15/03/2016 Newsnight


Is the war in Syria any nearer to ending? Has Islamic State peaked or paused? Plus, a look at Brexit, academy schools and the papers, while Harriet Walter performs live.

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No-one's celebrating but it's five years today,


Countless misjudgements by all involved.


It was a strategic opportunity which was missed. It got missed and that


is a terrible mistake to make. We'll ask whether actually,


in this case earlier military intervention would have


made a difference? The grey blob showing


Islamic State's territory in Syria and Iraq has grown with frightening


speed in the last three years. Have they now peaked,


or just paused? We'll ask if the media is playing


fair on the Brexit debate, with Alastair Campbell


and the Sun's Trevor Kavanagh. And who is the mysterious Italian


author whose pen name is Elana She had shown me, not only


that she knew how to wound with words, but that she would kill


without hesitation. For anyone with a simple theory


as to who runs the world, the five years of Syrian civil war,


have been a challenge. Some think the US calls the shots,


a monopoly superpower. A few - probably insane -


people think the UN is some kind of all-powerful world government,


and others think everything comes down to great battle of the century,


between Islam and the rest All these accounts are belied


by the messy complexity of that painful civil war in one


medium-sized country. The sad fact is, no-one


has been in control. The different powers


of the world all agree it's bad, And when the big powers can't agree,


painful paralysis is the result. The neo-imperialists,


storming around using military force to impose its will on the world,


that's hardly a description Smarting from the disaster of Iraq,


it's shied away from so-called liberal intervention in most


of Syria - but it is a country where chemical weapons have been


used, and where millions have been displaced,


many on to our own shores. All in all, for us, it's been a five


year reminder that we don't always I have a very clear message for


president Assad, it is time for him to go.


We will double non-lethal support to the Syrian opposition in the coming


year. The deadline for us, if we start seeing a bunch of chemical


weapons being moved around. We have concluded that the Syrian


government has carried this out, and if so, there needs to be


international consequences. The ayes day only language understood by


killers like this, that is the language of force. -- the only


language. We must not and will not be confused


in our fight against Isil with support for Assad.


TRANSLATION: The task put before the Ministry of Defence and the Armed


Forces is largely complete. A look back there, at the evolving


Western narrative on Syria over The West has been clear


in what it wants: Assad out, a peaceful democracy


to flourish in his place. But in the absence of all that,


it's never been clear what the second or third


choice options are. Russia on the other hand has had


more strategic focus - and has never exhibited any


self-doubt: for example, the Russian Air Force's top


commander in Syria has said the force never missed the target


during its operation Let's talk to Lyce Doucet, the BBC's


Chief International Correspondent In the history of this war, we have


had this momentous development, Russia has said it is pulling out.


What has been the reaction in Damascus? It is not completely


pulling out, it will maintain a significant military presence, this


is part of a bigger strategic goal for President Putin and so


significant is the Russian role in Syria, you're getting reaction from


government-controlled areas like Damascus and also from rebel held


areas. In Damascus government supporters have said how relieved


they were that Russia finally got involved in a much more significant


way militarily and politically in Syria, Russia's involvement brought


President Assad's forces back from the brink, they were close to


collapse on some key front lines, and his supporters are now


wondering, what if it goes wrong again? Will Russia support them?


