying over Turkish territory, on its way to attacking -- or allegedly over Turkish territory, on its way to attacking targets on the ground in Syria. So it's a messy world. But then we're seeing...

  • 11:30:13

    REHMYou bet.

  • 11:30:13

    DONNAN...these governments who are looking to the future and who are forming alliances that really are going to shape the decades to come.

  • 11:30:21

    REHMThe future. Indeed.

  • 11:30:23

    DONNANAnd then -- that are going to last beyond this conflict. And you can look to China as well, which is building its own alliances with Russia and Iran and moving into the malaise. So the whole One Belt, One Road strategy, which is to build this kind of strategic infrastructure link through Central Asia, the Middle East, into Europe and go into the future, this is one of the big issues we should be talking about in the 2016 campaign.

  • 11:30:48

    REHMAnd that issue is -- behind that issue is the question, for good or for ill.

  • 11:30:58

    DONNANThat's an open question and it depends from where you look at it. But clearly, you know, Vladimir Putin is trying to restore a Soviet level of power, a Soviet level of influence over the world. Viewed from Washington, that is not a positive thing.

  • 11:31:12

    YOUSSEFNow, arguably, the fact that the U.S. has been reticent relative to past administrations to get involved in the Middle East has created an opening for Putin. If you're somebody like Saudi Arabia, I think this is something particularly to watch, because the way it affects the United States is the U.S. partners in the region, will they start to see a growing Russian presence and start to alter their relationship with the United States? Is this beginning of a fundamental change in the U.S. presence and influence in the region, not only because of Russian activity but how U.S. partners on the ground respond to it.

  • 11:31:44

    DREAZENAnd I think that's right. I mean, in some ways, you could argue that if the U.S. stays out of a war that might rage for decades -- we'll never know the answer to it -- but you could argue that if the U.S. is not involved in Syria and Syria becomes a Lebanese-type conflict, where 25 years from now there's still violence, the fact that the U.S. is not part of it will be seen as a historical good. That's a very hard argument to make though when you have the images of this child in Aleppo and you have the death toll in Aleppo and you have the U.N. warning that this is the worst humanitarian crisis they seen in decades, the worst refugee crisis since World War II.

  • 11:32:13

    DREAZENThe argument that history may prove us right, for us as a country, that the president didn't get us involved, is a hard case to make when horrors are piling up by the day.

  • 11:32:21

    DONNANI think we've talked a lot about this photo this morning. But I think there's another image that I saw this morning on Twitter that really has stayed with me, and that is a drawing by a young Syrian in Aleppo of two sides -- living children with really sad faces and dead children who were smiling. And that is going to stay with me for a long time.

  • 11:32:44

    REHMBomb attacks in Turkey have been blamed on Kurdish militants and those killed, at least 14 people and wounded more than 200. Nancy.

  • 11:33:00

    YOUSSEFThat's right, 220. And so you've had a series of bombings, three total -- two that were targeting police stations, one that was targeting an armored vehicle that was carrying soldiers in southeast Turkey. And it's an interesting development because we've seen the PKK, since the ceasefire broke last year, targeting police in that region, where they have a pretty dominant presence. And it was just a pretty horrific uptick of violence in a very unstable time in Turkey.

  • 11:33:29

    REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." And at the same time, Turkey says it's going to free tens of thousands of inmates to make room for those who were suspected of being involved in the coup.

  • 11:33:50

    DREAZENI mean, in roughly the same level of sophistication as the White House saying it was a coincidence that one plane landed and one place came. They were initially saying that these were not connected, that they were just happened to be freeing up tens of thousands of prison cells just as they happened to be arresting and detaining tens of thousands of people, which is of course ludicrous. You know, the purge that's taking place, which has been now obscured by other events, is extraordinary. If you think about the pillars of any kind of country -- judges, soldiers, police, teachers, doctors -- all of those people, all of those pillars have now been wobbled by President Erdogan.

  • 11:34:22

    DREAZENPeople from each one have been taken out, have been arrested have been detained. The Turkish government openly acknowledges it had lists of people ready to go long before this coup. It has not proven definitively that many of these people were tied to -- were Gulenists, were tied to the person in Pennsylvania, the cleric that they say was behind it. So when you have a vaguely autocratic government acknowledging it had lists ahead of time of people it wanted to arrest, arresting and detaining tens of thousands of them, all because of the coup that didn't succeed. You know, the idea -- the conspiracy theory that this was staged has never made sense to me. But you can understand where it comes from.

