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Babel: Translating the Middle East

Babel: Translating the Middle East

Babel will take you beyond the headlines to discuss what?s really happening in the Middle East and North Africa. It features regional experts who explain what?s going on, provide context on pivotal developments, and highlight trends you may have missed. Jon Alterman, senior vice president, Zbigniew Brzezinski Chair in Global Security and Geostrategy, and director of the Middle East Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies hosts the podcast along with his colleagues from the Middle East Program. This podcast is made possible through the generous support of the Embassy of the United Arab Emirates. All views, positions, and conclusions expressed here should be understood to be solely of those of the speaker(s).

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Audio Brief: What Will the United States Do after the Drone Strike in Jordan?

On January 28, a drone reportedly piloted by forces connected to Iran killed three U.S. troops at a base in northeast Jordan and wounded more than two dozen more. The strike is the highest casualty event the United States has had in the Middle East in more than a decade, prompting questions about how the United States will respond. A new audio brief from the CSIS Middle East Program. Jon Alterman, "What Will the United States Do after the Drone Strike in Jordan?" CSIS, January 29, 2024. Jon Alterman, "'What Will the United States Do after the Drone Strike in Jordan?': Audio Brief with Jon Alterman," CSIS, January 30, 2024. For more spoken word summaries from CSIS experts about their latest reports, white papers, and commentaries, please listen to the CSIS podcast Audio Briefs.
2024-02-27
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Amb. David Satterfield: Humanitarian Aid in Gaza

This week on Babel, Jon Alterman speaks with Amb. David Satterfield, the U.S. special envoy for Middle East humanitarian issues. They discuss the crisis in Gaza, the challenges of getting aid to civilians, and the role of humanitarian assistance in ending the conflict. Then, Jon continues the conversation with Will Todman and Leah Hickert to discuss other humanitarian crises in the region and the U.S. government?s competing interests.  Transcript, "Amb. David Satterfield: Humanitarian Aid in Gaza," CSIS, February 20, 2024.
2024-02-20
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Audio Brief: A Different Two-State Solution

With violence between Palestinians and Israelis at its highest levels in decades, voices have risen again in favor of a two-state solution. Reviving the idea will require redefining some terms, including "two," "state," and "solution." A new audio brief from the CSIS Middle East Program. Jon Alterman, "A Different Two-State Solution," CSIS, January 10, 2024. Jon Alterman, "Audio Brief: A Different Two-State Solution with Jon B. Alterman," CSIS, February 2, 2024. For more spoken word summaries from CSIS experts about their latest reports, white papers, and commentaries, please listen to the CSIS podcast Audio Briefs.
2024-02-13
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Bader Al-Saif: Kuwait's Perceptions, People, and Progress

This week on Babel, Jon Alterman speaks with Bader Al-Saif, a U.S.-trained Kuwaiti academic. Together, they discuss Kuwaitis? perceptions of the Israel-Hamas war, U.S. geostrategy, and where Kuwait itself is headed almost 35 years after Iraq?s invasion of the country. Then, Jon continues the conversation with Will Todman and Leah Hickert to explore the perceptions and use of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict elsewhere in the region. Transcript, "Bader Al-Saif: Kuwait's Perceptions, People, and Progress," CSIS, February 6, 2024. Bader Al-Saif, "?????? ??? ?????... ??? ????? ??????? ????? ?????? ??? ???? ?????? [Kuwait after the Invasion... Between Missed Opportunities and Prospects for Crossing into a New Kuwait], Al Majalla, August 3, 2023.
2024-02-06
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Analysis: Environmental Action in Tunisia

This week, Leah Hickert speaks with Will Todman, deputy director and senior fellow with the CSIS Middle East Program, about Manish Msab, the first environmental movement to defeat the Tunisian government in court. A new Analysis from the CSIS Middle East Program. Will Todman, "I Am Not a Dump: Mobilization and Environmental Action in Tunisia," CSIS, January 3, 2024.
2024-01-30
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Yana Abu Taleb: Environmental Peacebuilding in Jordan

This week on Babel, Jon Alterman speaks with Yana Abu Taleb, the Jordanian director of EcoPeace Middle East, a trilateral peacebuilding organization that seeks shared solutions to environmental issues affecting Jordan, Israel, and Palestine. Together, they discuss EcoPeace?s development over the past 30 years and the unique challenges it faces today. Then, he continues the conversation with Natasha Hall and Leah Hickert to explore how grassroots activism and peacebuilding vary in different political contexts. Transcript, "Yana Abu Taleb: Environmental Peacebuilding in the Arab-Israeli Conflict," CSIS, January 23, 2023.
2024-01-23
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Analysis: Climate Entrepreneurs in the Middle East

This week, Leah Hickert speaks with Will Todman, deputy director and senior fellow with the CSIS Middle East Program, about how entrepreneurs can help regional governments adapt to climate change. A new Analysis from the CSIS Middle East Program. Will Todman, "Entrepreneurs Can Help the Middle East Adapt to Climate Change," CSIS, January 3, 2024.
2024-01-16
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Rafat Al-Akhali: Yemen on the Brink

This week on Babel, Jon Alterman speaks with Rafat Al-Akhali, a Yemeni who went from being an exchange student in Canada to being a youth activist, a government minister, and then a development consultant. Together, they discuss youth activism in Yemen, the international community's responses to protracted conflicts, and the outlook for Yemen's future. Then, Jon continues the conversation with Will Todman and Leah Hickert to explore the problem of ?brain drain? and how it affects conflict-affected societies. Transcript, "Rafat Al-Akhali: Yemen on the Brink," CSIS, January 9, 2023.
2024-01-09
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Audio Brief: China's Essential Role in the Gulf States' Energy Transitions

China has established itself as an essential partner in Gulf states' energy transitions. However, Western governments have been reluctant to compete head-to-head with Chinese enterprises in the renewables sector in the Gulf. A new audio brief from the CSIS Middle East Program. Faris Al-Sulayman and Jon Alterman, "China's Essential Role in the Gulf States' Energy Transitions," CSIS, December 11, 2023. Jon Alterman, "'China's Essential Role in the Gulf States' Energy Transitions': Audio Brief with Jon B. Alterman," CSIS, December 11, 2023. For more spoken word summaries from CSIS experts about their latest reports, white papers, and commentaries, please listen to the CSIS podcast Audio Briefs.
2024-01-02
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Danny Hajjar: Today's Arab Music

This week on Babel, Jon Alterman speaks with music journalist Danny Hajjar about the changing Arab music scene. They talk about the rise of Arab hip-hop, how increasing connectivity influences the way Arab artists produce and distribute music, and what the next big thing will be. Then, Jon continues the conversation with Natasha Hall and Leah Hickert, discussing soft power, censorship, and music.  Transcript, "Danny Hajjar: The Evolution of Arabic Music," CSIS, December 20, 2023. The songs sampled in this episode can be found on the "Today's Arab Music Playlist" on Spotify.
2023-12-26
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Analysis: Human Rights in a Multipolar World

This week, Zeid Qiblawi speaks with Natasha Hall, senior fellow with the Middle East Program at CSIS, about the reversal of human rights norms in an increasingly multipolar world. A new Analysis from the CSIS Middle East Program. Natasha Hall, "Breaking Point: Human Rights in a Multipolar World," CSIS, November 30, 2023.
2023-12-19
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Renad Mansour and Farea Al-Muslimi: The Cost of Political Settlements in the MENA Region

This week on Babel, you will hear excerpts from Jon Alterman's recent discussion with Chatham House experts Renad Mansour and Farea al-Muslimi, alongside the CSIS Middle East Program's Natasha Hall. They discuss a recent Chatham House report, which argues that although political settlements have been resolving more conflicts in the region, these elite bargains are actually prioritizing stability over accountability, leaving citizens to pay the costs. Then, Jon, Natasha, Renad, and Farea discuss how this phenomenon has played out in Iraq, Lebanon, and Libya, and the potential way forward. Transcript, "Renad Mansour and Farea Al-Muslimi: The Cost of Political Settlements in the MENA Region," CSIS, November 28, 2023. Renad Mansour, Tim Eaton, and Lina Khatib, "Rethinking Political Settlements in the Middle East and North Africa," Chatham House, September 20, 2023.
2023-12-12
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Analysis: The Ripple Effect of Water Insecurity

