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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...


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.


A “diplomatic dance” in southern Syria

Several countries have engaged in a flurry of diplomatic moves in recent days to prevent combat between Israeli and Iranian forces in southern Syria from escalating into full-scale war. MEI senior fellows Robert Ford and Charles Lister join host Paul Salem to discuss these moves and the state of the Syrian conflict.


Pompeo’s sanction threats and Iran’s energy sector

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo threatened Iran with the “strongest sanctions in history” following the U.S. exit from the nuclear deal and outlined twelve demands as conditions for striking a new treaty between the two countries. MEI’s Rauf Mammadov and Ahmad Majidyar join Paul Salem to discuss the implications of this policy and take a closer look at Iran’s oil and energy sector amid the sanction threats.


Breaking down Iraq’s parliamentary elections

Amb. Lukman Faily, Iraq’s ambassador to the United States from 2013-2016, and Randa Slim, director of MEI’s program on Conflict Resolution and Track II Dialogues, join host Paul Salem to analyze the results of Iraq’s parliamentary elections and their implications for Iraq, the region, and U.S. policy going forward.


Extra: Oman in the middle

In a region beset with conflicts, Oman has served as a valued intermediary in foreign relations, including as a facilitator in U.S.-Iranian contacts that led to the Iran nuclear deal. How is it managing its delicate diplomatic balancing act as it works to mediate the Yemen civil war and the dispute between Qatar and other GCC states? Sayyid Badr bin Hamad al-Busaidi, secretary general of Oman’s ministry of foreign affairs, joins guest host Gerald Feierstein to discuss.


The US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal

Alex Vatanka and Gerald Feierstein join host Paul Salem to discuss reactions in the region and around the world to Trump’s announcement that the United States will withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal and restore sanctions on Iran.


Trump’s new arms sales policy

What impact will the Trump administration’s new arms sales policy, named “Buy American,” have on the Middle East, historically one of the major destinations for U.S.-made weapons? Michael O’Hanlon, senior fellow and director of research for the Foreign Policy program at Brookings, and Bilal Saab, director of MEI’s Defense and Security program, join host Paul Salem to discuss.


Turkey’s snap elections and issues in U.S. relations

MEI’s Gonul Tol and Amb. Robert Pearson join Paul Salem to discuss the domestic political scene heading into Turkey’s snap presidential and parliamentary elections in early June and the state of its relations with the United States after the departure of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and pending arrival of Mike Pompeo.


The battles in, above and around Syria

Amb. Robert Ford and Charles Lister join host Paul Salem to discuss last week’s U.S. airstrikes in Syria in response to the Assad government’s ongoing use of chemical weapons, what the Trump administration is signaling about America’s plans there, and the escalating standoff between Israeli and Iranian forces in the country.


Economic Prospects for the Middle East

The Middle East has withstood a series of major economic shocks over the past decade, and growth is slowly coming back. But sustained high unemployment, especially among women and youth, will continue to put strain on the region’s economic prospects. Jihad Azour, director of the Middle East and Central Asia department at the International Monetary Fund (IMF), joins host Paul Salem to survey the economic challenges facing the MENA region.


A Russian-Iranian-Turkish alliance in the making?

The leaders of Russia, Iran and Turkey held a high-profile summit in Ankara this week, their second such summit in six months. Are we seeing the formation of a new security axis in the region, and if so, where would that leave the United States? MEI’s Gonul Tol and Alex Vatanka join host Paul Salem to discuss.