20/02/2017 Newsnight


Newsnight reports on the battle for Mosul, Trump's new national security adviser, business rates, the Russian revolution 100 years ago and the modern-day lessons of Thomas Telford.

Similar Content

Browse content similar to 20/02/2017. Check below for episodes and series from the same categories and more!



The Battle for Mosul started four months ago.


The anti-ISIS forces have taken the east of the city.


And now the struggle for the west is underway.


But the fighting around Mosul is only the start of it.


What is the plan to defeat so-called Islamic State altogether,


Well that blueprint awaits the new leadership in the Pentagon


and White House, something that came a step closer tonight


with the appointment of a new National Security adviser.


We'll talk through some of the options, and ask if there's


any good new idea waiting for President Trump to pursue.


A hundred years from the Russian February revolution.


It was displaced by the Communist one a few months later.


We'll ask what makes a revolution fail, or prevail.


And we used to be the world's top nation at civil engineering.


Are our politicians ready to rediscover their


I worked as a special adviser in government about politicians excited


about infrastructure. They wanted to get on and build it. They wanted to


be photographed as well in this orange kit. Like the Village people,


Westminster style. The fight against so-called


Islamic State in Mosul which was launched in October,


has made solid progress. The eastern part of the city has


been taken, and the militants are now holed up in the west,


effectively under siege, The offensive for that part


of the city is underway. Which means, we need to think


about the follow-through. IS have to be kept out,


and the city and the Iraq Now - Donald Trump gave himself 30


days to come up with a plan Well tonight he appointed


a new National Security Advisor, Let's talk to Mark Urban


our diplomatic editor. Tell us about General McMaster. It


is this if the workings of the Washington machine and state are


acting to wall in the Trump White House with sensible people. He is


highly respected. He wrote a book critiquing the failures of civil and


military leadership getting the country into the Vietnam War. So he


knows about high-level command. In Iraq at a time when there was no


good news, commanding a very complex battle very close to Mosul, that


brought him to the attention of general Petraeus who pushed him


through his promotion board to Brigadier general. He spent some


time in London as well at the International Institute for


strategic studies. A thoughtful and experienced man in the business of


the complexities of modern operations. How difficult was it for


President Trump to fill this post? Shockingly so, in a way. You


would've thought there would be any manner of sharp elbowed Washington


operatives wanting to get in there. But after the departure of general


Flynn and the circumstances of that, it seems that a couple people were


offered the job but did not take it, mainly it seems because they were


not given the right to hire and fire their own staff. And then of course


the choice settled on McMaster who as a serving officer could not


refuse. Mike the first couple of people who had been tapped up. So


Judy calls, he has been pushed forward and there are so many things


on his plate. Starting with the business you were referring to, 30


days to come up with the new plan and there still is not one. When


will there be some kind of plan? Mosul has been a battle


of two halves. Iraqi forces have now


launched the second phase. As they push around


the city, an anxious We are very worried that


in the days and weeks ahead, as the military campaign


intensifies, families Already there is a humanitarian


crisis in the Western districts, the prices of food


are skyrocketing, fuel is scarce, water is cut,


electricity is intermittent. We understand that half of all


the factories are already closed. The poorest families are forced


to sell their furniture, burn their furniture in order


to keep their houses. The Mosul offensive began four


months ago, initially with a push to take the north and east


of the city. By the beginning of this month,


they had cleared almost This week's attack aims to envelop


the west of Mosul prior to But while Mosul's fate remains


sealed, Isis still has There is an American backed militia


to the northern Syrian government But ramping up the US


effort is fraught with The key question that


this Administration is going to have to determine is how


quickly do they want to get to If they want to move on Raqqa


within the next four or five months, and they want to do that working


with local forces, they are likely going to have to provide more


assistance, even in terms of equipment and training or in terms


of direct US and coalition military combat support to the Kurds,


who are best positioned to isolate and seize Raqqa with


their partners on the During his campaign,


Donald Trump promised to put a swift Immediately after taking office,


I will ask my generals to present to meet a plan within 30 days


to defeat and destroy Isis. But now, 30 days after


the inauguration, there is little sign of a crushing


new American effort. Rather, the existing


Mosul plan put in place under Obama is coming to fruition


and the US Defence Secretary, visiting Iraq, was giving little


away when asked if additional American troops would


soon be dispatched. We will accommodate any request


from the field commanders Our allies are carrying,


as you can tell from the casualties list, the overwhelming


