Saudi Arabia

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.

Freedom House / Flickr Creative Commons

Private donors have contributed tens of millions of dollars to Islamist militias in Syria, dividing the opposition even further and forcing the United States to reexamine who it backs in the region.

The New York Times reports the practice is adding a “wild card” to the war in Syria.

Earlier this week anti-American protests in Iran marked 34 years since the storming of the Embassy in Tehran, and the start of the 18-month hostage crisis. Suzette Grillot talks about the anniversary with Joshua Landis, who also provides a brief update on Saudi Arabia's frustration with the U.S. over Syria.

Later, a conversation with Boston University modern European historian Jonathan Zatlin. He says parts of Europe's debt crisis can be explained by religious tension between the Protestant North and the Catholic South.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks with U.S. Ambassador to Israel Daniel Shapiro, U.S. Special Envoy for Israeli-Palestinian Negotiations Martin Indyk, and Deputy Special Envoy Frank Lowenstein about Middle East peace negotiations before departing
U.S. Department of State / Flickr Creative Commons

Four world powers are dispatching their top diplomats to Geneva on Friday to add their weight to negotiations aimed at putting initial limits on Iran's ability to make atomic weapons.

The meeting comes shortly after the 34th anniversary of the start of the Iran hostage crisis, and the end of diplomatic relations between the United States and the Islamic Republic.

Joshua Landis, the Director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma, says the election of Hassan Rouhani earlier this year marks a crossroads as the moderate leader tries to promote understanding with the United States.

Rebecca Cruise and Suzette Grillot discuss the implications of the Roma child found living with a couple in Greece, and the October 26 protest by Saudi women in defiance of the country's traditions against driving.

Later, a conversation about water and sanitation in Africa with the University of Oklahoma 2013 International Water Prize winner Ada Oko-Williams, and University College London hydrogeologist Richard Taylor.

saudi woman in hijab
Edward Musiak / Flickr Creative Commons

On October 26 dozens of Saudi women got behind the wheel in defiance of the country’s traditions. Though no specific law bans women from driving, the rules are enforced by Saudi Arabia's powerful Islamic establishment.

Rebecca Cruise, the Assistant Dean of the University of Oklahoma’s College of International Studies, says even though the issue seems to be gaining traction, she’s heard critics argue it’s symbolic of larger issues Saudi women face.