The European Council on Foreign Relations’ Cinzia Bianco joins Arab Digest editor William Law to talk about the partnership deal that the EU is proposing to the Gulf states. Large in ambition and sweeping in scope, it was released in Brussels in mid-May and titled ‘Joint Communication to the European Parliament and Council: a strategic partnership with the Gulf.’ So is the proposal a gamechanger or is it a dustcatcher? Will the Gulf play ball or are there red lines that will stop the initiative in its tracks? Cinzia weighs up the pros and cons and delivers her verdict.
Arab Digest Weekly Podcasts
Arab Digest editor William Law is in conversation with the Saudi human rights activist Areej al-Sadhan. Her brother Abdulrahman, a humanitarian aid worker, was forcibly disappeared in Saudi Arabia in 2018. She has been fighting ever since to secure his release and that of the many other prisoners of conscience sentenced to long terms by a politicised judiciary who then vanish into the kingdom’s labrythine prison system.
Yemen expert and author Helen Lackner joins Arab Digest editor William Law to discuss a ceasefire that is largely holding as all sides begin to acknowledge that a protracted stalemate, rather than leading to further fighting, could prove the path to dialogue, negotiations and an end to a more than seven year war that has brought untold suffering to the people of Yemen.
Newlines Institute senior analyst Caroline Rose joins Arab Digest editor William Law to discuss how Syria’s Assad family runs a narco state built on captagon, the illicit drug of choice for the Levant, the Gulf states and the wider Middle East. Working with Hezbollah, the family oversees the manufacture, distribution and sale of a drug that is cheap and easy to produce and is generating billions for the family and their associates.
Arab Digest editor William Law welcomes back Qatar University Gulf analyst Dr Ali Bakir to discuss what’s at stake for the region and beyond as the JCPOA talks, which appeared close to reaching the finish line, now seem bogged down in Vienna. What the Iranians see as a weakened US administration may allow them to drag the negotiations out and ultimately doom the deal, a scenario that could trigger a MENA nuclear arms race.
Arab Digest editor William Law welcomes back Andreas Krieg of the Defence Studies Department, King’s College London and their conversation focusses on the battle that liberal democracy now finds itself engaged in as its MENA partners play the neutral card while quietly backing their ideological ally Putin in his war in Ukraine. It is an existential struggle, one encumbered with a stark hypocrisy.
Arab Digest editor William Law welcomes back Francis Ghilès, a leading expert on energy and politics in North Africa. Their conversation revolves around the huge opportunities and the challenges the war in the Ukraine has given Algeria and its state-owned energy corporation Sonatrach. As Europe scrambles to find alternatives to Russian gas, Algeria is well placed to play the advantage. The question is will it and will Europe realise that finally it needs to treat Algeria and North Africa as equals?
In this the 100th Arab Digest podcast editor William Law is in conversation with Aslı Aydıntaşbaş a journalist and a senior policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations. Their focus is on the remarkable volte-face of Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in the Middle East. An economic crisis and collapsing popular support have forced him into a major rethink and in the case of Saudi Arabia a significant climbdown.
Arab Digest editor William Law’s guest this week is the author and MENA analyst Christopher Davidson. Their conversation focusses on how Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is proving beneficial for the region’s autocratic leaders and not simply because the price of hydrocarbons has soared. Amongst other windfalls Russia’s oligarchs are finding new homes in the Gulf and bringing their wealth with them.
Arab Digest’s editor William Law welcomes back the journalist and researcher Sirwan Kajjo. Sirwan is an expert on Kurdish issues and their conversation explores the challenges, aspirations and issues facing a people without a country.