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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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Competing Views of the United States

This week on Babel, Jon speaks with Emile Hokayem, a senior fellow for the Middle East at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS). They discuss changing Middle Eastern views of the United States, the United States' focus on "defense diplomacy" with regional partners, and the implications of his conversations with regional actors for policymakers in Washington Then, Jon, Natasha Hall, and Danny Sharp, continue the conversation about competing visions of the United States in the Middle East and how they might influence each other. Emile Hokayem, ?Reassuring Gulf Partners While Recalibrating U.S. Security Policy,? Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, May 18, 2021.  Jon Alterman "Focus on Influence, Not Power, in the Middle East," Defense One, March 25, 2021. Emile Hokayem and John Raine, ?The Strategic Implications of COVID-19 for the Middle East,? IISS, December 2020. Transcript, "Competing Views of the United States," CSIS, October 5, 2021.
2021-10-05
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A Mezze: New Housewives of Egypt

Crowdsourcing of female roles is rising in Egypt driven by the digital revolution. A New Mezze from the CSIS Middle East Program.
2021-09-28
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Tunisia's Popular Authoritarian

This week on Babel, Jon speaks with Dr. Monica Marks, a professor of Middle East politics at NYU Abu Dhabi who has been thinking about Tunisia for almost 15 years. They discuss Tunisian President Kais Saied's recent moves to consolidate power, why Tunisians seem to support him, what's at stake for Tunisia's democracy, and what role Western donors and institutions can play in the country. Then, Jon, Will Todman, and Caleb Harper continue the conversation about the nature of popular authoritarianism and how we should think about popular despots in Tunisia and the rest of the Arab world.  Monica Marks, ?An Interview with Hamma Hammami of the Tunisian Worker?s Party,? Jadaliyya, August 20, 2021.   Will Todman, "A Coup in Tunisia?" CSIS, July 27, 2021. Will Todman, "Challenging Authority in Post-Revolution Tunisia," CSIS, January 22, 2020. Monica Marks, ?'Letting go of every principle': Tunisia's democratic gains under threat,? Middle East Eye, July 24, 2017. Monica Marks, ?Tunisia?s Unwritten Story,? The Century Foundation, March 14, 2017.  Episode Transcript, "Tunisia's Popular Authoritarian," CSIS, September 21, 2021.
2021-09-21
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A Mezze: Balancing Priorities

Recent moves by two food delivery services in Qatar highlight that in the struggle for both labor rights and sustainability, Qatar's challenge is both establishing its priorities and prioritizing between them. A new Mezze from the Middle East Program at CSIS.
2021-09-14
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Iran's Interests in Afghanistan

This week on Babel, Jon talks with Colin Clarke, a senior research fellow and the director of policy and research at The Soufan Center. They discuss what Iran is set to gain in Afghanistan, Iran's relationship with al Qaeda and the Taliban, and potential areas of cooperation or conflict between Iran and the United States as the U.S. withdraws from the region. Then, Jon, Natasha, and Danny continue the conversation about the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and its implications for great power competition and cooperation in the Middle East.  Colin P. Clarke, ?The U.S. Doesn?t Have to Choose Between Counterterrorism and Great Power Competition,? World Politics Review, August 23, 2021.  Jon Alterman, "Stories of Afghans left behind will hurt America around the world," The Hill, August 18, 2021. Colin P. Clarke and Asfandyar Mir, ?Making Sense of Iran and al-Qaeda?s Relationship,? Lawfare, March 21, 2021.  Colin P. Clarke and Ariane Tabatabai, ?What Iran Wants in Afghanistan,? Foreign Affairs, July 8, 2020.  Episode Transcript, "Iran's Interests in Afghanistan," CSIS, September 7, 2021.
2021-09-07
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A Mezze: Morocco's Mixed Harvest

For agricultural workers laboring on large tomato farms in Morocco, low wages keep many living hand-to-mouth, while a few large tomato companies?many with foreign ties?have continued to grow. As a result, for many rural Moroccans, the government's commercial agricultural policies are leading to a mixed harvest. A new Mezze from the Middle East Program at CSIS.
2021-08-31
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The Global Energy Transition

