Hold Your Fire!

By International Crisis Group

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Description

Join Crisis Group's Executive Vice President Richard Atwood and Board Member and Harvard Law School Professor Naz Modirzadeh as they dive deep into the conflicts that rage around the globe with Crisis Group analysts and special guests. These experts bring a unique, on-the-ground perspective to understanding both why those conflicts persist — and what could bring them to an end.

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Episode Date
S2 Episode 41: Season Finale: Ukraine and an Unsettling Few Months in Global Politics
1:20:23

In a special Hold Your Fire! episode to mark the end of Season Two, Richard Atwood speaks first to Olga Oliker, Crisis Group’s Europe and Central Asia director, for an update on the war in Ukraine, and then to Comfort Ero, its president and CEO, to reflect back on a rocky six months. Olga talks about the latest from the front lines in eastern and southern Ukraine. She and Richard discuss what is happening in Russian-occupied territories, whether Moscow’s goals in Ukraine have evolved, and potential scenarios for the months ahead. They look at the impact of Western sanctions on Russia and prospects for getting Ukrainian grain out of Black Sea ports. They also zoom out, and reflect on European security and relations with Russia more broadly.


Richard and Comfort then look back at an unsettling few months in global affairs. They reflect on the West’s Ukraine policy and the dilemmas Russia’s invasion poses for an organisation like Crisis Group in trying to find a sustainable end to the war. They talk about the global fallout, particularly reactions from around the world and why many non-Western leaders have distanced themselves from efforts to isolate Russia, and feel Western capitals should be investing more into addressing a perfect storm of other challenges – price hikes in food and fuel, poor countries’ debt burdens and the climate emergency. They also survey some of the world’s other wars and crises, many in danger of being neglected as attention focuses on Ukraine.



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Jul 11, 2022
S2 Episode 40: India’s Response to Russia’s War in Ukraine
52:45

Since late February, when Russian forces crossed the Ukrainian border en masse, India has steered what it portrays as a neutral course on the war. It has abstained on UN votes condemning Russia’s invasion. New Delhi refuses to publicly blame Moscow for the crisis, even while emphasising India’s traditional respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity. It has maintained India’s historically close ties to Moscow, increasing Russian oil imports and receiving Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on a diplomatic visit in April. Last week, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi attended, along with his Argentinian, Indonesian, Senegalese and South African counterparts, the summit of the G7 — or Group of Seven — which brought together leaders from seven industrialised countries, mostly NATO member states. On the agenda were the Ukraine war, its wider ramifications and ways to tackle rising commodity prices, as well as other global challenges.


This week on Hold Your Fire! Richard Atwood talks with Crisis Group trustee and former Indian Foreign Secretary and National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon about India’s foreign policy and its response to Russia’s war in Ukraine. They discuss Modi’s participation in the G7 summit and look back at what has motivated New Delhi’s response to the war, particularly its relations with Russia. They talk about the key priorities driving India’s foreign policy and its security dilemmas in Asia, notably its border dispute with China in the Himalayas and its long rivalry with Pakistan. They discuss India’s participation in the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue with Australia, Japan and the U.S. and what role the Quad might play in Asian security in the years ahead. They also talk about the contrast between the way New Delhi and other non-Western capitals view the Ukraine war, especially Western sanctions against Russia, and the views among NATO leaders.


For more on the war in Ukraine, check out Crisis Group’s extensive analysis on our Ukraine country page.



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Jul 05, 2022
S2 Episode 39: Finland’s NATO Application, Western Policy in Ukraine and the War’s Global Fallout
39:14

NATO leaders meeting next week in Madrid have a lot on their agendas. Russia’s war in Ukraine has entered its fifth month, with fierce fighting continuing along front lines in Ukraine’s east and south. Media coverage increasingly suggests differences of opinion are hurting the unity NATO powers have displayed thus far during the crisis. The war’s global fallout is becoming ever starker, as a commodities crisis and cost of living hikes start to bite in different parts of the world. NATO leaders will also discuss Finnish and Swedish applications to join the alliance, a reversal of both countries' decades-long position outside NATO. Russia’s February 2022 invasion of Ukraine rapidly swayed publics in both countries toward membership. Hurdles remain, however: Türkiye has so far blocked the application, criticising, amongst other things, what it believes is too lax a policy within the Scandinavian countries toward the Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK), a Turkish insurgent group that Türkiye, along with other countries, lists as a terrorist organisation. 


