VICE (2013) s06e06 Episode Script

Iran in Iraq & Dying on the Vine

1 SHANE SMITH: This week on Vice: Iran's growing power in Iraq after ISIS.
Where do the drugs come from originally? - This is you? - MAN: Yeah.
ISOBEL YEUNG: You were loaded.
We're inside Najaf's Iranian market, and everyone from the trash collectors to the vendor sellers seems to be Iranian.
SMITH: And then, the world's vineyards in the age of climate change.
GIANNA TOBONI: We're in Northern California, right in the middle of wine country.
We're probably 200 feet from these flames, and they're just oh my God flaring up.
(BERNARD FARGES SPEAKING FRENCH) (THEME MUSIC PLAYING) (CROWD SHOUTING) They're saying that right now, it's time for change.
(CROWD CHEERING) In the 1980s, Iran and Iraq fought one of the longest wars of the 20th century.
More than a million people lost their lives, and tens of thousands of Iranian troops died because of Saddam Hussein's attacks with chemical weapons.
After decades of bitterness and distrust, it was Iran that rushed to help Iraq defeat a threat to both countries, the Islamic State.
ISIS is now pretty much gone from Iraq, but Iran isn't.
And with national elections now coming up, its influence is only growing.
(TRUCK RATTLING) - (RADIO BEEPS) - (MAN SPEAKS INDISCERNIBLY ON RADIO) ISOBEL: It's about two o'clock in the morning, and we're out with the Basra police force.
These guys have just received some intelligence, so they have a couple of targets that they're hoping to take down.
That's a lot of people packed in there.
and there's one country the dealers were pointing to as their source.
Where did the drugs come from originally? What were you dealing? Were you making a lot of money? (SPEAKS FOREIGN LANGUAGE) - This is you? - OFFICER: Yeah.
ISOBEL: You were loaded.
Look at that.
When did it become so prevalent? Why now do you think they're sending a lot of them? ISOBEL: The 900-mile border between Iraq and Iran has become increasingly porous, as it's mostly fallen under the control of Iran-backed Shia militias.
But the influence of these militias goes beyond the drug trade.
Since fighting ISIS, they've increased their military strength across the country, and they're even getting involved in national politics.
To find out more about this power shift, we spoke to Mowaffak Al-Rubaie, a distinguished politician who ardently supported the US invasion but has since witnessed Iran's growing dominance in his country.
So, do you think the US has allowed this vacuum which Iran has stepped into? They pulled out irresponsibly, recklessly.
When ISIS stormed the three provinces, in June 2014, we ask for help from the United States of America.
We told them that we can see and monitor terrorists coming from Syria, crossing the borders to Iraq.
Please help us with some air strike.
President Obama said no.
It took the United States of America three months to start bombing the terrorists in Iraq.
(EXPLOSIONS) Three months, while it took Iran 24 hours.
Truckloads of arms and people to help us, defending Baghdad.
- You had no option but to turn to Iran.
- Absolutely.
ISOBEL: Iraq's pivot towards America's long-time adversary, Iran, comes after the US has lost more than 4,500 lives fighting in Iraq and spent more than two trillion dollars since the fall of Saddam Hussein.
So this is the noose that was used to hang Saddam Hussein? Yeah, this is the noose.
ISOBEL: So, you watched him being hanged? Oh yes.
I pulled the trigger, actually.
- You pulled the trigger? - Yeah, I pulled the trigger.
Did you ever imagine back then that this would be the country that he'd left behind? He promised to leave behind him ruins, - and that's what he did.
- Who's to blame for that? The countries surrounding Iraq worked really hard for this democratic experiment to fail.
ISOBEL: Ever since Saddam's fall, Iran has tried to control Iraq, but it's only now that it's actually beginning to achieve that goal.
By securing Iraqi territory, Iran will have a land corridor connecting Tehran with allied forces across Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon.
But Iran isn't just using military might to achieve that aim.
It's also leveraging cultural and economic ties.
We're inside what's known as Najaf's Iranian market, and everyone from the trash collectors to the vendor sellers seems to be Iranian.
Where are most of your clients coming from? (SPEAKS FOREIGN LANGUAGE) Have you noticed it's got busier recently? So, the Iraqis have the Iranians to thank for a lot of money coming in.
