Jane Arraf

Jane Arraf covers Egypt, Iraq, and other parts of the Middle East for NPR News.

Arraf joined NPR in 2017 after two decades of reporting from and about the region for CNN, NBC, the Christian Science Monitor, PBS Newshour, and Al Jazeera English. She has previously been posted to Baghdad, Amman, and Istanbul, along with Washington, DC, New York, and Montreal.

She has reported from Iraq since the 1990s. For several years, Arraf was the only Western journalist based in Baghdad. She reported on the war in Iraq in 2003 and covered live the battles for Fallujah, Najaf, Samarra, and Tel Afar. She has also covered India, Pakistan, Haiti, Bosnia, and Afghanistan and has done extensive magazine writing.

Arraf is a former Edward R. Murrow press fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. Her awards include a Peabody for PBS NewsHour, an Overseas Press Club citation, and inclusion in a CNN Emmy.

Arraf studied journalism at Carleton University in Ottawa and began her career at Reuters.

Iraqi security forces launched a major crackdown on anti-government protesters Saturday from Baghdad to cities across the south after an influential Shiite cleric instrumental in the demonstrations withdrew his support.

More than three months after they began, protests in Iraq have escalated and taken a new turn this week. Anti-government demonstrators are attempting to force drastic change in a country whose government is in turmoil and grappling with a crisis between Iran and the United States.

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It happens every single week. Thousands of people gather in Tehran for Friday prayers. But this morning, they were joined by Iran's supreme leader. And for the first time in eight years, he delivered the sermon.

The conflict between the United States and Iran has flared dangerously in Iraq — and in few places more so than a remote desert air base, more than 100 miles northwest of Baghdad. Iran fired at least 10 ballistic missiles at the sprawling Ain al-Assad base last week in response to the Jan. 3 U.S. drone strike in Baghdad that killed top Iranian commander Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani and an Iraqi paramilitary leader.

NPR international correspondent Jane Arraf and freelance photographer Alexander Tahaov were among a group of journalists invited to tour the base earlier this week.

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Updated at 7:43 p.m. ET

Secretary of Defense Mark Esper announced on Monday that some forces are being repositioned inside Iraq, not leaving the country.

Two other U.S. officials told NPR that some are going to Kuwait temporarily.

Updated at 11:50 p.m. ET Sunday

As thousands of mourners flooded the streets of Iran on Sunday to mourn the death of Gen. Qassem Soleimani, a series of dizzying developments convulsed the Middle East, generating new uncertainty around everything from the future of U.S. forces in Iraq to the battle against ISIS and the effort to quell Tehran's nuclear ambitions.

Amid the fallout of the U.S. drone strike on Friday that killed Soleimani, Sunday saw the following whiplash-inducing developments unfold almost simultaneously:

The apartment in Baghdad where Jimmy Aldaoud lived — and died, just two months after being deported from the U.S. — has been cleaned and emptied. But on the windowsill in the bedroom, there's a remnant of the fear he felt about being sent to a country where he'd never been: two plastic toy pistols with orange foam tips and bright pink suction-cup darts.

"He would sleep with these in his hands," says Samir Kada, another deportee from the U.S. who lives next door and looked out for him. "He said, 'If anybody comes, I'm going to pull it on them. I swear to God.' "

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Rockets struck Baghdad's international airport compound Thursday, as the country tries to contain anti-government protests which have shaken the foundation of the Iraqi government. The attack appears to be the latest in what a senior U.S. military official described as a dangerously escalating campaign by Iran-backed militias.

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Khazaal Salih sits in a tent next to a photo of his son, just back from the framing shop. In the gold-framed photo, Abbas wears a disposable blue surgical mask to protect him from tear gas. He's smiling and raising his fingers in a victory sign. At the top of the photo is the date — Nov. 6, 2019 — when the young man was killed by Iraqi security forces during an anti-government protest.

At a military base in Hasakah province in northeastern Syria, a Bradley armored fighting vehicle churns up sand as it speeds past a TV camera, an American flag flying behind its turret.

The Bradley, airlifted in from Kuwait, was demonstrated for a small group of journalists, the first group of reporters taken by the U.S. military to Syria since President Trump announced late last month that he would leave troops there to protect oil installations.

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Essa, 23, shakes a can of red spray paint, crouches over the sidewalk near Baghdad's Tahrir Square and scrawls something shocking about Iran's supreme leader.

"Khamenei is an ass," it reads.

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Updated on Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. ET

In Iraq and Syria, news of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi's death has stirred a mix of responses — from joy to disbelief to dread.

Since President Trump announced this weekend that Baghdadi died during a U.S. military operation in Syria, analysts have been grappling with the implications for the militant organization that has now lost its main chief in addition to all the territory it once held in Iraq and Syria.

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President Trump is defending his decision to withdraw most troops from Syria, leaving behind the Kurds who fought alongside the U.S. against ISIS.

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A convoy of blue and white minibuses rolls into the Bardarash refugee camp in the Kurdistan region of Iraq, about 100 miles east of the Syrian border. The buses are full of crying babies, small children peering excitedly out the windows and worried-looking adults. Many of them have only the things they could carry with them in hours of walking to the border.

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Five years ago today, then-President Barack Obama made a speech from the White House to announce airstrikes. It was a key moment in the fight against ISIS. At the time, militants were tearing across Iraq and Syria.

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