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tv   The Last Word With Lawrence O Donnell  MSNBC  July 14, 2017 7:00pm-8:00pm PDT

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that should be fine, right? that does it for us tonight. we will see you again on monday but do not go anywhere because right now it is time for "richard engel on assignment." richard is reporting from iraq tonight. i am so glad we were able to make this happen. good evening, my friend. it's good to have you here. >> well, there's a lot going on. so many people have been focused on what's been happening in the states, but a major accomplishment has just happened in iraq. the war on isis has taken a major step forward, and we've been focusing on that for the last several weeks. it's good to join you and join the people at home. >> looking forward to your report, richard. thank you. >> thanks, rachel. thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. welcome to erbil in northern iraq where the sun is just coming up. the last several weeks we've been covering the fight to drive isis from the city of mosul about 50 miles away. the fighting isn't entirely over yet. there are still small but fierce pockets of resistance, but it is fair to say that isis, the
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best-armed, most dangerous terrorist group in the world has lost its biggest city, the self-declared caliphate, the so-called islamic state is no more. isis still holds some territory including the city of raqqah in syria, but that is not a state. and raqqah is now surrounded on all sides. defeating the islamic state is perhaps the biggest accomplishment of american foreign policy in years. but there were no big announcements from the white house, no mission accomplished moment. if you watched our reports from here, you already know that iraqi troops did most of the ground fighting. the same iraqi army that once fled from isis stood up, fought hard, and won. but make no mistake. that only happened because american troops were deeply involved in this battle at every stage. as we will show you tonight, american fire power cleared the path for iraqi soldiers, and the americans provided a constant stream of intelligence, logistics, and planning. it wouldn't have happened without us. the question we will try to answer tonight is whether the
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end of isis in mosul brings us any closer to ending our commitment here or will it draw us deeper into a failed state? we left iraq once before. in 2012 when u.s. troops pulled out, the american people were promised that the iraqi army and police, the ones we spent blood and treasure to train, were ready to hold this country together on their own. it took less than two years for that promise to be broken. isis first rolled into mosul in the summer of 2014, a few hundred fighters armed with little more than rifles and a terrifying reputation. that was enough. almost without a fight, 30,000 iraqi soldiers and 30,000 more police officers trained and armed by the u.s. turned tail and ran, leaving behind their powerful american-made weapons. isis was suddenly the best-armed terrorist group in history. its fighters rolled from city to city in american humvees, picking up recruits, some of
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them young children, along the way. they crossed the border into syria, effectively creating a new state of their own, which they called the islamic state. their leader, abu backer al baghdadi stepped up to the pulpit of the grand al nuri moss, in mosul and declared himself the emir of the so-called caliphate. they swore that mosul would be theirs forever. there has been a massive wave of people fleeing their homes. the fear here is that this is just the beginning. in response, american troops were sent to iraq again with a new mission that sounded a lot like the old one -- to train, equip, and get the iraqi army back on its feet and put american fire power behind it. late last year, the iraqi army started moving on mosul. they quickly raced through the open ground around the city. isis fought hard for every inch
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of ground. we climbed into one of the iraqi special forces' old american humvees. it's battleworn, shot up, and the driver said damaged by an isis suicide bomber today. then it was on foot, quickly because rounds whizzed by. but it was in the city itself that the fighting got ugly. iraqi forces backed by american fire power took the city street by street, house by house. isis had years to prepare for this and was willing to use every dirty trick, human shields, booby traps, grenade carrying drones and many suicide bombers to try to hold on. by late june, isis fighters were in full retreat. they chose to blow up the nuri mosque along with the black flag that once hung from it. the battle had come down to this tiny piece of mosul, the old city where isis fighters decided to make their last stand.
