Melissa Block speaks with David W. Lesch, a professor of Middle East history at Trinity University and the author of The New Lion of Damascus: Bashar al-Asad and Modern Syria for a profile about Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
The Senate returns from its month-long recess a few days early on Friday, but only briefly, for the sole purpose of bringing to the floor the Syria resolution. But a Senate vote on the proposal is still a week away, with the House not likely to act until the Senate has finished.
This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.
While Americans debate the U.S. role in Syria, President Obama is meeting with the leaders of the world's biggest economies. They've gathered for the G-20 summit in St. Petersburg, Russia. The official focus of the meeting is global economic growth, but there, too, Syria is the issue of the day.
A tightly-fought Australian general election campaign reaches its climax on Saturday — and the major issues will be familiar to an American audience. With little to choose between the economic policies of the two major parties, immigration and same-sex marriage are top of the news agenda.
This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.
The world is watching as Congress considers possible U.S. military action in Syria. And few countries are more concerned than nearby Israel where one worry is that the Syrian conflict could spill over.
As NPR's Emily Harris reports, Israelis are sure they want the U.S. to do something in Syria. They're less clear about just what it should be.
These three words have ignited an explosion in the Twitterverse: "Happy Rosh Hashana." What's so provocative about that message expressing good wishes for the Jewish New Year is who, apparently, posted it. It appeared yesterday on the Twitter feed attributed to the new foreign minister of Iran, Mohammad Javad Zarif.
President Obama, in St. Petersburg for the G-20 Summit, met with Russian human rights activists, most of them critical of President Putin's policies. Especially prominent right now is Russia's LGBT community, which is facing harsh new laws that play into homophobia and raise doubts about LGBT participation in the Sochi Winter Olympics next year.
Suntory's 30-year-old Hibiki whiskey took home the top award at the International Spirits Challenge in 2003. This unexpected triumph was Japanese whiskey's big coming-out party on the global spirits stage.
Originally published on Thu September 5, 2013 5:31 pm
Scotland is the de facto king of whisky. But now an unlikely challenger — Japan — is making a name for its whiskey far beyond its borders. Unfortunately for Americans, this highly coveted Japanese whiskey is very hard to come by.
Originally published on Sun September 8, 2013 8:12 am
It sounded a bit far-fetched, and perhaps it was.
Iran's former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad denied the Holocaust and threatened to wipe Israel off the map. But his successor, President Hassan Rouhani, considered a relative moderate by contrast, has taken a somewhat softer tone. So, when Rouhani allegedly tweeted the following, it quickly became news:
Originally published on Thu September 12, 2013 6:41 am
What does President Bashar Assad think of himself? How did his father, Hafez Assad, rise from a dirt yard to rule the country? What happens to those who speak out against the regime? Who wrote the Syrian 1984? Does Syria make the best lingerie in the Middle East? Find the answers to these questions in our roundup of five great books about Syria, recommended by experts at Harvard University, Brown University and the University of Texas at Austin.
At June's G-8 Summit in Northern Ireland, Russian President Vladimir Putin and President Obama sat for some awkward photos. In St. Petersburg, they'll be several seats apart during the formal discussions.
Originally published on Thu September 5, 2013 12:34 pm
Syria's civil war is complicated, but at least there's a consensus among American policymakers: There are no good options.
So let's pretend you're the president and you need to decide what action, if any, the U.S. should take. The possibilities are endless, and plenty of unintended consequences are sure to follow.
To make your decision manageable, we're presenting four basic options. We realize they are not mutually exclusive, but you have to focus on something. You can make your choice at the bottom of this story.
The topic of military intervention is Syria is expected to over shadow the Group of 20 summit going on in St. Petersburg, Russia. President Vladimir Putin hosts but there are no plans for him and President Obama to meet one on one, given the controversy over Syria and Russia's grant of asylum to NSA leaker Edward Snowden.
The objective of an American strike on Syria appears to be evolving. Days ago, White House officials insisted their goal was to respond to the use of chemical weapons, not to intervene in Syria's civil war. But it's always been quietly understood that doing one thing could easily affect the other, and that has become more explicit in recent days.
Moscow is in the final days of a campaign for Sunday's mayoral election. The outcome isn't in doubt. The winner will be the Kremlin-backed incumbent Sergei Sobyanin. But his main challenger is running a Western-style campaign. Some say that campaign could change the way politics are played in Russia's biggest city.
A big part of the challenge of enforcing President Obama's red line against Bashar al-Assad's regime on the use of chemical weapons is how the region will react. And as a possible strike on Syria looms, the mood among Arabs is something Shibley Telhami is following closely. He's a professor at the University of Maryland and his latest book is "The World Through Arab Eyes: Public Opinion and the Reshaping of the Arab World."
Originally published on Wed September 4, 2013 4:52 pm
On the windswept plateau where Madrid is perched, it's too dry to raise cattle and most crops. So pork has long been a mainstay, from jamón ibérico and charcuterie tapas to stews of pigs' ears and entrails.
