PBS NewsHour

President Obama says Shimon Peres ‘never saw his dream of peace fulfilled’

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks at the funeral service of former Israeli President Shimon Peres at the Mount Herzl
         cemetery in Jerusalem, September 30, 2016.   REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks at the funeral service of former Israeli President Shimon Peres at the Mount Herzl cemetery in Jerusalem, September 30, 2016. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

JERUSALEM — President Barack Obama hailed Shimon Peres Friday as a man who showed the world that justice and hope are at the heart of the Zionist ideal and saw “all people as deserving of dignity and respect.”

Wearing a Jewish skullcap as a sign of respect and reverence, Obama said he was the 10th president to fall prey to Peres’ charms and they forged an unlikely friendship, despite the nearly four-decade gap in their ages and starkly different backgrounds.

“It was so surprising to see the two of us, where we had started, talking together in the White House, meeting here in Israel,” he said. “I think both of us understood that we were here only because in some way we reflected the magnificent story of our nations.”

“The last of the founding generation is now gone,” Obama said, speaking just to the left of Peres’ casket draped in blue and white. Peres died at 93 Wednesday, two weeks after suffering a stroke.

Obama and other world leaders hailed Peres for his vision and his leadership in securing a strong defense. But they also spoke of his never-ending quest for peace. Obama said Peres understood the Palestinians must be seen as equal in dignity to Jews and therefore must be equal in self-determination.

“Shimon never saw his dream of peace fulfilled,” noted Obama, speaking at Israel’s national cemetery, Mount Herzl.

“Shimon never saw his dream of peace fulfilled.” — President Barack Obama

“The region is going through a chaotic time,” the president said. “Threats are ever-present and yet he did not stop dreaming and he did not stop working.”

In many ways, he said that Peres reminded him of other giants like Nelson Mandela and Queen Elizabeth, leaders “who speak with depth and knowledge, not in sound bites.”

Former President Bill Clinton, in his eulogy, said he was in awe of Peres’ endless capacity to move beyond the most crushing setbacks to seize the possibilities of each new day. “He never gave up on anybody, I mean anybody,” Clinton said.

Peres, whose name is synonymous with Israel’s history, served stints as prime minister, president and foreign minister. He welcomed Obama on his first trip to Israel as president in 2013, as the two men sought to restart a peace process with the Palestinians that has so far failed.

The United States delegation included Clinton, Secretary of State John Kerry and about 20 members of Congress and several administration officials.

Air Force One landed in Tel Aviv early at daybreak Friday and Obama headed back to the airport as soon as the service ended. He participated in the eulogy portion of the service and walked to the grave site with family members and other world leaders. Obama watched as the coffin was lowered and 10 wreaths were placed next to the grave.

The two leaders shared similar visions for a two-state solution to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Peres’ son-in-law and personal physician, Dr. Rafi Walden, said Obama had called the family overnight on Wednesday during Peres’ final hours and spoke to Peres’ daughter, Tzvia. “We are deeply moved,” Walden said.

Obama awarded Peres the Medal of Freedom, the United States’ highest civilian honor, in 2012, saying “Shimon teaches us to never settle for the world as it is.”

In turn, Peres bestowed the Medal of Distinction on Obama, making him the first sitting U.S. president to receive Israel’s highest civilian honor.

“This award speaks to you, to your tireless work to make Israel strong, to make peace possible,” Peres said in 2013. “Your presidency has given the closest ties between Israel and the United States a new height, a sense of intimacy, a vision for the future.”

Those who worked with both men said they shared mutual respect and affection.

“Even a man into his 90s, Peres was always thinking about the future,” said Dennis Ross, a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and a former adviser to Obama. “I think that captured the president’s imagination and added to the respect for him.”

Ross, who said he spoke often with Peres during the past three decades, said the Israeli leader believed that Obama’s heart was in the right place. But “he wasn’t always convinced that the president fully understood the nature of Israel’s predicament in the region,” Ross said.