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when we came back to mosul a couple of weeks ago, the city was almost unrecognizable. isis militants were and still are fighting to the death for each and every house. we expected that, and we knew that there was no way the iraqi army backed by the might of american firepower was going to lose the battle. what we weren't prepared for was the price the people of mosul would have to pay. this is what victory in mosul looks like. a city the size of philadelphia reduced to rubble, its people dead, injured, or displaced. and this is the old city where the last remnants of the isis fighters holed up. the colonel from the 82nd airborne division is the ranking officer. >> at this point, they really
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have their heel on the throat of isis and they're about to finish them off in the next several days. >> what's the fight been like from your vantage point? >> it's extraordinarily violent. never in my lifetime have i seen close combat like this. 20 meter gun fights, hand grenade range all the time and it's extraordinarily complex. >> but work generally sees the battle from far above the fray, on feeds fed into control centers in the rear, where his men order up artillery strikes, air strikes, and close support. this time around, the battle on the ground is left to the iraqi soldiers. so to see the fight up close, we joined a unit from the 16th division of the iraqi army inside the old city. their commander gave us a quick briefing about what we could expect up ahead.
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they had hostages in the house. this is the way the fighting generally works. very narrow streets. there's some isis bodies up ahead. what they've been doing is holding hostages in their houses, using them as human shields and fighting as the iraqi soldiers approach. we saw some of those human shields emerge like ghosts from the rubble. injured, terrified, but alive. and finally free to escape. overcome by the stench of death, we followed the soldiers right to their front line and into a house. soon a gun battle erupted. we rushed upstairs to find the iraqi soldiers engaged in a firefight. the private explained that the enemy was just next door in a house full of civilians. we're on this rooftop here.
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they say they're putting down some suppressive fire so that the ground forces can advance further on them. but the iraqis weren't even trying to aim. they were just laying down fire. so when finally the gun battle died down, we assumed there could be no survivors. [ baby crying ] but there were. the soldiers helped them out of the house they'd been trapped in for weeks, lifting them to safety and treating them with kindness, but also with caution. men were searched and questioned. there is no easy to way to tell injure se insurgents from civilians. we were just about to go into the next house when a grenade exploded. the private and three others came back injured, one very
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seriously. this is what makes this battle so difficult. the soldiers are under attack by some of the very people they're fighting to rescue. when we got back to the command center, a meeting was under way. the senior iraqi general was telling his commanders that the fight was going too slowly, demanding that they push harder. colonel work sat and listened quietly, respectfully letting the iraqi commander discipline his officers. >> how are you? >> holy cow. >> outside, he told me the meeting was pretty intense. >> you're in the final days of this final push against isis. they fought their ass for 8 1/2 months now to get to this point, and they're not pleased with the tempo with which the attack is happening right now in these final several days. >> what are you going to do? are you going to go harder, faster? what happens now? >> really it's what they choose to do. it's all their for them. >> what did they choose to do? >> it's all there for them. >> as we climbed into his cramped armored vehicle, i asked colonel work about the
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challenges the iraqi soldiers are facing, telling good guys from bad on the battlefield. >> isis has had a very deliberate campaign to put humans as obstacles between the advancing security forces just by creating uncertainty amongst the army, amongst the police, amongst the commandos that these civilians we're attempt itting to rescue may present a threat to use because you've embedded a bomber in them. that creates some advantages for isis. >> what possible benefit, military benefit could isis get by attacking a bunch of women and children in their own town? >> i suspect that isis really has very little regard for anybody who doesn't share their deformed world view. so anybody who is attempting to escape is not one of them. therefore, their life is meaningless. >> and civilians have been used as cover. recent reports have suggested that american air strikes indiscriminately killed civilians, but colonel work kept calling it precision fire. >> when you walk around the old city, it looks like the place
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was carpet bombed. how can you have so much precision fire and yet so much devastation? >> because the islamic state fighters who occupied those buildings took someone's home, took someone's school, and turned it into a fighting position. that's how that happens. it was precise. the strike hit exactly where it was supposed to. >> precision or not, the fact of the matter is that large parts of this city have been flattened by american munitions. we will never know how many people were killed by air strikes or iraqi soldiers or how many isis killed with explosives. what we do know is that this fight was not just about territory. it was a race to save lives. when we rejoin the major and his men on the front lines the next day, the major says that four isis gunmen are holed up in a
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mosque around the corner. they're holding civilians hostage, he says, to protect themselves, shooting at them when they try to escape. with his men firing over their heads, the residents start to escape. they walk, dazed, into the arms of their rescuers. some of these children have never experienced anything but war and siege, like 6-month-old ahmed, malnourished and dehydrated in the 120-degree heat. he doesn't know it yet, but he's an orphan now. even the battle-scarred soldiers are overwhelmed. these people are free now, but they've lost everything. in the chaos, one of the soldiers grabs two men and accuses them of being isis members. they're dragged into a house for interrogation. how do you know them, i asked the soldier.
