Middle East Week

Jonathon Morgan comes on the show to talk about using data science to analyze and understand issues in the Middle East. Jonathon is the co-founder of CrisisNET, and recently co-authored the ISIS Twitter Census with J.M. Berger.


  • The data collection and verification involved in making the ISIS Twitter Census
  • Dealing with multiple languages in their data set
  • Information that can be learned from a large data set of ISIS supporters
  • Potential to use data like this to study radicalization and improve countering violent extremism strategies
  • Why journalists, scholars, and others should try using data science tools and techniques
  • How to start using data science, even if you have no experience
  • Limitations of data science and “big data”
  • How to ask the right questions to make your data more valuable
  • How subject matter experts can better work with data scientists


Thanks to Middle East Week patrons Alex Dunne and Michael Jorgensen! You can support the podcast by making a small donation on Patreon!

Direct download: MEW_Jonathon_Morgan.mp3
Category: -- posted at: 7:51pm EDT

Kirk Sowell comes back on the show to talk about his new paper Jordanian Salafism and the Jihad in Syria. We covered a lot of information including:

  • What is Salafism and Salafi-Jihadism?
  • Who is Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi, and how did he come to play a central role in these issues?
  • The split between Maqdisi and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi
  • Jordanian Salafi-Jihadists turn towards Syria and Jabhat al-Nusra
  • The effects of the ISIS-JaN split on Jordanian Salafi-Jihadists
  • What the Jordanian government lets the Jordanian Salafi-Jihadists do, and why
  • Maqdisi’s role in the efforts to free Jordanian pilot Moaz al-Kassasbeh
  • What could be next for Maqdisi and the Jordanian Salafi-Jihadists


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Direct download: MEW_Kirk_Sowell_Mar_15.mp3
Category: -- posted at: 2:06pm EDT

David Andrew Weinberg comes on the show to talk about human rights in Saudi Arabia. We covered many topics including:

  • What are the most pressing human rights issues in Saudi Arabia?
  • How much influence does the U.S. have to affect change on Saudi human rights issues?
  • Saudi policies that have lead to, or perpetuated, human rights abuses in other Middle Eastern countries
  • The strategic implications of Saudi Arabia’s human rights record
  • What it takes to get changes implemented in Saudi Arabia
  • How the U.S. can push for change without jeopardizing its relationship with Saudi Arabia


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This episode was supported by Scott Herbert. You can help support the show by making a small donation on Patreon!

Direct download: DavidAWeinbergMar15.mp3
Category: -- posted at: 1:14pm EDT

Dina Esfandiary comes on the show to talk about the ongoing nuclear negotiations with Iran, including many issues that aren’t explained well (or at all) in news reports. Topics covered include:

  • Netanyahu’s speech to congress and Israeli objections to a deal
  • The issue of a “sunset clause” in the deal being negotiated
  • Major obstacles the negotiations still need to overcome, and what is most likely to cause them to fail
  • Problems with focusing on breakout time, and what the various centrifuge numbers being discussed really mean
  • Details on the sanctions Iran has faced, and what could happen as they are removed
  • How Gulf states, particularly Saudi Arabia, view the ongoing negotiations
  • What could happen if a deal isn’t reached by the upcoming deadlines
  • How the Supreme Leader and the Iranian public view the negotiations


This episode was supported by David de Bruijn. You can help support the podcast by making a small donation on Patreon!

Direct download: Dina_Esfandiary_Mar_15.mp3
Category: -- posted at: 12:36pm EDT