burden of this fight And we will work by,


with and through allies from the coalition, and that


coalition, as you know, has more than 60 nations


of varying levels. So we owe some degree of


confidentiality on how we're going to do that, and the


sequence of that fight. I would like to say what a privilege


it is to begin serving our While the Pentagon has prepared some


options for President Trump, the White House national


security machinery has stalled, awaiting the new leadership


announced tonight. What does strategic


planning look like in this The good news is that


the chairman of the joint Chiefs of Staff is still in place,


Secretary Mateus is in and most of the monetary


leadership is still there. Another president will have


options, but how those options are vetted


is the real mystery. At the moment, America's Ground


Force in Syria consists of these lightly armed,


mainly Kurdish militias and a couple Giving them heavy weapons


or more direct US support The Trump administration


faces the same Sustaining or increasing air strikes


requires access through Turkey. Increasing pressure on the ground


through Allied Kurdish militias would annoy Turkey,


jeopardising that access. If you put more


American troops on the ground in Syria, that, too,


might antagonise Turkey, So for now, the US options appear


to involve more of the same, but if there is to be a radical departure,


it could be up to America's new national security adviser


to come up with it. Jon Finer was Chief of Staff


to Secretary of State John Kerry and Director of Policy Planning


at the State Department, Good evening. Can you give us your


impression of General McMaster is it a good appointment? By all accounts


it is. And I would agree. Before I worked in government I was a


reporter for the Washington Post and spent a couple of years in Iraq


covering the war. I spent about one month living and working alongside


General McMaster in one of the seminal battles of the Iraq War that


he was commander. He proved to be an innovative commander, trying some


new counterinsurgency targets that were then applied later in the


conflict and began to turn the war war in the direction of US coalition


forces. A lot of people have said it is rather chaotic and we have not


had a clear policy in many areas. Do you think now that Mike Flynn is out


of the way, do you think stability and a clear policy will now emanate


from this White House? I think it will be a lot harder than replacing


one person. As important a job as it is. This is an encouraging pic but


the real challenge has been so far President Trump has not been


inclined to empower the National Security adviser and Council and has


allowed to be established Parolo policy-making process run by Stephen


Bannon and Steve Miller and others. That is doing some of the serious


strategic thinking about national security issues that historically


has been done and should be done by the NSC. So the real challenge that


general McMaster will have, he will have mastered the issues and


perfectly well this most important battlefield in which US forces are


engaged in Mosul, but the question is does he have the trust of the


president such that he will be empowered to make policy. One


interesting thing is, the president said within 30 days I want to have a


plan, he used at one point the words, to wipe Isis off the face of


the earth. Can that be achieved? Where the president should begin and


I think where the Pentagon should start, with a plan already in place.


There has been extraordinary progress already made in the fight


against Isis. They had seized control of broad swathes of


territory in Anbar province. The Iraqi army has gone in with our help


and pushed Isis out of both major cities, Falluja and Ramadi. Now we


turned attention to Mosul, and we always knew that would be the


hardest fight in Iraq. At this stage half of the city has been liberated.


That took four months and that is the lesson populist heart of the


city. Isis by all accounts is well dug in in the western half of the


city. So this is still going to be difficult. Moving this more quickly


is going to require a greater investment of US forces. But will


also potentially produce more casualties. So will the White House


decided that it wants to get more invested or will it be comfortable


with the pace as things proceed which right now has been relatively


successful. When you take the battle into Syria there is a conundrum.


Either you have the ground war which could mean offending Turkey or the


air power through Turkey which leaves you helpless on the ground.


Or you send in your own guys and potentially upset quite a lot of


people. Is there a solution to that, do you think President Trump could


say I have an idea, it is not what Obama was doing, I have my own idea


and it will get quick results. Well you hit on one central problem of


the fight against Isis, we have an advantage in Iraq that we do not


have in Syria, namely a local partner, the Iraqi army. We have


trained and equipped them and they know how to fight. Not always


displayed as effectively as it should. But which has stood back up


and is now taking the fight to Isis. In Syria we do not have that ready


partner and so this difficult decision about whether to use


Kurdish forces effectively to fight in what is predominantly Sunni Arab


territory will be the hardest in many ways that the administration


will face. That will come at a cost in terms of relations with the Sunni


Muslims who are living in those areas. But at this stage there is no


other obvious fighting force for which to take cities like Raqqa.


