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A U.N. envoy to Syria this week has condemned what he calls the “unacceptable" use of barrel bombs by the Assad regime. On Monday, an important cultural heritage site was the target of one of those bombs.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

The U.S. needs more than just a military response to the violence of the self-proclaimed Islamic State. That’s the message from Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy, who’s issued a call for new principles in U.S. foreign policy. 

C-Span

Senator Chris Murphy is pushing for congressional action to ban the deployment of U.S. ground troops to Iraq and Syria. Murphy spoke about his amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act on the Senate floor on Wednesday.

The roar of a car bomb has been the prelude to Karim Wasfi's performances of late.

After hearing testimony from four families, U.S. lawmakers passed a resolution calling on Iran to release three jailed Americans and provide information about a former FBI agent who disappeared in Iran in 2007.

As the June 30 deadline for a nuclear deal with Iran approaches, the families say it's time for the U.S. to push hard on this issue.

Among those who spoke Tuesday before a hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Committee was Daniel Levinson, son of former FBI agent Robert Levinson.

Chion Wolf

The former Democratic senator and gubernatorial candidate Ned Lamont returns to the show. Ned Lamont recently visited a key and controversial country in world affairs: Iran. We debrief with him about his trip, Middle Eastern affairs, and the world business climate.

Also, on the eve of the end of the legislative session, how does he think the new state budget will affect Connecticut's businesses?

Confusion and emotion broke out at Friday's FIFA Congress — and it wasn't over embattled leader Sepp Blatter. The leaders of the Israeli and Palestinian soccer organizations shook hands.

The much-discussed "handshake for peace" happened after the Palestinian Football Association withdrew its proposal that FIFA suspend Israel from international competition.

Josh Hough / Creative Commons

Since the ISIS takeover of Palmyra in Syria, hundreds are feared killed by the so-called Islamic State. Amateur videos posted online yesterday also appear to show buildings of the ancient city damaged in the fighting.  Palmyra is considered to be one of the most important cultural centers in the world.

Fighters with the self-declared Islamic State have seized the last border crossing in Syria, where they control half of the country, according to a British-based monitoring group.

Syrian government forces withdrew from al-Tanf, known as al-Waleed in Iraq, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The border crossing lies at the extreme northwest of Iraq's border with Syria.

Following the self-declared Islamic State's capture of Palmyra, concern today is turning to the security of the ancient Syrian city's archaeological sites and fears that the Islamist extremists might try to destroy them, as they have done elsewhere.

Updated at 11:50 p.m. ET

The self-declared Islamic State claims its fighters have seized Ramadi in Iraq's western Anbar province, even as Iraqi officials disagreed on whether the city was lost and Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi ordered Shiite militias not to abandon their positions.

In a statement, the extremist group said it seized tanks and killed "dozens of apostates," referring to Iraqi security forces, according to Reuters. A spokesman for the governor of Anbar province also said the city had fallen to ISIS.

A soon-to-be released documentary film called "Uncommon Ground" will be screened this weekend in Connecticut. It explores the struggle over the future of the last remaining abandoned Palestinian village on the outskirts of Jerusalem.

Saudi Arabia is proposing a temporary truce in neighboring Yemen to help get humanitarian aid into the country, but the offer is contingent on whether Houthi rebels also agree to lay down their arms.

Saudi Arabia's newly-installed foreign minister, Adel al-Jubeir, announced the proposal at a news conference Thursday with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who is in Riyadh for talks about war in Yemen.

Updated at 5:20 p.m. ET

President Obama offered his "grief and condolences" to the families of the American and Italian aid workers killed in a U.S. counterterrorism operation in January. Both men were held hostage by al-Qaida.

"I take full responsibility for a U.S. government counterterrorism operation that killed two innocent hostages held by al-Qaida," Obama said.

Less than two years after he was removed from power by the military, an Egyptian court has sentenced former President Mohammed Morsi to 20 years in prison for the arrest and torture of protesters during his tenure.

The charges stem from the months of protests between late 2012 and July 2013, when Morsi was kicked out of office.

Twelve other defendants were also found guilty and received the same sentence as Morsi; they include former Muslim Brotherhood legislator Mohamed al-Beltagi and Essam al-Aryan, the group's former spokesman.

Iran is charging a Washington Post reporter with four crimes, including espionage, the newspaper said today. This is the first time the precise charges against Jason Rezaian, the Post's bureau chief in Tehran, have been made public since he was detained by the Iranian authorities nine months ago.

