Syria, Isis, New York Times discussed on The Takeaway


Democrats won control of the house of representatives in November in part by campaigning to break the gridlock in Washington. The ongoing government shutdown is testing that promise. A lot of us are very much can do people were very concrete people were very practical people. So all I wanna do is. I'm Mary Louise Kelley that story this afternoon on all things considered from NPR news. Weekdays starting at four on WNYC. WNYC supporters include Sony Pictures, classics, presenting STAN and Ollie a new film by John s Baird starring Steve Coogan and John C Reilly as laurel and hardy embarking on a comeback tour in their later years now playing. This is WNYC ninety three point nine FM and AM eight twenty NPR news and the New York conversation. On wednesday. A suicide attack in northern Syria killed nineteen people including four Americans in the city of min beige, ISIS has taken responsibility. The attack comes one month. After President Trump first announced that American troops would be pulling out of Syria after having defeated ISIS. Ben Hubbard is the Beirut bureau chief for the New York Times, and he's been following the developments he joins us now from Beirut. Then welcome back to the takeaway. Thank you. So what do we know about this attack in terms of its targets was this a targeted attack towards American troops seems very clear that this was definitely targeted towards American troops. This took place in the town of men bitch, which is a northern Syria fairly close to the border with Turkey. This is an area that is clearly sort of under American protection. And I think we're the Americans have felt very comfortable. What we heard from people in the town yesterday is that there was a particular restaurant downtown that they like to stop at. They would go there and take breaks when they were doing patrols through town. And. Eats and whatever. And and yesterday while they happen to be there. Somebody wearing explosive vests came in and blew himself up. And that's how this terrible event happened. The US led coalition confirmed yesterday that American troops had been killed in this attack. And just an hour later. We heard this statement from vice President Mike Pence, I'm gonna play for you. Take a listen, thanks to the leadership of this commander in chief and the courage and sacrifice of our armed forces. We're now actually able to begin to hand off the fight against ISIS in Syria to our coalition partners. And we're bringing our troops hall. The caliphate has crumbled, an ISIS has been defeated. Then you've covered the war in Syria for years. What do you make of the vice president's remarks? Well, part of the trick is how you define what it means for these lawmakers state to be defeated the thing that set this organization apart from a lot of the other terrorist organizations that were familiar with Al Qaeda, and all the other organizations is that their goal from the start was to establish a physical territorial entity. They wanted to have a so called caliphate. You know, this sort of Islamic state that they were gonna run, and it was going to have all the trappings of statehood. And so when people in the Trump administration talk about defeating ISIS, they're talking about getting rid of the physical caliphate like the physical control of territory and over the last number of years because of intensive American airstrikes and also assistance from American forces on the ground to local local fighters, both in Syria and Iraq, it is true that we've gotten rid of most of the territorial control there still some small pockets here and there where fighting is still going on. And where you know, they're trying to get. Get them out of the territory. So on one hand, it is true that the caliphate has largely been defeated. It's mostly gone in terms of being a territorial entity. But that doesn't mean that this organization and no longer has the power to carry out attacks and to do things like this attack that it managed to carry out yesterday. We know that the vice president was making these remarks, particularly after President Trump made a recent announcement that they would be withdrawing troops from Syria and from the region could this attack be the thing that changes his thinking, it could really go both ways. You definitely have a lot of, you know, a lot of members of congress and a lot of members of the president's own Republican party coming out and saying this just proves that that the Islamic state has not been defeated this proves that we need to stay there. So that we can continue to fight them and keep them from coming back in greater power. You know, there there are certainly a lot of people who are arguing that the US does need to stay in that this bombing. We saw yesterday is one more piece of proof for all the reasons on the other side. It's it's not hard to imagine a scenario where people say, wait what min beige like, where's that? I've never heard of it. Does it have significant American interests are their oil wells there? Bizarre significant American commerce there the answer to all those questions is. No. So it's it's not hard to imagine a scenario where you're gonna have some people saying, well, why did four Americans get blown up there? What exactly would we fighting for? How exactly does that relate to our own security? And so we're just gonna have to wait. I think as the information comes