This week on Hold Your Fire! Richard Atwood talks with former Finnish Prime Minister and Crisis Group trustee Alexander Stubb about the Finnish decision to join NATO, the war in Ukraine more broadly and its global ramifications. They break down the reasons behind the dramatic shifts in Swedish and Finnish public opinion, what a successful application would mean for the balance of force between NATO and Russia, and the likelihood of Turkish opposition scuppering their chances of membership. They talk more widely about NATO policy toward Ukraine, looking at how Western powers should respond to different scenarios. They also ask whether cracks are showing in NATO’s unity. They discuss global perceptions of the war and of Western policy, as an economic crisis partly fuelled by the war looms. They also look at why some leaders in the Global South have distanced themselves from the West’s efforts to isolate Russia and even blame Western sanctions as much as Russia’s aggression for fuel and food price hikes. 


For more on the war in Ukraine, check out Crisis Group’s extensive analysis on our Ukraine country page and read our latest commentary, 'Why Türkiye's Hindrance of NATO's Nordic Expansion Will Likely Drag On'.



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Jun 24, 2022
S2 Episode 38: Rollercoaster Politics Ahead of Kenya's August Elections
1:00:01

Kenya’s presidential race has been turned upside down. After a high-profile split with President Kenyatta, his deputy William Ruto – despite being in government for the last nine years – is running on an anti-establishment platform. Having distanced himself from Kenyatta, Ruto is positioning himself as a man of the people, or the “hustler in chief”, opposing the political elite. Meanwhile, his main rival Raila Odinga – for decades an opposition leader and fierce critic of the government – has been endorsed by Kenyatta, thus becoming the establishment candidate. At the same time, while previous Kenyan polls have been shaped mostly by ethnic politics, the 2022 race has also seen economic issues come to the fore, with Ruto promising wide-ranging reforms. Whatever its outcome, the election matters not just in Kenya, but for the entire region, riddled by war and crises.


This week on Hold Your Fire! Richard Atwood is joined by Crisis Group’s Africa Program Director, Murithi Mutiga, to talk about the campaign thus far and what to expect from the election. They discuss how things got so bitter between Kenyatta and Ruto, and what the bad blood might mean for the outcome of the vote. They talk about the main issues dominating the election, as Ruto plays on people’s economic frustrations and Odinga portrays himself as a unifier. They also discuss the risks of a disputed outcome, in a country that has suffered terrible bloodshed after contested results in the past. They look at the impact on Kenyan politics of indictments against Kenyatta and Ruto by the International Criminal Court, which were dropped in 2014 and 2016 respectively. They also look at how Nairobi views the war in Ukraine and the impact of the commodities crisis that war has triggered.


For more on the situation in Kenya, check out Crisis Group’s extensive analysis on our Kenya country page, including our recent briefing “Kenya’s 2022 Election: High Stakes”.



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Jun 17, 2022
S2 Episode 37: Peacemaking After Ukraine: A Look at Nagorno-Karabakh and Libya
1:24:58

How much have the effects of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine reverberated across other warzones? Moscow is involved in several of the world’s conflicts, and the breakdown of relations between Russia and the West could endanger peacemaking elsewhere. In Nagorno-Karabakh, for example, Russian peacekeepers monitor a ceasefire brokered by Moscow between Armenia and Azerbaijan after the 2020 war. Moscow is also co-chair, along with France and the U.S., of the Minsk Group, the main format for peace talks over Nagorno-Karabakh. In Libya, the Kremlin backs military commander Khalifa Haftar, who leads forces in Libya’s east. Moscow is the only capital in the world to recognise as Libya’s prime minister Fathi Bashagha, who heads a rival cabinet to the internationally recognised government in Tripoli.