This week on Babel, Jon talks with Daniel Yergin, the vice-chairman of IHS Markit and author of the new book, The New Map: Energy, Climate, and the Clash of Nations. They discuss the global energy transition and the longevity of oil, the effects of the shale revolution on U.S. foreign policy, and how states such as China will think about energy security moving forward. Then, Jon Natasha Hall, and Danny Sharp continue the conversation about the energy transition and its implications for oil producers in the Middle East.  Jon Alterman, "A New Revolution in the Middle East," CSIS, July 22, 2021. Daniel Yergin, ?How will the pandemic affect the sprint away from fossil fuels?? The Guardian, October 8, 2020.  Daniel Yergin, ?How the shale revolution has redrawn the global political map,? The Dallas Morning News, September 20, 2020.  Daniel Yergin, ?The New Geopolitics of Energy,? The Wall Street Journal, September 11, 2020.  Episode Transcript, "The Global Energy Transition," CSIS, August 24, 2021.
2021-08-24
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A Mezze: Abu Dhabi Goes Green for Greens

If there is one thing Abu Dhabi has in abundance, it?s sunlight. But investors in the UAE are pouring millions of dollars into farming enterprises that don?t use any sunlight at all. Find out why with a new Mezze from the Middle East Program.
2021-08-17
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U.S. Restraint in the Middle East

This week on Babel, Jon talks with Sen. Chris Murphy, chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on the Near East, South Asia, Central Asia, and Counterterrorism. They discuss the U.S. relationship with Gulf allies, regional proxy battles with Iran, investing in Lebanon and Tunisia, and how worried policymakers should be about China's growing engagement with the Middle East. Then, Jon, Will Todman, and Caleb Harper discuss what a policy of greater U.S. restraint in the Middle East might look like and what impacts it might have.  Chris Murphy, ?Behind the Scenes of My Trip to the Middle East,? Medium, May 10, 2021.  Jon Alterman, "Focus on Influence, Not Power in the Middle East," DefenseOne, March 25, 2021. Chris Murphy, ?America?s Middle East Policy is Outdated and Dangerous,? Foreign Affairs, February 19, 2021.  Chris Murphy, ?How to Make a Progressive Foreign Policy Actually Work,? The Atlantic, October 7, 2019.  Episode Transcript, "U.S. Restrain in the Middle East," CSIS, August 10, 2021.
2021-08-10
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A Mezze: Women's Work

Eight years ago, Syria recorded the lowest rate of female labor participation in the Middle East. Now, Syrian men are increasingly the ones trapped at home and women are filling the vacancies they leave. A new Mezze from the CSIS Middle East Program.
2021-08-03
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Yemen's Civil War

This week on Babel, Jon talks with Peter Salisbury, the International Crisis Group's senior analyst for Yemen with over a decade of experience working on the country. They discuss who's fighting in Yemen, what's at stake in the ongoing battle over Marib, and why the international community needs to broaden its mediation efforts to end the Yemeni conflict. Then, Will Todman, Danny Sharp, and Jon discuss what role the United States should play in Yemen and how the country fits into broader U.S. strategy in the Middle East.  Peter Salisbury, ?A New UN Envoy is an Opportunity for a New Approach in Yemen,? International Crisis Group, June 18, 2021.  Peter Salisbury, ?To Make Yemen?s Peace Process Sustainable, Include Women,? World Politics Review, April 19, 2021.  Peter Salisbury, ?Yemen?s Southern Transitional Council: A Delicate Balancing Act,? Istituto Per Gli Studi Di Politica Internazionale (ISPI), March 29, 2021.  Jon Alterman, "Designating the Houthis as Terrorists Would Be a Mistake," Defense One, November 30, 2021. Episode Transcript, "Yemen's Civil War," CSIS, July 27, 2021.
2021-07-27
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A Mezze: Spending to Save

With their savings in U.S. dollars trapped in Lebanese banks, many Lebanese have come to believe that in Lebanon, the easiest way to save money is to spend it. This is a new a mezze episode from the CSIS Middle East Program.
2021-07-20
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Iran's Future

