Middle East

Iraq
8:42 am
Mon June 23, 2014

Kerry Meets With Iraqi Prime Minister In Baghdad Amid ISIS Crisis

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki (right) sits with Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday. Kerry was in Baghdad to push for Iraqi unity and stability, as Sunni militants swept through western towns abandoned by security forces.
Brendan Smialowski AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Mon June 23, 2014 11:48 am

As Sunni militants make gains against Iraq's Shiite-led central government, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry paid a previously unannounced visit to Baghdad to meet with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on Monday.

Maliki has been criticized for not being more inclusive of Sunnis and Kurds in his government — a change the Obama administration is calling for as part of any plans for military support.

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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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Middle East
7:20 am
Thu June 19, 2014

Iraq Battles Militants For Key Oil Refinery In Beiji

Iraqi army soldiers parade during a recruiting drive for men to volunteer for military service in Baghdad on Thursday. The country's leaders are urging Iraqis to help battle insurgents who have mounted an aggressive campaign in the north.
Karim Kadim AP

Originally published on Thu June 19, 2014 8:54 am

In an attempt to stop the juggernaut advance of the Sunni extremist group ISIS, Iraq's central government says the fight for the country's largest oil refinery is far from over. A military official says 40 militants have been killed.

"Iraqi government officials say an elite special operations force is holding off ISIS militants at the Beiji refinery 160 miles north of the capital," NPR's Deborah Amos reports from Erbil. "But local police report ISIS is tightening a grip on the facility."

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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
8:15 am
Wed June 18, 2014

Militants Attack Iraq's Largest Oil Refinery As Sectarian Clashes Spread

An Iraqi boy and other civilians look at the aftermath of a car bomb in Baghdad's Sadr City on Wednesday. The violence in the Shiite district comes as Sunni militants advance in northern Iraq.
Karim Kadim AP

Originally published on Wed June 18, 2014 11:06 am

The Sunni militant group that has stormed across Iraq invaded the country's largest oil refinery today, hitting it with mortars. The government is using limited air attacks to strike back at ISIS, which now controls large areas of Iraq's north.

"The oil refinery in Beiji has been under siege since the militant fighters of ISIS seized the town of Beiji in their sweep through northern Iraq," NPR's Deborah Amos reports from Irbil, Iraq. "In an offensive at dawn, ISIS fighters attacked the refinery with machine-gun fire and mortars, according to Iraqi security forces."

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Iraq
7:42 pm
Tue June 17, 2014

What, Exactly, Are U.S. Interests In Iraq's Turmoil?

Iraqi Shiite tribesmen show their enthusiasm Tuesday for joining Iraqi security forces in the fight against Islamist militants who have taken over several northern Iraqi cities.
Haidar Hamdani AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Tue June 17, 2014 8:33 pm

As the U.S. steers warships closer to Iraq and beefs up its embassy's security in Baghdad with nearly 300 troops, a nagging question has resurfaced.

What compelling interests does Washington still have in a nation where all U.S. forces were pulled out 2 1/2 years ago?

Three days after Sunni militants calling themselves the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria seized Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city, President Obama paused on the White House lawn and issued a warning.

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Libya
11:37 am
Tue June 17, 2014

U.S. Captures Suspected Ringleader Of Attack In Benghazi

Sept. 11: The U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, was aflame after coming under attack.
AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Wed June 18, 2014 11:11 am

The United States has captured a militant suspected of leading the terrorist attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, said Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby.

Ahmed Abu Khattala was captured by American troops in coordination with law enforcement. Kirby said Khattala was captured Sunday and that all U.S. personnel involved in the operation are safe.

Khattala, said Kirby, is now "in a secure location outside of Libya."

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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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Iraq
4:07 pm
Mon June 16, 2014

Calm Or Violent Chaos, Life Under ISIS Depends On The City

Demonstrators chant in support of the group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria as they wave the group's flag in front of the provincial government headquarters in Mosul, Iraq, on Monday, after the Sunni militants captured Tal Afar, another northern Iraqi town.
STR AP

Originally published on Mon June 16, 2014 9:20 pm

People in northern Iraq are getting their first taste of life under ISIS — the militant group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria that captured the large Iraqi city of Mosul last week with shocking speed.

The Sunni extremist group holds much of the mainly Sunni areas of northern and western Iraq.

Over the weekend it launched a bloody takeover of Tal Afar, an ethnically and religiously mixed Iraqi city near the Syrian border.

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Middle East
9:54 am
Mon June 16, 2014

Yale Architects Help Build First Peace Park in the Middle East

Jordanian and Israeli flags fly above the bridge over the Yarmouk River, the gateway to Peace Island
The Friends of the Earth Middle East

A team of Yale Architects is lending their expertise to the first ever peace park in the Middle East.