The Middle East is experiencing a water crisis exacerbated by climate change, inefficient water use, and decades of resource mismanagement. Water insecurity not only aggravates pre-existing vulnerabilities; it also drives instability, conflict, and displacement. In this short episode of Babel, Leah Hickert speaks with Natasha Hall about why the region's business-as-usual approach to water is becoming more costly by the day. Natasha Hall, "The Ripple Effects of Water Insecurity," CSIS, May 4, 2023.
2023-12-05
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Rula Hardal: Life as a Palestinian Citizen of Israel

This week on Babel, Jon Alterman speaks with Palestinian-Israeli scholar and activist Rula Hardal about her life in both Israel and the West Bank, what reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians would look like, and the concessions that each side needs to make for a sustainable path forward. Then, Jon continues the conversation with Will Todman and Leah Hickert, discussing past moments of crisis in the Middle East, and why some become inflection points, while others don?t.  Transcript, "Rula Hardal: Life as a Palestinian Citizen of Israel," CSIS, November 28, 2023.
2023-11-28
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Audio Brief: Israel Could Lose

The Israeli military is the most formidable fighting force in the Middle East. And yet it is quite possible that the war in Gaza will be the first war in Israel?s history that the army has fought and lost. A new audio brief from the CSIS Middle East Program. Jon Alterman, "Israel Could Lose," CSIS, November 7, 2023. Jon Alterman, "'Israel Could Lose': Audio Brief with Jon Alterman," CSIS, November 10, 2023. For more spoken word summaries from CSIS experts about their latest reports, white papers, and commentaries, please listen to the CSIS podcast Audio Briefs.
2023-11-21
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Khalil Sayegh: What We Get Wrong About Gaza

This week on Babel, Jon Alterman speaks with Palestinian political analyst Khalil Sayegh about what people get wrong about Gaza, the spread of misinformation, and why grassroots peace efforts need to change in the aftermath of the conflict. Then, Jon continues the conversation with Natasha Hall and Leah Hickert, discussing the war's information landscape and the challenges of grassroots peacebuilding. Transcript, "Khalil Sayegh: What We Get Wrong About Gaza," CSIS, November 14, 2023. Jon Alterman, "Israel Could Lose," CSIS, November 7, 2023.
2023-11-14
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A Mezze: Chat GPMufti

A recent flurry of Islamic experimentation with artificial intelligence has been met with mixed results. A new Mezze from the CSIS Middle East Program.
2023-11-07
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Neri Zilber: Inside Israeli Politics During Wartime

This week on Babel, Jon Alterman speaks with Tel Aviv-based journalist and analyst Neri Zilber about the war in Gaza, how Israelis are thinking about what comes next, and what it means for the region. Then, Jon continues the conversation with Natasha Hall and Leah Hickert, discussing Arab states' reactions to the conflict and the circumstances in which they might assist in managing post-war Gaza. Transcript, "Neri Zilber: Inside Israeli Politics During Wartime," CSIS, October 31, 2023. Neri Zilber, "Fears Grow the Israel has 'No Plan' Agreed for Postwar Gaza," Financial Times, October 24, 2023. Jon Alterman and Daniel Byman, "The World Can't Solve the Israel-Hamas War without Egypt," CSIS, October 25, 2023. Neri Zilber, "As Biden Arrives, Israel's War Aims are Ambitious, but Incomplete," the Christian Science Monitor, October 17, 2023.
2023-10-31
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Analysis: Developments in the Israel-Hamas War

