Syria

On Second Thought For Wednesday, May 23, 2018

May 23, 2018

After writing his New York Times op-ed, “Dear White America," George Yancy received hundreds of hateful messages. Yancy, an Emory University professor of philosophy, knew that his letter was controversial, but he says he never thought he would receive literal death threats. This past April, he released his newest book, "Backlash: What Happens When We Talk Honestly About Racism in America." It addresses how people confronted him after the publication of his op-ed, and how to proceed from there. In his book, he asks white Americans to rise above their initial racial response and have empathy for the African-American community. George Yancy joined us in studio to talk about "Backlash."

© European Union 2016 / European Parliament

Syria is suffering its worst humanitarian crisis in years.

 

The United Nations estimates some 5.6 million Syrians have fled their country in search of a safer place to live. President Trump capped the number of refugees allowed in the United States last year. The U.S. admitted close to 28,000 refugees in 2017, a dramatic reduction from 93,000 people allowed in the year before.

 

Khawla al-Abdullah arrived in Atlanta two years ago. She's originally from Aleppo, Syria.

Since President Trump came into office, U.S. troop numbers have been edging up in the three countries where the U.S. is most deeply involved in fighting — Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.

U.S. forces totaled just over 18,000 in these three countries at the end of last December, just before President Obama completed his term, according to the Pentagon's Defense Manpower Data Center.

The combined figure was about 26,000 as of the end of September, the most recent data available from the Pentagon.

The U.S.-led military coalition has marked a string of successes in its fight against ISIS, including the liberation of Raqqa, Syria, and Mosul, Iraq. But the force says that its artillery and airstrikes have killed at least 801 civilians in those countries since Operation Inherent Resolve began in 2014.

A U.N. watchdog agency is blaming the Syrian government for a sarin gas attack on a rebel-held area of the country that killed more than 90 people in April.

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which confirmed in June that the agent used sarin, now says it is sure that the attack in Khan Sheikhoun in the northern province of Idlib was carried out by the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad.

The Trump administration is updating its travel ban, just hours before it was set to expire. In a proclamation signed by President Trump on Sunday, the travel restrictions now include eight countries, a couple of which are not majority-Muslim, as had been the case with all the nations in the original ban.

A cease-fire seemed to be holding in southwestern Syria more than nine hours after it took effect at noon on Sunday, according to multiple reports.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reports that the truce "ended its first hour without documenting any violations" — and that continued throughout the afternoon and evening.

The White House announced Monday night that it sees signs that the Syrian government is preparing to launch another chemical weapons attack in its war against insurgents. The White House press office released this statement:

"The United States has identified potential preparations for another chemical weapons attack by the Assad regime that would likely result in the mass murder of civilians, including innocent children. The activities are similar to preparations the regime made before its April 4, 2017 chemical weapons attack.

Today is World Refugee Day, a day recognized by the United Nations in 2001.

 

Resettling in a new land can be difficult for refugee families, so one business in Georgia is trying to make things a little easier.

 

Amplio Recruiting is following through on a pledge to source 100 percent of their talent from the refugee population.

 

We spoke with refugee turned employee Sana Hajizadeh.

Two teams of attackers used gunfire and explosives to strike Iran's parliament and the mausoleum of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in Tehran on Wednesday, according to state media. The twin attacks killed at least 12 people and wounded 42 others.

"Deputy Interior Minister Hossein Zolfaqari said that the terrorists had entered the parliament in [women's] dress," Iran's state news agency reports. It adds that a female assailant detonated herself outside the mausoleum.

U.S.-backed fighters have launched an operation to try to seize control of ISIS' so-called capital, the city of Raqqa in northern Syria.

Raqqa is the most important stronghold for the militant group in Syria and fell under its control in 2014. Together with the ongoing fight for Mosul in Iraq, seizing control of the city is seen as a crucial goal in the fight against ISIS.

The war in Syria is a conflict of the social media age. Everyone — the rebels, the government, ordinary citizens, everyone — has a cellphone.

And that means almost no bad deed goes unrecorded by someone.

Updated at 11:20 a.m. ET Tuesday

The U.S. State Department laid out a new case against Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime on Monday: Not only has the Syrian government committed mass atrocities at its military prison complex outside Damascus, but for years, it has also added to the structure in order to burn and secretly dispose of thousands of its victims' remains.

