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.



Thu January 26, 2012
Middle East

Growing Pressures Prompt Plunge In Iranian Currency

An Iranian man counts banknotes after exchanging a gold coin for cash in Tehran on Monday. Gold coins were being exchanged for over 10 million rials as the Iranian currency continues to lose value against the U.S. dollar.
Atta Kenare AFP/Getty Images

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.

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Sat January 21, 2012

China Hedges Mideast Oil Bets Amid Iran Tensions

Originally published on Sat January 21, 2012 10:35 pm

China appears to be rethinking its reliance on oil from Iran. Here, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao (right) visits with the members of the Saudi Arabia-China Friendship Association on the outskirt of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, earlier this month.
Liu Weibing Xinhua /Landov

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.

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Tue January 10, 2012

South Korea Takes Political Turn To The Left

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.


Fri January 6, 2012

Nations Want Korean Peninsula To Remain Stable

Originally published on Fri January 6, 2012 10:37 am



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.

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Mon December 19, 2011
North Korea In Transition

How Will A New Leader Handle North Korea's Nukes?

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.

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Wed December 14, 2011
Middle East

Mysterious Events Leave Tehran Feeling Under Siege

Originally published on Wed December 14, 2011 7:12 pm

A picture released by the official website of Iran's Revolutionary Guard on Dec. 8 shows Iranian Revolutionary Guard Brig. Gen. Amir-Ali Hajizadeh (right) looking at a U.S. spy drone that crashed in Iran on Dec. 4.
AFP/Getty Images

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.

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Mon November 21, 2011
Middle East

In Iran, Secret Plans To Abolish The Presidency?

Originally published on Mon November 21, 2011 9:27 pm

A power struggle between Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (right) and the country's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (left, in portrait) is growing. There are signs that Khamenei may want to eliminate the presidency and replace it with the less powerful position of prime minister.
Joseph Eid AFP/Getty Images

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.

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Wed November 9, 2011

U.N. Raises Questions On Iran's Nuclear Program

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad unveils a sample of the third generation centrifuge for uranium enrichment during a ceremony in Tehran on April 9, 2010. Iran says its nuclear ambitions are peaceful.
Behrouz Mehri AFP/Getty Images

The International Atomic Energy Agency released its much-anticipated report on Iran's nuclear program, but failed to conclude definitively that the Islamic republic is engaged in a full-scale weapons program.

Still, the U.N. nuclear watchdog's report raised some serious questions about what Iran is really doing in connection with nuclear weapons.

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Sat October 29, 2011
National Security

U.S. Dismantles The Biggest Of Its Cold War Nukes

Originally published on Sun October 30, 2011 1:10 pm

This undated photo provided by the National Nuclear Security Administration shows the last B53 nuclear bomb. It was dismantled this past week, just outside Amarillo, Texas. It's a milestone in efforts to reduce the number of nuclear weapons.

National Nuclear Security Administration AP

This past week, the U.S. dismantled the last of its largest nuclear bombs, the B53.

This was a Dr. Strangelove bomb, conjuring up images of armageddon and apocalypse. At the same time, one of the smallest warheads was also removed from the nuclear arsenal.

These are steps the U.S. is taking apart from its arms control agreements with Russia. And thousands more American nuclear weapons are slated for destruction in a process that could take a decade or more.

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Thu October 27, 2011
Middle East

Iran's Largest Banks Swindled Out Of $2.6 Billion

The banking scandal has political implications in Iran, and the president's top adviser, Rahim Mashaei, has come under criticism. He's shown here in a 2007 photo.

Paul White AP

A bank fraud scandal of unprecedented proportions is shaking domestic politics in Iran.

Several of Iran's largest banks have been swindled out of an estimated $2.6 billion. The scandal has sparked a widening investigation with more than 30 arrests so far. It has also led to charges that some of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's closest advisers were involved.

On its face, it appears it was easy for some of Iran's most important bankers to steal so much money.

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Sat October 15, 2011
Middle East

WikiLeaks Cable Hints At Motive For Alleged Iran Plot

Originally published on Sun October 16, 2011 6:23 am

An alleged Iranian plot to assassinate Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the U.S., Adel al-Jubeir (shown here in 2004), may have been motivated by tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia, but also could underscore an internal power struggle.