U.S. Department of State

Skepticism remains in the United States and Iran about the framework agreement reached last week regarding the latter's nuclear program. Many in Congress are wary of Iran, including some of Connecticut's lawmakers.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani says his country will only sign an agreement restricting his country's nuclear program if economic sanctions are lifted. The remarks on state TV came as Iran's supreme leader said he's neither for nor against the deal.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei also said that any arrangements must respect Iran's interests and dignity. He questioned the need for talks if they don't trigger the removal of sanctions, and he reiterated his distrust of the United States.

From Istanbul, NPR's Peter Kenyon reports:

President Obama says it would be a "fundamental misjudgment" to condition a nuclear deal with Iran on the country's recognition of Israel.

Obama made the comments Monday during an interview with Morning Edition's Steve Inskeep.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged the U.S. to seek a better agreement with Iran over its nuclear weapons program, insisting that he's not trying to kill any deal, just "a bad deal."

Netanyahu, speaking on NBC's Meet the Press, argued that the current plan "leaves the preeminent terrorist state of our time with a vast nuclear infrastructure."

He lamented that "not one centrifuge is destroyed" under the agreement.

(This post was last updated at 8:08 p.m. ET.)

After a process that has tested international alliances and divided politicians at home, President Obama said that Iran and six world powers had come to a preliminary understanding about Iran's nuclear program. The framework agreement was reached after years of multilateral negotiations.

Even before he became president, Barack Obama was imagining the possibilities of a diplomatic breakthrough with Iran. His willingness to reverse decades of official U.S. hostility was one of the things that set Obama apart on the campaign trail.

"We have to have a clear break with the Bush-Cheney style of diplomacy that has caused so many problems," Obama told NBC's Meet the Press in November 2007.

With Tuesday's deadline for an international deal on Iran's nuclear program approaching, foreign ministers from Iran and six world powers are trying to hash out an agreement. The debate currently centers on where Iran's nuclear fuel should be stored, and how — and when — economic sanctions should be lifted.

Other details, such as rules controlling enrichment, the length of the deal and how it would be enforced, also remain unsettled.

The current upheaval in Yemen is a sharp reminder of the fragility of the global oil market. Airstrikes by Saudi Arabia against Houthi rebels in Yemen has stoked fears of a disruption to the supply market.

Yemen and Saudi Arabia, the world's largest oil producer, share a long border. While Yemen is only a small producer of crude oil, it controls the Bab el-Mandeb Strait at the southern entrance to the Red Sea.

This post was last updated at 6:29 p.m. ET.

The Saudi ambassador to Washington says the Saudi air operations against Shiite Houthi rebels in Yemen will continue and "we will see coalition partners join in the effort" and he accused Iran of sending advisers to aid the Houthis.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani tells NPR that most people in his country want a continued U.S. troop presence and that his government is determined to make sure that the self-declared Islamic State does not gain a foothold.

Ghani, on an official visit to the United States, spoke in a wide-ranging interview with Morning Edition host Renee Montagne to be broadcast on Monday.

He says the perception that Afghans are eager for U.S. troops to leave the country is simply untrue. "They see the United States as critical to their future," he says.

House Speaker John Boehner plans to travel to Israel at the end of the month, close on the heels of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's re-election and the Israeli leader's controversial address to Congress.

Although there are no details on who he might meet in Israel, Boehner "looks forward to visiting the country, discussing our shared priorities for peace and security in the region, and further strengthening the bond between the United States and Israel," his spokesman, Kevin Smith, said in a statement.

Updated at 5:50 p.m. ET

Suicide bombers in Yemen attacked two mosques during Friday prayers in the capital, Sanaa, killing at least 137 people and wounding hundreds more.

Updated at 5:15 p.m. ET.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, fresh from victory in parliamentary elections this week, says he wants to clarify remarks he made on the campaign trail that appeared to write off any possibility of a Palestinian state on his watch.

"What I said was that under the present circumstances, today, it is unachievable," Netanyahu says in an interview with Morning Edition host Steve Inskeep to be aired Friday. "I said that the conditions have to change."

With nearly all votes counted in elections for the Knesset, Israel's parliament, Benjamin Netanyahu's center-right Likud party has won at least a five-seat victory over its principal rival, the center-left Zionist Union.

Israeli media report Likud has 29 or 30 seats in the 120-member Knesset to the Zionist Union's 24 seats.

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