Sunday, June 12, 2016

The New Yorker

American Muslims in Mourning
By Robin Wright  June 12, 2016

Hena Khan, the author of best-selling children’s books, thought Muhammad Ali’s funeral on Friday was going to be a turning point for American Muslins. “Ali spent his life trying to show the real Islam—battling Islamophobia even as he battled Parkinson’s disease. That’s what was highlighted after he died,” she told me this weekend. “It was nice to feel proud—and to see people saying ‘Allahu Akbar’ interpreted in a positive way.”

On Saturday, Khan was herself honored for the publication of “It’s Ramadan, Curious George,” a groundbreaking new book that also tries to span the cultural chasm for a new generation. The Diyanet Center of America packed its auditorium with kids and their parents to hear Khan read from her book. In this latest spin-off, the mischievous simian learns from his friend Kareem about the sacred Muslim month of fasting, good deeds, contemplation, and evening feasts. 

At the end of Khan’s reading, a teen-ager dressed as Curious George raced down the aisles, onto the stage, and fist-bumped Khan. The kids went wild. “It was a weekend of hope and feeling inspired,” Khan told me. “It was a time of reaffirmation,” especially during the first week of Ramadan.

On Sunday, Khan woke up and, as is her habit, checked the news on her cell phone before waking her family. It was consumed with the killings at Pulse, the gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida. “First it was twenty people, then fifty,” she told me. “I thought, Not another shooting! When is this going to stop? This is insanity.

“Then I saw the name,” Khan said, her voice choking back sobs. Read on...

http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/the-orlando-shootings-and-american-muslims

Friday, May 20, 2016

The New Yorker

Presidential Swag and the Gift Horse
Robin Wright  May 20, 2016
In 1862, Abraham Lincoln wrote to King Mongkut, of Siam (the “King and I” king), to gently reject his gift of “a supply of elephants” with which to populate America’s forests.“ This Government would not hesitate to avail itself of so generous an offer if the object were one which could be made practically useful,” Lincoln wrote. “Our political jurisdiction, however, does not reach a latitude so low as to favor the multiplication of the elephant, and steam on land, as well as on water, has been our best and most efficient agent of transportation.”

Lincoln could not legally accept the elephants, in any case. The Founding Fathers were sufficiently concerned about foreign corruption of their young democracy that they enshrined a ban, in Article I of the Constitution, on U.S. officials accepting “any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.” George H.W. Bush faced a similar dilemma when the President of Indonesia with a flesh-eating Komodo dragon. The present—not a good match for Millie, the First Dog—ended up at the Cincinnati Zoo, where he more than thirty little Komodo dragons. 

For President Obama, the most famous gift was to the youngest recipient. Read on....



Thursday, May 12, 2016

The New Yorker

What the Pope Saw at Hiroshima
By Robin Wright  May 12, 2016

A charred tricycle, its rubber pedals melted away, is one of the most evocative relics of war in Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Museum. It belonged to three-year-old Shinichi Tetsutani, who was riding it when an American B-29 dropped a nine thousand-pound over the city, on August 6, 1945. Shinichi’s father found his son, barely alive, still grasping the handlebars under the rubble. He died a few hours later. Because Shinichi had loved that tricycle, his father decided to bury it with him—so that his son would not be lonely—in the back yard, where his son would still be close. Before the attack, the Americans had given the bomb a nickname—Little Boy. Four decades later, Shinichi’s father had his son’s remains exhumed for formal reburial in a cemetery. He donated the unearthed tricycle to the museum.

On May 27th, President Obama is scheduled to become the first sitting President to visit Hiroshima’s war memorial.  The fanfare around Obama’s visit has revived the tormented debate about the Second World War’s concluding acts—the merits and morality of America’s decision to drop the first nuclear bombs, in order to force Japan to surrender and avoid a ground war on the Japanese mainland. Everyone agrees that the bombings wreaked an enormous toll on humankind. The bigger, and more pressing, question is whether Obama’s trip will change anyone’s thinking about future use of the bomb. Read on...

Monday, May 9, 2016

The New Yorker

Iran's Grim News From Syria 
By Robin Wright
Iran is taking increasingly heavy casualties in Syria. A statement from the Revolutionary Guards announced on Saturday that thirteen of the corps’ élite forces were “martyred” in the escalating battle near Aleppo, Syria’s largest city, which has become the front line in the five-year civil war. Another twenty-one Iranians were wounded. It is, for Iran, the largest single casualty toll since the country intervened to rescue the regime of President Bashar al-Assad. The fighting took place in Khan Touman, a village nine miles south of Aleppo. There’s no hiding the human costs in a war that is being played out graphically on social media. Syrian rebels immediately posted grisly photographs and videos of a pile of corpses dressed in camouflage, as well as photos of wallets with Iranian documents, identity cards, and currency.



