Middle East Notes and Comment: When Our Middle East Friends Talk, They Talk About Hedging


When Our Middle East Friends Talk, They Talk About Hedging 

In a recent conversation with a senior Israeli official, I asked what strategic insights he had gained from discussions with his Emirati counterparts. After all, Emiratis have spent decades traveling easily throughout the region, while Israeli discussions with neighbors have often been secret, security-focused, and slightly distrustful. As Israeli and Emirati ties have deepened, one of the advantages for Israel has surely been having better access to Emiratis’ assessments of regional affairs and regional leaders, and especially insights into the sorts of information and judgments that are hard to derive from technical means. 
His answer surprised me. He said the Emiratis told him to hedge. Perhaps even more surprising, he suggested that Israel was taking the advice to heart.  

Read Jon Alterman's commentary on the The Hill.

From the Middle East Program

New Report 
The Middle East Program released a new report by Senior Fellow Natasha Hall entitled, “Rescuing Aid in Syria." The report is the product of a year-long project based on interviews with over 130 UN officials, aid workers, negotiators, diplomats, and analysts working on the aid response.

In the report, Natasha delves into the challenges of both meeting Syrians’ needs and ensuring that the government does not profit from the exercise, differentiating between different parts of the country with different forces in control.

You can read the full report here. We have also prepared a one-pager on the report and its findings, which you can read here. You can also click here to read the executive summary, and here to go directly to the report's recommendations.

Report Tie-Ins  
As part of the roll-out for Natasha's report, we have released several tie-ins. Natasha prepared a 2-minute explainer video of the report, its findings, and why it matters, which you can watch here. Last Tuesday, we let you know about the recent episode of Babel focused on the report. Jon and Natasha recorded their interview in a new CSIS studio, which you can watch here. In the coming weeks, we will also be releasing an Arabic version of the report.

Babel: Translating the Middle East  

In the most recent episode of Babel, Jon spoke with Natasha about her report. Then, Jon continued the conversation with Jake Kurtzer, senior fellow and director of the CSIS Humanitarian Agenda, and Sara Kayyali, Syria researcher for the Human Rights Watch Middle East and North Africa Division. You can listen to the episode here.

In another episode, Jon spoke with Jason Rezaian about what the United States gets wrong about Iran. You can listen to their conversation here.

Jon also spoke with Bassem Youssef about how he got his start on television at the height of the Arab Spring and why he fled Egypt months after the military returned to power. You can listen to that episode here.

We also released two new mezze episodes: one on sand mafias depleting popular coastal beaches, which you can listen to here, and another on the wartime olive oil economy in Syria's Afrin region, which you can find here.


Natasha sat down with Radio France Internationale (RFI) for an interview about her new report. (2/17/22)

Natasha's report was covered by The Guardian. (2/14/22)

Jon spoke with BBC News about the death of the leader of the Islamic State group's leader following a raid by U.S. forces in Syria earlier this month. He said that "losing a leader makes [IS] even more paranoid." (02/04/22)

Jon spoke with the Wall Street Journal about the Middle East's representation at the Olympic games in Beijing. He said that "the U.S. being perceived to have its foot out the door makes persifying international relationships even more important." (02/03/22)