Middle East

NPR — along with seven public radio stations around the country — is chronicling the lives of America's troops where they live. We're calling the project "Back at Base." This is the first installment of the ongoing series.

Even 10 years after the battle for Fallujah, it's hard for Marine Master Gunnery Sgt. Torain Kelley to talk about some things that happened.

"We had people shooting at us from up [on] the rooftops, from the houses, from the sewers or wherever they could take a shot at us from," he says.

The new secretary general of NATO and Pakistan's Army chief were in Kabul on Thursday to meet with newly-sworn-in President Ashraf Ghani.

As NPR's Sean Carberry reports the visits mark a continued honeymoon between the international community and Afghanistan's new government. Sean sent this report to our Newscast unit:

"Neither visit resulted in any new policies or initiatives. Rather, they appeared to be about marking a new chapter in Afghanistan's relations with NATO and Pakistan.

The U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments Monday for a second time in a case that combines Middle East policy with the dueling foreign policy roles of the president and Congress. It's a political hot potato that asks what U.S. passports should say about the birthplace of American citizens born in Jerusalem.

Yale University

Speaking Tuesday on WNPR's Where We Live, Rami Nakhla, a noted Syrian peace activist, said the Syrian Civil War started as a pro-democracy uprising, but has since changed, facilitating the rise of groups like the so-called Islamic State. 

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Raqqa Media Center

A new PBS FRONTLINE documentary explores "The Rise of ISIS." Producer and reporter Martin Smith joins us to talk about his reporting from Iraq, chronicling the conditions that allowed for the so-called Islamic State to become so powerful. He was also on the ground when U.S. airstrikes began this summer.

We also check in with Senator Chris Murphy, who has been a vocal opponent to U.S. military intervention in the crisis, and with a Syrian peace activist who is a part of the Yale World Fellows program.

At a checkpoint outside the northern Iraq town of Makhmur, I saw something I'd never seen before in Iraq.

Two men were checking cars. One was young and wearing a sand-colored uniform of the official Iraqi Kurdish forces, called the peshmerga. The other was older, grizzled and dressed in an olive-green, traditional Kurdish overall, and he's with Turkey's Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

"We're happy to be working together," said the older man, Hajji Hussein Abdulrahman.

The CT Conference of UCC's resolution points out the Israeli government's "demolition of homes" in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.
Physicians for Human Rights

The annual meeting of Connecticut conference of the United Church of Christ passed a resolution to divest itself from companies the conference says is profiting from the occupation of the Palestine Territories by the state of Israel.

Four private security guards working for the Blackwater Worldwide firm who were charged in the 2007 shootings of more than 30 Iraqis have been found guilty by a federal jury.

Nicholas Slatten was found guilty of first-degree murder, and three others — Paul Slough, Evan Liberty and Dustin Heard — were found guilty of multiple counts of voluntary manslaughter.

As Oil Prices Fall, Who Wins And Who Loses?

Oct 16, 2014

With oil around $85 a barrel and tumbling to its lowest levels in several years, here's the upside: Gasoline prices are down, the U.S. is feeling less dependent on foreign crude, and serious economic pressure is growing on oil producers such as Iran and Russia.

Here's the downside: The low demand for oil reflects a fragile global economy that's vulnerable to additional shocks, like falling stock markets around the world.

Britain's Parliament has voted to support the recognition of a Palestinian state in a symbolic vote that follows a similar move by Sweden.

The BBC says the 274-to-12 vote in the House of Commons is being described by the chamber " 'as a contribution to securing a negotiated two-state solution' — although less than half of MPs took part in the vote."

The besieged city of Kobani, Syria, has seen an increase in air strikes and fighting, with Kurdish fighters in the area saying they've stopped the extremist group ISIS from advancing. As the U.S.-led coalition carried out strikes on areas east and south of Kobani, new reports emerged about Turkey's role in supporting the fight against ISIS.

As a member of the Obama administration, Leon Panetta was involved in many of the major foreign policy decisions of the past six years. He stepped down as secretary of defense last year.

As director of the CIA, Panetta carried out President Obama's decision to end enhanced interrogation of terror suspects, and he oversaw the operation to kill Osama bin Laden.

Suzanne Chapman / Creative Commons

The United States continues its air assault on the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. But if the bombings haven’t stopped them, what will?

"The extremists were and they are afraid of books and pens," said Malala Yousafzai, a 16-year-old speaking at the United Nations last year. "The power of education frightens them. They are afraid of women. The power of the voice of women frightens them."

The militant group that calls itself the Islamic State has released a video that shows the beheading of British citizen Alan Henning.

The video is made in much the same style as the others, and shows a masked militant begin to cut the head off a man who looks like Henning.

"The brutal murder of Alan Henning by ISIL shows just how barbaric and repulsive these terrorists are," Prime Minister David Cameron said, using an alternate name for the militant group.

When militants from the self-proclaimed Islamic State swept through the Sinjar area of northern Iraq in August, they killed hundreds and kidnapped unknown numbers of men, women and children.

