Middle East Notes and Comment: The Middle East Transition We Need to Talk About

The Middle East Transition We Need to Talk About

We have been hearing about transitions in the Middle East for years now. There was the hoped-for democratic transition, which has been a bust. There is an energy transition looming. There is, arguably, a water transition afoot as aquifer depletion, surface-water exhaustion, and climate change all combine to make a mostly arid region profoundly more so. But an equally profound transition may be one few are talking about: a labor transition that may reorder the economics, politics, and society of the entire Middle East, from Casablanca to Tehran.

Read Jon Alterman's commentary on the CSIS website

From the Middle East Program

New Analysis

Natasha Hall summarized the past year in Syria for the European Institute of the Mediterranean in a new piece arguing that Russia's recent veto of UN cross border aid is an example of the endemic issues that "threaten to keep the country on an uncertain and destructive trajectory."

Will Todman broke down Lebanon's gas deal with Egypt and Syria in a Critical Questions from June. Will covered the politics of the deal, how it's going to be implemented, and whether it's likely to help provide reliable electricity to Lebanon.

Babel: Translating the Middle East

In the most recent episode of Babel, Jon sat down with Gregory Gause to break down President Biden's trip to Saudi Arabia and what both sides hoped to get out of the meeting.

In another episode, Jon spoke with Frank Verrastro about price volatility in the energy market, Saudi Arabia's ability to impact oil prices, and bottlenecks affecting global oil and gas production.

We also released two new mezze episodes: one on the rising trend of veganism in Israel and another on the beer and wine industry in Lebanon.

In the News

Jon spoke to several media outlets about President Biden's trip to the Middle East last week.

Jon spoke about the trip with The 966 podcast, noting that there was a very different feel to Biden's arrival in Israel, compared to his arrival in Saudi Arabia. (7/18/22)

Jon told the Financial Times that the trip showed that President Biden's "general instinct is that the Middle East will be a source of trouble and not opportunity," but that the president understands "he can't abandon it, either." (7/18/22)

Jon spoke to The Washington Post about President Biden's greeting with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. He said the fist-bump between the two was a sign that "it may not become a warm bilateral relationship under the president. But it will be a relationship." (7/17/22)

Jon also sat down with CSIS's Truth of the Matter podcast to discuss the trip and what the Biden administration could get from it. (7/13/22)

Jon told The New York Times that although Saudi officials are looking to benefit from their photo opportunity with President Biden, Saudi Arabia's "incentives for cooperation are high." (7/13/22)

Jon also spoke to Politico about Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and his reforms in Saudi Arabia. (7/13/22)

Speaking to the Wall Street Journal, Jon said that Saudi Arabia was relevant to a growing number of U.S. priorities, "and having a scratchy relationship" with them was making progress on those priorities harder. (7/10/22)

Jon sat down with the Politics + Media 101podcast to break down U.S.-Saudi relations ahead of President Biden's visit. (7/8/22)

Jon also spoke at a CSIS Press Briefing on the trip. "We're talking to the Saudis. And for a long time to come, we're going to have a lot to talk about," Jon said. Reuters covered Jon's comments from the CSIS briefing. (7/7/22)

Jon told Reuters ​​​​​​that while politically there was no upside for the president, the meeting with Saudi Arabia was necessary to recalibrate a relationship with a key U.S. ally in the region. (7/5/22)

Natasha sat down with The Wall Street Journal to talk about Russian president Vladmir Putin's trip to Tehran to meet with Turkish and Iranian officials. (7/19/22)

Natasha also spoke to The World about Syria's drug trade and the country's descent into "narco state status." (6/24/22)

Will's Critical Questions was covered by Syria TV. Will also spoke to Syria TV about Lebanon's gas deal. (6/24/22)