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they're my neighbors, he says. the old one preached the isis message, and this one is his son. they killed my friend. these soldiers clearly want to take revenge on these prisoners, but with our camera around, they don't. we'd seen them detain another prisoner, and after they told us to stop filming, heard his anguished cries. other iraqi units have done far worse. we obtained a disturbing cell phone video showing soldiers from another unit beating prisoners. the video ends with two of them thrown off a cliff and shot to death. the marriajor spent very littlee interrogating prisoners. he had bigger things to worry about. his men were still exchanging fire with the isis fighters in the mosque. so he deployed the most powerful weapon he has, the radio. he called in an air strike.
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a few miles away in a control center, american and iraqi officers were watching the live feed from an overhead drone. they checked the coordinates -- >> the strike is southeast. >> -- deconflicted the airspace, and approved the attack. an aircraft delivered the payload on the mosque just 50 yards from our position. the major and his men moved a few steps forward. on the battlefield as mosul, that counted as a good day. >> are they going to be able to point to the debris of mosul and say, look what the americans and the shia government did to this sunni city and use it as a rallying cry? >> oh, absolutely because isis continued to take every single home and turn it into a fighting position. don't forget isis is to blame. isis came in and hijacked the
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pen people of mosul. i can't imagine any reasonable argument that anybody but isis is responsible for the vast destruction of mosul at this point. we applaud and we congratulate the iraqi security forces for coming back and returning mosul to the people. >> the iraqi prime minister was quick to come to mosul, wearing a military-style uniform and proudly announcing that from the heart of a free and liberated city, we announce absolute victory. but to call this a free and liberated city is an insult to the people of mosul, who have lost their lives and their homes. and the absolute victory was achieved with a massive amount of support from 1,600 american servicemen who risked their lives clearing bombs ahead of advancing iraqi forces, calling in air strikes, nearly 9,000 of them, and providing a constant stream of intelligence, support, and encouragement. >> it still wouldn't have been able to complete this mission without a lot of american help. >> no, we did this together.
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this is a coalition of many. the important part about this coalition is the first member of the coalition is the iraqi security forces. they >> what happens if the americans, american military, stops helping them? do they fall apart again in. >> we're not going to stop helping them. we're going to continue. i'm fully confident we're going to follow the operation and help the iraqis dominate. >> for how long? >> i don't know. >> do you have to stay with them forever? >> i don't know how long it's going to take. it's iraq. it's complicated. but we're going to be here to help them because our common enemy is isis and we're going to continue to help them attack isis. >> when does the united states commitment to iraq finally end? >> i don't want to take a stab at american foreign policy. what i will say is we're fighting a common enemy here. we can't do it without them. they certainly can't do it without us. >> isis lost mosul but where is its leader? the simple answer is we don't know. there have been repeated rumors he's been killed. some say the russians killed him
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in syria. others that a u.s. air strike in mosul got him. at this point we can't confirm any of these rumors. most likely they're a combination of wishful thinking and a crude attempt to get him to step out of the shadows. u.s. officials don't think he's in mosul, but one source told me there are teams on stand by watching closely just in case. next up, andrea mitchell looks back at the way american presidents, three so far, managed the war in iraq and asks some of the key architects of the american strategy when and if the mission will ever truly be accomplished. plus treating the injured in mosul. an american medic and an iraqi doctor. their extraordinary work to save lives. en a swing set standoff.
