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How much larger can the Mideast war become?


We begin the week with that question. Aid convoys have been reaching civilians in Gaza, the territory governed by Hamas. What we don't know is how soon Israeli troops will move in. And we are watching signs of violence elsewhere.

INSKEEP: NPR's Jackie Northam is doing that, watching for us from Jerusalem. Hey there, Jackie.

JACKIE NORTHAM, BYLINE: Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: OK, so we're told that two different aid convoys have crossed the border into Gaza. Does that amount to progress?

NORTHAM: You know, Steve, any aid is welcome. But relief workers say this latest shipment of supplies is just a fraction of what's needed for the more than 700,000 Palestinians who fled their homes in northern Gaza to escape constant airstrikes by the Israeli military. The enclave has been under complete blockade, and there are critical shortages of just about everything.

And it can only get worse. What did not get through, Steve, on this shipment or the last convoy is fuel. And that's used to run generators, you know, to provide power for just about everything in Gaza. And Israel does not want fuel getting through. On Sunday, President Biden spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and they both affirmed that flow of humanitarian aid will continue into Gaza. But that could change if and when an anticipated Israeli incursion into Gaza gets underway.

INSKEEP: Jackie, I'm trying to keep a map of Israel and the surrounding area in my head. Gaza, of course, is toward the south of Israel. But some of the news over the weekend called my attention to the north, to the border with Lebanon, or to the occupied territories, the West Bank, where a lot of Palestinians live.


INSKEEP: What's going on?

NORTHAM: Well, yeah, there has been a lot of action. Israel's military is certainly fortifying its northern border with Lebanon. You know, there's tanks and armored personnel. They're evacuating a lot of the towns that are along that border, and really because there's just an increased number of exchanges of rocket attacks and gunfire between Israel and Iranian-backed Hezbollah militants in that area in Lebanon.

You know, there's also been a lot of violence in the West Bank. There was an Israeli airstrike against a mosque at the Jenin refugee camp. And that's a pretty rare occurrence, to have an airstrike in the West Bank. I was out in the West Bank city of Ramallah over the weekend and spoke to a community activist there named Fadi Quran. And he said the people there don't want Hamas, but there is a desire to fight back against what he called Israeli aggression. Let's have a listen to what he says.

FADI QURAN: I would not say that this has led to increased support for Hamas ideologically or politically, but I would say that many Palestinians feel that they do need to find ways to take up arms to protect themselves against attacks from settlers and the Israeli military.

NORTHAM: And so, Steve, you know, the concern is that any of these flashpoints that we're seeing, you know, around Israel could explode and just broaden the conflict throughout the region.

INSKEEP: Well, let's zoom back in, though, to the south, to Gaza, where Israeli troops are massing near that border. When might they cross?

NORTHAM: Oh, there's no official word. But you get the sense from defense officials and politicians that it's imminent. You know, again, they're sort of amassing tanks and troops. They continue to flatten buildings with these airstrikes ahead of a possible incursion. But, you know, we're seeing signals from the white House that the U.S. and other Western nations don't want Israel to rush into it. There's 200 hostages being held there still, 2 million Palestinian civilians that are trapped, and just the broader implications of it spreading throughout the region.

INSKEEP: NPR's Jackie Northam with an update from Jerusalem. Jackie, thanks so much.

NORTHAM: Thank you.


INSKEEP: OK. This week, House Republicans try again to select a House speaker.

MARTÍNEZ: The math is the same as it was when Republicans unseated Kevin McCarthy and then rejected two candidates to replace him. Republicans do not want to rely on Democrats to choose a speaker, so they have to unite almost all of their narrow majority, which McCarthy told NBC his colleagues are not ready to do.


KEVIN MCCARTHY: This is embarrassing for the Republican Party. It's embarrassing for the nation. And we need to look at one another and solve the problem.

INSKEEP: The numerous candidates do not include Domenico Montanaro, NPR's senior political editor and correspondent. Although, he is our speaker for the next segment of the program. Domenico, good morning.

DOMENICO MONTANARO, BYLINE: And I certainly would qualify, because anybody can be speaker.

INSKEEP: That's good to know.

MONTANARO: You, too, Steve.

INSKEEP: Thank you, thank you. Glad to know. But who are the actual contenders?

MONTANARO: Well, there are nine of them now who are officially running. They stand out for not really standing out, I have to tell you. You know, many of these candidates have been working the phones all weekend to try and secure support ahead of this expected closed-door candidate forum later today and maybe, just maybe, a vote on Tuesday. The candidate getting the most buzz right now is Tom Emmer. He's a congressman from Minnesota. He's the party whip, which is the chief vote counter, No. 3 in House leadership. He's McCarthy's pick. McCarthy says Emmer can do it on Day 1. But the hard right also needs to be on board here because the margins are so narrow, and they could be a huge stumbling block.

INSKEEP: Why would that be?

MONTANARO: Well, they might have liked Emmer who first ran for office, you know, the one who was known as a conservative firebrand in Minnesota. He won the endorsement of Sarah Palin and Tea Party groups for his very close bid for governor and then his subsequent run for Congress. But Emmer has taken a pretty different approach since coming to Congress.

