Michele Kelemen

A former NPR Moscow bureau chief, Michele Kelemen now covers the State Department and Washington's diplomatic corps. Her reports can be heard on all NPR News programs, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered.

In her latest beat, Kelemen has been traveling with Secretary of State John Kerry and Hillary Clinton before him, tracking the Obama administration's broad foreign policy agenda from Asia to the Middle East. She also followed President Bush's Secretaries of State Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell and was part of the NPR team that won the 2007 Alfred I. DuPont-Columbia University Award for coverage of the war in Iraq.

As NPR's Moscow bureau chief, Kelemen chronicled the end of the Yeltsin era and Vladimir Putin's consolidation of power. She recounted the terrible toll of the latest war in Chechnya, while also reporting on a lighter side of Russia, with stories about modern day Russian literature and sports.

Kelemen came to NPR in September 1998, after eight years working for the Voice of America. There, she learned the ropes as a news writer, newscaster and show host.

Michele earned her Bachelor's degree from the University of Pennsylvania and a Master's degree from the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies in Russian and East European Affairs and International Economics.

Pages

Africa
3:33 am
Fri December 20, 2013

U.N. Ambassador Laments Misery In Central African Republic

U.S. Ambassador to the Unitied Nations Samantha Power (right) listens to Lucy Mandazuto at a community hospital in Bangui, Central African Republic, on Thursday. Mandazuto was wounded in sectarian violence.
Jerome Delay AP

Originally published on Fri December 20, 2013 11:13 am

You don't have to venture far to see the misery caused by the latest crisis in the Central African Republic.

On the edge of the airport in the capital Bangui, tens of thousands of people are sleeping out in the open with no basic services. It's here that Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, meets Martine Kutungai with her husband, a pastor, and their eight children.

Kutungai says she's terrified to go home because of the Seleka — Muslim rebels who toppled the government in March.

Read more
Africa
5:03 pm
Wed December 18, 2013

U.S. Envoy: Time For Intervention In Central African Republic

Soldiers from Burundi arrive at the airport in Bangui, capital of the Central African Republic, on Dec. 15 to join the African Union and French efforts to restore security in the troubled nation.
Sia Kambou AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Wed December 18, 2013 7:57 pm

The Obama administration's ambassador to the U.N. says this is a pivotal moment for the Central African Republic and time for the international community to take steps to prevent further atrocities there.

Samantha Power, a former journalist and Pulitzer Prize-winning author, is well-known as an advocate for humanitarian intervention. How she and the Obama administration handle the conflict in the CAR is a major test of that.

Read more
Parallels
5:11 pm
Tue December 3, 2013

Will Progress On Nuke Talks Mean More Engagement From Iran?

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif shakes hands with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Nov. 24 in Geneva, after the announcement of a deal halting parts of Iran's nuclear program.
Fabrice Coffrini AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Tue December 3, 2013 9:01 pm

The U.S. and other major powers have been holding historic negotiations with Iran to try to curb that country's nuclear program. But Washington still has many other concerns about Iranian behavior. And while some diplomats may hope to build on the nuclear talks to push Iran to play a more constructive role in the region, experts remain skeptical.

Karim Sadjadpour of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace says there are a couple of ways to look at the negotiations with Iran.

Read more
Middle East
5:12 pm
Tue November 12, 2013

Kerry's New Mission: Convince Congress To Take Iran Deal

Originally published on Tue November 12, 2013 5:56 pm

Secretary of State John Kerry is back in Washington to defend the proposed nuclear deal with Iran to skeptical members of Congress. He and his colleagues from other major powers failed to reach a deal with Iran during talks over the weekend in Geneva. Iran blames France's hard line for blowing up the deal, though Kerry has tried to downplay that.

