1. We asked New Yorker staff writer Dexter Filkins to talk with us about ISIS, how it compares to Al-Qaeda, the power it now has in Iraq and Syria, and how it’s war is beginning to destabilize neighboring countries. 
Here Filkins gives some context about the divisions in the Middle East:

"The modern Middle East was formed really, all but on the back of an envelope after World War I. You had the Ottoman Empire, ruled out of Istanbul, which governed most of the Middle East, collapsed after World War I and the British and the French basically just took out the pen and started drawing the borders and those are the borders we have today and they don’t represent much of anything other than the whims of the colonial powers at the time. They’re not aligned with tribal identities or religious or sectarian or ethnic groups or mountains or rivers or anything. I mean, look at Iraq. It’s a bunch of straight lines drawn with a ruler."


Photo by Lynsey Addario/NYT View in High-Res

    We asked New Yorker staff writer Dexter Filkins to talk with us about ISIS, how it compares to Al-Qaeda, the power it now has in Iraq and Syria, and how it’s war is beginning to destabilize neighboring countries. 

    Here Filkins gives some context about the divisions in the Middle East:

    "The modern Middle East was formed really, all but on the back of an envelope after World War I. You had the Ottoman Empire, ruled out of Istanbul, which governed most of the Middle East, collapsed after World War I and the British and the French basically just took out the pen and started drawing the borders and those are the borders we have today and they don’t represent much of anything other than the whims of the colonial powers at the time. They’re not aligned with tribal identities or religious or sectarian or ethnic groups or mountains or rivers or anything. I mean, look at Iraq. It’s a bunch of straight lines drawn with a ruler."

    Photo by Lynsey Addario/NYT

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  1. Today we spoke to journalist Dexter Filkins.  His latest piece on Iraq in the New Yorker, What We Left Behind, explores “An increasingly authoritarian leader, a return of sectarian violence, and a nation worried for its future.” In the conversation Filkins explains how Iraq is “falling back into civil war:”

"I think I was there in February, just off the top of my head I think January there were a thousand civilians killed… A thousand in a month, that’s 30 people a day or so, that’s right up there, not with the bloodiest of months of the civil war when the Americans were there, but it’s pretty bloody. That’s mostly, almost entirely Shiite civilians being killed at the hands of Sunnis, but of course there are plenty of Sunnis being killed by the government, which is mostly Shiite.


The civil war that we are witnessing—that we witnessed when the Americans were there—is certainly a consequence of the invasion. Iraq is this deeply artificial country cobbled together after World War I, lines drawn in the sand really with very little regard for sect or tribe or nationality or anything. The country has been held together—and certainly when we invaded was being held together by this steel frame of a dictatorship overseen by Saddam Hussein and he was a terrible, awful human being but he held the country together in this ruthless way. When we broke that steel frame it all came apart and that’s what we’re witnessing.”


photo: Members of an Iraqi tribe protest military operation in Fallujah on January 7, 2014. via ny post View in High-Res

    Today we spoke to journalist Dexter Filkins His latest piece on Iraq in the New Yorker, What We Left Behind, explores “An increasingly authoritarian leader, a return of sectarian violence, and a nation worried for its future.” In the conversation Filkins explains how Iraq is “falling back into civil war:”

    "I think I was there in February, just off the top of my head I think January there were a thousand civilians killed… A thousand in a month, that’s 30 people a day or so, that’s right up there, not with the bloodiest of months of the civil war when the Americans were there, but it’s pretty bloody. That’s mostly, almost entirely Shiite civilians being killed at the hands of Sunnis, but of course there are plenty of Sunnis being killed by the government, which is mostly Shiite.

    The civil war that we are witnessing—that we witnessed when the Americans were there—is certainly a consequence of the invasion. Iraq is this deeply artificial country cobbled together after World War I, lines drawn in the sand really with very little regard for sect or tribe or nationality or anything. The country has been held together—and certainly when we invaded was being held together by this steel frame of a dictatorship overseen by Saddam Hussein and he was a terrible, awful human being but he held the country together in this ruthless way. When we broke that steel frame it all came apart and that’s what we’re witnessing.”

    photo: Members of an Iraqi tribe protest military operation in Fallujah on January 7, 2014. via ny post

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  1. Pulitzer prize-winning journalist Dexter Filkins explains on today’s Fresh Air how the Iranian Quds Force has been propping up the Assad regime in Syria:

If you stand back a little bit, if you remember say, December/January of this year, Assad was on the ropes, he was teetering, it looked like he was going to collapse. His government was steadily losing ground to the rebels and I think what happened — it’s pretty clear by the evidence that the Iranian regime, which values their friendship with Assad very greatly, for many reasons, woke up and hit the alarm bell.
You can sort of watch the number of [Iranian] supply flights that were going in with troops, with ammunition, with money, with everything, just started increasing greatly. So instead of a couple days a week it became every day, all the time, and that has been the decisive factor in solidifying and probably preventing the collapse of the Assad regime. So the Iranians and the Quds Force are doing a whole array of things. They’re down on the ground, so they have military advisers that are getting killed in the fight.


