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.

The value of Iran's currency — which had been sliding steadily for months — took another plunge this week. Faced with new economic sanctions from the U.S. and Europe, the rial now seems to be in free fall.

But at least part of the dive could be linked to currency manipulation by the government itself in an effort to fund candidates in upcoming elections.

In images posted on the Internet, hundreds of Iranians are seen gathered outside the headquarters of the Bank Melli in Tehran Monday. They wanted to buy dollars, but there were no dollars to be had.

China's premier, Wen Jiabao, was in the Persian Gulf this week talking about oil.

China has become increasingly concerned about all the threats of conflict with Iran in the Persian Gulf, which supplies China with a great deal of its oil.

In fact, China is Iran's biggest customer. But Iran was not a stop on the Chinese itinerary — Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were.

When the current president of South Korea Lee Myung-bak took office four years ago, he turned a cold shoulder to engagement with North Korea. The conservative wing in South Korea opposed improving relations with Pyongyang. But that has proven to be an unpopular policy, and now Lee finds himself in the difficult position of appealing for closer ties in this unpredictable transition period in North Korea. Lee goes to Beijing Monday to seek Chinese backing for this policy shift.

Transcript

LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

The death of Kim Jong Il in North Korea and the rise of his son Kim Jong Un have threatened to undermine the delicate balance of political forces in northeast Asia. It's a complicated part of the world, involving the interests of a still-divided Korean peninsula along with China, the U.S., as well as Japan and Russia. NPR's Mike Shuster has more from Seoul.

It's been only three days since the funeral for North Korean leader Kim Jong Il. In that time, his son, Kim Jung Un, has been elevated to the rank of supreme commander of the North Korean army. Meanwhile, North Korea has issued a series of scathing attacks on the government of South Korea. NPR's Mike Shuster reports it all looks like business as usual.

Perhaps Kim Jong Il's most enduring legacy was to turn North Korea into a nuclear weapons state. The country successfully tested a nuclear bomb underground in 2006, and a second test followed in 2009.

With Kim's death, which was announced Monday, his presumed successor is his son, Kim Jong Un. But little is known about him or his thinking on the country's nuclear program.

It's never easy trying to figure out just what is going on in Iran.

But it has been especially difficult of late — after an explosion that reduced a missile base to rubble, another blast that was heard but not seen, and the mysterious case of the downed American stealth drone.

These events have left a slew of questions and very few answers.

The huge explosion at the missile base outside Tehran on Nov. 12 was heard in the capital, about 30 miles away, and, satellite pictures show, it devastated the base.

The next presidential election in Iran is scheduled for 2013, but doubts are emerging about whether it will actually take place.

A conservative member of Iran's Parliament recently claimed that a secret committee convened by Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has been working on a plan to do away with the office of the presidency.

Meanwhile, the conflict between the supreme leader and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad continues to sharpen.

The disclosure of an alleged Iranian plot to kill the Saudi ambassador in the U.S. is certain to worsen relations between Riyadh and Tehran, despite the baffling and improbable details that have emerged so far.

Relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia have been deteriorating for some years now, however, with growing hostility bubbling just below the surface. In that context, the plot may make more sense than is immediately apparent.

An Iranian who was studying physics in Texas went on trial in Tehran this week on charges related to espionage.

Omid Kokabee, 29, a graduate student at the University of Texas, Austin, went home to Iran to visit his family back in February. When Kokabee failed to return to Austin, his friends discovered he had been jailed and charged in Iran with communicating with a hostile government and taking illegal funds.

His case is only now becoming public knowledge, just a few weeks after Iran released two young Americans accused of espionage and held for more than two years.

With all the recent turmoil in the Middle East, one piece of news that has been overlooked is the revelation that the Obama administration approved the sale of 55 deep earth penetrator bombs to Israel in 2009.

The two-year-old transaction was recently reported by Newsweek. No U.S. officials have talked openly about why the bunker busters were provided to Israel but speculation falls most heavily on a single target.

After Egyptians toppled President Hosni Mubarak in February, many thought that their revolution, driven by peaceful, mass demonstrations, would be duplicated elsewhere in the Middle East with the same powerful results.

All too soon, they saw on their TV screens that would not be the case, as uprisings in Libya and Syria brought bloodshed and slaughter. That led to uncertainty and fear in Egypt, because many agree with activist Hossam al-Hamalawy, who says that Egypt's revolution cannot fully succeed on its own.

Many Egyptians doubted that ex-president Hosni Mubarak would ever appear in court to face the charges against him. But he was in a courtroom Wednesday, lying in a hospital bed that was wheeled into the prisoner's cage. The scene was witnessed by millions of Egyptians as the proceedings were aired live on state television. Mubarak spoke only to deny the charges against him, but for many in Egypt just seeing him in those circumstances was hard to believe.

Less than six months after he was toppled, former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak is scheduled to go on trial Wednesday, and a guilty verdict could bring the death penalty.

Mubarak, who ruled Egypt for 30 years, is charged with multiple crimes that include corruption and ordering the killing of hundreds of protesters while he struggled to put down a popular uprising.

State television will broadcast the proceedings live, a show that is sure to grip the nation. That is, if it begins as scheduled — or at all.

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