Just over two weeks after Hamas invaded Israel, Leah Hickert speaks with Jon Alterman, director of the Middle East Program at CSIS, about the latest developments in the Israel-Hamas war. A new Analysis from the CSIS Middle East Program. Transcript, "The Outlook for Israel's Military Campaign against Hamas," CSIS, October 23, 2023. Jon Alterman, "President Biden Heads to Israel," CSIS, October 17, 2023. Jon Alterman, "Hamas and Israel: The Current Situation and Looking Ahead," CSIS, October 11, 2023.
2023-10-24
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Dalal Mawad: The Port of Beirut Explosion Through Women's Eyes

This week on Babel, Jon Alterman speaks with Lebanese journalist Dalal Mawad about her new book, All She Lost. The book weaves together women?s stories as they grapple with the 2020 explosion at the Port of Beirut, its aftermath, and the underlying pathologies that have contributed to Lebanon?s troubles. Then, Jon continues the conversation with Will Todman and Leah Hickert, discussing the role of women and collective memory in political and social developments throughout the region. Transcript, "Dalal Mawad: The Beirut Port Explosion Through Women's Eyes," CSIS, October 17, 2023. Dalal Mawad, All She Lost: The Explosion in Lebanon, the Collapse of a Nation and the Women who Survive, Bloomsbury Publishing, August 3, 2023.
2023-10-17
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A Mezze: Fishing for Food Security

In the desert region of Tindouf in southern Algeria, the sun beats down on sandy expanses that are home to little more than a network of refugee camps. But in August 2021, a group of Sahrawi refugees were bustling inside a building studded with rectangular pools and filled with tons of tilapia?literally. A new Mezze from the CSIS Middle East Program.
2023-10-10
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Khalid Ikram: Egypt's Economic Crisis

This week on Babel, Jon Alterman breaks down Egypt's economic crisis with Khalid Ikram, a veteran economist and consultant for over a dozen major international development organizations. They talk about the Egyptian military?s role in the economy and how Egyptian policymakers can alleviate the current crisis. Then, Jon continues the conversation with Will Todman and Leah Hickert, discussing how other governments in the region handle their economies in comparison to Egypt. Transcript, ?Khalid Ikram: Egypt's Economic Crisis,? CSIS, October 3, 2023.
2023-10-03
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Viewpoint: Data Dead Zone

Conflict and instability hinder water data collection in the Middle East, thereby complicating water management strategies that could contribute to more equitable development and sustainable peace. A new Viewpoint from the CSIS Middle East Program.
2023-09-26
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Tarek Megerisi: Libya's Crises

This week on Babel, Jon Alterman speaks with Tarek Megerisi, senior policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations. They talk about the ongoing conflict in Libya and the interests of international actors in the country. Tarek also discusses the recent flooding that devastated the city of Darna, and how the last decade of conflict contributed to the degradation of key infrastructure in Libya. Then, Jon continues the conversation with Will Todman and Leah Hickert, discussing the ways natural disasters challenge governments in the region.  Tarek Megerisi, ?The politics of catastrophe: Morocco, Libya, and how Europeans should respond,? European Council on Foreign Relations, September 13, 2023.  Transcript, ?Tarek Megerisi: Libya?s Crises,? CSIS, August 8, 2023 Photo credit: SeeSaw Foto.
2023-09-20
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A Mezze: Tunisia's Hunger Games

Amid widespread shortages of basic products in Tunisia, grocery store owners have become like black marketeers in one manifestation of Tunisia?s growing food crisis. A new Mezze from the CSIS Middle East Program.
2023-09-12
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Ghaith Abdul-Ahad: Iraq Through Iraqis' Eyes

This week on Babel, Jon Alterman speaks with award-winning Iraqi journalist Ghaith Abdul-Ahad. During the conversation, Abdul-Ahad discusses the fallout from the war and U.S. occupation, his career reporting from Iraq, and the ways that working alongside leading journalists influenced his work. Then, Jon continues the conversation with Natasha Hall and Leah Hickert, discussing the legacies of sectarianism in Iraq and Lebanon. Ghaith Abdul-Ahad, A Stranger in Your Own City: Travels in the Middle East's Long War, Penguin Random House, 2023. Ghaith Abdul-Ahad, "Guns, cash, and frozen chicken: the militia boss doling out aid in Baghdad," The Guardian, March 20, 2023. Transcript, "Ghaith Abdul-Ahad: Iraq Through Iraqis' Eyes," CSIS, August 22, 2023. Photo credit: Rena Effendi.
2023-09-06
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A Mezze: Baaloul Verde

