News / Middle East

    Free Syrian Army Appoints New Commander

    • Pakistani teenage activist Malala Yousafzai (left), who was shot in the head by the Taliban for campaigning for girls' education, talks to Syrian refugee Mazoon Rakan, 16, about Mazoon's experience in the camp during her visit to the Zaatri refugee camp, in Jordanian city of Mafraq, near the border with Syria, Feb. 18, 2014. 
    • A Kurdish fighter from the Popular Protection Units (YPG) carries his son as he walks along a street, Sheikh Maqsoud neighborhood, Aleppo, Feb. 18, 2014. 
    • A man walks near a crater as smoke rises from a burning truck after what activists said were explosive barrels thrown by forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad, al-Inzarat district, Aleppo, Feb. 18, 2014. 
    • Civil defense members and civilians extinguish the fire from a burning truck after what activists said were explosive barrels thrown by forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad, al-Inzarat district, Aleppo, Feb. 18, 2014.
    • A civil defense worker puts out a fire after what activists said were explosive barrels thrown by forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad, al-Inzarat district, Aleppo, Feb. 18, 2014. 
    • Children run across a street to avoid snipers in Deir al-Zor, eastern Syria Feb. 16, 2014.
    • A Free Syrian Army fighter runs for cover from forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad in the Sheikh Maqsoud neighborhood of Aleppo, Feb. 16, 2014. 
    • A Free Syrian Army fighter rests with his weapon in the Sheikh Maqsoud neighborhood of Aleppo, Feb. 16, 2014. 
    • A boy holds his baby sister, who survived what activists say was an airstrike by forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Aleppo, Feb. 14, 2014.
    • Rescuers walk on the rubble of collapsed buildings after what activists said was an airstrike by forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Aleppo, Feb. 14, 2014.
    VOA News
    The rebel Free Syrian Army has appointed a new commander, after months of losing ground to both government forces and Islamist fighters.

    The Western-backed, moderate forces cited the ineffectiveness of Salim Idris, and said he has been replaced by Abdul-Ilah al-Bashir.

    The office of Syrian National Coalition President Ahmad Jarba praised the move in a statement Monday, and reiterated the opposition group's determination to go up against government troops and al-Qaida-linked militants.

    Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says the Syrian government is trying to win a military victory over the opposition, and that Russia is enabling President Bashar al-Assad on that path.

    Kerry said Monday in Jakarta that Syria's strategy is evident in its continuing barrel bombing of civilians, and that Russia's deliveries of arms and aid are helping Assad's pursuit of a military solution over a political end to the civil war.

    "It is very clear that Bashar al-Assad is continuing to try to win this in the battlefield rather than to come to the negotiating table in good faith," he said.

    Michael O'Hanlon, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution agreed with Kerry's assessment during an interview with al-Hurra on Monday.

    "Assad sees no need to compromise. And his sponsors -- Russia, Iran, Hezbollah -- are playing very seriously in this game," he said. "Whereas the supporters of the opposition are playing with one hand tied behind their back. "

    VOA correspondent Scott Stearns, who is traveling with Kerry, said the secretary wants the international community to use a break in the talks to figure out how best to pursue a political solution.

    "He said the United States still believes that there is no military solution to the war in Syria, but it’s his opinion that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is pursuing just that, a military solution, a military solution in the opinion of the United States that’s aided by Iran, Hezbollah and Russia.  He said Russia needs to stop being part of the problem and play a more active role in being a part of the political solution," Stearns said.

    Russia has been both an ally of Assad and, along with the United States, a lead player in bringing the Syrian sides together for the peace talks.  Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said his government is working with Syrian officials daily, and that more of Syria's problems are being caused by terrorists and extremists.

    On Sunday, Kerry said in a statement that all parties involved in the peace talks knew they would be difficult, but that "obstruction" by the Assad government is making the process even harder.  He also praised Syrian opposition groups, saying they have presented a "viable and well-reasoned roadmap" for a transitional government in Syria.

    Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem cast blame at the United States, saying it worked to create a negative climate at the negotiations in Geneva.

    O'Hanlon stopped short of blaming the U.S., but said the attitude had to change in the West.

    "Until Washington and other capitals get more serious about helping the opposition, there is no realistic hope for peace," he said.

    The second round of peace talks ended Saturday with no agreement.  A third round of negotiations has not been scheduled.

    Also Sunday, the United Nations said it was not able distribute food aid for a ninth consecutive day at the Yarmouk refugee camp in Damascus, which is home to thousands of Palestinians who have been there since before the Syrian civil war began.

    U.N. spokesman Chris Gunness called on authorities and all parties to allow food, medicine and other humanitarian aid to be distributed, saying it is "a matter of the greatest urgency."

    Kerry is traveling Monday to Abu Dhabi, where the Syrian crisis will be part of his meetings with officials.

    "As you know, the Gulf states have largely pushed for a more active military presence in support of the opponents of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad," Scott Stearns said. "There’s been some disagreement among some Gulf allies of the United States who feel that Washington has not done enough militarily to actively support the Syrian opposition."

    The secretary's talks in Abu Dhabi will also include the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and Iran's nuclear program.

    You May Like

    Top US General: Turkish Media Report ‘Absurd'

    General Dunford rejects ‘irresponsible' claims of coup involvement by former four-star Army General Campbell, who led NATO forces in Afghanistan before retiring earlier this year

    Video Saving Ethiopian Children Thought to Be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at efforts of one African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children

    Protests Over Western Troops Threaten Libyan 'Unity' Government

    Fears mount that Islamist foes of ‘unity' government plan to declare a revolutionaries' council in Tripoli

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunitiesi
    X
    VOA News
    July 25, 2016 5:09 PM
    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Four Brother Goats Arrive in Brooklyn on a Mission

    While it's unusual to see farm animals in cities, it's become familiar for residents of Brooklyn, New York, to see a little herd of goats. Unlike gas-powered mowing equipment, goats remove invasive weeds quietly and without adding more pollution to the air. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this is a pilot program and if it proves to be successful, the goat gardener program will be extended to other areas of New York. Faith Lapidus narrates.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora