Hi Reddit! I just got back from reporting in Syria with producer Raja Razek and cameraman Scott McWhinnie. We visited the devastated city of Kobani, where we saw children who played in makeshift graveyards and told us they hid under cushions to protect themselves from ISIS mortar shells filled with metal shards.

I’m in New York now and am looking forward to answering your questions. Ask me anything.

I'm settled in and answering your questions: http://imgur.com/vAVpFHz

UPDATE: I have to run to another appointment, but I will try to check back in if I can. Thanks for all of your questions.

My Proof: http://www.cnn.com/2014/12/04/world/meast/syria-kobani-civilians/index.html -- See editor's note More proof: https://twitter.com/CNN/status/542328737959018496

Comments: 133 • Responses: 21  • Date: 

joeydee52317 karma

What's it like to be working your butt off across the world only to have your network focus on sensationalism? From my opinion CNN only goes as far as Ferguson. Very little coverage of Syria, ISIS, ect.

NickPatonWalsh2 karma

That's factually inaccurate. In truth, even during the major domestic news event of the Garner protests, CNN US ran our pieces in prime time. They ran on CNNi hourly. Both networks coverage of ISIS has been substantial.

shouldbeworking2313 karma

Craziest thing you saw?

NickPatonWalsh25 karma

One night on a roof, the sheer extent of the heavy machine gun fire was pretty extraordinary - during an ISIS offensive, or counter-offensive. Hard to know which. That and kids showing us the cushion mountain they hid from bombs beneath.

NickPatonWalsh19 karma

You can see some of that fighting in this video

monhen11 karma

did you feel safe under the Kurds care and hospitality?

NickPatonWalsh22 karma

yes. as safe as one can there.

shouldbeworking2310 karma

Did you interview any ISIS members?

NickPatonWalsh19 karma

The nature of ISIS means that in person you are unlikely - or ill advised - to interview them. Social media interaction and Skype are possible - and my colleagues have managed that. The Kurds did not have any ISIS prisoners at the time we were inside Kobani.

Rihannas_forehead9 karma

Thank you and your team for being professionals and risking your lives for the story. Did you meet any foreign nationals fighting for the Kurdish side? Is there any truth to the reports of ISIS getting resupplied from the Turkish side of the border? How effective do you think are the allied airstrikes on ISIS? And last but not least, have you ever touched Wolf Blitzer's beard? Again, thank you.

NickPatonWalsh17 karma

No, no foreign nationals. We were told there may be some, but saw none.

ISIS are not, as far as we can see, getting any resupply - the Turkish are in a bind as they are both presumably trying to not end up in an open fight with ISIS, whilst secure their own borders.

The Coalition airstrikes are being effective in terms of denying ISIS the chance to take all of Kobani. The strikes have also meant ISIS have had to pour in and lose fighters and equipment. They can't finish the fight off though. That will take better equipping for the Kurds.

Wolf's beard is off limits. Period.

rurd8 karma

You probably aren't allowed to answer this, but, I'll ask anyways.

How does your personal understanding and experience being there, seeing things, and working there differ from what is ultimately reported? Perhaps it doesn't? Or, maybe it does? In either case, I am curious to hear your thoughts. And, thanks for taking the time to do this AMA!

NickPatonWalsh4 karma

It's the same. There isn't some process by which we see and feel a lot of things that we then ignore and follow a pre-ordained script. You see what we do. I know that's hard to believe in this social media age of micro-digestion, but it's true.

oHolo8 karma

If you could tell the American Public just one thing about ISIS, what would it be?

NickPatonWalsh34 karma

A decade of policies in the Middle East helped create them. You need to help find and fund the solution, or it will become a problem on your soil, not just the Middle East.

SuzanneLavery7 karma

Hi Nick, amazing report from Kobane - how long were you there and how did you get in?

NickPatonWalsh10 karma

thanks. we were there just under 48 hours. I can't really say much about how we got in - it was a mix of simple and complicated - but we are grateful to the Kurds for their hospitality and care.

NickPatonWalsh6 karma

Thanks all. Have to head off now. Very best.

ithinkandroid5 karma

What's the current situation for journalists there? Interested to know about how you get your stories out, how you manage the day to day. Thank you in advance.

NickPatonWalsh8 karma

It is complicated. Anyone attempting entry should spend weeks thinking about it, and not file until out. Day to day, you need the full invitation and hospitality of the Kurds to operate in any way.

nipoco5 karma

What have you seen there that no one is talking about and haven't even wrote about it?

NickPatonWalsh5 karma

We write and talk about everything we see that's important.

Britney_Lewin4 karma

What are your thougt's on the CIA ISIS torture videos released yesterday? Do you think ithe videos will provoke ISIS to expediate their attacks on US Soil Also,From you perspective, how concerned should we be in regards to ISIS growth? The news reports they're growing rapidly was this evident during your time in Syria?

