international relations

Middle East
7:10 am
Fri July 25, 2014

Gaza Conflict: What To Know For Friday

Smoke and flames from an Israeli strike rise over Gaza City on Thursday.
Adel Hana AP

Originally published on Fri July 25, 2014 5:34 pm

Updated at 5:35 p.m. ET.

As the conflict between Israel and Gaza approaches the three-week mark, the fighting seems to have only intensified. At least 119 Palestinians were killed Thursday, making it the bloodiest day of the war.

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Russian Forces
3:20 pm
Thu July 24, 2014

U.S.: Russia-Based Artillery Targeting Ukrainian Troops

Ukrainian troops camouflage their multiple rocket launcher at a checkpoint in Kryva Luka, in eastern Ukraine, earlier this month. The U.S. says Russia is planning to provide similar systems to the rebels.
Evgeniy Maloletka AP

The U.S. says it has "new evidence" that Russian forces have been firing artillery across the border to attack Ukrainian military positions, and that Moscow is planning to ship powerful rocket artillery to the rebels it backs in the country's east.

"We have new evidence that the Russians intend to deliver heavier and more powerful multiple rocket launchers to the separatist forces in Ukraine, and have evidence that Russia is firing artillery from within Russia to attack Ukrainian military positions," State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said during a daily briefing.

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Middle East
8:49 am
Wed July 23, 2014

White House Adviser: Cease-Fire Should Include Demilitarization Of Gaza

Palestinians walk through the rubble of houses in Gaza City minutes after they were hit in an Israeli strike on Wednesday.
Khalil Hamra AP

Originally published on Wed July 23, 2014 1:06 pm

A top White House adviser says any cease-fire agreement between Israel and Palestinians must include the demilitarization of Gaza.

In an interview with NPR's Steve Inskeep, Deputy National Security Adviser Tony Blinken said "that needs to be the end result."

"There has to be some way forward that does not involve Hamas having the ability to continue to rain down rockets on Israeli civilians," Blinken said.

Asked if this means the U.S. has endorsed Israel's demand that Hamas give up its weapons, Blinken said:

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Flight MH17
8:12 am
Tue July 22, 2014

Train Carrying MH17 Victims' Remains Arrives In Government-Controlled City

Police officers secure a refrigerated train loaded with bodies of the passengers of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 as it arrives in a Kharkiv factory on Tuesday.
Olga Ivashchenko AP

Originally published on Tue July 22, 2014 9:03 am

A refrigerated train carrying the remains of the people who died aboard the downed Malaysia Airlines plane arrived in Kharkiv, Ukraine, on Tuesday. That's a city controlled by the central government in Kiev and 17 hours away from the chaos of Hrabove, the eastern city controlled by pro-Russian separatists, where the debris and remains were scattered.

The New York Times sets the scene:

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Flight MH17
5:18 pm
Mon July 21, 2014

Flight MH17: Black Boxes And Bodies Handed Over; U.N. Calls For Inquiry

A pro-Russian rebel talks on a phone as a refrigerated train loaded with the bodies of victims from Flight MH17 leaves the station in Torez, eastern Ukraine, about 9 miles from the crash site of the Malaysia Airlines jetliner.
Vadim Ghirda AP

Originally published on Mon July 21, 2014 7:50 pm

This post was last updated at 7:10 p.m. ET.

Pro-Russian separatists have given what they say are Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17's data recorders to Malaysian officials in Donetsk, the city in eastern Ukraine that has been the militants' stronghold.

Along with the release of victims' bodies hours earlier, the transfer of the black boxes fulfills part of a deal Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said he had reached with the rebels Monday.

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Russian Sanctions
4:18 pm
Mon July 21, 2014

Murphy: Europe Should Impose a "Crippling Round of Sanctions" Against Russia

Murphy told CNN's Carol Costello that the crash of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 "is Russia's fault."
Credit WNPR

On Monday at the White House, President Obama urged Russian President Vladmir Putin to order Russian separatists in Ukraine to allow international investigators unfettered access to the crash site of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17. 