image via NYT View in High-Res

    Pulitzer prize-winning journalist Dexter Filkins explains on today’s Fresh Air how the Iranian Quds Force has been propping up the Assad regime in Syria:

    If you stand back a little bit, if you remember say, December/January of this year, Assad was on the ropes, he was teetering, it looked like he was going to collapse. His government was steadily losing ground to the rebels and I think what happened — it’s pretty clear by the evidence that the Iranian regime, which values their friendship with Assad very greatly, for many reasons, woke up and hit the alarm bell.

    You can sort of watch the number of [Iranian] supply flights that were going in with troops, with ammunition, with money, with everything, just started increasing greatly. So instead of a couple days a week it became every day, all the time, and that has been the decisive factor in solidifying and probably preventing the collapse of the Assad regime. So the Iranians and the Quds Force are doing a whole array of things. They’re down on the ground, so they have military advisers that are getting killed in the fight.

    image via NYT

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  1. This is the Middle East, you think you know something and it just spins off into infinity, or it just dissolves into the shadows. So what you think you knew is suddenly something else a few seconds later.

    — 

    Dexter Filkins, reporter for The New Yorker is on the show today

    Filkins is an expert of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and he explains to Terry Gross that even he gets confused by the “always-turning” stories behind the wars and political operations.

    Today he talks about Iran's involvement in Syria, especially the Quds Force led by Qassem Suleimani.

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  1. Tomorrow:  Dexter Filkins, reporter for The New Yorker talks about Iran’s involvement in Syria and Iran’s possible motives and objectives. He speaks about Iran’s Quds Force and what they’re doing on the ground in Syria.
His 2008 book “The Forever War" was a National Bestseller. It explores the wars following 9/11 and the human cost of America’s conflict with Islamic fundamentalism.



photo of Syria via the Washington Post View in High-Res

    Tomorrow:  Dexter Filkins, reporter for The New Yorker talks about Iran’s involvement in Syria and Iran’s possible motives and objectives. He speaks about Iran’s Quds Force and what they’re doing on the ground in Syria.


    His 2008 book “The Forever War" was a National Bestseller. It explores the wars following 9/11 and the human cost of America’s conflict with Islamic fundamentalism.

    photo of Syria via the Washington Post

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  1. When Lu was outside with Asaad [Salim] smoking a cigarette and I was inside with the two Kachadoorian women, Nora, who’s now about 30 — she’d been sitting quietly, for the most part, the whole time — didn’t really say anything, just a couple of words here and there. And finally when Lu was outside, she spoke and she said, ‘We want to help them.’ And it was very nice.

    One of the oddities of the story, and there are so many, and I’m not sure what it means, but they’re Christian, for one thing, which makes them a minority in Iraq, some 2 percent of the population … And they’re Jehovah’s Witnesses and they’re very religious — certainly as anyone would be after something like this.

    So every time I asked them about forgiving Lu, or what had happened, or how did they feel about it, or why are they not bitter, because they’re not, they would just default immediately to the Bible, or they would start talking about religion, of God and forgiveness. And it was amazing. You could just see the power of religion at a really micro level. They believed deeply in their religion, and she said — and they said, over and over again, ‘We have to forgive them. This is what God commands us: He’s forgiven us; we must [as well]. And there was no doubt in their mind about it. And the conviction with which they did it was very moving.

    — Filkins on the Kachadoorians forgiving former Marine Lu Lobello

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  1. In 2003, in the early days of the Iraq War during a firefight at a major Baghdad intersection, Marines fired on three cars that didn’t heed their warnings to stop or turn around. Three members of the Kachadoorian family were killed. Former Marine Lu Lobello doesn’t know if his bullets were responsible for their deaths, but years later, still haunted by the experience, he found a New York Times article by Dexter Filkins, that helped him track down and meet with two survivors. Here’s Filkins, on finding the story:

