Middle East Notes and Comment: The Smart Way Out of the Middle East

The Smart Way Out of the Middle East

The United States has been rebalancing away from the Middle East for almost a decade now. Weary of committing blood and treasure to a region whose problems persist and whose centrality to the global economy seems destined to fall, U.S. strategy has clearly shifted its focus to the Pacific.

And yet, the United States cannot quite quit the Middle East.

Read Jon Alterman's commentary on the the Hill.

From the Middle East Program

Upcoming Events

Is "Freeze for Freeze" a viable pathway to re-engage with Iran? On February 24, join Jon as he hosts a discussion with Eric BrewerHannah Kaviani, and Henry Rome on how the Biden administration should seek to engage with Iran over its nuclear program. Register for the online event here.

Babel: Translating the Middle East

In the most recent episode of Babel, Jon spoke with Dr. Hanaa Almoaibed, an associate fellow at Chatham House, about her research on how Saudi's youth view vocational schools, entrepreneurship, and Vision 2030. "A lot of young Saudis look at vocational schools as a last resort for people that didn't do well," said Dr. Almoaibed, "Vision 2030 is changing that."

In another episode, Jon talked with Dr. Azzam Alwash, an engineer working to restore Iraq's wetlands, about why wetlands are important and how he and others work to convince Iraq's government to take action. Then, Jon, Natasha Hall, and McKinley Knoop discussed the relationship between climate change, governance, and trust.

We also released two new mezze episodes: one on produce smugglers in Iraq and one on female plumbers across the Middle East.


Jonathan Tepperman, Foreign Policy's editor at large, interviewed Jon for Foreign Policy Playlist. They talked about what makes our podcast work, and then featured the episode "Satire and Comedy in the Arab World" with guest Karl Sharro.

Jon is leading a session on China's Middle East strategy for a CSIS course on China's Belt and Road Initiative. You can register to attend here.

Jon joined host William Law for an episode of the Arab Digest podcast to discuss the Biden administration's strategy for the Middle East.

In the News

"What strikes me with all the calls President Biden has had is they are very intentional. They are done for a purpose -- you understand what the goal is, you understand what the outcome is; it's part of a broader strategy," said Jon to CNN about Biden's approach to foreign policy. (01/31/21)

Jon's January commentary, "Iran will still be a slog," was quoted by France24: "The more the administration pursues the Iranians, the more the Iranians will pull back, in a bid to increase their leverage. Yet, the more the US pulls back, the more the Iranians will try to force the US to engage." (01/28/21)

Will told PolitiFact that "ISIS has been steadily increasing its activities in eastern Syria, and this week's attacks are simply the latest in a trend which began during President Trump's administration." (01/26/21)