Middle East Notes and Comment: Covid-19, the Iranians, and Us

New Analysis

Just a few months ago, experts were predicting that the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran was falling prey to its own demons. Covid-19 cases were rising rapidly. The government lacked both the credibility and capacity to battle the novel coronavirus effectively. Close observers of Iran saw a crisis emerging that would force a renegotiation of the relationship between citizen and state. It was not much of a leap to judge that the 40-year shadow war between the United States and Iran was about to enter a very new phase as Iran reeled from the pressure of the pandemic.

Read Jon Alterman's full piece on the CSIS website.

Analysis and Commentary

Will Todman published a new commentary with the Project on Prosperity and Development's Erol Yayboke on how refugees could help solve Lebanon's economic crisis. Will and Erol argue that if Lebanon lets refugees work, they can attract foreign investment, boost exports, and strengthen food security to benefit vulnerable Lebanese and refugees alike.

Will and the Humanitarian Agenda's Jake Kurtzer published a critical questions on the possible end of cross-border aid in Syria. They explained how the expiration of the UN's mandate would affect humanitarian operations in northern Syria.

New Staff

Natasha Hall joined the Middle East Program this month as a senior fellow. Natasha has over 15 years of experience as an analyst, researcher, and practitioner in complex humanitarian emergencies and conflict-affected areas with a specialty in the Middle East. Most recently, she has worked on the Syrian conflict with The Shaikh Group, GIZ, Mayday Rescue, the Center for Civilians in Conflict, and the U.S. government’s Refugee Affairs Division.

Babel: Translating the Middle East

In the most recent episode of Babel, Jon interviewed MBC's Fadi Ismail, who brought Turkish programming to the Arab world. They also discussed what Arab audiences want and what type of programming Arab youth are watching.

In another episode, Jon spoke with H.E. Mohamad al-Ississ, Jordan's minister of finance. During their discussion, the minister explained Jordan's recent economic history, the economic recovery plan, and efforts to formalize the informal sector.

We also released pieces from our mezze series on Egyptian talk shows and the proliferation of fake gemstones.


Jon spoke with The Hill's Steve Clemons about shifting U.S. policy in the Middle East during an event on "New Threats, New Defense: The Future of National Security."

In the News

Jon was quoted in an article for Nature, saying "The [UAE] government has been trying for years to create both alternative pathways and alternative incentives" to inspire higher career ambitions in its citizens. (07/08/20).

Jon was interviewed in Asharq al-Awsat about the possibility of imposing U.S. sanctions against armed factions in Libya. (07/07/20).