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Naz Modirzadeh and Richard Atwood host Hold Your Fire! CRISISGROUP
Podcast

Hold Your Fire!

Join Crisis Group Interim President Richard Atwood and Board Member Naz Modirzadeh, a Harvard professor of international law and armed conflict, as they dive deep into the conflicts that rage around the globe, along with Crisis Group field analysts and special guests. This new podcast brings a unique, on-the-ground perspective to understanding both why those conflicts persist — and what could bring them to an end. 

Episode 34: Delayed Palestinian Polls, Israeli Politics and U.S. Middle East Policy

This week on Hold Your Fire!, Richard Atwood and Naz Modirzadeh talk to Daniel Levy, president of the U.S./Middle East Project, which works in partnership with Crisis Group on Israel/Palestine. They talk about why President Mahmoud Abbas indefinitely postponed Palestinian elections, and why not holding the vote is a wasted opportunity and a disappointment to many Palestinians. They discuss recent Israeli elections, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s struggles to form a government and whether those make any difference to Israel’s policy toward the Palestinians. They also talk about what the Biden administration’s Israel/Palestine policy might entail, prospects for a “rights-based” approach and the recent Human Rights Watch report that labels Israeli policies toward the Palestinians as “apartheid”.

Click here to listen on Apple Podcasts or Spotify

For more information, explore Crisis Group’s analysis on our Israel/Palestine page.

Episode 33: What Déby’s Death Means for Chad and the Region

This week on Hold Your Fire!, Richard Atwood and Naz Modirzadeh talk to Crisis Group’s Project Director for Central Africa Richard Moncrieff and Crisis Group’s Libya expert Claudia Gazzini about what the death of Chadian President Idriss Déby means for the country and for the Sahel region, and the connection between Chadian rebel groups and Libya. They unpack possible scenarios now that Déby’s son, Mahamat Déby, has assumed power and formed a transitional military council, provoking popular protests in response. They look at what drove the Front for Change and Concord’s (FACT) recent rebel incursion from Libya into Chad that led to Déby’s death. They also discuss Chad’s military engagement against jihadist groups in the Lake Chad basin and the Sahel, and what the future might hold for those operations.

Click here to listen on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

For more information, explore Crisis Group’s analysis on our Chad page.

Episode 32: Rising Russia-Ukraine Tensions and the West 

This week on Hold Your Fire!, Richard Atwood and Naz Modirzadeh talk to Crisis Group’s program director for Europe and Central Asia, Olga Oliker, about rising tensions between Russia, on one hand, and Ukraine and Western capitals on the other, over Moscow’s recent military build-up at the Ukrainian border. They talk about the motives behind Russia’s deployments, how they are perceived in Kyiv, the situation in separatist-held parts of Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region and why the peace process has stalled. Olga describes the broader standoff between Russia and the West, of which disagreements over Ukraine are an important – but far from the only – factor. They also look at how U.S. and European leaders should respond and what might help reverse the dangerous escalation in Donbas, with a view to returning to the 2020 ceasefire agreement and peace talks.

Click here to listen on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.

For more information, explore Crisis Group’s analysis on our Ukraine page.

Episode 31: Is the Gulf Dispute Actually Over?

This week on Hold Your Fire!, Richard Atwood and Naz Modirzadeh talk to Crisis Group’s Senior Adviser for the Middle East and North Africa, Dina Esfandiary, about what drove Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, among other Gulf states, to cut diplomatic ties with Qatar in 2017, why the Gulf Arab countries announced an end to the crisis in January 2021 and whether the rift is truly over. They reflect on what this means for the foreign policies of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries and how their leaders see their priorities and challenges in the region. They also discuss what the spat has meant for crises across the region where the GCC countries are involved.

Click here to listen on Apple Podcasts or Spotify

For more information, explore Crisis Group’s analysis on our Gulf and Arabian Peninsula page.

Episode 30: How Afghanistan Views the U.S. Troop Drawdown 

This week on Hold Your Fire!, Richard Atwood and Naz Modirzadeh talk to Crisis Group’s senior analyst for Afghanistan, Andrew Watkins, about the fast-approaching 1 May deadline for U.S. troops’ withdrawal from Afghanistan, the stalled peace process and ongoing violence across the country. In February 2020, the U.S. struck a deal with Taliban leaders. It entailed the U.S. pledging to withdraw its forces and the Taliban agreeing not to allow Afghanistan to be used for international terrorism and to enter talks with the Afghan government. Those Afghan peace talks have made little progress, even as the deadline for the U.S. drawdown looms. Andrew talks about how Afghan factions view the U.S. withdrawal, what neighbours and other regional powers think and dangers for the country in the months ahead.