Saturday, April 30, 2016

The New Yorker

How the Curse of Sykes-Picot
Still Haunts the Middle East 
By Robin Wright
In the Middle East, few men are pilloried these days as much as Sir Mark Sykes and François Georges-Picot. Sykes, a British diplomat, travelled the same turf as T. E. Lawrence (of Arabia), served in the Boer War, inherited a baronetcy, and won a Conservative seat in Parliament. He died young, at thirty-nine, during the 1919 flu epidemic. Picot was a French lawyer and diplomat who led a long but obscure life, mainly in backwater posts, until his death, in 1950. But the two men live on in the secret agreement they were assigned to draft, during the First World War, to divide the Ottoman Empire’s vast land mass into British and French spheres of influence. The Sykes-Picot Agreement launched a nine-year process—and other deals, declarations, and treaties—that created the modern Middle East states out of the Ottoman carcass. The new borders ultimately bore little resemblance to the original Sykes-Picot map, but their map is still viewed as the root cause of much that has happened ever since.
May 16th will mark the agreement’s hundredth anniversary, amid questions over whether its borders can survive the region’s current furies. “The system in place for the past one hundred years has collapsed,” Barham Salih, a former deputy prime minister of Iraq, declared at the Sulaimani Forum,  in Iraqi Kurdistan, in March. “It’s not clear what new system will take its place."
Read on....
http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/how-the-curse-of-sykes-picot-still-haunts-the-middle-east

Monday, April 25, 2016

The New Yorker

Zarif on Fraying Nuclear Deal, 
U.S. Relations & Holocaust Cartoons
By Robin Wright 
Three months after Iran dismantled large parts of its nuclear program, in compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action—the international nuclear deal—the country’s Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, declared last week in New York that the United States is falling seriously short of its commitments. Iran’s Central Bank chief, Valiollah Seif, delivered a similar message during his first meeting with Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, on April 14th, and he told the Council on Foreign Relations, “Nothing has happened.” In an interview, Zarif discussed sticking points in relations between Washington and Tehran. 
Read on....
http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/irans-javad-zarif-on-the-fraying-nuclear-deal-u-s-relations-and-holocaust-cartoons





Thursday, April 14, 2016

The New Yorker

Iran's Daring Dissident Cleric
Pleads to be Put on Trial
By Robin Wright 

     In a melancholy yet defiant open letter, from one revolutionary to another, Mehdi Karroubi pleaded over the weekend to be put on trial in Iran. His dissent could no longer be silenced, he wrote in his letter to President Hassan Rouhani, a former colleague, and he declared, “We must stand up against the idea of a regime with one single voice, made so through monopolizing an unaccountable power.”
     But a trial could also mean the death sentence for a man who was twice a presidential candidate and who served for eight years as Speaker of Parliament. A man who was jailed nine times under the shah is now viewed as a "seditionist" by his own revolution.

Read on...





Wednesday, April 6, 2016

The New Yorker

The Pigeon Boy
And Other Fugitives from ISIS
By Robin Wright 
Mohammed Hussein, a six-year-old Iraqi boy, was born with a condition known as glanular hypospadias, in which the opening for the urethra is not in its usual place at the tip of the penis. When his father, Saad Hussein, pulled the child’s trousers down to show me, his mother and five sisters seemed unsurprised. Need had long ago superseded modesty. We were clustered together on the floor of a small tent in Baharka, a camp outside Erbil, in northern Iraq, for people who have fled ISIS but who haven’t left the country. The family has been quartered there for almost two years.

The camp holds some four thousand Internally Displaced People (I.D.P.s), as they’re officially known. Legally, they aren’t refugees—they remain in their home country—but they are often worse off than refugees, who can hope for aid from the countries that take them in, or from the international community. I.D.P.s remain at the mercy of governments at war, receiving limited aid and enduring all the inherent dangers of war zones.
“Access to safety without delay is the major problem faced by I.D.P.s in Iraq, due to constantly shifting warfronts and the need for security screening to prevent infiltration by ISIS,” Bruno Geddo, the representative in Iraq of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, told me. “A related problem is restrictions to freedom of movement and family separation on security grounds.” I.D.P.s are frequently limited in where they are allowed to go; sometimes, they aren’t even allowed to leave the camps. The displaced often become the forgotten people.
Read on....
http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/the-pigeon-boy-and-other-forgotten-fugitives-from-isis

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The New Yorker

On the American Front Line Against ISIS
By Robin Wright 
America’s front line facing the Islamic State is more than two thousand miles from Brussels, as the crow flies, and then another ninety minutes by country road from the Kurdish capital of Erbil, in northern Iraq. The trip to Camp Swift, in Makhmour, the forward U.S. base, can be deceptively pastoral. I was slowed by a flock of sheep and goats crossing the road to a grassy plain sprinkled with budding yellow wildflowers. A curly-haired eighteen-year-old sheepherder, Mustafa Maghdid, picked up a young lamb to show me. A woolly white ram played at his feet. Millions of Iraqis fled as ISIS blitzed through the north, in 2014, but a determined few have been reluctant to surrender their herds or small farms. Tales of ISIS’s plunder are rampant. There is little left, according to the war grapevine, for those who may one day want to return.