This week on Hold Your Fire! Richard Atwood is joined by Crisis Group’s teams on Nagorno-Karabakh and Libya respectively to discuss the Ukraine war’s impact on these crises and diplomatic efforts to resolve them. First, he talks to South Caucasus experts Olesya Vartanyan and Zaur Shiriyev about the role of Russian peacekeepers in Nagorno-Karabakh, how their presence is perceived by Armenians and Azerbaijanis in light of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and how diplomacy around the conflict is evolving. After that, he speaks with Claudia Gazzini, Crisis Group’s Libya expert, about Russian involvement in Libya, the role of Russian private contractors from the Wagner Group and what motivated the Kremlin’s recognition of Bashagha. They also discuss how the Ukraine war has changed prospects for international diplomacy, given Russian involvement in previous talks aimed at helping resolve the conflict.  


For more on these crises, check out Crisis Group’s extensive analysis on our Caucasus regional page and our Libya country page.



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Jun 10, 2022
S2 Episode 36: Who is Rodolfo Hernández, Colombia’s “TikTok King”, and Can He Win the Presidency?
1:02:42

Colombians decisively rejected mainstream political parties in the first round of their presidential election last week, with two anti-establishment candidates advancing to the run-off on 19 June. Gustavo Petro, a leftist former guerrilla, promises to overhaul the country’s socio-economic system. He’s drawn fierce opposition from Colombia’s financial elites. His opponent, Rodolfo Hernández, known as the “King of TikTok”, has connected with voters through an astute social media campaign and is often compared to former U.S. president Donald Trump for his populist and sometimes outlandish rhetoric. The candidate that came in third in the first round of voting, establishment-backed Federico Gutiérrez, has thrown his weight behind Hernández, arguably making him the favourite. It remains unclear how Hernández will tackle Colombia’s most acute challenges, notably the inequality and corruption that drove country-wide protests last year and rampant insecurity in the countryside. In May this year, an armed strike organised by a former paramilitary, now criminal, group, the Gulf Clan, paralysed several regions in northern Colombia for days.


This week on Hold Your Fire! Richard Atwood is joined by Crisis Group experts Elizabeth Dickinson, Senior Colombia Analyst, and Renata Segura, Deputy Program Director for Latin America and the Caribbean. They talk about the candidates’ campaigns and Colombians’ disenchantment with their political elite. They discuss the hurdles Petro will have to surmount to win the run-off. They chart Hernández’s meteoric rise and dissect some of his proposals. They assess Colombia’s worsening insecurity, as armed groups, from guerrillas to former rebels and criminal gangs, exploit the state’s absence in rural areas. They also discuss what the election of Hernández or Petro would mean for Colombia’s foreign relations and Latin American politics more broadly.


For more on the situation in Colombia, check out Crisis Group’s extensive analysis on our Colombia country page, including our recent Q&A “Colombia’s Election Clash Rattles a Fragile Peace”.



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Jun 03, 2022
S2 Episode 35: New President in Somalia, New Opportunity for Reconciliation
1:08:52

On 15 May, Somali lawmakers voted in new president Hassan Sheikh Mohamud. The peaceful vote and transfer of power drew a line under what had been a fraught, long-delayed and sometimes violent electoral process that repeatedly threatened to tip into a major political crisis. Defeating the incumbent Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, better known as “Farmajo”, Hassan Sheikh became the first Somali to hold the presidency twice – having already served between 2012 and 2017. The new president promises reconciliation among Somalis and a new era of peace. But he faces daunting challenges. Foremost among them are deep divisions among Somali political elites, particularly between the capital Mogadishu and Somalia’s federal member states, or regions, and the long struggle against the Islamist militant group and al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Shabaab. 


