TIME Middle East

U.N. Names Gaza War-Crimes Panel

Amal Alamuddin, human rights lawyer attends the 'End Sexual Violence in Conflict' summit in London June 12, 2014.
Human-rights lawyer Amal Alamuddin attends the End Sexual Violence in Conflict summit in London on June 12, 2014 Lefteris Pitarakis—AP

George Clooney's fiancée Amal Alamuddin was one of three tapped to investigate international-law violations in Gaza, but she says she can't join the team

Updated 5:33 p.m. ET

The U.N. named three experts to investigate possible war crimes and human-rights violations committed by both Israelis and Palestinians during the recent conflict in the Gaza Strip, the organization announced Monday.

One of the members, however, British-Lebanese human-rights attorney Amal Alamuddin, says she won’t be joining the group.

“I was contacted by the UN about this for the first time this morning,” the attorney, who also happens to be George Clooney’s fiancée, said in a statement. “I am honoured to have received the offer, but given existing commitments — including eight ongoing cases — unfortunately could not accept this role. I wish my colleagues who will serve on the commission courage and strength in their endeavours.”

A Canadian international-law professor, William Schabas, will lead the panel, Reuters reports. Doudou Diène, a Senegalese lawyer who has previously worked with the U.N. on numerous cases, was also named.

The team will look at “all violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law … in the context of the military operations conducted since 13 June 2014” and present a report in March 2015, according to the U.N.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has accused Israel of violating international law in attacking U.N. safe sites, though Israel has said the U.N. is biased against the country. The U.N. has also claimed Hamas forces in Gaza violated international laws as well by indiscriminately launching rockets at Israel.

Palestinian and Israeli negotiators are engaged in peace talks after a recent cease-fire agreement appears to be holding. The conflict has so far seen nearly 2,000 Palestinians and 67 Israelis killed.

[Reuters]

TIME China

Yao Ming Wants to Wean China off Ivory and Shark Fins

US Secretary of State John Kerry talks with retired Chinese NBA basketball star Yao Ming about his efforts against international wildlife trafficking, as the two participate in an event about combating the trade of animal remains, at the US-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue talks at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing on July 9, 2014.
US Secretary of State John Kerry talks with retired Chinese NBA basketball star Yao Ming about his efforts against international wildlife trafficking, as the two participate in an event about combating the trade of animal remains, at the US-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue talks at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing on July 9, 2014. Jim Bourg—AFP/Getty Images

BEIJING – Former NBA all-star center Yao Ming is now dishing out assists to much wilder targets.

After retiring from the Houston Rockets in 2011, Yao returned to China and set out to end his homeland’s traditional appetite for endangered and threatened animal products.

As an ambassador for international conservation organization WildAid, Yao has campaigned to persuade his countrymen to give up the key ingredient in one of their traditional delicacies: shark–fin soup. The “I’m FINished with Fins” campaign, which also featured Jackie Chan, soccer star David Beckham and NBA player Jeremy Lin, has been credited with reducing the tens of millions of sharks killed for their fins each year in China by at least 50 percent…

Read the rest of the story from our partners at NBC News

TIME Aviation

Canadian Woman Climbs Airport Fence to Stop Plane

Air Canada
An Air Canada jet takes off over the terminal at the Halifax, Nova Scotia airport on September 12, 2011. Andrew Vaughan—AP

She thought her husband was on board

A woman in Nova Scotia scaled a barbed-wire fence at the Halifax Stanfield International Airport on Sunday in an attempt to prevent a plane from taking off, authorities said.

The 37-year-old woman was spotted almost immediately by employees in the aircraft control towers and stopped by an airline employee. “She jumped the security fence, but she was nowhere near the aircrafts,” the Royal Canadian Mounted Police’s Sgt. Al LeBlanc told CNN. “The airport staff and the Mounted Police responded right away and apprehended her.”

The woman had reportedly scaled the 10-foot security fence—sustaining minor injuries in the process—because she believed her husband was aboard a plane that was about to take off and she was intent on stopping it. The plane was rerouted and police said the woman’s husband wasn’t actually on board.

Though LeBlanc told CNN that the woman is unlikely to face criminal charges, the airport is planning on throughly investigating its security measures.