Russia has made clear that it will, but if the military objectives have


been achieved, what is the political plan? Will this include President


Assad and will this bring Syria closer to peace and what will be


their own future? In rebel held areas, you also hear a welcome


regarding Russia pulling out its forces, but we have heard from


opposition spokespeople, saying, is Russia going to lose its leverage


with President Assad? There is a broad welcome, but many questions,


as well. Thanks for joining us. One person who has been close


to the centre of the international She was a one time development


secretary for Tony Blair, but went on to become UN emergency


relief co-ordinator for most I spoke to her yesterday,


about some of the mistakes that In 2014 she called the impact


of the Syrian war a stain And I think that we really have


to think about how in the last five years we allowed Syria to slide


into this situation. And the impact that it has


had on ordinary Syrians Is there any point in the last five


years, do you think, where the West could have made


a different decision, that would have made


a really material difference I think there have been various


points at which considerably more pressure could have been put


on Syria, if, for example, the permanent members


of the Security Council had shared the same analysis of


what was happening in Syria. 2012, Russia appeared to have a view


that Assad should move aside. And the West didn't buy


in to that Russian plan then. Looking back doors that not look


like the most tragic error of this entire conflict on


the part of the West? Well, I have always thought that


a strategy whose starting point was "Assad must go" was a strategy


which would be incredibly Because if you are starting


negotiating position is one that sees absolutely no room


for movement, then it is hard to see how you're going to negotiate your


way out of that. And I think the result of that has


been that countries have had to almost backtrack


to where we ended up at the end of last year and this year,


where the there is some wriggle room being looked for in terms of saying


well, we need to start a negotiation, there has to be


a transition and yes, of course our ultimate goal is that


aside must go. But the Russians said,


Assad will go. It was a strategic opportunity


which was missed. And it got missed because countries


just got locked into these And that is a terrible


mistake to make when you're to negotiate your way


through the kind of complexity Now there may have been a feeling,


and I think that there was from some, that this


was not a genuine offer. 2013 of course was a point


at which there were, there was a big decision to be made


about military intervention and whether the West should take


a military role. And the UK Parliament voted not


to do that. Do you think, looking back,


that was a mistake, or not? It is hard to say that it was


a mistake because I think that if you look at the situation


in Syria at the time, and if you just think


about historically, the military interventions that have been made


and the impact that they have had on the region, you cannot exactly


say that we have covered herself No, my thought actually is we have


had several that have been disastrous and then say OK,


we had better not have this one. And this one might just have been


the one where you would actually say So my approach has always been


in relation to military action, that it has to be, or it can be,


if you're going down that road, There has never been a sense


in which we can say that strategically, looking


at the political elements, looking at the broader potential


for military action, looking at the longer term


development of Syria. This has had a huge


impact on the country. Looking at the humanitarian


consequences, looking at how So just focusing on one


element of it, in my view Joining me now in the studio


is Paddy Ashdown, former Lib Dem leader who was International High


Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, and


Labour's Mary Creagh, who voted against military


intervention in Syria in 2013. Down the line from Florida we're


joined by Paul Wolfowitz who was the US Deputy Secretary


of Defence under President George W. Bush, and in Geneva as part


of the women's advisory board for the Syrian peace


talks is Reem Turkmani. Mary, you had a vote in the British


Parliament and you voted against. That is the vote I regret the most


in my 11 years as a Labour MP, it was a failure of David Cameron and


Nick Clegg to convince enough of their MPs to back them and also a


failure of the Labour Party and it was a grave misjudgement and the


Syrian people have paid the consequences, because we essentially


told a dictator that he had impunity to murder his own people with barrel


bombs and chemical weapons, through siege and starvation. Do many of


your colleagues feel that way? There is a number of us who change their


mind and voted in favour of air strikes in December, because we


realise that the Syrian people had paid for that decision with their


lives in many cases. Reem, what you feel when you hear that? From Mary.


