News / Middle East

    Syria Urges International Help in Fighting Islamic State

    A rebel fighter hands a weapon to his fellow fighter as they move inside a building on the frontline in the Damascus suburb of Harasta, Syria, Aug. 24, 2014.
    A rebel fighter hands a weapon to his fellow fighter as they move inside a building on the frontline in the Damascus suburb of Harasta, Syria, Aug. 24, 2014.
    Edward Yeranian

    Following the fall of a major Syrian government air base to Islamic State militants Sunday, Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem is urging the international community to cooperate with his government and demanding that neighboring states stop their alleged support for the jihadist group.

    The veteran Syrian foreign minister made his first major appearance since returning to work after a heart operation several months ago. His tone was conciliatory and he told the Damascus press corps that Syria is seeking international cooperation to combat Islamic State militants.

    "My government is ready to cooperate and coordinate both regionally and internationally to fight terrorism.....if respect is given to Syrian sovereignty and independence, since the Syrian government 'represents the country's sovereignty,'" said al-Moallem.

    Territory within Syria and Iraq, ISIL’s Planned Islamic StateTerritory within Syria and Iraq, ISIL’s Planned Islamic State
    x
    Territory within Syria and Iraq, ISIL’s Planned Islamic State
    Territory within Syria and Iraq, ISIL’s Planned Islamic State

    Moallem went on to argue that Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusrat militants are more dangerous than the Taliban or al-Qaida, which the U.S. and NATO have been fighting in Afghanistan since 2001. He calls it ironic that the United States has been trying to weaken the Syrian government and its military, while claiming to want to fight terrorism.

    Moallem insisted his government would “not accept unilateral U.S.” attacks on Islamic State militants on Syrian soil, but stopped short of saying that Syrian forces would try to shoot down U.S. planes if they enter Syrian air space.  He accused both Qatar and Turkey of supporting the militants.

    The Syrian government plea for cooperation came a day after Islamic State militants captured a long besieged air base near the northern provincial capital of Raqqa. Amateur video showed the militants chanting “Allahu Akbar” and shooting their weapons in the air to celebrate.

    The group posted gruesome photos on the Internet showing members parading the severed heads of government soldiers on pikes inside the city. Its combatants are reported to be close to two other major government air bases outside of Hama and Deir ez Zor.

    Hilal Khashan, who teaches political science at the American University of Beirut, says that the militants' capture of the air base and the West's sudden eagerness to stop Islamic State from spreading farther may help Damascus shed its pariah state image.

    "For months and months, the regime in Damascus has been talking about the fact that they were in the forefront in the fight against global terrorism and the latest advances of ISIS in Iraq and their takeover yesterday of Tabqa air base sends yet another message to the international community that 'we are in one trench against our joint enemy.' So, whether they admit it or not, I believe the West will seek to cooperate with the regime in Damascus, even if discreetly," said Khashan.

    Joshua Landis, who heads the Middle East Studies Department at the University of Oklahoma, however, says he thinks there is “little possibility in Washington of a formal alliance or cooperation of any sort” with the Assad regime.

    He says that “most military experts in Washington are calling for something akin to 'mowing the lawn,' as we just witnessed Israel do to Hamas in Gaza.” He believes that U.S. authorities want to "kill and disrupt IS concentrations and leaders in Syria [but] without partnering with [either the rebels or the Syrian regime].........to take over IS-held territory.”   

    You May Like

    Video Obama Remembers Fallen Troops for Memorial Day

    President urges Americans this holiday weekend to 'take a moment and offer a silent word of prayer or public word of thanks' to country's veterans

    Upsurge of Migratory Traffic Across Sahara From West to North Africa

    A report by the International Organization for Migration finds more than 60,000 migrants have transited through the Agadez region of Niger between February and April

    UN Blocks Access to Journalist Advocacy Group

    United Nations has rejected bid from nonprofit journalist advocacy group that wanted 'consultative status,' ranking that would have given them greater access to UN meetings

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora