Saudi Arabia

Poet Sasha Pimentel at the KGOU studios.
Storme Jones / KGOU

Even though she doesn’t speak Arabic and is not a Muslim, poet Sasha Pimentel says the call to prayer in Saudi Arabia has influenced her work.

President Obama meets with King Salman during a 2015 trip to Saudi Arabia.
Pete Souza / The White House

On Friday, France’s foreign minister described talks over Syria’s future as entering a “danger zone.” Opposition leaders have stepped away from the negotiating table in Geneva, accusing the regime led by Syrian president Bashar al-Assad of violating the cease-fire the U.S. and Russia painfully put together.

Representative of Assad’s regime might not even be at the negotiating table without Russia’s intervention. Airstrikes helped Syrian forces take back territory, put the rebels on their heel, and attack ISIS positions in the ancient city of Palmyra.

The portrait of Nimr Baqr al-Nimr, the recently deceased Shia cleric in al-Awamiyah, Eastern Province, Saudi Arabia.
Abbas Goudarzi / Wikimedia Commons

Since the January 2 assassination of popular Shiite cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, Iranians have continued to rally against Saudi Arabia, leading to a severing of diplomatic ties between the kingdom and the Islamic Republic.

Suzette Grillot joins the show from Paris to talk about what she’s seen in the European city in just the few weeks after the coordinated terrorist attack by ISIS militants.

Then guest host Brian Hardzinski talks with Ed Morse, the head of Global Commodities Research for Citigroup. He calls North America “the New Middle East,” – taking over the role of swing producer from Saudi Arabia. He'll also explain changing oil markets how he applies lessons from the 1980s to today. 

An oil field in the Middle East.
Michele Solmi / Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

1979 was a pretty interesting year to be in charge of international energy policy for the U.S. Department of State. The world was still recovering from a crippling energy crisis six years earlier, and the Iranian Revolution sparked a second oil shock that triggered a recession that would last for much of the early 1980s.

Joshua Landis and Suzette Grillot discuss the International Olympic Committee easing restrictions on refugee athletes, and a recent International Monetary Fund report describing the effect low oil prices could have on Middle East cash reserves:

Then Suzette talks with Leslie Woodward, one of the founders of the Post-Conflict Research Center in Sarajevo. Her organization works to ease the two-decade-old wounds of the wars in the Balkans.

The Al-Faisaliah Tower in downtown Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
Mohammed Al-Deghaishim / United Nations Information Centres

Falling oil prices and continued instability in the Middle East will continue to deplete liquid financial assets in the region’s oil exporters, according to the International Monetary Fund.

The IMF released its Middle East economic outlook report earlier this month, which indicates that Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest exporter of oil, could run out of cash reserves in five years unless crude prices rebound.

Joshua Landis explains rebel advances in Syria and new Saudi aggressiveness in its wars with Iran.

Then Suzette Grillot talks with University of Oklahoma German professor Bob Lemon and Oregon State University Cold War-era cultural scholar Sebastian Heiduschke about cinema and literature in East Germany.

Saudi King Abdullah talks with newly appointed Saudi Crown Prince Salman bin Abdel-Aziz in Taif June 19, 2012. Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah has appointed his defence minister, Prince Salman, as heir apparent, opting for stability and a continuation of cau
Saudi Press Agency / Reuters

Syria observers are questioning whether President Bashar al-Assad's time could be running short after rebels captured two large, northern cities inside of a month. Despite attempts to mount a counteroffensive, Syrian troops have been unable to regain any ground lost in the cities of Idlib and Jisr al-Shughour just south of the Turkish border.

Joshua Landis and Suzette Grillot discuss what Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech in Washington this week says about a possible shift in U.S./Middle East alliances. Many traditional U.S. allies are worried Washington might shift toward Iran and away from Israel and Saudi Arabia.

Later, Landis and Rebecca Cruise talk with Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Gordon Wood. He compares this decade’s uprisings in the Arab World to what he calls an “Atlantic Spring” that started in 1776.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry shakes hands with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv, Israel, on July 23, 2014, before the two sat down to discuss a possible cease-fire to stop Israel's fight with Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
U.S. Department of State

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivered an address before Congress on Tuesday, urging President Obama not to craft a nuclear deal with Iran.

