Middle East Focus
About Middle East Focus
Weekly discussion of Middle East policy, arts, and culture, featuring experts from the Middle East Institute in Washington, D.C.
MEI's US-Lebanon Fellow Fadi Nicholas Nassar speaks to Beirut-based international finance professional Mike Azar on Lebanon's financial crisis. What is the state of Lebanon's banking system, and how did it become so dysfunctional? What does Azar recommend to get Lebanon's economy back on track, and can the Lira be saved?
Atmospheric rivers play an important role in the movement of water through the atmosphere and can release that water at magnitudes capable of producing extreme weather and flooding. But what are atmospheric rivers exactly? And how do they behave in relation to current climate change in the MENA region? MEI's Mohammed Mahmoud and Raha Hakimdavar are joined by Dr. Amin Dezfuli to discuss these questions and more.
MEI Managing Editor Matthew Czekaj speaks with scholars Iulia-Sabina Joja, Alex Vatanka, Yörük Işık, Charles Lister, and Roger Kangas on Russia's current standing in the Middle East a year since re-invading Ukraine. How has Russian aggression in Ukraine redrawn Moscow’s relationships in the MENA region? And as the Middle East increasingly becomes a key area of global great power competition, is Russia still a meaningful player there, politically, economically, militarily, and diplomatically?
MEI's Arts and Culture Center joins DESIGNEAST at Al Serkal Avenue in Dubai DESIGNEAST is a new platform launching in Dubai during Art Week from 26 February to 5 March, 2023 focused on providing opportunities for emerging designers from the Middle East, South East Asia and China. MEI's Arts and Culture Center director Lyne Sneige speaks to founder and creative director Rue Kotharie about their opening show '(Un)common Threads' and two of the participating artists Ghizlane Sahli (Morocco) and Nour Hage (Lebanon/UK).
Director of MEI's Arabian Peninsula Program Gerald Feierstein speaks to MEI Non-Resident Scholars Fatima Abo Alasrar & Ibrahim Jalal on a host of current events in Yemen. What have been the takeaways from U.S. Special Envoy Timothy Lenderking's recent visit to the country - and what are the current trends in the Saudi-Houthi dialogue?
MEI's U.S.-Lebanon Fellow Fadi Nicholas Nassar speaks to Ronnie Chatah - host of the Beirut Banyan and founder of WalkBeirut - about justice in the wake of the Beirut Blast. Why have family members of the blast's victims recently been arrested, and where does accountability lie as Lebanon continues to slip into further crisis?
North Africa and the Sahel Program Director Intissar Fakir speaks to Alberto Rizzi - pan-European fellow at the Rome Office of the European Council on Foreign Relations - about existing and future energy partnerships between the European Union and the Maghreb. In the wake of energy market disruption caused by the conflict in Ukraine, what alternative fuel sources are the EU looking towards - and how does this align with current production capacities in Maghreb countries?
On today's episode, Middle East Focus kicks off the new year with Danny Hajjar, whose newsletter Sa'alouni El Nas brings diverse music and perspectives from the MENA region to inboxes worldwide. Interviewing Danny is Fadi Nicholas Nassar, U.S.-Lebanon Fellow at the Middle East Institute, Director of the Institute for Social Justice and Conflict Resolution, and Assistant Professor of Political Science and International Affairs at the Lebanese American University (LAU). For more from Danny Hajjar and to subscribe to the Sa'alouni El Nas newsletter, visit his website: https://saalounielnas.substack.com/
Now entering their fourth month of defiance, the people of Iran continue to protest the regime of Ali Khamenei. Since protests began in September, the crackdown by security forces has become increasingly severe and the government has now begun executing protesters. According to figures from the Human Rights Activists News Agency, as of Dec. 15, nearly 500 protesters have been killed and almost 20,000 people have been arrested. Despite the risks, Iran's astonishingly brave protesters continue to call for the fall of the regime. For an update on the situation and an eye towards the future, host Alistair Taylor turns to Alex Vatanka, founding Director of the Iran Program at the Middle East Institute.
With Egypt hosting COP 27 this week, all eyes are on climate change in the MENA region. For today's episode, Senior Fellow and Director of the Climate and Water Program Mohammed Mahmoud asked several of MEI's Climate and Water Program scholars what they consider to be the most pressing issues regarding climate change, water resources, and the environment. Today's guests include Andrei Covatariu, Athraa Khamis, Malak Altaeb, Megan Ferrando, Orestes Morfin, and Youssef Wehbe.
In today's episode, Alistair Taylor sits down with experts from MEI's Frontier Europe Initiative to assess the trajectory of Russia's war on Ukraine. They discuss Russia’s growing attacks on critical infrastructure, its recent deployment of Iranian drones and their impact on the battlefield, the potential nuclear threat, and where things might be headed from here. Today's guests are General Philip Breedlove and Iulia-Sabina Joja. General Breedlove is a retired United States Air Force General who served as Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR) and Commander of U.S. European Command. He’s the Distinguished Chair of MEI’s Frontier Europe Initiative and a Distinguished Professor at the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs at Georgia Tech. Iulia is a Senior Fellow and Director of MEI's Frontier Europe Initiative and Director of its "Afghanistan Watch" project. She teaches courses on European security at Georgetown and George Washington universities.