Africa
5:21 pm
Mon November 11, 2013

DRC Rebels' Surrender Could Mark New Chapter In U.N. Peacekeeping

Originally published on Mon November 11, 2013 5:52 pm

There's been a rare bit of good news in Eastern Congo this month. One of the rebel groups that have terrorized civilians in the mineral rich part of the the Democratic Republic of Congo agreed to end its rebellion. There's still a lot of work to do to disarm the M23 and to keep other rebel movements in check. But this small victory is a boost for U.N. peacekeepers, who are under a new, tougher mandate to protect civilians in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Some experts wonder if this could be a new model for peacekeeping.

Parallels
3:17 am
Mon November 4, 2013

Syria's Moderate Rebels Fight A Battle On Two Fronts

A Syrian fighter from the Islamist rebel group Jabhat al-Nusra inspects a resident's identification papers at a checkpoint in Aleppo on Oct. 26. Syria's Islamist fighters are generally better funded than their more moderate counterparts.
Reuters /Landov

Originally published on Mon November 4, 2013 5:28 pm

Like many Syrian exiles, Murhaf Jouejati, a professor at National Defense University, is frustrated by U.S. policy toward Syria. He says there's been only a trickle of U.S. aid to the secular, nationalist opposition in Syria, while the Islamists have no trouble raising money through their networks in the Arab world.

Read more
World
6:12 am
Sun October 20, 2013

Saudi Act Of Protest Stuns U.N., And Some Observers

The U.N. Security Council votes on a resolution requiring Syria to give up its chemical weapons last month in New York. Last week, Saudi Arabia turned down a chance to take a seat on the Council.
Craig Ruttle AP

Originally published on Sun October 20, 2013 8:58 am

Known for quiet diplomacy, Saudi Arabia is taking an unusual and very public step to protest the international community's failure to resolve the crisis in Syria and other issues that interest Riyadh.

On Thursday, Saudi Arabia was elected to become a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, which the Saudi ambassador to the U.N. initially called a defining moment in his nation's history.

Read more
Middle East
4:50 am
Thu October 17, 2013

Experts Debate How Best To Remove Syria's Chemical Weapons

Originally published on Thu October 17, 2013 10:23 am

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

This is MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

Let's go deeper now into one issue Secretary of State John Kerry raised in my interview with him earlier in the program. The secretary, along with his Russian counterpart, got Syria's Bashar al-Assad to agree to hand over his vast store of chemical weapons. Now, Kerry is suggesting those stockpiles be taken out of Syria.

Read more
Middle East
4:41 am
Tue October 1, 2013

Netanyahu Urges World To Keep Pressure On Iran

Originally published on Sun October 6, 2013 9:04 am

A day after a meeting with President Obama, Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu takes center stage at the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday. He will likely dwell on Iran's suspect nuclear program and warn the world community against being taken in by Tehran's recent charm offensive.

Middle East
5:30 am
Wed September 25, 2013

Iran, U.S. Can Manage Differences, Rouhani Tells U.N.

Originally published on Wed September 25, 2013 6:25 am

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

This is MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. Good morning. I'm David Greene.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

And I'm Steve Inskeep. President Obama never did meet Iran's president Hasan Rouhani at the United Nations, as many expected. But Iran's new president gave a speech calling for results-oriented talks to clear up concern about what he called Iran's peaceful nuclear program. NPR's Michele Kelemen was there.

Read more
Parallels
2:25 pm
Fri September 20, 2013

Will The U.S. Grant A Visa To Sudan's Indicted Leader?

Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir, who faces genocide charges, has applied for a visa to come to the U.S. for the annual United Nations General Assembly next week. The U.S. has not yet said whether he'll be allowed in the country.
Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah Reuters/Landov

Originally published on Fri September 20, 2013 8:09 pm

As the host of the United Nations, the U.S. is supposed to let everyone come to the annual U.N. General Assembly, not just the people it likes.

But this year, the proposition is being put to the test. Sudan's president, Omar al-Bashir, was indicted three years ago by the International Criminal Court on genocide charges stemming from the mass killings in Sudan's western Darfur region.

