Sciolino, Elaine

views updated


PERSONAL: Female. Education: New York University, master's degree, 1971.

ADDRESSES: OfficeNew York Times, 229 West 43rd St., New York, NY 10036.

CAREER: Newsweek, New York, NY, member of staff, 1972–84, including foreign correspondent in Paris, 1978–80, Rome bureau chief 1980–82, and roving international correspondent based in New York, 1983–84; New York Times, New York, NY, general assignment reporter, 1984–85, U.N. bureau chief, 1985–87, diplomatic correspondent, 1987–91, intelligence beat, 1991–92, chief diplomatic correspondent, 1991–96, senior writer in Washington bureau, 1996–.

AWARDS, HONORS: Page One Award, 1978; National Headliners Award for outstanding coverage of a major news event by a magazine (shared), 1981; Edward R. Murrow Press fellow, Council on Foreign Relations, 1982–83; citation for magazine reporting abroad, Overseas Press Club, 1983; senior fellow and specialist, United States Institute of Peace, 1998–99. Honorary doctorates from Syracuse University, Canisius College, and Dowling College.


Outlaw State: Saddam Hussein's Quest for Power and the Gulf Crisis, Wiley (New York, NY), 1991.

Persian Mirrors: The Elusive Face of Iran, Free Press (New York, NY), 2000.

SIDELIGHTS: Elaine Sciolino, a senior writer with the New York Times, was the first woman to become the Edward R. Murrow Press fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and the first woman to hold the post of chief diplomatic correspondent for the New York Times. In her role as the New York Times roving international correspondent, she covered the Iranian revolution, the Iran hostage crisis, the Iran-Iraq War, the invasion of Grenada, and the U.S. Marine position in Lebanon.

Sciolino's first two books draw on her vast Middle East experiences. In Outlaw State: Saddam Hussein's Quest for Power and the Gulf Crisis she provides a historical overview of Iraq, charts Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein's rise to power, and discusses the international interactions during the period of Iraq's invasion of Kuwait. Marvin Zonis, writing in the New York Times Book Review, noted that while the book "covers much of the ground of other instant books on the crisis in the Persian Gulf, [it] makes more tangible the notion that much of the 'Arab world' … has become a tangled web of deceit, political illegitimacy and intellectual decay." Zonis, who called Sciolino an "industrious and resourceful reporter," defined three crucial issues that evolve as Sciolino recounts the abuses the Iraqis and citizens of the Arab world were subjected to: First is Hussein's despicable character and the exposé of Kuwait's emir Sheik Jaber al-Ahmed Al-Sabah, for what Zonis called an "appalling lack of sophistication in dealing with Mr. Hussein … his abysmal lack of leadership after the invasion … and, throughout, his utter disdain for his own people and for his allies, including the United States." Second is the Arab world's intellectual bankruptcy; third is the devastation caused in Iraq during the invasion by the United States. Sciolino writes, "Even the economic infrastructure of the country, so painstakingly built up over the previous two decades … was dismantled. The allies justified hitting these targets for what they called important military value." Zonis noted, however, that just what that military value was "has never been explained by the United States." Zonis concluded his review by commenting, "Since this book was completed, much of the victory of the United States in the gulf war has turned sour…. But, as Elaine Sciolino makes all too uncomfortably clear, little else could have been expected. This, after all, is the Middle East."

By the time she wrote Persian Mirrors: The Elusive Face of Iran, Sciolino had spent more than twenty years covering Iran as a reporter—during a revolution, a war, and seizure of an embassy—and was one of only two female journalist to accompany the Ayatollah Khomeini on his midnight flight from exile in Paris to his triumphant return to Iran in 1979. According to a reviewer for the Chicago Sun-Times, "Sciolino reveals a country at war with itself, battling to sustain an Islamic state even as it invents new and creative ways around its own religious restrictions … a culture in which [the counterposed forces of] Islam and democracy struggle to coexist." While Reuel Marc Gerecht of the Wall Street Journal was more skeptical than Sciolino regarding the intent of Islamic clerical reformers, he concluded, "She has done a good job of showing the contradictory forces that have animated the Iranian soul since the Islamic revolution."



Outlaw State: Saddam Hussein's Quest for Power and the Gulf Crisis, Wiley (New York, NY), 1991.


Booklist, October 1, 2000, Vanessa Bush, review of Persian Mirrors: The Elusive Face of Iran, p. 319.

Business Week, November 6, 2000, review of Persian Mirrors, p. 20.

Chicago Sun-Times, October 22, 2000, review of Persian Mirrors, p. 15.

Economist, January 20, 2001, review of Persian Mirrors, p. 5.

Foreign Affairs, winter, 1991, William B. Quandt, review of Outlaw State: Saddam Hussein's Quest for Power and the Gulf Crisis, p. 203.

Library Journal, January, 2001, Eric Bryant and others, review of Persian Mirrors, p. 56; January, 2003, Nancy Pearl, review of Persian Mirrors, p. 192.

New York Review of Books, January 30, 1992, Theodore Draper, "The True History of the Gulf War," pp. 38-45.

New York Times, September 27, 2000, Ira Lapidus, review of Persian Mirrors, p. E8.

New York Times Book Review, June 23, 1991, Marvin Zonis, review of Outlaw State, p. 8; October 22, 2000, Diane Johnson, review of Persian Mirrors, p. 12.

Wall Street Journal, October 10, 2000, Reuel Marc Gerecht, review of Persian Mirrors, p. A24.


Public Broadcasting Service Web site, (July 28, 2004), Frontline: "Gunning for Saddam."