31/03/2017 Newsnight


A BBC journalist returns to his family in Mosul. Plus Brexit and will we all be cyborgs anytime soon?

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We are with the BBC journalist as he visits his shattered home


city for the first time since IS swept in.


But the fight with IS continues in Western Mosul, where hundreds


of thousands of civilians are caught between the murderous terrorists


I will ask an Iraqi brigadier if many more civilian casualties in


Mosul are inevitable. The talks which are about to start


will be difficult, complex and sometimes even confrontational.


On the day that Donald Tusk laid out the EU's negotiating guidelines,


we look at the the road ahead for Brexit.


And will we all by cyborgs any century soon?


The answer is yes, if the tranhumanists have their way.


IS - or Daesh's - tentacles have spread across the globe,


but tonight we focus our attention on where it all began.


Iraq's second city, Mosul, has, for the past three years,


been under the vicious heel of IS, who visited unimaginable horror


It was in Mosul where the IS leader, Abu Bakr al-Bagdadi,


declared an Islamic Caliphate, but now the Iraqi army,


aided by coalition forces, have liberated much of the city


and backed IS fighters into neighbourhoods


in West Mosul's Old City, along with around


There is little doubt IS will eventually be routed in Mosul,


but the human cost of the liberation is high, with accusations that


coalition strikes involving UK and US jets called in by the Iraqis


In a moment we have a film from inside Mosul.


But first, this primer from John Sweeney.


To defeat this man, al-Baghdadi, are the Iraqi army and the Americans


- and British backing them - killing too many innocent


Last summer, Isis was in full control of Mosul.


In October, the Iraqi army, mostly Shia, launched its offensive,


trying to win back the country's second city, mostly Sunni.


This battle is being fought along the fault line


East Mosul fell relatively swiftly but Isis fighters,


who have nowhere to go, were reportedly using human shields


and have been shooting civilians in the back


But West Mosul is believed to be home to 300,000 people.


You cannot bomb or shell a packed city centre


In the last six weeks, 700 civilians have been killed


and the Pentagon says that within the last week it has dropped


The Americans and the British are confident the rules


of engagement have not been changed, but as casualties mount,


is the human cost of this liberation becoming too high?


BBC journalist Basheer Al Zaidi grew up in East Mosul -


the part of the city that has been liberated from IS control.


He returned recently to meet his old friends and see how


This is his film from his shattered home city.


It's been over ten years since my last visit.


I grew up on these streets with my 11 brothers and sisters.


It's a weird feeling, to come back here, after all these years.


My hometown is now effectively split into two.


I'm in the East, which was recaptured a few months ago,


but just across the river, in the West, fighting continues.


It's quite different, quite difficult, to be honest.


Most of the buildings in the centre of the city are damaged.


It's clear that anybody who still lives here doesn't feel


This is me, on the left, with my oldest friend, Karim.


Growing up, we were inseparable, but staying in touch whilst he lived


I am here to pay him a surprise visit.


For the first time, I meet his kids, and it soon becomes clear his family


My best friend tells me he initially welcomed the idea


It's a real shock, but his support was short lived.


Karim's attitude towards IS is echoed across the city.


There was deep anger aimed at the government before IS arrived.


Protesters came out on the streets, and the army and the police force


were accused of widespread corruption, sectarianism and abuse.


The Sunni city had come to hate the practices


By the time IS entered Mosul the anger had reached its peak.


Today, the big challenge is to restore security without


We have joined these agents from the Iraqi National Security Service.


They are about to raid addresses all across Mosul.


Their aim is to move out IS sleeper cells that have launched


Three suspects are rounded up at this address,


It seems in this area everyone is treated with suspicion.


Today, the agents arrested six men, but in total they've detained over


It's difficult for me to see the people of Mosul become used


Today the army is all too aware of its past reputation.


I am taking a tour of the city with a Field Marshal.