  • 11:34:56

    REHMDoes the attempted coup and the aftermath put Erdogan in an even stronger position?

  • 11:35:07

    DREAZENUnquestionably. He's more popular domestically, within Turkey. He's managed to do something that no Turkish leader has ever done, which is take the more religious element of his society and some of the more secular elements and combine them, because of the pride that the government -- a democratic government was not thrown out of power by the military, as had happened in Turkey before. Plus there's a simple fact that he's arrested and detained anyone that could have on any level been a rival of his, whether intellectual or actually armed.

  • 11:35:33

    REHMAnother issue, we learned this morning that Donald Trump's former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, did resign. Ukraine officials are investigating whether Manafort had financial ties to a pro-Russian party. What do we know, Nancy?

  • 11:35:57

    YOUSSEFWell, it's a fascinating story. There's this anti-corruption unit that's been stood up in Ukraine and they go to an office building and they find these ledgers. And 22 times it has P. Manafort with some sort of amount of money that added up to $12.7 million. And so the question becomes, where did that money go towards? Did it go towards him? Did it go towards a lobbying group? Did it go towards an office he was working for? And what did it say about how the campaign that he was leading for -- leading, the former Ukrainian President, what kind of levels of corruption and payoffs were conducted potentially to secure a victory, that was of course undone by the 2014 uprising in Ukraine.

  • 11:36:36

    YOUSSEFAnd so it just added this sort of allure of mystery in terms of what kind of political consulting group he was working with, the kinds of ways money was trafficking back and forth. But it was really interesting to see the pictures of the ledgers coming out, these sort of these sloppily written ledgers with his name listed there. Now, of course, he's called any accusations nonsensical. But note that this was a pro-Russian group and the Trump campaign has been vocally in support of the Putin regime. And so how this is all connected has been interesting. But it's part of a broader question about corruption and Ukrainian politics.

  • 11:37:10

    REHMNancy Youssef, she's senior defense and national security correspondent at The Daily Beast. Short break. More of your calls, your comments, when we come back. Stay with us.

  • 11:40:01

    REHMAnd welcome back. We have a tweet from John, which says only Russia and Iran are selling weapons used in Syria. Your guests conveniently did not mention U.S. exports. Yochi?

  • 11:40:23

    DREAZENThe U.S. doesn't sell weapons to Iran, the U.S. doesn't sell weapons to Syria, and the U.S. has -- doesn't need to sell weapons to Russia because Russia manufactures and sells more weapons of its own than almost any country on the planet. The notion that any country is selling weapons in a way that makes a difference ignores the fact that all of these countries have their own weapons, make their own weapons, and in the case of both Russia and Iran, sell their own weapons. It's not -- it has nothing to do with what the U.S. is doing, and incidentally the U.S. is not selling weapons to any of these countries.

  • 11:40:48

    REHMAll right, and an email from Alex. Have we forgotten that the president went to Congress for a decision on action in Syria? What further action could we take at this point, Nancy?

  • 11:41:04

    YOUSSEFWell, the president went to Congress I believe in the summer of 2013 when there was talk about the red line being crossed and said essentially after he declared that once that red line had been crossed that the U.S. would intervene, and the ships were on the shores, and then came back, took a walk around the White House with an aide of his and decided that he would take it to Congress.

  • 11:41:24

    YOUSSEFI understand what Alex is saying, but I would argue, you know, the authorization for the use of military force has been deployed many, many times for the U.S. intervention in Libya, its intervention so far in Syria and in Iraq. And so while the president has gone to Congress, he has also used the AUMF as a means to conduct strikes and ramp up U.S. involvement in all three of those conflicts.

  • 11:41:48

    REHMAnd we have an email from Alex, who is 14 years of age. He says, my question is about Libya. What's the current state of the U.N.-backed government? How is the U.S. aiding the government politically and militarily? Shawn?

  • 11:42:08

    DONNANSo the U.N.-backed government in Tripoli has been hanging on to power, and what we've seen in the last few weeks is the U.S. actually mount some airstrikes against ISIS forces in the eastern city of Sirte, which is the former hometown of Muammar Ghaddafi, the former dictator, and has become a real ISIS stronghold in recent years. And there were some signs going into these airstrikes that the forces on the ground were making some gains, and the hope is to retake Sirte and spread the government to the east.

  • 11:42:48

    DONNANBut everything that we have seen since the fall of Ghaddafi tells us that it's an incredibly tenuous situation in Libya.

  • 11:42:55

    YOUSSEFAlex, thanks for the great question. That's quite impressive from a 14-year-old.

