Arab Digest editor William Law’s guest this week is the European Council on Foreign Relations’ Tarek Megerisi. Tarek considers the crisis that Putin’s invasion has plunged the Middle East and North Africa into and he calls for fresh thinking and urgent action on the part of Europe, acting in concert with international bodies such as the IMF, to avert a human catastrophe on a scale that is unthinkable.
Arab Digest editor William Law’s guest this week is the editor in chief of The International Interest, Sami Hamdi. Sami looks beyond the headlines in the Western media about that fist bump. He argues instead that President Joe Biden’s trip to Jeddah to meet with the Saudi crown prince had almost nothing to do with human rights and was much more about his own domestic political challenges, his efforts to reinforce relations with Israel and the attempt to keep alive his hopes for a deal with Iran.
Writer and journalist Elias Jahshan is Arab Digest editor William Law’s guest this week. Their conversation focus on the LGBTQ+ Arab community in the Middle East and the diaspora in a powerful new book of 18 essays, This Arab is Queer, which Elias edited. As he says in his introduction: “These writings assert our existence and agency as a community, and also celebrate our varied experiences.This is a space where the microphone is entirely the writer’s own.”
Arab Digest editor William Law’s guest this week is the Egyptian political analyst and commentator Maged Mandour. Their conversation deals with Egypt’s growing economic crisis and how President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi is managing it. He may believe that with good friends in the neighbourhood, among them Israel, he has time to spend his way out of economic collapse. But the military-economic dictatorship he has assiduously built leaves him less and less room in which to manoeuvre.
Author and analyst Matthew Hedges is this week’s podcast guest as he joins Arab Digest editor William Law to discuss his recently published book, an analysis of how Mohammed bin Zayed, the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, has assiduously built a military, digital and economic power base while remaining largely in the shadows. Matthew talks,too, about his detention and abuse at the hands of the UAE’s State Security Department while he was in the country doing research for the book.
Arab Digest editor William Law’s guest this week is Samuel Ramani. Their conversation focusses on how the Ukraine war is playing out for Vladimir Putin’s ally, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. As Putin continues his war of attrition against a European nation, Middle Eastern countries are weighing up how a Russian drawdown of troops in Syria might serve to tilt the scales either away from or towards Iran.
Arab Digest editor William Law welcomes top North Africa energy analyst Francis Ghilès to the podcast to talk about the potential energy alliance between Italy, Tunisia and Algeria as the war in Ukraine grinds on and sanctions on Russia begin to bite. Italy is determined to become Europe’s energy hub while Tunisia has the geographic proximity to the continent and Algeria the resources for a nexus of interests to emerge, one that could prove a winner for all three.
Arab Digest editor William Law’s podcast guest is Giorgio Cafiero, the CEO of Washington-based Gulf State Analytics. Their conversation focusses on US-Saudi relations and the awkward situation US president Joe Biden finds himself in needing to reach some sort of accommodation with the Saudi Crown Prince and de facto ruler Mohammed bin Salman as petrol prices rocket and America’s domestic economic woes mount.
Bahraini human rights activist Maryam Alkhawaja is Arab Digest editor William Law’s guest. Her father Abdulhadi is serving a life sentence in Bahrain. His efforts on behalf of the struggle for rights in the Gulf kingdom, and his unjust incarceration, have been acknowledged with a 2022 Martin Ennals award honouring exceptional human rights defenders. For more than a decade Maryam has campaigned tirelessly for his release and that of all political prisoners held in Bahrain, other Gulf states and the wider Middle East.
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 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.