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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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Iraq
6:53 am
Mon June 16, 2014

Obama: 275 Troops Will Go To Iraq As Militants Take Ground

This video image posted last week by Iraqi0Revolution, a group supporting the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, purportedly shows a militant standing in front of a burning Iraqi army vehicle in Tikrit, Iraq.
AP

Originally published on Mon June 16, 2014 7:26 pm

President Obama has informed Congress that 275 U.S. Armed Forces personnel will go to Iraq to provide security for the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, as a militant Sunni group continues its offensive in the country, seizing control of the northern town of Tal Afar.

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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
12:50 pm
Fri June 13, 2014

Obama Rules Out Troops In Iraq But Says U.S. Is Weighing Other Options

President Obama ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq, saying any U.S. action must be accompanied by Iraqi political action.
Kevin Lamarque Reuters /Landov

Originally published on Fri June 13, 2014 2:28 pm

Updated at 12:46 p.m. ET

President Obama has ruled out the use of ground troops in Iraq, saying any action will be "targeted and precise" but must be accompanied by political action by Iraqis to end sectarian divisions.

"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 Iraq's security forces," Obama said from the south lawn of the White House.

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World
7:40 am
Thu June 12, 2014

Obama: Options Open For Response To Militant Gains In Iraq

ISIS militants at al-Sharqat base north of Tikrit, Iraq. The al-Qaida-linked group has captured Mosul as well as Tikrit. This image came from a video posted by IraqiRevolution, a group that supports ISIS.
AP

Originally published on Thu June 12, 2014 7:53 pm

Updated at 7:30 p.m. ET

The violence in Iraq has intensified today, with al-Qaida-linked Sunni militants moving into areas close to Baghdad after capturing the cities of Mosul and Tikrit.

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Egypt
2:01 pm
Sun June 8, 2014

Amid Tight Security, Egypt Swears In A New President

A life size figure of Egypt's new President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi faces a mannequin.
Mohamed El-Shahed AFP/Getty Images

Egypt has sworn in former defense minister Abdel Fattah al-Sissi as its new president. This comes after a campaign season when his victory was never in doubt.

Sissi walked into the Supreme Constitutional Court in dark sunglasses Sunday morning. He then took the oath of office to booming applause from the mostly male, mostly graying public figures in the audience.

Interim President Adly Mansour stood beaming at his side and gave him a kiss on both cheeks after the ceremony.

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Freed Soldier
12:11 pm
Sun June 8, 2014

Reports: Bergdahl Tells Medical Officials Taliban Kept Him In A Cage

In this file image taken from video obtained from Voice Of Jihad Website, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl (right) stands with a Taliban fighter in eastern Afghanistan.
AP

Originally published on Sun June 8, 2014 3:21 pm

The New York Times and the Associated Press are reporting details about how Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl was treated by his Taliban captors.

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Freed Soldier
7:29 am
Thu June 5, 2014

Bergdahl's Hometown Cancels Celebration Of His Return

Hailey, Idaho: A sign announcing the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl outside Zaney's coffee shop, where Bergdahl worked as a teenager. A rally celebrating his return home has been canceled, after organizers received threats of protests and hate mail.
Scott Olson Getty Images

Originally published on Thu June 5, 2014 8:48 am

The news of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl's release from five years of captivity had been welcomed as a reason to celebrate in Hailey, Idaho. But organizers of a rally held in Bergdahl's honor while he was a prisoner say they're canceling this year's event, citing backlash over the U.S. deal with the Taliban that freed him.

In recent years, the Bring Back Bowe Rally has been an annual June event in the small town of Hailey, where bikers and POW-MIA support groups gathered to call for his return. Last year's event reportedly drew a crowd of more than 3,000.

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Afghanistan
8:26 am
Wed June 4, 2014

Taliban Release Video Of Handoff That Freed Bergdahl

An image taken from a video obtained from the Voice of Jihad website shows Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl (right) with a Taliban fighter just before he was released to U.S. forces in eastern Afghanistan.
AP

Originally published on Wed June 4, 2014 12:20 pm

A Black Hawk helicopter swoops in to pick up Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl in a valley in Afghanistan, in a video of the handover of the American prisoner of war that was posted online early Wednesday. The Pentagon says it's reviewing the video; a spokesman says there's no reason to question its authenticity.

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The Faith Middleton Show
4:19 pm
Tue June 3, 2014

Politics, Burgers and Beer: June 3, 2014

Credit Kelly Schott/flickr creative commons

Sergeant Bergdahl returns from Afghanistan, and a prisoner swap becomes political. A fellow political junky and I are here to keep you up to date on the latest in Washington and how it affects us here at home. We talk about jobs, the economy, the deficit, taxes, and whether our political leaders have the courage to do what's right for America.

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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
1:15 pm
Sat May 31, 2014

Afghan Taliban Release U.S. Soldier Captured In 2009

U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl watches in July 2009 as one of his captors displays Bergdahl's identity tag during the first of several videos the Taliban released of the soldier.
Reuters/Landov

Originally published on Sun June 1, 2014 11:17 am

(This post was last updated Sunday at 5:50 a.m. ET. on Sunday)

Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the final remaining captured American soldier from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, has been released by the Afghan Taliban after almost five years of being held captive, the White House said on Saturday.