This week on Babel, Jon speaks with Karim Sadjadpour, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace where focusing on Iran and U.S. foreign policy toward the Middle East. They discuss tipping points in Iran, the future of the regime and what a post-Islamic Republic Iran might look like, and patterns in the history of authoritarian regimes. Then, Jon, Will Todman, and Caleb Harper continue the discussion about the potential foreign policy of a post-Islamic Republic Iran and its implications for regional actors and the United States.   Karim Sadjadpour, ?Iran Stops Pretending,??The Atlantic,?June 20, 2021.  Karim Sadjadpour, ?How to Win the Cold War With Iran,??The Atlantic,?March 25, 2021.  Jon Alterman, ?Iran Will Still be a Slog,? Defense One, January 23, 2021.  Jon Alterman, ?Covid-19, the Iranians, and Us,? CSIS, July 21, 2020.  Episode Transcript, ?The Future of Iran's Regime,? CSIS, July 13, 2021. 
2021-07-13
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A Mezze: Reeding between the Lines

When engineers plant reeds as part of a new project in Azraq, Jordan, they'll be doing more than just revitalizing the local environment. This is a new a mezze from the Middle East Program. This vignette is taken from the CSIS Middle East Program?s report, ?Sustainable States: Environment, Governance, and the Future of the Middle East," available on the CSIS website.
2021-07-12
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The Politicization of Aid in Syria

This week on Babel, Jon talks with Carsten Wieland, a German diplomat who served in the United Nations with three separate special envoys to Syria. They discuss the scale of the humanitarian crisis in Syria, the politicization of humanitarian aid in Syria, and the implications of humanitarian aid policy in Syria for broader international humanitarian law. Then, Natasha Hall, Will Todman, and Danny Sharp continue the discussion about the upcoming vote on cross-border operations in the UN Security Council and its implications.  Natasha Hall, "The Implications of the UN Cross-Border Vote in Syria," CSIS, June 4, 2021. Carsten Wieland, Syria and the Neutrality Trap: The Dilemmas of Delivering Humanitarian Aid through Violent Regimes, May 2021. Natasha Hall and Will Todman, "Lesson's Learned from a Decade of Humanitarian Operations in Syria," CSIS, April 22, 2021. Episode Transcript, "The Politicization of Aid in Syria," CSIS, June 29, 2021.
2021-06-29
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A Mezze: Gold from Garbage

With the help of a local startup, for one municipality in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley, not all organic waste has to actually go to waste. A new Mezze from the CSIS Middle East Program. This vignette is taken from the CSIS Middle East Program?s report, ?Sustainable States: Environment, Governance, and the Future of the Middle East," available on the CSIS website.
2021-06-22
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Israel's New Government

This week on Babel, Jon speaks with Dahlia Scheindlin, a public opinion expert and international political consultant who has advised 8 Israeli elections. They discuss the deep divisions in Israeli society, where the new Israeli government can go from here, and how Israelis think about the changing nature of the U.S.-Israel relationship. Then, Jon, Natasha Hall, and Caleb Harper continue the discussion about Israel's diplomacy with the United States and the region. Dahlia Scheindlin, ?Netanyahu's Greatest Achievement Was Convincing Israel He Alone Transformed the State,? Time, June 8, 2021.  Dahlia Scheindlin, ?The First Job for Israel?s New Government: Clean Up Bibi?s Mess,? The New York Times, June 3, 2021.   Dahlia Scheindlin, ?An anti-Netanyahu coalition government would suggest Israelis are ready for change,? The Guardian, June 2, 2021.  Jon Alterman, "Three Political Crises Drove the Gaza Violence," Defense One, May 25, 2021. Transcript, "Israel's New Government," CSIS, June 15.
2021-06-15
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A Mezze: Bright Skies, Bright Future

Entering Tunisia?s solar industry takes more than just a sunny disposition. A new Mezze from the CSIS Middle East Program. This vignette is taken from the CSIS Middle East Program?s report, ?Sustainable States: Environment, Governance, and the Future of the Middle East," available on the CSIS website.
2021-06-08
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Rituals of Protest