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Middle East
8:04 am
Mon July 21, 2014

In Effort To Forge Cease-Fire Between Israel And Hamas, Kerry Heads To Egypt

A Palestinian overcome by emotion watches rescuers carry a body from the rubble of a house which was destroyed by an Israeli missile strike, in Gaza City, on Monday.
Khalil Hamra AP

Originally published on Mon July 21, 2014 8:26 pm

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is headed to Egypt today in an effort to broker a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas.

In a statement, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Kerry would meet with Egyptian and other senior officials.

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Russia
3:50 pm
Sat July 19, 2014

Kremlin Blacklists 13 Americans In Tit-For-Tat Over U.S. Sanctions

Retiring Virginia Reps. Jim Moran (center) and Frank Wolf talk as congressmen leave the House of Representatives in April. Moran's name appears on on a Russian visa blacklist issued on Saturday.
J. Scott Applewhite AP

Originally published on Sat July 19, 2014 6:36 pm

Updated at 2:55 p.m. ET.

Moscow has issued a quid pro quo for sanctions imposed on it by Washington, banning a U.S. congressman and 12 other Americans from entering Russia.

NPR's Hansi Lo Wang reports that the Foreign Ministry in Moscow says the new blacklist is in response to U.S. visa restrictions on Russian citizens in the wake of Moscow's annexation of Crimea and its continuing support for separatists in eastern Ukraine.

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Flight MH17
2:27 pm
Sat July 19, 2014

Ukraine Accuses Rebels Of Destroying Evidence At MH17 Crash Site

With pro-Russian separatists standing guard, investigators from the OSCE arrive at the crash site of the Malaysia Airline jet near the village of Hrabove in Eastern Ukraine on Friday.
Dmitry Lovetsky AP

Originally published on Sat July 19, 2014 11:45 pm

Updated at 4:35 p.m. ET.

International investigators say armed rebels have limited their inspection of the Eastern Ukraine site of the downed Malaysian Airlines flight that killed nearly 300 passengers and crew, as Kiev accused pro-Russian separatists of destroying evidence at the scene.

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Border Patrol
8:25 am
Fri July 18, 2014

Border Agency Chief Opens Up About Deadly Force Cases

U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner R. Gil Kerlikowske sits under an image of New York's Ground Zero in his office in Washington. For him, it serves as a daily reminder of the security threats that have shaped his agency.
Kainaz Amaria NPR

Originally published on Fri July 18, 2014 8:57 am

The new commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection says he is reviewing scores of incidents in which agents have used deadly force.

R. Gil Kerlikowske made that statement during an exclusive interview with NPR's Morning Edition. It was his first extended conversation about controversial incidents in which the Border Patrol has killed civilians without apparent accountability. (Click here for a full transcript of the interview.)

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Middle East
6:51 am
Thu July 17, 2014

A 5-Hour Truce Between Hamas And Israel Ends, And Fighting Begins

A Palestinian municipality worker sweeps the street as a United Nations vehicle drives past a damaged money exchange post. Israel and Hamas took a break from fighting Thursday for humanitarian reasons.
Lefteris Pitarakis AP

Originally published on Thu July 17, 2014 4:12 pm

This post was updated at 4:10 p.m. ET: Ground Offenses Begin

Israel has sent ground forces into Gaza on Thursday, which we are covering in this post.

Update at 1:15 p.m. ET: Hostilities Resume

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Refugee Influx
1:47 pm
Wed July 9, 2014

What's Causing The Latest Immigration Crisis? A Brief Explainer

Demonstrators from opposing sides confront each other while being separated by police officers on July 4, outside a U.S. Border Patrol station in Murrieta, Calif.
Mark J. Terrill AP

Originally published on Wed July 9, 2014 7:28 pm

It's turning into the largest influx of asylum seekers on U.S. soil since the 1980 Mariel boatlift out of Cuba.

