The man who helped craft President Obama’s Russia reset policy explains what went wrong. Then, the Iraqi ambassador to the U.S. discusses the surprising results of his country’s recent elections.
Britain’s High Court throws a wrench into the government’s Brexit plans. The leader of ISIS urges followers to fight to the death in Mosul. And Syrian rebels reject Russia’s call for fighters and civilians to leave Aleppo. A panel of journalists joins Diane at the Newseum for analysis of the week’s top international news stories.
- David Ignatius Columnist, The Washington Post, and contributor, "Post Partisan" blog on washingtonpost.com. His latest novel is "The Director."
- Elise Labott Global affairs correspondent, CNN
- Yochi Dreazen Foreign editor, Vox; author, "The Invisible Front"
- Nancy Youssef Senior defense and national security correspondent, The Daily Beast
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm broadcasting live today from the Knight Studio at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. (applause) Thank you. A decision by Britain's high court cast doubt on the country's Brexit plans. Iraqi troops enter Mosul for the first time since ISIS seized the city in 2014 and Syrian rebels reject a Russian ceasefire meant to allow fighters and civilians to leave Aleppo.
MS. DIANE REHMAnd here with me for the international hour of the Friday News Roundup, David Ignatius of The Washington Post, Elise Labott of CCN, Yochi Dreazen of Vox, and Nancy Youssef of The Daily Beast. We will not be taking calls today since we do have a live audience here at the Newseum. And a little later on, we'll ask our folks here in the studio to line up.
MS. DIANE REHMWe'll be taking your tweets, your emails so you can reach us that way. Well, there was, first, some really stunning news out of Britain this week when England's high court decided a ruling concerning Brexit. What happened, David?
MR. DAVID IGNATIUSWell, in this year of amazing political surprises where we were stunned last June by the success of the Brexit referendum, which calls for Britain to withdraw from the EU, the high court, the second highest count in Britain, ruled that his violated British law and procedure because Parliament had the authority to approve or disapprove this. Parliament had passed the referendum legislation and it said that it would stick by the referendum, but even so, the high court said you can't assert, as the government had done, royal prerogative in beginning the so-called article 50 withdrawal from the EU.
MR. DAVID IGNATIUSSo since this ruling came out yesterday, we've had British political figures talking about whether this means they'll be half-Brexit, as the leading campaigner, Nigel Farage, said, whether this will mean a soft Brexit, meaning some greater compromise with the EU and Britain. It's clear that if this Parliament voted its conscience, voted its beliefs on Brexit, they would vote it down. Parliament is not in support of it.
REHMAnd one would think the people who voted in this referendum are mightily disappointed, Nancy.
MS. NANCY YOUSSEFWell, it's interesting because this vote, this decision by the court basically put the process of actually implementing that June vote into question. I actually had a chance to read it and it's very interesting because what it says on the vote is that while the Crown has the right to enact treaties and do them sort of directly, if you will, in much the same way that Theresa May was arguing that she wanted to negotiate the Brexit on secretly and directly, the court said when it comes to this legislation that can affect the country domestically, Parliament must have a say.
MS. NANCY YOUSSEFAnd that was what they were asserting in that court ruling. It was a unanimous ruling and it -- what's interesting is it was such a political firestorm and yet, when you read the ruling, they're very clear on how easy, frankly, it was for them to come to the decision.
MS. ELISE LABOTTWell, and also, what the court said is that the referendum was that this was an advisory referendum, kind of taking the temperature, if you will, of the people of what they want, but not a legally binding type of law. And what the court is saying is that Parliament makes laws, made the law to join the EU and only they could have the final say, which is really the say of the people because this is an elected body, to withdraw.
MS. ELISE LABOTTNow, the question is, as Nancy was saying, is now Parliament is going to have to be notified of the negotiations that Prime Minister May wanted to do in secret. This kind of tips her hand to the other 27 EU countries that are in these negotiations and the concern of the government here is that it's going to weaken her hand. And what the court is saying and what, I think, Parliament is pretty happy with is that they will be able to help guide those negotiations, which clearly, the government does not want.
REHMBut on the other hand, Yochi, could Parliament stop Brexit from happening?
MR. YOCHI DREAZENThey could and just quickly, I want to good morning to all of you. I'm glad that we can be discussing British constitutional law in this beautiful Friday here in Washington. Yeah, they could, but there's an important step that hasn't been discussed that should be, which is that this ruling is being appealed and could be overturned. So before, I think, we jump to what Parliament will or will not do, we should remember that the equivalent of the British supreme court could overrule this, in which case the question becomes moot.
