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Update on Jamal Khashoggi; Afghan elections preview

In this episode, MEI’s Gerald Feierstein and Gonul Tol continue last week’s discussion on the tragedy and ongoing foreign relations crisis over Jamal Khashoggi, and Ahmad Majidyar gives a preview of this weekend’s parliamentary elections in Afghanistan.


The crisis over Jamal Khashoggi’s disappearance

The disappearance of journalist and commentator Jamal Khashoggi from the Saudi consulate in Istanbul has sparked the most serious crisis to face relations between the Trump administration and Riyadh. It has also posed a major diplomatic challenge for Turkey’s President Erdogan. MEI’s Jerry Feierstein and Gonul Tol join host Paul Salem to discuss the fallout of this developing crisis and potential tragedy.


Yemen’s stalemate and humanitarian crisis

Hopes for progress in Yemen have been stymied by setbacks in recent weeks, perpetuating a military and political stalemate. Marcia Biggs, special correspondent for PBS NewsHour, joins guest host Gerald Feierstein to discuss the humanitarian conditions she witnessed on the ground and what the international community can do to help reach a resolution to the crisis.


Trump’s UN speech and Middle East policy

It was a busy week for Middle East policy as President Trump touched on a range of key issues at the United National General Assembly in New York, including Iran sanctions, the intra-GCC dispute, OPEC policy, Saudi domestic reforms, and the Middle East peace process, among others. Gerald Feierstein, MEI’s director for policy research, programs and government relations, and Ahmad Majidyar, director for MEI’s IranObserved program, join host Paul Salem to break down what was said, as well as...


The PLO office closure and the state of US-Palestinian relations

U.S.-Palestinian relations have faced repeated setbacks over the past year, from the decision to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, to cutting off funding to UNRWA. This month the Trump administration ordered the closure of the PLO’s office in Washington and revoked the visas of PLO Ambassador Husam Zomlot’s family members. Dr. Zomlot joins host Paul Salem via Skype from Ramallah to discuss the state of relations, and where the peace process can go from here.


Tunisia’s path from dictatorship to democracy

Tunisia, where the Arab uprisings began seven years ago, continues to face many difficulties in its transition on the economic, political and security fronts. Emir Sfaxi, a Tunisian public policy consultant and Fulbright scholar, and Bill Lawrence, professor of political science and international affairs at the George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs, join host Paul Salem to discuss the country’s trajectory.


Combatting Landmines and IEDs

Millions of landmines scattered across the Middle East have remained a persistent threat to civilians long after the wars in which they were deployed came to a close. However the recent conflicts in Iraq, Syria, Libya and Yemen have made the problem much worse. Steve Priestley, global director of operations for mine action at Janus Global Operations, joins Paul Salem to discuss the challenges facing demining operations, and some of the technological innovations that could help.


Despair and hope in the Yemen conflict

UN Special Envoy Martin Griffiths will lead a new round of negotiations next week to attempt to end the long and costly war in Yemen. A new UN report this week that outlines possible war crimes by the parties engaged in the conflict underscores the need to find a resolution. MEI’s Gerald Feierstein, a former U.S. ambassador to Yemen, and Randa Slim, who was a member of the last UN negotiating team on Yemen, join host Paul Salem to assess the prospects for the peace talks.


Turkey’s economic crisis and political fallout

Turkey is under enormous strain as it faces an economic crisis that has caused the lira to lose 40% of its value since the beginning of this year; an ongoing crisis in domestic politics; and an international relations crisis with the United States. Gönül Tol, MEI’s director of Turkish studies, and Ömer Taşpınar, professor at the National War College, join host Paul Salem to explain the causes of these challenges and what lies ahead.


The next phase of the Syrian war

Seven years after Syria’s civil uprising broke out, the war isn’t over, but it is entering a new phase. MEI Senior Fellow Robert Ford, the last U.S. ambassador to Syria, and Charles Lister, director of MEI’s Countering Violent Transnational Movements project, join host Paul Salem to discuss the state of play and how things may develop in the months ahead.