This week on Hold Your Fire! Richard Atwood is joined by Omar Mahmood, Crisis Group’s Senior Somalia Analyst, to talk about what the change in power means for Somalia. They discuss how it might impact domestic politics, notably the fraught dynamics between Mogadishu and federal member states. They look at how Somalia’s foreign relations might evolve: in the Horn of Africa, where Farmajo had forged tight links to Ethiopia and Eritrea; in the Gulf, where Farmajo’s close ties to Qatar had alienated the United Arab Emirates; and with Western governments that had grown impatient with his election delays. They then talk in depth about a forthcoming Crisis Group report on prospects for dialogue with Al-Shabaab. Omar and Richard map out the many challenges to such engagement: the troubled history of dialogue with Al-Shabaab, the group’s uncompromising nature, unpopularity and foreign ties, political fractures among other Somalis and resistance in regional capitals. They examine why, despite all the challenges, it would be worth President Hassan Sheikh testing the water with the group’s leaders to see what sort of compromise might be feasible. 


For more on Somalia, check out Crisis Group’s extensive analysis on our Somalia country page and keep an eye out for our upcoming report “Testing the Water: Considering Political Engagement with Al-Shabaab in Somalia”.



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May 27, 2022
S2 Episode 34: Shades of Jihad in Syria
1:13:05

On 3 February, U.S. President Joe Biden announced that American special forces had killed the leader of the Islamic State (ISIS), Abdullah Qardash, in a house where he was hiding out in Idlib province, in north west Syria. Idlib is held by another militant group, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), a former al-Qaeda affiliate and supposedly a sworn enemy of ISIS. Qardash’s killing came just after ISIS’s largest attack in the country for years on a prison holding many ISIS prisoners in the north east, and a two-week long pitched battle between ISIS and the mostly Kurdish forces, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), that control that area. Other ISIS attacks over recent years in the north east and the desert in central Syria suggest that despite having lost the territory it controlled for some years, ISIS remains a resilient insurgency. Moreover, its enemies are largely antagonistic toward each other and new fighting among them could open more space for jihadists. 


This week on Hold Your Fire! Richard Atwood talks to Crisis Group experts Dareen Khalifa, Senior Analyst on Syria, and Jerome Drevon, Senior Analyst on Jihad and Modern Conflict, about ISIS in Syria, its global footprint and the evolution of HTS. They assess the strength of ISIS, the nature of its insurgency and Qardash’s role before his death. They look at links between ISIS in Syria and affiliates in other parts of the world, notably Africa, where more local militants now fight under ISIS’s banner. They talk about the challenges faced by the largely Kurdish SDF, which leads the ISIS fight in the north east, their relations with Arabs in areas they control, their enmity with Turkey and their reliance on U.S. protection. They also discuss HTS and its rule in Idlib, where Qardash was killed, drawing on frequent visits to that area. They discuss the state of play in Syria more broadly – the U.S.’s presence in the north east, the uneasy ceasefire brokered by Turkey and Russia in the north west and the precarious calm that prevails after years of brutal war. 


For more on Syria, check out Crisis Group’s extensive analysis on our Syria country page.



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May 20, 2022
S2 Episode 33: A Perilous Free-for-all in the Eastern DR Congo?
51:43

Neighbouring states are fighting again in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. In November 2021, Tshisekedi invited Ugandan units to cross into the DRC’s North Kivu province in pursuit of the ISIS-linked Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a Ugandan rebel group blamed for a high profile attack last November in Ugandan capital Kampala. The following month, Burundian soldiers clashed with a Burundian rebel group also on Congolese soil. Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame has suggested that his country’s troops could soon also cross the border to battle Rwandan rebels, the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), who are also based in the eastern DRC. 


This week on Hold Your Fire! Richard Atwood talks to Crisis Group’s Great Lakes expert Nelleke van de Walle to make sense of what’s happening. They discuss politics among Great Lakes leaders and Tshisekedi’s efforts to develop closer ties to his neighbours in an effort to stabilise the eastern Congo. They talk about the myriad rebel groups – Congolese and foreign – active in the area, and their local and regional ties. They discuss Kagame’s concerns and how Tshisekedi can better delineate the role of the thousands of Ugandan forces now in the DR Congo. They also discuss how the Congolese president and other regional leaders can dissuade Kagame from sending in Rwandan forces. They discuss the role of the DR Congo’s neighbours in the east, an area that has long suffered from foreign meddling and predatory rebel groups, and prospects for improving the lives of its inhabitants. 