MR. YOCHI DREAZENThere are two interesting things that happened yesterday that were striking to me. One, the British papers, the British tabloids published photos of the judges with headlines like You Betrayed Us, You Lied To Us, You Cheated Us. It was -- the headlines were very striking. The photo choice was very striking. That's happening at the same time that, after the Brexit vote, there was enormous feelings of what did we just vote for, how do we undo what we just voted for. Google, when it released the next day what had been the most popular search terms, they were things like, what is the EU.
MR. YOCHI DREAZENWhat is a Brexit? After the Brexit passed. So in some ways, the British public had kind of wanted a do-over and wanted to see, do they have to stick by something that they have regretted voting for. If this ruling is upheld, and if Parliament does have the right to say, it might not just be Parliament voting its conscience. It might be Parliament actually reflecting the views of the British public.
REHMAll right. And from Britain, let's turn to the Iraq city of Mosul and the attempts to retake it. Nancy, what's happening?
YOUSSEFWell, there was a significant development this week in that we saw, for the first time, Iraqi security forces entering the city proper from the east side. And this has been two weeks in the making as they've sort of slowly worked their way towards the city. And now, we're probably going to see now a block by block, maybe house by house battle to clear this city of ISIS because many of them have mixed in with the population. There is some talk that they were actually using civilians as human shields.
YOUSSEFAnd it was interesting that that develop seemed to open a more broader discussion about what happens to Mosul next, that the idea that there's now an instate -- one that we can see now. Will the Iraqi government be able to govern in such a way that ISIS fighters are not able to return? Remember that a lot of these fighters are either being killed or running away and you can already hear the worry about will they be able to return, will this very diverse city be able to find a way to work with the Iraqi government?
YOUSSEFWill the militias that are on the western flank who are allegedly attacking Sunni residents, the Shia dominated militias, will they create an environment such that Sunnis don't feel that they can work with the central government? And so it was an advance militarily and also I think an advance politically in terms of having a discussion about what happens next.
REHMAnd David, for the first time in about a year, we heard from the leader, so-called leader of the Islamic State telling his people not to withdraw.
IGNATIUSAbu Bakr al-Bagdadi, who proclaimed the caliphate that is the Islamic State, the self-proclaimed caliphate, did break what's been a year long silence to -- in what sounds like rather desperate language try to rally his forces. There have been reports now for some months that morale has really been shattered in the key ISIS strongholds and that fighters have been fleeing. Tribes that were supporting the Islamic State have flipped and turned against them.
IGNATIUSSo I thought this did seem like a kind of desperate appeal. I would just note that I was in Iraq twice in the last six months in the area south of Mosul, approaches on the Tigres River, and this campaign has come farther faster than I thought last May. So I just want to note that the performance, as of this moment, of the Iraqi security forces and the Kurds and the U.S. and the ability of those three to work together effectively, is better than what I would've thought back in May. They've come some distance.
REHMYeah, that's quite a change from what you've reported on seeing in the past. The UN says that at least 22,000 people have already been displaced by this one battle, Nancy.
YOUSSEFThat's right. They released it this week that since October 17th, 22,000 in a city of -- we don’t know. We hear figures as high as 1.5 million, but so many have fled. I just wanted to add to David's point, too, about Bagdadi's video. What's interesting to me was on one hand he's telling his fighters to rally, to fight, that it is more honorable to fight than to surrender. And at the same time, you could hear him sort of planning the seeds for turning ISIS into an insurgency.
YOUSSEFHe talked about sectarianism. He talked about why the Sunnis shouldn't trust the Shia-led government. And so you could start to see, on one hand, he was trying, albeit not very well, to deliver a triumphant speech and at the same time, he was saying, if we have to, we're ready to change how we approach this.
LABOTTAnd he also talked about spreading it beyond into Turkey and Saudi Arabia. I think the whole idea is that they have been working on the humanitarian situation, preplanning resources, positioning in advance. I think they feel a little bit comfortable. Well, what they don't feel comfortable is about that, what comes next?
REHMElise Labott of CNN. Short break here. And after that, we'll be talking about Syria, Russia and much more. Stay with us.
REHMAnd welcome back to the international hour of our Friday News Roundup. This week with David Ignatius of The Washington Post, Elisa Labott of CNN, Yochi Dreazen of Vox, and Nancy Youssef of The Daily Beast. We are live streaming, video streaming, so if you'd like to see this part of the program from the Knight Auditorium at the Newseum, just go to drshow and click on watch live. You can send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or send us a tweet. We are not talking phone calls because we do have a live audience here at the Newseum.