Baaloul is not like most towns in Lebanon for two reasons. First, its inhabitants do not use any of Lebanon?s most common languages; instead, the lingua franca is Spanish. Second, it has reliable electricity. A new Mezze from the CSIS Middle East Program.
2023-08-29
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Haneen Sayed: Lebanon's Economic Crisis

This week on Babel, Jon Alterman speaks with Dr. Haneen Sayed, an international development expert and former lead specialist at the World Bank. During the conversation, Dr. Sayed discusses the roots of the economic crisis in Lebanon and how the international donor community can play a more constructive role. Then, Jon continues the conversation with Will Todman and Marty Pimentel, discussing the effect of sectarianism on Lebanon's political economy and the legacy of protest and civil war.?? Haneen Sayed, "How Better Social Protection Can Strengthen Lebanon's Social Contract," Carnegie Middle East Center, June 14, 2023.   Jon Alterman and Jihad Azour, "The Middle East's Economic Outlook," CSIS, January 10, 2023. Transcript, "Haneen Sayed: Lebanon's Economic Crisis," CSIS, August 22, 2023.
2023-08-22
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A Mezze: Keeping Iraq's Solar Community on Message

Amer al-Azaawy founded a small solar company in Baghdad. With little public awareness about the benefits of solar energy and no government support, he decided to take matters into his own hands. A new Mezze from the CSIS Middle East Program.
2023-08-15
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Hana Al Omair: The Saudi Film Industry

This week on Babel, Jon Alterman speaks with Hana Al Omair, an award-winning Saudi writer and director, and chairwoman of the new Saudi Cinema Association. During the conversation, Al Omair analyzes massive shifts underway in the Saudi film industry and emerging trends in Saudi cinema. Then, Jon continues the conversation with Will Todman and Danny Sharp, discussing where the Saudi film industry might go and why Hollywood blockbusters remain so popular in Saudi Arabia and the rest of the region.
2023-08-08
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A Mezze: Bride of the Beqqa

"The Bride of the Beqaa" captures the imagination of many Lebanese. The mountain city of Zahle overlooking the Beqaa plateau is famed for its beauty, pleasant climate, and quality arak. But for many years, Zahle was also famous for having 24/7 electricity without relying on neighborhood generators. A new Mezze from the CSIS Middle East Program.
2023-08-01
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Jason Rezaian: The Rise of Hostage Taking

This week on Babel, Jon Alterman welcomes Jason Rezaian back to the podcast. Jason is a former hostage and alongside Jon, he is the co-executive director of the CSIS Commission on Hostage Taking and Wrongful Detention. They speak about the growing phenomenon of hostile governments and groups imprisoning Americans to gain leverage against the United States, why it?s becoming more common, and what the United States can do both to respond when an American is detained and to deter wrongful detention and hostage taking altogether. Then, Jon continues the conversation with Natasha Hall and Danny Sharp, speaking about the case of Elizabeth Tsurkov, a Princeton graduate student who was kidnapped in Iraq in March by groups close to the Iranian government.  Jason Rezaian, ?Now the real work to end hostage-taking and wrongful detentions begins,? Washington Post Global Opinions, August 30, 2022.  Jason Rezaian and Danny Sharp, ?Just Call Them Hostages,? CSIS, July 20, 2023.  Transcript, ?Jason Rezaian: The Rise of Hostage Taking,? CSIS, July 25, 2023. 
2023-07-25
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A Mezze: Saudis Take to the Streets

Through new urban planning projects, Saudi Arabia is encouraging its citizens to join a quiet revolution of walking. While many Saudi cities have improved their mobility index, the government still faces many challenges. A new Mezze from the CSIS Middle East Program.
2023-07-18
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Shirin Hakim: Iran?s Environmental Challenges