It was a week after Saddam [Hussein] fell, his government fell, and Baghdad was just total chaos. There was looting everywhere. There were people being killed in the streets. There were buildings on fire — it was just total anarchy.
So I was just driving around trying to figure things out, and I saw this crazy scene in front of a hospital, and this was happening at all the hospitals: There was a giant crowd of people trying to get inside so they could just tear everything apart and basically carry away anything of value … And I watched a doctor come out, you know, a guy in a white lab coat with an automatic rifle, and shoot it over the heads of the crowd to kind of scare them back. And what a scene. So I just pulled over, and I went inside the hospital to see what I could see, not knowing what I would find.
And it was a scene inside the hospital, which was very much like the outside — total pandemonium. Most of the hospital had been looted. There was no electricity. The water was gone. There were people walking around carrying, holding their bleeding limbs. It was extraordinary. And a doctor walked up to me, an Iraqi doctor. I had been there for a while looking around, and he just pulled me aside and said, ‘There’s something I want to show you.’ And I said, ‘OK.’
And I followed him into this ward in the back of the hospital, and there was this woman who turned out to be Nora Kachadoorian, a young woman probably 21 years old at the time. Her mother and her aunt were standing over her in a hospital bed, and her shoulder had been really, really badly wounded.
So I just kind of sat down and talked to them about what had happened, and she — Nora, and her mom, Margaret — they kind of reconstructed this event, what had happened and how it came that she had been shot in the shoulder, and Nora’s two brothers and her father had been killed just a couple days before. And so it was quite a story.
So this was one really sad, traumatic event in this gigantic scene that was happening, this gigantic historical event, so I focused on that for a while, and I somehow managed to find the Marines camped out in the field a couple miles away. And I can’t remember how I managed to get lucky like that, but I found them, and they were all very upset, and they told me what happened from their perspective.
And so I was able to piece together what had happened at this terrible moment at this intersection … And that was April 2003, and I wrote that story, and it stayed with me because the Kachadoorians — they were very sweet people, and what had happened to them was terribly sad. And years went by. I spent almost four years in Baghdad, and I used to ask about them, and I used to look around for them every now and then. I saw a lot of death, but I never found them again and never heard from them again until a couple of months ago, and got a Facebook message from Lu.
View in High-Res

    In 2003, in the early days of the Iraq War during a firefight at a major Baghdad intersection, Marines fired on three cars that didn’t heed their warnings to stop or turn around. Three members of the Kachadoorian family were killed. Former Marine Lu Lobello doesn’t know if his bullets were responsible for their deaths, but years later, still haunted by the experience, he found a New York Times article by Dexter Filkins, that helped him track down and meet with two survivors. Here’s Filkins, on finding the story:

    It was a week after Saddam [Hussein] fell, his government fell, and Baghdad was just total chaos. There was looting everywhere. There were people being killed in the streets. There were buildings on fire — it was just total anarchy.

    So I was just driving around trying to figure things out, and I saw this crazy scene in front of a hospital, and this was happening at all the hospitals: There was a giant crowd of people trying to get inside so they could just tear everything apart and basically carry away anything of value … And I watched a doctor come out, you know, a guy in a white lab coat with an automatic rifle, and shoot it over the heads of the crowd to kind of scare them back. And what a scene. So I just pulled over, and I went inside the hospital to see what I could see, not knowing what I would find.

    And it was a scene inside the hospital, which was very much like the outside — total pandemonium. Most of the hospital had been looted. There was no electricity. The water was gone. There were people walking around carrying, holding their bleeding limbs. It was extraordinary. And a doctor walked up to me, an Iraqi doctor. I had been there for a while looking around, and he just pulled me aside and said, ‘There’s something I want to show you.’ And I said, ‘OK.’

    And I followed him into this ward in the back of the hospital, and there was this woman who turned out to be Nora Kachadoorian, a young woman probably 21 years old at the time. Her mother and her aunt were standing over her in a hospital bed, and her shoulder had been really, really badly wounded.

    So I just kind of sat down and talked to them about what had happened, and she — Nora, and her mom, Margaret — they kind of reconstructed this event, what had happened and how it came that she had been shot in the shoulder, and Nora’s two brothers and her father had been killed just a couple days before. And so it was quite a story.

    So this was one really sad, traumatic event in this gigantic scene that was happening, this gigantic historical event, so I focused on that for a while, and I somehow managed to find the Marines camped out in the field a couple miles away. And I can’t remember how I managed to get lucky like that, but I found them, and they were all very upset, and they told me what happened from their perspective.

    And so I was able to piece together what had happened at this terrible moment at this intersection … And that was April 2003, and I wrote that story, and it stayed with me because the Kachadoorians — they were very sweet people, and what had happened to them was terribly sad. And years went by. I spent almost four years in Baghdad, and I used to ask about them, and I used to look around for them every now and then. I saw a lot of death, but I never found them again and never heard from them again until a couple of months ago, and got a Facebook message from Lu.

  2. Iraq War

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    Fresh Air

  1. The greatest failure is that we haven’t really built a state that holds the country together. There is a state. It’s a very flimsy, ramshackle, corrupt thing and most people recognize it and see it as such. And I guess the big question we all face, as the Americans and the rest of NATO draws down is: Is this ramshackle, hodgepodge thing that we’ve built called the Afghan state – is it going to hold together? Is it going to stand on its own when we leave? Boy, I don’t know. I don’t know if I’d put my money on that or for how long. That’s a very risky proposition.