First let me start by saying that I'm speaking in my personal


capacity, not as a member of the advisory board. The debate about


military intervention in 2013 was within the context of a political


plan which does not aim to change the regime or ends the regime, the


Americans stated it Jerry Kelly, they were there to hurt the regime,


but not to overthrow the regime -- stated it very clearly. In 2015, the


debate which was just refer to, that was about something completely


different, it was against Isis and not against the regime, and the


British American warplanes are in Syria and they don't even attempt to


fire at any territories that are held by the regime. They are clearly


not messing up with any land that had a Russian flags on it. Just


Syrian flags. We have to be clear about that. In two sentences, can


you say why intervention would have been worse and would have done more


damage than good? No intervention would have settled


the war and led to a victory for either side. We needed international


consensus on the solution. This is the only thing that changes


dynamics. It is the American, Russian process, when they sat in on


a meeting about a ceasefire, there was a ceasefire. That is what we


needed and the opportunity that we missed in 2012. Paul, take us


through whether you think intervention should have been


carried out, and when? We talk a lot about the past and no question


people make a lot of policy based on what happened in 2003. If we are


looking for some local examples of how things do and do not work it is


useful to go back 25 years to 1991 when we had the ceasefire after the


first Gulf War. There were uprising in northern and southern Iraq. The


Shia were abandoned with terrible consequences and were also living


with the consequences today. The Kurds were rescued belatedly and


created what is probably the most viable part of Iraq today. I think


what we're seeing in the Russian intervention is if you limit your


object gives and it seems the Russians are trying to do that, you


can accomplish a lot more. I think whatever is done, I agree with the


earlier speaker, needs to any strategic context. I think that has


to recognise that there are a group of Syrians who may not like Assad


but feel more endangered by the triumph of the Sunni Muslim


majority. And then the Sunni Muslim majority feel oppressed by Assad.


Talking about Assad must go, that is not a strategic description of where


we need to end up. And focusing exclusively on Isis is not strategic


either. When you look at the interventions going back to the


first Iraq War, the Bosnian war, because of an adventure, the second


Iraq War, all the interventions, what do you think the success rate


is, that's got to Libya, what is the success rate in your assessment? We


could go all the way back to the Korean War 60 years ago which of the


time was seen as a disaster and cost 40,000 American lives. The country


was in horrible shape afterwards and 60 years later it is a modern


miracle. What sport would you give it, you think we get it right half


the time, 90%, 20%? I've not tried to do a box score on that and I'm


not sure that is useful as a way to think about that. There are things


that we have done right, things we have done wrong and that is how to


think about it. Lord Ashdown, there are plenty of successful and


unsuccessful ones, what would characterise them? The successful


ones are the ones you recognise that military action has been taken to


achieve a political end. War is the continuation of diplomacy by other


means as has been said. We have forgotten the diplomacy and


strategy. Putin does nothing unless it has political effect. He


intervened in Syria with the aim of supporting his man in theory, asset,


and playing himself back into the Middle East and international


affairs. He is leaving Syria to send a message to asset, that is why he's


going, which is you relied on the to survive you had better do what I say


now or we will not come back to help you. That gives him the bridge in


the peace talks. What Putin does and where he wins every time, he makes


sure the action he takes has a political effect. We believe, we see


a problem in the world and we want to vomit. We remember the war but we


forget the diplomacy. And that is where Putin wins and where we lose.


Talking about about the diplomacy. Mary Craig do you feel that Western


policy has been too inflexible? We have had red lines, we turned down


early deals with the Russians. That vote in 2013 created a chain


reaction, we created two spaces, a political space into which the male


Putin moved because he became the person that then oversaw the


dismantling of the Assad chemical weapons and it created a


geographical, ungoverned space in the east of Syria allowing Isis to


move in and destabilise Benteke, northern Iraq. So there were two


spaces created by that. When we talk about these abstract concepts of


strategy, you must not forget the human cost paid. Europe is not


focused on the refugee crisis, we have been distracted by a war in


Ukraine, this country has been distracted by a referendum on the


EU. And on our borders, 4000 people have drowned trying to reach Europe


in boats. Because our countries together cannot work out safe, legal


and compassionate routes for them to flee. Let us not misunderstand the


2000 test 2013 vote, it was not about military intervention at about


upholding international law. We had the chance to build a coalition and


did not take it. Because of that Putin had a political strategy for


military action, we never had. Do you agree that the biggest single


mistake has been the West and their red lines which made a deal with


Putin almost impossible? They raised the bar too high, they locked


themselves in the position of regime change only a few months after the


beginning of the revolution. When Syria, I'm in the Russians were


already in Syria. They equip the Syrian army, help to build it. So to


go to a country with a strong Russian presence and say you want


regime change when the Russians made it clear after Libya that they would


not allow such an agenda to take place any more, that was an obvious


mistake. And in 2012 when the opportunity came in and the Russian


said OK, we agree that he leaves, that Assad leaves at the end of his


term in 2014, when they renew presidential elections coming, so


you just should accept that he stayed until 2014. Both the Syrian


opposition and the West rejected that and look at where we are now.


2016 and he is still in power. And still a lot of people dying. Paul,


you are a guy everyone thinks is the person who believes in shock and all


and just wants to bomb when you see a problem. What you now think about


the diplomacy of the West, do not think the biggest mistake in Syria


was the failure of the West to come to a deal with the Russians that


might have allowed Assad to stay for a couple of years or a year or two.