  • 11:42:58

    REHMExactly from a 14-year-old.

  • 11:43:02

    YOUSSEFSo Sirte, as Shawn was saying, is on the verge of falling out of ISIS hands, and there was a hope that this would strengthen the very weak government in Libya. I mean the Libyan dinar has been falling precipitously. There are electricity shortages. You've had a mass exodus of people leaving because of the tenuous security situation there. And yet there's not a real sign that they will be able to really use this in the way that I think many hoped. Some think it's because that they had to turn to outside help to get rid of ISIS in Sirte. Some fear that ISIS actually is just sort of headed south and actually hasn't been defeated in the proper sense of the word.

  • 11:43:36

    YOUSSEFBut the government in Libya is in a very precarious state, and the hope that was supposed to come from a defeat of ISIS I don't think so far has proven to be true.

  • 11:43:49

    REHMAll right, this week we had a high-ranking North Korean diplomat defecting this week. Who was he, Shawn?

  • 11:43:59

    DONNANI love this story, I mean, Thae Yong-ho is this 55-year-old diplomat. He's number two in charge of the embassy in London, actually in the western suburb of London of Ealing, it's in the suburban house there, and unusually he's been there for a decade. And the man has grown to love his Western creature comforts. He allegedly gave up golf to play tennis because his wife was on him for playing too much golf, his kids are in the -- are in the local schools there, and he gets the call from Pyongyang that says it's time to come home, and he decides he'd rather go to Seoul.

  • 11:44:36

    REHMHe said he was -- officials in Seoul described him as, quote, sick and tired of Kim Jong-un's regime.

  • 11:44:47

    DREAZENThere's also this week just the typical weirdness of that very strange regime. They launched a version of YouTube for the people in their country who have access to the Internet, which is not that big of a percentage, but it gives you the choice of either state-run propaganda videos about the country or state-run propaganda videos about him. And that's all you can watch if you have access to North Korean Internet and have the perverse desire to watch North Korea's YouTube.

  • 11:45:09

    DREAZENSo you have the defections, and you have just this constant air of what's going to be the latest inexplicably bizarre thing this country does, paired with the reality of this is a nuclear power that has artillery capable of leveling Seoul, artillery capable of hitting Tokyo, continually testing long range missiles, and that's the paradox of North Korea. One, what do you do about it, and two, how do you remember that it is both a weird country run by a bizarre man with horrible hair and a horrifically dangerous country that poses a risk not just to its immediate neighbors but too much of the rest of the world.

  • 11:45:39

    REHMSo might this defection provoke Kim Jong-un to do something horrible?

  • 11:45:49

    DREAZENOften the pattern when you've had defections at any high level are purges. You know, you've had someone defect, then he'll execute some other poor five, 10, 15 people, usually in very gory ways. So his typical response is if you defect, I'll punish the ones who didn't defect, which is not the most logical response.

  • 11:46:05

    REHMWhoa.

  • 11:46:07

    YOUSSEFWell, what's interesting is, you know, usually when ambassadors are sent from North Korea, there's a family member left at home. It's not clear whether that happened in this case. This is a significant incident because the last defection at this level was in 1997, when the ambassador to Egypt sought asylum in the United States. And so it really raises question about Kim Jong-un's grip on the country.

  • 11:46:25

    YOUSSEFUsually he -- this is somebody who had really established a level of trust with the regime, and for those who will be talking to this ambassador, he now offers great insights. He was in the top echelons of power for 10 years and will give sort of rare insights on Pyongyang and the intents of the regime. And so we'll have to sort of wait and see in terms of whether this leads to more defections.

  • 11:46:44

    YOUSSEFWe've seen lower-level defections throughout the year, hundreds actually this year, waitresses in China, and there have been a series of them, but at this level, for somebody who was clearly trusted more than the average diplomat is very telling and suggests that perhaps the -- Kim Jong-un's grip on the regime is not as strong as it once was.

  • 11:47:06

    DONNANAnd we often view these things through the lens of looking in on a regime. We need to think about how the elites are going to look at this when they learn about it, and I'm sure they will through whispers and so on. Every authoritarian regime in the world depends on its elite support, and if the Kim regime someday falls, it will be because it has lost its elite.

  • 11:47:29

    REHMAnd there's another story this week about the U.N. finally acknowledging that it had some responsibility for the cholera outbreak in Haiti after they have long, long denied it, Yochi.