[CNN]

 

TIME Environment

Giant Waves Pose New Risk for Ships in Ice-Diminished Arctic

This map shows the extent of Arctic sea ice in July 2014. It was 3.19 million square miles (8.25 million square kilometers). The magenta lines show the 1981 to 2010 median extent for that month. The black cross indicates the geographic North Pole. NBC

"These are still pretty treacherous waters"

Monster waves should be added to the list of hazards faced by ship captains as they plot a course through the waters of the Arctic Ocean, according to a new study that reports observations of house-sized swells in seas that until recently were covered in ice year-round.

“Waves always pose a risk to working at sea,” study author Jim Thomson, an oceanographer at the University of Washington in Seattle, said via email to NBC News from off the coast of northern Alaska. “The unique thing about the Arctic is that it is changing so rapidly that we cannot apply past measurements to understand future risk…”

Read the rest of the story from our partners at NBC News

TIME Iraq

Leadership Crisis Hits Iraq as Aid Agencies Scramble to Help Refugees

Mideast Iraq
Iraqis chant pro-government slogans and wave national flags to show support for Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, during a demonstration in Baghdad, Iraq on August 9, 2014. Karim Kadim — AP

Political discord, a humanitarian crisis in the north, and the ongoing war against Sunni extremists have rendered the situation in Iraq extremely unstable

Iraq’s Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is resisting mounting pressure for his resignation, and has threatened to take legal action against the country’s President Fouad Massoum for failing to back his bid for a third term in office. The political discord comes as a humanitarian crisis continues to unfold in the country’s north, where tens of thousands of refugees are fleeing attacks being carried out by Sunni extremists.

Late on Sunday, Maliki accused Massoum of mounting “a coup on the constitution and the political process in a country that is governed by a democratic and federal system.”

Maliki says he is entitled to a third term because his coalition won in polls held in April. However, he has not earned support from the legislature.

“Getting the confidence of Parliament is key,” Lina Khatib, the director of the Carnegie Middle East Center, tells TIME. “Maliki did not get that as a result of his mishandling of the current crisis in Iraq as well as his divisive policies over the two terms he has served as Prime Minister.”

The U.S., which has begun targeting militants in northern Iraq in limited airstrikes, urged caution. “The government formation process is critical in terms of sustaining stability and calm in Iraq, and our hope is that Mr. Maliki will not stir those waters,” Kerry told reporters in Sydney on Monday.

The embattled Shi’ite premier has been accused of stoking sectarian fighting by marginalizing Sunni rivals in the government and military in order to consolidate his grip on power since the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq in 2011.

“It seems that Maliki’s priorities have been centered on trying to secure a third term for himself as Prime Minister rather than security of Iraq,” says Khatib. “His leadership performance has been abysmal.”

The New York Times reported early on Monday that the Prime Minister ordered tanks and an unspecified number of additional commandos to take up key positions within the capital’s heavily fortified Green Zone on Sunday, spurring fears of confrontation with his political opponents.

Meanwhile, further north in Iraq’s Kurdish region, aid agencies continued to scramble to help the wave of refugees that was unleashed nine days ago, when forces loyal to the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) launched a savage military offensive in the region, aimed at removing religious minorities from the large swath of territory between Mosul and the Tigris River to the west.

“Their target towns have been towns, villages, areas where there are substantial non-Sunni, religious minorities,” says Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. ISIS’s goal, he said, “seems rather clear.”

The U.N. Refugee Agency reports at least 30,000 people have managed to escape from the mountains near Sinjar after being trapped there without water or supplies by ISIS forces. However, humanitarian groups on the ground said the situation in the region is still critical.

“Its imperative that we do everything in our power to ensure these people receive the life-saving assistance they need,” said David Swanson, an official with the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

Late last weekend, U.S. forces began dropping relief supplies, and targeting ISIS positions in Sinjar in an effort to break the group’s siege of the conflict zone.

TIME North Korea

The North Koreans Are Unhappy With the U.N.’s Report on Human Rights

A Portrait of North Korea
The Mass Games being performed in Pyongyang. Jonas Gratzer—LightRocket via Getty Images

So they're penning their own

North Korea plans to publish a report on the state of human rights in the country, nearly six months after a U.N. commission released a scathing document on conditions in the reclusive state.

“A report on human rights is to be published in the DPRK (North Korea) by the country’s Association for Human Rights Studies in the near future,” said the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), according to South Korea’s Yonhap news agency.