The farming district of Makhmour is also one of the areas where ISIS has used primitive but deadly forms of chemical weapons—mustard gas and chlorine—since last August, most recently last month. It’s also the place where a Marine was killed this month by ISIS rocket fire. He was the second American killed since the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, in 2011. He was deployed just 15 minutes from the border of the Islamic State's caliphate. 

Read on....

http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/on-the-american-front-line-against-isis

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

The New Yorker

The Bride Wore Green
What a Wedding Says about Iran's Future
By Robin Wright 
Wearing a flowing green gown and a string of pearls that hung, flapper-style, below her waist, Narges Mousavi was married Friday, in Tehran. The bride, a painter, was born into the revolutionary élite. Her father, Mir-Hossein Mousavi, was Iran’s Prime Minister for eight years. In the eighties, he led the new Islamic Republic through a grisly eight-year war with Iraq at a time when the world sided largely with Saddam Hussein, and in 2009 he ran for the Presidency. The bride’s mother is Zahra Rahnavard, a sculptor and the Islamic Republic’s first female university chancellor. During her husband’s campaign, the Iranian media compared Rahnavard’s lively appearances to Michelle Obama’s.
Neither of Mousavi’s parents attended the wedding. For the past five years, they have been under house arrest for their role in the Green Movement protests that challenged the 2009 election results. They have never been charged, never tried—just isolated. Narges, the youngest of their three daughters, can see her parents only when she receives a call telling her to visit. Visits are limited to an hour.
Read on...



Friday, March 4, 2016

The New Yorker

Will the US Olympic Flag-Bearer Be Wearing Hijab? 
By Robin Wright 
This is one of my favorite stories in years. Ibtihaj Muhammad--or Ibti to her friends--has defied discrimination as both an African-American and a Muslim to become an Olympian at this summer's games in Rio. She will be the first ever American competing in any sport in hijab. Her story is so compelling--defiantly braving all the odds to rise to excellence--that I'm betting she carries the flag for Team USA. In a speech on February 3, Obama dared her to bring home the gold. 
Read on...
http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/will-americas-olympic-flag-bearer-be-wearing-a-hijab?intcid=mod-latest


Thursday, March 3, 2016

The New Yorker

Is ISIS Finally Hurting? 
By Robin Wright 

For the first time since its blitz across Syria and Iraq, in 2014, the Islamic State is on the defensive in both countries. Its caliphate is shrinking. Its numbers are down. It hasn’t launched a new offensive since May, 2015. The new U.S. Expeditionary Targeting Force in Iraq—led by some 50 Delta Force commandos—has scored the first capture of a key ISIS operative. Yet ISIS has become a global phenomenon over the past year, attracting pledges of fealty from extremist groups on three continents. It remains the world’s wealthiest terrorist organization, and the first to create its own state, from large swaths of both Iraq and Syria, with a capital in the Syrian city of Raqqa. Here's a full status report--from the US vantage point. I saw down with the President's Special Envoy to counter ISIS to get his assessment. Read on....
http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/is-the-islamic-state-hurting-the-presidents-point-man-on-isis-speaks-out?

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

The New Yorker

 Iran's Election Message to Hardliners
By Robin Wright 
Over the weekend, as Iran's election results showed that long-entrenched hard-liners were losing, a new joke circulated in Tehran: Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif had called Secretary of State John Kerry with an offer: “John, we have just succeeded in defeating our hard-liners. Let us know if you want advice on how to beat Mr. Trump.”
My piece for The New Yorker on Iran's important poll.


Read on....
http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/irans-voters-sent-a-message-to-the-hard-liners?

Thursday, February 25, 2016

The New Yorker

Iran's Technicolor Election 
By Robin  Wright
My piece for The New Yorker on Iran's Technicolor Election. To help voters choose among 6,000 candidates in a (yes, only!) eight-day campaign, new coalitions have selected colors: Turquoise for the Universal Coalition of Reformers. Bright yellow for Grand Coalition of Principlists. Indigo for conservatives. Pity the color blind voter! Lots at stake in this poll, which will pick a new parliament as well as an Assembly of Elections, a rough equivalent  of the College of Cardinals, as it selects the Supreme Leader, the ultimate authority in Iran. 
Read on...
http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/irans-technicolor-elections?intcid=mod-latest

Monday, February 22, 2016

A Ceasefire in Syria? 
By Robin Wright 
My New Yorker piece on prospects for the new ceasefire in Syria--and the daunting odds against it. Trust the Russians? (Really? Remember Ukraine.) Trust the Syrian regime to comply? (No brainer.) And then there's the nasty little fact that ISIS is not part of the deal. (The beheaders.)
And yet, after at least 250,000 dead, 4 million refugees and 13.5 million dependent on humanitarian aid for daily survival, there's nothing else visible. Read on...

http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/a-ceasefire-in-syria?intcid=mod-latest