Thank you very much. Major General Chip Chapman


was Senior British Military Advisor He worked under General Mattis, now


Donald Trump's Defense Secretary. Good evening. Do you know of a plan


that is radically different to the plan we heard described there, the


Obama plan, is there a plan sitting waiting to be had upon that is going


to wipe Isis of the face of the earth? Well there are two parts.


First the president? Missive to come up with a plan to defeat Isis in 30


days is not credible, defeat is a military mission verb and will not


lead to the religious ethnic, sectarian, ideological tensions


being put to bed. So partly this is to do with government and partly to


do with stabilisation. The higher headquarters running the Middle


East, do they have plans, of course they do. And it is their job to give


the president options from humanitarian support to putting in


the Marines over a beach. But will the American people go for that, I


do not think so. So the military part is simple, the stabilisation


and government part is the challenge. Give us insight into


general matters, the Defence Secretary. People speak highly of


him. Mad dog matters and names like that. What approached you think that


he will take? He's the thoughtful and wise person. The mad dog acronym


is the kind of media thing, cultural information put out there from when


he was a war fighter. In his latter career he was a warrior diplomat. If


you look at his confirmation hearing in the Senate, he said he looked


forward to working with all the other organisations of government


including state. Of course you have to look more widely than just the


military part. He is looking at grand strategy in terms of


diplomatic information, military and economic power and not just in a


short and narrow military context. How like Donald Trump is he? How


close in thinking do you think he is to the President? Is he a Trumper?


He never made any political pronouncements during the campaign,


and nor would he. One of the things that companies associated with this


having a much closer relationship with Russia and is Syria. You could


imagine that there are old school Americans that are saying, hang on a


minute, Russia are not allies. What side would Mattis beyond? He has


said on many occasions that the only thing worse than fighting with


allies is not fighting with allies. He is an internationalist and not


parole Russia at all. You will look at this through a grand strategic


lens of where Russia are a threat, because his job is no wider than the


Middle East. It is Russia, China, and a global forum. He is one of the


most well read menu could come across. He is a great strategic


thinker. But it takes more than a great strategic thinker to solve the


conundrum that every time you try to do something, you could troops there


or use air power or ground power, you are offending another player in


the region, who depend upon for flying troops in or whatever. It is


there a solution to this? I will give you two quotes from Mattis. He


always said that this is a wicked problem and sometimes, quoting


Winston Churchill, you can have too much water. A direct quote from him


on Syria was this. I am morally appalled outraged, but do you want


soldiers in Oslo and country shooting people? No, you need an


international mandate. We have that in Iraq but we do not have it in


Syria. To unlock Islamic State, you have to be successful in Iraq and


Syria. He putted very well. There are two relevant stories


in the news at the moment. One is discontent with


a revaluation of business rates It will have winners and losers,


and predictably the losers The other story is that


council tax across England is expected to rise in April -


most authorities will raise by as much as they can


without exceeding the limit at which they now trigger an


obligatory council tax referendum. It will go a small way to helping


fill the gap in social care funding. In fact, no taxes are very popular,


except the ones other people pay. But looking at the debate over


social care, and business rates one has to say that Britain's approach


to tax is very ad hoc. It seems to lurch from one


argument to another, reacting to the latest desperate


need rather than any Tax is like the tangle


of cables behind the TV. It just kind of builds up over time


and it's rarely convenient to most of us who have a life,


to sit down and comprehensively And in Britain, the tax tangle


results from too much tactical Do you remember this one? The


omnishambles budget? We will also address some of the loopholes and


anomalies in our VAT system. Takeaway food on the High Street has


been charged VAT for years but some hot supermarket food is not. That


became the pasty tax. VAT applied to all hot food, including pasties. It


caused a political fuss. When was the last time you bought a pasty in


Greggs? Ironically, Mr Osborne's hit on pasties was an attempt to think


strategically. It was an attempt to iron out a complicated anomaly but


it turned out to be politically inexpedient. It appeared to show


that he was out of touch with the pasty eating classes. A cardinal


sin. It was soon amended, a victory for tactical thinking over the


strategic. So what are the pressures for the tax tangle?