The aim is to debunk the U.N.’s report, which the North previously said was orchestrated by the U.S. to overthrow the Pyongyang regime.

The new report, the KCNA says, “will show the true picture of the people of the DPRK dynamically advancing toward a brighter and rosy future while enjoying a free and happy life under the socialist system centered on the popular masses.”

The findings documented in the U.N.’s 372-page probe are anything but “rosy,” however. The regime is accused of crimes against humanity and the chair of the commission said they were “strikingly similar” to crimes committed by Nazi Germany in World War II.

“These crimes against humanity entail extermination, murder, enslavement, torture, imprisonment, rape, forced abortions and other sexual violence, persecution on political, religious, racial and gender grounds, the forcible transfer of populations, the enforced disappearance of persons and the inhumane act of knowingly causing prolonged starvation,” the U.N. study said.

The release date of North Korea’s report has not been disclosed.

TIME Infectious Disease

Medics Battling Ebola Are Pleading for the World’s Help

Health workers screen people for the deadly Ebola virus before entering the Kenema Government Hospital in Kenema, 300 kilometers, (186 miles) from the capital city of Freetown, Sierra Leone on August 9, 2014.
Health workers screen people for the deadly Ebola virus before entering the Kenema Government Hospital in Kenema, 300 kilometers, (186 miles) from the capital city of Freetown, Sierra Leone on August 9, 2014. Michael Duff—AP

Nations with infectious disease experts are being asked to send them "immediately"

Frontline medics are begging the international community to help fight an Ebola outbreak in West Africa now termed a “global emergency” by the WHO.

“Countries possessing necessary capacities must immediately dispatch available infectious disease experts and disaster relief assets to the region,” said Dr Bart Janssens, Doctors Without Border’s (MSF) director of operations, in a statement.

Three teams of Chinese disease control experts were expected to arrive in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone on Monday, along with medical supplies for personal protection, disinfection and treatment. But much more assistance is needed.

“For weeks, MSF has been repeating that a massive medical, epidemiological and public health response is desperately needed to saves lives and reverse the course of the epidemic,” said Janssens.

The parts of West Africa worst hit by the Ebola virus face an increasingly desperate situation, as governments and health workers scramble to contain the deadly disease.

Residents in northern Liberia fear starvation, since roadblocks and travel restrictions in the impoverished nation are hindering traders from buying food and farmers from harvesting crops, causing prices to skyrocket.

“A bag of rice that sold for 1,300 LD [about $14] is now selling for 1,800 LD [nearly $20],” Sando Johnson, a senator in the province of Bomi, told AFP. Siaffa Kamara of the northern town of Bopolu said: “People are panicking here; we are afraid to die from hunger.”

About 1,000 people in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Nigeria have already died in the worst outbreak of the virus so far. The highly contagious disease is mainly spread through direct contact with body fluids.

On Saturday, riot police cracked down on a blockade on the country’s busiest highway, organized by people frustrated by the government’s slow collection of the bodies of Ebola victims. Guinea also closed its borders to both Liberia and Sierra Leone.

The possibility that Ebola could be spreading to other continents is making authorities nervous across the globe. Tests on possibly infected individuals in India, Hong Kong and New York turned out negative — nevertheless, health officials are on alert and over a dozen countries have introduced security protocols at their airports to monitor possible victims.

A German man is quarantined in Rwanda, while awaiting the results of his blood tests. Meanwhile, a Spanish priest has become the first victim to be transferred to Europe. He will be treated in Madrid with the experimental drug ZMapp, which has shown initially positive effects on the two American victims currently being treated in Atlanta.

TIME Economy

A Global Financial Guru Who Predicted the Crisis of 2008 Says More Turmoil May Be Coming

Reserve Bank of India Governor Rajan Unveils Interest-Rate Decision And Images Of Market Reactions
Raghuram Rajan, governor of the Reserve Bank of India, speaks during a news conference at the central bank's headquarters in Mumbai on August 5, 2014 Bloomberg/Getty Images

Raghuram Rajan, the governor of India's central bank, fears supereasy money from the world’s central banks is inflating assets and encouraging bad investments

Back in 2005, Raghuram Rajan, then economic counselor at the International Monetary Fund, stood up in front of the annual meeting of prominent economists and bankers at Jackson Hole, Wyo., and gave a presentation that his listeners could never have expected. The U.S. investor community was reveling in the high growth and stable financial conditions then prevalent around the world, but Rajan had examined global financial markets and come to a very different opinion. He argued that increasingly complex markets, which spewed out complicated instruments like credit-default swaps and mortgage-backed securities in ever greater quantities, had made the global financial system a riskier place, not less so as many believed. Such comments were considered near blasphemy at the time, and Rajan’s audience didn’t take him very seriously.