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welcome back. what does victory look like in iraq, and how do we get there? it's a question that has vexed american decision makers for many years, and nbc's andrea mitchell has covered every twist and turn along the way right from the beginning. andrea? >> good evening, richard. it has been 15 years of blood, sweat, and tears. and if the history of this war teaches us anything, it is that military victories can be temporary without a political strategy to pull together iraq's bitterly divided ethnic groups. what started 14 years ago with shock and awe and the march on baghdad led to a hard fought but deceptively straightforward victory. since then, iraqis and americans
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have been living with the results of tragic miscalculations starting with that banner declaring mission accomplished. >> in the battle of iraq, the united states and our allies have prevailed. >> it was the first of many times americans would be told the war is over. it wasn't. but the pentagon's decision to disband the iraqi army created a ready supply of highly trained insurge insurgents. for three long years, u.s. troops won every battle but were clearly losing the war until 2007 when general david petraeus returned with a new strategy, new troops coupled with outreach to sunni war lords. at first it seemed to work. here he is in 2008 showing the baghdad neighborhoods for the
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most part peaceful. >> mingle with the people, buy some dinner perhaps. we have waited for years for a sovereign iraqi government to make tough decisions, and that's exactly what is taking place now. >> but once again it was an illusion of peace. iraqis elected a shia prime minister with close ties to iran. he cut off funds to petraeus's sunni arab partners, threw their leaders in jail, and refused to grant immunity so u.s. troops could remain. defense secretary leon panetta argued that thousands of u.s. troops should stay behind anyway, but president obama eagerly announced a complete withdrawal. another u.s. leader declaring the iraq war was over. >> so tonight i am announcing that the american combat mission in iraq has ended. operation iraqi freedom is over. >> the last convoy of u.s. troops pulled out. in the vacuum, remnants of al qaeda in iraq rose again, transforming into the conquering
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army of the islamic state, isis. by mid-2014, isis controlled nearly a third of the country, threatening kirkuk in the north and the capital city, baghdad. only three years after he had pulled out all u.s. troops, president obama started sending americans back in. >> we don't have a strategy at all. we're basically sort of playing this day to day. >> supported by u.s. troops, weapons, and training, the iraqi army gradually stopped the isis advance and now has forced it out of the major cities it once held. i caught up with david petraeus to ask what went wrong with his grand strategy. did we withdraw too soon? >> what created the fertile fields for the planting of the seeds of extremism once again in iraq was the prime minister's actions to go after the senior sunni arab politicians and essentially undo the efforts of reconciliation that he and we had done together during the surge. >> now mosul has been taken.
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it's on to raqqah. can mosul hold? >> the question is not can you defeat the islamic state. it's can you then achieve governance that avoids re-establishment of fields that are fertile for the planting of the seeds of extremism and the rise of isis 3.0. >> leon panetta says iraq is still not ready to go it alone. are we going to continue to play whack-a-mole in iraq in. >> the thing i worry about the most is we will again repeat the same mistakes we've made in the past by virtue of saying somehow, you know, we've now cleared mosul. it's up to the iraqis to try to deal with their own problems and try to provide security. i think that would be a terrible mistake. if we walk away again, then we will inherit the whirlwind again. >> a third american president now appears willing to commit american troops for the long term. >> we should never, ever have left. the vacuum was created, and we
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will figure something out. our main thrust is we have to get rid of isis. >> panetta who tried but failed to stop obama mr. withdrawing combat troop argues today the u.s. must stay indefinitely. >> i know people say why should we have that responsibility. the reason we have that responsibility is because we spilled a hell of a lot of blood in iraq and afghanistan, and it is our responsibility to make sure that ultimately those countries are stable and can govern themselves. >> unlike his predecessors, president trump is delegating most military decisions to his generals, including future deployments. is there a risk that the president is now placing too much power in the hands of the generals and not enough leadership from the oval office? >> in the end, it's the president of the united states that has to make the decision whether to do it or not because the american people elected donald trump as commander in chief, and he has that
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responsibility. >> richard, the strategy is really not a strategy. it's basically a goal. it's the goal to try to rely on the generals, let them decide how many troops are needed, to delegate authority to the battlefield commanders. as you saw yourself in mosul, they are calling in air strikes. the iraqis are calling in air strikes. this has led to a much faster pace. the president's constant refrain as you saw in the piece is he wants to deliver on that campaign promise of defeating isis. and he seems committed to it, leaving the strategy, as i say, completely up to the generals, up to mattis and up to mcmaster, the national security adviser. richard? >> so he's delegating responsibility to the generals and i'm sure the generals are happy with that. it can be faster and more efficient. but does he have a larger vision? does he have a bigger strategy beyond that, or is it just give
