Bashar al-Assad

President Obama meets with King Salman during a 2015 trip to Saudi Arabia.
Pete Souza / The White House

On Friday, France’s foreign minister described talks over Syria’s future as entering a “danger zone.” Opposition leaders have stepped away from the negotiating table in Geneva, accusing the regime led by Syrian president Bashar al-Assad of violating the cease-fire the U.S. and Russia painfully put together.

Representative of Assad’s regime might not even be at the negotiating table without Russia’s intervention. Airstrikes helped Syrian forces take back territory, put the rebels on their heel, and attack ISIS positions in the ancient city of Palmyra.

Syrian protesters hold signs with the faces of president Bashar al-Assad and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Damascus - March 4, 2012
Freedom House / Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Syrian president Bashar al-Assad made a surprise visit to Moscow this week to meet with Russian president Vladimir Putin. It marks the first time he’s left the county since the civil war began in 2011.

Joshua Landis explains rebel advances in Syria and new Saudi aggressiveness in its wars with Iran.

Then Suzette Grillot talks with University of Oklahoma German professor Bob Lemon and Oregon State University Cold War-era cultural scholar Sebastian Heiduschke about cinema and literature in East Germany.

Saudi King Abdullah talks with newly appointed Saudi Crown Prince Salman bin Abdel-Aziz in Taif June 19, 2012. Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah has appointed his defence minister, Prince Salman, as heir apparent, opting for stability and a continuation of cau
Saudi Press Agency / Reuters

Syria observers are questioning whether President Bashar al-Assad's time could be running short after rebels captured two large, northern cities inside of a month. Despite attempts to mount a counteroffensive, Syrian troops have been unable to regain any ground lost in the cities of Idlib and Jisr al-Shughour just south of the Turkish border.

Syria Comment blogger Joshua Landis provides analysis of President Bashar Assad’s interview this week with the BBC, and Rebecca Cruise discusses German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s visit with President Obama, and what they’re trying to accomplish regarding Ukraine. 

Then Rebecca talks with Kathryn Bolkovac, who sued her employers for unfair dismissal after she lost her job for trying to expose sex trafficking in Bosnia. Her story was dramatized in the 2010 film The Whistleblower.

Syria's President Bashar al-Assad granted an unusual interview to the BBC on Tuesday, discussing the nearly four-year-old civil war in his country, and his relationship with the United States.

Joshua Landis and Suzette Grillot discuss riots in Egypt after a court in Cairo dropped its case against deposed dictator Hosni Mubarak, and about how a focus on counterterrorism has overtaken all hopes for democracy in the Middle East.

Then a conversation with literary critic Warren Motte about his work collecting tens of thousands of moments where characters gaze into mirrors.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry presides over a meeting of more than 60 anti-ISIL coalition parties held on December 3, 2014, at NATO Headquarters in Brussels, Belgium.
U.S. Department of State

Thousands of protesters took to the streets in Cairo throughout the week after a court ruled Saturday evening to dismiss charges against ousted dictator Hosni Mubarak over the killing of protesters during the 2011 uprising in Egypt.

Joshua Landis joins Suzette Grillot to discuss the continued escalation in Ukraine, and provide an update on Syria as the third anniversary of the country's civil war approaches.

Later, a conversation about Afrocentricity and identity with author, Temple University professor, and activist Molefi Kete Asante.

A crowd gathers outside London's National Gallery in Trafalgar Square March 13, 2014 for a vigil to mark the third anniversary of the start of Syria's civil war.
Andy Armstrong / Flickr Creative Commons

This weekend marks three years since the first mass protests in Damascus, Aleppo, and Daraa lit kindling of unrest in Syria that eventually ignited a full-scale civil war.

Joshua Landis, the Director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma, and the author of the widely-read blog Syria Comment, says countries in the region and the United States now view the Syrian crisis as a counterterrorism problem.

Joshua Landis provides an update on this week's Syrian peace talks in Switzerland, and Rebecca Cruise discusses the escalation of violence in Ukraine.

Later, a conversation about mother tongue-based bilingual instruction in West Africa with Alice Iddi-Gubbels, the founder and executive director of PAMBE Ghana.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, flanked by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, gavels open the Geneva II conference in Montreux, Switzerland, on January 22, 2014.
U.S. Department of State / Flickr Creative Commons

A United Nations mediator announced Friday a Syrian government delegation and the Western-backed opposition will meet Saturday “in the same room.”

Joshua Landis, the author of the widely-read blog Syria Comment and the Director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma, says this week’s peace conference in Switzerland shows both sides understand there has to be a political solution.

Joshua Landis provides an update on the ongoing removal of chemical weapons in Syria, and Rebecca Cruise examines the recent executions of high-level government officials in North Korea, and what they could mean. 

Later, a conversation with a trio of scientists and engineers about how three very different developing countries share many of the same sanitation and hygiene concerns.

Bernd Schwabe / Wikimedia Commons

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons has drawn up a timeline for the destruction of Syria's poison gas and nerve agent program by mid-2014.

The most toxic chemicals are to be destroyed on a U.S. ship. Denmark and Norway are providing ships to transport the chemicals out of Syria and more than three dozen private companies have offered to destroy less toxic chemicals.

Rebecca Cruise and Joshua Landis join Suzette Grillot to discuss subtle reminders of Nelson Mandela's controversial legacy during a week of celebration of the late president's life, and Pope Francis's selection as Time  magazine's 2013 "Person of the Year.'

Later, a conversation with Oklahoma native and former Army interrogator Eric Maddox. Ten years ago Friday, months of his intelligence work paid off when U.S. soldiers captured deposed Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.