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INSIGHT: Syrian Rebels Make Gains But Challenges Remain

On the back of fresh supplies of weapons and the provision of logistics and training support through Jordan, rebel forces have made substantial gains in the south against the regime of Bashar al-Assad in recent weeks. However, the dynamic among those rebel groups fighting under Islamist banners has been shaken up after an informal alliance More »

QUICKTAKE: US Syria Policy Needs ‘Paradigm Shift’

As the conflict in Syria continues to escalate, there are increasing calls for the international community to step up its involvement. Ambassador Frederic Hof, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East and the Obama administration’s special advisor for the Syrian transition in 2012, spoke with VOA’s Carol More »

INSIGHT: Iraqi Kurdistan’s Syrian Refugees – Between Rock and Hard Place

Duhok, Kurdistan Region, Iraq — Somehow the children who had toys to play with were a more depressing sight than those with none at all. I watched as a girl, about three or four years old, dragged a pathetic block of now-grey polystyrene through the dust by short string, as if taking a pet for More »

QUICKTAKE: Red Cross Faces Uphill Battle in Syria

The International Committee of the Red Cross reports an increase in indiscriminate attacks on civilians in Damascus and says people are fleeing the Syrian capital in greater numbers. Reuters separately reports that March was the most violent month in Syria’s now more than two-year-old conflict, with 6,000 people killed, The total estimated death toll More »

QUICKTAKE: Stemming Al-Qaida to Stabilize Mali

As French-backed Malian forces continue to battle an Islamist insurgency, the former U.S. ambassador to the North African country, Vicki Huddleston, spoke with VOA’s Carol Castiel on Press Conference USA about the challenges facing the divided nation and what concrete steps should be taken to prevent it from becoming a breeding ground for al-Qaida More »

QUICKTAKE: Using Art to Reveal Love, Hate in Syria Conflict

A graduate of the Faculty of Fine Arts at Damascus University, Tammam Azzam, abandoned a successful decade as a promising painter to escape the dangers of the Syrian war. He settled into a small apartment in Dubai with a computer and some PhotoShop software to embark on a new artistic mission: to vividly convey More »

QUICKTAKE: Losing World Heritage in Syria’s Civil War

In Syria, much of the heaviest fighting between government forces and rebels seeking to topple the regime of President Bashar al-Assad occurs on terrain with landmarks of immeasurable historical value . Videos and the global media report revolutionary brigades seeking shelter in medieval castles, flames destroying Aleppo’s shops dating back to medieval times (pictured More »

INSIGHT: Takeaways from Obama’s Visit to Israel, the West Bank

The main news story of President Obama’s Middle East trip was his intensive focus on engineering an emotional reset with both the leadership and people of Israel. His two prepared texts (the speech to Israeli youths at the Jerusalem Convention Center and his toast to President Shimon Peres upon receiving Israel’s Medal of Distinction) More »

QUICKTAKE: Syria Opposition Official Talks About Needed Relief

Four days before the opposition Syrian National Coalition elected Ghassan Hitto interim prime minister, he was directing humanitarian aid to areas of Syria now under the control of rebel forces. Prior to his election, Hitto, a 50-year-old U.S.-educated technocrat, spoke to senior reporter David Arnold about the dire situation inside Syria. He said that most  More »

INSIGHT: Is Turkey Ready for a Kurdish Peace?

Abdullah Ocalan, the imprisoned leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has waged a 28-year war against the Turkish state, is an unlikely candidate for peacemaker. Yet recently he has become Ankara’s key ally in its efforts to end the three-decade-old armed struggle. On December 28, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that More »

INSIGHT: Israel’s Next Front – Syria

For the better part of 40 years, the Syrian border has been the quietest of Israel’s frontiers. Notwithstanding Israel’s 1973 capture and subsequent annexation of Syrian territory in the Golan and Bashar al-Assad’s ongoing support for terrorist organizations targeting the Jewish state, the border has been tranquil since the signing of the 1974 armistice. More »

QUICKTAKE: Europe Split on Arming Syria Rebels

Twenty-seven European Union foreign ministers left a meeting in Brussels this week bitterly divided on whether forces trying to topple the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad should receive outside military assistance. VOA’s Susan Yackee spoke on the subject with Chatham House Syria expert Christopher Phillips (audio below). Susan Yackee: The European Union has come More »

INSIGHT: Kerry’s Opening to the Free Syrian Army

Last week in Rome Secretary of State John Kerry turned a page in U.S. policy on Syria by announcing food and medical assistance to elements of Syria’s armed opposition. While critics of administration policy bemoaned the absence of night vision goggles and body armor from the inventory of non-lethal assistance to be provided, Kerry’s More »

SYRIA WITNESS: Running the Town of Qusayr Without Assad

Sami, by his own account, is an activist-turned-school teacher who writes about changes that have taken place in his hometown of Qusayr since the uprising against Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad began nearly two years ago. In the midst of the conflict that has destroyed much of Quasayr, Sami recently visited its newly-elected city council More »

QUICKTAKE: What’s Really Stalling Middle East Peace?

New U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is in the Middle East; President Barack Obama is scheduled to make his own trip to the region soon. Syria and Iran are high on the U.S. agenda but the Middle East peace process is not off the table. Kerry would even want to move it higher More »

INSIGHT: Syrian Rebels Grow Weapons Cache, Evidence Shows

Opposition forces seeking to overthrow the regime of the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, have stepped up their operations in the southern part of the country, including Damascus, with the help of an infusion of new weaponry identified by military analysts as having originated in Croatia. Evidence of the influx of new weaponry for the rebels More »

QUICKTAKE: Israeli-Palestinian Peace During Obama’s 2nd Term?

The new U.S. secretary of state, John Kerry, has openly affirmed his commitment to achieving peace between the Israelis and Palestinians. Iran and the Syrian crisis may be topping the agenda his current visit to the region, but most analysts believe he will use his first trip as America’s top diplomat to signal his More »

SYRIA WITNESS: Documenting Life, Death and Destruction

Ahmed Da is, by his own account, a citizen photojournalist. He shared with us his story of how he organized Lens Young Homsi, a group of like-minded photojournalists, who set out to use a Facebook page to tell the world about life, death and destruction in Homs, their hometown. To date, their Facebook page, More »

VIEWPOINT: At Kazakhstan Talks, New Approach Needed on Iran

Sanctions against Iran were imposed with the aim of bringing Tehran to the negotiating table. That they have on some occasions, but have they helped broker an actual agreement? Unfortunately, the sides today are as far apart as they have ever been, and continued negotiations without progress will at best maintain the status quo, More »

VOICES: Forced into Hiding in Bahrain But Speaking Out

I’ve been in hiding for the past two years. The Bahraini government imprisoned me from August 2010 to February 2011, and it was obvious I would be rearrested; so I went underground. It’s not easy – I’m married with a 10-year-old son, and the risk of capture is always there – but I carry More »