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the generals the authority they need, let them fight isis, and not worry about it? >> it seems to be -- we don't know what the larger strategy is. we haven't heard enough from this president about it, and this delegation of authority does mean that they're committed to stay, but we don't know what the mission is. what are they really trying to accomplish? the commanding general said this week that there will be an enduring u.s. presence there because they do expect, as general petraeus said, that guerrilla groups will pop up. the islamic state have lost the territory, but they have not disappeared. they're going to move on in iraq, trying to regain town and city after city as you will see yourself after mosul. but isis is not disappearing, and it's moving on to raqqah. as you've seen, the americans already there. what they really need are leaders, and this does not mean a body because he has not shown
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that yet. leaders strong enough in iraq to effectively govern and to control these rival ethnic factions equitably. bottom line, that has not happened and there is no exit strategy. richard? >> it sounds like a mission without an end. >> exactly. >> suddenly we have an enduring presence in iraq while everyone's been focused on the russian skacandal, we've been committed to a forever war. thanks, andrea. you don't run into too many americans working anywhere near the front lines in mosul, especially wearing civilian clothes. so when we came across one, we had to find out what he was doing there. >> take cover. take cover. >> pete reed has had some very close calls in mosul, and he's not here on orders. he just showed up and started treating injured iraqis on the front lines. why? because no one else was doing it. how many patients have you treated? >> between 7,010,000. >> a former marine from new jersey saving lives in the middle of a war zone.
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welcome back. imagine being in mosul, trapped in your house with isis gunmen preventing you from leaving because they think having civilians around means the americans are less likely to bomb. then imagine everything around you is blowing up. it's 120 degrees out, and you have little or no food and water. and if you manage to escape, you find out that most of the
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hospitals are damaged or destroyed. this is what it's been like for thousands of people in mosul. we met one american who decided to risk everything to try to help. the offensive on mosul triggered a human exodus as the iraqi forces drove out isis, civilians searched for safer ground. many were in bad shape. the walking wounded. and those who could no longer walk. thousands have suffered severe injuries but so close to the battle, there's just a handful of people to help them. >> tell him to calm down. >> pete reed is one of them. the 28-year-old from new jersey used to be a u.s. marine. now he's back on the front lines, but this time in mosul, working as a medic. we find him and a team working on a group of iraqi soldiers, isis militants hiding in the rubble just threw a grenade at them. >> hold pressure. >> and they're not just treating
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soldiers. half of their patients are civilians. some of the most harrowing cases he's seen involve children. >> the mom stepped on an ied, and she was killed, and the kid was split open. a 2-year-old. the kid was this big. >> that's one of the cases that will stick with you. >> that's one of the ones that will stick with me. >> we first met reed in november just after the mosul offensive began. he and a friend came to iraq to fight as volunteers, but they ended up doing first aid. >> i still have some fight left in me. i can use my medical for good. >> how many front-line medical posts like this are there in mosul right now? >> you're standing in it. >> but working on the front line comes with certain risks, and reed has had some close calls. >> take cover. take cover. they're running. it's a full retreat. it's a full retreat. >> like the time he was chased by an isis car bomb. despite the dangers, eight months later he's still here. his clinic moving forward with
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the iraqi advance. it's now in an abandoned butcher shop in the heart of the old city. his team has grown to around 20 people, both foreigners and locals. among them is dr. aziz, an iraqi doctor from mosul. while reed changed his life for this war, dr. aziz had his life changed by it. when isis took over, they forced him into service as one of the main hospitals. >> so this is the hospital? >> yes. >> who were you treating? civilians or isis fighters? >> most of them are isis fighters that come here to the emergency department. >> and what would have happened if you refused? >> if i refused, they may kill me. >> now he treats female pages like this 12-year-old who lost
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both eyes after an air strike. his former masters wouldn't have let him touch her. their strict islamic rules even stopped him from helping a woman who was bleeding to death. >> they come and they prevent me, say what do you do? i say to them, i want to save her life because she's bleeding. he told me let her. let mer dher die. this is not acceptable with them. >> so they'd rather you die than you touch her, treat her? >> yes, and i became very sad to that woman that bleed until died, and i not do anything for her. so i am very sad. >> and when the father of two tried to run away from isis, they burned his house down. he showed me a photograph of the man he says is responsible. >> so this is the man who would have killed you? >> yes. >> this is the man who burned down your house? >> yes. >> the militant was once a nurse. he's now in iraqi custody. >> you're back now. >> yes. >> how does that feel?
