It's Willis with your Friday edition of Signal. Today, we'll consider the future of ISIS fighters and their families, tag a Ukrainian plan to wall off the East, dodge teargas canisters in France, and keep Kim Jong-un away from our reindeer.
If you like what you see, please share Signal with a friend.
Turkey's government has captured many thousands of ISIS fighters as a result of its operations in northern Syria. Many of these prisoners have already been deported to some of the more than 100 countries they come from, and Ankara says it intends to send more. There are also more than 10,000 women and children – family members of ISIS fighters – still living in camps inside Syria.
These facts create a dilemma for the governments of countries where the ISIS detainees are still citizens: Should these terrorist fighters and their families be allowed to return, in many cases to face trial back home? Or should countries refuse to allow them back?
Consider the best arguments from both sides…
- Repatriated fighters and their families should stand trial for membership in a terrorist organization at home, and the guilty should go to jail. That's better than allowing them to remain at large.
- Some of these ISIS fighters and their families were brainwashed. Others, particularly some of the women, were coerced to join a fight they wanted no part of. Yes, many of those who claim to be victims are lying, but it's better to allow a guilty person to return home to stand trial than to leave an innocent person to a potentially terrible fate they don't deserve.
- Then there are the children, thousands of whom were born in Syria. They're guilty of nothing. Many of these children are sick, malnourished, and at risk of death inside overcrowded and dangerous refugee camps, which are also centers of radicalization.
- Governments must abide by their own laws. Many of the fighters and their family members are still citizens of the countries they left, and citizens have rights. In many countries, the children of citizens are also considered citizens, even if they were born elsewhere.
- A citizen who declares war on his or her own government and carries out or enables the murder of innocent people should forfeit some rights—including the right of citizenship.
- It's true that some of these people may have been tricked or coerced into a war they didn't want, but how are courts in their countries of origin expected to separate fact from fiction.
- It is not the responsibility of governments to rescue people from their own bad decisions.
- Government has responsibility to protect all its citizens, not just those who chose a life of terrorism. On December 1, Usman Khan stabbed two people to death and wounded three others on London Bridge. Khan was a convicted terrorist, though not directly affiliated with ISIS, who was released after serving less than half of his 16-year prison sentence because he was judged to have been rehabilitated.
The Bottom Line: This debate will become more important in dozens of countries around the world in coming months and years, because the detention of thousands of people in camps in countries that don't want them is unsustainable.
What's the right answer? Tell us what you think.
The collapse of the Islamic State's self-declared caliphate in Iraq and Syria has given rise to a host of new challenges for governments around the world. Turkey has captured thousands of ISIS fighters as a result of its offensive in northern Syria, many of whom are foreign nationals who left their home countries to fight with the Islamic State. To date, non-Middle East countries have mostly opposed ISIS fighters returning home, leaving them, and their spouses and children, in legal limbo. Here's a look at where these foreign fighters come from.
The fair of change in Sanzule
The Business and Market Fair that recently took place in Sanzule, Ghana featured local crops, livestock and manufactured goods, thanks in part to the Livelihood Restoration Plan (LRP), one of Eni's initiatives to diversify the local economy. The LRP program provided training and support to start new businesses to approximately 1,400 people from 205 households, invigorating entrepreneurship in the community.
Kim Jong-un as Santa – With US nuclear talks stalled, Kim Jong-un has been trying to grab President Trump's attention in recent months by, for example, lobbing more rockets into the Sea of Japan, and today making good on threats to again call Trump a "dotard." But North Korea's supreme leader is also trying out some scary Santa shtick. This week, a North Korean official criticized efforts to restart the nuclear talks and said (ominously) that it's "entirely up to the US what Christmas gift it will select to get." We ignored his "Epitome of Civilization Village" in our Wednesday edition, but we admit we're curious to see what stunt Kim might dream up next.
