Leaders see Islamic State fight as long slog

Chief foreign affairs correspondent Margaret Warner, reporting from the UN, talks with Judy Woodruff about what came out of an anti-Islamic State meeting among world leaders at the United Nations General Assembly and a meeting between President Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Read the Full Transcript

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    And with that, let's turn back to our correspondent, chief foreign affairs correspondent, Margaret Warner, at the United Nations.

    Margaret, apologies. We lost you a few minutes ago.

    We were talking about that session this morning, the anti-ISIS session that was held at the U.N. How did you read that meeting?

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    Well, Judy, you had started out asking if it was flat. I would say definitely that's an understatement.

    I mean, here you had presidents, prime ministers all around the table, and talking about, you know, what they have achieved. Well, they couldn't say they have achieved much. Instead, they bemoaned how much ISIS has gained ground in their own countries, either with attacks or recruiting their young people. They tried to analyze the problem. And it had to do with Internet recruitment.

    But really they said exactly the same things they said a year ago. They said — almost none could point to a real accomplishment. Then they didn't have any frank discussion about the fault with their own strategy and what they should do. They were all canned speeches.

    And, amazingly, they totally ignored the elephant in the room, which Andrew and Nick just talked about, which is, ISIS is based in Syria. What are they going to do about the home base of ISIS? And that of course gets into this whole discussion about Assad's future.

    And if the anti-ISIL coalition, as the White House calls it, insists, you know, that they're in the lead, to think they didn't even discuss this was astonishing to me.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Well, let's come back to the meeting yesterday between the two — first of all, the two speeches of President Obama and President Putin, dueling speeches, you could characterize them, and then the meeting they had later in the day. What do we know about that meeting, and how did the atmosphere of what happened yesterday play into today?

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    So, you easy, what we're told — and it was still going on when you and I spoke last night — is, they were very businesslike, frank. They certainly did have a stony handshake at the beginning, but that, once they got in the room, though it was certainly not warm and chummy — these two men don't like each other — that there were none of the recriminations about, oh, this is your fault and this is your fault. They got to business.

    Half the discussion was about Syria and what to do about Syria. And they agreed on some common ground. And, of course, U.S. officials, including John Kerry, who went on "Morning Joe" today, tried to point to the positives: We agree ISIL is really a serious threat to all of us, that their returning foreign fighters are really a threat to your country and mine and the whole region and all of Europe, and that the ultimate goal, they said, was an integrated, secular Syria, which I know many people think is now illusory.

    But they didn't have any meeting of the minds on this future of Assad. The one thing they did agree is that Secretary Kerry and Foreign Minister Lavrov will continue discussions about getting a political process going, a political transition going.

    And, to me, the big question is, can this be, as in the Iran nuclear talks, where the U.S. and Russia were able to isolate those talks and really actually work together to get that Iranian nuclear deal, or will it be like the situation in Ukraine, where it's so poisoned by the hostility or dislike or distrust really between Presidents Obama and Putin, that it will go nowhere? And we just don't know.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    And, Margaret, very quickly, finally, where do you see this anti-ISIS coalition headed in terms of what it can get done?

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    I think it was summed up by two people today, first of all, King Abdullah of Jordan, who said, if we can't do — if we can't work more effectively, we will all pay the price.

    This was a public meeting. And late in the day, Josh Earnest, the White House spokesman, was briefing reporters on Air Force One as it headed home, because they piped it in to us here, and he basically said — acknowledged that, a year from now, when they come back to meet here, this issue will still be at the top of the agenda suggesting it's going to be a very, very long slog.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Margaret warning — Margaret Warner continuing a long and productive week…

    (LAUGHTER)

    (CROSSTALK)

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    … myself.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    … covering the U.N. meetings in New York, we thank you.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    A pleasure.

Listen to this Segment