I do not know what the evidence is that suggests the Russians would


have agreed on something that would have brought an end to the war. I do


think the burden of proof is on anyone who says we could not have


done anything to relieve the humanitarian disaster. Creating safe


zones along the Jordanian and Turkish border for example. If we


had an overall strategy that might have included -- included negotiated


with the Russians, that would have fitted into it. One problem is we


step into negotiation with basically no alternative to negotiating. But


the Russians, it is the other arm of a more active diplomacy, even a


military diplomacy. They just demonstrated that recently, there


are now in a strong position if they want to negotiate and we are not.


The point for Mrs is the Russians have a bigger dog in this fight. We


are coping with jihadis returning from the battlefield. Chechnya is


the battlefield, so it was in their interests. We lost an opportunity.


One of the biggest surprises of the five year conflict


was the sudden rise of Isis, Isil, so-called Islamic State,


It has variously looked unassailable, and yet also


Richard Watson has pulled together some of the evidence.


Some new information looking at the map as to their territory, there to


rain. We have worked with data analysis company and working on a


map of Syria and Iraq looking at territory. We can see that now. If


you look at that area, that is the position on January year ago. Quite


extensive territory held by Islamic then. We asked scientists


recalculate the tighter to the 14th of March, just this weekend. That is


the new position, they lost quite a lot of territory. 22% of their


territory in about 14 months. So it looks as if there are on the back


foot. They made some limited gains however put up but those gains are


in the colour red. Around the ancient site of bomb era. Far


outweighed by losses elsewhere many Kurdish areas. What about the


foreign fighters, the attractiveness of Isis? It has been significant,


the foreign fighters, one of the most obvious reasons is that the


Kurds control the Syrian Turkish border area and so it is harder to


get in foreign fighters to the territory. And if you have a


shrinking caliphate, you are no longer a winning team and so the


attraction is lower than it was 18 months ago. Do we know much about


the number of British fighters going out there, before Christmas last


year it is all we were talking about. I spoke to security sources


and they see that the flow of British jihadists peaked about 18


months ago. They told me something interesting, that the rate of flow


has now slowed down. It has not stopped, people are still going out


there, total numbers are interesting. British fighters out


there, 800 so have gone out. Around 100 have been killed in Syria, and


about 350 are back in the UK. Thank you very much.


In this country, we have a famously robust and campaigning press -


But when it comes to the EU referendum, does the desire by some


newspapers to campaign, get in the way of public understanding?


Alistair Campbell, formerly Tony Blair's communications chief


has written an excoriating criticism of the press's behaviour


Spinnaker --. Has coverage of Brexit been unfair? Two claims about the


monarchy, has coverage moved to report urged to political interests?


Do you think it is the job of newspaper to present information


about the EU and its workings in such a way as will help readers make


up their minds? Absolutely. Why not do it! We do! Give us an example of


some things you think they have done which does not help the reader make


up their minds. They present only one side of the story. For example a


series economic figure like Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of


England, goes to a committee of MPs and at last question is, says what


he thinks. The Archbishop of Canterbury makes the football


statement, both of those occasions, most of the papers -- thoughtful


statement. The right-wing papers, the Sun, the Times, express, the


star, and the Daily Mail probably is the worst. What they do they spin


the whole thing in one direction. Mark Carney is part of project fear.


The Archbishop of Canterbury is saying because he did say he is not


-- it is not racist to worry about immigration, they presented that as


he was somehow whacking the case. And they tell lies, write stories


that totally untrue. Let me ask you, as the European Union banned


hairdressers from wearing high heels? As the European Union... Have


we said that? You said they were going to. Has the European Union


force does to call Christmas a winter festival to mark? The Sun has


been running this kind of story for decades. The thing about Alistair,


he forgets that we had known each other a long time. He probably


forgets a conversation we had, which I noted in my diary at the time, he


has told me that in his view he has never been a journalist but a


propagandist. At least I admit it. Let him finish. I also suspect he is


a Eurosceptic. He's peddling the line because he is a propagandist.