This week on Babel, Jon speaks with Dr. Shirin Hakim, head of the Environment, Climate Security, and Public Health unit at the Center for Middle East and Global Order. They talk about Iran?s worsening environmental issues, the Iranian government?s decades-long mismanagement and overexploitation of its natural resources, and how Western sanctions play into the Iranian regime?s environmental strategy. Dr. Hakim closes the interview with thoughts on how U.S. policymakers should weigh environmental protection with broader foreign policy priorities. Later in the episode, Jon sits down with Will Todman and Danny Sharp to break down Will?s latest report ?The Unique Promise of Environmental Cooperation in the Gulf,? which argues that diplomacy on environmental issues could be one pathway to reducing tensions and breaking through on some of the trickier security issues in the Gulf. Shirin Hakim and Karen Makuch, ?Springtime in Iran signals the renewal of an environmental movement,? Atlantic Council, April 21, 2023. Shirin Hakim and Karen Makuch, ?Conflicts of Interest: The Environmental Costs of Modern War and Sanctions,? RUSI, May 11, 2022. Will Todman, Lubna Yousef, and Mennah Abdelwahab, ?The Unique Promise of Environmental Cooperation in the Gulf? CSIS, July 11, 2023. Transcript, ?Shirin Hakim: Iran's Environmental Challenges? CSIS, July 11, 2023.
2023-07-11
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A Mezze: The Kurdistan Region of Iraq

As power outages become more frequent in Iraq, the Kurdistan Region of Iraq is working to attract private investors in its renewable energy sector to access the full potential of the sun. A new Mezze from the CSIS Middle East Program.  Will Todman, "Powering Recovery: Reform, Reconstruction, and Renewables in Conflict-Affected States in the Arab World," CSIS, March 3, 2023.
2023-07-04
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Dalia Hatuqa: Palestinian Politics

This week on Babel, Jon speaks with Dalia Hatuqa, a Ramallah-based journalist who has published widely in leading outlets around the world. They talk about the state of politics in the West Bank and Gaza; how the West and Arab states are engaging with the issue of Palestinian self-determination; and Palestinians? rising frustration with their government, the Israeli government, and the international community. Later in the episode, Jon continues the conversation with Will Todman and Danny Sharp, exploring the internal and external barriers to change in Palestinian politics. Dalia Hatuqa, ?The New Palestinian Resistance: Young militants are ditching old-style factionalism to fight Israel?s occupation,? Foreign Policy, March 29, 2023. Dalia Hatuqa, ?Abbas is Destroying Democracy to Ensure His Successor Supports Israel,? Foreign Policy, March 24, 2022. Dalia Hatuqa, ?Abu Mazen Stacks the Deck,? New Lines Magazine, March 19, 2021. Jon Alterman, ?A U.S. Pivot Away from the Middle East: Fact or Fiction?? CSIS, May 23, 2023. Jon Alterman, ?Will Israeli-Palestinian Violence Spin Out of Control?? CSIS, February 28, 2023. Transcript, ?Dalia Hatuqa: Palestinian Politics,? CSIS, June 27, 2023.
2023-06-27
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Analysis: LGBTQ+ Advocacy in the Middle East Backfires

In a new episode of Babel, we talk to Will Todman about how even well-intentioned Western LGBTQ+ advocacy in the Middle East can have negative consequences for local LGBTQ+ communities.  Will Todman, "LGBTQ+ Advocacy in the Middle East Backfires," CSIS, December 16, 2022.
2023-06-20
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Christoph Reuter: Syria?s War Economy.