REHMElise, Russia and the Syrian government forces have started a 10-hour ceasefire in Aleppo to allow rebels and civilians to flee. But are they leaving?
LABOTTWell, after bombing them for months and getting civilian hospitals and schools and U.N. aid convoys, they finally said, yes, you can -- the wounded can leave. They've opened up a series of corridors for the wounded. And also, they said, that the rebels -- they're opening up two separate corridors for the rebels to leave with their weapons. And the rebels are saying, thanks but no thanks. And why is that? Because they don't trust the Russians. There is a lot of concern, not just in Syria but in the United States and among its allies, that what Russia is doing is using this as an opportunity to empty the city, possibly target the rebels as they leave the city, much like they did in Grozny during the Chechen War.
LABOTTAnd the concern is that this is a ruse. You've heard Secretary of State John Kerry say this before. And so they say, we do not trust the Russians. We will stay where we are.
DREAZENAnd what we've seen kind of consistently is there have been ceasefires. No one really trusts them. They inevitably fail. And when they do, the bombing doesn't simply resume at the level of where it was pre-ceasefire, it almost always goes beyond where things were and it gets much worse. So we had a U.S.-Russian deal for a ceasefire some weeks back. After that collapsed, the level of carnage within Aleppo, the amount of bombs dropped, the bloodshed there spiked, even beyond kind of the horrible levels it was at before.
DREAZENWe're seeing, I think, two kind of interesting, broader points about Syria. One is there had been a feeling for a long time expressed by this White House that we shouldn't intervene in a civil war because it's bloody, it's pointless, we don't know who the rebels are, we don't know what will happen. Russia has intervened. Russia has shown that you actually can tip the balance militarily. We can talk about reasons why, one of which is Russia doesn't care at all about killing civilians, the U.S. does. But Russia has shown that you can tilt it and they have. Bashar al-Assad this week welcomed Western journalists to Damascus to basically say, I'm here. I'm not going anywhere. I'm the leader of a sovereign country.
DREAZENAt the same time, we're seeing that the U.S. campaign against ISIS, which had been mocked for a long time, that is ineffectual, is not doing much on the ground, is by many -- you can argue, working very well, with almost no U.S. casualties. And as David pointed out earlier, Mosul will fall in the not distant future. Most of ISIS's other territory in Iraq has been reclaimed. The assault on Raqqa, the ISIS headquarters in Syria, will begin. So you can argue that, on the one hand, the U.S. didn't intervene in Syria, Russia did and that worked. On the other, the U.S. did intervene against ISIS and that's worked too.
REHMAnd you've got the question of the U.S. elections, David, and whether that could change the manner in which the U.S. is involved in that battle.
IGNATIUSWell, the two candidates have expressed sharply different views of -- about what to do on Syria, as on most things. Secretary Clinton, for the last several years, has argued for a somewhat more muscular U.S. position. She supported the idea of arming and training the rebels back in 2012. She was allied with CIA Director David Petraeus, Secretary of Defense Panetta at that time. The president said no. So she has a history of saying, we really need to take this more seriously. She would like to see something -- some version of a safe zone, a no-fly zone. She's appropriately being more careful about that now, now that the Russian military is in there so deeply.
IGNATIUSDonald Trump seems to think that, first, let's let Russia worry about the mess of Syria. This -- that's not our problem. Let's let them do it. And that, to the extent that they want to fight with us, let's do that. Let's combine forces. So there are sharply different positions on this as we go to the polls on Tuesday.
IGNATIUSI just would note one thing, Diane, that's really important about the battle for Aleppo and this catastrophe in Syria generally, so many tragic elements. But one of them is that the strong force among the opposition in eastern Aleppo, these people who were under terrible Russian and regime bombing, the strong forces are al-Qaida, the al-Qaida affiliate. It was called Jabhat al-Nusra, now Jabhat Fateh al-Sham. But it's basically still al-Qaida. So there's a real dilemma for the U.S. The Russians say, look, you've got to disentangle your moderate opposition forces from these extremist al-Qaida fighters.
IGNATIUSAnd it's not as if the United States disagrees. It's just proving very difficult. When the rebels said, we won't evacuate Aleppo, yesterday, they basically said, we won't leave Nusra.