The Biden Administration's National Security Strategy has drawn some criticism for its relatively late release, but what of its actual substance? Today, Alistair Taylor talks with four experts, each with unique insights into the context and strategy of this document with regards to the Middle East, North Africa, and American foreign policy at large. Our first guest is Ross Harrison, a Senior Fellow and Director of Research at the Middle East Institute, and a Professor of Political Science at the University of Pittsburgh. Our second guest is Jerry Feierstein, Distinguished Senior Fellow on U.S. Diplomacy and Director of MEI’s Arabian Peninsula Affairs Program. We are then joined by Dr. Marwa Maziad, a Non-Resident Scholar with MEI's Defense and Security Program and a Visiting Assistant Professor of Israel Studies at the Gildenhorn Institute at the University of Maryland. Our final guest is Melissa Horvath, a Non-Resident Scholar with MEI’s Defense and Security Program and the lead Foreign Military Sales Instructor and Curriculum Developer at ASRC Federal.
Relentless floods in Pakistan have resulted in thousands of deaths, widespread displacement, and economic devastation. Today, we discuss these impacts as well as Pakistan's broader economic and climate change challenges, the ongoing political crisis, and developments on the foreign policy front. Joining us today are Syed Mohammad Ali, Elizabeth Threlkeld, and Arif Rafiq. Mohammed Ali is a non-resident scholar with MEI’s Afghanistan and Pakistan Program and a weekly columnist for Pakistan’s Express Tribune. Elizabeth is a Senior Fellow and Director of the South Asia Program at the Stimson Center. She previously served as a Foreign Service Officer with the U.S. Department of State in Pakistan in Islamabad and Peshawar. Arif is the president of Vizier Consulting, a political risk advisory company focused on the Middle East and South Asia. He’s also a non-resident scholar with MEI’s Afghanistan and Pakistan Program.
Today's two-part episode is a study in contrasts. On one hand, the Partnership for Peace Fund strives to create a social and economic environment in which sustainable peace can become possible. On the other, hard political realities and gridlock undermine cooperation at every turn. The episode begins by discussing peace-building efforts with George Salem, co-founder and Chairman of the Arab American Institute and Inaugural Chair of the Partnership for Peace Advisory Board. The discussion then turns to political realities and facts on the ground with Brian Katulis, Vice President of Policy at MEI, and Khaled Elgindy, Senior Fellow and Director of the Program on Palestine and Palestinian-Israeli Affairs.
Today's episode challenges preconceived notions about Iranian society, the hijab, and the regime clinging to power in Tehran. Joining us today for a highly enlightening conversation are two Iran experts, Marjan Keypour Greenblatt and Alex Vatanka. Marjan is the founder and director of the Alliance for Rights of All Minorities (ARAM), a non-resident scholar with MEI’s Iran Program, and a member of the Anti-Defamation League’s Task Force on Middle East Minorities. Alex is the director of MEI’s Iran Program and a Senior Fellow with the Frontier Europe Initiative. He is the author of the 2021 book The Battle of the Ayatollahs in Iran: The United States, Foreign Policy and Political Rivalry Since 1979.
Now in the fifth month of a ceasefire, what are the prospects for a negotiated end to the Yemeni Civil War, and the beginning of a sustained peace? MEI Distinguished Sr. Fellow on U.S. Diplomacy and Director of the Arabian Peninsula program Gerald Feierstein discusses these questions with two outstanding scholars who have followed and written extensively about Yemen over the years. Fatima Abo Alasrar is a nonresident scholar at MEI and a Senior Analyst for the Washington Center for Yemeni Studies. Ibrahim Jalal is a Yemeni security, conflict, and defense researcher in the UK, an Erasmus Scholar, and a co-founding member of The Security Distillery think tank.
French President Emmanuel Macron's recent visit to Algeria brought talks of cooperation and reconciliation to the fore in an otherwise fraught relationship. France and Algeria share a long and painful history, including 132 years of colonial occupation and an eight year war of devastation. In an effort to unpack the motivations and context behind Macron's visit, MEI Senior Fellow and Director of the North Africa and the Sahel Program Intissar Fakir speaks with Francis Ghilès, Senior Research Fellow with the Barcelona Center for International Affairs. For more from today's guest, click here.
Ten months on from last October’s elections, Iraq still does not have a new government and faces a deepening political crisis. To understand the current situation's perils and what may be next for the future of the country, we are joined by Farhad Alaaldin, chairman of the Iraq Advisory Council, and Robert Ford, MEI Senior Fellow and former Ambassador to Syria and Algeria.
MEI Arts and Culture Center Director Lyne Sneige speaks with photographers Eman Ali and Samar Hazboun, who are featured in MEI's latest gallery exhibition "More Than Your Eyes Can See: Contemporary Photography from the Arab World" - curated by Laila Abdul-Hadi Jadallah and in partnership with Tribe Magazine.
On today’s episode, host Alistair Taylor explores the ramifications of the CIA drone strike that killed al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in Kabul, Afghanistan on July 31. Joining the program are three MEI experts - Mick Mulroy, Javid Ahmad, and Douglas London - who bring with them a variety of perspectives, from intelligence to diplomacy.
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