This week on Babel, Jon Alterman speaks with Christoph Reuter of Der Spiegel magazine, an award winning journalist and conflict reporter. They talk about Captagon, criminal networks, and Syria's war economy. Later, Jon continues the conversation with Natasha Hall and Lubna Yousef, and they explore the intersection between criminal networks and war zones. Transcript, "Christoph Reuter: Syria's War Economy," CSIS, June 13, 2023. Jon Alterman and Natasha Hall, "Accountability in Syria," CSIS, August 9, 2022. Jörg Diehl, Mohannad al-Najjar, and Christoph Reuter, ?Syria?s Drug Smuggling: The Assad Regime Would Not Survive Loss of Captagon Revenues,? Der Spiegel, June 21, 2022.   Will Todman and Natasha Hall, "Russia Waged a Cheap War in Syria. Here's What Those Tactics Might Look Like in Ukraine," CSIS, March 11, 2022.
2023-06-13
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A Mezze: Iran's "Cloudy" Accusations

In mid-2022, Iranian authorities accused Israel and the United Arab Emirates of stealing their rain. But Iran?s increasingly dire water shortages make it harder to blame others for the Iranian government?s poor water management. A new Mezze from the CSIS Middle East Program.
2023-06-06
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Nicolas Pelham: Morocco's Missing King

This week on Babel, Jon Alterman speaks with Nicolas Pelham of The Economist and author of a recent article in 1843 magazine entitled "The Mystery of Morocco's Missing King." They talk about the Moroccan monarchy, King Mohammed VI?s unusual friendship with a German kickboxer, and what it means for the future of Morocco. Later, Jon continues the conversation with Natasha Hall and Danny Sharp, as they compare the different ruling strategies of Arab kings. Nicolas Pelham, "MBS: despot in the desert," 1843 magazine, July 28, 2022. Transcript, "Nicolas Pelham: Morocco's Missing King," CSIS, May 30, 2023.
2023-05-30
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A Mezze: From Stable to Table?Egypt's Donkey Meat Controversy

As Egypt's economic crisis continues, a new proposition of introducing donkey meat to Egypt's cuisine causes public uproar amidst soaring food prices. A new Mezze from the CSIS Middle East Program.
2023-05-23
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Hafsa Halawa: Egypt's Economic Turmoil 

This week on Babel, Jon Alterman speaks with Hafsa Halawa of the Middle East Institute and author of a new paper entitled "Gulf Investment in Egypt, A Balance of Mutual Need." They talk about Egypt?s economic crisis, the recent International Monetary Fund (IMF) loan, Egypt's military's economic involvement, and the changing face of Gulf financial support. Later, Jon continues the conversation with Will Todman and Lubna Yousef, as they examine United States - Egypt policy and what an Egypt crisis means for the entire region.  Hafsa Halawa, "Gulf Investment in Egypt: A Balance of Mutual Need," Carnegie, May 8, 2023. Babel, "COP 27 Preview: Electrifying the Middle East with Ali al-Saffar," CSIS, November 1, 2022. Transcript, "Hafsa Halawa: Egypt's Economic Turmoil," CSIS, May 16, 2023.
2023-05-16
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A Mezze: Power Plays

Suffering from a debilitating electricity and water shortage crisis, some communities in Libya resort to "power plays" and acts of intimidation to ensure their access to basic services. A New Mezze from the CSIS Middle East Program. 
2023-05-09
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Killian Clarke: Egypt's Counterrevolution and the Return to Tyranny

This week on Babel, Jon Alterman speaks with Prof. Killian Clarke of Georgetown's Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service about his forthcoming book tentatively entitled The Return of Tyranny: How Counterrevolutions Emerge and Succeed. They talk about the counterrevolution in Egypt, the complex relationship between the military, the Muslim Brotherhood, and the public, and lessons learned from counterrevolutions around the world. Later, Jon continues the conversation with Natasha Hall and Lubna Yousef, debating similarities between Egypt and Tunisia, and how the region views U.S. influence post 2011. Killian Clarke, ?Revolutionary Violence and Counterrevolution,? American Political Science Review, December 19, 2022.  Killian Clarke, "This Is How to Stop the Coup in Sudan," The New York Times. 29 October 2021. Jon Alterman, "Egypt's Economic Challenge," The Jerusalem Strategic Tribune, April 2023. Transcript, "Egypt's Counterrevolution and the Return to Tyranny," CSIS, May 2, 2023.
2023-05-03
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A Mezze: An Uphill Battle