He says the operation in Mosul has already restored


A lot is riding on this new-found goodwill towards the army


and police, but I wonder how long it will last.


Many people across the city are too scared to talk openly


One family who want to speak out are friends from my time at university.


Omar and his mother have invited me for breakfast.


Omar might be concerned about the future, but there is one


We are on our way to pick up his two daughters from school.


Like so many parents, he refused to allow IS to educate his children.


So this is the girls' first week back at school,


and they are pretty excited about it.


This is overwhelming, this is really overwhelming,


It's a special moment for their kids because normal life is maybe


back again for them, kind of a quietness.


It is something new for them, a new start.


My friends Omar and Karim might be certain about what's ahead,


but seeing these young girls back in school, I know there is at least


And you can see a longer version of that film on Our World on the BBC


News Channel at 9.30pm tomorrow night or Sunday.


Now, one of the biggest problems for Iraqi commanders calling


in coalition air strikes in Western Mosul -


where the fighting is still raging - is described as "the most


significant urban combat to take place since World War II"


is that IS fighters are threaded in among hundreds of


Last week, one strike is thought to have destroyed a building,


The US military has launched an inquiry into what happened.


Earlier this evening I spoke to Brigadier Tahseen Ibrahim


in Baghdad, spokesman for the Iraqi military.


The crisis in Mosul right now it is severe, Isis, they use civilians in


the front of the fighters, the problem is, those fighters and


terrorists do not care about any human material, they used to


civilians in front of them, sometimes they put those civilians


inside the houses and put one or two snipers on the roof as they start


shooting our troops and we saw them, we have drones watching everything,


they also saw them. There was a particular incident last week where


there was a series of coalition air strikes in a particular


neighbourhood and it is estimated that in that air strike,


coincidental but that air strike, more than 100 people died. What is


your response? There is a formal investigation. The coalition forces


said that we were responsible for that and we hit that target, they


did hit that target according to our request, the coalition forces took


the request from the Iraqi troops and after that, they shot any


target. The problem is, when the coalition forces set out in front,


they said, we hit that neighbourhood and there is a target for Isis in


that neighbourhood and we hit that but they never said, we hit that


house, they said we hit or killed those civilians because they said we


hate maybe one or two houses around that, they started to open a big


investigation from their side. Also, the MoD and the Prime Minister and


also my ministry, immediately opened a big investigation to give the


result about that. Our responsibility is to take care of


the civilians, everything is maybe during three days, and we clear that


in front of the media. This neighbourhood was very tight with


narrow streets, we know that civilians are there in their houses.


It is perfectly possible that the air strike hit civilians?


If you see and checked that neighbourhood, you would see how it


is destroyed, the houses. You would think one or two bombs destroyed


maybe ten or 15 houses. Amnesty International says the Iraqi army


are telling people not to leave their houses in western Mosul. Is


that true? All the houses on the right side, it's old and small.


There are more people in those houses. For that, any air strike or


any missiles or sometimes any car bombs, they take more damage, that


neighbourhood. For that we also changed our rules of engagement for


the humanitarian. Are your local commanders on the ground, they call


in a coalition air strike becomes very quickly. Is it possible your


commanders don't always know how many civilians are in the houses


around about? That depends about our information, the intelligence of our


information. We never shoot any houses. Without any information


coming from our guys. Some guys they work between the Isis fighters.


They're mainly Sunni population is concerned about the level of care


that an army led by Shia is going to give them. It's important for the


kind of piece that the city has, the way you win Mosul. Isis defeat. We


don't need any inside Mosul. The people who live in Mosul, they were


responsible, it's their responsibility to take care about


their cities. No militia, no Shia inside the city of Mosul. They take


care of city of Mosul police, Iraqi police, Iraqi army and, by the way,


Iraqi army when deliberate Mosul, will leave outside Mosul. Brigadier


Tahseen Ibrahim, thank you for joining us.


It feels as if we have come through the opening thundering


salvos of Brexit and we are now, really and truly,


But what does the route to that exit actually look like?