In exchange for Bergdahl's release, the U.S. will transfer five detainees at the Guantánamo Bay prison to Qatar.

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Here & Now
4:28 pm
Tue May 27, 2014

Obama Announces Afghan Troop Withdrawal Plan

President Barack Obama speaks about troop pullout from Afghanistan at the White House on May 27. The administration's plan is to keep a contingency force of 9,800 U.S. troops in Afghanistan beyond 2014, consolidating them in Kabul and on Bagram Air Base. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Originally published on Wed May 28, 2014 11:59 am

A day ahead of a big foreign policy speech at West Point tomorrow, President Obama is making public his plan to pull troops out of Afghanistan.

Obama is largely taking the recommendation of his generals and plans to leave 9,800 troops in Afghanistan for one year beyond the withdrawal of combat forces in December. By the end of 2015, that number will be halved with troops consolidated in the Kabul area, and their primary mission will not be combat but counter-terrorism.

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Service Members
11:37 am
Tue May 27, 2014

Obama Plans To Leave Residual Force Of 9,800 In Afghanistan

Sgt. Kyle Gonzales, a sniper with the 82nd Airborne, has a cigarette after a gun battle near the village of Babaker, Giro district, Ghazni province. The soldiers have engaged in gun battles every time they push into the hamlets north of their forward operating base.
David Gilkey NPR

Originally published on Tue May 27, 2014 5:31 pm

(This post was last updated at 3:00 p.m. ET.)

President Obama announced on Tuesday a plan to leave a residual force of 9,800 service members in Afghanistan beyond 2014. By 2016, most troops will be out of the country.

"It's time to turn the page on more than a decade in which so much of our foreign policy was focused on... wars in Afghanistan and Iraq," Obama said in the White House Rose Garden.

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Egypt
6:54 am
Wed May 21, 2014

Egyptian Court Sentences Mubarak To 3 Years In Prison For Corruption

Ousted Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, sitting in a defendants cage, waves during a court hearing Wednesday. He and two sons were sentenced to jail on corruption charges.
Hassan Mohammed AP

Originally published on Wed May 21, 2014 8:33 am

Deposed Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak has been sentenced to three years in prison and a fine, after a court found him guilty of embezzling public money. Mubarak's sons, Alaa and Gamal, were given four-year sentences; the three were accused of using public funds to pay for work on their own property.

The criminal court in Cairo ordered the three to pay a fine of nearly $3 million.

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Turkey
7:13 am
Wed May 14, 2014

Death Toll Nears 285 In Turkish Coal Mine Explosion

Rescue workers carry a man from the coal mine in Soma, western Turkey, site of a disaster that has killed 245 people.
Emrah Gurel AP

Originally published on Thu May 15, 2014 4:08 am

This post was updated at 4:00 a.m. ET Thursday:

The death toll in Turkey's worst mining disaster has risen to 282. Rescue teams recovered eight more bodies on Thursday. Hope is fading for the estimated 150 miners trapped below ground.

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

Crowds angered over a mine explosion in western Turkey that claimed at least 274 lives clashed with police on Wednesday near the site of the disaster in Soma.

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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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World Health
4:36 pm
Fri May 2, 2014

MERS Virus Comes To U.S., But Risk To Public Is Deemed Low

A Muslim pilgrim wears a mask in Mecca to protect against the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome in October 2013.
Fayez Nureldine AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Mon May 5, 2014 2:09 pm

On April 24, an American health care worker based in Saudi Arabia flew from Riyadh to London to Chicago, then took a bus to Indiana.

Three days later, the man began experiencing shortness of breath and coughing. He also ran a fever. He visited the emergency room on April 28 and was tested by the Indiana public health lab. Friday the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed that he is the first MERS patient in the United States.

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First Amendment
3:04 am
Thu March 6, 2014

Anti-Muslim Video Still Stirring Controversy In The Courtroom

Actress Cindy Lee Garcia (right) brought a copyright claim against Google with the help of attorney Cris Armenta over the film Innocence of Muslims, which was posted to YouTube in 2012.
Jason Redmond AP

Originally published on Thu March 6, 2014 11:43 pm

Google intends to fight a court order to remove a controversial anti-Muslim video from YouTube in the U.S.

The company plans to file for a hearing before a full nine-judge panel of the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals after two of three judges on a smaller panel forced the company to take down the film, Innocence of Muslims, which caused uproar in the Islamic world in 2012.

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Egypt
2:38 pm
Sun February 23, 2014

Egypt's Morsi Accused Of Aiding Iran's Revolutionary Guards

Egypt's ousted President Mohammed Morsi in a soundproof barred glass cage is seen during a court appearance on Feb. 16.
Mohammed al-Law AP

Ousted Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi has been accused of passing state secrets to Iran's Revolutionary Guard at a hearing at the jailed leader's trial in Cairo.

A prosecutor at the hearing said Morsi, who stands accused of numerous charges, was involved along with 35 others in a plot to destabilize Egypt.

The BBC reports:

"Mr Morsi's supporters say he and other senior Muslim Brotherhood leaders are the victims of politically motivated prosecutions.

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