Its the asymmetry of winners and losers.


That creates a short-term political pressure which is irresistible


because politicians have to be short-term, which leads to a quick


Rupert Harrison was George Osborne's right-hand man at the Treasury at


the time of the omnishambles. There are some good reasons why you have


to have complexity. There are bad reasons. In the UK, sometimes the


pressure for announcements, an annual budget cycle, often the


Autumn Statement is a vehicle for announcements as well and sometimes


that can lead to unnecessary complexity. The people who think


about this, the people who work in institutes like the Institute for


government or the Institute for Fiscal Studies, they say that what


we need is for each Parliament, the government to set out its big


thoughts over the direction of the tax system. That way there will be


principles and we will see the government stick to them or break


them. If we were to have a big strategic discussion like that now,


one question would be, is social care adequately funded? And if not,


where is the extra money for it going to come from? Wheat can box to


keep up with demand, dump on council tax, as it is not the responsibility


of central government, or we could stand back and work out an approach,


but that would have the disadvantage of making it obvious to the losers


are. At least Britain is not uniquely dysfunctional. When you


look internationally, the UK does not look too bad, in my view. When


you look at the biggest economy in the world, the US economy, the tax


policy making system there is impossibly Byzantine compared to the


system we have in the UK. At the moment, US tax reform, and which tax


reform the US Congress is going to pass is probably more important for


the UK economy than anything happening in the UK. Tax is


something of a tangle everywhere, because the same forces apply.


But we do get the tax system we deserve.


And we are entering the budget season, as it is only 16 days away.