Today Donald Tusk issued guidelines at the EU summit in Malta,


and there was an early change in the mood music, indications that


after all, if sufficient progress is made towards the divorce,


Both sides have started laying out their stalls.


Today, Donald Tusk, the EU Council President,


set out the EU 27's draft guidance on what happens now.


The talks which are about to start will be difficult, complex


The EU 27 does not and will not pursue a punitive approach.


Brexit in itself is already punitive enough.


The most significant part of Donald Tusk's statement today


was about sequencing of the forthcoming talks.


Specifically, he said we'd have to make significant headway


on our divorce arrangements from the EU, before we are allowed


to start talking about our future trading relationship with it.


And that really matters, because the order in which we talk


about these things is likely to change the outcome.


This means, first of all, we could get an arrangements


on rights for EU citizens in the UK, for example, very fast.


They're also be principles around what will happen to EU 27 companies


dealing with the UK, and the fate of the Irish border.


It also means discussion of any exit bills will move up the ticket.


An eminent Brussels think tank thinks the bill could be as low


as low as ?27 billion, or as much as ?65 billion.


As soon as the UK leaves, let's say it's the 1st of April 2019,


legally the UK is not bound to pay anything.


Up until then it is legally bound, and I am expecting the UK


is going to honour this, but there have been things that have


been preagreed upon, and the UK has agreed upon,


for a number of bills that will come after that.


The question is, how far can these bills extend?


So payment is a political question about our willingness to pay


Brussels for goodwill from the member states.


The sequencing means it will be an early hurdle for us to clear.


Sequencing, though, also affects the balance of power.


The sequencing decision matters because if Britain could just do


it all in its own way, it would put all the issues


on the table and start linking them and doing deals across Europe,


which match specific interests with different


European states interests', and try and minimise


But Britain hasn't got the luxury of doing that.


It's launched the Article 50 process, the European Union


now gets to determine, as it did this morning,


that it wants real progress on the divorce agreement first.


It's important to stress that the negotiation will quickly turn


to very big questions, like what kind of country


We'll probably end up keeping some EU regulation at the very least.


The thing to remember is in the modern and trading world,


rules and regulations matter far more than tariffs.


So at the moment, we have the same rules and regulations as every


to checkout the border, we can just assume that our


However, after we leave, we're going to have a choice to make.


Do we continue to converge with European standards


now I'm going forwards, as to facilitate trade between both


us and the EU, or do we diverged, in the knowledge that divergences


will lead to more checks at ports, increase compliance issues


There are some very thorny issues that, until now, have received


Like the specification that we need to agree with Spain on Gibraltar.


A really major problem, though, is time.


I think in two years Britain can expect to have a clear


It's probably going to have to be generous in that agreement,


in order to have willing European partners putting in place transition


arrangements, and talking about a subsequent trade deal.


I think the final arrangement, it took Switzerland 14 years


to do its arrangements with the European Union.


