Middle East Notes and Comment: Enemies—and Partners—Will Get a Vote in the Middle East

Enemies—and Partners—Will Get a Vote in the Middle East

If there is anyone who thinks U.S. policy in the Middle East has been fundamentally right for the last 20 years, that person has been awfully quiet. The critiques are consistent. No one favors fighting “endless wars,” no one favors overcommitment, and no one disagrees that U.S. forces should be rightsized to the task at hand. There is agreement that U.S. policy has failed each and every one of those tests, but beyond that, the consensus breaks down.
Read Jon Alterman's commentary on the CSIS website.

From the Middle East Program

New Analysis

Senior fellow Natasha Hall released a new brief on the importance of marginalized communities in Lebanon. She argues that donors must expand humanitarian and development efforts in Lebanon—including cash assistance, healthcare, education, and protection programs—to ensure they benefit marginalized communities.

Jon released a commentary on how designating the Houthis as terrorists would be a mistake. "The United States and its partners have tools to confront [the Houthis], as well as to negotiate with them. The U.S. law allowing the designation of foreign terrorist groups should have no role in the strategy," wrote Jon. "It would represent swinging wildly in the dark, serving the interests of U.S. adversaries rather than its allies."

Babel: Translating the Middle East

In the most recent episode of Babel, Jon spoke with comedian Karl Sharro about how he developed his style of comedy and about the role of satire in the Arab World.

In another episodeSunil John talked with Jon about this year's results of the annual Arab Youth Survey. Then, Jon, Natasha, and McKinley discussed their experiences conducting research and the difficulties of developing trust in research.

We also released a mezze episode on electricity martyrs in Lebanon and another mezze episode about how ridesharing apps are helping address the region's addressing problems.


On December 10, Jon joined Gazi Hassan for a virtual event on "Changing Political Dynamics in West Asia: Abraham Accords and Beyond" with the Centre for Public Policy Research in Kerala, India.

Jon spoke at an AmCham MENA event on December 6 about the Middle East's economic and political outlook for 2021, parts of which can be watched here and here.

Jon joined a panel call hosted by Teneo on "What to Watch in 2021" on December 3 with copanelists Carsten Nickel, Anne Frühauf, Nicholas Watson, Gabriel Wildau, and Kevin Kajiwara. Listen to the call or read the transcript here.

In the News

Jon told Reuters that the Trump administration believes sanctioning a Quds Force official will "change the strategic calculations of the Houthis, but if the Houthis are strategic, and I think they are, they are not much affected by what the administration does on its way out the door." (12/8/20).

Jon spoke to NPR about the virtual G20 summit, saying that "This summit was meant to be a sign that [Saudi Arabia] can execute at a level of any of the most advanced countries in the world." (11/19/20).