The stories behind the day's headlines with Kirsty Wark. US air strikes in Iraq. Did a London estate really fly the Isis flag? Are there votes in drugs? Plus, loom bands.
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American fighter aircraft have been dropping bombs on Islamic State
fighters marching on Iraq's Kurdish capital.
So what is President Obama's gameplan?
A new humanitarian intervention, but familiar dilemmas -
once you've started, how long are you willing to keep going?
The US State Department's Marie Herth will try to answer that.
It was reported in The Guardian this morning that a "jihadist" flag was
Newsnight went there to try and find out.
And Nick Clegg has come up with a new drugs policy -
no prison sentences for possession of drugs for personal use.
Is this a half-baked attempt to get the stoner vote?
Would drug policy change your vote in the next general election? Yes,
it is a human rights issue and a civil rights issue. People are going
to prison for absolutely no reason over this.
I'll put that to the Justice and Civil Liberties Minister,
President Obama assured the American people the US would not be dragged
into fighting another war in Iraq, but the bombs began to drop today
in the north of the country, as he finally responded to the advance of
Islamic State militants, formerly known as ISIS, who now
The reasoning the President gave was to prevent
a possible act of genocide against minority groups, including
Christians and Yazidis, who are stranded, starving and surrounded
The US expanded its offensive tonight with air
strikes on a seven-vehicle convoy near the Kurdish capital, Irbil.
Earlier, I reached the BBC's reporter,
who is in a church being used by Christian refugees in the city.
Can you describe to me what is happening in Irbil tonight? I am in
St Joe Joseph Church in Irbil. Here, hundreds of families, children,
elderly people, or in the backyard of the church, lying down, most of
them having recently escaped from ISIS. Many of these people are from
Mosul as well. A month ago, they ran away from Mosul and found refuge in
Qaraqosh. They stayed with their family and relatives, but two days
ago, ISIS took over that city as well. There are hundreds of people
in this church. Many community centres and schools in the town are
packed with Christian refugees. They will know that the Americans have
come in with air strikes. What do they want from the United States? I
have talked to many people, and they said, we don't want anything, we
just want to go back to our homes. It is difficult to live like this. I
have seen hundreds of children lying down on the ground in the backyard,
sleeping over a blanket. A family of 12 showed me ten loaves of bread.
They said, that is all we have had all day. What do they make of the
American bombing? I think many of them believe the Americans take
action very late. They said, they could have stopped ISIS a long time
ago, when they were a small group. Many are angry. They are hoping the
Americans will be able to push back ISIS so that these people can go
home. So given President Obama's clear
reluctance to be the world's policeman since he took office,
why is American firepower now once Here's our Diplomatic Editor,
Mark Urban. The United States is bombing Iraq
once again ma and that is the last thing a president who got American
forces out of their three years ago would have wanted. This is a
situation that is a difficult challenge, but it cannot be solved
by the American military. Support can be provided by the military, but
this situation will only be solved by the Iraqi people and a government
that reflects the views of Iraq's diverse population. The president
comfort with the King of Jordan today as well, trying to form a
common front against the ISIS advance and support an Iraqi
government widely felt to be the author of its own misfortunes. The
stakes have been raised as a result of what ISIS did in June. That means
Iraq was facing a word many people use, but correctly in this context,
an existential threat. Was it going to hang together as a country? If
ISIS establish themselves for any length of time in the north-west of
Iraq, in the Sunni Arab areas, the Kurds to go their way would have
increased and the country would have cracked. In recent days, ISIS has
been pushing outwards on every point of the compass. To the west, they
have taken the Yazidis city and Kurdish posts on the Syrian border.
To the north, they have hit the curb. Pushing eastwards, Christians
have been driven from Qaraqosh, and ISIS fighters have got within 30
miles of Irbil. To the south, they have continued to press on Samarra.