Three years later in 2008, however, his views proved prophetic. Rajan had generally predicted the sources of the worst financial collapse since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Today, Rajan, now governor of the Reserve Bank of India, the country’s central bank, is worried again. This time, he’s fretting about the impact of the superloose monetary policies pursued by the U.S. Federal Reserve and other central banks to combat the financial crisis and resulting recession. Long-term low interest rates and unorthodox programs to stimulate economies — like quantitative easing, or QE — could be laying the groundwork for more turmoil in financial markets, he argues.

“My sense is that monetary policy can only do so much and beyond a certain point if you try to use monetary policy it does more damage than good,” Rajan tells TIME in his Mumbai office. “A number of years over which we, as central bankers, have convinced markets that we continuously come to their rescue and that we will keep rates really low for long — that we do all kinds of ways of infusing liquidity into the markets — has created markets that tend to push asset prices probably significantly beyond fundamentals, in some cases, and make markets much more vulnerable to adverse news. My worry is that, with inflation not being strong, this can continue for some time until things are so stretched that any signs of inflation, and a rise in interest rates, could precipitate a fairly strong market reaction. Certainly that volatility hurts across the world.”

Rajan, 51, would not pinpoint specifically where the most dangerous spots in global finance may be, but he did say that he believed assets of all sorts have become inflated. “I don’t know what the right level of the market is,” he says. “But I do know that, when I look at my portfolio and try to figure out where to invest, I can’t think of what I think is fairly valued.”

On top of his worries about market volatility, Rajan is also concerned that supereasy money is causing the misallocation of capital in the global economy, with potentially huge consequences down the road. “My greater worry is that by altering the price of capital for a substantial period of time, are we also, in a sense, distorting investment decisions and the nature of the economy we will have,” Rajan says. “Have we artificially kept the real rate of interest somehow below what should be the appropriate natural rate of interest today and created bad investment that is not the most appropriate for the economy?”

Still, Rajan agrees with Federal Reserve chairwoman Janet Yellen in her policy of slowly withdrawing stimulus measures and reintroducing higher interest rates. “We’re in the hole we are in. To reverse it by changing abruptly would create substantial amounts of damage. So I’m with Fed officials in saying that as we get out of this, let’s get out of this in a predictable and careful way, rather than in one go,” Rajan says.

Rajan has had to confront fallout from Fed policy personally. When he took the helm at India’s central bank in 2013, India was suffering as one of the “fragile five” — the emerging markets deemed most vulnerable to the winding down of Fed stimulus. India’s currency, the rupee, tumbled in value as investors fled, fearful that the curtailing of dollars in the world economy would strain the country’s ability to finance its large current-account deficit. In a series of deft and quick steps, Rajan stabilized the currency and wooed back investors, earning him breathless praise in the Indian media. Newspapers dubbed him a rock-star banker and even compared him to James Bond.

Now India, he says, is “absolutely” out of the “fragile five” stage. With narrowing fiscal and current account deficits, falling inflation and rising currency reserves, India’s fundamentals, he argues, are much improved and the country is less vulnerable. However, he sees the turmoil India experienced as part of a larger problem: a lack of coordination between the Federal Reserve and other central banks around the world. The actions the Fed takes are based mainly on U.S. domestic economic factors, but because of the unique position of the U.S. in the world economy, those decisions ripple through dollar-dominated financial markets in ways the Fed leadership does not take into account.

The results, Rajan argues, can ultimately be detrimental to the world economy. He points to a rise in increase in reserves in India and other emerging markets – built up as a cushion against potential fallout from the Fed’s tapering of stimulus – as one of those negatives. By topping up reserves, these emerging markets are in effect decreasing their demand for goods from the U.S. and elsewhere, and that is in the end bad for global growth.