The domestic politics of the speech have been widely discussed, but the speech has raised issues of shifting U.S. alliances with Middle East countries.

Rebecca Cruise discusses Wednesday's attack on a satirical newspaper in Paris, and Joshua Landis explains Saudi Arabia’s role in the ongoing fall of global oil prices.

Later, a conversation with Jan-Willem Rosenboom. He’s a senior program officer for water, sanitation and hygiene at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and he and Suzette Grillot talk about market solutions to the sanitation crisis in developing countries. 

Saudi King Abdullah talks with newly appointed Saudi Crown Prince Salman bin Abdel-Aziz in Taif June 19, 2012. Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah has appointed his defence minister, Prince Salman, as heir apparent, opting for stability and a continuation of cau
Saudi Press Agency / Reuters

Oil prices continue to fall, down to around $50 per barrel this week, and Saudi Arabia has reportedly asked OPEC members to continue production in order to keep prices low.

It’s working, for them, because they have $750 billion in reserve currency, and will likely gain market share in the long term as it becomes expensive for others in the region to produce oil. But Joshua Landis, the Director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma, argues that American oil companies play a significant role as well.

“It’s the Americans who’ve done this to the world through [hydraulic fracturing],” Landis says. “This new technological innovation has allowed America to become the major producer of oil in the world. We’ve flooded the market, and now we’re expecting the Saudis to reduce their production in order to keep the prices high so Americans can get rich.”

Joshua Landis joins Suzette Grillot to discuss the continued escalation in Ukraine, and provide an update on Syria as the third anniversary of the country's civil war approaches.

Later, a conversation about Afrocentricity and identity with author, Temple University professor, and activist Molefi Kete Asante.

A crowd gathers outside London's National Gallery in Trafalgar Square March 13, 2014 for a vigil to mark the third anniversary of the start of Syria's civil war.
Andy Armstrong / Flickr Creative Commons

This weekend marks three years since the first mass protests in Damascus, Aleppo, and Daraa lit kindling of unrest in Syria that eventually ignited a full-scale civil war.

Joshua Landis, the Director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma, and the author of the widely-read blog Syria Comment, says countries in the region and the United States now view the Syrian crisis as a counterterrorism problem.

Joshua Landis provides an update on this week's Syrian peace talks in Switzerland, and Rebecca Cruise discusses the escalation of violence in Ukraine.

Later, a conversation about mother tongue-based bilingual instruction in West Africa with Alice Iddi-Gubbels, the founder and executive director of PAMBE Ghana.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, flanked by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, gavels open the Geneva II conference in Montreux, Switzerland, on January 22, 2014.
U.S. Department of State / Flickr Creative Commons

A United Nations mediator announced Friday a Syrian government delegation and the Western-backed opposition will meet Saturday “in the same room.”

Joshua Landis, the author of the widely-read blog Syria Comment and the Director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma, says this week’s peace conference in Switzerland shows both sides understand there has to be a political solution.

Joshua Landis provides an update on the ongoing removal of chemical weapons in Syria, and Rebecca Cruise examines the recent executions of high-level government officials in North Korea, and what they could mean. 

Later, a conversation with a trio of scientists and engineers about how three very different developing countries share many of the same sanitation and hygiene concerns.

Bernd Schwabe / Wikimedia Commons

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons has drawn up a timeline for the destruction of Syria's poison gas and nerve agent program by mid-2014.

The most toxic chemicals are to be destroyed on a U.S. ship. Denmark and Norway are providing ships to transport the chemicals out of Syria and more than three dozen private companies have offered to destroy less toxic chemicals.

A little over a week ago, Typhoon Haiyan slammed into the Philippines, leaving thousands dead and devastating the city of Tacloban. Suzette Grillot also talks with Joshua Landis about a so-called "wild card" in Syria's civil war - private funding by wealthy donors.

Later, Adriana Beltrán from the Washington Office on Latin America joins Suzette Grillot to discuss how clandestine criminal organizations infiltrate Guatemala’s judicial system.