Bashir has also applied for a visa to the U.N. meetings next week.

Read more
World
5:37 pm
Sat September 14, 2013

U.S.-Russia Deal: Syria Has A Week To Detail Chemical Arsenal

Originally published on Sat September 14, 2013 6:15 pm

Transcript

JACKI LYDEN, HOST:

It's WEEKENDS on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Jacki Lyden.

The U.S. and Russia have agreed on a plan to get rid of Syria's chemical weapons by the middle of next year. Secretary of State John Kerry calls it an ambitious timetable but says he's confident the international community can keep the pressure on Syria to comply. President Obama welcomed the agreement but says the U.S. remains prepared to act should the diplomatic route fail.

Read more
Middle East
5:29 am
Sun August 18, 2013

Obama Struggles To Find Effective Egypt Policy

President Obama delivers a statement on Egypt at his vacation home on Martha's Vineyard on Thursday.
Pool Getty Images

Originally published on Sun August 18, 2013 7:00 pm

The Obama administration is in a difficult situation with its Egypt policy.

President Obama, who often talks about free speech and human rights, has cancelled joint military exercises with Egypt but has stopped short of cutting off aid to the Egyptian military. As the violence continues in the streets of Cairo and other Egyptian cities, all sides seem unhappy with the U.S. approach.

In 2009, on his first trip to the Middle East as president, in the same year he won the Nobel Peace Prize, Obama spoke of a new approach to relations with the Islamic world.

Read more
National Security
5:09 am
Sat August 10, 2013

Kerry, Hagel Aim To Ease U.S.-Russian Tensions

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, left, and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, right, walk to their news conference at the Russian Embassy in Washington on Friday.
J. Scott Applewhite AP

Originally published on Sun August 11, 2013 7:43 am

Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel met with their Russian counterparts for talks in Washington on Friday, aiming to repair strained relations with Moscow.

President Obama snubbed Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday when he called off plans to go to Moscow next month for a one-on-one summit. He was reacting to Russia's offer of temporary asylum to NSA leaker Edward Snowden.

But on Friday, the diplomats seemed eager to show that the dispute is not some new sort of cold war.

Read more
National Security
11:33 am
Sun August 4, 2013

Snowden Case Illustrates Decline In U.S.-Russia Relations

President Obama met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Northern Ireland in June.
Evan Vucci AP

Originally published on Sun August 4, 2013 6:38 pm

U.S.-Russia relations hit a new low this week, when Moscow ignored U.S. requests and gave temporary asylum to a man who leaked classified documents on U.S. government surveillance programs.

Many in Congress are complaining that the Edward Snowden case is just the latest example of how the Kremlin is thumbing its nose at the White House.

The Obama administration famously reset relations with Russia when Dmitry Medvedev was president. But now that Russian President Vladimir Putin is back in the Kremlin, it seems to be having a more difficult time.

Read more
Political Crisis In Egypt
8:21 am
Sat July 6, 2013

The U.S. Holds The Aid Card, Yet Egypt Still Trumps

Egyptian protesters celebrate in Tahrir Square on Wednesday. The United States has managed to alienate just about every political actor in Egypt.
Spencer Platt Getty Images

Originally published on Sat July 6, 2013 9:04 pm

The ouster of Mohammed Morsi puts the U.S. in an awkward position: By law, the administration is supposed to cut off aid to a country after a military coup, but Egypt's military has been a key to regional stability. As the administration considers its next steps, it's come under criticism from all sides in Egypt over how it's handling the situation.

Read more
National Security
6:05 pm
Tue June 25, 2013

Russia, U.S. At Odds Over Fate Of Edward Snowden

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

And I'm Audie Cornish.