  • 11:47:50

    DREAZENThere had been this years-long question of what brought cholera in and what allowed it to spread as rapidly as it did and with the scope that it did. You know, the U.N. has had questions about Haiti before in the other extreme, the questions of all this money was promised, all this money's been spent, Haiti is still a mess. Why are there so few structures rebuilt? Why are essential services not being replaced? And now you have them acknowledging that they did help introduce it, even if obviously inadvertently, and they did in some ways cause it to spread both quickly and far and away.

  • 11:48:18

    DREAZENYou know, Haiti, a friend of mine wrote a really wonderful book about it, it's -- we forget about it completely until there's the next disaster, but the rebuilding effort has been a catastrophe, enormous amounts of money spent, very few houses rebuilt, much of the country still in rubble, plus you now have one of the agencies most responsible for trying to help acknowledging it made the problem much, much worse.

  • 11:48:36

    REHMTen thousand lives claim, New York Times reports and NPR reports. Cholera had not been in Haiti for more than 100 years until the U.N. troops came in.

  • 11:48:55

    DONNANWell, and this is the systemic problem that this also points to.

  • 11:49:00

    REHMBut it was the Nepalese.

  • 11:49:00

    DONNANExactly, and it was these Nepalese peacekeepers, and now we are in a situation where the U.N. often depends on peacekeepers from countries like Nepal, and in Nepal they had an outbreak of cholera, these Nepalese peacekeepers came over, seem to have carried the disease across, but then moreover they had such poor sanitation at their base on the ground that literally their waste, the human waste, was flowing into the local water supply, and that's how this outbreak started.

  • 11:49:31

    DONNANAnd this isn't just happening in Haiti, which is an incredibly sad story on its own. There are signs that the U.N. has problems at bases all around the world.

  • 11:49:43

    YOUSSEFI actually think this is one of the most important and underreported stories of the week because you have the United Nations, whose mission is to be peacekeeping, having questionable sanitary practices, and on top of that years and years and year of denial. And it took this special advisor professor at NYU who does this 19-page report, a draft of it, which was leaked to the New York Times, and he's really quite damning in his comments that this was clear from early on when these high-level officials were saying that it wasn't necessarily tied to them.

  • 11:50:10

    YOUSSEFA lot of lawsuits have been filed, and the U.N. has claimed diplomatic immunity, and so there's no real means to even have a recourse. And he says that it could cost somewhere upwards of $40 billion in terms of -- and that's far beyond the U.N. budget. And so I think it's an important story because it really speaks to the U.N., whose mission it is to be peacekeepers, who for years have denied something that happened, and in that time have gone and -- on who knows how many missions, potentially spreading these unsafe sanitary practices around the world.

  • 11:50:39

    REHMWhat about reparation, Shawn?

  • 11:50:43

    DONNANWell that's a really good question. We do need to remember that this was a leaked report. The U.N. did not come out and fess up publicly on this. And this is something that is going to build over the coming months. But reparations is clearly something that is going to have to be talked about.

  • 11:51:01

    DREAZENShawn alluded to the other massive U.N. scandal of the week and one that to my surprise didn't get as much bounce as I thought that it would. But this was this horrific case from South Sudan, where you had aid workers, American and others, who were singled out, targeted, tortured, beaten and raped while a U.N. peacekeeping base was nearby and did not respond. The U.S. embassy was nearby and did not respond.

  • 11:51:23

    DREAZENThe U.S. embassy, you know, you could argue doesn't have the resources to do it. The U.N. certainly did. So there have been questions about -- in South Sudan for years now about why are U.N. peacekeepers not able to protect even those who are seeking refuge at their own base when it's frankly, if we're all speaking -- if we're speaking total candor, the world and the U.S. doesn't tend to care as much when it's South Sudanese people. Typically we do care when it's Americans. In this case you had American women beaten, you had Western women of different nationalities who were raped. It was absolutely a horrific case, and it happened without the world noticing.

  • 11:51:54

    REHMAll right, and we have had an apology this morning from Ryan Lochte about his activities in Rio. Want to talk about that?

  • 11:52:11

    DREAZENDiane, I think that's a wondrously delicate way of referring both to apologies, which we could use air quotes for, and activities, which we can use air quotes for. You know, Ryan Lochte had this amazingly dramatic story about being held up at gunpoint, and a gun was put to his head, and he handed money over. This fed the stereotype, which in some cases the accuracy -- there have been athletes who have been robbed and mugged. A New Zealander was taken to an ATM and forced to withdraw money. Britain, its track and field team warned its athletes not to leave at night because they had been robbed.