“The U.S. should recognize that the actions we have to take to protect ourselves long run come back to effect the U.S.,” he says. “Therefore there is room for greater dialogue on how these policies should be conducted, not just to be nice, but because in the medium run it is in [America’s] own self-interest. If you are not careful about the volatility you are creating, the others have to respond and everybody is worse off.”

Ironically, Rajan has faced some criticism at home for doing just the opposite of the Fed — keeping interest rates high. Unlike most of the world, where bankers worry about low inflation or even deflation, India has been an outpost where inflation has been running too high, and Rajan took steps to bring the rate down — with some success. Some critics, however, complained that Rajan’s high-rate policy was acting as a drag on growth, and there was much press speculation when newly elected Prime Minister Narendra Modi took office in May that Rajan would come under pressure to cut rates to aid the administration’s promise to get the Indian economy back on track.

Rajan, though, says the central bank and the Modi Administration “are completely on the same page” when it comes to fighting inflation. “I have said repeatedly that the way to sustainable growth is to bring down inflation to much more reasonable levels,” Rajan explains. “That message is something the government is completely on board with. Once we do bring it down then we will have the opportunity to cut interest rates.”

Rajan also seems to be on the same page as Modi on economic reform. He expressed confidence that the new government is taking the initial steps necessary to set the sluggish Indian economy on its way to recovery. Growth rates can be restored to 6% to 7%, from current levels under 5%, Rajan believes, by making the government more efficient in implementing policies — unlocking badly needed but stalled investments in the process.

“Those are the things that are really needed to get the economy back to reasonable growth,” Rajan says. “This government has set about the implementation in a steady way and I am hopeful that we will see the fruits of that in the months to come.” Maybe Rajan will prove prescient this time around too.

TIME Foreign Policy

Rick Perry Is Open To U.S. Ground Troops In Iraq

Rick Perry
Texas Gov. Rick Perry gives the keynote speech at the California Republican Party convention in Anaheim, Calif. on Oct. 5, 2013. Reed Saxon/AP

"We've got to stop ISIS," says the potential GOP contender for 2016

Texas Gov. Rick Perry said Sunday he would keep all options open for the U.S. military to “stamp out” the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Speaking to reporters after a campaign stop for GOP House candidate Mariannette Miller-Meeks, Perry said the U.S. must do “whatever’s required to keep ISIS from continuing to be a clear and present danger” to America and its allies, including sending in American ground troops if needed.

“The president historically has been late to action on a lot of these issues that have occurred in the Middle East in particular,” Perry said. “Our allies need to know that we’re going to be there for them. I think signaling whether we are going to have boots on the ground or whether we’re going to be doing it through this particular means or not — I think we need to keep all of our options open.”

President Barack Obama has repeatedly pledged that no U.S. ground troops would be involved in the ongoing operations against ISIS, though hundreds of U.S. troops are in Iraq as military advisers and as security for U.S. diplomatic facilities.

Perry, who is in the middle of a four-day swing through the first state on the 2016 presidential nominating calendar, suggested he would have ordered U.S. troops back into Iraq in 2012, when he ran for president the first time. He, like many GOP lawmakers, has criticized Obama for failing to negotiate an agreement to maintain a U.S. troop presence.

Perry’s position puts him at odds with much of the Republican Party, which has largely backed the strikes but stopped short of expressing openness to ground force involvement. The party has also called for Obama to lay out a clearer vision for what he hopes to accomplish in Iraq. On Sunday, Sen. John McCain told CNN the airstrikes were “very, very ineffective, to say the least” — but he didn’t open the door to the possibility of ground troops.

Perry said that having boots on the ground was not a “position any of us want to get into — but we’ve got to stop ISIS.” He added: “I think you keep your options open — whatever’s required to keep ISIS from continuing to be a clear and present danger.”

TIME Iraq

Refugees Flood Kurdistan Border as ISIS Advances

Fishkhabur, Dohuk Province, Iraq. August 10, 2014.Yazidi families from Sinjar arrive at the Fishkhabur border crossing between Iraq's Dohuk Province and Syria. Thousands of Yazidi families have fled their villages in the Sinjar region of northern Iraq and have sought refuge in Kurdish-controlled areas as ISIS militants moved into their area.(Photo by Moises Saman/MAGNUM)
Yazidi families from Sinjar arrive at the Fishkhabur border crossing between Iraq's Dohuk Province and Syria, Aug. 10, 2014. Moises Saman—Magnum for TIME

"They're terrified and exhausted, and happy to be safe. But they're too traumatized to savor that"

Islamic militants continued their violent advance across Iraq Sunday as the humanitarian crisis escalated over the weekend, despite military action by the U.S. Thousands of religious minority Yazidis remain trapped by Sunni extremists in the country’s north even as Kurdistan, Iraq’s semiautonomous bastion of security, begins to look vulnerable.

