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Reese Erlich has travelled widely in the war zones of the Middle East, and joins us to talk about his new book, Inside Syria.
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This podcast is the audio from a TV interview with Reese Erlich for Marin TV, recorded on October 23, 2014. Erlich recounts his experiences as he researched the book, talking with just about every interested party in the complex conflict in Syria and Iraq. He's met the fighters who call themselves Islamic State, Kurdish peshmerga fighters from Syria, Iraq and Turkey, the Yazidis, and he has twice had one-on-one interviews with Syria's president, Bashar al Assad.
Using the frame of the film noir, Erlich agrees that there are no good guys in this epic drama. He has witnessed the brutal tactics of Islamic State and the impact on its victims, from Shiite Iraqis to other rebel groups opposing Assad. We discuss US policies that facilitated the rise of Sunni extremists, including the failed "surge" of US troops in 2007. Erlich offers insight into the factions in Syria that still support Assad, and some Israelis who consider him "the devil we know". Like most of us, Erlich is puzzled by the introduction of Khorosan in the US narrative, and he's skeptical that Obama will keep his pledge not to insert US ground forces.
Erlich's book is quite valuable, and your humble host learned quite a bit from it. Inside Syria: The Backstory of Their Civil War and What the World Can Expect