Suzette Grillot checks in with Erika Larkins. She just returned from a year-long assignment in Brazil, and she'll offer her takeaways from the 2016 Summer Olympic games, which wrapped up Sunday.

But first, Rebecca Cruise and Joshua Landis join the program to discuss Turkey's recent military moves in Syria, and North Korea's testing of a submarine-launched missile.

Syrian interior opposition member Mahmoud Marai, third right, listens to Elian Mous'ad, second right, during a meeting with the UN Syria Envoy during Syria peace talks at the United Nations Office in Geneva, Switzerland.
Fabrice Coffrini / Pool Photo via Associated Press

February’s tenuous cease-fire in Syria seems to breaking down for good.

Opposition leaders blame airstrikes around Aleppo have been blamed on both the Russian and Syrian forces. Civilians and doctors were killed when a Doctors Without Borders hospital was hit this week in the northern city.

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.

Suzette Grillot and Rebecca Cruise discuss two sides of international education. China has charged an education advocate in Tibet with inciting separatism, and a one-room basement library in Afghanistan is providing books to citizens once ruled by the Taliban.

Then contributor Joshua Landis talks with Jeffrey Mankoff from the Center for Strategic and International Studies. He argues the U.S. tried to outsource solving the Ukraine crisis onto German Chancellor Angela Merkel. They’ll also discuss Russia’s involvement in Syria.

Jeffrey Mankoff during an October 2014 Center for Strategic and International Studies forum on Russia's war, Ukraine's history, and the West's options.
Center for Strategic and International Studies / Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Russia rapidly moved to the front of the world stage when President Vladimir Putin returned to power in 2012, setting off an adversarial relationship with the West not seen since Cold War tensions thawed in the 1980s.

The country’s ascendancy includes the 2014 invasion of Ukraine’s Crimea region, and a greater role in Syria on the side of the regime of Bashar al-Assad. Syria is fighting rebels opposed to Assad’s minority Alawite-led government as well as Islamic State, or ISIS, militants bent on establishing a caliphate in the Middle East.

A portrait of President Bashar al-Assad among the trash in the Syrian city of al-Qsair in 2012.
Freedom House / Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Syria’s civil war approaches its fifth anniversary a little over a week from now, and there’s no end in sight as the conflict becomes even more nuanced and multi-faceted.

It started with protests against the regime of Bashar al-Assad on March 15, 2011, but quickly became a weaponized conflict and spread beyond the country’s borders as militants poured in, and global players used the unrest as a proxy to advance their own regional interests.

Syrian Government And Opposition Agree To Ceasefire

Feb 23, 2016

After nearly five years of civil war and more than 250,000 deaths, the warring parties in Syria say they will abide by a ceasefire that is scheduled to take effect Saturday.

The United Nations says it will be a challenge to enforce the truce. That’s because the Syrian battlefield is complicated by the presence of ISIS and the al-Qaida group, al-Nusra.

Here & Now’s Jeremy Hobson talks with Joshua Landis, director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma, about the prospects for peace.

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom monitors the right to thought, conscience, and individual expression around the world. Suzette Grillot talks about some of their work with the agency's acting co-director of policy and research Elizabeth Cassidy.

But first, Rebecca Cruise talks with Joshua Landis about how the continued decline in oil prices is affecting international markets., and the upcoming meetings on Syria.

Rebecca Cruise provides an update on this week's climate talks in Paris, and Joshua Landis discusses the British Parliament's vote to increase the country's involvement in Syria.

Then, retired diplomat Joe Cassidy talks about his 25-year career in the Foreign Service. In July, he wrote an editorial in Foreign Policy magazine with his prescription to fix the ailing U.S. State Department.

British protesters gather for a sit-in in London's Parliament Square Dec. 1, 2015 ahead of a vote to authorize increased military intervention in Syria.
Allsdare Hickson / FLickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

On Wednesday, bombs began falling in Syria hours after Britain’s Parliament voted overwhelmingly to approve airstrikes against ISIS militants in the country.

The 320-211 vote followed hours of debate, and could be a sign Europeans are starting to coalesce around a common goal of defeating radical Islamic militants in the wake of last month’s terrorist attacks in Paris, and security concerns in Brussels.

Joshua Landis and Rebecca Cruise talk about what's changed (or hasn't) since the Paris and Beiruit terrorist attacks a week ago, and whether or not the world will ever come to an agreement about how to deal with ISIS.

Then, Suzette Grillot talks with Vanessa Tucker from the international watchdog organization Freedom House. Every year the group issues rankings that compare the global political rights and civil liberties across the globe.

World leaders pause to honor the memory of the victims of the terrorist attacks in Paris at the G20 summit in Antalya, Turkey. / Wikimedia Commons

It’s been a week since the world watched in horror as terrorists killed 130 people in a series of coordinated attacks across Paris, which came just a day after dozens were killed in an ISIS-claimed bombing in Beiruit.

Historian Beeta Baghoolizadeh says 19th century Iranian slavery can appear softer alongside its American counterpart, but that’s not a fair comparison. She'll trace the country's history of slavery and its erasure from the national consciousness.

But first, Joshua Landis joins the show again for a discussion of the Russian airliner that crashed in Egypt and what may have caused it, and Turkey’s recent parliamentary elections.

Rebecca Cruise talks with energy analyst Andreas Goldthau, who says if Europe embraces technology like hydraulic fracturing, it’ll reduce the reliance on Russian oil and natural gas.

But first, Joshua Landis analyzes Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s surprise visit to Moscow this week to brief Russian President Vladimir Putin on both current and future military operations in Syria. 

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.