In his first interview with NPR, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has a wide-ranging interview with Morning Edition's Steve Inskeep.

Steve Inskeep: I want to begin with North Korea. We heard when you said, "the era of strategic patience is over," so we know what your policy is not. Is there a word or phrase you can give us to say what your approach to North Korea is?

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson: Yes, our approach to North Korea is to have them change their posture towards any future talks.

Updated at 5:45 p.m. ET

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says he had a "productive" meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin on Wednesday, despite palpable tension between the U.S. and Russia.

"There is a low level of trust between our two countries," Tillerson said after the meeting. "The world's two foremost nuclear powers cannot have this kind of relationship."

The Trump administration has accused former President Barack Obama of "weakness and irresolution" for drawing a red line in Syria then failing to enforce it. In the days before and after last week's cruise missile strike, though, Trump's own team has drawn sometimes blurry and conflicting lines. The administration has sent mixed signals about when and why it will use military force, the future of Syrian President Bashar Assad, and the role it sees for Russia.

1. Use of military force

Prompted by a chemical weapons attack, the U.S. loosed dozens of Tomahawk missiles last week on an air base operated by Syrian President Bashar Assad, the embattled ally of Russia.

Updated: 10:31 a.m.

President Trump made the biggest move of his presidency so far Thursday night — he struck Syrian military targets after an apparent chemical weapons attack allegedly ordered by Syria's Bashar Assad against his own people.

Updated at 3:15 p.m. ET

Russian President Vladimir Putin is calling the missile strike President Trump ordered against Syria on Thursday "an act of aggression against a sovereign state delivered in violation of international law under a far-fetched pretext."

Updated at 10:30 a.m. ET

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill want the Trump administration to outline a broader strategy in Syria following the president's decision to authorize U.S. missile strikes Thursday night in response to the apparent chemical weapons attack by Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Updated at 3:15 p.m. ET on April 7

Autopsies of victims of a deadly attack in Khan Shaykhun, Syria, show they were killed by chemical weapons, Turkey's Health Ministry says.

The Turkish government says dozens of victims were treated across the border in Turkey, and several died. Their autopsies revealed evidence of exposure to sarin, the government said Thursday.

Also on Thursday, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said "it would seem" there is no role for Syrian President Bashar Assad to continue governing his country and that efforts are "underway" to build a coalition to remove him.

Updated at 3:03 p.m. ET

President Trump condemned the horrific chemical attack in Syria that has been blamed on its president, Bashar Assad, signaling a shift in Trump's approach toward the country's controversial leader — but didn't elaborate on how the U.S. would respond.

President Trump issued a remarkable statement following a Syrian gas attack U.S. officials say was leveled by that country's leader against his own people.

Some 40 words of the short, 78-word statement blamed former President Barack Obama for inaction.

In an official statement, President Trump described the recent chemical attack in Syria as "reprehensible" and went on to argue the "heinous actions by the Bashar al-Assad regime are a consequence of the past administration's weakness and irresolution." In other words, he blamed former President Barack Obama.

At the State Department on Wednesday, officials from 68 countries and organizations gathered for a two-day summit to coordinate plans to fight ISIS. This was the first full meeting of the Global Coalition on the Defeat of ISIS since 2014, and a chance for the Trump administration to flesh out what it wants to do differently.

So far, it is mainly stepping up a fight that the Obama administration put in motion.

The Pentagon is sending about 400 Marines to Syria to help local fighters wrest control of Raqqa, which ISIS considers its capital.

The Pentagon says the new troops will fire artillery rounds at ISIS fighters in support of the local forces, as well as provide security for the Marine artillerymen, as NPR's Phil Ewing reports.

These 400 troops will bring the number of U.S. forces on the ground in Syria to about 900, Phil says.

The so-called Islamic State's financial fortunes are bound to the amount of territory it controls.

And the group's dramatic loss of ground in its strongholds in Syria and Iraq is putting pressure on its finances, according to a new report from the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation.

Sean Powers / On Second Thought

Hundreds of refugees from Syria now call Georgia home. We hear from two of them, who have become good friends. One of them is a man who arrived in Georgia right after 9/11, but before the Syrian civil war. The other is a young child, who came to the state last year. Besides calling Syria their birthplace, they share an even greater bond.

 

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