Middle East Notes and Comment: Middle East Indifference to Ukraine is a Warning

We are now more than two months past the high-water mark of international solidarity on the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Then, more than 140 countries voted in favor of a UN General Assembly resolution calling for an end to the Russian offensive, with 35 abstentions. A casual observer might think that the vote was proof that the rules-based international order that the United States had been nurturing for 75 years was alive and well.

Instead, the Ukraine crisis is a stark warning that the U.S. investments in the international order haven't left much residue. The United States has spent trillions and sacrificed more than 100,000 lives, but for much of the world, a decision to support the United States or some semblance of international law is a present-value calculation. International support for sanctions is almost non-existent outside of Europe and Northeast Asia, and outside of those areas, there is no appetite for any further action to influence Russian actions. 

Nowhere is this more evident than the Middle East.

Read Jon Alterman's commentary on the Defense One website.

From the Middle East Program

Babel Miniseries

Last month, we concluded our 7-part miniseries, Babel: U.S. Power and Influence in the Middle East. The series gathered some of the leading voices that have helped shape U.S. policy in the region to take a closer look at the last two decades of heightened U.S. engagement in the region—and how the Middle East has responded. We attracted a record number of listeners for this series, and we hope that you and your networks have found it engaging and useful.

Part One explores how the United States became more deeply enmeshed in the region, how its role has changed, and how some think it needs to change a lot more—with Ambassador Anne Patterson, Andrew Bacevich, and Karim Makdisi.

Part Two traces how two decades of heavy U.S. military involvement in the Middle East changed the U.S. military and the region—with Gen. Joseph Votel, Kori Schake, and Eliot Cohen.

Part Three looks at how the United States has used its economic toolkit in the region, including how successful sanctions and development aid have been in advancing U.S. interests—with Howard Shatz, Amy Hawthorne, and Ali Vaez.

Part Four analyzes U.S. diplomacy in the Middle East, and how policymakers have thought about U.S. diplomatic power—with Ambassador Thomas Pickering, Nathalie Tocci, and Brian Katulis.

Part Five looks at U.S. soft power in the Middle East and just what makes American culture, ideals, and institutions enduringly attractive in the Middle East, and around the world—with Lisa Anderson, Paul Salem, and Alanoud Alsharekh. 

Part Six explores how people and governments in the Middle East see the United States, what they want from the United States, and how that's changing—with Abdulkhaleq Abdulla, Nabil Fahmy, Maha Yahya, Alon Pinkas, and Nasser Hadian.

Part Seven concludes the series by looking at views on how the Middle East should fit into U.S. global strategy—with Stephen Walt, Dalia Dassa Kaye, Martin Indyk, and Michael Doran. 

Babel: Translating the Middle East

We returned to our regular format with the latest episode of Babel. Jon spoke with Tim Lenderking, the U.S. special envoy to Yemen, about the ceasefire in Yemen and what makes this opening for peace different than others in the past. You can listen to the episode here.

We also released two new mezze episodes: one on the Algerian government's crackdown on cooking oil "speculators" and another on dental freelancers in Morocco.


Jon sat down with CSIS's ChinaPower Podcast to unpack China's relationship with the Middle East. (5/12/22)

Jon spoke with The 966 podcast about the latest Babel miniseries, U.S.-Saudi diplomacy, and China's growing engagement in the Middle East. (5/6/22)

Natasha spoke with The World about the release of some detainees from Syrian regime prisons on May 3 during a prison amnesty that was issued by the Syrian government on April 30. (5/4/22)

Natasha spoke at a webinar on stabilization in northern Syria, hosted by the Netherlands Institute of International Relations. (5/3/22)

Natasha was interviewed for the third episode of the CSIS Global Health Policy Center's documentary on the human price of the war in Ukraine. You can watch the short episode here