Iraq’s political turmoil

Three months after Iraq held its latest parliamentary elections the results are still being counted. Meanwhile political parties are jockeying for power and Iraqi citizens are taking to the streets to protest the government’s handling of services and the economy. Dr. Abbas Kadhim, senior fellow at Johns Hopkins SAIS, Omar Al-Nidawi, Iraq director for Gryphon Partners, and Dr. Randa Slim, director of MEI’s Program on Conflict Resolution and Track II Dialogues, join host Paul Salem to discuss...


Antiquities trafficking and the battle to reclaim cultural heritage

As long as there have been tombs, there have been tomb raiders. Today the plunder is taking place on an unprecedented scale, and the multi-billion dollar illegal trade has been used to fund groups such as ISIS. Brigadier General Fabrizio Parrulli of Italy’s Carabinieri Command for the Protection of Cultural Heritage, and Deborah Lehr, founding director and CEO of The Antiquities Coalition, join host Paul Salem to discuss the international efforts to crack down on antiquities trafficking.


Helsinki and US-Russian Cooperation in the Middle East

Andrey Kortunov, director general of the Russian International Affairs Council, and Randa Slim, director of MEI’s program on Conflict Resolution and Track II Dialogues, join host Paul Salem to discuss the Helsinki Summit and takeaways from the latest meeting of the US-Russia Middle East Dialogue in Berlin, where participants outlined challenges and opportunities for US-Russian cooperation in Syria and elsewhere in the region.


Can the Hodeidah offensive open the door to dialogue?

With the Saudi-led coalition’s offensive operations against the strategic port and city of Hodeidah stalled, eyes are now on UN Special Envoy Martin Griffiths as he attempts to negotiate a political resolution. Fatima al-Asrar, senior analyst at the Arabia Foundation, and Sama’a al-Hamdani, director of the Yemen Cultural Institute for Heritage and the Arts, join guest host Gerald Feierstein to assess the state of the four-year-old Yemen conflict and its impact on the Yemeni people.


Have we reached the end of the Syrian conflict?

Last week, rebel forces in southwestern Syria agreed to a Russia-brokered deal to surrender Deraa province and lay down their arms, possibly securing strategic victory for the Assad regime in the long-running Syrian conflict. MEI’s Robert Ford and Charles Lister join guest host Jerry Feierstein to discuss the significance of these developments and whether the United States is preparing to withdraw from Syria in a broader agreement with Russia.


Economic unease and renewed protests in Iran

Protests have broken out in Iran’s capital several times in recent weeks, leading to clashes with police and the temporary closure of Tehran’s Grand Bazaar. As with the demonstrations that swept the country earlier this year, these protests focused mainly on Iranians’ economic grievances. MEI’s Alex Vatanka and Ahmad Majidyar join guest host Greg Myre, national security correspondent for NPR, to discuss the factors driving Iran’s economic struggles, and the potential political impact.


The importance of understanding Middle Eastern arts and culture

Middle East policy is most commonly viewed through a security or geopolitical lens, but arts and culture is the human lens into the region. MEI Vice President Kate Seelye and Lyne Sneige, director of MEI’s Arts & Culture program, join Paul Salem to discuss the importance of culture as a tool for enriching policy discourse.


What’s at stake in Turkey’s elections

Worries of economic downturn loom large as Turkish voters head into a critical election for the president and members of parliament on June 24. MEI’s Gonul Tol and W. Robert Pearson join host Paul Salem to analyze the myriad issues facing voters, and the prospects for President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his ruling AK party.


The battle for Hodeida and the humanitarian crisis in Yemen

Aid groups are warning that a major offensive underway to capture the strategic port of Hodeida could make Yemen’s humanitarian crisis even worse. Basma Alloush (Norwegian Refugee Council), Farea Al-Muslimi (Sana'a Center for Strategic Studies), and Gerald Feierstein (MEI), join host Paul Salem to assess the situation.


The Manbij deal and the state of US-Turkish cooperation in Syria

Can a deal to withdraw U.S.-backed Kurdish forces from the contested Syrian town of Manbij help to break the tension between opposing Turkish and American strategies in Syria? MEI’s Gonul Tol and Charles Lister join host Paul Salem to discuss.