But when locals want a really special treat, they go for an entire piglet roasted whole — head, hooves and all — on an oak wood fire.
The crisis in Syria dominated President Obama's visit to Sweden on Wednesday, as he continued to push for Congressional approval of his plan to launch a military strike against Syrian government forces, in response to their use of chemical weapons against their own people.. "My credibility is not on the line. The international community's credibility is on the line," Obama told a news conference in Stockholm. "And America and Congress' credibility is on the line." The President travels to the G-20 meeting in St. Petersburg on Thursday.
We're going to hear now from one House Republican who's already on the record opposing a U.S. military strike in Syria. That's New York Congressman Chris Gibson. Before his election to the House in 2010, Gibson served 24 years in the Army, and that includes four combat tours in Iraq. Congressman Gibson, welcome to the program.
REPRESENTATIVE CHRIS GIBSON: Thanks, Melissa. Good to be with you.
BLOCK: Why don't you lay out first just why you oppose a military strike on Syria?
On Wednesday, the John Kerry and Chuck Hagel road show moved on to the House Foreign Affairs Committee as the administration tries to build support for an air attack on Syria President Bashar al-Assad's military assets. But there is uneasiness among some House members who wonder how and why Speaker John Boehner was so quickly won over.
Senators on the Foreign Relations Committee spent Wednesday scrambling to find language authorizing military strikes on Syria that was acceptable to both those wanting a stronger response and those hoping to limit U.S. involvement.
Syrian dictator Bashar Assad gave a rare interview to a western news outlet this week. He told the French newspaper Le Figaro that the U.S. and France have yet to "put forward a single proof" that his regime was behind the chemical weapons attack outside the Syrian capital. Melissa Block talks with Georges Malbrunot, Middle East reporter for Le Figaro, who conducted the interview in Damascus.
As Secretary of State John Kerry spoke to the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday, "Code Pink" protesters behind him held up "bloody hands" to express their opposition to the prospect of U.S. military strikes on Syria.
Originally published on Wed September 4, 2013 11:24 am
"We are not asking America to go to war," Secretary of State John Kerry told the House Foreign Affairs Committee early Wednesday afternoon, as he and other top administration officials continued to push Congress to support President Obama's call for military strikes aimed at the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Mois Yussuroum, a 94-year-old retired dentist, fought the Nazis as part of the Greek resistance during World War II. "Of the 650 Greek Jews who fought in the resistance, I'm the only one still alive," he says.
Credit Joanna Kakissis/NPR
Yussuroum (right) with a fellow Greek soldier fighting the Nazis during World War II. He used the Christian name "Yiorgos Gazis" in case the Nazis captured him.
Credit Courtesy of Jewish Museum of Greece
Marios Sousis, 75, with his granddaughters Linda, 13, and Annita, 14.
No one has ever doubted Mois Yussuroum's patriotism. As part of the Greek resistance during World War II, he fought Benito Mussolini's fascist army and then the Nazis.
"The other resistance fighters didn't know I was Jewish," he says, since he used the name "Yiorgos Gazis" in case he was captured. "But my superiors did know, and they gave me many responsibilities, including making me a garrison commander."
Originally published on Wed September 4, 2013 12:44 pm
U.S. competitiveness among global economies suffered after the 2008 global economic crisis. Four years after the crisis, the U.S. slipped in the World Economic Forum's annual competitiveness ranking. This year it's back up a bit: The U.S. rose to fifth position overall from seventh last year, in the forum's latest survey, which was released Wednesday.
This is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. I'm Michel Martin. Coming up, Sheila Bridges stood out for many reasons in her chosen field of interior design. Her celebrity client list, being African-American, but then she began to stand out in a way she did not want - she started losing her hair. We'll talk about how that changed her life and her focus. She talks about that in her new memoir "The Bald Mermaid." And we'll have that conversation in just a few minutes.
Syrian boys walk on the rubble of a building in Damascus that was hit by what activists said was shelling by government forces. The threat of a possible U.S. strike has added to the sense of unease in the Syrian capital.
Credit Bassam Khabieh / Reuters/Landov
An intersection in Damascus features portraits of Syrian President Bashar Assad and his father, Hafez Assad, who ruled for 30 years before his death in 2000.
Originally published on Wed September 4, 2013 10:08 am
Although he says he did not ask Congress to authorize the use of force against Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime "as a symbolic gesture," President Obama reiterated Wednesday that "I always reserve the right and responsibility to act on behalf of America's national security."
Originally published on Wed September 4, 2013 9:49 am
President Obama landed in Sweden on Wednesday — the start of a European trip that will take him to Russia for a summit of world leaders at which he'll try to build support for his plan to strike targets inside Syria.
As The Washington Post says, it's a "high-stakes trip ... that could show whether the United States has broad international backing for action."