out in the aftermath of this attack and see which way it goes Ben Hubbard is with me. He's the Beirut bureau chief for the New York Times then stick with us. We just heard about an ISIS claim suicide attack in the city of min Bish, but ISIS isn't the only threat to life in Syria today, at least eight children most of them. Infants died in the last month in a refugee camp called rook Bon that's according to a report out earlier this week from the United Nations an additional seven children most of them under one year old died while fleeing conflict in Deir ez-zor. Ben Hubbard the Beirut bureau chief for the New York Times is with me. Then we've seen images of the devastation, particularly how it affects children your colleague. Tyler Hicks has done amazing work around this. But this humanitarian crisis is just doesn't seem to have an end what are the sorts of conditions in on right now. I think we're kinda start with the larger humanitarian crisis going in Syria. I mean, the conflict that's been going on there since two thousand eleven has displaced about half of Syria's population. I mean half of the population of Syria has been moved somewhere else. I mean, millions of these people have become refugees outside the country. Most of them scattered around the neighboring countries Lebanon where I am Jordan Turkey. They have all have large refugee populations. Obviously we had waves of refugees going to Europe on the boats, but the largest number actually people who are displaced inside of Syria. So they've left one part of the country where there's fighting or there's violence or destruction that had gone to another place thinking that either trying to go another place that was safe or in the case of groupon. They were trying to get into a neighboring country. And the borders got shot. So a lot of the, you know, the neighboring countries of Syria have for the most part shut their borders to new refugees because they feel that they have too many. And they they don't want to take any more. So rooke von as a place where tens of thousands of refugees who were hoping to get into Jordan ended up, and it's very isolated place. It's kind of a desert camp conditions there in the best of times quite miserable. It's been difficult at times for aid organizations to get in there, and and provide assistance and then over the last number of weeks and the region here, we've had some pretty exceptional winter weather has been huge huge storms rainstorms at some of the higher altitudes, we've had snow, and so it's really made life miserable. For a lot of the refugees around the region boasts in the neighboring countries end inside of Syria. So that's the larger context of this report that we had this week from the UN saying that there were eight children who had died in band. And then they also had reports that there were seven more children who had died elsewhere in Syria who had been displaced the United Nations also reported that ten thousand people. I'll have fled violence in Deir ez-zor since December. Then those seven children that died while trying to get out. What was the situation like there? We don't know very much other than that. But this this, you know, it's the conditions for these people even in the best of times are very very dire. I mean, these are people who are leaving oftentimes very quickly a lot of times people who are displaced in Syria have not just been displaced once but have been displaced multiple times over the last number of years. So sometimes you'll meet refugee families who have lived in five six seven eight different places. And so we don't know the specific cases of these families or these deaths, but these are very very dire situations that they're in. And then you know, when it's when their situation is that tenuous, and then all of a sudden, you have incredibly inclement weather come along, whether it's freezing temperatures or serious rain things like that. Then it it just makes life that much harder for the most vulnerable who are going to be the children's the children, and the elderly is they're concerned that the situation could get worse by if the US withdraws its troops. It's a bit hard to know. I think part of the problem part of the part of the difficulty of knowing how US withdraw would affect the people in this region is that we don't know exactly who would come in and fill the void. We now have a situation where the US effectively the protector of about between a quarter and one third of serious territory, and you have local groups on the ground who are doing local security and governance and things like that. But you have the Turks to the north who are I in this territory, you have the Syrian government to the west who's eyeing the territory and they've got Russia Iran, working with them. And they're looking at it. You still have jihadists underground. And so in a way, the US is there is a kind of placeholder, and if the US does decide to withdraw it's very unclear who's going to act I how they're going to act. So you know, there's a lot of people in the region worry that if the US does pull out. In a very quick way without sort of finding some way to do a handover of these. Territories that it could lead to all kinds of other instability, another that is going to be good for the displaced. Ben Hubbard is the Beirut bureau chief for the New York Times been thank you. Thank you..

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