Paul J. Richards AFP/Getty Images

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.

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Fri October 7, 2011
Middle East

Iran Charges Student Who Was In the U.S.

Omid Kokabee, an Iranian who was studying physics at the University of Texas, Austin, was arrested when he returned home to Iran for a family visit. He went on trial in Tehran this week on charges related to espionage.

Courtesy of The Daily Texan

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.

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Fri September 30, 2011
Middle East

Sale Of U.S. Bombs To Israel Raises Questions

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.

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Fri August 12, 2011
Middle East

Egyptians See Their Revolution As Mideast Barometer

A protester shouts as Egyptian soldiers stand guard behind barbed wire at the Defense Ministry in Cairo on July 23. Egyptians say their revolution is still not complete, but they believe they are setting the tone for the region.
Mohamed Hossam AFP/Getty Images

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.

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Fri August 12, 2011
Middle East

U.S. Gropes For Coherent Policy In Egypt

Although the U.S. military used its influence to help ease former President Hosni Mubarak out of power, Washington gets very little credit for that. Egyptians of all political stripes distrust the U.S., and want the Americans to stay out of the way of a revolution that they have embraced.


Thu August 4, 2011

Relief, Anger In Egypt As Mubarak Trial Starts

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.


Tue August 2, 2011
Middle East

Egyptians Ready To See Mubarak Put On Trial

Mubarak (shown here in November 2010) is not well enough to be moved to Cairo from his hospital bed in the seaside resort of Sharm el-Sheikh to stand trial, according to his lawyer.
Khaled Desouki Getty Images

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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Wed July 27, 2011
Middle East

Revolutionary Spirit Returns To Egypt's Tahrir Square

Protesters in Cairo's Tahrir Square shout slogans against Egypt's military rulers on Sunday. Six months after political upheaval led President Hosni Mubarak to step down, activists say reform has stalled.
Amr Nabil AP

As the center of the political whirlwind that toppled President Hosni Mubarak earlier this year, Cairo's Tahrir Square became synonymous with revolution in Egypt.

Now, the protesters have returned: Nearly three weeks ago, demonstrators unhappy with the pace of change in Egypt began camping out in the square, hoping to revive the spirit that shook the country six months ago.

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Tue July 26, 2011
NPR Story

Egyptians At Odds Over Military's Role In Government

When the military stepped in and eased the way out for Hosni Mubarak earlier this year, its leaders insisted they only wanted to be a caretaker government, finding the best pathway to civilian and democratic rule. A new electoral law has been promulgated, and it looks like parliamentary elections will be held in November. Some in the military want the army to continue to play the role of safeguard for the new system that is emerging. But others — primarily the young — argue the military cannot be trusted with that kind of power.


Wed July 6, 2011

As Pakistan Expands Nuke Arsenal, U.S. Fears Grow

As Pakistan tries to add to its stockpile of nuclear bombs, domestic terrorists are launching more sophisticated attacks on the country's military bases. Together, those trends are raising fears that terrorists might target Pakistan's widening network of nuclear facilities.

The U.S. relationship with Pakistan is fraught with anxiety and danger, and there is no more perilous element than Pakistan's nuclear weapons.

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Fri June 10, 2011
National Security

Gates Rebukes NATO Members On Libya Mission

Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who leaves office at the end of the month, sharply criticized NATO Friday. He noted that all members of the alliance voted for the Libya mission, but less than half have participated. Just 11 weeks into the mission, the "mightiest military alliance in history" is beginning to run short of munitions, requiring the U.S. once more to make up the difference. The U.S. is "in the midst of a deep economic crisis of our own," he said.

