Robert Collier

Robert Collier reports on foreign affairs for the San Francisco Chronicle.

Recent Articles

The Man in the Iron Mosque

If the American jailers of Sheikh Mahdi al-Sumeidayih hoped to take the fire out of one of Iraq's most radical Sunni clerics, they might have been glad to hear the hesitant, almost beseeching tone in his voice less than a week after his release.

"I told them that I do not support violence, that we have nothing to do with it," al-Sumeidayih told me, recounting the constant interrogations during his five months in custody, mostly in Abu Ghraib prison. "I said we are peaceful, we have nothing against the Americans. When they asked me to go on television to state my opposition to the resistance, I said, 'I can't, I couldn't, I'm caught between two fires. The resistance would kill my wife and children.'"

Democracy How?

It was a run-of-the-mill weekday in Samarra, Iraq, a large town in the heart of the Sunni Triangle. Guerrilla land mines had exploded that morning in several locations, leaving no U.S. casualties but several Iraqis killed by the American soldiers' return fire. The Americans said the dead Iraqis were guerrillas, townspeople said they were innocent bystanders, and the truth of the matter was hard to find.

Isolation Play

TEHRAN -- The U.S. failure to find weapons of mass destruction after the war in Iraq has dealt a severe blow to the Bush administration in its attempts to take a hard line on Iran at the United Nations.

A resolution adopted by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) board of governors in Vienna, Austria, on Nov. 26 gave the administration almost none of what it wanted -- namely, condemnation and punishment of Iran for its alleged work to develop nuclear weapons. Faced with unmoving European opposition, the U.S. delegation was forced to sign a document that in effect gives a new lease on life to the UN nuclear-weapons agency and opens the door to easing Tehran's diplomatic isolation.