The fate of most of them is still unknown, but activists and those who have escaped recount horror stories of rapes and beatings. They're trying to focus international attention on those still being held.

Updated at 8:40 a.m. ET

A United Nations report out today lists what it describes as a "staggering array" of possible war crimes and crimes against humanity by the self-declared Islamic State in Iraq, including mass executions, the kidnapping of women and girls to use as sex slaves and the use of child soldiers.

It also points to shelling and airstrikes by Iraqi security forces that killed civilians and "may have violated the principles of distinction and proportionality under international humanitarian law."

Update at 9:55 a.m. ET

Afghanistan has signed a pact with the U.S. to allow about 10,000 troops to remain in the country after the end of the year, when most American forces are to be withdrawn.

The country's newly inaugurated president, Ashraf Ghani, signed the Bilateral Security Agreement, or BSA, which would leave in place the U.S. troops and a few others from NATO allies to bolster Afghan forces.

Updated at 12:25 p.m. ET

The British Parliament has voted to approve the U.K.'s participation in U.S.-led airstrikes against the self-declared Islamic State in Iraq after Prime Minister David Cameron told MPs that the extremists pose a "clear and proven" threat to British lives.

The 524-to-43 vote in Parliament came after a lengthy debate that followed the latest U.S. airstrikes in Iraq and Syria on targets of the hard-line Islamist group, also known as ISIS or ISIL. The strikes hit oil installations for a second consecutive day.

Updated at 8:40 a.m. ET

The U.S. and some of its Arab coalition partners have conducted another round of airstrikes in Syria, hitting oil refineries that have fallen into the hands of Islamic State militants, who officials say are funding themselves with the petroleum revenues.

The Pentagon says 13 airstrikes hit a dozen "modular" oil refineries in eastern Syria. The refineries are thought to produce $2 million worth of refined petroleum each day for the self-declared Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL.

Updated at 2:30 p.m. ET

French President Francois Hollande announced the "assassination" of a hostage seized over the weekend in Algeria by a group said to be affiliated with the self-described Islamic State. The remarks by Hollande, speaking at the U.N. General Assembly, confirm the apparent beheading of French mountain guide Herve Gourdel that is shown in a video that surfaced earlier today.

Update at 6:50 p.m. ET

U.S. officials have confirmed that a new round of airstrikes in Syria is ongoing, NPR Pentagon correspondent Tom Bowman told All Things Considered.

"We know some of the targets are oil assets, oil wells being controlled by the Islamic State. There's not a lot of detail at this time ... but it's likely around the Raqqah area, which is sort of [the Islamic State's] de facto headquarters.

whitehouse.gov

President Barack Obama said the participation of five Arab nations in airstrikes against militants in Syria "makes it clear to the world this is not America's fight alone."

The United States and its allies expanded their assault against the Islamic State on Monday, striking targets inside Syria for the first time, the Pentagon said.

In a statement, Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby said the U.S. had used "a mix of fighter, bomber and Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles."

Kirby said that because these strikes are ongoing, he could not go into details about where in Syria the allies were attacking. But a Pentagon official tells NPR's Tom Bowman that the strikes occurred near Raqqah, an Islamic State stronghold.

Update at 2:49 p.m. ET. Officers Found At Canadian Border:

After going missing over the weekend, three Afghan officers, who were being trained in the United States, were detained at the Canadian border, a Pentagon official tells NPR's Tom Bowman.

The news was first reported by WCVB-TV's Karen Anderson. She reported that the men told customs agents at the Niagara Falls Rainbow Bridge that they were refugees.

The men, Anderson reports, will be sent back to the United States.

Updated at 7:35 a.m. ET

Kurdish fighters claim to have halted an advance by self-described Islamic State militants in an area of the Turkish-Syria border region that has seen masses of refugees fleeing the fighting in recent days.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

Connecticut Senators Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal split their votes on legislation authorizing the U.S. military to arm and train moderate Syrian rebels fighting the so-called Islamic State, otherwise known as ISIS or ISIL.

The Senate joined the House on Thursday in rare bipartisanship by approving a measure to train and equip members of the Syrian opposition.

The Senate passed the measure 78 to 22; the House passed its version with a 273-to-156 vote on Wednesday. The bill now heads to the White House for President Obama's signature.

Ron Cogswell / Creative Commons

Four of Connecticut’s five members of the U.S. House of Representatives voted on Wednesday against President’s Obama’s plan to help arm and train moderate Syrian rebels in their fight against the extremist group known as the Islamic State. The measure was approved by the House by a vote of 273 to 156.

Obama Rules Out Another Ground War In Iraq

Sep 17, 2014

President Obama reiterated that he will not commit U.S. troops to fight another ground war in Iraq, adding that U.S. airstrikes, combined with expertise, would be more effective in defeating the group that calls itself the Islamic State.

"As your commander in chief, I will not commit you and the rest of our armed forces to fighting another ground war in Iraq," Obama said at MacDill Air Force Base in Florida.

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