Alison Meuse

Three years ago, the Islamic State overran large swaths of Iraq and Syria, and soon declared a caliphate that straddled the border between the two countries. Today, the group's physical caliphate is declining — and the group is preparing its base of fighters for a future under siege.

One of the ways it is doing that is through its musical propaganda.

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On his visit last month to Saudi Arabia, President Trump devoted special attention to the U.S. alliance with Bahrain, a major non-NATO ally that is home to the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet.

In the past day, countries including Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and the Maldives have cut ties with Qatar, citing terrorism concerns. The severance in relations affects air transport, trade and — more crucially for the U.S. — efforts to unify Arab allies.

In Lebanon, the LGBT community has made important strides in recent years. A series of court rulings have poked holes in a law that essentially criminalizes homosexuality. This has encouraged activists to push for greater rights.

More than 100 people, including 68 children, were killed in a suicide attack on Saturday in rebel-held northwestern Syria. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the vast majority of the victims were families evacuating from two Shiite villages, Fuaa and Kefraya, long besieged by rebels. They had been promised safe passage out of rebel-held territory, as part of a reciprocal deal to evacuate two besieged pro-rebel towns, Madaya and Zabadani, on the opposite end of the country.

In the early hours of Friday morning, the U.S. struck a Syrian airbase in retaliation for an alleged chemical weapons attack on Tuesday by Syrian government forces in the town of Khan Shaykhun.

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons says it's still establishing the facts behind the deaths of dozens of people. Syrians on the ground have mixed feelings about what the U.S. strikes might mean for their future.

For Syrian activist Samer al-Hussein, Tuesday morning started much like any other.

"We woke up," he says, "as usual, to the sounds of warplanes that barely ever leave the skies of Idlib province."

He got word from fellow opposition activists that new strikes had targeted a nearby town, Khan Shaykhun. The 28-year-old prepared to leave his wife and sons — a toddler and a newborn — and head to the scene.

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