Click here to listen on Apple Podcasts or Spotify

For more information, explore Crisis Group’s analysis on our Afghanistan page.

Episode 29: Tshisekedi Consolidates Power in DR Congo

This week on Hold Your Fire!, Naz Modirzadeh and guest co-host Comfort Ero, our Interim Vice President and Africa Program Director, talk to Nelleke van de Walle, Crisis Group’s Central Africa Deputy Project Director, about the challenges preventing the Democratic Republic of Congo from moving forward. They discuss President Tshisekedi’s consolidation of power and the still strong influence of former President Joseph Kabila. Nelleke says that President Tshisekedi needs to step up and make sure he doesn’t become what he replaced. She also warns about the fraught security landscape in eastern DR Congo, where the recent U.S. designation of the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) as a foreign terrorist organisation could have unintended consequences for peacemaking and humanitarian efforts.

Click here to listen on Apple Podcast or Spotify

For more information, explore Crisis Group’s analysis on our DR Congo page.

Episode 28: Ethiopia’s Tigray Crisis and Horn of Africa Politics 

This week on Hold Your Fire!, Richard Atwood, Crisis Group’s interim president, and guest host Comfort Ero, our interim vice president and Africa Program director, talk to Murithi Mutiga, Crisis Group’s Horn of Africa director, about the fighting in Tigray and its implications for regional politics. Murithi sheds light on the calculations of Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, rebel Tigray leaders and Eritrea, which has also sent forces into Tigray. He also talks through the Horn of Africa’s evolving geopolitics, growing friction between Ethiopia and its neighbours, and the state of play of both Ethiopia’s and Sudan’s transitions. He looks at what continental and world leaders need to do to end the Tigray crisis and calm escalating regional tensions. 

Click here to listen on Apple Podcasts or Spotify

For more information, explore Crisis Group’s analysis on our Ethiopia page.

Episode 27: Good News in Libya?

This week on Hold Your Fire!, Richard Atwood and Naz Modirzadeh talk to Crisis Group’s Libya expert, Claudia Gazzini, about the historic turn of events resulting in a new unity government in Libya. After years of chaos, division and war, often fuelled by foreign powers, the past six months saw Libyan leaders engage in UN-led peace talks and agree to an interim cabinet headed by Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibeh. Claudia talks through events that led the warring parties and their external backers to agree to the unity government, the benefits of the UN’s inclusive, multitrack process, the significance of a peaceful handover of power and the challenges that lie ahead for Dbeibeh’s government.

Click here to listen on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

Episode 26: The War on Drugs in Colombia’s Countryside

This week on Hold Your Fire!, Richard Atwood and Naz Modirzadeh speak with Beth Dickinson, Crisis Group’s Senior Analyst for Colombia, about the Colombian government’s new war on drugs and the escalation of violence in rural areas. Beth unpacks the complex dynamics between vulnerable farming communities, criminal groups vying for control over illicit markets, and security forces failing to contain the bloodshed. She explains how the downward spiral undermines the 2016 peace process. They discuss Crisis Group’s recent reports on the subject, including how women’s involvement in coca cultivation means they are at a particular risk of violence, why armed groups have emerged as winners of the post-FARC peace deal, and the social activists and leaders caught in the crossfire. They also look at what an alternative to Bogota’s current heavy handed approach would look like.

Click here to listen on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

For more information, read Crisis Group’s reports: Deeply Rooted: Coca Eradication and Violence in Colombia and Leaders under Fire: Defending Colombia’s Front Line of Peace.

Special Episode: Gender and Conflict

This week on Hold Your Fire!, Naz Modirzadeh and Richard Atwood talk to Azadeh Moaveni, Crisis Group’s Gender Project Director, in honour of International Women’s Day. They look at the challenges in implementing the goals of UN Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security twenty years after its adoption. Azadeh also talks about Crisis Group’s work on gender and conflict. She details recent research on the dangers for local women’s groups of getting involved in counter-terrorism. She also talks about her well-reviewed book on young women joining ISIS, Guest House for Young Widows, about women’s involvement with other militant groups, including Al-Shabaab and Boko Haram, and about the controversy over repatriating ISIS-affiliated women and children from Syria and Iraq.