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News Wrap: Congress considers fix to bill allowing 9/11 victims to sue Saudi Arabia

U.S. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) arrives at his news
         conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, U.S. September 29, 2016. REUTERS/Gary Cameron - RTSQ1ZX

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JUDY WOODRUFF:  In the day’s other news:  Republican leaders in both houses of Congress opened the door to changes in a new law allowing relatives of the 9/11 victims to sue the government of Saudi Arabia, this just one day after lawmakers pushed the measure through to passage, and, in so doing, managed the first override of a veto by President Obama.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell faulted the White House for being too slow to point out problems.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, Majority Leader:  I think it was an example of an issue we should have on a bipartisan basis talked about much earlier, because everybody was aware of who the potential beneficiaries were, but nobody really had focused on the potential downside in terms of our international relationships.  And I think it was just a ball dropped.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  House Speaker Paul Ryan also suggested a fix might be needed.  And White House spokesman Josh Earnest took note of the shift.

JOSH EARNEST, White House Press Secretary:  I think what we have seen in the United States Congress is a pretty classic case of rapid-onset buyer’s remorse.

If there are members of Congress that have had a change of heart, are now prepared to take a principled position, we would welcome a conversation about that.  We would welcome action to solve the problem that they have created.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  President Obama has warned that the new law could lead to retaliation against Americans abroad.

HARI SREENIVASAN:  The United States is on the verge of ending its Syrian talks with Russia because of the assault on Aleppo that from Secretary of State John Kerry today.  At a Washington event, he said diplomacy can’t continue in the face of an all-out Russian- Syrian offensive.

JOHN KERRY, U.S. Secretary of State:  It’s irrational in the context of the kind of bombing taking place to be sitting there trying to take things seriously.  There’s no notion or indication of a seriousness of purpose with what is taking place right now.

HARI SREENIVASAN:  Earlier, Russia brushed aside Washington’s warnings.  But the defense minister suggested a possible 48-hour truce to let humanitarian aid into Aleppo.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  American Olympic and Paralympic athletes had their White House moment today.  The president hailed their success at this summer’s Games in Rio de Janeiro, winning 46 Olympic gold medals and 40 Paralympic golds.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:  It inspires us to do what we do much harder.  We admire your athleticism but we also admire your character and your stick-to-itiveness.  We know you don’t do this for the money or the fame.


JUDY WOODRUFF:  Mr. Obama also hosted families of African-American Olympians from the 1936 Games.  Those athletes were left out of a White House welcome 80 years ago.

HARI SREENIVASAN:  Stocks fells sharply on Wall Street today, as drug companies and banks suffered major losses.  The Dow Jones industrial average plunged nearly 196 points to close at 18143.  The Nasdaq fell 49 points, and the S&P 500 lost 20.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  And Congress hopes to help parents who need to change babies’ diapers in federal buildings.  A bill sent to the president today requires changing stations be installed in men’s and women’s restrooms in all federal sites open to the public.  That includes courthouses, post offices and some government-run museums.

It’s about time.


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How this farming project helps Afghan women grow financial independence


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HARI SREENIVASAN: Fifteen since the United States went into Afghanistan, the U.S. has spent an estimated $1.5 billion to develop women’s rights in the country. There’s also a new $300 million five-year program to continue to help women have a say in their society.

But, despite the money, the fact that only a quarter of parliamentarians are now women, and laws protecting them from violence, Afghan women still face significant challenges.

Special correspondent Jennifer Glasse reports from Kabul.

JENNIFER GLASSE: Kobra Dastgirzada is a successful Afghan businesswoman. The U.S.-funded program Promote has sent these women to learn from her. She’s sharing more than a decade’s experience running companies in Afghanistan.

Helped in part with U.S. funds over the years, her enterprises include making jams, pickles, baskets and dried soup packs. She remembers life under the Taliban, and says things have improved since 2001.

KOBRA DASTGIRZADA, Entrepreneur: In this 15 period, or years, it was a very good chance for women, because there was a good program. And every day, the new program come, especially about the business, about the society, about education. Everything did come. And the women get a lot of benefits from this program too. Right now, the women has a good state to the society.

JENNIFER GLASSE: But even with experience, it’s not easy. She can’t manufacture on this day because there’s no electricity, and this is Kabul. She knows life is much harder in business and other ways for women elsewhere in Afghanistan.

KOBRA DASTGIRZADA: Right now, in the province, it is a very big problem, because the women cannot go out of the home, because the Taliban has the control. You know that. Then maybe they kill them. And maybe, one day, they kill me too, because I work and have a lot of activity. If they come and get Kabul, the first person will be I. They kill me.

JENNIFER GLASSE: Kobra says she can’t worry about the Taliban’s recent military gains around the country. She wants to concentrate on her work.