ISOBEL: Imports of goods from Iran have more than doubled in the last 10 years, and the spending power of Iranian visitors is strengthening Iran's foothold.
Right now, we're walking towards one of the holiest Shiite sights in the world, which is what millions of Iranians travel here for every single year.
(CALL TO PRAYER PLAYING OVER PA) Where have you all come from? (SPEAKS FOREIGN LANGUAGE) Everyone from Iran? Iran? Iran? Why do you think the number of Iranians coming here has exploded over the last few years? ISOBEL: Iran's 17 million Shia Muslims share a religious bond with more than 20 million Shia in Iraq, who make up more than half the population here.
When ISIS overwhelmed the Iraqi army and swept through the mainly Sunni northwest of the country in 2014, Iraq's top Shia cleric issued a fatwa, making it a religious duty to defend the homeland.
(SPEAKS FOREIGN LANGUAGE) ISOBEL: This call to arms was immediately answered by tens of thousands of new recruits.
Equipped and advised by Iran, those volunteers joined with existing militias.
By decree from the Iraqi government, they then became the Popular Mobilization Forces, or PMF.
We're with the Badr Brigade, which is largest of the Popular Mobilization Forces.
There's about 40,000 members in total.
They took this whole neighborhood back from ISIS just a couple of months ago, and civilians haven't yet returned to it.
Formed in the 1980s to serve Iranian interests in Iraq, the Badr Brigade killed many American soldiers during the Iraqi insurgency, but in the fight against ISIS, the militia became an unlikely US ally.
So, ISIS were occupying all of these houses just a couple of months ago? (SPEAKS FOREIGN LANGUAGE) ISOBEL: Hassan Ahmed Al-Samre is in command of this unit as they round up remaining ISIS fighters.
(GUNFIRE) Is that gunfire? What's going on? ISOBEL: So, you're still looking for ISIS members around here? ISOBEL: Do you think some of them are still here? So, this is where you caught an ISIS guy yesterday? - Yeah.
- ISOBEL: Wow.
ISOBEL: This is one of the IED's they've been collecting, and now they're gonna show us how they explode it.
Run, run, run, run, run.
Why's it the PMU's responsibility, rather than the Iraqi's army's, to clear out these houses of IED's and to find the last ISIS fighters here? ISOBEL: With the victory over ISIS, the Popular Mobilization Forces have been embraced by many Iraqis as national heroes.
Some militias have recently set up political arms to field candidates in the upcoming parliamentary election, and Iran is using its influence on local media to boost their cause.
(ISOBEL WHISPERING) (SPEAKS FOREIGN LANGUAGE) ISOBEL: The Asia Network is one of several news outlets in Iraq that's allegedly funded by sources with ties to Iran.
It reaches over a million people across multiple platforms.
(MAN SPEAKS) (WOMAN SPEAKS) (ULULATES) ISOBEL: Local celebrities Tamara Jamal and Nahi Mahdi host a comic radio show that also serves to promote their views on current politics.
What's it like living here in Baghdad? And how are you guys feeling about the elections? (NAHI SPEAKS FOREIGN LANGUAGE) And who are the fighters who saved Iraq from ISIS? So, are you advocating for those guys to be the ones in power in parliament? ISOBEL: You too? Everyone at this TV station, this radio station is in agreement about that? ISOBEL: One group with political aspirations is Shia militia Harakat Hezbollah Al-Nujaba.
Citing the group's close ties with Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps, Congress has proposed designating Al-Nujaba a terrorist organization.
We met Hashim Al-Moussawi, the militia's official spokesman, at the group's headquarters in Baghdad.
Who are these guys up here? (SPEAKS FOREIGN LANGUAGE) And what do they represent to you, these two? Now that ISIS is all but over, what's the mission of Al-Nujaba now in Iraq? Can you understand the fear that is coming from the West when it comes to they look at your organization, and they see the close relationship that you have with Iran and with the Revolutionary Guards and potentially Iran can use you guys to spread their influence across Iraq? ISOBEL: The possible election of former militia leaders sympathetic to Iranian interests will allow Tehran to consolidate its powers within the Iraqi government.
To hear what threat that might pose to the stability of Iraq and the wider region, we met with Iraqi Vice President Ayad Allawi.