Since October, more than 52,000 children — most from Central America and many of them unaccompanied by adults — have been taken into custody. That's nearly double last year's total and 10 times the number from 2009.

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World
7:01 am
Tue July 8, 2014

Israel Expands Attacks On Gaza As Rockets Target Israeli Cities

Israeli soldiers stand on their tanks near Israel's border with the Gaza Strip on Tuesday. Israeli warplanes pounded Gaza with more than 50 strikes overnight after Hamas militants fired scores of rockets over the border.
Jack Guez AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Tue July 8, 2014 5:36 pm

Updates at 5:32 p.m. ET

Israel said Tuesday it is expanding its operations against Hamas "and other terrorist organizations" in the Gaza Strip amid an escalation of violence that saw a barrage of rockets fired from the enclave toward Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and other parts of the country.

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World
1:58 pm
Mon June 30, 2014

Israel Says Bodies Of 3 Students Have Been Recovered

Originally published on Mon June 30, 2014 11:38 pm

Israeli officials say they have found the bodies of three teens captured earlier this month.

Yeshiva students Gil-Ad Shaer,16, Eyal Yifrah, 19, and Naftali Fraenkel, 16, were kidnapped late at night on June 12 from a hitchhiking point in Gush Etzion. Fraenkel is a dual Israeli-American citizen.

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The Two-Way
7:32 am
Mon June 30, 2014

ISIS Declares Caliphate As Iraq Fights To Retake Tikrit

Displaced Iraqi citizens receive meals to break their Ramadan fast from a Kurdish charity group. Iraq's central government has launched its first major operation against the ISIS insurgent group.
Hussein Malla AP

Originally published on Mon June 30, 2014 11:58 am

Extremist Sunni group ISIS has announced a plan to rule the territory it has carved out of Iraq and Syria in recent months, in a declaration that touches on public services, salaries and compensation for damages from the violence.

The plan was unveiled as Iraq's central Shiite government tries to retake the city of Tikrit, in its first major operation against the insurgents.

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Ukraine
7:31 am
Thu June 26, 2014

Reports Of New Fighting Rattle Ukraine's Truce As Kerry Urges Russia To Help

A man who lives in Ukraine's Donetsk region shows part of a shell that exploded in the yard of his house Wednesday, after a reported mortar attack by Ukrainian government forces Tuesday. The area is under a tense cease-fire that will expire Friday.
Dmitry Lovetsky AP

Originally published on Thu June 26, 2014 5:50 pm

An exchange of mortar fire has been reported in eastern Ukraine, where government troops and pro-Russian separatist forces had been observing an uneasy cease-fire in the past week. The news comes as Secretary of State John Kerry says Russia could face sanctions if it doesn't help end the violence.

Russian state news media are reporting explosions near the airport in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kramatorsk, where the armed groups reportedly absorbed and returned mortar fire. Similar clashes were reported earlier this week.

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Middle East
2:23 pm
Thu June 19, 2014

Obama: U.S. to Send 300 "Military Advisers" to Iraq

President Barack Obama answers questions from reporters at the White House.
Credit Screenshot / White House

President Barack Obama said the U.S. is prepared to take targeted military actions in Iraq if they would help fight a growing threat from extremist militants. He also said the U.S. is ready to send as many as 300 military advisers to Iraq.

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World
12:09 pm
Wed June 18, 2014

What's Next For Iraq?

A woman and a girl wash at a camp in Kalak set up for those fleeing the fighting in northern Iraq. The escalating conflict has sent shock waves across the region and is further destabilizing the Middle East.
Dan Kitwood Getty Images

Originally published on Wed June 18, 2014 9:40 pm

This post was updated at 9:40 p.m. ET to reflect the Obama administration's pressure on the Iraqi government.

A week ago, it would have been difficult to find anyone in the U.S. arguing for renewed U.S. military action in Iraq. Now there's a furious debate about what the U.S. should, or shouldn't, do in the latest Iraqi crisis.

