Mike Shuster

Mike Shuster is an award-winning diplomatic correspondent and roving foreign correspondent for NPR News. He is based at NPR West, in Culver City, CA. When not traveling outside the U.S., Shuster covers issues of nuclear non-proliferation and weapons of mass destruction, terrorism, and the Pacific Rim.

In recent years, Shuster has helped shape NPR’s extensive coverage of the Middle East as one of the leading reporters to cover this region – traveling in the spring of 2007 to Iraq to cover the increased deployment of American forces in Baghdad. He has traveled frequently to Iran – seven times since 2004 – to report on Iran's nuclear program and political changes there. He has also reported frequently from Israel, covering the 2006 war with Hezbollah, the pullout from Gaza in 2005 and the second intifada that erupted in 2000. His 2007 week-long series "The Partisans of Ali" explored the history of Shi'ite faith and politics, providing a rare, comprehensive look at the complexities of the Islamic religion and its impact on the Western world.

Shuster has won numerous awards for his reporting. He was part of the NPR News team to be recognized with a Peabody Award for coverage of September 11th and its aftermath. He was also part of the NPR News teams to receive Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Awards for coverage of the Iraq War (2007 and 2004); September 11th and the war in Afghanistan (2003); and the Gulf War (1992). In 2003, Shuster was honored for his series "The Middle East: A Century of Conflict" with an Overseas Press Club Lowell Thomas Award and First in Documentary Reporting from the National Headliner Awards. He also received an honorable mention from the Overseas Press Club in 1999, and the SAJA Journalism Award in 1998.

Through his reporting for NPR, Shuster has also taken listeners to India and Pakistan, the Central Asian nations of Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and Tajikistan, and the Congo. He was NPR's senior Moscow correspondent in the early 1990s, when he covered the collapse of the Soviet Union and a wide range of political, economic, and social issues in Russia and the other independent states of the former Soviet Union.

From September 1989 to June 1991, Shuster was stationed in England as senior editor of NPR's London Bureau. For two months in early 1991, he was assigned to Saudi Arabia to cover the Gulf War. While at the London Bureau, Shuster also covered the unification of Germany, from the announcement of the opening of the Berlin Wall to the establishment of a single currency for that country. He traveled to Germany monthly during this time to trace the revolution there, from euphoria over the freedom to travel, to the decline of the Communist Party, to the newly independent country's first free elections.

Before moving to London, Shuster worked as a reporter and bureau chief at NPR New York, and an editor of Weekend All Things Considered. He joined NPR in 1980 as a freelance reporter covering business and the economy.

Prior to coming to NPR, Shuster was a United Nations correspondent for Pacifica News Service, during which he covered the 1980 election of Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe. He traveled throughout Africa as a freelance foreign affairs reporter in 1970 and again in 1976; on this latter trip, Shuster spent five months covering Angolan civil war and its aftermath.

Iran is stockpiling gold. That's the way David Cohen sees it. He's undersecretary of the Treasury, and the Treasury's point man for the banking sanctions the U.S. has imposed on Iran.

"Iran is attempting to hoard gold, both by acquiring it and by preventing the export of gold from Iran, in a somewhat desperate attempt to try and defend the value of its currency," Cohen says.

Iran is hurting. Economic and banking sanctions, plus an effective oil embargo led by the European Union, have brought chaos to Iran's economy. The bottom fell out of its currency, the rial, a couple of weeks ago, provoking street protests. Iranians of all social classes are struggling to cope.

Large crowds of anxious Iranians gathered in Tehran on Sunday and Monday at foreign exchange offices — some of which had shuttered their doors — as Iran's currency continues its free fall.

From Sunday to Monday, the rial lost nearly one-third of its value against the dollar — and the decline appears to have continued Tuesday.

Yukiya Amano is frustrated.

Last week, Amano, the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, told a meeting of the agency in Vienna that he is aggravated by Iran's unwillingness to show the IAEA what's going on at a base called Parchin.

"Iran should engage with us without further delay on the substance of our concerns," he said. "We need to stop going around in circles, discussing process."

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Talks with Iran on its controversial nuclear program are set to intensify in the coming days. Tomorrow in Vienna, authorities from the International Atomic Energy Agency meet again with Iranian representatives. They'll discuss some past suspicious nuclear activities. Next week, other talks involving the United States, Europe, Russia and China are set to resume.