YOUSSEFAnd one of the ways that the Russians and the regime are trying to highlight this point is, of the two supply -- exit routes, the safe routes that have been put forth, one goes towards Turkey, the other goes towards Idlib, which is an al-Qaida-controlled area. And so part of the reason I think that they are pushing that safe route is again to argue that the rebels that the United States is backing are actually al-Qaida and literally putting them physically closer to one another.
LABOTTWhich is also going to be seen as the next battle. The feeling is that once the Russians and the Syrians take care of Aleppo, they're going to go for Idlib. That'll be a much harder battle. But they're just continuing to follow.
REHMBut, you know, Elise, it seems to me, as it has with so many other really important issues that are going on in the world, the campaigns have not really talked very much about foreign policy. And I'm not sure the American people realize how important this issue of foreign policy is right now.
LABOTTWell, that's certainly true. I mean, this campaign has certainly been mostly about the kind of horse race and the beating up on both candidates. But the issues of foreign policy have been kind of woefully neglected in terms of a public discourse, in terms of this. When you look at some of the challenges that this next president will be facing -- a presidential in-box, if you will -- you don't only have this horrible conflict in Syria that has lasted more than five years, you also have what's going on with ISIS. And you have a much more aggressive Russia around the world, not just what's happening in the Middle East, but also in Eastern Europe and their attempt to gain power.
LABOTTAnd then you have China in Asia, where China is continuing to be more aggressive in the South China Sea, trying to bring in other countries into the fold. So certainly the hope is that when voters are learning and educating themselves about the platforms of these candidates, they're going to take a look at who do they trust to be the next commander in chief. Because certainly the domestic and pocketbook issues are very important to how we live our daily lives, but the U.S. role in the world and our national security is equally important.
REHMAnd, David, let's talk about what's happening in Afghanistan, where two American soldiers and more than 30 Afghans were killed.
IGNATIUSThis was a reminder of the continuing, faraway war in Afghanistan, where there are about 10,000 U.S. troops who are still deployed. This was in the city of Kunduz in the northeast, which we remember was the site of a disastrous mistaken bombing of a Doctors Without Borders Hospital by accident by U.S. warplanes that killed, as I remember, roughly 40 civilians in this hospital. So it's a...
REHMBut you know, David, that's five American soldiers in Afghanistan killed in one month.
IGNATIUSThe numbers are going up. When you talk to our commanders in Afghanistan when they're back home, they say that we now have a fraction of the people that we had, roughly a tenth of the forces that we had. And it's certain a fraction of the casualties we had. It's still a dangerous place. They would argue that what we're looking at is a stalemate. But that given that the numbers are down so much and that the government, to some people's surprise, is holding on, that's preferable to the alternative...
IGNATIUS...which would be the Taliban again sweeping Kabul and the major cities. So I think this is something, again, I wish we had more of a debate in this campaign about what's the...
IGNATIUS...proper role going forward? Should -- is this 10,000 number, you know, we kept more than that in South Korea for decades. Is -- are we comfortable with that, to keep -- that we've had no real discussion in the campaign. That should bother everybody.
YOUSSEFSo on this specific attack, one of the things that the U.S. has said repeatedly is that the U.S. in an advise, train and assist mission. And one of the reasons they phrase it that way, arguably, was to say that the U.S. troops are not any real major security threat. But, in fact, they find themselves, arguably, in a bigger security threat because you have less support troops, you have fewer opportunities to provide ISR (sp?) or surveillance over operations. In this case, you had troops, technically an advisorial, who are going in to do a raid on a suspected Taliban fighter. They come under attack. Air support comes in.
YOUSSEFThe Afghans allege that 30 civilians were killed in that. And I should point out that there -- in addition to the two U.S. troops who were killed, there were four others who were injured. Diane mentioned the five who have been killed. We've had four U.S. troops and one civilian. And it's interesting, the circumstances that they're in, because there are things that the U.S. has been battling in Afghanistan since the beginning. Sergeant Ryan E. (sp?) and Michael Sauro (sp?) who were killed by green on blue, what they call in the military, by Afghans who they were training who attacked them. Staff Sergeant Thomas, who was killed by an IED on patrol.
YOUSSEFIt's -- these numbers, arguably, are going up because we're starting to see a more aggressive Taliban that is predicting and seeing a U.S. try to withdraw from Afghanistan and is now going more aggressively into cities, into areas like Kunduz, where one never thought of the Taliban having any ability to make gains in just a couple years ago.
