Middle East

Pete Souza / White House

Senior administration officials say President Barack Obama will keep 5,500 U.S. troops in Afghanistan when he leaves office in 2017.

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Recent weeks of violence between Israelis and Palestinians have left dead a total of nearly 40 people from both sides. A former Connecticut resident is among those critically injured.

Iran's Guardian Council on Wednesday approved the deal intended to control Iran's nuclear program. The approval is a final step before implementation, according to the Islamic Republic News Agency.

The 12-member group of senior clerics' OK followed passage by Iran's Parliament on Tuesday.

Israel has started deploying soldiers to cities in an effort to quell escalating violence between Israelis and Palestinians.

NPR's Emily Harris reports that in recent weeks, at least seven Israelis and more than two dozen Palestinians have been killed.

As The Associated Press reports, the deployment comes after a particularly bloody day in Jerusalem in which Palestinians killed three Israelis.

The AP adds:

Iran's Parliament voted Tuesday to support the implementation of the nuclear deal struck by world powers in Vienna in July.

Updated at 4:10 a.m. ET

Imprisoned American journalist Jason Rezaian has been convicted, according to an Iranian Judiciary spokesman who appeared on state TV Sunday night. The spokesman did not say on which charges Rezaian had been convicted or whether a sentence had been imposed.

It's the latest development in a case that's been marked by secrecy and uncertainty. Rezaian, The Washington Post's Tehran bureau chief, was arrested in Tehran in 2014 and accused of espionage, a charge the Post denies.

Updated at 1:27 p.m. ET.

The United States has shelved a program that was intended to train moderate Syrian rebel fighters.

As we've reported, the $500 million program, which sought to train 5,400 fighters, has failed. At last count, the U.S. said it had been able to train only about 60 fighters.

Russian cruise missiles that were fired from warships in the Caspian sea and were intended to hit Syrian targets crashed in Iran, instead, a U.S. official tells NPR's Tom Bowman.

Tom reports that the missiles landed in a rural area of Iran. Local television, Tom reports, said "that something crashed and exploded near the northern city of Tekab, shattering windows and leaving a large crater."

The international aid group Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières) is calling for an international investigation into what it calls a war crime in Afghanistan — Saturday's U.S. airstrikes that killed 22 people, including medical staff and patients at the organization's hospital in Kunduz.

Updated at 3:25 p.m. ET

NATO in Afghanistan says it will lead an investigation into an airstrike in Kunduz this weekend that hit a Médecins Sans Frontières hospital, killing 22 people — an attack that the humanitarian organization, also known as Doctors Without Borders, has called "a war crime."

A U.S.-led airstrike on the northern Afghan city was carried out Saturday, but the circumstances surrounding it remain murky. NATO acknowledges only that the raid occurred near the charity's hospital.

Taliban forces stormed the Afghan city of Kunduz on Monday; after several days of fighting, Afghan forces claimed to have retaken the city.

Updated at 10:00 a.m. ET Sunday

An aerial attack carried out by U.S. forces appears to have badly damaged a Médecins Sans Frontières trauma center in the Afghan city of Kunduz in the early hours on Saturday, killing 19 people — 12 staff working for the international aid organization and seven patients, including three children.

Thirty-seven were injured in the attack, according to MSF, also known as Doctors Without Borders.

"All indications currently point to the bombing being carried out by international Coalition forces," MSF said.

Updated at 11:20 a.m. ET

In a new development that could change the dynamic of Syria's civil war, Russian military began carrying out airstrikes in Syria on Wednesday. Russia says it will target ISIS fighters as part of a plan to fight terrorism.

U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby says a Russian official informed the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad about the missions and also requested that American military aircraft avoid Syrian airspace during Russian operations.

Updated 9:20 p.m. ET

A senior Obama administration official described Monday's 90-minute meeting between President Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin as "productive," though it left several key issues unresolved.

The official said it was a "business-like back and forth. I think they worked through a lot of different issues. This was focused."

The first half of the meeting focused on Ukraine, while the second centered on Syria.

The annual hajj pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, was struck by tragedy Thursday, as a stampede near the holy city killed at least 717 people and left more than 860 injured, according to Saudi officials.

The death toll and the number of injured have risen as authorities get reports from the site; initial reports stated that more than 300 people had died. We're updating this post as new information arrives.