You know, rather than making headlines with controversial comments like, by the way, his predecessor, Michele Bachmann, or Jim Jordan, he's been a pragmatist and spent time learning the inside game. You know, he ran the National Republican Campaign Committee, which is responsible for trying to get House members elected. That wins you some pretty big goodwill, you know, with your colleagues. And he really rose up the leadership chain by building relationships, he even did so with some Democrats on the committees he's served on.

INSKEEP: This might explain a tweet or an X or whatever that I saw over the weekend. Dean Phillips, who is also from Minnesota but a Democrat in Congress, says it would be good to have a Minnesotan in the House speaker's chair. Hope he works with Democrats. It sounds like Phillips would like this.

MONTANARO: Yeah, and Phillips is also causing his own waves in the presidential primary, threatening to run against President Biden. But, you know, that does point to the problem here. You know, Trump allies just don't trust Emmer. You know, to put it bluntly, Emmer has a huge Trump problem. You know, Trump allies just don't trust him, they don't think he's pro-Trump enough. Emmer hasn't endorsed Trump in the presidential primary, did not back up Trump's election lies. Boris Epshteyn, a senior Trump adviser, went on Steve Bannon's podcast and told the former Trump campaign chairman this about Emmer.


BORIS EPSHTEYN: If somebody so out of step with where the Republican electorate is, where the MAGA movement is, how can they even be in the conversation? We need a MAGA speaker.

MONTANARO: And that is very much seen as a message from Trump himself.

INSKEEP: Yeah, unlike a lot of other Republicans, Emmer did not vote to object to the will of the people as expressed in the 2020 election against Trump and for Joe Biden. So how do Republicans get out of this?

MONTANARO: Well, it's all going to end somehow. I can't tell you how because the path is not clear right now. But the pragmatists in the party want to fund the wars in Ukraine and Israel, keep the government open. Without funding, it'll shut down in less than three weeks. But if you listen to people like Bannon, the Trump wing just doesn't care. They welcome a government shutdown. And all of this drama really is, though, a reflection of the divide within the Republican Party since the rise of Trump, his continued grip on the heart of the party, and the battle for what it's going to be.

INSKEEP: NPR's Domenico Montanaro. Thanks for speaking with us.

MONTANARO: You're so welcome.


INSKEEP: OK. Voters in Argentina are passing judgment on their presidential candidates. And that includes the one who vowed to throw out the ruling party and throw out the national currency, replacing it with the U.S. dollar.

MARTÍNEZ: South America's second-largest economy is facing one of its worst crises of the past two decades, with triple-digit inflation and rising poverty. Javier Milei, a former TV pundit and admirer of Donald Trump, surprised Argentines with his strong showing in August's primary election. But yesterday he fell short of victory, coming in second behind the ruling party's candidate.

INSKEEP: NPR's South America correspondent Carrie Kahn is following all of this. Carrie, welcome.

CARRIE KAHN, BYLINE: Good morning.

INSKEEP: What are the results?

KAHN: Well, with nearly 99% of the vote, the current economy minister, the government's ruling party candidate, Sergio Massa, came in first with about 37% of the vote. And that's pretty stunning, considering annual inflation in Argentina is now at 140%. The peso devalues nearly every day, and 40% of Argentines now live in poverty. Almost a third of the voters went for that far-right candidate, Javier Milei. He came in second place. Milei calls himself, Steve, an anarcho-capitalist, and has vowed a radical overhaul of the government.

INSKEEP: Anarcho-capitalist? OK. And yet voters - a larger percentage of voters, anyway - went for the ruling party, why?

KAHN: Many are angry, though. But clearly, voters that went for that government's candidate said they're worried that Milei's plans were just too radical. Milei has said he will take a chainsaw to the government. He'd slashed spending, ditched the peso for the U.S. dollar, like you said, and get rid of the central bank. Analysts are calling the vote for the government candidate el voto del miedo, and that's the fear vote. Here, listen to this voter, Sonia Medina (ph). She is 65 and lives on her government pension and subsidies.

SONIA MEDINA: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: She says, there are many poor people in the country like her that just can't make ends meet. But she was worried that Milei would cut them off and ruin the economy even more.

INSKEEP: OK, so Milei did not finish first. But he did make the runoff because he finished second, so tell me a little more about him.

KAHN: Sure. He has had this stunning rise in Argentine politics. He's only been a congressman for about two years. Before that, he was this TV pundit known for these angry rants against the government and his radical economic plans. But his rise has coincided with this dramatic crash of the Argentine economy.

The country is in the worst economic straits of the past two decades, and Milei has just ridden this wave of anger in the country. He talks about other issues besides the economy, too. He decries what he calls an international socialist agenda, cultural Marxism. He says he won't deal with communists, just Israel and the U.S. He wants to ban abortion and support gun rights. Listen to this voter, Maximiliano Salinas (ph). He's 34. He says Milei is over the top sometimes, but Argentina needs change.

MAXIMILIANO SALINAS: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: He says, Milei says what Argentines are thinking, that the government is corrupt, too big and must go. And he's willing to overlook some of his more outrageous statements.

INSKEEP: And the next round of voting is when?

KAHN: It's November 19. And the anti-government vote was split among several candidates. It's still strong. And Milei and his far-right agenda are still very much in play in Argentina.

INSKEEP: NPR's South America correspondent Carrie Kahn. Pleasure talking with you.

KAHN: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

A Martínez
A Martínez is one of the hosts of Morning Edition and Up First. He came to NPR in 2021 and is based out of NPR West.
Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.
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