Now, the response. American supply drops for refugees on Mount Sinjar
last night. Then a Kurdish push to force a grand corridor for the
Yazidis to escape into Syria. And this afternoon, US planes bombed
ISIS artillery close to Irbil. The Iraqi air force also has been
delivering aid to the Yazidi refugees. These pictures are sent to
show its drop this morning on Mount Sinjar. Further assistance is on its
way, and Britain is likely to join in. We welcome what the Americans
are doing, in particular to bring humanitarian relief and prevent any
further suffering. But our focus is on assisting that humanitarian
mission and using our military in support of the Americans in terms of
refuelling and surveillance to underpin their mission and add to it
with food drops of our own. As for ISIS, they have been preparing for
this moment. They understood only too well that if American bombs
started falling, the dynamic of their struggle with change.
TRANSLATION: Don't be cowards and attack us with drugs. Instead, send
your soldiers, the ones we humiliated in Iraq. We will
humiliate them everywhere, God willing, and we will raise the frag
-- flag of Allah in the White House. Where is all this leading?
Well, American boots are already on the ground. Special force is
directing those air force tracks around Irbil. They are helping the
Kurds at the same time as the Kurds are pulling away from Iraq. What if
those Kurdish forces buckled? Well, the Americans seem determined to
limit their military commitment. So its effect may also be limited in
the military sense, although politically, it is a big change. It
is the plight of refugees that finally tipped the scales for this
American intervention. In Iraq, it puts them on the same side as Iran
and Syria. The politics of the Middle East just got harder still.
Earlier this evening, I spoke to Marie Harf of the US State
Department. President Obama really does not want
to be doing this, does he? He was forced into it. I totally disagree.
The president did not hesitate to authorised action to assist in
humanitarian terms, but also takes that to protect our people in Irbil.
He was also clear that we will not get bogged down in Iraq, but we do
have a long-term relationship here. We will help them fight ISIL. But he
pledged to get the US out of Iraq, and now a Rubicon has been crossed
because you are back in. Isn't this a failure of foreign policy? Not at
all. We are back in a different way. The president pledged to bring a
large contingent of US troops home, and he did. But he also said we
would have a long-term relationship and help Iraq with security
challenges. What you have seen is very different from the situation he
inherited. It is appropriate to help them fight ISIL, to help the deck
our people and to help bring water and food to people starving,
potentially a genocide on top of this mountain. But do you keep
arming until ISIS is no longer a threat and everyone is safe? There
is no long-term US military solution here. Our goal is to stop ISIS's
advance towards Irbil. That underpins what we are doing in terms
of air strikes to protect our people have there. Longer term, it is to
give space for the Iraqi forces to get back on their feet and help them
fight this on their own. Ultimately, we cannot be fighting this fight for
them. But that is not enough. You have to keep at ISIS because they
keep coming back. We know that people in Irbil wish things had
happened earlier, because ISIS is 40 kilometres from Irbil. Will there be
more military strikes? When this crisis first started in June, we
took immediate steps. We created joint operation centres in Irbil and
Baghdad to help the Iraqis fight this threat. We also increased our
surveillance to get more eyes on the ground. But they could not do it on
their own, so you have had to come in. It is a tough challenge here.
One reason we have unable to act so quickly over the past 24 hours is
because we increased our eyes on the ground. We will continue working
with the Iraqis to help them fight this threat. Two things have
happened. There was confirmation tonight that ISIS have taken the
biggest dam in Iraq and there is a possibility of flooding cities and
also cutting electricity. Will you act militarily to get the dam back?
I am not going to preview where we take military action. That is not a
smart strategic move. But it is very concerning to us that the Mosul Dam
appears to have been taken. It is a fluid situation. We will continue
working with our partners to see what we can do.
In the studio with me now is Sundas Abbas, the High Representative
The Turkmens are one of the minority groups who have been
targeted by Islamic State militants in Northern Iraq.
Are you relieved that the Americans are in militarily? We are definitely
relieved that the Americans took steps which should have been taken
months ago, when Mosul was taken control of by ISIS. All abilities
and towns around Mosul -- the villages and towns around Mosul, the
Turkmens fled their towns. Whoever was left was executed by ISIS. Even
the other towns and villages around Kirkuk have been under the control
of ISIS. One of them has been under siege. So actually already, 250,000
Turkmen have been displaced by ISIS, and at that point, the
Americans did nothing? That is correct. It was overlooked by all of
the international community. It was not acknowledged by them and they
have not taken action. Do you feel that the international community
thinks that Turkmen do not count? This is what we think. They do not
count us as part of Iraq. A month ago, 250,000 people fled the town of
Tal Afar. They are losing their children every day. You heard
Michael Fallon, the Defence Secretary, saying they would help.