I dare say we will have a lot more to say about it before


The Telegraph reporting tomorrow that Philip Hammond will be making,


or will be taking measures to ease some of the pain of the business


rates revaluation. February 1917 - a hundred years


ago in other words - It didn't really work,


and so a few months later they had a second one that brought


the Communists to power. Some revolutions


prevail, others don't. Some prevail, but then


go on to fail. Before we mark the centenary


of Russia's revolutions, historian Orlando Figes -


a specialist on the Russian revolution - sets out


some of the lessons. It's difficult to generalise


about revolutions and come up They're too diverse in form


to follow general rules. But there are some


things we can say. First, revolutions


are unpredictable. Even when they're expected,


as the Russian Revolution On the evening of the 25th


February, after three days of mass demonstrations


in the Russian capital, Alexander Shliapnikov,


the leading Bolshevik in Petrograd, scoffed at the idea that this


could lead to revolution. "Give the workers a pound


of bread, and the movement The next day, the soldiers


of the czar shot in panic at the crowds and then


joined the people's side. Their mutiny immediately


turning the demonstrations into a full-fledged revolution that


would bring the czarist People's revolutions,


like the one in February 1917, The actions of the crowd,


uncontrolled by anyone, but influenced by rumours


and slogans or ideas such as freedom or justice,


that give them the illusion But in reality, they usually contain


the seeds of their own destruction. Their degeneration into civil war,


dictatorship, and terror, at the hands of demagogues


like the Bolsheviks, who came to power in October


by mobilising violence based October 1917 became the prototype


for all the revolutions of the 20th century,


from China to Iran. And in many ways the Bolsheviks


remain a model for the And that's the second


point I'd make. All revolutionaries look


to the revolutionaries of the past. The Bolsheviks modelled themselves


on the Jacobins and tried to learn the lessons of failed revolutions


in the 19th century. But the Leninist revolutionary


model, to organise a putsch, through a small vanguard


of militants, and then use dictatorship and civil war to build


a social base for the transformation of society, became a model


for revolutionaries in third world countries, where the democratic base


for a social revolution was too weak Revolutions are by


nature illegitimate. The violent overthrow


of divine kings and - at least in Russia -


elected parliaments. They need a foundation myth


to legitimise and sustain They need propaganda


images and symbols. The great October Revolution


as a mass uprising, the victory of the people in the Civil War,


the achievements of the five-year Three generations after the founding


of the Bolshevik regime, the founding myths of


the October Revolution meant very There was barely anybody left alive


who could remember October. And their grandchildren


increasingly took their values Orlando Figes - who you saw there


at the Royal Academy's Revolution exhibition on the art of the period


- joins me now with two other people who know a bit


about popular uprisings. Mustafa Nayyem, who was at


the forefront of the Ukrainian protests that overthrew


Victor Yanukovych in 2014. And Reem Assil, who was active


in movement against She fled the country


after being tortured. I want to start with you two, Reem


Assil, do you see the Russian Revolution is having any parallels


relevance, the history of it, of importance as Syria thinks about


revolution? I don't think so, to be honest. To start, I am not


knowledgeable when it comes to the Russian Revolution. But I think that


for the Syrian people, the idol of revolutions, if you like, is the


French Revolution. Back that far? Not the Iranians? No, no. People


aspire to the French Revolution. They wanted to have something like


it. Back in 2011, I totally agree with Orlando, the revolutions are


unpredictable. No-one would have believed that something like this


would take place in Syria until it actually happened. Orlando in his


piece said that all revolutions look to the past. Do you have one in the


Ukraine that you look to or still look to? Somehow, Revolution in


Ukraine, it recalls the revolution in Russia because actually the


Communists took power, and the revolution we had three years ago,


it was kind of in the spirit of freedom from that regime. For


Ukraine, this revolution was a fight for independence from that cage of


Soviet governance. Really, we look back but it was not an example,


definitely, because the revolution in the Ukraine was the revolution of


the middle class, first of all, sophisticated people, it is not a


people's revolution in the sense of a revolution in 1917. Let's talk


about what makes a revolution work. Orlando, how do you distinguish the


successful ones from the unsuccessful ones? There are two


notions, the ones that grab power and the ones that use power to serve


their own objectives. What defines the good ones and the bad ones? I


think Reem and Mustafa are looking back to a People's Revolution, a


democratic uprising that is much more sustainable now in the age of


social media. That was a big advantage to the Arab Spring, and no


doubt to my den two, to organise people in a way that was not


possible for most of the 20th century and certainly was not


possible on the 19th century when we had this all-powerful police state,


in the countries where revolution was planned by revolutionaries. So


that is a major breakthrough that I am glad to hear has meant that we


are looking back more to the tradition of 1589 and February of


1917. Perhaps that is what we should be celebrating this year, not


October, which I think even the Russians are ambiguous about, but


February, as a moment where people power could exercise itself on the


street. But you get chaos and that is wipe


the Bolsheviks could walk in into the vacuum of power left by perjury.


All popular revolutions contain the seeds of their own destruction


because the unleashed anger and hatred and no one can control that


exact perhaps a demagogue. And with the Syrian revolution, the nice guys


tend to be more gentle and then it is a bit chaotic? I agree. But in


Syria I think there is another added complication. It is not in the hands


of Syrians any more. They're not the ones to determine their fate, it has


become further complicated. And it is worrying in that sense. Do you


regret it, the revolution? Most of us would look at it and said it had


got to be better before this. So is the price that you are paying for


some unspecified hope of a better future worth the pain # absolutely.


Personally I do not regret it. I would do the same again. But the


thing is, in Syria it was a popular uprising. It was not well planned or


anything, the people took to the streets. It was like a pressure


cooker or stop it reached a point when the explosion was unavoidable.


But for six months, although as Orlando said there is a lot of


hatred with revolutions and negative energy but for six months in Syria


we had a peaceful revolution. People took to the streets and really


expressed their demand for freedom and justice, democracy. Then came


the brutality, the huge brutality applied. Is your revolution over,


Mustafa, or a work in progress question mark when we began our


revolution we had a specific goal, to sign an agreement with the


European Union. This really is the thing. The second thing is that


Ukraine started with a peaceful protest. No one attacked the


government. It is history now, two years ago. The violation of rules


and brutality began after the revolution. Then we had war with


Russia. So it was not only revolution but a fight for


independence. If you are asking about regret, that is the price.