  • 11:52:38

    DREAZENBut Ryan Lochte had this very dramatic story, and it turns out it was made up. It turns out that what happened was he and two other swimmers, who were both much younger, incidentally, 21 and 20, he's 26, and he's kind of an elder statesman in a weird way of swimming in the sense that he's old and a swimmer, went to a gas station. They couldn't get in to use the bathroom, so they peed on the gas station, knocked on the door. When a security guard said in some way you have to pay for the damage you did, they handed some money over and left.

  • 11:53:05

    DREAZENBut Ryan Lochte's version of that was they were robbed at gunpoint, and that's not at all what happened. But his apology is worth reading from just a sense of it because it's really remarkable. He begins the way you'd want him to begin, I want to apologize for my behavior last weekend. But then he jumps to for not being more careful and candid, which is a weird way of saying I lied and made it up.

  • 11:53:23

    DREAZENAnd then he continues to say that he was, this is his wording, it's traumatic to be out late at night with your friends in a foreign country. He chose to go out at night with friends in a foreign country to go to a party with a language barrier, which he knew, and have a stranger point a gun at you and demand money. This wasn't a stranger. This was somebody trying to protect a gas station. So even in his apology it's falsehood, falsehood, falsehood.

  • 11:53:44

    REHMAnd you're listening to the Diane Rehm Show. I want to take a caller in Springfield, Virginia. John, you're on the air.

  • 11:54:00

    JOHNYes, good morning. It's great to hear the news that Manafort has in fact resigned. I worked closely with the Congolese community during the period of Mobutu, and Manafort was representing Mobutu Sese Seko. And we were not happy that he was taking lots of money from Mobutu at a time when he had already been discredited. So we're happy to see that happen. However, the question now is for Hillary Clinton, although earlier you expressed that Bill may have remorse for not stopping the genocide in Rwanda, what isn't covered often is the 6 to 10 million Congolese that died in the period after that, when a Rwandan-backed force crossed the country and deposed Mobutu, which again the Congolese community was happy to see.

  • 11:54:59

    JOHNBut the regime that was then installed, the Kabila regime, is still in power, has a been in power now for more than 15 years, and shows no tendency to want to step down at the end of the constitutionally mandated two terms, which end this coming December 19. So will Hillary Clinton put out their policy showing how this will be dealt with? Because it looks like we're on course for yet another train wreck in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

  • 11:55:30

    REHMShawn?

  • 11:55:31

    DONNANCongo's been a very sad stories for decades, and one of the things you referenced -- the caller referenced there was the influence of Rwanda in the region. And that is going to be a big question for Hillary Clinton going forward. The Clinton Foundation has been a big backer of the regime of Paul Kagame in Rwanda, which has become increasingly assertive over the years as a power in East Africa.

  • 11:55:56

    DONNANAnd that is -- the question is how will that affect the policy of the next government.

  • 11:56:02

    REHMSo many questions for whomever is elected president in this troubled world. Let's see, here's an email. Saudi Arabia military bombed a hospital in Yemen recently. Why is this event not given the coverage that the bombing in Aleppo is given. Yochi?

  • 11:56:28

    DREAZENI mean, tragically this was not the first hospital that the Saudis have bombed, and this is something that the U.S. is directly assisting. You know, there have been -- there are questions about why does the U.S. not do more, let's say, in Aleppo, where we don't have troops or pilots flying over it. In the case of the Saudi air war in Yemen, the U.S. is providing intelligence, the U.S. is helping them refuel their planes, the U.S. is providing direct support, and the Saudis are bombing in some ways indiscriminately.

  • 11:56:49

    DREAZENYou've had hundreds of children, hundreds, who have died in Yemen in this bombing campaign led by the Saudis. By some estimates it's roughly 1,000 who have been either killed or wounded. And my column, Colum Lynch had a really interesting story from the U.N. The U.N. publishes a list every year about companies that abuse children. Saudi Arabia was on it. They said we're going to cut funding to the U.N. if we stay on it. The U.N. took them off.

  • 11:57:11

    REHMYochi Dreazen, managing editor at Foreign Policy, Nancy Youssef, The Daily Beast, Shawn Donnan of the Financial Times. Not much good news in this world today, I'm sorry to say, but thank you all for being here.

  • 11:57:30

    DREAZENThanks, Diane.

  • 11:57:30

    YOUSSEFThank you, Diane.

  • 11:57:31

    DONNANThank you.

  • 11:57:32

    REHMAnd thanks for listening. I'm Diane Rehm.

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