This week on Babel, Jon Alterman talks about Jordan with Dr. Jillian Schwedler, professor of political science at the City University of New York's Hunter College and a non-resident fellow at Brandeis University's Crown Center. Jon and Dr. Schwedler discuss the surprisingly long history of Jordanian protests, the ways Jordanian protests are a regular part of politics in the country, and who is and isn't allowed to protest. Then, Jon, Natasha Hall, and Danny Sharp continue the discussion about the nature of protest and political display in the Middle East.  Jillian Schwedler, ?Jordan detained a prince. The government?s determined to squash political dissent,? Washington Post, April 5, 2021.  Jillian Schwedler, "Material Obstacles to Protest in the Urban Built Environment", Contention 8, 1 (2020): 70-92.  Will Todman, "The Collapse of Jordan's Social Safety Net," CSIS, December 17, 2019. Episode Transcript, "Rituals of Protest" CSIS, June 1, 2021.
2021-06-01
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A Mezze: Chopped Liver

In Egypt, hot sauce might not be all that comes with your liver sandwich. This is a short mezze from the Middle East Program at CSIS.
2021-05-25
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Building Sustainable States

This week on Babel, McKinley Knoop interviews Jon Alterman, Natasha Hall, and Will Todman about the Middle East Program's new report, "Sustainable States: Environment, Governance, and the Future of the Middle East." They discuss the origins of the report, the crucial role of trust in public service provision and governance, and how the team conducted research during the Covid-19 pandemic. To end, Jon talks about why think tanks and security-minded policymakers in Washington should care about seemingly mundane topics, like public utilities and local governance.  Jon Alterman, Natasha Hall, and Will Todman, "Sustainable States: Environment, Governance, and the Future of the Middle East," CSIS, April 2021. Jon Alterman, Natasha Hall, and Will Todman, "Sustainable States: On the Ground," CSIS, April 2021. Wassim Chaabane, "Decentralized Waste Management in MENA Countries: Lessons from Tunisia," CSIS, May 6, 2021. Mohammed Al-Saidi, "Virtue out of Necessity: Yemen?s Lessons on Resilience and Infrastructure Planning," CSIS, March 25, 2021. Jessica Obeid, "Failure to Power: The Need for Decentralized Renewable Energy Models," CSIS, March 18, 2021. Karim Elgendy, "Post-Oil Cities in the MENA Region: Lessons from Doha," CSIS, March 18, 2021.
2021-05-18
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A Mezze: Set in Stone

In the struggle for Tunisia's post-revolution future, the past has been getting a controversial new lease on life. Statues commemorating Tunisia's past leaders have not been left unscathed.
2021-05-11
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Journalism and Politics in Egypt

This week on Babel, Jon Alterman talks with Khaled Dawoud, who was arrested amidst rising political tensions in Egypt in September 2019 and was released from prison two weeks ago. Upon his release, Khaled returned to his jobs as assistant editor of Al-Ahram Weekly and a professor of journalism at the American University in Cairo. Khaled talks about his time in prison, how he became involved in politics, and how his journalism career was shaped by his time in the United States. Then, Jon, Natasha Hall, and McKinley Knoop continue the conversation with a discussion about the relationship between journalism, politics, and activism. Khaled Dawoud, "The stakes behind the story: How Egypt's media covered the Kashoggi case," Middle East Institute, October 26, 2018. Jon Alterman, "Making Choices: The Future of the U.S.-Egyptian Relationship," CSIS, August 2016. Khaled Dawoud, "Secular Parties in Egypt's Political Landscape," Middle East Institute, September 11, 2014. Episode Transcript, "Journalism and Politics in Egypt," CSIS, May 4, 2021.
2021-05-04
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A Mezze: Moonstruck

Calculating the beginning and the end of Ramadan is an annual debate in the Middle East, and politics, sectarianism, and ethnicity are never far from the equation. This is a short mezze from the Middle East Program at CSIS.
2021-04-27
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Jordan's Royal Intrigue