Click here to listen on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

For more information, explore Crisis Group’s analysis on our Gender & Conflict page.

Episode 25: A Dangerous New Turn in Yemen’s War

This week on Hold Your Fire!, Naz Modirzadeh and Richard Atwood speak with Peter Salisbury, Crisis Group’s Senior Analyst for Yemen, about Yemen’s multilayered conflict, now in its seventh year. They look at the state of play in Marib, where an offensive by Huthi forces could worsen what the UN already calls the world’s worst humanitarian disaster. Peter unpacks the complex alliances and rivalries among the conflict parties. They also discuss how Yemen fits into U.S. President Joe Biden’s still evolving Gulf policy, including U.S. relations with Iran and Saudi Arabia. 

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For more information, see:

Episode 24: The War in the Sahel

This week on Hold Your Fire!, Naz Modirzadeh and Richard Atwood are joined by Jean-Hervé Jezequel, Crisis Group’s Sahel Project Director, for a frank look at why French-led efforts to weaken the jihadist grip on the Sahel and restore regional stability have foundered. He describes the lay of the land today, how jihadist groups have exploited the void left by states, and why emphasis should be shifted to local-level dialogue and governance to effectively reverse the spiral of violence.

Click here to listen on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

For more information, see our latest report: A Course Correction for the Sahel Stabilisation Strategy.

Episode 23: The Coup in Myanmar

Why did the generals seize power on 1 February in Myanmar? With protests gathering steam, what does the future hold? How should outside actors respond? 

This week on Hold Your Fire!, Richard Atwood, Crisis Group’s Interim President, and guest host Comfort Ero, our Interim Vice President and Africa Program Director, speak with Richard Horsey, Crisis Group’s Senior Adviser on Myanmar.

Click here to listen on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

For more information, read our latest briefing: Responding to the Myanmar Coup.

Episode 22: Latin America’s Tough Year Ahead

This week on Hold Your Fire!, Naz Modirzadeh and Richard Atwood speak with Ivan Briscoe, Crisis Group’s Program Director for Latin America and the Carribean, and discuss the current situation in the region following a tumultuous year. Ivan examines the impact of COVID-19 in Latin America, from stifling public protests to reducing homicide rates, and whether we are likely to see these trends continue. He explains how Venezuela has affected the region as a whole, and touches on solutions going forward. Due to the complex history of international intervention in Latin America, finding an answer won’t be easy.

Click here to listen on Apple Podcasts or Spotify

Episode 21: Africa in 2021

This week on Hold Your Fire!, Naz Modirzadeh and Richard Atwood look at trends on the African continent in 2021 with Crisis Group’s Africa Program Director and interim Vice President Comfort Ero, from the rising violent jihadist threat to political transitions and the impact of COVID-19. 

Click here to listen on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

Episode 20: Syria’s Frozen Conflict  

This week on Hold Your Fire!, Naz Modirzadeh and Richard Atwood host Crisis Group’s Senior Analyst for Syria, Dareen Khalifa, for a wide-ranging discussion of how the war in that country, until lately one of the world’s hottest, has cooled down over the past year. Dareen unpacks the de facto division of Syria into four parts, each controlled by a different faction with different outside allies, and explains what the future likely holds for each part.

Click here to listen on Apple Podcasts or Spotify

Episode 19: U.S. Sanctions: An Overused Foreign Policy Tool?

This week on Hold Your Fire!, Naz Modirzadeh and Richard Atwood host Crisis Group’s Iran Project Director, Ali Vaez, and Senior Analyst for Venezuela, Phil Gunson, to assess Washington’s unilateral sanctions on Tehran and Caracas. They argue that the Trump administration’s "maximum pressure" policy had none of the intended effects on the Iranian and Venezuelan governments but had dramatic ill effects on civilians. The unintended consequences highlight the responsibility that comes with the power to impose these penalties, as does the difficulty of reversing them.

