51 episodes

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 two colleagues, Will Todman, associate fellow, and Amber Atteridge, associate director. 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).

Babel: Translating the Middle East Center for Strategic and International Studies

    • Government

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 two colleagues, Will Todman, associate fellow, and Amber Atteridge, associate director. 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).

    A Mezze: Seoul Music

    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.

    • 3 min
    The Rise of Iraq’s Shi'ite Militias

    The Rise of Iraq’s Shi'ite Militias

    This week Jon is joined by Hassan Hassan, director of the program on non-state actors in geopolitics at the Center for Global Policy and the editor-in-chief of its new online journal, Newlines Magazine. Hassan talks to Jon about his late colleague, Hisham al-Hashimi, and the research Hisham was conducting on the rise of Shi'ite militias in Iraq. Then, Natasha, Will, and Jon talk about the effects of Iranian-backed militias in Iraq.

    Hassan Hassan, "How Iraq's Top ISIS Scholar Became a Target for Shi'ite Militias," Newlines Magazine, October 4, 2020.

    Hassan Hassan, "ISIS in Iraq and Syria: Rightsizing the Current 'Comeback'," Center for Global Policy, May 12, 2020.

    Hisham al-Hashimi and Renad Mansour, "ISIS Inc." Foreign Policy, January 16, 2018.

    Episode Transcript, "The Rise of Iraq’s Shi'ite Militias," CSIS, October 20, 2020.

    • 24 min
    A Mezze: Cyber-Sheikh

    A Mezze: Cyber-Sheikh

    In years past, a Muslim would ask a religious scholar for a ruling, or fatwa. In Dubai today, a Muslim can ask these questions to a computer. 
    Song Credits: "The Terrarium" by Sketchbook; "Stipple" by Marisala; "The Spills" by CloudBreaker. 

    • 3 min
    Russia in the Middle East: Part Six

    Russia in the Middle East: Part Six

    In part six, Jon Alterman hears from guests from previous episodes who help him recap everything he's covered so far and look at what's next for Russia in the Middle East. Jon is rejoined by Elizabeth Tsurkov, fellow at the Center for Global Policy and at the Forum for Regional Thinking; Ambassador Mohamed Anis Salem, an Egyptian diplomat with 35 years of experience; Eugene Rumer, senior fellow and director of the Russia and Eurasia Program at the Carnegie Endowment; and Phil Gordon, senior fellow in U.S. foreign policy at the Council on Foreign Relations. Jon is also joined by Natasha Hall, senior fellow with the CSIS Middle East Program.
    Song Credits: “Pizzicato Waltz” by Kadir-Demir via Artlist.io; “Dusting” from Confectionery via Blue Dot Studios; “Coulis Coulis” from Confectionery via Blue Dot Studios. The theme song is "Tales of Arabia" by GreatstockMusic via Pond5.

    Phil Gordon, Losing the Long Game: The False Promise of Regime Change in the Middle East, St. Martin's Press, October 2020.

    Eugene Rumer and Andrew S. Weiss, "Reckoning With a Resurgent Russia," Carnegie Endowment, September 9, 2020.

    Elizabeth Tsurkov, "Desperate, Thousands of Syrians Flee Toward Turkish Border," Foreign Policy, February 10, 2020.

    Natasha Hall, Benjamin Smith, Thomas McGee, Local Cross-line Coordination in Syria, United States Institute of Peace, October 3, 2019.

    Episode Transcript, "Russia in the Middle East: Part Six," CSIS, October 6, 2020.

    • 26 min
    Russia in the Middle East: Part Five

    Russia in the Middle East: Part Five

    In part five, Jon Alterman looks at how the Middle East views Russia. He starts with Russia's relationships with Israel and Iran, before moving on to how Arab states, particularly Egypt, view Russia. Jon talks with Elizabeth Tsurkov, fellow at the Center for Global Policy and at the Forum for Regional Thinking; Mohamed Anis Salem, an Egyptian diplomat with 35 years of experience; and Anna Borschevskaya, senior fellow at the Washington Institute.
    Song Credits: “Denzel Sprak” from CloudCover; “Coulis Coulis” from Confectionery; “Tarte Tatin” from Confectionery; “Dusting” from Confectionery, all via Blue Dot Studios.
    Theme Song: "Tales of Arabia" by GreatstockMusic via Pond5.

    Elizabeth Tsurkov, "Syria's Economic Meltdown," Center for Global Policy, June 15, 2020.

    Anna Borschevskaya and Catherine Cleveland, "Russia's Arabic Propaganda," The Washington Institute, December 2018.

    Mohamed Anis Salem, "Arab Civil Nuclear Energy Programmes in a New Strategic Landscape," The Nuclear Forum: Security Through Disarmament, 2016.

    Episode Transcript, "Russia in the Middle East: Part Five," CSIS, September 29, 2020.

    • 25 min
    Russia in the Middle East: Part Four

    Russia in the Middle East: Part Four

    In part four, Jon Alterman looks at U.S.-Russian cooperation and competition in the Middle East. He follows how U.S. policy in the Middle East has shaped Russian policy in the region, and how the U.S.-Russian relationship in the Middle East has evolved over the past three decades. During the episode, Jon talks with Anna Borschevskaya, senior fellow at the Washington Institute; Heather Conley, senior vice president for Europe, Eurasia, and the Artic and director of the Europe Program at CSIS; Phil Gordon, senior fellow in U.S. foreign policy at the Council on Foreign Relations; and Becca Wasser, fellow in the Defense Program at the Center for a New American Security.
    Song Credits: "Tarte Tatin" from Confectionary via Blue Dot Studios; “Borough” from Molerider via Blue Dot Studios; "Denzel Sprak” from CloudCover via Blue Dot Studios; and“The Records” from Union Hall via Blue Dot Studios.

    Phil Gordon, Losing the Long Game: The False Promise of Regime Change in the Middle East, St. Martin's Press, October 2020.

    Anna Borschevskaya, "Russia Aims to Preserve the Status Quo in Lebanon," The Washington Institute, August 12, 2020.

    Heather Conley on Energy 360°, "Race to the Top: China, Russia, U.S. Compete," CSIS, August 3, 2020.

    Becca Wasser and Ben Connable, "The Limits of Russian Strategy in the Middle East," London School of Economics, May 10, 2018.

    Episode Transcript, "Russia in the Middle East: Part Four," CSIS, September 22, 2020.

    • 22 min

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