Iran appears to be facing a crisis more serious than anything it has experienced since its war with Iraq in the 1980s.

Diplomatically, President Bashar Assad's regime is under threat from the widening war in Syria, Iran's sole ally in the Arab world. Domestically, the European oil embargo and U.S. banking sanctions are undermining the Iranian economy, bringing inflation, food shortages and unemployment.

Iran is trying to maintain a defiant posture, without much success.

Bagpipes and Scotland? Aye, it's a natural association: Played for centuries, the instrument is especially identified with the Scottish military and traditional Scottish dress, tartan kilts and shawls.

But bagpipes and Pakistan? Nae, you say? Think again.

Turns out no place in the world manufactures more bagpipes than Pakistan. And no city in Pakistan makes more of them than Sialkot.

Bagpipe Central

An ongoing political crisis has left Pakistan's government paralyzed and near collapse, as the country's Supreme Court attempts to revive corruption charges against the president in an apparent effort to force his resignation.

Accusations of corruption have always clouded the reputation of President Asif Ali Zardari, the widower of slain Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.

Some time ago, the government of Switzerland opened an investigation into Zardari's financial dealings, but the case was closed with no action taken.

Earlier this month, 25-year-old Farida Afridi, who ran an organization that provides information for women about their rights, was gunned down in the street, near the city of Peshawar in northwest Pakistan. No one has been arrested for this killing. In all likelihood no one will be.

On July 4, Afridi was leaving her home to go to her office in Peshawar. What happened next shocked the local community, says Zar Ali Khan, who heads a consortium of activist groups in Peshawar.

A U.S. operation in the mountains near Afghanistan last November killed 24 Pakistani soldiers. Pakistan wanted an apology. The U.S. refused. In response, Pakistan shut down supply routes to Afghanistan for NATO convoys.

After intense talks, two border crossings were reopened last week to convoys for the U.S. and NATO forces.

Pakistan's ambassador in Washington, Sherry Rehman, was at the center of the negotiations. Afterward she called it a moment of great opportunity for the two countries.

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Pakistan and the United States have reached agreement to reopen the strategic land supply routes from Pakistan into Afghanistan. Pakistan closed those routes last November after a U.S. attack left 24 Pakistani soldiers dead. Pakistan had wanted a formal apology from the U.S. but the administration refused because it believed American troops had come under fire first from the Pakistani side. But yesterday, Secretary of State Clinton made comments that finally broke the logjam.

NPR's Mike Shuster has more from Islamabad.

It's been an article of faith for nearly a decade that Iran's supreme leader issued a fatwa — a religious edict — that nuclear weapons are a sin and Iran has no intention of acquiring them.

President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently made references to this religious commitment from Iran's leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

On July 1, the European Union says it will stop buying oil from Iran. Europe is one of the most important markets for Iran's oil, and in anticipation of the boycott, Iranian oil exports worldwide are already down by more than 25 percent.

Iran's leaders say they can weather this pressure, and so far they have refused to budge on their controversial nuclear activities, ones that prompted a series of economic sanctions.

As a result, it appears as if Iran will only face even greater difficulties when it comes to exporting oil, the lifeblood of its economy.

Russia is still the world's largest producer of oil and gas, but growth has stalled and to get to new supplies requires going to a very difficult place — the Arctic.

"If you want to be in this business in 2020, 2025, you must think about the Arctic," says Konstantin Simonov, head of the National Energy Security Fund in Moscow.

The Russian government is about to put a dead man on trial.

Sergei Magnitsky was a tax lawyer for the investment fund Hermitage Capital, at one time the largest foreign investment firm in Russia.

In 2007, Hermitage Capital was seized by the Russian tax police, and through a number of shady maneuvers, they extracted more than $230 million in illegal tax refunds for themselves.

Magnitsky decided to investigate, angering those who had stolen the company. They had him arrested, and he died in prison in 2009.

Vladimir Putin is once again the president of Russia.

Putin, who held the job from 2000 to 2008, spent the past four years as prime minister because the Russian Constitution prohibits a third consecutive term.

So his hand-picked successor, Dmitry Medvedev, held the office for the past four years. Now they are switching places, with Putin returning as president and Medvedev tapped to be the prime minister.

On Monday, Vladimir Putin will again become president of Russia. When he is inaugurated in the Kremlin, it will be for a third term, even though the Russian constitution limits presidents to two four-year terms.