After nearly 10,000 refugees and migrants entered Croatia in the past two days, the country has placed its army on alert to deploy on the country's border with Serbia. People who were turned away by Hungary now see Croatia as an alternate route into European Union countries.

Reporting from the Croatia-Serbia border, Lauren Frayer spoke to Jamal al-Shahoud, a refugee from Syria, who told her, "Here no food, no water. No buses, no trains. Nothing here. Just tired."

Lauren reports for our Newscast unit:

Dominic Chavez / World Bank

Senator Chris Murphy is joining Connecticut advocates to call for a big increase in the number of Syrian refugees resettled in the United States.

With new border control laws taking effect, Hungary has sealed its border with Serbia. Processing areas that were packed with more than 9,300 refugees and other migrants on Monday now stand empty.

Hungary declared a crisis in two southern counties today, as crowds of migrants were halted in Serbia, having missed the midnight deadline before the new and stricter laws took effect.

U.S. Department of State / Creative Commons

Ever since a photo of a Syrian boy dead on a beach made the rounds of the internet, there has been a new focus on the refugee crisis. The United Nations reports more than four million registered Syrian refugees and the country's neighbors are taking the brunt of the strain. Now Europe is struggling to handle a flood of migrants to that continent. Germany is among the countries imposing border controls in response to the flood of refugees who survived the long and dangerous journey away from war.

Chion Wolf / WNPR

U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal said the U.S. should take a greater role in the refugee crisis in Europe and the Middle East developing from the Syrian civil war and ISIS terrorism.

Blondinrikard Fröberg / Creative Commons

When Senator Richard Blumenthal announced that he would support the deal struck between the Obama administration and Iran over that country’s nuclear program, it all but assured that the plan would go through without congressional obstacles. 

Updated at 3:10 p.m. ET

Germany's interior minister confirmed Sunday that his country would impose temporary controls on its border, halting trains between Austria and Germany for a 12-hour period to stem the flow of refugees flooding into Munich.

"The aim of these measures is to limit the current inflows to Germany and to return to orderly procedures when people enter the country," Thomas de Maiziere said at a news conference.

Senate Democrats banded together and blocked a resolution disapproving the landmark nuclear agreement between the U.S., Iran and five other nations on Thursday, and in doing so handed President Obama a major foreign policy victory.

The procedural vote fell two votes shy of the 60 needed to proceed. The significance of the vote is that the controversial accord, which lifts sanctions on Tehran in exchange for Iran curtailing its nuclear program, will be enacted without a major showdown between the White House and the Republican-controlled Congress.

Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy returned from a five-day trip to the Middle East earlier this week. He discussed the Iran nuclear agreement, the Syrian refugee crisis and other issues during a conference call with reporters Tuesday.

Senate Democrats are on the verge of delivering a big win to President Obama on the nuclear agreement between the U.S., Iran and five other world powers.

With three more Democrats announcing Tuesday they were backing the accord, it gave supporters enough votes to prevent the passage of a disapproval resolution. Any such resolution would sink the White House-backed nuclear deal that lifts sanctions on Tehran in exchange for Iran curbing its nuclear program.

Ryan Caron King / WNPR

Sen. Richard Blumenthal announced on Tuesday that he will support the Iran nuclear plan. Speaking in Hartford, he said, "Rejecting this agreement is fraught with unacceptable risk."

With thousands of Syrian refugees and other migrants finally reaching havens in Germany and other European countries — and thousands more arriving daily — the Obama administration says it's "actively considering" ways to help, including allowing more refugees into the U.S.

The migrant crisis has placed stress on infrastructure in Greece, Macedonia and Hungary. It has also highlighted divisions between European Union countries.

The leader of Iran's legislature has definite views on his country's nuclear deal with world powers.

Ali Larijani says the agreement is good enough. He adds that United States' reading of that deal, particularly when it comes to sanctions, is not good at all. And he's hoping that the agreement brings change in his country — though not as much as many Iranians would want.

Saudi Arabia's new king is at the White House on Friday and Iran is expected to be high on the agenda. The Obama administration has been trying to reassure Gulf Arab allies that a nuclear deal with Iran doesn't mean that the U.S. will turn away from its other concerns about Iranian activities in the Middle East. To prove that, the U.S. is stepping up military sales to Saudi Arabia.

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