For more on the fighting in the eastern DRC, check out Crisis Group’s extensive analysis on our Great Lakes regional page and keep an eye out for an upcoming briefing on the conflict.



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May 13, 2022
S2 Episode 32: Taliban Rule in Afghanistan
1:05:49

It’s been almost nine months since the Taliban seized power in Afghanistan. What for years had been the world’s deadliest war is mostly over and the country is suffering considerably less violence, though reprisals against some former members of the security forces and attacks by the local Islamic State branch continue. Afghanistan is also in the grips of an economic crisis. The UN and humanitarian organisations managed to stave off a famine over the past winter. But the situation remains dire as the prices of staples rise and the Afghan central bank has collapsed. The economic squeeze largely owes to Western policy, particularly donors cutting off all but essential aid, and Western capitals seizing Afghanistan’s assets and applying pre-existing sanctions on the Taliban insurgency to the state as a whole. The Taliban’s decision, on 23 March, not to reopen girls’ secondary schools across the country, despite repeatedly promising to do so, has made it even less likely that donors will reverse course. That decision is only one of several recent edicts that suggest a harder line by the Taliban government.


This week on Hold Your Fire! Richard Atwood and Naz Modirzadeh talk to Crisis Group’s Afghanistan experts Graeme Smith and Ibraheem Bahiss, both recently returned from their first trip to the country since the Taliban seized control. They talk about their time in the capital Kabul and how it compares to life before the takeover. They explain the impact of the country’s economic isolation, dependence on humanitarian aid and faltering central banking system — in particular the costs for millions of Afghans struggling to scrape by. They discuss in depth Western policies related to aid, the frozen assets and sanctions. They break down the Taliban’s decision to keep girls’ secondary schools closed and what that says about debates within, and the direction of, the Taliban government. They also describe resistance to that decision among many Afghans and prospects for teenage girls desperate to get back to school.


For more on Afghanistan, check out Crisis Group’s extensive analysis on our Afghanistan country page.



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May 06, 2022
S2 Episode 31: Is the Danger of a NATO-Russia War Growing?
43:56

Ukraine’s war has entered a new phase, with Russia launching a major offensive in the east and south. This follows Moscow pulling back its forces from around Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, after fierce Ukrainian resistance and seemingly changing its immediate goals to focus on capturing more of Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region. Kyiv’s Western allies have pledged to increase supplies of advanced weaponry to help Ukrainian forces fend off Russia’s latest offensive. 


This week on Hold Your Fire! Richard Atwood is joined by Olga Oliker, Crisis Group’s Europe & Central Asia Director, for the latest update on the fighting in Donbas, how Western capitals have responded and whether the risks of direct confrontation between NATO and Russia are growing. They discuss what’s happening on the front lines in Donbas and ask what the latest fighting says about Moscow’s tactics and goals. They talk about the likelihood of Russia trying to capture a land bridge across southwest Ukraine to the breakaway Moldovan region of Transnistria, as one Russian general has threatened. They also talk about policy in Western capitals, as NATO member states pledge to send more weapons to Kyiv, and how well Western leaders are balancing the need to support Ukraine while minimising risks of a NATO-Russia war that could rapidly turn nuclear. They also talk about the prospects of diplomatic efforts to resolve the conflict. 


For more on the Ukraine War, check out Crisis Group’s extensive analysis on our Ukraine country page.



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Apr 29, 2022
S2 Episode 30: European Security and France’s Election in the Shadow of Russia’s War in Ukraine
1:06:38

This week on Hold Your Fire! Richard Atwood is joined by Gérard Araud, Crisis Group Trustee, distinguished French diplomat and former ambassador to both the UN and the U.S., to look at the Western response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. As the war enters its second month and Russia launches a major offensive in Ukraine’s east and south, they discuss the dilemmas Western governments face in supporting Ukraine, while avoiding risks of direct conflict between NATO and Russia. They walk through different aspects of Western policy, from the provision of weapons to Ukraine and sanctions against Russia to diplomacy aimed at ending the war. They also reflect back on past decades of deteriorating relations between the West and Russia. They map out the war’s implications for Europe’s security architecture and transatlantic relations, and what it means for French President Emmanuel Macron’s vision of European strategic autonomy. They also discuss the French election and what a Le Pen presidency would bring for France and its place in Europe and the world. 