NickPatonWalsh10 karma

ISIS grew most rapidly when they were not on the global radar, and then when they ran into Iraq, taking Mosul. Since then, their victories have been incremental. They haven't had the huge storming win they need for recruitment - the constant forward motion that many analysts say makes them attractive to future recruits. They are growing in terms of infrastructure and organisation perhaps, but not geographical reach - if you exclude a handful of pledges of allegiance in other countries that are symbolically worrying, but not game changers.

smedynski4 karma

I'm sure you saw and experienced a lot of devastating things in your time over there. What was the most heartbreaking thing you saw? Do you think outside/foreign involvement over there is having more of a positive or negative impact on the people?

NickPatonWalsh8 karma

The kids in their cushion shelter is always tough. I also remember a bomb shelter some kids made - two years ago now - in a refugee camp in Bab al Salama. They were literally digging a cave with their hands.

Foreign help comes in many forms. ISIS have some foreigners. The Turkish are just across the border, but the Kurds claim they are impeding resupply. The Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga help a lot with heavy weapons. And the Coalition airstrikes also keep ISIS back and have helped the Kurds hang on. But in the end the sheer volume of outside parties now with stakes in the fight for the town means that it will go on a long time.

gabiet3 karma

Have you ever seen the show 'The Newsroom'? How would you say it gets your job right and wrong?

If I remember correctly, you were one of the journalists deported for reporting on abuses and war crimes during the Sri Lankan war. What was that like? If I recall correctly, the defence minister even phoned you all personally or something of the sort.

I must add that you were one of my favourites on Channel 4. Thank you for bringing the news to the forefront.

I wish I could be a journalist, but I'm not the best writer out there, so do you have any advice for those who want to bring the news forward, but aren't the strongest of writers? Also, what exactly does the producer do?

NickPatonWalsh5 karma

Haven't seen it, but I generally admire Aaron Sorkin, so I clearly should. During Sri Lanka, it was complicated as all access was controlled by the government. When we once aired allegations that were prompted by filming they had not sanctioned, then Minister Rajapaksa called me to let me know we would be deported. Producers have a tough job. They have to keep the correspondent's ego and focus in check. They have to keep the cameraman happy and filming something. They have to fill the holes and get the access. I am lucky to work with Raja (and Scotty), but often don't understand their tolerance levels. Remarkable.

iceclimber223 karma

Hey Nick. What do you see as the best solution for the situation in Syria right now? Any ideas how to remove Assad from power (if that is even the best way to go about reaching some level of peace)?

NickPatonWalsh4 karma

you can't tackle ISIS without also addressing the reason why such extremism has a constituency - the three years of massacres of Sunnis that Assad forces perpetrated. but an overall solution for Syria is outside of the resources the US wants to commit at this point. there are also too many other players who want an opposite outcome - Iran/Russia. the US should be and perhaps has been mindful that their increased presence - like ground troops - has often become the lightning rod for all anger - adding a new problem rather than fixing the original one. in the end, Syria is going to be a conflict that tires of itself. one key problem is that this war has become a proxy conflict for many sides and keeps expanding - dragging in Iraq, and more different militias. so the point in which the combatants get exhausted keeps staying out of reach. it will take a singular seismic event that prompts serious international action, or more likely eventual exhaustion, to stop this war.

RayBrower2 karma

Ever got drunk with Wolf Blitzer?

NickPatonWalsh6 karma

No, but I am sure it would be formidable.

Jose_xixpac1 karma

Nick, Raja, and Scott, thank you for your sacrifice.

Three questions:

1) Have you started to show any symptoms of PTSD?

2) Don't you guys worry about being abducted by militant extremists?

3) I have friends who just moved to Turkey, is there any evidence of civil war breaking out there?

Thanks once again. Plz be careful.


NickPatonWalsh2 karma

1) no. we look out for each other. 2) no, as above - and we hope that remains the case. 3) no, absolutely none.

zib_al-jihad1 karma

Does ISIS/ISIL actually consider the term "Daesh" as offensive? I have only seen the one report by "residents" in Mosul saying that the fighters and leadership see it as offensive. Will renaming them, across all fronts, actually do anything? Thanks!

NickPatonWalsh5 karma

I don't think renaming them Daesh makes any difference. It might mildly annoy those who watch French politicians on TV. But in the end, a slightly more forcible strategy is required than intellectualised name-calling.

[deleted]-4 karma


NickPatonWalsh9 karma

Given that question shows the level you're operating at, maybe I don't need to answer.

JustaDudeinaSuit-6 karma

I can answer that Nick. It is because CNN, like other large news corps., aren´t interested in providing information. They are only there to feed you whatever garbage they are fed. The presenters of this drivel are only trying to work their way up to the second or third level of ass sucking, and are not inhibited in the slightest by misreporting, or holding back the truth. The prize is in sight. Maybe a gig in DC as some sort of correspondent.

Oh, the question - Why do you do an AMA and then reply to everything with "it´s really complicated, but yet simple, but yet complicated...",. Why can´t you give one straight answer?

NickPatonWalsh8 karma

Many of my colleagues make significant efforts to witness events first hand, rather than repeat the drivel you seem very familiar with. I don't particularly like DC. And there are plenty of other things you can do online right now if you dislike these answers. bye.