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>> this now is feeling of freedom. >> but the hospital is still not fully functioning. so for now, the people living in what's left of mosul are relying heavily on ngos like reed's. he says he's treated between 7,010,000 people already, and even though the battle is now over, he's not stopping yet. >> at the end of it, they always talk about how many people died. i think that's what kept us here in the beginning is we wanted that number just to be a little bit less. if nothing else, we did that. >> when you hear a story like the one we heard from dr. aziz, it's easy to wonder what is wrong with iraq? why has this country been so violent for so long? we look back to history for answers next. stay with us. this
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the country they drew up, the one we call modern iraq, includes what were previously three separate provinces, a shia arab one in the south, a sunni arab one in the middle, and ethnic kurds in the north. it was never a happy or stable union. it saw coup after coup until saddam hussein, a sunni muslim and a military dictator, came to power. he forced the sects to live together whether they liked it or not. and for years saddam had american support. washington was happy to let him keep the lid on iraq's fractured melting pot. but that all ended when saddam invaded kuwait in 1990. the first president bush crushed his army. and the second drove him from power and occupied iraq. for the first time in decades, iraqis got to participate in a free election, and the shiites,
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who are the majority sect, one by a landslide. backed by the americans, the shiites were now in power for the first time in 1,400 years. the sunnis rose up, and the religious war that followed cost tens of thousands of iraqi lives and around 4,500 american ones. then the americans left. the shiites kept most government positions but lost control of large parts of the country to isis. now the americans are back and empowering a third sect -- the kurds, who have proven themselves to be our most reliable allies. but u.s. support means the kurds feel strong enough to make a land grab and hope to break away from the rest of iraq, potentially tearing apart the old colonially constructed and badly managed country for good. and the kurds plan to make their move soon. they're holding a referendum on independence, a vote to leave
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iraq at the end of september. we were surprised to find that a champion of that cause is one of iraq's most recognizable faces. he spent many years on the international stage as iraq's foreign minister, championing the cause of a united iraq. not anymore. >> i think we have had enough. our hopes to build a new iraq where all the iraqis could live together peacefully, that is a mirage. >> now he and the rest of iraq's kurdish minority are going to try and break away and take with them the oil fields they grabbed while everyone was busy fighting isis. >> there's no such thing as a nice divorce. >> there isn't, but there could be an amicable divorce. >> who gets the oil in this divorce? ey, hey! you're not taking those. whoa, whoa! you're not taking that. come with me. you're not taking that.
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welcome back to erbil. this city is the beating heart of a unique little area here in northern iraq. the kurds who live here have been largely protected from iraq's recent chaos. in fact, this city has prospered in the relative safety while baghdad has become poorer and more violent. for years kurds followed the american plan and participated in the iraqi government. now they say it's time to go. >> i think we have had enough, and we believe that our hopes to build a new democratic federal iraq where all the iraqis could
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live together peacefully, that is a mirage. >> he's one of the most recognizable politicians in this part of the world. he represented iraq on the international stage. first as foreign minister. then as deputy be prime minister. but he has retreated to the large estate in the hills above this city. and says the time has come to bury the dream of a democratic united nation ever zblierk i spent the last 14 years in my politic life defending this country, its unity, how to reis integrate it into the international kmunlt but i've come to conclusion illustrate not working. >> iraq is in a state of chaos next door syria. >> seer. >> yeah. >> in a state of chaos two failed states next to each other. some might say the iraqi kurds are taking advantage of the situation to carve out their own
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piece. >> there is no perfect timing or conditions anywhere. >> isis just broke in country into pieces. >> indeed. >> are you just finishing the job. >> no, in fact this has been our foal our right even before isis was born. >> in fact it's been the goal for kurding all along which is why many suspect that the democratic process now under way is merely a rubber stamp for an opportunityistic land grab. >> in 2014 when they launched a counteroffensive against isis kurdish fighters made a bee line for the big prize, the oil fields. the kurds have a historical claim in the city which they call their jerusalem. but taking it is about more than national pride. it gave the kurds the one thing they're semi autonous area was missing a stable stream of ref. >> you do you any scenario in which the iraqi kurd give up the
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oil fields you've taken by force. >> not by force actually. i would say. >> i was there. kurdish troops went in and dug a trench around the whole thing. >> we were there even before. >> so you're saying you retook an area always yours. >> exactly we managed to reverse it. >> in the middle east there are a lot of conflict. >> there are conflicts a long time and the same rationale. >> a lot of conflicts and so on but rights must be right. >> there is no such thing as a nice divorce. >> there isn't but there could be an amicable divorce. >> who gets the royale oil in this divorce. >> at the moment the kurds are exporting it. >> they will keep it. >> well i hope so. >> but that hope is met with combative warnings from the government in baghdad and threats from shiite millisha saying they will not let the kurds break away. >> do you think there is going to be a war that you're going to have a fight a war to get.