We believe in what we're saying. We always have had the same stance, we


are newspaper and entitled to have a view, and editorial view the top we


always stood out against the European constitution, the single


currency, and against mass uncontrolled immigration. That is


the position from which... Two minutes ago you said your job was to


give people information on which to base a decision. We have carried


many opinion paces by people for the European Union. -- opinion pieces.


They do carry pieces on both sides of the argument. They do not present


two sides to an argument. We do. You do not. Let me just say, I admit I


have a bias. I admit it. I admit it. What I do not do, and never did as a


journalist, is to make up stories and I believe that your paper, the


Daily Mail and the other papers, express for example. That is a bit


rich, actually. That you never made up stories. Trevor has had less say


so I will let him speak. He has not said anything. Repeat your point


about his critique. We believe that the European Union


lacks a democratic accountability. Are you giving your readers the


information to make a decision? We are telling them that Brexit was a


catastrophic failure, which is supported. Brexit? The European


signal currency, it was a dismal failure, you supported it from the


very beginning, you propagandised... When you work in government, did you


selectively pick evidence in order to promote the case? Yes, you did.


With government policy we would have a position and we would promote it.


To be fair to Trevor, not Trevor, but papers like the Daily Mail, they


were very careful not to call us liars, but I'm making the point, I


gave you a few trivial examples. The sun newspaper has reported in the


past that because of Europe we are going to get rid of Christmas. You


have said that, Trevor. Oh come on. We are talking about big issues, and


my issue is that you are not giving the public fair, balanced coverage


about these issues. Were you as critical when the papers were on


your side of the argument? Probably not. When they were making fun of


William Hague. The Scottish independence referendum. What they


should not do is make up stories. Their media view another example.