Click here to listen on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

Episode 18: Social Media and the U.S. Capitol Events

This week on Hold Your Fire!, Rob Malley and Naz Modirzadeh host Sheera Frenkel, New York Times cybersecurity reporter and author of An Ugly Truth: Inside Facebook's Battle for Domination, to discuss the role that social media platforms played in the mob assault on the U.S. Capitol and the response, or lack thereof, to online disinformation by Big Tech companies. They also talk to Peter Salisbury, Crisis Group’s Yemen Senior Analyst, who warns of dire consequences for Yemen if the U.S. does not quickly overturn its recent designation of the Huthis as a terrorist group. 

Click here to listen on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

For more information:

Episode 17: 10 Conflicts to Watch in 2021

This week on Hold Your Fire!, Rob Malley and Naz Modirzadeh host Crisis Group’s Chief of Policy Richard Atwood in a special episode on Crisis Group’s flagship publication “10 Conflicts to Watch in 2021”,  discussing the hot-spots we chose to feature, the opportunities for conflict resolution and the legacy of Donald Trump’s foreign’s policy, as well as debating the conventional wisdom that there is no military solution to political conflict.

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For more information:

Episode 16: Trump’s Morocco-Israel Transaction

This week on Hold Your Fire!, Rob Malley and guest host Richard Atwood unpack the normalisation of relations between Israel and Morocco with Century Foundation Fellow Dahlia Scheindlin and talk with Crisis Group’s North Africa Project Director Riccardo Fabiani about how U.S. recognition of Moroccan sovereignty over Western Sahara could affect the conflict over this territory. They also address the elections in Venezuela and what the rollout of the first COVID-19 vaccine could mean for conflict prevention as well as Richard’s 100-year-old grandmother.

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Episode 15: Michael Kovrig: Two Years in Arbitrary Detention in China

This week marks two years of detention in China for our colleague Michael Kovrig, for no reason other than being a Canadian in the wrong place at the wrong time. Rob Malley and guest host Brittany Brown dedicate this episode of Hold Your Fire! to Michael’s case and talk with his wife Vina Nadjibulla about Michael’s resilience in prison, the conditions there, the letters they have exchanged, the geopolitical intricacies of his case and her relentless fight at the highest levels of government to get him out and safely home.    

Click here to listen on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

Episode 14: Regime Change Re-examined

In this week’s episode of Hold Your Fire!, Rob Malley and guest host Richard Atwood take on the U.S. “forever wars” with Phil Gordon, a former adviser to President Barack Obama and author of the acclaimed book Losing the Long Game: The False Promise of Regime Change in the Middle East (St. Martin's Press, October 2020). Rob also addresses one of the most pressing foreign policy decisions the incoming Biden administration will face: should the U.S. simply go back to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal or should it aim for a more ambitious agreement with Tehran? 

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Episode 13: Afghanistan's Peace Process

In this week’s episode of Hold Your Fire!, Rob Malley and guest host Richard Atwood unpack the state of talks among the U.S., and Afghan governments and the Taliban about a peace deal, along with Crisis Group’s Asia Program Director Laurel Miller, who served as acting U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan. They also address the expulsion of Crisis Group Senior Analyst Will Davison from Ethiopia and reflect on how the organisation does its work in wartime.

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Episode 12: Ethnicity and Conflict in Myanmar

In this week’s episode of Hold Your Fire!, Rob Malley and guest host Richard Atwood talk about the ceasefire in Nagorno-Karabakh with Crisis Group Europe Program Director Olga Oliker. Then they speak with Crisis Group expert Richard Horsey about Myanmar’s identity crisis as it emerges from the second democratic elections in its history.

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Episode 11: “First, Do No Harm”: A New U.S. Foreign Policy under Biden?   

In this week’s episode of Hold Your Fire!, Rob Malley and guest host Brittany Brown compare their own experience with presidential transitions to the Trump administration’s refusal thus far to pave the way for Joe Biden’s arrival at the White House. They then explore what a Biden foreign policy could look like with Matt Duss, foreign policy adviser for Senator Bernie Sanders, evoking the motto: “First, do no harm”.

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Episode 10: Protests against Police Brutality Shake Nigeria

In this week’s episode of Hold Your Fire!, Rob Malley and guest host Richard Atwood try to make sense of a very convoluted electoral map, with no clear winner, the day after the U.S. election. They then turn to the protests against police brutality that have shaken Nigeria, the most populous country in Africa, with Crisis Group Senior Adviser Nnamdi Obasi and Africa Program Director Comfort Ero. Lastly, they offer an update on the sadly predictable military escalation in Ethiopia.