Kobra has advantages many other Afghan women don’t, not just a supportive husband, but her factory is in her backyard, so she can work at home. And her shop is just in front of her house. Her small shop is just one outlet for her goods. She also sends them to markets. For that, she needs a man. Afghan society would frown on women selling in the bazaar.

That man makes three times the salary of her female Afghan employees. Kobra says that can’t be helped. She needs him. Even where women succeed, the culture of discrimination here finds its place.

KIM MOTLEY, Lawyer: A lot of people don’t realize that Afghanistan is a country where it’s been reported that over 85 percent of the women are victims of domestic violence. It’s a country where I understand that 72 percent of women are uneducated.

JENNIFER GLASSE: Kim Motley is a lawyer who takes on some of Afghanistan’s most desperate cases, like Sahar Gul, who was tortured and abused by her husband’s family. She testified against them and they were jailed, a rare victory here.

Motley’s newest client is Gul Meena, attacked with an axe by her brother, uncle and husband and left for dead.

KIM MOTLEY: This incident happened over three years ago. And it is deplorable that not one person in the Afghan government has bothered to talk to her about what happened. I mean, literally, there are three axe murderers on the loose in Afghanistan or Pakistan. They don’t know, but no one has bothered to sort of find out.

JENNIFER GLASSE: Gul Meena says she is still afraid of her attackers, but would like to see them punished and would be willing to testify.

GUL MEENA, Victim Of Ax Attack (through translator): I’m worried that, if I go to court, then the judge might put me in jail because I ran away.

JENNIFER GLASSE: Hundreds of women have been jailed for so-called moral crimes, like leaving their husbands or even being alone with a man. President Ghani released many.

Regardless of their cases, both Gul Meena and Sahar Gul want to leave Afghanistan. They feel there’s no future here for them.

Susan DeCamp is one of the stewards of the five-year, $300 million U.S.-funded Promote program for women. She says she knows women’s rights are tenuous here.

SUSAN DECAMP, USAID: It’s a challenge, and it’s always been a challenge, and it’s going to continue to be a challenge for quite a while.

What we hope to do is get enough women out there working together in a positive way, so that they can have their own voice. It’s not so much about us deciding what they want and need, but about them being in a position to influence what they want and what they need.

JENNIFER GLASSE: On a farm on the outskirts of Kabul, that’s what Sophia Wilcox is doing teaching, women to stand on their own.

She’s taken a somewhat tough-love approach with her farming training programs. Anyone who wants to participate has to pay dues to be part of the collective. Since she arrived in 2009, Wilcox has avoided creating what she calls NGO disease, dependency on international aid.

SOPHIA WILCOX, Women’s Agricultural Extension Program: I don’t give them anything because we need to teach them to be independent and use what they have, become creative in their use of their own resources to build themselves up.

JENNIFER GLASSE: And it’s working. One of the gardeners has a daughter who’s a hospital worker, so they devised these drip feeding systems. Women are motivated, with good reason.

SOPHIA WILCOX: There’s decisions that they’re not allowed to make. And if they’re given a slight bit of income, they can make those decisions, children going to school, whether or not they go to school, if we buy medicine, if we don’t buy medicine. Those types of decisions are not given to women freely. And when they have their own income, they are able to make those decisions.

JENNIFER GLASSE: The Afghan women started managing this farm on their own last October. So far, each of the 15 workers has made about $100 a month. Considering a taxi driver in Kabul makes about $150 a month, it’s good money, more than they have ever made in their lives. A lump sum is expected at the end of the summer harvest. Next year, they expect to earn more.

Farm manager Lailajan Yousafzai needs no help with marketing. She knows her products inside out. She’s proud to support the 15 women farmers here, and to give some income to 25 more. They can’t leave their homes, so they grow products in their own gardens.

LAILAJAN YOUSAFZAI, Farm Manager (through translator): One woman sent her son to university. She can pay for his transport and she can pay for his books. We all use the money for our families.

JENNIFER GLASSE: Four years ago, this was all dirt and weeds. But as often happens here, success brings problems. Although this project paid for the local water pump and its repair, the man who has the key demands money to supply water. For Sophia, it’s a dilemma.

SOPHIA WILCOX: It’s a problem for me, because I’m working for essentially the U.S. taxpayer, and we can’t pay bribes, and — but bribes are really common. And so it’s a frustration, and it’s everywhere. It’s rampant. You can’t get anything done, really.

