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

Monday, January 4, 2016

The New Yorker

Iran and Saudi Arabia: The Showdown
By Robin Wright

The rule of thumb in the Middle East is that diplomacy often—too often—makes progress only to be overtaken by unforeseen violence on the ground. It’s happening again. Tensions between the Islamic world’s rival powers—the Sunni monarchy of Saudi Arabia and the Shiite theocracy in Iran—that erupted over the New Year’s weekend now jeopardize a string of fragile peace initiatives: Peace talks on Syria (the political complement to the military campaign against the Islamic State) are set to begin January 25th. The Iran nuclear deal was expected to be implemented this month. Iraq is trying to consolidate its first military and political gains against ISIS, which were achieved last month. And a three-week ceasefire in Yemen’s ruthless civil war collapsed on January 2nd, endangering a second round of peace talks scheduled for this month. These initiatives are essential to the international effort to reconstruct the disintegrating map of the Middle East.
       Saudi Arabia and Iran—and their allies—are pivotal players in each flashpoint. Both countries have to make concessions for diplomacy to succeed anywhere. But, on January 3rd, Riyadh abruptly severed diplomatic relations with Tehran.
Read on:
http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/iran-and-saudi-arabia-the-showdown-between-islams-rival-powers?intcid=mod-latest

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The New Yorker

My Tour of Cranky Old Revolutions

The first thing that struck me during a trip to Cuba this month was how much it reminds me of Iran. Despite divergent ideologies—one Communist, the other Islamic—the aging revolutions emit the same cranky melancholia. Rhetoric is still defiant, but public zealotry has atrophied. The graffiti of rebellion, once vibrant, has faded.

In Old Havana, only part of a popular street painting of Che Guevara, with his long locks and trademark beret, has survived the years; his washed-out mouth and mustache have been filled in with a Sharpie. In Tehran, billboards of the early turbaned revolutionaries are so dull, from the sun and the decades, that they seem ghost-like.
Read on....

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The New Yorker

How the Arab Spring Became the Arab Cataclysm
By Robin Wright 
Five years ago, Mohamed Bouazizi, a Tunisian street vender with black curls, deep brown eyes, and chin fuzz, refused to pay a seven-dollar bribe, yet again, to a government inspector. For a man who supported his mother, five younger siblings, and an ailing uncle, seven dollars was a full day’s income—on a good day. It was the start of the epic convulsion known as the Arab Spring.
“It’s the same kind of humiliation that takes place every day in many parts of the world—the relentless tyranny of governments that deny their citizens dignity,” President Obama said in a speech about the events some months later. “Only this time something different happened. After local officials refused to hear his complaints, this young man, who had never been particularly active in politics, went to the headquarters of the provincial government, doused himself in fuel, and lit himself on fire.” Bouazizi died two and a half weeks later. Spontaneous protests erupted in sympathy, and soon spread across the region, directed against other autocrats.

Over the next fourteen months, the heads of state in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and Yemen—who had ruled for a collective hundred and seventeen years—were ousted. The President of Syria went to war with his own people to survive. “The story of this revolution, and the ones that followed, should not have come as a surprise,” Obama declared.

Five years later, the costs and consequences of the uprisings have stunned the world. “Perhaps we in the international community, and the people on the ground, were na├»ve and misled by how easy the Tunisians made it seem,” Sarah Leah Whitson, the executive director of Human Rights Watch, told me this week. “The Egyptians, too, got rid of a dictator. But we underestimated the forces against democracy and rights—and the way in which other forces of repression and destruction were able to fill the vacuums that the uprisings created.”
Read on....

http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/arab-spring-became-arab-cataclysm

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Foreign Policy

The Iran Deal Wasn't Revolutionary
By Robin Wright

Those clarion pivots — Nelson Mandela’s walk to freedom or the fall of the Berlin Wall — are enchanting. It’s tempting simply to credit a visionary leader, the human spirit, or a historical trajectory. Change, however, is often foggier. It takes a convergence of causes also selfish, crudely commercial, strategically pragmatic, and more reactive than altruistic. In apartheid South Africa and the communist states of Eastern Europe, isolating societies and economies indefinitely proved too expensive, too impractical, too unsustainable. After a war that killed millions of people, Washington and Hanoi restored relations over the economic lures of new Asian markets for America and of foreign investment for Vietnam. Despite enduring ideological differences, they also shared a common fear of a rising China.

This year, Iran illustrates the density of change. For almost two generations — through six American presidencies — relations between the United States and Iran have been toxic. Revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini warned against “Westoxication,” or infection by foreign culture and political ideas. In 1979, he praised the Iranian students who seized the U.S. Embassy in Tehran (to the students’ surprise, prolonging the crisis) after Washington agreed to take in the ailing shah. Khomeini pronounced, “America is the Great Satan, the wounded snake” — a label that stuck. Final negotiations to free the 52 diplomats were so tortured that American and Iranian envoys wouldn’t meet in the same country, much less the same room.


Yet this July 14, top U.S. and Iranian diplomats shook hands to seal a deal to check Iran’s ability to make a nuclear bomb. Over 20 months of talks, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif spent more time with each other than with any other foreign leader. Relationships bloomed across their staffs. After 36 years — almost twice as long as it took for the United States and Vietnam to restore relations — minds had changed: This August, 76 percent of Iranians surveyed said they approved of the deal with the Great Satan.

The United States likes to claim credit for forcing Iran to the negotiating table under the most punitive international sanctions ever imposed on any country. Many other factors intersected, however, to produce conditions conducive to real diplomacy. It was a long slog to cooperation — and one that’s far from over. Change can be change without being a pivot.

This is my essay on "the fog of change." Read on.....

http://2015globalthinkers.foreignpolicy.com/?utm_content=bufferdbbc2&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer#!decision-makers/detail/iran-deal-wasnt-revolutionary