Read more
Middle East
6:12 am
Wed June 19, 2013

U.S. To Test The Waters With Iran's New President Rohani

Originally published on Wed June 19, 2013 9:40 am

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

When Barack Obama became president and offered his hand to Iran, that country's elites reacted skeptically. Many said he was a new face, but still represented Iran's great enemy. Now, Iran will have a new face, winner of last week's presidential election, Hassan Rohani. He says he wants better relations with the outside world, so it's America's turn to wonder just how much Rohani could really change in Iran's confrontation with the U.S. NPR's Michele Kelemen reports on the evidence so far.

Read more
Middle East
6:52 am
Fri June 14, 2013

U.S. To Provide Military Support To Opposition In Syria

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

This is MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

And I'm Linda Wertheimer. The Obama administration has shifted policy on Syria with an announcement, last night, that it will step up support for rebels who've been losing ground in recent weeks. The White House says it will start providing direct military support to rebel commanders.

Read more
NPR Story
4:46 am
Fri June 7, 2013

Sen. McCain Urges U.S. To Do More For Syrian Rebels

Originally published on Fri June 7, 2013 2:32 pm

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

It's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

And I'm Linda Wertheimer. Sen. John McCain is pushing the Obama administration to do more for rebels fighting the Syrian government. This follows his trip last week to opposition-held territory in Syria. McCain warns that a failure to act could send the Middle East deep into sectarian conflict.

His comments come as both the rebels, and the likelihood of planned peace talks, appear to be losing ground.NPR's Michele Kelemen reports.

Read more
Middle East
6:11 am
Wed June 5, 2013

Egyptian Court Verdict Complicates Relations With Washington

Originally published on Wed June 5, 2013 9:20 am

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

The Obama administration is expressing deep concern about guilty verdicts in Egypt against 43 people who were working on democracy programs in the country. Sixteen of them are Americans, though most left Egypt when the charges were brought against them. NPR's Michele Kelemen reports that issue is one of many complicating Washington's relations with Cairo.

MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: Charles Dunne wasn't even in Egypt when he first heard about the charges against him and he never received anything official from the court.

Read more
Middle East
2:11 pm
Sun May 19, 2013

Revisiting U.S. Commitment To The Middle East

Transcript

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Just two years ago today, the effort to change regimes in many parts of the Islamic world was just beginning. And President Obama was at the U.S. State Department talking about a new chapter in American diplomacy.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: It will be the policy of the United States to promote reform across the region and to support the transitions to democracy. That effort begins in Egypt and Tunisia where the stakes are high.

Read more
Europe
3:44 am
Mon May 6, 2013

Kerry's Visit To Russia A Chance To Talk Syria, Mend Fences

Secretary of State John Kerry is headed to Russia on Monday — a trip he calls "long overdue."
Alex Brandon AP

Originally published on Mon May 6, 2013 9:47 am

Secretary of State John Kerry sets off for what he calls "a long overdue" trip to Russia on Monday, and Syria is likely to top the agenda.

But U.S.-Russian relations are frosty these days. The U.S. is imposing targeted sanctions on Russian human rights violators, while Moscow is preventing American families from adopting Russian children.

Read more
Middle East
2:47 pm
Fri April 26, 2013

U.S. Wary As Qatar Ramps Up Support Of Syrian Rebels

President Obama meets with the emir of Qatar, Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, in the Oval Office on Tuesday. The emir is among a series of visiting Middle East leaders urging the U.S. to take a greater role in the Syrian conflict.
Jewel Samad AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Fri April 26, 2013 4:47 pm

President Obama has been hosting a series of visitors from the Middle East, and all of them have been urging the U.S. to get more involved in Syria.

They have included the emir of Qatar, Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, whose country has been arming rebel forces in Syria. Obama wants to see such aid go to moderates — but that requires more cooperation with partners like Qatar. Problem is, they don't always see eye to eye.