This week on Babel, Jon Alterman talks about Jordan with Dr. Bessma Momani, professor of political science at the University of Waterloo and one of Canada's leading experts on the Middle East. Dr. Momani and Jon explore the recent controversy over former Crown Prince Hamzeh and the government?s concerns over public discontent. Then, Jon, Natasha Hall, and Danny Sharp discuss Jordanians' relationship with the state. Bessma Momani, ?Opinion: The authorities in Jordan sounded the alarm about a coup. Jordanians aren?t convinced,? Washington Post, April 7, 2021. Bessma Momani, ?Our feminist foreign policy is not perfect, but in Jordan, it?s doing a lot of good,? The Globe and Mail, March 31, 2019. Will Todman, "The Collapse of Jordan's Social Safety Net," CSIS, December 17, 2019. Episode Transcript, "Jordan's Royal Intrigue," CSIS, April 20, 2021.
2021-04-20
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A Mezze: Baby Boom or Bust

Being single in Iran could become very expensive if a conservative cleric gets his way. This is a short mezze from the Middle East Program at CSIS.
2021-04-13
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Lebanon's Energy Sector

This week on Babel, Jon Alterman talks with Jessica Obeid, energy consultant, a senior global advisor at the London-based consultancy Azure Strategy, and an academy associate with Chatham House's Energy, Environment, and Resources Programme. They talk about the Lebanese power sector and what its shortcomings tell us about broader fissures in Arab society. Then, Natasha Hall, Will Todman, and Jon continue the discussion about sectarianism and renewable energy, and discuss our new report. Jessica Obeid, "Failure to Power: The Need for Decentralized Renewable Energy Models," CSIS, March 18, 2021. Natasha Hall, "Lebanon's Political Bosses Are the Real Problem," CSIS, August 17, 2020. Jessica Obeid, ?Lebanon?s Power Sector: Making Reforms Work,? LCPS, June 2020. Transcript, "Lebanon's Energy Sector," CSIS, April 6, 2021.
2021-04-06
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A Mezze: Borders Without Doctors

A short mezze episode from the Middle East Program at CSIS. The Egyptian government is trying to block doctors from leaving the country, but they aren't incentivizing doctors to stay, either.
2021-03-30
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Syria?s Decade of Tragedy

To mark a decade since protests first began in Syria, we are bringing you the stories and experiences of five different Syrians, in their own words. Omar Alshogre is now a student at Georgetown University, and he was 15 when he attended his first protest in 2011 and was subsequently imprisoned for the first time. Zaina Erhaim is an award-winning journalist, communications expert, and trainer originally from Syria who is now working with journalists throughout the Arab world. Ibrahim is from Madiq Castle, and was forcibly displaced to northern Syria in 2019, where he now lives. Wafiqa was a teacher in a town close to Damascus but was forcibly displaced in 2016. She now lives and teaches in Idlib. Finally, Ibrahim is from Madaya, a small town near Damascus that was under siege for several years. We are honored to bring you their voices, and thank you to Omar, Zaina, Ibrahim, Wafiqa, and Ibrahim for entrusting us with their stories. Special thanks to Kinan Azmeh and Kevork Mourad for the use of their song ?A Sad Morning, Every Morning? and to Abdul-Wahab Kayyali for the use of his song ??? ??? ??? ???.? Voice overs were provided by Natasha Hall, Mahmoud Ghanem, and Humzah Khan. Many thanks to our team at WeEdit who helped us edit and produce this episode. Thanks to McKinley Knoop for scripting the episode, Will Todman for suggesting guests, and Danny Sharp for his promotional efforts.
2021-03-22
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A Mezze: Perils of the Sea

Yemen?s once flourishing fishing industry is now on the rocks as the country?s conflict has turned previously tranquil shores into a warzone.
2021-03-16
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UN Mediation in Libya

This week on Babel, Jon Alterman talks with Stephanie Williams, formerly the acting special representative of the UN Secretary-General and the head of the UN Support Mission in Libya. They talk about why the conflict in Libya has lasted this long, the importance of facilitating a Libyan-Libyan resolution to the conflict, and her role as a mediator in the process. Then, Natasha Hall, Will Todman, and Jon discuss their own experiences with mediation elsewhere in the region. NYTimes Editorial Board, "Can Libya Put Itself Back Together Again?" NYTimes, March 8, 2021. Stephanie Turco Williams and Jeffrey Feltman, "Can a political breakthrough mend a broken Libya?" Brookings, February 17, 2021. Brookings Event, "Nonstate armed actors and the US Global Fragility Strategy," Brookings, February 18, 2021. Episode Transcript, "UN Mediation in Libya," CSIS, March 9, 2021.
2021-03-09
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A Mezze: Influence Peddlers

If social media influencers in the UAE want to capitalize on their fame, they have to acquire a license from the UAE government. This is a short mezze episode from the Middle East Program at CSIS.
2021-03-02
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Erdogan's Middle East Policy

This week on Babel, Jon Alterman talks with Ambassador James Jeffrey, who recently finished serving as the Secretary of State's special representative for Syria engagement and as the special envoy to defeat ISIS. Ambassador Jeffrey talked about Turkey's Middle East policy, how to think about Turkey's versus Erdogan's views, and if Turkey has any allies in the Middle East. Then, Jon, Natasha Hall, and McKinley Knoop discussed the durability of Turkey's presence in the Middle East. James Jeffrey, Merissa Khurma, Haleh Esfandiari, and Robin Wright, ?On the Horizon 2021 | Middle East,? The Wilson Center, January 13, 2021.  Jared Szuba, ?Outgoing Syria envoy reflects on Turkey, the Kurds and what everyone got wrong,? Al-Monitor, December 9, 2020.  Meliha?Benli Altun???k, ?The New Turn in Turkey?s Foreign Policy in the Middle East: Regional and Domestic Insecurities,??Foundation for?European Progressive?Studies, July?17,?2020.  Episode Transcript, "Erdogan's Middle East Policy," CSIS, February 23, 2021.
2021-02-23
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A Mezze: Home Grown

Traffickers bringing foreign tomatoes onto Iraq's black market are just one sign of Iraq's domestic produce and protectionism issues.
2021-02-16
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Saudi Arabia and the Labor Market

This week on Babel, Jon Alterman talks with Dr. Hanaa Almoaibed, visiting research fellow at the London School of Economics Middle East Centre and research fellow at the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies. Dr. Almoaibed talks about her research on how Saudi's youth view vocational schools, entrepreneurship, and Vision 2030. Then, Jon is joined by his colleagues Will Todman and Danny Sharp to discuss prestige in how it relates to employment. Buthaina al Zubair and Caleb Harper, "Influence Peddlers," CSIS, November 18, 2020. Hanaa Almoaibed, "Elevating the status of Technical and Vocational Education and Training in Saudi Arabia: The Need for Enhancing Stakeholder Engagement and Student Motivation," King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies, June 2020. Jon Alterman, "Ties that Bind: Family, Tribe, Nation, and the Rise of Arab Individualism," CSIS, December 2, 2019. Hanaa Almoaibed, "Education and Job Opportunities: How Do Schooling Practices Affect Young Saudis' Transition to University and Employment?" King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies, September 2020. Episode Transcript, "Saudi Arabia and the Labor Market," CSIS, January 9, 2020.
2021-02-09
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A Mezze: Pipe Dream

Women across the Middle East are becoming plumbers with support from some governments' training programs.
2021-02-02
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Restoring Iraq's Marshes

In this week's episode of Babel, Jon Alterman talks with Dr. Azzam Alwash, an engineer working to restore Iraq's wetlands and the founder of Nature Iraq. Dr. Alwash talks about why wetlands are important and how he and others work to convince Iraq's government to take action. Then, Jon, Natasha Hall, and McKinley Knoop discuss the relationship between climate change, governance, and trust. Azzam Alwash, ?Iraq?s Climate Crisis Requires Bold Cooperation,? The Century Foundation, December 14, 2020.  Will Todman, "Iraq's Explosive Plague," CSIS, April 15, 2019. Azzam Alwash, ?The Mosul Dam: Turning a Potential Disaster into a Win-Win Solution,? Viewpoints 68, Wilson Center, 2016.  Peter Schwartzstein, "Iraq's Famed Marshes Are Disappearing - Again," National Geographic, July 9, 2015. Episode Transcript, "Restoring Iraq's Marshes," CSIS, January 26, 2021.
2021-01-26
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A Mezze: Ba'athist Blues

The disorder of today?s Iraq leads many Iraqis to miss the old Iraq, in which life was predictable and the state provided for its citizens. Over the past several years, Iraqi support for Saddam Hussein has surged.
2021-01-19
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The Arab Spring Ten Years On

In our latest episode of Babel, Jon Alterman was joined by Issandr El Amrani, regional director for the Middle East/North Africa region at the Open Society Foundation. Issandr talked to Jon about how political trends across the Middle East have unfolded in the ten years since the Arab Spring. He also gives his thoughts on what trends people should be watching going forward. Then, Jon, Natasha Hall, and Danny Sharp explore the Arab Spring's legacy ten years on. Oz Katerji, "Betrayed by Their Leaders, Failed by the West, Arabs Still Want Democracy," Foreign Policy, December 17, 2020. Issandr El Amrani, "In Translation: Sisi's Road to Presidency for Life," The Arabist, May 17, 2018. Issandr El Amrani, "Morocco's Second Spring," The Guardian, April 17, 2012. Episode Transcript, "The Arab Spring Ten Years On," CSIS, January 12, 2021.
2021-01-12
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A Mezze: Drivers of Change

As more and more women across the Middle East enter the auto industry, the fuel for change is being driven in unexpected directions.
2021-01-05
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Rising Temperatures in the Middle East

Jon Alterman talks with Elfatih Eltahir, professor of hydrology and climate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, about climate change and rising temperatures across the Middle East. Professor Eltahir explains what 'wet bulb' temperature means, and why governments should plan future cities away from the coast in order to cope with extreme heat. Then, Jon, Will Todman, and McKinley Knoop discuss climate change mitigation efforts in the Middle East. Suchul Kang, Jeremy Pal, Elfatih Eltahir, "Future Heat Stress During Muslim Pilgrimage (Hajj) Projected to Exceed 'Extreme Danger' Levels," Geophysical Research Letters, June 25, 2019. Elfatih Eltahir, short educational videos, Eltahir Research Group. Jeremy S. Pal and Elfatih Eltahir, ?Future temperature in southwest Asia projected to exceed a threshold for human adaptability," Nature Climate Change, October 26, 2015. Jon Alterman and Michael Dziuban, Clear Gold, CSIS, December 2010. Episode Transcript, "Rising Temperatures in the Middle East," CSIS, December 29, 2020.
2020-12-29
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A Mezze: Secondhand in Demand

Egyptian vendors are reselling leftover and expired foods to Egypt's poor at heavily discounted prices.
2020-12-22
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Satire and Comedy in the Arab World

This week on Babel, Jon Alterman is joined by Karl Sharro, an architect, satirist, and commentator on the Middle East who blogs and tweets as @KarlreMarks. Karl talks about how he developed his style of comedy and the role satire has played in the Arab World. Then, Natasha, Will, and Jon talk about what satire can tell us about the Middle East. Karl Sharro, "Explaining Lebanon's Problems in One Minute," Karl Sharro Youtube, October 2, 2020. Ahmed Albasheer, "Muhasasa," Albasheer Show Youtube, November 20, 2019. Al-Rahel Al-Kabir, "Madad Baghdadi," Al-Rahel Al-Kabir Youtube, August 20, 2014. Karl Sharro, "Study confirms Lebanon is indeed the centre of the universe," Karl reMarks, April 5, 2013. Episode Transcript: "Satire and Comedy in the Arab World," CSIS, December 15, 2020.
2020-12-15
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A Mezze: Delivering the Goods