DREAZENThere are three stats about Afghanistan that are worth remembering, because each one is jarring in its own way. The first is one. That's the number of times that the world Afghanistan was spoken in any one of the three presidential debates. It was spoken in conjunction to an answer about NATO. It didn't come up in the second or third at all. So, in the presidential debates, where the anniversary -- the 15th anniversary of what is now the longest war in American history had just passed in early October, Afghanistan was mentioned once.
DREAZENThe next stat is 40 percent. That's the amount of Afghanistan that is believed to be controlled by the Taliban. It's a higher number than at any point since 2001. And the third is 11. And that's the number of Americans who have died in Afghanistan just so far this year, to say nothing of the previous 14.
DREAZENAnd that number is striking for two reasons. One, of course, it's tragic for the families involved. But, two, that's more Americans who have died just this year, just in Afghanistan, than have been killed by ISIS in Iraq or Syria since 2014. So ISIS, for obvious reasons and often well-deserved reasons, has dominated news coverage. They have killed, so far, 9 people in Iraq and Syria since 2014. Again, not minimizing the tragedy, but more have died just this year in what is a completely, totally forgotten war.
LABOTTDiane, also, you know, there have been some ISIS attacks in Afghanistan in the past few weeks. ISIS has, you know, not very large presence but continuing to gain a foothold. You, as we've been talking about, this continued gain of territory by the Taliban, besieged Afghan officials surrendering. I mean, 15 years after the U.S. went into Afghanistan, the trends are not very good.
REHMElise Labott of CNN. And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." So what's happening there is that the Taliban has gained ground. The overall picture and the outlook there, Elise?
LABOTTWell, not very good. I mean, there are -- there has been progress. I mean, look, when you look at the way the U.S. found Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban, there has been significant progress. But when you look at the big indicators -- Afghan Army continuing to surrender to the Taliban and to not be able to hold on to some of these areas in firefights. You have areas that continue to be, you know, overturned to the Taliban. The army is able to take them back momentarily, but then will lose them again.
LABOTTAnd then you have the political situation, where the government of President Ghani and the Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, the former foreign minister, continuing to bicker. Earlier this year, James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, warned that Afghanistan is going to really be at risk of a political breakdown this year if they don't get their act together. Secretary Kerry has been there several times to say, look, guys, get it together. Stop your bickering and move forward. And part of the reason that the security situation is so bad and the Taliban continues to be able to retake these areas is because the strength of the central government has not been able to work with these local governors in terms of securing the country.
REHMAnd, Yochi, a car bomb exploded this morning in Turkey. Talk about what happened.
DREAZENSure. So you had two things, one right after the other. First, the government of Prime Minister Erdogan, President Erdogan, which has been arresting political opponents right and left since an attempted coup -- a coup he blames in part on the United States -- arrested about a dozen Kurdish leaders, Kurdish political leaders. Right after that happened, an within a matter of a few hours, there was a car bomb in the city of Diyarbakir that killed eight people.
DREAZENDiyarbakir is a very interesting and important city. For a long time -- it's very close to the border of Iraqi Kurdistan -- and for a long time, to get into Kurdistan, if you were a journalist or an aid worker, you'd fly to Diyarbakir. I've been there multiple times. So this is an interesting city. It's not happening in kind of a random place. It's also worth pointing out that in the tape that was released by Baghdadi that's been referenced a little bit earlier, he explicitly called for new attacks inside of Turkey. He said, Turkey are apostates. Turkey are joining the campaign against us. Hit Turkey as hard as you can.
DREAZENSo if you're Turkey, you are facing, one, car bombs by Kurdish militants, two, potentially more car bombs by -- or other bombs by ISIS militants. All of the while, you have an enormous crackdown by an increasingly dictatorial leader, one that the U.S. had backed and now realizes is not the person they thought he was.
YOUSSEFAnd I'd also point out that it comes at a time where we were starting to see a Turkey that is trying to be more aggressive and has become a thorn in the side of the United States on its campaign against ISIS. We've seen Turkey say that it wants to be involved in the Mosul operations and they've not been able to do that. We've seen Turkey that have said that it does not want the U.S. to work with the YPG, which is the main Kurdish fighting force that the U.S. is aligned with in Syria, excuse me, and plans, for example, to go into Raqqa.
YOUSSEFThere had been talk at one point by the United States military of some sort of simultaneous attack on the capital of ISIS in Syria, Raqqa, in -- at the same time as the Mosul operation. Hasn't been allowed to happen, in part, because of Turkey which is supposed to be the U.S.'s top NATO ally in the region.