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Mon June 6, 2011
Middle East

Syria Faces Criticism Over 'Secret Nuclear Reactor'

The International Atomic Energy Agency convenes its regular meeting in Vienna Monday, and near the top of its agenda is the case involving a site in Syria that Israel bombed nearly four years ago. The IAEA has issued a report concluding that the site was "very likely" a secret nuclear reactor under construction. Now the agency must decide what to do about Syria's refusal to allow an investigation of what was going on there


Tue May 24, 2011
Middle East

Political Problems Mounting For Iran's Ahmadinejad

Many in Iran believed Ahmadinejad wanted his chief of staff, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, to succeed him as president.
Atta Kenare AFP/Getty Images

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad looks to be in the most precarious position he's been in since his election nearly six years ago. He's under attack from the Parliament, the conservative press and, most seriously of all, many of the conservative clergy who once supported him.

Ahmadinejad has been accused of adopting a "deviant position" and of seeking to circumvent Iran's clerics in matters of religion.

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Wed May 11, 2011

Working In Shadows: Best U.S. Policy Toward Iran?

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad addresses tens of thousands of Iranians gathered in Azadi (Freedom) Square in Tehran to mark the 31st anniversary of the Islamic Revolution on Feb. 11, 2010. Ahmadinejad said Iran had produced a "first stock" of 20 percent enriched uranium for its nuclear program.
Atta Kenare/AFP/Getty Images

Last in a three-part series

For the United States, Iran — and its nuclear program — is a hard case to crack. It figures prominently in so many American foreign policy challenges: Iraq, Israel and the Palestinians, Afghanistan and the United States' own nuclear program.

For years, successive U.S. administrations have been at a loss to figure out how to change what they call Iran's bad behavior. But in the past year, another option has emerged, says Karim Sadjadpour, an Iran specialist with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

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Tue May 10, 2011
Middle East

Ahmadinejad Seen As Loser In Iranian Power Struggle

Although the details are murky, it seems safe to say that a power struggle is under way in Iran. Among the key players are the president, the supreme leader, the current intelligence minister and the president's chief of staff.

It's a story that also includes the possible bugging of the president's office and charges of black magic and sorcery among some of his partisans.

And for the moment, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad appears to be the loser.

'No Legitimacy' Without Supreme Leader

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Tue May 10, 2011
Middle East

Covert War With Iran: A 'Wilderness Of Mirrors'

Second in a three-part series

Amid the economic sanctions and threats of military action leveled against Iran, there are also more covert efforts under way by the U.S. and other countries that want to change Tehran's behavior.

Cyberattacks and other high-tech methods have been used to sabotage Iran's nuclear program.

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Mon May 9, 2011
Middle East

Inside The United States' Secret Sabotage Of Iran

First in a three-part series

For years, the United States has been trying to stop Iran's nuclear program and change what it says is Iran's bad behavior in the Middle East and beyond.

The United States has used economic sanctions, censure by the United Nations, diplomatic engagement and the threat of military action to accomplish these goals — all with little or no success.

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Fri April 29, 2011

Iran Suddenly Turns Silent As Protests Spread In Syria

Originally published on Mon May 2, 2011 6:00 pm

Syrian anti-government protesters demonstrate in Banias on April 29, the "Day of Rage" called by activists to pile pressure on President Bashar Assad as his regime enacted a violent crackdown on dissent.
AFP/Getty Images

Iran's government celebrated the popular uprisings first in Tunisia, then in Egypt, Bahrain and Yemen. But when protests began in Syria, Iran turned uneasy and uncertain.

Syria is one of Iran's few real allies in the Arab Middle East, and Tehran has carefully cultivated a relationship with the ruling Assad family for more than 30 years.

If Syria's President Bashar Assad falls, Iran can no longer count on Syria. And among other benefits, the Syrian connection is crucial for Iran's relationship with Hezbollah in Lebanon.

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Thu April 7, 2011

Italy Prepares Iraqi Police To Protect Country's Oil

For years, Iraq's oil infrastructure — its pipelines and refineries-- has been a regular target of the armed insurgency.

Attackers detonated bombs in one refinery in February, and explosions breached the pipeline carrying oil from northern Iraq to Turkey in March.

In response, Iraq has created a police force with the special mission of protecting oil and gas facilities. The center for training the Iraqi oil police is known as Camp Dublin: It's a small corner of the American and Iraqi bases around Baghdad's airport.

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