Because look what happened in Belarussian. That is the virus of


Soviet style governance. How long does the revolution take, how long


did we give Syria before applying a judgment as to whether that settled


something? The Syrian revolution has become a civil war and you could say


that is the end of the revolution as such. You could also say that


revolutions go on until either as with the French Revolution they


become mainstream and get assimilated into political culture


as in the Republican friends of the 19th century. But I think because


revolutions have this problem with legitimacy, with internal, external


enemies, there is this unresolved tension and violence which tends to


perpetuate violence. It means that until some new resolution can be


found which often cannot be found, the revolution is constantly looking


for new bases of support, new vindication of its policies. A


revocation of opposition. So I would say in the Soviet case it did not


end really until 1991. You're still bend in the early days, Reem. I


think so. I have two disagree with the description of what has happened


with the Civil War. There is a conflict. It is undeniable. But


whenever we see even small ceasefires, people take to the


streets again demanding, peacefully, demanding freedom and justice,


democracy. So there is hope I think. But again there is this


responsibility of the international community that failed the Syrian


people. And that caused the revolution not to fail because it is


too soon in my opinion to judge it, but to go in a direction that was


not our dream. Taking us back to the point about unpredictability. Thank


you all. We don't feature enough


engineering on this programme, particularly the big civil


engineering projects. There is a sense that as nation


we were once brilliant at building bridges and railways,


but lost our nerve along the way and with it,


and lost our will to build. But infrasructure investment is very


fashionable now; so are we ready to rediscover our skills


at large scale construction? Well, there is a new book out


about Thomas Telford, called Man of Iron; it's


by Julian Glover, who was a former special advisor


at the Department for Transport. We asked him to look


at what history - and Thomas Telford -


tell us, about the Deep in the North Wales countryside,


lies an engineering More than 200 years ago engineers


in Britain were building extraordinary things,


including this by my An iron aqueduct high


above the River Dee. Sir Walter Scott, the great writer,


came and he called it Thomas Telford was arguably


Britain's first great civil His brilliant highways,


bridges and canals were Writing the story of his life,


I've been searching, where did the vision and daring


of those amazing 19th The noise of Farringdon in central


London, a world away When I wasn't writing history,


I worked in government, I found the politics


and bureaucracy maddening. He had real energy and ambition


and he was a searcher, he was constantly doing


really wonderful things. Like later people like Brunel,


Telford produced incredible detailed notes and sketches,


Brunel did, Stevenson did. And we have people like that out


there today, is it the whole time. But the system is so blanketing down


on people that there are so many We've just got to cut


through all that and get So if you list the enemies


of modern infrastructure, it would be accountants,


lawyers, civil servants? People who just prefer


to say no to things. But deep underneath Alan's


office, Europe's biggest engineering project,


Crossrail, is getting built at last. And Chloe Etheridge,


who joined four years ago as an apprentice,


thinks we could learn from it. There's a lot of big projects coming


up and I think that Crossrail has been a good kick-start to bringing


the skills through, particularly for apprenticeships


and investing in young people. That the skills and experience can


be carried on into the next big And when you started engineering,


did your friends sort of wonder why on earth you were doing it,


or were they, are they envious now? They must think this


is the most amazing, I think sometimes people don't


understand what we do. So I take pride in explaining


what I do as my career and try I worked as a special


adviser in government with politicians who were excited


about infrastructure, They wanted to be photographed, too,


in this orange kit with the big It's like the Village People,


Westminster style. Forget the wimpy suit and tie,


look at the butch diggers and mud. But sometimes projects


turn into a nightmare. As the chair of Network Rail,


Peter Hendy's got to totally Even while 54 million people


a year continue to use it. So Telford and his successors didn't


get it right all the time either. Brunel's great Western Railway cost


2.5 times what he said it would. History will judge


it in the long term. Of course we should be better


at doing it, but you still need Now I think Britain might be getting


a bit of that energy back. The stuff that joins things up,


keeps us moving, it always matters. Good roads, space on the train,


they don't happen by accident. Get it right, like Thomas Telford


did, and you create something But we can't leave you without


remembering Steve Hewlett, our sometime media correspondent,


whose accomplishment as a journalist extended far further


than this programme, and who sadly died this morning


of cancer, at the age of 58. It wasn't just his knowledge


of the media industry that was so valued,


but his judgement. At a time when news media


is in the public eye, We leave you with Steve


in full cry back in 2014, on the day that Rebekah Wade


and Andy Coulson were, respectively, acquitted and convicted of phone


hacking at the News of the World. This trial, whatever the outcome,


must surely mark the end of the As for the rest of the press,


well, they're not Not so much because


of hacking, and the regulation that will follow, but


because of declining circulations And as for the police,


well hacking has played into what have become much broader


questions of public confidence. But now the politicians,


they surely must have Hello. Back to feeling like February


later in


Download Subtitles