NBC's Richard Engel: Obama "Outlining A World He Wishes We Were All Living In," Tone of "Suspended Disbelief"


BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS: Richard Engel has been watching and listening from his post in Istanbul, Turkey tonight.

We woke up in the United States this morning: New ISIS video, for two Japanese hostages they're asking for $200,000 or they'll assassinate both of them.

Video of a Russian intelligence ship cruising into the harbour in Havana -- might as well have been 1962.

And this on-again, off-again possible coup in Yemen, a U.S. ally in a dangerous neighborhood, pictures we have show U.S.-made Humvees driven by the government on the streets. This is all part of your beat, what did you make of that portion of the president's speech?

RICHARD ENGEL, NBC NEWS CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it sounded like the president was outlining a world that he wishes we were all living in, but is very different from the world that you just described. Terror raids taking place across Europe, ISIS very much on the move.

One thing that the president said: "American leadership, including our military power is stopping ISIL's advance."

That just isn't the case, according to military officials I've been speaking to, they're taking new territory. The U.S. has been removing -- by that I mean killing -- about 1,000 ISIS fighters in Iraq and Syria every month, but they are replacing those with new recruits -- with 1,500 fighters [per month].

The president said: "Instead of getting dragged into another ground war in the Middle East, we are leading a broad coalition to destroy ISIL.

For the U.S., [2014] was the year when 2,000 troops were sent back to Iraq. When we are being dragged back into the war, when we thought we had closed the chapter on Iraq.

He talked about: Building and supporting the moderate Syrian opposition."

That, effectively, is not happening. There is not real support for the moderate Syrian opposition. In fact, one military official told me that they are calling the moderate Syrian opposition the Unicorn, because they have not been able to find it.

There was a general tone of suspended disbelief when he started talking about foreign policy. There are not a lot of success stories to be talking about in foreign policy right now. And the general tone, which was, moving on, starting again, starting a new chapter, moving beyond the 9/11 generation. It doesn't feel like we necessarily have been able to put that generation behind us.

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