The drama seemed to erupt out of nowhere as Islamist extremists captured Mosul, one of the country's largest and most important cities, and kept pushing south toward the capital Baghdad.

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Iraq
8:03 am
Tue June 17, 2014

ISIS Rebels Drive Closer To Baghdad; U.S. Considers Options

Displaced Iraqi children line up with their mothers Tuesday to register at a temporary camp for people fleeing violence in northern Iraq.
Karim Sahib AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Tue June 17, 2014 11:35 am

The extremist group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria is tightening control of Iraq's Sunni Muslim heartland, attacking the strategic city of Baqouba, less than 40 miles from Baghdad. The U.S. is sending up to 275 military personnel to bolster its embassy in the capital; President Obama is also reportedly weighing airstrikes.

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Where We Live
9:00 am
Mon June 16, 2014

Iraq War Veterans Reflect on New Crisis

U.S. Army Black Hawk helicopter flies over Baghdad, Iraq on June 15, 2007.
Tech. Sgt. Rick Sforza The U.S. Army

Throughout the U.S. occupation of Iraq, there was concern about what would happen to the country when combat forces left. Over the last year, militant extremists have slowly taken over the country and now President Barack Obama is weighing his options. "We will not be sending U.S. troops back into combat in Iraq, but I have asked my national security team to prepare a range of other options that could help support Iraqi security forces," Obama said on Friday.

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Crisis in Iraq
10:40 am
Sun June 15, 2014

Iraq Says It Has Halted Militant Group's Advance On Baghdad

Peshmerga military direct traffic at a Kurdish Check point on Saturday in Kalak, Iraq. Thousands of people have fled Iraq's second city of Mosul after it was overrun by ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) militants.
Dan Kitwood Getty Images

Originally published on Mon June 16, 2014 11:45 am

The Iraqi government says it has halted a militant group's advance on Baghdad.

As The Telegraph reports, the Iraqi army started engaging the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, after it made a rapid advance in which it captured the key city of Mosul.

The Telegraph adds:

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Middle East
3:34 pm
Tue June 3, 2014

Israel Criticizes U.S. Decision To Deal With Palestinian Government

Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah (center) leads the first Cabinet meeting of the new Palestinian unity government in the West Bank city of Ramallah on Tuesday.
Abbas Momani AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Tue June 3, 2014 1:08 pm

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he's troubled by the U.S. decision to maintain ties with the new Palestinian unity government, which includes the militant group Hamas.

"I'm deeply troubled by the announcement that the United States will work with the Palestinian government backed by Hamas," he told The Associated Press, saying the group has murdered "countless innocent civilians."

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The Two-Way
5:09 pm
Sat May 31, 2014

Who Are The 5 Guantanamo Detainees In Prisoner Swap?

Originally published on Mon June 2, 2014 7:34 am

As part of a prisoner swap to free Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the United States agreed to transfer five Guantánamo detainees to Qatar.

NPR's Tom Bowman received a list of the prisoners being released from a Pentagon official. According to documents leaked to the organization WikiLeaks, all five prisoners were high-ranking Taliban officials. Some were considered high-risk and "likely to post a threat to the U.S., its interests and allies."

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Foreign Policy
5:02 am
Thu May 29, 2014

Transcript And Audio: President Obama's Full NPR Interview

President Obama gives the commencement address at the graduation ceremony at the United States Military Academy in West Point, N.Y., on Wednesday.
Spencer Platt Getty Images
  • Listen To The Full Interview

NPR's Steve Inskeep interviewed President Obama on Wednesday about foreign policy, including his approaches to Syria, Ukraine and China, as well as his remaining White House priorities and his effort to close Guantanamo Bay prison. A full transcript of the interview follows:

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White House
6:00 pm
Wed May 28, 2014

America's Strength Extends Beyond Its Military, Obama Says

President Obama delivers the commencement address to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point's Class of 2014, in West Point, N.Y., on Wednesday.
Susan Walsh AP

Originally published on Thu May 29, 2014 8:34 am

American leadership in the 21st century will be defined in part by the nation's military strength, "but only in part," President Obama said in a wide-ranging interview with NPR about his foreign policy priorities.