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Episode 9: Can the U.S. Avoid an Election Crisis?

This week on Hold Your Fire!, Rob Malley and guest host Steve Pomper talk about a bizarre Oval Office meeting that enraged Ethiopia and a must-watch documentary about social media. Then they take a deep dive into the risks of election-related violence in the United States with Carnegie Senior Fellow Rachel Kleinfeld. She unpacks the combination of risks that place the 2020 presidential contest in a category apart from any other in memory.

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Episode 8: What Makes Peace? Colombia’s Ex-President Santos Says It’s Harder than War

This week on Hold Your Fire!, former Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos takes Rob and Naz behind the scenes of the negotiations with the FARC guerrillas that achieved a peace deal and won him the Nobel Peace Prize. Santos, also a Crisis Group Trustee, explains that making peace was much harder than leading the war effort. Beth Dickinson, Crisis Group’s analyst for Colombia, joins the conversation to give an update on how the peace agreement is working out.

Click here to listen on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

Episode 7: Turkey Flexes Its Foreign Policy Muscles

This week on Hold Your Fire!, Rob and Naz talk with Nigar Göksel, Crisis Group’s Turkey director, about how Turkey is flexing its muscles in its near abroad — Syria, Iraq, the eastern Mediterranean, and now Nagorno-Karabakh, as well as farther afield in Libya. Then they get an update on the Azerbaijani side of the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh from Zaur Shiriyev, Crisis Group’s analyst in Baku.

Click here to listen on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

Episode 6: What’s Behind the Fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh

In this week’s episode of Hold Your Fire!, Rob and Naz question the efficacy of international sanctions, as the European Union wields this overused tool against Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko. They are then joined by Olesya Vartanyan, Crisis Group’s senior South Caucasus analyst, for a very personal conversation about the toll the fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh has taken on her friends on both sides as well as analysis of the role played by Turkey, Russia, and other external actors in the conflict. 

Click here to listen on Apple Podcasts or Spotify

Episode 5: President Trump’s Off-the-Rails Foreign Policy

This week on Hold Your Fire!, Rob reminisces about his recent trip to Azerbaijan, where he saw warning signs of a “frozen conflict” ready to thaw. Naz explains why the U.S. might regret trying to designate the Huthis as a terrorist organization if it cares about  helping Yemen make peace. They are joined by Aaron Miller, a veteran U.S. diplomat and Carnegie senior fellow, who examines the successes and shortcomings of President Trump’s unconventional diplomacy, and explains how the phrase “nobody ever washes a rental car” applies to conflict prevention.

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Episode 4: Libya's Proxy War

This week on Hold Your Fire!, Rob pays a very personal homage to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and confides about what keeps him up at night. Naz explains the convoluted legal argument laid out by the U.S. to try and justify its snapback of UN sanctions against Iran. They then turn to the complexity of the war in Libya, torn between foreign proxies and militias, with Crisis Group Senior Analyst Claudia Gazzini.

Click here to listen on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

Episode 3: Ethiopia's Political Crisis

Naz Modirzadeh and Rob Malley reflect on U.S. support for the Yemen war and the conspicuous absence of the Palestinian issue from the normalisation agreement among Israel, the UAE and Bahrain. Will Davison joins them to discuss the enormous challenges facing Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed amid rising ethnic tensions.

Click here to listen on Apple Podcasts or Spotify

Episode 2: Afghan Peace Talks: Dealing with the Taliban

Naz and Rob discuss French President Emmanuel Macron's dive into the murky waters of Lebanese politics and the Trump administration's stunning decision to impose sanctions on the staff of the International Criminal Court. They also speak with Andrew Watkins, Crisis Group's senior analyst for Afghanistan, about what to expect from the country's pending peace talks. Do the Taliban have the upper hand? 

Click here to listen on Apple Podcasts or Spotify

Episode 1: Israel, the UAE, and Normalisation

In this first episode of Hold Your Fire!, Naz and Rob talk about the role foreign policy played, or didn’t, at the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, and explain why the U.S. attempt to snap back UN sanctions on Iran was met with a collective shrug internationally. They welcome Crisis Group’s former Arab-Israeli project director, Nathan Thrall, to discuss the Israel-UAE agreement, what it means for Palestinians and whether he believes there can be a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Click here to listen on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.