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Greg Myre

Greg Myre is a national security correspondent with a focus on counter-terrorism, a topic he has covered in the U.S., the Middle East and in many other countries around the world for more than two decades.

He was previously the international editor for NPR.org, working closely with NPR correspondents around the world and national security reporters in Washington. He heads the Parallels blog and is a frequent contributor to the website on global affairs. Prior to his current position, he was a senior editor at Morning Edition from 2008-2011.

Before joining NPR, Myre was a foreign correspondent for 20 years with The New York Times and The Associated Press.

He was first posted to South Africa in 1987, where he witnessed Nelson Mandela's release from prison and reported on the final years of apartheid. He was assigned to Pakistan in 1993 and often traveled to war-torn Afghanistan. He was one of the first reporters to interview members of an obscure new group calling itself the Taliban.

Myre was also posted to Cyprus and worked throughout the Middle East, including extended trips to Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia. He went to Moscow from 1996 to 1999, covering the early days of Vladimir Putin.

He was based in Jerusalem from 2000-2007, reporting on the heaviest fighting ever between Israelis and the Palestinians.

In his years abroad, he traveled to more than 50 countries and reported on a dozen wars. He and his journalist wife Jennifer Griffin co-wrote a 2011 book on their time in Jerusalem, entitled, This Burning Land: Lessons from the Front Lines of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.

Myre is a scholar at the Middle East Institute in Washington and has appeared as an analyst on CNN, PBS, BBC, C-SPAN, Fox, Al Jazeera and other networks. He's a graduate of Yale University, where he played football and basketball.

Yemen's downward spiral toward civil war is a disaster for the poorest country in the Arab world and adds one more member to the growing list of Middle East states that have imploded in the past several years.

But how important is Yemen to the wider world?

One argument holds that Yemen is, and always has been, an isolated backwater. The chaos is tragic for Yemenis, but remains largely an internal feud between rival groups and will have limited spillover beyond its borders.

During his campaign, Benjamin Netanyahu aggressively opposed the negotiations on Iran's nuclear program, ruled out a Palestinian state on his watch, and argued that Israel would be best served by a government of the right.

If Netanyahu now cobbles together the coalition government he wants, his fourth term as Israel's prime minister could put him on an increasingly confrontational path with the Palestinians, the Obama administration and the international community.

Since first becoming prime minister in 1996, Benjamin Netanyahu has hammered away at Iran's nuclear program, calling it the greatest threat to Israel. Yet Tuesday's speech to Congress, like many before it, sharply criticized the international response to Iran while offering relatively little as an alternative.

A new pan-Arab television channel, Al-Arab, began broadcasting Sunday afternoon from the Gulf nation of Bahrain. By dawn Monday, it was off the air.

"Broadcast stopped for technical and administrative reasons. We will be back soon, inshallah [God willing]," the news channel wrote Monday on its Twitter feed.

Al-Arab's apparent offense was broadcasting an interview with Khalil al-Marzooq, a prominent critic of Bahrain's monarchy.

Even in the best of times, it's hard to tell if anyone is in control of Yemen.

It's a particularly pressing question Tuesday amid reports that Shiite Houthi rebels have seized the presidential palace in the poor, unstable nation at the southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula. Some government officials called it a coup, while the rebels said it wasn't. But there's been no official word on the status of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi.

Plenty of world leaders have condemned the deadly attack on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, and a fair number took part in a rally held Sunday in Paris.

But as is always the case, it's much easier to condemn actions abroad than critically examine one's record at home.

When Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Khomeini issued a 1989 fatwa calling for the killing of British writer Salman Rushdie, many in the West could scarcely believe a literary novel would prompt an international death threat.

We've come a long way since then.

When a 2011 firebombing destroyed the office of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, editor Stephane Charbonnier said the publication would not shy away from taking jabs at radical Islam.

"If we can poke fun at everything in France, if we can talk about anything in France apart from Islam or the consequences of Islamism, that is annoying," Charbonnier said at the time. "This is the first time we have been physically attacked, but we won't let it get to us."

The flood of Syrian refugees has been straining Lebanon for several years, and the Lebanese have now responded by imposing visa restrictions on Syria for the first time ever.

Residents from the neighboring Arab states have traditionally been able to travel back and forth easily despite relations that have often been tumultuous. But more than 1 million Syrian refugees have entered Lebanon since Syria's civil war began in 2011, placing a huge burden on Lebanon, a country of just 4 million people.

Wars raged in the Middle East and beyond. Economic woes stretched across continents. Crashing oil prices boosted some countries and slammed others. World leaders had a lot on their plate this past year. They were responsible for some of their trouble, and some of it just happened to them.

Whether they earned their good fortune or got hammered by bad luck, here's a look at the leaders who fared the best and the worst in 2014, plus a peek at what they can expect next year:

Vladimir Putin's Roller-Coaster Year

Editor's Note: This story was originally published in December 2014 when President Obama announced plans to improve U.S. ties with Cuba. We're republishing it with minor updates following Fidel Castro's death.

Just months after he seized power in Cuba, Fidel Castro visited Washington in April 1959 and received a warm welcome. Castro met Vice President Richard Nixon, placed a wreath at the base of both the Lincoln and Jefferson memorials and was photographed looking up in seeming admiration of both U.S. presidents.

Since his return to the Russian presidency in 2012, Vladimir Putin has been on a tear: He has annexed Crimea, crushed opposition at home and challenged the West at most every turn.

With oil seemingly stable at more than $100 a barrel, the government coffers were full, and Putin received mostly cheers at home and few repercussions abroad for his consistently aggressive approach.

Nazila Fathi covered turbulent events in her native Iran for years as The New York Times correspondent. She learned to navigate the complicated system that tolerates reporting on many topics but can also toss reporters in jail if they step across a line never explicitly defined by the country's Islamic authorities.

Fathi recalls one editor telling her what journalists could do in Iran: "We have the freedom to say whatever we want to say, but we don't know what happens afterwards."

With his coalition government splintering, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has sacked two senior Cabinet ministers, said Parliament should be dissolved and called for early elections.

The Israeli media reported that new elections could be held as early as March.

Netanyahu has been prime minister for the past five years — an extremely long tenure in a country marked by fractious politics and unstable coalition governments. He has more than two years left in his current term before new elections are required in 2017.

The Islamic State isn't the first Middle East extremist group to make a gruesome spectacle of kidnapping and killing Westerners. The first wave came in the 1980s, when Hezbollah in Lebanon seized dozens of Westerners amid an anarchic civil war.

As the U.S. military winds down its role in Afghanistan, the U.S. commander there, Gen. John Campbell, says Afghan forces have improved enough to handle the Taliban forces that are still waging war.

The Afghan military is "the strongest institution in Afghanistan," Campbell told NPR Morning Edition host Steve Inskeep in an interview broadcast on Veterans Day.

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