Is Iran having much impact on these elections? How prominent is Iran here? Do you think that Iraq is at risk of becoming a platform for a proxy battle between the US and Iran? ISOBEL: With Iran now poised to tighten its grip over Iraq, it's influence extends across the region, from Iranian troops fighting in Syria to its proxy Hezbollah in Lebanon, and its allies Hamas and Gaza, the opposition movement in Bahrain, and the Houthis in Yemen.
Iran has not been treating that part of the world or the world itself appropriately.
A lot of bad things are happening in Iran.
ISOBEL: The White House has now signaled that over 5,000 troops could be staying in Iraq indefinitely.
(SPEAKS FOREIGN LANGUAGE) ISOBEL: What would happen if the US takes on Iran on Iraqi turf? Oh my God.
It's going to be hell.
Do you think there's a chance that could happen? By the way, Trump administration is escalating with Iran.
The Iranians will not stand and do nothing.
My country will pay heavily.
Which means that it's a very difficult situation that you guys are in.
We are between the devil and the deep blue sea.
It's well-known that climate change will have devastating impacts on our planet, from melting glaciers and rising seas, to extreme drought and storms.
Because of extreme heat in California, last year saw the most destructive wildfire season on record, triggering huge mudslides and claiming 44 lives.
But it's the wine industry that's becoming a canary in the coal mine, showing what warming temperatures could mean for the way we live.
(INDISTINCT RADIO CHATTER) (INDISTINCT RADIO CHATTER) GIANNA: We're in Northern California, right in the middle of wine country.
We're probably 200 feet from these flames, and they're just oh my God flaring up right through this valley.
And in many areas, there's still zero percent containment.
DAVID SHEW: Winds just came out of the north at howling speeds.
When you have that combination of high winds in very dry fuel, it just becomes explosive.
To what extent do you attribute these wildfires, and how quickly they're spreading, to climate change? It's not unusual for us to see these kinds of events, but it seems to be getting worse and more frequent.
Fires are different now than they were 20, 30 years ago.
You simply can't look at statistics like that and ignore it.
This is the new normal.
GIANNA: Last year's massive fires in Northern California killed 44 people, leveled thousands of homes, and burned through more than 200,000 acres of land.
The infernos struck at the heart of California's wine industry, a major enterprise here.
Dozens of wineries in Napa and Sonoma counties were devastated.
KEN MOHOLT-SIEBERT: It was about 10:45, and my wife was staying here, and she saw, on the hillside, flames.
Basically, this whole hillside on fire.
The vineyard team grabbed some hoses and did what they could - Wow.
- but it was just not enough.
We've had fires in the area before, but not like this.
I've got people who've been with me for 20, 30 years, and they're as devastated, obviously, as I am, and, you know, this was their life.
GIANNA: But worsening wildfires are just one concern for California's premium wine production.
As climate change escalates over the next 30 years, California is expected to see a 70% decline in area currently suitable for viticulture.
Wine, of course, is probably the most expensive crop in the entire world, and it's a crop that is very, very sensitive to climate.
GIANNA: NASA scientist Dr.
Ben Cook studies the impact of climate change on agriculture.
He says that these environmental consequences have global repercussions today.
So, with regards to wine regions, where is the change in climate most evident? Pretty much every single wine-growing region in the world we are seeing some impact of climate change.
You know, in the old-world regions, like France, you know, Italy, Spain, they've been growing grapes and making wine for hundreds of years, and it's really important, because this provides us a really long-term perspective.
If things are changing and it's still where things have been for the last several centuries, maybe, you know, things are okay.
But what we're seeing in a lot of these areas is that we're starting to move outside what we call the envelope of natural variability.
We're starting to move into a kind of new world relative to the last several centuries.
And I think it also kind of highlights how extreme some of these climate changes are.
Wine is very important to a lot of people, but we could survive without wine.
I mean, I don't know that I agree with that.
You know, survival is not physical survival, just.
It's also cultural survival.
You know, so much of their kind of cultural identity is wrapped up in kind of their view of wine.
GIANNA: To see how vintners today are reconciling with the change in climate, we went to France's most prominent and profitable wine region.
Bordeaux pumps out more than 700 million bottles each year.
Its prestige stems largely from its optimal environment and temperate climate, and the region's history, culture, and economy depend on it.
GIANNA: Bernard Farges is the vice president of the trade group that represents all Bordeaux winemakers.
- You like it? - Nice.
(SPEAKS FRENCH) How has the change in climate affected the wine industry here? What are your concerns for the economics of wine in coming years? As a region, how much production did Bordeaux lose this past season? GIANNA: Many of the vineyards in Bordeaux have been producing wine for generations, and families have depended on the crop for hundreds of years.
Juliette Bécot oversees 50 acres of mainly Merlot grapes at her family's Chateau Beau-Séjour Bécot.
How many bottles of wine do you have down here? (SPEAKING FRENCH) At the beginning of August, the roots came at this level.
- Like two feet down? - Yes, yes, yes.
- Wow.
- Because the weather was very dry and hot.
(SPEAKS FRENCH) GIANNA: But it's not just extreme heat threatening France's vital export.
Last spring, the region was gutted by freezing temperatures.
Wine growers scrambled to protect their crops, but for many, there was little that could be done to salvage the harvest.
What percentage of your yield did you lose this year? (SPEAKS FRENCH) GIANNA: As the climate shifts, the future of all agriculture is in question.
When it comes to Bordeaux, certain varieties of grape are all but doomed.
The industry here is sort of in crisis mode.
Varieties that we see on wine bottles in every grocery store Merlot being a good example may not exist in 30 years, at least in Bordeaux.
And so, scientists are growing different varieties to see what will work in warming temperates.
Kees van Leeuwen, a scientist and winemaker, is taking grape varieties from all over the world into the lab to see what might survive Bordeaux's oncoming climate changes.
With climate change, ripening is happening more and more early in the season.
And Merlot, with harvest happening more and more early, maybe in 20 or 30 years time, will not be longer well-adapted to the Bordeaux climate, so we have to find new varieties which can replace Merlot.
We take grape samples every week, have them analyzed to see the composition of the grapes, and we model the ripening of the grapes to see how they react to temperature.
And we look for varieties which are later ripening but still very good quality and with the typicity which is very similar to what we have in Bordeaux wines today.
This is touriga nacional, a very famous grape from the Douro region.
In terms of aromatic complexity, it comes very close to Bordeaux wines, so we have a lot of hope on this variety.
Prunelard was a very old variety which was no longer used, because it used to have difficulties in reaching full ripeness, but now, with changing climate, it might become interesting.
- It's the perfect climate-change grape.
- So, yeah.
If we don't adapt, then Bordeaux is really in danger.
GIANNA: Like many distressed enterprises, the wine industry is looking to technology for these solutions.
Back in California, geneticist Dr.
Dario Cantu is tackling this crisis at the molecular level.
He's extracting DNA from grape vines, choosing ideal traits, and then breeding genetically superior strains of popular wines, like Cabernet Sauvignon.
DARIO: The ultimate goal of what we do, which we call molecular viticulture, is to be able to control at very fine scale what happens in the berries during, um during the process of ripening and before we harvest them.
I believe that genetics is the key for the future of viticulture.
By improving genotypes, we'll be able to grow better-adaptive varieties.
What elements are you trying to preserve, say, for the most popular varieties like Cabernet sauvignon or Pinot noir? DARIO: So, what my research is trying actually to obtain is an understanding of the genetic basis of Cabernet sauvignon, Pinot noir, and other varieties, so that we can mix them with other traits like drought tolerance, pest resistance, so that those characteristic of Cabernet sauvignon are preserved when they're grown in conditions that are not optimal.
GIANNA: As more industries feel the impact of a warming climate, how we address this problem today could influence the future of all agriculture.
Obviously, your focus right now is on wine, but is there sort of a bigger-picture application to this in agriculture? There are other industries as large as the wine grape industry that will face the same issues.
Think about chocolate.
Think about coffee.
So, what we learn in terms of that ability and improvement for grapes can be applied to other crops.
Being climate-change responsive is to be able to have the best genetic material for every region in the world.
We need to cultivate the best adaptive varieties to a certain climate, and that's clear.
The sooner we realize that there is a problem, the sooner we will have a solution, and there are solutions.