GCC countries are beginning to tackle their obesity problem, but structural and cultural challenges to improving fitness abound. A New Mezze from the CSIS Middle East Program.
2023-04-25
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Ayham Kamel: The Gulf's Regional Diplomacy

This week on Babel, Jon Alterman speaks with Ayham Kamel of the Eurasia Group. They talk about the current diplomatic landscape in the Gulf, how Gulf leaders perceive their security interests, their views on the U.S. staying in power in the region, and how they are responding to the U.S. retrenchment from the Middle East. Then, Jon continues the conversation with Will Todman and Danny Sharp, discussing how Gulf countries are finding opportunities in a reduced U.S. presence and how they are pursuing their own interests.  Transcript, "The Gulf's Regional Diplomacy," CSIS, April 18, 2023.
2023-04-18
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A Mezze: Help Wanted, But Not Found

What started as a job advertisement for a sandwich maker in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) quickly landed one firm in?hot water?last December. As the UAE pushes for companies in the private sector to hire more Emiratis, they're finding that there are some jobs that Emiratis may not want. A new Mezze from the Middle East Program.
2023-04-11
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Ali Vaez: Iran's Regional Policy

This week on Babel, Jon Alterman speaks with Ali Vaez of the International Crisis Group. They talk about the Saudi-Iranian agreement to resume diplomatic ties, how it fits into Iran?s wider foreign policy strategy around the region, and the prospects for a broader détente between Iran and its Arab neighbors in the Gulf. Vaez suggests that a regional nuclear agreement between Iran and Arab states in the Gulf might be a more viable path forward than an agreement between Iran and the West. Then, Jon continues the conversation with Natasha Hall and Caleb Harper, discussing what this all means for U.S. policy toward Iran and in the rest of the region.  Ali Vaez, ?The Long Twilight of the Islamic Republic,? Foreign Affairs, February 2, 2023.  Jon Alterman, "Saudi Arabia Steps Out," CSIS, March 23, 2023. Jon Alterman, "Why Did China Help Saudi Arabia and Iran Resume Diplomatic Ties?" CSIS, March 10, 2023. Transcript, "Iran's Regional Policy," CSIS, April 4, 2023.
2023-04-04
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A Mezze: Saudi Arabia's New Anime Journey

Imported entertainment options have flourished under MBS, helping erode the Saudi state?s ability to shape public culture. But now, Saudi state-owned firms are using the growing popularity of anime to shape their own narrative, at home and abroad. A new Mezze from the CSIS Middle East Program.
2023-03-29
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Iraq 20 Years Later with Marsin Alshamary and Hamzeh Hadad

In a special episode of Babel to mark the 20th anniversary of the beginning of the Iraq war, Jon sits down with two Iraqi guests to talk about the aftermath of the U.S.-led invasion. Dr. Marsin Alshamary is a research fellow with the Middle East Initiative at Harvard's Belfer Center, and Hamzeh Hadad is an adjunct fellow with the Center for New American Security. Alshamary and Hadad talk about how the war in Iraq has shaped both Iraqi politics and their own lives, their experiences as members of the diaspora who travel extensively to Iraq, the lingering effects of the Saddam Hussein era, and the future of Iraqi politics. Then, Jon continues the conversation with Will Todman and Lubna Yousef, discussing the different ways in which diaspora communities interact with both their home countries and their host countries.  Marsin Alshamary and Hamzeh Hadad, ?The Collective Neglect of Southern Iraq: Missed Opportunities for Development and Good Governance,? International Peacekeeping, February 16, 2023.   Hamzeh Hadad, ?Climate of opportunity: Iraq?s new government as regional conciliator,? European Council on Foreign Relations, November 4, 2022.   Marsin Alshamary, ?Authoritarian Nostalgia Among Iraqi Youth,? War on the Rocks, July 25, 2018.   Transcript, "Iraq 20 Years Later," CSIS, March 21, 2023.
2023-03-21
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