Longform’s Picks of the Week

The best stories from around the world.


Every weekend, Longform highlights its favorite international articles of the week. For daily picks of new and classic nonfiction, check out Longform or follow @longform on Twitter. Have an iPad? Download Longform’s new app and read all of the latest in-depth stories from dozens of magazines, including Foreign Policy.


“Libya: A divided land,” by Borzou Daragahi, James Politi, and Alex Barker, the Financial Times

Faltering peace talks to resolve civil war take on new urgency as jihadi groups spread through the state.

“‘What else needs to happen to create alarm?’ asks a senior official of the Italian government, among the countries most anxious about the emergence of ISIS at the heart of its former colony. ‘All the signs are converging. We have to avoid what happened in Syria. We did not understand the dramatic nature of the problem and we woke up with the tables turned.'”

Narcotic experts from the US Drug Enforc

“The Sting: An American Drugs Bust in West Africa,” by Yudhijit Bhattacharjee, the Guardian

Using undercover agents, the DEA spent four years trying to bring down a cocaine trafficking gang in Liberia. Was the operation a triumph in the global war on drugs or a case of American overreach?

“In the decades since President Richard Nixon formally declared a ‘war on drugs’ in 1971, naming drug abuse ‘public enemy number one in the United States,’ that war has evolved from a primarily domestic effort into an offensive that crisscrosses the globe. The DEA, formed in 1973, partnered with law enforcement agencies in Mexico and Colombia through the 80s and the 90s to help destroy marijuana plantations and cocaine labs in those countries. Under the Ronald Reagan administration, DEA agents trained with the military and entered South American nations such as Bolivia to aid local police fight drug cartels. The argument for these incursions was straightforward: a significant portion of the drug supply into the United States originated in or passed through these countries. Disrupting the supply near the source, before it crossed over into the U.S., was a desirable solution.”


“Inside Baghdad’s Brutal Battle Against ISIS,” by Matthieu Aikins, Rolling Stone

As the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria beats a bloody path to the gates of the capital, the hard men of the city are fighting back with their own reign of terror.

“Musawi is a career military officer and a patriot, someone who doesn’t shirk from dangerous work and is well-respected by his men because of it — and yet he’s spending his nights working for a private religious militia. His unofficial job highlights the central dilemma for President Obama as he seeks a congressional mandate for the war with ISIS: Iraq has become a militia state, with its military operations led, in many cases, by the same Iranian-backed commanders who once fought the U.S. military. And while the militias have been effective at pushing back ISIS, they have also deepened the sectarian nature of the conflict, making prospects for any reconciliation between Sunnis and Shiites — and Iraq’s hopes for peace — even more distant.”


“Broken on the Wheel,” by Ken Armstrong, the Marshall Project

The gruesome 18th Century legal case that turned a famed philosopher into a crusader for the innocent.

“The case against Jean Calas went before Toulouse’s Parlement, an appellate court that reviewed evidence and deliberated in private. On March 9, 1762, the Parlement voted 8-5 to convict and condemn. (And it wasn’t really that close: Only one of the five voted for outright acquittal.) The sentence called for Calas to be questioned while tortured in two ways, then broken on the wheel, then burned. The assumption was that in the throes of agony, Calas would confess and implicate the four others, in addition to any other conspirators yet unknown.”


“The Last Days of King Bibi,” by Gregg Carlstrom, Foreign Policy

From the Galilee to the Negev and Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, surveying the state of Israeli politics of the brink of a momentous vote.

“No one seemed worried about the outcome of Tuesday’s election, even though Netanyahu himself warned the crowd there was ‘real danger’ of a left-wing government taking power. ‘Don’t believe the media, don’t believe the polls, this is the real Israel, the real national camp,’ said a supporter of the far-right Yachad party. ‘The leftists will never have a majority.'”

Wikimedia Commons; Dominique Faget/AFP/Getty Images; Tony Karumba/AFP/Getty Images; Ahmad Al-Rubaye/AFP/Getty Images; J. G. Will, Augsburg/Wikimedia Commons; Menahem Kahana/AFP/Getty Images

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