IGNATIUSYes. All the fault lines in the Middle East pass through Turkey. Turkey has just terrible problems now internally. The civil war that people have feared is just over the next hill may be triggered by the kind of violence we've seen today.
REHMDavid Ignatius of The Washington Post. Take a short break here. When we come back, questions, comments from our audience, our email, our tweets. Stay with us.
REHMnoncommercial use should be referred to (202) 885-1200.
REHMAnd welcome back to the international hour of our Friday news roundup, again with Elisa Labott of CNN, Yochi Dreazen of Fox, Vox, Vox.
DREAZENVery different than Fox with the F.
REHMNancy Youssef of The Daily Beast and David Ignatius of the Washington Post. We do have some questioners in line. Let's start on this side. If you would give us your name and your question briefly, please.
JUDYYes, my name is Judy, and my question is about Putin's stake in this election. Is it enough for him to -- if Trump were to win, to defeat and destroy, in his mind, Hillary Clinton, or is undermining the democratic and sowing dissent enough?
IGNATIUSWell, it's a great question. It's one the U.S. officials, from what we hear and read, have been really struggling with. What are the Russians up to? We had our director of national intelligence and secretary of Homeland Security say that the hacks of Democratic email accounts that were so damaging to Clinton were done on the authority of high-level Russian officials. They've stated so.
IGNATIUSWhat were the Russians trying to do? Were they trying to do? Were they trying to elect Donald Trump by these leaks? Consensus of people that I've talked to is no, probably that's not their goal. They'd be happy with Putin, and they don't like Hillary Clinton, but more they're seeking to destabilize our system. They're trying to give us a shot. And why is that? And I wrote a column about it this morning in the Washington Post. I think the simple answer is that this is a wounded, angry, aggrieved Russia that's engaged in this kind of national payback.
IGNATIUSYou took our big country, our Soviet Union, away, and we're going to make life as difficult for you as you made for us.
REHMBut realistically how difficult could they make it for this election?
IGNATIUSSo there's been a lot of work done in the last month to try to strengthen our process of electing the president so that the 50 state, 51 with the District of Columbia, vote-counting mechanisms are relatively secure so that kind of direct interference would be unlikely. But we have, what, four days to go, news events could suddenly erupt. You don't know whether things are true or not.
IGNATIUSIt is said that President Obama and other top officials have said directly to Putin and other Russian leaders, any attempt to interfere in our election in this way will be met with the most serious response, who know what that means. So there's been a warning, don't do this.
REHMWhat more could they do?
LABOTTWell, you have maybe all 50 states, if not all 50 then, you know, upwards of 46 or 48 states that have asked for help in kind of fortifying the election systems. They're worried about voter registration records. They're worried about, you know, any number of things. And so the Department of Homeland Security has been fanning officials out across the country working with the states in terms of trying to fortify the election.
LABOTTBut I want to pick up on David's point, and in addition to the actual physical problems that they could create, not just in terms of voter records but also, you know, sending out any number of fake information, I think also what they're trying to do is to shake the confidence of the American people in the democratic system. American democracy is something that Americans take a lot of pride in.
DREAZENIt's also pointing that this doesn't come in a vacuum. This comes with Donald Trump having spent now well over a month saying this election is rigged, this is fraudulent, using what is openly anti-Semitic language about an international cabal of finance, financiers, global bankers meeting in secret to elect Hillary Clinton, openly anti-Semitic tropes. But he's been trying to say if I lose, this election was rigged, this election was fraudulent, my opponent is not a legitimate president, and that was happening as the Russian hacks were happening, and the Russian hacks will make it worse.
DREAZENSo even if everything on election day goes smoothly, there are no hacks, Hillary Clinton, if she wins legitimately, Donald Trump if wins legitimately, everything goes smoothly, if you're not President-elect Clinton, an enormous percentage of the country will think you are not actually the president, that you are illegitimate.
REHMQuestion on this side.
DANIELYes, I'm Daniel Collins from Alexandria, and I was going to ask the panel, when you -- you all talked about Brexit when it happened in Friday news roundup. What I'd really like to know is what the panel and Diane believe about the status of Gibraltar because during the discussions, Scotland was talked about, but Gibraltar voted to stay in the EU, and I was wondering what the panel thinks about the status of Gibraltar. Will it be given back to Spain as a price for the EU? Or if the -- I know that Brexit is more in the flux right now, but I just thought I'd ask the question.
REHMAll right, all right, David, do you want to comment?
