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The Shadow Commander, by Dexter Filkins, the New Yorker
Qassem Suleimani is the Iranian operative who has been reshaping the Middle East. Now he's directing Assad's war in Syria.
Suleimani took command of the Quds Force fifteen years ago, and in that time he has sought to reshape the Middle East in Iran's favor, working as a power broker and as a military force: assassinating rivals, arming allies, and, for most of a decade, directing a network of militant groups that killed hundreds of Americans in Iraq. The U.S. Department of the Treasury has sanctioned Suleimani for his role in supporting the Assad regime, and for abetting terrorism. And yet he has remained mostly invisible to the outside world, even as he runs agents and directs operations. "Suleimani is the single most powerful operative in the Middle East today," John Maguire, a former C.I.A. officer in Iraq, told me, "and no one's ever heard of him."
ATTA KENARE/AFP/Getty Images
Jailed in Iran: The Story of ex-Marine Amir Hekmati, by Azmat Khan, Al Jazeera English
The story of Amir Hekmati, the Iranian-American and former Marine who has been imprisoned in Tehran for more than two years.
It was Amir's first trip to Iran, motivated, his family says, by a love of travel and a desire to see his aging grandmothers. That day, two weeks into his trip, Amir called up his mother Behnaz back in Flint, Mich., to tell her how excited he was to be in Tehran. He hung up promising to call again later to tell her how it went.
But Amir never showed up at the gathering.
The next day, worried family members went to the family home where he was staying and found muddy footprints but no sign of Amir.
"They find out that his computer, cell phone and all his IDs, wallet, everything was gone," said his mother, Behnaz.
That day would mark the beginning of more than two turbulent years for the Hekmati family. Within months of disappearing, an Iranian court would sentence Amir to death on charges of spying for the CIA.
Why I Have Gone on Hunger Strike, by Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, the Guardian
In an open letter, the imprisoned Pussy Riot member explains why the brutal conditions at Penal Colony No. 14 have led her to undertake a hunger strike in protest.
Beginning Monday, 23 September, I am going on hunger strike. This is an extreme method, but I am convinced that it is my only way out of my current situation.
The penal colony administration refuses to hear me. But I, in turn, refuse to back down from my demands. I will not remain silent, resigned to watch as my fellow prisoners collapse under the strain of slavery-like conditions. I demand that the colony administration respect human rights; I demand that the Mordovia camp function in accordance with the law. I demand that we be treated like human beings, not slaves.
MAKSIM BLINOV/AFP/Getty Images