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>> no the goal of the kurdish leadership is really to do this peacefully without war or bloodshed. >> a big schweicha group has already said there will be a war if you declare independence. >> well, if they attack kurd i stand definitely the kurds will defend themselves. >> the kurds have been called the largest nation without a state. any form sizable and persecuted minorities in five countries. but zebari is only talking about one, iraq. >> i'm mindful and careful about what i'm saying. we are specifically talking about iraqi kurd stand but not. >> this is about kurd stand. >> within iraq, that's correct. >> that's because this enclaf in northern iraq is the only place where kurds achieved in even a degree of autonomy thanks to the shrewd maneuvers of zeshy's boss
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whose family ruled this for decades. >> including some kurds i've spoken to said this isn't kurd i stand at all this is your president carving out his own private little state. >> this is not his project specifically. this is the wish, the dream of every kurd since he is born. >> u.s. officials say kurdish independence is probably a matter of when not if process. and that open conflict with baghdad could follow. the kurds have heard all the warnings yet they are determined to go ahead with the vote on independence. >> we know we don't live in on an island. we live with our neighborhood with geoography history. >> if you get a new state across the world, the map is going to change. are you willing to accept the consequences of that? >> definitely there will be a change. i mean on the whole middle east is changing.
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>> so the map of the middle east is being redrawn. >> of course look at syria. we want to have our right of self-determination, to have our own state, peacefully. >> the kurd's drive for independence puts the u.s. in a difficult position. the american military has a strong alliance with the kurds. but washington officially supports iraqi unity. at some stage the americans will have to pick a side. more coming up after the break. stay with us.
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when all is said and done, this is a victory. isis was driven out of mosul. that in itself is an enormous achievement. isis's image as an invincible force was buried in city. equally important was the way the american military worked hand in glove with an iraqi army that just a few years ago collapsed in disgrace. as we've shone you that victory came at a heavy price. there is no such thing as a free war. iraq's second largest city lies in ruins. the residents have suffered another round of unimaginable violence. and they will never forget. the children you saw today coming out of the wrecks of homes, injured hungry, 30see, the children will never forget, neither will their parents. we have seen that insurgencies
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survive the moments. that the resentment that fuels the insurgency continues to simmer under the rubble only to reuprety raert that's what's happened here time and time again. including in mosul. a city that american troops have libertied twice before what's to stop that from happening again? will -- when american military officials say the iraqi government and american officials both say that they've set up iraq for success. they say that because they argue that life under isis was so bad that iraqis will have no choice but now to pull together and make sure that nothing like this ever happens again. but iraq doesn't seem to work that way. i've been covering the american war in iraq for 15 years now. and the truth is i've seen more victories than defeats. and yet we are still here. and this is the first time -- the first time i've been covering iraq and not heard he anyone talk about an exit strategy. there doesn't seem to be a way
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for us to walk away from all of this. thank you for joining us tonight. the 11th hour with brian williams starts now. tonight it wasn't just that russian lawyer at that meeting inside trump tower. after insisting all the details were out comes word there was another russian in the meeting with the president's son. it's just the latest version of the story about the meeting where the russians were welcomed into campaign. and now tonight the president has another new lawyer. tonight while donald trump will always have paris, another trip has been overshadowed by blockbuster news from home as "the 11th hour" gets under way on a friday night. and good evening once again from our nbc news headquartering here in new york. day 176 the still young trump administration. they passed the six month mark next week just after donald trump left for fra

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