    — The New Yorker's Dexter Filkins, on the future of Afghanistan

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  1. Tuesday: Will there be a Civil War in Afghanistan after the U.S. troops leave? Guest: Dexter Filkins from The New Yorker.

Pictured: a road to Kandahar

    Tuesday: Will there be a Civil War in Afghanistan after the U.S. troops leave? Guest: Dexter Filkins from The New Yorker.

    Pictured: a road to Kandahar

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  1. The New Yorker’s Dexter Filkins just returned from Yemen, where he covered the ongoing demonstrations. On today’s Fresh Air, he explains why U.S. counter-terrorism officials remain extremely concerned about the country’s future:  "Yemen is now considered one of the most likely places from which al-Qaida count mount an attack on America." View in High-Res

    The New Yorker’s Dexter Filkins just returned from Yemen, where he covered the ongoing demonstrations. On today’s Fresh Air, he explains why U.S. counter-terrorism officials remain extremely concerned about the country’s future:  "Yemen is now considered one of the most likely places from which al-Qaida count mount an attack on America."

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  1. Tomorrow’s guest Dexter Filkins in the current issue of The New Yorker on the current state of Yemen

A Western diplomat in Yemen said, “O.K., fine, Saleh goes. Then what do you do? There is no institutional capacity—in the bureaucracy, in the military, or in any other institutions in this society—to really step in and pick up the pieces and manage a transition.” A failed state in Yemen, coupled with an already anarchic situation in Somalia, could provide Islamist militants with hundreds of miles of unguarded coastline, disrupting the shipping lanes that run from the Suez Canal to the Indian Ocean.

    Tomorrow’s guest Dexter Filkins in the current issue of The New Yorker on the current state of Yemen

    A Western diplomat in Yemen said, “O.K., fine, Saleh goes. Then what do you do? There is no institutional capacity—in the bureaucracy, in the military, or in any other institutions in this society—to really step in and pick up the pieces and manage a transition.” A failed state in Yemen, coupled with an already anarchic situation in Somalia, could provide Islamist militants with hundreds of miles of unguarded coastline, disrupting the shipping lanes that run from the Suez Canal to the Indian Ocean.

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    the new yorker

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  1. Dexter Filkins, on the dangers of reporting in Afghanistan: “It’s incredibly dangerous. The level of  violence in Helmand and Kandahar in southern Afghanistan, where the bulk  of American forces are and where they’re really pressing the offensive,  has really, really risen as the troops have gone into the areas where  frankly, they haven’t been before. So they’re having to fight  their way into these areas. So it’s become extremely difficult for us  to cover. We still do. But it’s just at much greater risk.” View in High-Res

    Dexter Filkins, on the dangers of reporting in Afghanistan: “It’s incredibly dangerous. The level of violence in Helmand and Kandahar in southern Afghanistan, where the bulk of American forces are and where they’re really pressing the offensive, has really, really risen as the troops have gone into the areas where frankly, they haven’t been before. So they’re having to fight their way into these areas. So it’s become extremely difficult for us to cover. We still do. But it’s just at much greater risk.”

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    afghanistan

    the new york times

  1. Here we discover that this same president, the one who the United States and the West are sacrificing so much for, is in cahoots with somebody whose interests in that region are in direct opposition to ours. … [Iran is] training the Taliban, they’re supporting the Taliban [and] they’re kind of working against the overall goal of the Americans and NATO there, which is to set up a stable government that can hold the country [up,] by itself, so that we all can go home. And the Iranians are working against that.

    — New York Times reporter Dexter Filkins, on the story he broke last month about Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai and his aides regularly receiving bags of cash from Iranian officials. Filkins reports that the situation in Afghanistan is increasingly growing more dangerous for both soldiers and journalists.

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  1. Read This Before Today’s Show on Afghanistan

    Today we’re talking to New York Times foreign correspondent Dexter Filkins about the increasing violence in Afghanistan — and the difficulties he (and other reporters) face everyday when trying to cover the war.

    He recently broke the  story that President Karzai and his aides have been receiving regular bags of cash from Iran — and he tells Terry today that the bags were sometimes literally plastic, see-through grocery bags. (Sometimes they were boxes full of cash too.)

    He also recently reported that his friend Joao Silva, a Times photographer, was severely injured when he stepped on a landmine in Afghanistan. It’s worth reading.

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  1. Tomorrow: an update from the New York Times’ Afghanistan correspondent, Dexter Filkins. View in High-Res

    Tomorrow: an update from the New York Times’ Afghanistan correspondent, Dexter Filkins.

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