The restriction, however, is for two consecutive terms. It doesn't rule out a third term if someone else holds the presidency in the interim. That's exactly what Dmitri Medvedev did. He was elected president after Putin, but declined a run for a second term.

This political swap succeeded, but Putin will be leading a different Russia after his re-inauguration.

As North Korea reaches the final stage of preparations for a long-range rocket launch, concern is growing that it is in the early stages of preparing its underground test site for another nuclear explosion.

Pyongyang established the pattern three years ago when it tested a similar rocket and then followed it a month later with a nuclear test.

This time around, there may be a more urgent need to test a nuclear device. The bomb is very likely the result of a significant expansion of North Korea's nuclear weapons program.

Recent developments in North Korea are puzzling watchers of the "Hermit Kingdom" in both the U.S. and South Korea.

There are some signs of change within the new leadership in North Korea — and there are signs of resistance to change as well.

When he was in Seoul, South Korea, last week, President Obama said he didn't know who is calling the shots in Pyongyang, which is making it difficult to determine what's next for North Korea.

More than 50 international leaders wrapped up talks Tuesday in Seoul, South Korea, on what needs to be done to secure vulnerable stockpiles of plutonium and highly enriched uranium. President Obama hosted the first such summit two years ago. He praised the achievements since then, but said much more needs to be done.

President Obama came to South Korea to talk about global nuclear security with world leaders, but found himself trying to build a unified front against North Korea's planned rocket launch next month.

Obama and South Korean President Lee Myung-bak strenuously warned North Korea not to go ahead with the launch. In a speech Monday at the summit in Seoul, Obama used some of the toughest language he has ever used addressed to the leaders of North Korea.

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North Korea agreed, last month, to freeze uranium enrichment and missile tests in exchange for large amounts of food aid from the United States. American officials thought they had an understanding, but then last week North Korea announced it would be launching a satellite using a long-range missile. As NPR's Mike Shuster reports from Seoul, all this is now threatening to overshadow next week's global nuclear security summit in Seoul, which President Obama is planning to attend.

No nation has been sanctioned so frequently, and so thoroughly, as the Islamic Republic of Iran. For more than 30 years, the country has been under some kind of punitive economic measure.

The goal has been to prevent Iran from receiving and using the billions of dollars in oil profits that finance its nuclear program.

But none have been tougher, according to President Obama, than the sanctions his administration has imposed on Iran's banking system.

The troubled relationship between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency doesn't appear to be getting any better.

Back in February, senior agency delegations traveled twice to Iran to clarify its concerns about possible nuclear weapons work.

And on Monday, the head of the IAEA, Yukiya Amano, said Iran is not providing the necessary cooperation that would allow the agency to give credible assurances that Iran's nuclear work is entirely peaceful.

Iran holds parliamentary elections on Friday, the first since the disputed, and many believe fraudulent, presidential election in 2009.

But unlike that presidential poll, candidates seeking to take on the country's conservative rulers will not be taking part Friday; they are mostly under house arrest or have been in prison for years now.

The focus will be on which conservatives end up on top and how many votes are cast.

Iran has unveiled significant developments on two important components of its nuclear program: the centrifuges used to enrich uranium and the uranium used to fuel a research reactor.

The country has made no secret of its work in these areas. But the news on Wednesday suggests that Iran may be making progress in its nuclear program.

Iran also announced that it is cutting off oil sales to several European nations, only to reverse itself hours later.

Here are two things you don't often hear mentioned in the same sentence: social media and nuclear weapons.

Rose Gottemoeller, acting undersecretary of state for arms control, quickly links those two unlikely partners in conversation. She's behind a campaign to discover how new communications tools can help rid the world of some of the dangers of nuclear weapons.

Crowdsourcing Nuclear Problems

Gottemoeller is an avid user of Twitter, and it made her wonder how Twitter and other methods of crowdsourcing a problem can help her in her work.

A senior delegation from the International Atomic Energy Agency visits Iran on Sunday in a renewed attempt to probe aspects of Iran's nuclear program that could be connected to nuclear weapons work.

For years, the IAEA has been trying to get answers to some very uncomfortable questions about Iran's nuclear program.

Iran insists it has only a peaceful, civilian nuclear program, and so far it has refused to discuss evidence that it is engaging in some nuclear weapons work. But international pressure on Tehran is growing.

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