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).
In and Out of the Ivory Tower
This week on Babel, Jon talks with Ghassan Salamé, a Paris-based academic and former UN mediator with over three decades of experience moving between academia and public policy. They talk about how he started his UN career, the role and limitations of the United Nations as a conflict mediator, and how his experiences as a practitioner inform the way that he teaches international affairs. Then, Jon, Will Todman, Danny Sharp talk about how their own academic backgrounds prepared them for careers in foreign policy.
Stephanie Williams and Ghassan Salamé “Why There’s Hope for Libya,” Newlines Magazine, April 22, 2021.
"An Interview with Dr. Jon B. Alterman," New Perspectives in Foreign Policy, 2015.
Transcript, "In and Out of the Ivory Tower" CSIS, December 7, 2021.
A Mezze: A Grave Dilemma
In Damascus, even death is getting more expensive. With limited space and the demand for cemetery plots rising, armed thugs have established an illegal grave trade in Syria. A new Mezze from the CSIS Middle East Program.
A Mezze: Camel Corruption Crackdown
As Saudi officials crackdown on corruption, they are increasingly zeroing in on a new target: suspiciously full camel lips. A new Mezze from the CSIS Middle East Program.
Authoritarian Nostalgia in Libya
This week on Babel, Jon talks with Robert Worth, a contributing writer to the New York Times Magazine who interviewed Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, the son of Libya's long-standing dictator, in May. They discuss Saif Gaddafi's political ambitions in the upcoming elections, unique aspects of Libya's society and revolution, and the memory of the Gaddafi regime in Libya. Then, Jon, Natasha Hall, and Danny Sharp discuss nostalgia for authoritarianism across the Middle East.
Robert Worth, "Qaddafi's Son Is Alive. And He Wants to Take Libya Back," New York Times Magazine, July 30, 2021.
Robert Worth, A Rage for Order: The Middle East in Turmoil, from Tahrir Square to ISIS (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2016).
Transcript, "Authoritarian Nostalgia in Libya," CSIS, November 16, 2021.
A Mezze: Killer Congestion
Some in Israel hope electronic “e-bikes” can be a life-saving solution to long ambulance wait times on the country’s jam-packed roads. A new Mezze from the CSIS Middle East Program.
The Middle East's Political Economies
This week on Babel, Jon talks with Robert Springborg, a long-time scholar of the Middle East who has advised governments and international organizations working in the region for decades on issues of economics, politics, and foreign assistance. We discuss shared aspects of political economy in the Middle East, how political economies of the region differ, and institutional obstacles to reform in the Middle East. Then, Jon, Will Todman, and Caleb Harper discuss regional cooperation and integration.
Jon Alterman, Natasha Hall, and Will Todman, "Sustainable States: Environment, Governance, and the Future of the Middle East," CSIS, April 2021.
Hicham Alaoui and Robert Springborg, "Education in the Arab World: A Legacy of Coming Up Short," Wilson Center, April 5, 2021.
Robert Springborg, Political Economies of the Middle East and North Africa, (Cambridge, UK ; Medford, MA: Polity, 2020).
Transcript, "The Middle East's Political Economies" CSIS, November 2, 2021.