What do you want Britain to do? People urgently need help. I would
like to highlight what is happening in one place which has been under
siege by ISIS for two months now. There is no electricity, no water.
There is a lack of health care. That's each must be broken. Do you
think that Iraq can exist without tolerance of religious and ethnic
minorities? -- with a tolerance of minorities? This is a good question.
I think it could, if they believe in it and they get help from the
Americans to get over this crisis. And is it worse or better than when
Saddam Hussein was in power? This is a very good question. Many people
ask me, and I am asking myself as well. Under Saddam Hussein's
regime, we suffered a lot, especially Turkmen. But I think we
knew who was our enemy. Now, we don't know who is our enemy.
where Israel resumed air strikes in Gaza today
after Palestinian militants fired rockets into the country following
With two wars seemingly without an end in sight,
what effects are they having among communities back in the UK?
This morning the Guardian newspaper reported from an East London housing
estate on what it called the highly provocative raising of a black flag
with white writing, similar to those flown by jihadist groups.
Guardian journalists who approached Asian youths on the estate said
So was this an act of support for Islamic State militants?
We sent Secunder Kermani to investigate.
This is the predominantly Bangladeshi estate in the East End
Borough of Tower Hamlets. Today, it was reported that a black flag had
been hung up here amongst various pro-Palestinian messages. It was
later taken down. Police told us other reporters had been threatened
on the estates. Some of the residents, who did not want to be
named, did agree to talk to us and even brought the flag back out.
Although controversial nowadays, it is believed to go dance -- go back
centuries. They felt angry about being labelled as a jihadist. Do you
think, in hindsight, perhaps putting up the flag was a mistake? People
have put the wrong spin on it. Not at all. Look, what does that say? Do
they know what it is even says? What does it say? One Muslim, one
community. It is a declaration of faith. We believe in one God,
Mohammed. It is not sake, we are terrorists. If I put a union flag
up, would that make me a far right, EDL member will stop I would put it
up to show I am a member of the community and I'm supporting the
team, and this is the country I grew up in. This is just my faith. Do any
of you guys support the Islamic State? Do you think they are a group
that you would admire? We are Muslims. They are killing Muslims.
Why would we support somebody killing their own brothers and
sisters? It doesn't make sense. Like many British Muslims, these men feel
passionate about events in Palestine. How many times have the
Israelis on children's question of who is questioning it question mark
no one. No one. -- who is questioning it? Art British Muslims
expressing the passion you feel they are going on about. Are they
relaying those views? Trust me, they are not. Have you seen what is going
on in the House of Commons? There are like Forum five people sitting
there in the House of Commons. -- four or five people. Halal meat
though, they want to get on the bandwagon. What is that about?
Concern has been growing about support of British Muslims was
groups like bashful groups like ISIS. The groups have said tonight
that the flag would go up again -- groups like ISIS. They will go up
again at some point this evening. Trust me.
Cocaine, cannabis, heroin, amphetamines - any drug of choice.
Today, the Liberal Democrats have said if it's for personal use nobody
should go to prison, and they are trumpeting this as the first step to
Roughly 1,000 people in England and Wales were imprisoned for
possession for personal use last year and the Deputy Prime Minister
So is this really a thought through attempt to tackle
drug addiction, or just an attempt to grab some summer headlines?
From Central America, through Afghanistan, from Turkey, drugs are
a worldwide business, transaction, that in this case, ends here on the
streets of London. What the Liberal Democrats are announcing today is
not legalisation, it isn't decriminalisation, but it is a move
in that direction. We have to take this step-by-step. The first thing
we want to end, and we are committing as a party that we will
end, is chucking people behind bars they have -- because they have in
their possession, for their own personal use, drugs. The only thing
negative is people 's perceptions. One in ten have taken an illegal
drug in the last year. On a summer night in west London, this group of
activists are happy to smoke and show their faces on camera. The
question is, how far will the UK go with this over time? In terms of
cannabis, that will definitely be legalised in everybody's life time.
