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 Need had long ago superseded modesty.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 √©lite. 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

Saturday, February 13, 2016

The New Yorker

Iran's Revolutionary Grandchildren
By Robin Wright 
My New Yorker piece on the grandchildren of Iran's revolution--and how their fate reflects the tensions within Iran on the anniversary of Ayatollah Khomeini's return from exile to replace the monarchy with a theocracy and on the eve of pivotal elections that will determine Iran's future. 
Read on....

http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/irans-revolutionary-grandchildren?intcid=mod-latest

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The New Yorker

Beastie Boys and Girls:

The New Anthropomorphism
By Robin Wright 
I had so much fun writing this piece!
Turns out it’s perfectly human to imagine ourselves as animals. In Britain, an Oxford don decided to experience life as a badger, slithering on the ground and eating worms. The Furry Movement holds conventions for fur-suited humans whose spirits “align” more with animals. On Twitter, users who tweet as pandas, cobras, cats and other animals have accumulated huge followings. @bronxzooscobra has as many followers on Twitter as Bernie Sanders. Who knew!
The human imagination is utterly amazing.

Read on....
http://www.newyorker.com/books/page-turner/beastie-boys-and-girls-the-new-anthropomorphism


Monday, February 8, 2016

The New Yorker

Female Genital Mutilation--Now 200 million 
By Robin Wright 
My New Yorker piece on a stunning UN finding that it had underestimated the number of little girls whose genitals had been scrapped, pricked or sliced--by 70 million. The new numbers mean that at least two hundred million girls and women across the globe (including thousands in the United States) have gone through "female genital mutilation." The UN reports that the trend is now global, not just in Africa. The UN has declared it an “irreversible human-rights violation.”

http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/female-genital-mutilation-the-numbers-keep-rising

Monday, January 25, 2016

The New Yorker

Iran's Comeback Tour
By Robin Wright
My New Yorker piece on "Iran's Comeback Tour." After four decades as a pariah nation, Tehran is being courted by both East and West. It's one of the fastest turnarounds in history. On his first tour of the Middle East, China's president pledged Saturday to work with Iran to reopen the ancient Silk road trade route, this time with high-speed trains, and generate $600 billion in trade over next decade. On Monday, Iran's president began a European tour that will include buying more than 100 Airbus planes and a visit with Pope Francis. However, the comeback tour may not be a sell-out. Iran still has a revolutionary government with all the uncertainties that entails. Big banks and businesses still nervous.
http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/iran-is-back-in-business?intcid=mod-latest

Sunday, January 17, 2016

The New Yorker

Obama's Secret Second Channel to Iran
By Robin Wright
Fourteen months ago, President Obama authorized a top-secret, second diplomatic channel with Tehran to negotiate freedom for Americans who had disappeared or been imprisoned in Iran. It was a high-risk diplomatic gamble. The initiative grew out of nuclear negotiations, launched in the fall of 2013, between Iran and the world’s six major powers. On the margins of every session, Wendy Sherman, the top American negotiator, pressed her Iranian counterparts about the American cases. The Iranians countered with demands for the release of their citizens imprisoned in the United States for sanctions-busting crimes. More than a year of informal discussions between Sherman and her counterpart, Majid Takht Ravanchi, the Iranian Foreign Ministry official in charge of American and European affairs, led to an agreement, in late 2014, that the issue should be handled separately—but officially—through a second channel. After debate within the Administration, Obama approved the initiative. But it was so tightly held that most of the American team engaged in tortuous negotiation on Iran’s nuclear program were not told about it.
Read on...

http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/prisoner-swap-obamas-secret-second-channel-to-iran

Friday, January 15, 2016

The New Yorker

Washington's Panda Obsession
By Robin Wright
     When I was little, I wanted a panda for my birthday. Last August 22nd, which happened to be my birthday, the National Zoo, in Washington, sent out an alert on e-mail, Twitter, and Facebook: its female panda, the gentle Mei Xiang, had gone into labor. I signed onto the zoo’s Panda Cam just in time to hear an eek-y squeal from the back stall where Mei had built her nest. It was the birth yelp of a baby boy. A four-ounce butter stick, pink-skinned and blind, slipped from his mom’s womb and slid across the floor.  
      There’s something about pandas, the world’s rarest bear, that captivates the famous, turns the powerful into putty, and wins over skeptics. In 1956, Elvis Presley travelled with a huge stuffed panda on a twenty-seven-hour train ride from New York to Memphis. On the first leg, the bear was photographed in its own seat. At night, the photographer Albert Wertheimer later recounted, the bear was strapped into the upper berth in Elvis’ compartment, its legs protruding through the webbing, as Elvis listened to acetates of his recent recordings in the lower berth. The next day, Elvis, not yet a national icon, perched the bear on his hip and used it to flirt with girls as he strolled through a passenger car.
Read on...
http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/washingtons-panda-obsession