JENNIFER GLASSE: A rival project nearby, funded by the Afghan government, is failing. Its politically connected manager is threatening to take the women’s land away. The women here say they will fight that to stay, that the money they’re making is changing their lives.

But like so many things here, as women, they ultimately may not have a choice.

For the “PBS NewsHour,” I’m Jennifer Glasse in Kabul.

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U.S. sends more troops to Iraq to retake Mosul

Iraqi fighters of the Shabak ethnic minority train before the upcoming battle to recapture Mosul in Diyala province,
         Iraq on Sept. 19, 2016. Photo by a Reuters stringer

Iraqi fighters of the Shabak ethnic minority train before the upcoming battle to recapture Mosul in Diyala province, Iraq on Sept. 19, 2016. Photo by a Reuters stringer

Even as battle plans are laid to retake Mosul from Islamic State militants — who’ve held Iraq’s second-largest city for more than two years — questions remain about what will come after the battle.

The issues are myriad: from keeping the city secure and free of Islamic State influences to how to care for the outflow of people, which has already begun.

President Barack Obama this week authorized the transfer of 600 more U.S. troops over the coming weeks to help Iraqis prepare for the ground offensive in Mosul later this year.

The authorization followed the July announcement of a 560-troop deployment. The deployments bring the total U.S. troop level in Iraq to 5,262. By comparison, the U.S. has about 300 troops — mostly special forces — now in Syria acting as advisers, according to the Associated Press.

An Islamic State fighter waves a flag in the city of Mosul, Iraq on June 23, 2014. File photo by Reuters stringer

An Islamic State fighter waves a flag in the city of Mosul, Iraq on June 23, 2014. File photo by Reuters stringer

The troops in Iraq will help with logistics and maintenance, in addition to training and advising Iraqi security forces and Kurdish Peshmerga, but they won’t be doing the fighting, U.S. military officials have said.

“Everything we do there is to support and enable [the Iraqis]. They will continue to be the primary trigger-pullers,” said Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, director of Pentagon press operations.

Randa Slim of the Middle East Institute said the military plan is set for reclaiming Mosul. What isn’t clear: Who will govern and rebuild a liberated Mosul, or how to keep it secure. “It is estimated they need 25,000 policemen to guarantee the security of Mosul,” she said. But in a city with a complex sectarian and ethnic makeup, who will compose the police force? How will they be vetted, funded and managed, Slim said.

Iraqis fleeing Mosul after it was overrun by Islamic State militants have sought refuge in the Kurdish-administered north.

Iraqis fleeing Mosul after it was overrun by Islamic State militants have sought refuge in the Kurdish-administered north.

More concern surrounds the anticipated sharp increase in Iraqi civilians who will be fleeing the fight, Slim said. The Kurdistan Regional Government “is already at the breaking point, and they expect up to 800,000 refugees as a result of the Mosul battle.”

Mercy Corps, which is providing aid in the region, said at least 135,000 Iraqis have fled violence in the central part of the country so far. In addition to lacking basic food and water, Iraqis are traveling such great distances they’re wearing out their shoes.

“Never before have I seen sandals listed as a top need,” said Suad Jarbawi, Mercy Corps’ country director in Iraq.

Displaced Iraqis, who had fled to Syria to escape the violence in Mosul, return to Iraq and move to a refugee camp in
         Kirkuk on Sept. 10, 2016. Photo by Ako Rasheed/Reuters

Displaced Iraqis, who had fled to Syria to escape the violence in Mosul, return to Iraq and move to a refugee camp in Kirkuk on Sept. 10, 2016. Photo by Ako Rasheed/Reuters

The possibility that Islamic State fighters will try to infiltrate the fleeing crowds and attempt terrorist attacks in refugee camps or elsewhere is another concern, Slim said.

And even after Mosul is liberated, the old resentments and rivalries between the central government in Baghdad and forces seeking independence in the Kurdish region are not expected to disappear.

“The fight against [the Islamic State group] in Mosul has created a common enemy approach that has pushed aside all these other issues that have plagued Iraq since 2003,” Slim said. People in Mosul who supported the Islamic State’s takeover because of their grievances against Baghdad will still have those grievances tomorrow, she said.

The battle to retake Mosul is expected to start before Iraq’s rainy season begins at the end of the year.

“There are no major objectives after that,” said the Navy’s Davis. “This is it. This is the last big holdout in Iraq for [the Islamic State group].”

Stay tuned for a PBS NewsHour report about the upcoming fight for Mosul.

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