Embroiled: President Obama ordered air strikes in Iraq this week; missiles were loaded on fighter jets aboard a US aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf. Photograph: Hamad I Mohammed/Reuters

In October 2002, while still a state senator in Illinois, Barack Obama delivered a speech in which he opposed any US invasion of Iraq, declaring, “(...)

Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, whose group has been helping Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad fight a Sunni Islamist-dominated insurgency, said Islamic State could easily recruit in other areas where its hardline ideology exists. Photograph: Jamal Saidi/Reuters

The leader of Lebanese Shia group Hizbullah described the radical Islamist movement that has seized territory in Iraq and Syria as a growing “monster”(...)

Bashar al-Assad reviews the guard of honour on his arrival at his swearing in ceremony at the presidential palace in Damascus on Wednesday. He was elected for another seven-year term with 88.7 per cent of the vote in an election in June. Photograph: EPA/Sana

Bashar al-Assad has been sworn in for a third term as Syria’s president, defiantly scorning enemies at home and abroad and claiming victory over those(...)

An fighter from the Islamist Syrian rebel group Jabhat al-Nusra  talks on a walkie-talkie on the  frontline in northern Idlib province. Photograph: Hamid Khatib/Reuters

From his base in Damascus, Bashar al-Assad can contemplate a broad sweep of Syria clawed back from rebels who once threatened to drive him out. (...)

People work in a field near Aleppo in Syria. Some 6.5 million Syrians could require emergency rations, the World Food Programme has warned. Photograph: Nour Kelze/Reuters

The World Food Programme has warned that war-torn Syria is facing a drought that could threaten the lives of (...)

A Free Syrian Army trainer addresses  fighters as he conducts a demonstration on how to use anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons at a training camp in the northern countryside of Aleppo, Syria, yesterday. Photograph: Ammar Abdullah/Reuters

At least 150,000 people have been killed in Syria’s three-year civil war, a third of them civilians, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights ha(...)

Syrian president Bashar al-Assad (L) meets an Armenian parliamentary delegation in Damascus earlier this week. Photograph: SANA/Handout via Reuters.

Syrian president Bashar Assad is quietly preparing the ground to hold elections early this summer, even as the Syrian conflict rampages into it(...)

Israeli soldiers on top of a tank, taking positions near the village of Majdal Shams in the Golan Heights, on the Israeli-Syrian border yesterday. Photograph: EPA/Atef Safadi

Syria has warned that Israeli air strikes could destabilise the entire Middle East after attacks inside Syria yesterday left a soldier dead and sev(...)

An Israeli soldier stands beside a mobile artillery unit near the town of Katzrin in the Golan Heights. Israel launched air strikes today against Syrian military sites in response to a roadside bombing that wounded four of its soldiers. Photograph: Ronen Zvulun/Reuters.

Israel has today launched air strikes against Syrian military sites in response to a roadside bombing that wounded four of its soldiers, but (...)

Refugees leave Syria at the border checkpoint in Dahuk, Iraq, in August 2013. Nearly half of all Syrians have been driven from their homes by the civil war and international observers fear there the conflict will only get worse. Photograph: Lynsey Addario/The New York Times

Day after day, the Syrian civil war has ground down a cultural and political centre of the Middle East, turning it into a stage for disaster and cr(...)