On Sunday, Kurdish forces were able to rescue some 20,000 Yazidi Iraqis who had been trapped on Mount Sinjar, but many thousands remain trapped as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) makes its brutal advance north. An Iraqi government minister told Reuters that militants slaughtered 500 Yazidis on Sunday, including woman and children, and buried some alive — though there was no independent confirmation of the alleged massacre.

The U.S. has raised the stakes by committing to airstrikes against the militants as well as air drops to supply refugees with food and water. President Obama announced Saturday there would be no timetable for an end to U.S. support in the country.

Moises Saman, a longtime chronicler of conflicts in the Middle East who has covered the Arab Spring and the Syrian civil war, is in Iraq, photographing the impact of the conflict on the Yazidi population for TIME. On Sunday, he went to a border crossing into Kurdistan at Fishkhabur, where thousands of fleeing Yazidi refugees from the Sinjar mountains are seeking shelter. He spoke briefly with TIME from his hotel room.

14-year-old Tawaf Ismail, a Yazidi girl from Sinjar, rests next to her brothers after arriving at the Fishkhabur border crossing between Iraq's Dohuk Province and Syria, Aug. 10, 2014.
14-year-old Tawaf Ismail, a Yazidi girl from Sinjar, rests next to her brothers after arriving at the Fishkhabur border crossing between Iraq’s Dohuk Province and Syria, Aug. 10, 2014. Moises Saman—Magnum for TIME

TIME: What did you see today?
MS: There were thousands of families streaming through the [Fishkhabur] crossing, which is kind of an improvised bridge that’s been built over the river. Just a constant stream of people. It was mostly women and children. People were extremely tired. A lot of people just collapsed when they arrived. You could tell that they’ve been spending days outside. A lot of them didn’t have shoes and were extremely dirty.

Everybody was saying they’d been walking for days without food and water. That was the common thing I got from people they encountered. They’d been through this very traumatic journey, and they’re terrified and exhausted, and happy to be safe. But they’re too traumatized to savor that.

What is the humanitarian situation like when refugees arrive in Kurdistan?

The aid wasn’t very organized. There were people handing out water and I saw people handing out shoes and things like that, but it wasn’t as organized as you’d find in a refugee camp. They’re trying to improvise because they didn’t expect a massive influx of people here. They’re just trying to do the best they can.

A Yazidi family from Sinjar arrive at the Fishkhabur border crossing between Iraq's Dohuk Province and Syria, Aug. 10, 2014.
A Yazidi family from Sinjar arrive at the Fishkhabur border crossing between Iraq’s Dohuk Province and Syria, Aug. 10, 2014. Moises Saman—Magnum for TIME

How have Iraqis you’ve met reacted to the advance of ISIS militants?

Here you just hear “ISIS” in every conversation. It’s this scary thing that’s out there. ISIS has been so good at creating this propaganda that they’re so ruthless, and I think people are really scared of the. People do talk about [the militants] kidnapping women, the violence and beheadings. That their ruthlessness doesn’t seem to have a limit. It’s very dark and very real to people.

And ISIS is very much out there, taking towns and villages and been getting very close to [the regional capital of] Erbil, so I think the fear is very much real. People hearing rumors that they’re coming or advancing makes them flee ahead of them. That’s creating this dynamic that people are scared to death even just by rumors. That’s what seems to be creating this massive movement of people right now.

How much are Iraqis talking about U.S. aid or military assistance?
I didn’t pick up on that here. I think right now they’re not really aware. They don’t really know what’s happening as far as Americans bombing goes, and I didn’t pick up any “thank you” America kind of thing.

You’ve covered the civil war in Syria, where ISIS first gained a foothold. You’ve also been to Kurdistan in the last few months. What’s different now?

The number of women and children and old people surprised me. And people [in Kurdistan] seem more edgy. There are more people with guns out in the street, and you get the sense that it’s much more tense than a month ago.

This interview has been edited for clarity

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