If I had to be asked, in the next five or ten years in the UK, a
legalised market with medical cannabis available. Is it
inevitable? It is. Would a change in policy on drugs change your vote in
the next election? Yes, absolutely. It would have a massive effect
because it is an important issue, a human rights issue, a civil rights
issue. There are people going to prison for this and being
criminalised for absolutely no reason at all. The number of people
locked up after getting caught with a controlled substance has dipped in
recent years, but in 2013, more than 1000 ended up with a custodial
sentence where possession was the main offence. Interestingly, around
half of those were caught with a class B drug, most likely cannabis.
But still, the numbers jailed are a tiny fraction of those cautioned at
more than 30,000 per year. In the last 15 years we have criminalised
1.5 million people for possession of drugs for their own personal use. We
cannot overestimate the damage that that does to an individual. We have
to remember as well that the majority of those who have been
criminalised our young people. We are giving these children criminal
records, which affects their choices in terms of education, their
employment opportunities. But the Lib Dems in this building behind me
are taking a bit of a risk with this policy. For some, it is a let down,
not the big announcement on decriminalisation they hoped for.
For those on the other side of the debate, it is dangerous and sending
out the wrong message at the wrong time. It is basically legalisation
by the back door. There is so much with that policy proposal. In the
UK, we are seeing the greatest reductions in levels of drug use we
have seen for decades. So the suggestion to weaken the criminal
justice contribution here risks turning round the decrease in levels
of drug use we have seen for decades. So the suggestion to weaken
the criminal justice contribution here risks turning round the
decreasing drug use and risks escalating drug use. All this comes
when there is a clear worldwide shift towards liberalisation.
Colorado and Washington in the US have now legalise cannabis.
California could follow soon. Other countries from Uruguay to Portugal
have changed their laws. In many of those places, the shift has been led
by groups of cannabis users getting together to grow and share the drug.
We are starting to see that happen in the UK, where 60,000 have joined
Internet-based social clubs like this in the last three years. We are
not the only country in the world that are going down this social club
option. There are 11 countries in Europe that have adopted this, just
cannabis consuming citizens who want safer and fairer laws. The misuse of
drugs act is there to control cannabis and it is not controlling
it by any means, or any drug in this country. Today's Newsnight not make
a difference to the people sat around this table, but it's a small
part of a wider trend -- today's news might not. But it is part of a
larger trend across the world changing drug laws.
Here with me is Simon Hughes, the Justice and Civil Liberties
This applies to all drugs and is about personal use, but how do you
define the amount used for personal use? If somebody gets stopped, the
police decide whether it is for personal use or therefore supply.
And they charge appropriately, and they would do the same. But people
need to know themselves whether what they are carrying would be
reasonable for personal use? How can people feel safe and comfortable
what they need? The law has been clear that if you are caught with a
very small amount, clearly something you are able to use only, and it is
regarded for your own use. If you're the law thinks you are carrying a
stash. There is no legal definition. That is correct. I'm going to do
this, because it is to give people a sense of what this is. Here we have
some powder. I'm glad you are producing this and not me. Here is
some powder. Let's say this was cocaine. That would be about three
or ?400 worth. A tiny amount. That would be regarded as personal use?
I'm not the judge or the police officer or the Crown Prosecution
Service. Let's put it another way. Let's say you have a great capacity
for it, so this is worth ?2500, and it is whatever it is, and it will
last you a long time, and you live in a rural area and you want to get
enough for a year. Here you are, and you live in rural Cornwall and you
want to get a supply every year. This is for personal use. What do
you do with that? The police do the same all the time. If they stop
somebody in Cornwall with that stash, they would question them, and
if the answer was I go to London once a year and collect what I need,
and you can check, they have to decide whether they believe what
they are being told. But that is disastrous the people. Actually, I
will throw half of this over my shoulder, because then it won't be
too upsetting for the police. I will come at the issue in another way and
I understand what you are asking, and we are not changing the law to
make it legal where it is not. But the law is not clear. And if you
were being radical, you would change the law. We need a definition of
what is actually for personal use and not. The law is clear enough
that every year 80,000 people get convicted in this country for drugs
for personal use in England and Wales. The law is clear that when
they get to the courts, there is a distinction between a caution...
