With an exceptional line up of expert guests, our popular weekly Arab Digest podcasts offer insightful conversation with editor William Law on the hot topics of the week. Available on Apple podcasts, Spotify, Soundcloud and all quality podcast platforms.

Reinventing the Sheikhdom - Matthew Hedges - cover

Reinventing the Sheikhdom: how MBZ has shaped the UAE

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.

Putin, Assad and the war in Ukraine

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.

A Mediterranean energy treble

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.

Biden in a bind

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.

Bahrain: “A highly functional injustice system”

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.

EU Saudi

The EU to the Gulf: Let’s do a deal

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.

Abdulrahman Al-Sadhan with his sister

A battle cry for human rights

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, a ceasefire and reason to hope

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.


Bashar al-Assad: narco state boss

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.

Gulf jitters in the JCPOA jive

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.

Macron Sisi

Western hypocrites and MENA potentates

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.

Algeria and Europe’s scramble for gas

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?

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