There is strong political pressure to pay nothing


and accept few EU rules, so trust no one who says they can


Now, people have been trying to battle the human condition for


thousands of years. Since 1200BC when legend has it


that the Sumarian King, Gilgamesh, travelled to the edge of the world


in search of immortality. It's the stuff of literature,


sci fi movies, and scientific research but might it


become a reality? Could we really use technology


to control the future The use of technology to prolong


and enhance life has a name. It's called Transhumanism and I'll


be talking to the human author of a book on the "transhumanism


movement" in a moment. Gentlemen, we can rebuild him,


we have the technology. We have the capability to make


the world's first bionic man. Writers and cinematographers have


been obsessed with creating life, transcending death, and now,


more than ever, merging In his book, Mark O'Connell


examines transhumanism. He examines a future where we no


longer agree to live under the fear of ageing,


infirmity and death. Where technological


enhancements augment our powers Where we don't accept


the limitations of evolution, and choose our bodily form


and function, and where we are no longer limited to the confines


of our carbon-based biology. What was once the stuff


of sci-fi and legend, is becoming more believable


with every technological advance. In times of three parent babies,


bionic arms and facial transplants, is it really sensible to rule out


a future where our minds are uploaded to a cloud


and we finally conquered death? Mark O'Connell has travelled widely


to meet aspiring transhumanists for his new book on the subject


and he joins me now. It has been an eternal obsession,


why is that? It goes back to, as you say, at least as far as Gilgamesh. I


think transhumanism comes from the same place as many religions, this


dissatisfaction we are in these fleshy human body and we die. We


say, why is that? It's difficult to accept the fact we die. We've always


been uncomfortable with it, understandably. Do you think in the


next century or two it will be enough to be humans or will humans


be second-class citizens? This is one of the ideas of the


transhumanist movement, the idea we have to merge with technology or


become obsolete. I think part of this thinking of the movement comes


from, I think, and over identification with machines. This


sort of idea that we are already machines and we have to become more


sophisticated machines. Now it's been taken one stage further,


because in a way fiction and sci-fi lead to a lot of scientific


research. There are now organisations trying to cheat


mortality, were you surprised to the extent of that? Yes, I knew this


stuff was there and then I investigated it. I kept seeing Peter


Teal again and again, he's involved in a lot of this stuff. And this


announcement during the week. What kind of experimentation did you come


across? I spent some time with a guy called Randall:. His entire life's


work has been trying to figure out how to upload minds to machines.


We're talking about sort of mapping the neurons, mapping the brain to


such a degree of detail and granularity that it can be


transferred to another substrate. The idea is this body, although this


is how we live under what we live in right now, our minds can


theoretically at least be transferred to a different substrate


and we could live as robots or disembodied beings. Calling our


minds down from the clouds. That sounds like what you are writing


about in your book, this idea that we can... How would our brains


continue to develop and grow? They would just be uploaded every so


often? The idea is we would merge with artificial intelligence. Reach


another evolutionary leap by merging with super intelligent AI. The other


one I thought, another one that is quite advanced is bio hacking. I


didn't realise to the extent people did their own bio hacking. This is


an element of the transhumanist movement, practical transhumanists.


They're doing this stuff already. Designing technologies for


implanting under the skin. I spent a while Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, with


some guys who called some self cyborgs and build large implants and


put them in themselves. These implants that go in... They can


trigger an extreme movement or do something? The capabilities right


now are fairly primitive, in that they would allow them to do things


like cents magnetic North or open a door of a laboratory. It's stuff you


could quite easily do with technology, that you wouldn't have


to have surgery for, but it's a gesture towards the post-human


future, the cyborg future. At the moment it's a rich man's game and


you wonder if it does develop, if there are progressions that do mean


that people can live in different ways and live longer, then it's


going to be a societal imbalance in favour of the people who can afford


to do it. This is one of the major dimensions of my book. I see


transhumanism as a very extreme intensification of tendencies that


are already there in terms of capitalism, like wealth and


equality. If you look at the research into life extension


technologies come at the people who are going to benefit from it are


clearly the super-rich. So you're looking at some pretty radical


socioeconomic implications. You are also looking at the idea we won't


die when we are meant to die. There are people that think they could


live for thousands of years. We will have an overpopulation of the


planet, more than the moment. Not if we are all uploaded to the cloud. We


won't all be physically present. In the future, is it something you'd be


interested in, uploaded to the cloud? Not right now, maybe at 85!


Thank you very much indeed. That is about all we have time for


this evening. But before we go, commercial space


companies have long wanted to make space travel cheap enough for anyone


with a few tens of millions of dollars hanging around,


and that's pretty difficult if you have to build a whole


new rocket every time SpaceX have just made a big


step forward to that. Here's the first ever


relaunch and landing Ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five,


four, three two, one... Hello. Improvements on the way for


Sunday but starting the weekend with sunshine and April showers. Perhaps


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