Brexit and the Queen. -- let media view another example. He is on the


board of it so which is investigating it. Your editor, Tony


Gallagher, he said they did audience research of what the audience


believed and that guided them in terms of how they are covering the


vote, this is the most interesting thing. Almost as though you think


the readers are telling you what to write. For the last 35 years, I


became political editor in 1983, from that moment and before, we have


had a sceptical view and a very strong sceptical view and we have


been proven right on every single count, and the constitution and the


euro and the control of the borders and uncontrolled immigration, and


frankly we are the ones who have been proven right, and the


propagandist in the hands of Alistair Campbell here,


self-professed publicist like Alistair Campbell, he is singing a


tune because he works for a PR company. Trevor, if I may say so, I


believe... You are accusing me of all sorts. I have no vested interest


in this apart from my own personal opinion. You talk about fair and


balanced opinion, how much coverage did you give to the IMF,


Rolls-Royce, Morgan Stanley, Vauxhall, Centrica, Nato, they'll


say stay in Europe, but some bloke from the bridges, -- bridges, --


British Chambers of commerce? We did give some focus on Vauxhall. You


have not made up your mind on how the Sun is going to vote. You have


raised your eyes at that. We cannot give our verdict until we have


weighed up the evidence. LAUGHTER You are being ironic? In the sense


that firstly there is no argument, I think. Europe is a busted flush. And


because you think that, your readers should not be given both sides of


the story. Who is going to make the decision for the Sun? Rupert


Murdoch. You say you are going to put other people... You are boring,


I'm sorry. Thanks for joining us. "If the book is worth something,


it should be enough", is her philosophy -


which is why nobody - except her publisher


and a very select few - know the true identity


of Elena Ferrante. The Italian author of nine novels,


it's her so-called Neapolitan novels that have made her the talk


of many a household - the last of which,


The Story Of The Lost Child, was recently longlisted


for the Man Booker International An Italian professor has come up


with the latest theory on who the real Elena Ferrante


is but the mystery goes on. In the absence of an interview


with the author, Katie Razzall went to the woman who's become the face


of the Ferrante novels in the English-speaking world -


translator, Ann Goldstein - to find out what all


the fuss is about. My friendship with Leila began


the day we decided to go upstairs, step after step, flight


after flight, to the door Unmasking Elena Ferrante has become


an Italian parlour game. This, in some secret place


in myself, I still thought. She had shown me not only


that she knew how to wound with words, but that she would kill


without hesitation. Ferrante's Neapolitan quartet


catapulted the Italian novelist The story of a friendship


between two women growing up in poverty in Naples in


the second half of the 20th century. But with the author doing only


the odd interview by e-mail, her translator often


speaks in her place. Her novels are about


a place and time that you might not be


specifically familiar with. The relationships she describes


and the struggles, especially of women,


that she describes, are very compelling and universal,


I should say. She talks herself about


how she wants to get at the truth of emotions


and she says somewhere that anonymity helps her to get


to the truth of an emotion. I heard of some man


who said after reading it, he said he understood his family,


meaning, I guess, the women But the identity of the author


of books also has readers It has become an Italian


detective story. The BBC drama had Rufus Sewell


in the title role of Zen, but when it comes to Elena Ferrante,


Italy has this man, a professor and writer, seen with a journalist


from the Italian newspaper that carried


his big reveal, from a detailed study of references in one


of the novels, the name in the frame is Marcella Marmo, a professor


at Naples university who studied at the same prestigious school


as Elena Ferrante's narrator. I did not think it was necessarily


right, but I have no idea. Yes, she did, but that


is what they all say, The likes of the Bronte sisters


knew about anonymity, but that is when women


were not supposed More recently Joe Klein


tried but failed to hide his identity


as the author of Primary Colours, and even JK Rowling was outed


when she tried to move secretly When it comes to Ferrante,


even the woman who has translated all her work does not get


to communicate directly. When I have questions,


I write to the editors and they write to her,


if I can't answer the question, and then she writes to them


and they write to me. I have a very close relationship


with the person that writes the books but I don't


need to know who she is, and I don't


want to know who she is. I feel a nostalgia


for our childhood. She may not want to know,


but can Ann Goldstein offer any I get the sense that she is very


well read and educated, a woman in her mid-60s who is very


intelligent and has had The Brexit debate may have


suppressed some of the Chancellor's Our policy editor


Chris Cook is with me. This is about schools. A few things


which will be in the budget, there is about 1,000,000,000 and a half


pounds, which is not much, but a year of the cuts going into schools


this Parliament. Some of the money will be a mark to encourage schools


to stay open the beyond 330, and the other thing, the really big thing,


the Prime Minister would like all schools to be academies by 2022. If


they are not in 2020 already academies, they need to have a plan


in place so they are there by the middle of next Parliament and that


is potentially an absolutely enormous change. No local government


schools in England. Basically. The local authority schools are those


which are funded through the local authority and the government gives


them money and they give the money to the local authority and they do


not run local authority schools, they supervise them and they give


them support. Academies are run directly and supervised by central


government, given money by central government, and the people that run


them are third-party charities. Rather than having your school


answerable to your local councillor, it is answerable to a charity and


then to the Secretary of State for Education. How much difference is


this going to make two schools in England? There's no evidence to


suggest this will standards. -- this will improve standards. It is an


evidence -based light area and we know that early academies, they did


work, but we are talking about turning around schools and schools


which fostered think are fine, and we have no idea if this is going to


work -- which Ofsted things are fine. Every school is facing a


change to the funding for Miller, some will face stringent cuts, and


there are cuts coming down the line -- funding formula. Chris, thanks


for joining us. We leave you with news that the last


remaining script hand written by William Shakespeare is to be put


online by the British Library. And topically, it's a speech


about refugees delivered But we all know Shakespeare


should be heard, not read, and so we leave you with


Dame Harriet Walter. You'll put down strangers,


Kill them, cut their throats, possess their houses,


And lead the majesty of law in line, Say now the king (As he is clement,


if th' offender mourn) Should so much come to short


of your great trespass As but to banish you,


whether would you go? What country, by the


nature of your error, Go you to France or Flanders,


To any German province, to Spain or Portugal, Nay,


any where that not adheres to England - Why, you must


needs be strangers. Would you be pleased to find


a nation of such barbarous temper, That, breaking out


in hideous violence, Would not afford you


an abode on earth, Whet their detested knives


against your throats, Spurn you like dogs,


and like as if that God Owed not nor made not you,


nor that the claimants Were not all appropriate


to your comforts, But chartered unto them,


what would you think This is the strangers' case;


And this your mountanish inhumanity. There might be a few spots of rain


and drizzle in parts of England and Wales tonight and tomorrow


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