A Ukrainian wall? – Next week, the leaders of Ukraine, Russia, Germany, and France will meet for the first time in more than three years to discuss the war in eastern Ukraine between Ukrainian troops and Russian-backed separatists, which has so far killed more than 13,000 people. A senior advisor to President Volodymyr Zelensky warned this week that Ukraine might build a wall to separate the Russia-backed breakaway provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk from the rest of Ukraine unless the Kremlin agrees to a ceasefire and prisoner swap. Failure to reach an agreement next week will again raise a painful question for Ukrainians: Should Ukraine recognize the renegade provinces as independent in order to deprive Russia of its foothold in Ukraine? Or do the Ukrainian people believe that such a surrender of territory is unthinkable?
France on strike - Nationwide protests against proposed pension reforms have brought France to a standstill for a second day, shutting down Paris' sprawling public transport system and leaving schools and hospitals unstaffed. The strikes – dubbed "black Thursday" by French media – started when President Emmanuel Macron announced plans to overhaul France's 42 separate retirement schemes in order to offset the country's ballooning deficit. France has one of the world's most generous pension systems, and French politicians tinker with it at their peril. For now, Macron is going full steam ahead (unlike last year, when he dropped a fuel tax hike because of the Yellow Vest protests). But growing social discontent is still his biggest challenge. After last year's protests he softened up his image and returned from the political dead, but can Macron defuse this latest crisis and keep the calm for another two years to win re-election?
Kashmiris lose WhatsApp – This week, at least one million Kashmiris had their WhatsApp accounts suddenly wiped from the platform, and no one knew why. It soon became clear that the Facebook-owned messaging app automatically disables accounts after 120 days of inactivity. Why were so many Kashmiris inactive for so long? Because four months ago India's government revoked the legal autonomy of Kashmir— India's only Muslim-majority state – and shut down the region's phone and internet communications, making it impossible for Kashmiris to use WhatsApp. India is WhatsApp's largest single market, and many Kashmiris rely on it to communicate with dispersed family and friends. Now they will be doubly cut off from their loved ones beyond Kashmir's borders.
What We're Ignoring
Sisi vs Tuktuk – The Egyptian government wants to do away with tuk-tuks, the popular motorized rickshaws that careen through the capital's streets, beeping and blaring Arab pop music. They pollute, yes. And they are a nuisance for some drivers, yes. But they are also a source of informal livelihood and transport for millions of lower-income people in one of the world's most crowded cities. Ya raagel, as they say in Egypt, this seems like a battle the government isn't going to win easily.
GZERO World: Does NATO still have a purpose?
Is NATO still relevant 70 years after its founding and 30 years since the end of the Cold War? Adm. James Stavridis, former supreme allied commander of the alliance, has some thoughts about the ties that still bind. See his conversation with Ian Bremmer on GZERO WORLD here.
78: An overwhelming majority of Americans think that divisiveness in US politics is a big problem, with 78 percent of those surveyed saying that national political leaders are responsible for promoting "a mostly destructive public debate," according to a recent Public Agenda/USA Today/Ipsos poll.
58: In one of the deadliest tragedies this year among migrants trying to reach Europe by sea, 58 people died Thursday when a boat from Gambia carrying 150 migrants capsized off the West African coast of Mauritania. It's the second shipwreck involving migrants headed to European shores in less than two weeks.
105 million: The Trump administration has lifted an unexplained freeze on a $105 million aid package to Lebanon. It's unclear why the cash was held up last week, but some congressional officials said it was out of fear that funds could flow to Hezbollah, the politically influential Iran-backed Shiite group, which has the largest bloc in parliament.
59: While China's influence is largely seen as positive in many emerging markets, this is not the case among its neighbors in the Asia-Pacific: on average, 59 percent of those surveyed across Australia, Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, Indonesia, and India think that investment from China is risky, giving Beijing too much influence over their economies.
Dueling Words of Wisdom
"The facts are uncontested. The president abused his power for his own political benefit at the expense of our national security, by withholding military aid and a crucial Oval Office meeting in exchange for an announcement for an investigation into his political rival."
— US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, announcing that the House of Representatives will proceed with articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump.
"The Do Nothing Democrats … have no impeachment case and are demeaning our Country. But nothing matters to them, they have gone crazy."
— President Trump, in response.
This edition of Signal was written by Willis Sparks, Gabrielle Debinski, and Kevin Allison. Editorial support from Alex Kliment.. Graphics magic by Paige Fusco. Happy birthday to Alfred Eisenstaedt, pioneer of photojournalism.