Echoing themes he expressed during a speech Wednesday to West Point graduates, Obama emphasized the importance of international norms and alliances in addressing challenges such as Russia, China and Syria.

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Ukraine
7:52 am
Tue May 27, 2014

Ukraine Retakes Airport, After Airstrikes And Dozens Of Deaths

A pro-Russian fighter takes position behind a car as a truck full of rebel fighters heads toward a battle with Ukrainian forces near the airport in Donetsk Monday. The rebels say more than 30 of their number were killed in the violence.
Fabio Bucciarelli AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Tue May 27, 2014 7:52 am

Pro-Russian rebels who had taken over an international airport in Donetsk have been pushed back, Ukraine's government says. Violent clashes erupted Monday and Tuesday; at least 35 people have died.

From Kiev, NPR's Peter Kenyon reports for our Newscast unit:

"The battle for Donetsk airport appears to symbolize the government's tougher stance on the pro-Russian insurgents in the east. Using fighter jets and helicopter gunships, the military says it has retaken control of the airport, though rebels dispute that claim.

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Intelligence
9:45 am
Tue May 20, 2014

CIA Says It Will No Longer Use Vaccine Programs As Cover

A doctor gives a polio vaccine to a child at a health clinic in Baghdad last week. The CIA says it banned the use of vaccine programs as cover for spying last year — a practice health officials said had wide repercussions.
Ahmad Al-Rubaye AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Tue May 20, 2014 5:32 pm

A White House official says the CIA will no longer use vaccine programs as cover for spy operations, answering health experts' complaints that it had hurt international efforts to fight disease.

The CIA famously used a vaccination program as a ploy to gain information about the possible whereabouts of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan. That effort didn't succeed, and the doctor involved was sentenced to a prison term. But the revelation had immediate effects — particularly in the fight against polio.

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Ukraine Crisis
5:25 pm
Thu May 15, 2014

Former Ambassador To Russia: Putin Has No Master Plan For Ukraine

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, second right, speaks with U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul during a walk in Moscow's Red Square in May 2013.
Mladen Antonov AP

Originally published on Thu May 15, 2014 8:02 pm

When Russian President Vladimir Putin started vilifying the U.S., and state-controlled media took his cue, Michael McFaul was portrayed as one of the American villains. McFaul was the American ambassador to Russia from January 2012 to February of this year. He planned to leave just after the Sochi Olympics, which ended up coinciding with the Ukrainian Parliament voting to remove President Viktor Yanukovych from office, leading to Russia's annexation of Crimea.

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Ukraine Crisis
3:49 pm
Wed May 14, 2014

Russia's Energy Giant Turns Up The Heat On Ukraine

A monument to Ukrainian writer Taras Shevchenko is silhouetted against a sign advertising Russia's natural gas giant Gazprom in Moscow. Gazprom has dramatically increased the price it charges Ukraine in recent months.
Alexander Zemlianichenko AP

Originally published on Wed May 14, 2014 7:59 pm

If Russia was aiming to target one of Ukraine's vulnerabilities, natural gas would be the bull's-eye. Ukraine gets about 60 percent of its gas from Russia.

Clifford Gaddy, a Russia specialist at the Brookings Institution, says as the dispute between the two countries grows, Moscow is more willing to use natural gas as a weapon.

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Middle East
7:29 pm
Tue May 6, 2014

Near-Term Settlement In Syria Not Likely, Says Former U.S. Ambassador Robert Ford

Former U.S. Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford.
Credit U.S. Department of State

Robert Ford, who was U.S. Ambassador to Syria until he stepped down in February, will be speaking at the World Affairs Council of Connecticut Luminary Award event on Wednesday. His visit coincides with an announcement this week by U.S. officials that they plan to allow Syria’s main opposition alliance to open a diplomatic mission in Washington.

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