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Naz Modirzadeh and Richard Atwood host Hold Your Fire! CRISISGROUP

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 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, which enters its seventh year this month. 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 discuss how Yemen fits into U.S. President Joe Biden’s still evolving Gulf policy, including U.S. relations with Iran and Saudi Arabia. 

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.

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.

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.

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. 

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.

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.

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. 

Background readings:

Sheera Frenkel: An Ugly Truth: Inside Facebook's Battle for Domination

Crisis Group: The U.S. Should Reverse Its Huthi Terror Designation

Crisis Group: Thirteen Days of Peril: Managing the Chaotic End of the Trump Presidency

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.

Background readings:

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.

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.    

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? 

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.

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.

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”.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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. 

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.

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.

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.

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? 

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 iTunes or Spotify.