This will be such a lot of police time. No, it is the opposite. Only
4% of people who are convicted for personal use" link, so actually,
this is a fuss about nothing. -- in the clink. My department is a prison
service. Last year there were 2000 and more people who went inside for
possession and they came out after three months or six months. There
are a lot of drugs in prison and the evidence is, counterintuitively,
that the reconviction rate for those who go inside for drug possession is
higher than those who get dealt with in another way, so we are trying to
move this from a law and order, Home Office way. You have been banging on
about this since 2002 and you haven't got anywhere. If you are
going to get somewhere, wouldn't you say decriminalise and be done with
it? That would be the radical way. It would be, and some people
supported. Do you support it? No, because the evidence around the
world is that if you move it from Loren order to a health issue, the
benefit is dealing with drug addicts and give them a better lifestyle at
the end of it -- law and order. You can't have an event,
or a protest, or a charity these days without
a wristband to mark your support - Now there's a new craze
for looping multicoloured rubber bands together which are nothing to
do with good works, but which has made their inventor ?80 million in
three years and spawned warnings of The Pope and the Duchess
of Cambridge are both fans but unless you have young children
or grandchildren, or nothing to do, loom bands have possibly passed you
by. How exactly have tiny multi-coloured
rubber bands come to rule the world? As part of Newsnight's commitment to
the plastic arts, we have commissioned Rosie Emerson to make a
work that could hardly be more provocative and timely. Miss
Emerson, who specialises in exposing materials to sunlight is creating a
piece inspired by the two. -- loom bands. Deal with that, culture show.
Everyone is wearing them it seems. You told us what you wanted, and we
were listening. A major Newsnight take on loom bands, this summer's
must have bad. They came about when a crash test engineer was enjoying
down time with his family. I got the idea for my daughters. They were
making bracelets, so I wanted to impress them. That is why I came out
with the tool to make great designs, and also one that they can make by
hand. The tool of his is now worth millions. He is no dummy. What he
dreamt up was essentially a little plastic loom around which deaf
fingers can weave coloured rubber bands into various pleasing designs
and patterns. And that reminds me, how is the artist getting on with
them? As the paper behind them changes colour in the sun, the bands
remain stubbornly resistant to the elements, like cockroaches. I have
come to meet a group of youngsters in a village just outside Cambridge
to show them how to make loom bands. This would be the loom, hence the
name, loom bands. Actually, they seem to be doing all right by
themselves. Try and make me look good in this, OK?
They are involved in a national project to get kids making art in
school, using loom bands to create sculptures in praise of summer. At
least it keeps them off their phones and computers, sort of. It's like
the things we did in the 70s, macram? and French knitting, but
they were comparatively boring, but now with the you Tube, they have
this sort of inspiration feeding in. It is taking it beyond, I think,
what any one person would do in their house and we are all using
tablets to get the inspiration. Is it as fun as playing a computer
game? I think so. Maybe even better. It is sharing. A shared agenda
plaything? My goodness. They shared gender plaything. -- a shared gender
plaything. It is easy to sneer at loom bands, but I like the idea it's
getting people to do things. At the end of the day, its creator. At the
end of the day, it could lead to somebody being a designer. I have
seen dresses made out of it. It is aimed primarily at kids, so to get
them to become the extras with their fingers, the earlier the better.
Bring it on. -- to become dextrous with their fingers. Don't get the
idea we are endorsing the product. After all it has been linked to
rubber bands in eyes, severely twanged fingers and it is in the
greenest thing in the world either. We were caught by surprise that the
craft would be that popular. So we are thinking about how to instruct
the customer on how to recycle the product. Artist Rosie Emerson is
doing her bit for recycling the loom bands. Will LeCras soon be a shadow
of itself? -- Will this craze soon be?
Somebody needs to give me their bracelets so I can pretend I have
made a good one. There. I've just finished that. That's not bad. I'm
quite proud of that. Pretend you made them all. Something for the
weekend. Have a nice weekend. Good night.