Joshua Landis updates Suzette Grillot on the situation in Syria, and they talk about the rise of the Islamic State and this week’s murder of journalist James Foley.

Later, a conversation about the 100th anniversary of the Panama Canal with Noel Maurer, Raisa Banfield, and Julie Greene.

Pete Souza / The White House

The beheading of American journalist James Foley this week is the latest in a series of brutal attacks in Iraq and Syria perpetrated by the Islamic State (ISIS).

The killing comes in response to President Obama's decision to provide aerial and tactical support to Iraqi government forces and Kurdish Peshmerga as they attempt to retake areas seized by IS in recent weeks.

Rebecca Cruise provides an update on the kidnapping of hundreds of girls in Nigeria, and Joshua Landis discusses this week’s Syrian rebel departure from Homs.

Later, a conversation with longtime China scholar David Lampton. He argues the country’s leaders have to reconcile a fragmented bureaucracy with explosive economic growth and a rising middle class.

Joshua Landis and Suzette Grillot focus on the aggression in the east of Ukraine, and the well as the historical importance of Ukraine in Russian history. They also discuss how the war in Syria has affected the country’s ancient history and cultural heritage.

And later, a conversation with Israeli scholar Zaki Shalom. He says the Arab Spring has shifted focus away from the Middle East’s more long-standing discord.

Smoke emerges from the castle at Krak des Chavaliers in Syria - August 18, 2013.
Syria963 / Wikimedia Commons

Last month the Syrian Arab Army recaptured the Crusader castle Krak des Chevaliers, which was reportedly damaged during air strikes in 2013.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has expressed concern since the civil war began that the conflict could be devastating to the country’s important cultural sites.

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.

For eight days, the Syrian regime and an opposition delegation sat face-to-face, but were not on speaking terms in Room 16 of the Palais des Nations in the sprawling complex of United Nations headquarters in Geneva.

Round one demonstrated the bitter divide with no breakthrough on the core issues of a political transition or access to humanitarian aid.

So what comes next?

Joshua Landis and Suzette Grillot discuss the 2014 State of the Union address and some of the foreign policy objectives President Obama outlined in Tuesday night’s speech.

Later, a conversation about migration and identity with Iranian-American novelist Laleh Khadivi, and Palestinian-American poet and physician Fady Joudah.

President Obama delivers his 2014 State of the Union address before a joint session of Congress Tuesday, January 28, 2014.
The White House / YouTube

President Obama’s international outlook remains heavily oriented toward decreasing the U.S. military presence in the Middle East. In his State of the Union address, the president promised to declare an end to the 12-year war in Afghanistan.

Joshua Landis, the author of Syria Comment and the Director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma, says President Obama’s address “claimed big successes” in a September Syria chemical weapons deal and a November interim agreement with Iran halting uranium enrichment programs in exchange for lifted sanctions.