Read more
Middle East
5:12 am
Sun April 14, 2013

Syria Conflict Brings Middle East Leaders To White House

A Syrian rebel patrols the area in the Sheikh Maqsud district of the northern city of Aleppo, on Thursday.
Dimitar Dilkoff AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Thu April 25, 2013 3:54 pm

In the coming weeks, the Obama administration plays host to the leaders of several Middle Eastern nations, including the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Qatar and Jordan.

They are coming, in part, to register their concerns about the ongoing violence in Syria and to nudge the Obama administration to do more to tip the balance in favor of the rebels trying to oust President Bashar Assad.

Read more
World
3:45 am
Wed March 6, 2013

John Kerry, A 'Recovering Politician,' Settles Into Diplomatic Role

John Kerry, on his first trip abroad as secretary of state, walks with French President Francois Hollande after their meeting at Elysee Palace in Paris on Feb. 27. Kerry's nine-day trip took him through Europe and the Middle East.
Jacquelyn Martin AP

Originally published on Wed March 6, 2013 8:44 pm

Secretary of State John Kerry describes himself as a recovering politician. He's just getting used to the fact that he can't speak quite as freely as he did when he was a senator.

"Each word means more, each relationship is played differently," he said in an interview with NPR, at the end of a nine-nation swing through Europe and the Middle East. "As a senator, you just don't have those stakes riding in it."

Read more
Middle East
5:49 am
Sun March 3, 2013

Amid Egypt's Divisive Climate, Kerry Urges Economic Action

Secretary of State John Kerry (center, right) meets with members of Egyptian political parties in Cairo on Saturday.
Khaled ElFiqi AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Sun March 3, 2013 11:27 am

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry walked into a chaotic situation in Egypt, the first Arab country he's visited in his new role. The country is in economic and political turmoil, and he is trying Sunday to encourage Islamist President Mohamed Morsi to open up the political process and carry out much-needed reforms. After their meeting, he announced the U.S. would release $190 million in aid to Egypt.

Kerry has also been hearing complaints from opposition figures, who have vowed to boycott upcoming elections.

Read more
Middle East
5:19 pm
Wed February 27, 2013

U.S. Plans To Offer More Direct Aid To Syrian Rebels

Originally published on Wed February 27, 2013 5:57 pm

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

The Obama administration is rethinking its strategy in Syria. As the death toll mounts and a diplomatic solution seems out of reach, the administration is planning to do more to help Syrian rebels. That could involve what's referred to as direct, non-lethal assistance. It does not include weapons.

Secretary of State John Kerry is talking about all this in Rome with members of the Syrian opposition, and NPR's Michele Kelemen is traveling with him.

Read more
Europe
6:55 am
Tue February 26, 2013

'Time Is Ripe' For U.S. To Support Syrian Opposition

Originally published on Tue February 26, 2013 9:44 am

Transcript

LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

Syrian opposition leaders say they plan to attend a conference this week in Rome. They want to see what the new U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has to offer to help them bring an end of President Bashar al-Assad's regime. The opposition leaders had been threatening to boycott the meeting, but Kerry is promising he won't leave them dangling in the wind. NPR's Michele Kelemen is traveling with Kerry this week on his first trip overseas as secretary of state. She filed this report from Berlin.

Read more
National Security
5:05 am
Sun February 24, 2013

Overseas Trip A Road Test For Secretary Of State Kerry

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks to the press prior to talks with Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida at the State Department in Washington on Friday.
Nicholas Kamm AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Sun February 24, 2013 7:34 am

John Kerry sets off Sunday on his first foreign trip as secretary of state, visiting Europe and the Middle East.

One dominant theme of the trip will be how to resolve the crisis in Syria, where an estimated 70,000 people have been killed over the past two years. Kerry is portraying his trip as a listening tour, and he expects to hear a lot about Syria.

He told reporters recently that he wants to talk with U.S. allies about how to persuade Bashar Assad to agree on peace talks that would end the Syrian leader's bloody rule in Syria.

Read more

Pages