IGNATIUSIt's a great question, and I honestly don't know enough to give you a good answer. I've read that the people of Gibraltar like their current status and don't want to be given back to Spain, but it's so amazing to see Europe breaking into fragments, whether it's the, you know, the idea of the United Kingdom devolving and Scotland going away, Gibraltar is a subsidiary question, but I honestly don't know the details.
REHMAll right, we have a tweet from Phil. What position is Iran taking on the current battle in Mosul, Nancy?
YOUSSEFWell, some would argue that they are helping militarily, that they have helped arm and train the Shiite militias, the Shiite-dominated militias in the West that are protecting parts of the Western flank. Politically they have a role because of their ability to influence events in Baghdad, and so it's hard to look at Mosul without considering the role of Iran.
YOUSSEFSome would argue that they have -- actually have an alliance or relationship with the Iraqi security forces, which are leading the effort, and so I guess the best answer is it is a furtive one but a very influential one.
REHMAll right and a question on this side.
SARASara Kerchen (sp?) from Washington, D.C. I'm a longtime listener, and my friends know you can't pry me away from my radio on Friday mornings.
SARAMy question is a little out of left field, but it involves Venezuela. What do the panelists see as a possible future for Venezuela, which is -- appears to be deteriorating into total disarray?
LABOTTWell it's a great question, and certainly that's another that, you know, you hear on the margins but not really speaking about considering Venezuela is an important U.S. partner in terms of the oil and energy. The U.S. is working very hard behind the scenes to see that the Maduro government and the opposition can work together for some kind of political arrangement. I don't necessarily think you'll see President Maduro leaving office, but certainly there is a desire to get Maduro to talk to the opposition and try and get some kind of political accommodation because, you know, he follows in a lot of what, you know, President Chavez has done, which is in terms of dismissing all of the political opposition, not just from another party but within his own government in terms of people that want to work with the opposition to try and have more inclusive government.
REHMAnd here's a comment from our website. Turkey is moving step by step toward dictatorship. We've been allied with dictators in the past. But what do we do if Erdogan supports troops we consider terrorists or moves closer to Russia or starts a war against the Kurds in Northern Iraq, David?
IGNATIUSWell those -- those questions are coming closer and closer. Turkey is a NATO ally, it's been a crucial partner and a reliable one. But the Russia-Turkey relationship is getting closer and closer. The degree of repression that Erdogan is now imposing in Turkey, the arrests of journalists. One of the most respected newspapers in Turkey, Cumhuriyet, on Wednesday its editors were essentially seized and arrested. That's happened with hundreds of journalists.
IGNATIUSI think the number of people who were -- have been imprisoned is in the 70,000 range, maybe more than that. So there's a real fear that Turkey, which is one of the great success stories in the developing world, is going the other direction fast, and it occupies crucial real estate. For Europe, you know, that is already reeling from the migrant problem, the idea that you'd have Turkey unstable, bombs going off, it's just a dreadful prospect for everybody, so...
REHMAnd, you know, David, for a long period of time we did consider Erdogan one of the good guys. What happened? Give us a very brief recollection of his conversion to another situation.
IGNATIUSErdogan was the Muslim leader who President Obama believed was the Muslim Democrat, and President Obama saw him in the period of 2011-2012 as the way forward, as the model of how you'd help the Muslim Middle East move toward democracy in which Islamist parties had a role in government, and Erdogan, leading his Islamist party, was an example of that.
IGNATIUSErdogan began to get on the defensive and reacted very strongly against his enemies. I think that's really how this all started is he felt on the back foot, and as many leaders do, so this one of the bets that President Obama made, you can understand why he made it, but it's one that didn't turn out well.
REHMAll right, a question on this side.
DICKI'm Dick from Chevy Chase, Maryland, and my question is also about Turkey. Both in Syria and Iraq, Turkey has made incursions with its armor. I don't think Erdogan wants to waste time, more than he has to, against ISIS and is not as much concerned about Assad anymore, as he was a couple years ago. What does he really want to gain by -- by invading, basically, Turkey -- or Iraq and Syria?
DREAZENSo it's interesting. Erdogan is somebody who talks tough on a whole lot of things and has shown no compunction about acting tough to his own people. When he comes abroad, he talks tough and has often done nothing. So he had, years ago, said Assad had to go and then dropped that. He had years ago said that he would move into Iraq to fight ISIS and really has not done a whole lot.
DREAZENFor him, he wants stability on his borders. That's pretty much it. He's willing to work with the Iranians, he's willing to work with the Russians, he's willing to crack down on his own people for it. But when you look at him, this is not a man who acts as tough on the world stage as he talks. In some ways it's the exact opposite.