Across the Middle East, ride sharing apps are helping address the region's addressing problems.
2020-12-08
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Surveying Arab Youth

This week on Babel, Jon is joined by Sunil John, founder of Asda?a BCW and president for the Middle East and North Africa for BCW, where he runs the annual Arab Youth Survey. Sunil and John talk about the results of this year's survey. They also talk about how his team develops the survey and how it has changed over the last decade. Then, Natasha, McKinley, and Jon discuss their own experiences developing trust in research. Asda'a BCW, "Top 10 Findings of the Arab Youth Survey," Arab Youth Survey, 2020. Jon Alterman, "Designating the Houthis as Terrorists Would be a Mistake," DefenseOne, November 25, 2020. Jumana Khamis, "Survey sheds lights on hopes, expectations of Arab region's college students," Arab News, November 24, 2020. Jon Alterman, "Pivoting to Asia Doesn't Get You Out of the Middle East," CSIS, October 19, 2020. Transcript, "Surveying Arab Youth," CSIS, December 1, 2020.
2020-12-01
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A Mezze: Dying for Power

Amidst a tangle of political banners, martyrs? portraits, and crisscrossing power lines in a Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon, the image of a boy gazes down. Sixteen-year-old Muhammad Okasha is celebrated in death, but unlike the fighters whose images otherwise line the streets, he did not die for the Palestinian cause. Hailed as an ?electricity martyr,? he died struggling to bring power to his home. Song Credit: "Uncertain Ground" from Duck Lake.
2020-11-24
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Iran and the New U.S. Administration

This week on Babel, Jon Alterman talks with Sanam Vakil, deputy director of the Middle East North Africa Programme at Chatham House, where she leads the Future Dynamics in the Gulf project and the Iran Forum. Sanam and Jon talk about how Iran is thinking about the Biden presidency. They also talk about the upcoming election in Iran and what that could mean for Iran's strategy towards the United States. Then, Jon, Natasha, and Will discuss the Biden administration's likely approach to Iran. Sanam Vakil, "Five Key Learnings for the Biden Administration," Chatham House, November 12, 2020. Jon Alterman, "Actions in Anticipation of the Iranian Election," CSIS, October 5, 2020. Jon Alterman, "The Killing of Quds Force Commander Qasim Suleimani," CSIS, January 3, 2020. Sanam Vakil, "By Pulling Out of Nuclear Deal, Trump Hands Gift to Iranian Hardliners," Chatham House, May 9, 2018. Transcript, "Iran and the New U.S. Administration," CSIS, November 17, 2020.
2020-11-17
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A Mezze: Reading the Signs in Istanbul

In July 2019, Istanbul mayor Ekrem Imamo?lu denounced the excessive use of Arabic on the city?s storefronts. Song Credits: "Bir Demet Yasemen" from Turku, Nomads of the Silk Road; the track Gambrel via Blue Dot Sessions; and the end music is from Syrian street musicians Munzer Sheikh Alkar and Jemal Shber in Istanbul.
2020-11-10
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How the Middle East Views the U.S. Election

This week on Babel, Jon is joined by Hassan Barari, a professor of international politics at the University of Jordan who is currently on leave teaching at Qatar University. Jon and Hassan talk about how the Middle East has viewed past U.S. administrations and the current one. They also talk about what a Biden administration might mean for the future of U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East. Then, Jon, Will, and Danny discuss anti-Americanism in the Middle East. Jon Alterman, "Pivoting to Asia Doesn't Get You Out of the Middle East," CSIS, October 19, 2020. Jon Alterman, "Actions in Anticipation of Iranian Elections," CSIS, October 5, 2020. Will Law, "From Obama to Trump: U.S. Policy in the Middle East," Arab Digest, September 25, 2020. Episode Transcript, "How the Middle East Views the U.S. Election," CSIS, November 3, 2020.
2020-11-03
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A Mezze: Seoul Music

Some treat diplomacy in the Middle East like political theater?but for South Korea, it?s more of a musical. Music Credits: Highride & Club Felix from the album Radio Pink via Blue Dot Studios.
2020-10-27
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