REHMMay I ask how old the questioner is?
DICKI'm 14 years, and I have been listening to your show since fifth grade. (applause)
REHMOh, I'm so glad, thank you.
YOUSSEFIt's a great question.
LABOTTI was going to say -- I was going to also say I think it's great. We need more young generation of foreign policy leaders, and certainly you're on your way. But I think Yochi has it spot-on. I mean, certainly the Kurds are Erdogan's number one priority and what they feel is an existential threat. They're -- the Kurds are Erdogan's al-Qaeda, ISIS, all wrapped into one. That's what he feels.
LABOTTAnd I also think that it's about these new alliances with Russia. Certainly now Assad is less of an enemy than he was.
REHMElise Labott of CNN, and you're listening to the Diane Rehm Show. And we have another questioner on this side.
SCOTTGood morning, I'm Scott from Northampton, Massachusetts. I'm curious about the panel's thoughts on the third theater in the Middle East, which is the civil war in Yemen and what the path forward is there and if either of the two candidates has a better chance to repair the Saudi relationship. Thank you.
YOUSSEFIt's such a great question and one of the conflicts we haven't talked about despite the horrific humanitarian suffering there. I mean, when we talk about starvation in Yemen, this isn't something isolated to pockets of Yemen. This is affecting the majority of the population there. What's interesting in Yemen is you have multiple wars going on, the U.S. war against al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the war between the Saudis and the Houthis, the war within the state itself.
YOUSSEFAnd so my own prediction, and it's pure conjecture, that we'll get to a point where the fighting is such that in a matter of months we'll start to have substantive discussions about a peace discussion because you are seeing fighting that has been exhausted and not moving either side forward in any real substantive, advanced way to justify this ongoing onslaught.
DREAZENThat question was fantastic, and there are two things about Yemen that I think are often forgotten. One, and I hate to be kind of a numbers geek, but I will be, so far in the last roughly 10 months, there have been between 6,000 and 10,000 children under the age of five who have died from preventable disease. So when we think about death, we think about our own kids, you know, other children we see. In Yemen they're dying by the thousands not from airstrikes but from diseases that were eradicated many years ago.
DREAZENIn some ways the point that we in this country don't discuss enough about Yemen is our complicity in what is happening in Yemen. We are directly assisting the Saudi air campaign. The Saudis are indiscriminately bombing hospitals, schools, civilian areas. So the U.S. likes to lecture when we can and say morality matters if the U.S. tries to abide by that when it can.
DREAZENIn Yemen we are actively assisting what, by many measures, according to aid groups, are war crimes by the Saudi Arabian government, and that's not discussed in this country or stopped by this government, our government, at all.
LABOTTWell, and we also have one food in and one foot out of this conflict in Yemen. I mean, as Yochi said, we're supporting the Saudi-led campaign and providing weapons to the Saudis, but then when there is, you know, a certain level of humanitarian disaster, we're quick to criticize the Saudis. But then, you know, the U.S. has a dilemma. They feel that ISIS and other extremists in Yemen pose a national security threat. They want to help the Syrians -- excuse me, the Saudis, who they feel are going after Iranian-backed Houthis, to eliminate that threat, but this -- these horrible humanitarian situations puts the next president in a real conundrum of how they're going to deal with Yemen.
IGNATIUSJust a brief note because I don't disagree with what Yochi said about this, it is also true that the U.S. are working very hard behind the scenes on diplomacy to try to bring together the Houthi rebels and the Saudi-backed Yemenis that they've been fighting. There were some public talks in Kuwait the U.S. worked hard on. Those fell apart. In the last few weeks, something interesting is happening, I think. We'll have to see. But the idea that the U.S. is doing nothing to stop this horrible war is not true. The U.S. is working.
YOUSSEFAnd I would just point out after the bombing, at a funeral that killed upwards of 130 people, you heard the administration announce that it would have a review of its Yemen policy, an acknowledgement. We've seen some drawback in terms of the amount of U.S. intervention on behalf of the Saudis. That said, we have yet to hear an answer, and so it seems that the U.S. relationship with Saudi vis-à-vis Yemen will be one of the many issues left for the next president.
REHMWell, and as we can all discern, the world right now is not a very happy place. I want to thank all of our guests, David Ignatius, Nancy Youssef, Yochi Dreazen, Elise Labott. I want to thank our wonderful audience here at the Knight Auditorium here at the Newseum. Thanks for listening, all. I'm Diane Rehm.
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