For more on the Ukraine War, check out Crisis Group’s extensive analysis on our Ukraine country page.



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Apr 22, 2022
S2 Episode 29: Pakistan After Imran Khan’s Ouster: Tests at Home and Away
53:42

On 10 April, Pakistani legislators passed a no-confidence vote that ousted Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government. The vote capped weeks of political turbulence, as a coalition of rival parties accused Khan’s government of chronic mismanagement amidst an intense economic crisis fuelled by soaring inflation. Khan has not gone quietly. Parliamentarians from his party walked out of the National Assembly in protest at the vote and thousands of furious supporters have taken to the streets. Khan accuses his successor Shahbaz Sharif of abetting a foreign conspiracy aimed at toppling him. 


This week on Hold Your Fire! Richard Atwood is joined from Lahore by acclaimed author, journalist and Crisis Group trustee Ahmed Rashid to talk about Pakistan’s political crisis, what it might mean for the country's stability and challenges for the Sharif government. They discuss Khan’s response to his ouster and how disruptive a force his movement might be in the months ahead. They look at his apparent fall from grace with the chiefs of Pakistan’s powerful military. They discuss the dilemmas facing Sharif, particularly, reviving a floundering economy, navigating relations with the military and containing rising Islamist militancy, all the while managing coalition politics. They also talk about the fallout from Russia’s war in Ukraine and its impact on a difficult foreign policy agenda: repairing relations with Western capitals, keeping China on board and managing what appeared to be warming ties to Moscow, alongside the traditionally bitter rivalry with India and complicated relations with the Taliban in Afghanistan. 


For more information, explore Crisis Group’s analysis on our Pakistan country page and make sure to read our recent Q&A, “Imran Khan’s Fall: Political and Security Implications for Pakistan” , and our report, “Pakistan’s Hard Policy Choices in Afghanistan”.



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Apr 15, 2022
S2 Episode 28: Can a Truce and New Government Help End Yemen’s War?
42:53

On 7 April, the head of Yemen’s internationally recognised government, President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi made the surprise announcement that he would cede all executive power to an eight-person presidential council. His handover comes only days after the start of a UN-mediated two-month truce between Huthi rebels and a fractious coalition of anti-Huthi forces backed by a Saudi Arabia-led coalition. 


This week on Hold Your Fire! Richard Atwood and Naz Modirzadeh talk to Peter Salisbury, Crisis Group’s Senior Yemen Analyst, about what’s behind these two announcements and what they might mean for the war and prospects for peace talks. They break down how shifting battle dynamics may explain the truce, what exactly it entails for Yemenis and the likelihood of it holding. They also make sense of President Hadi’s handover of power and the evolving calculations in the Gulf, notably Riyadh and Abu Dhabi. They examine whether a government that is more representative of the balance of force among anti-Huthi factions on the ground could open space for credible peace talks and improve prospects of ending a war that has provoked one of the world’s worst humanitarian disasters. 


For more information, explore Crisis Group’s analysis on our Yemen country page, make sure to read our recent Q&A: ‘Behind the Yemen Truce and Presidential Council Announcement’ and check out our previous Yemen episode.



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Apr 08, 2022
S2 Episode 27: Can a “Humanitarian Truce” Help End Ethiopia’s Civil War?
1:08:18

After almost seventeen months of devastating civil war in Ethiopia, the federal government on 24 March announced what it called a humanitarian truce. The offer would ostensibly allow aid into Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region, which has, in effect, been under a blockade for months and where millions face what the UN describes as a serious lack of food. The government’s unilateral truce declaration comes after its offensive in late 2021 pushed back Tigrayan forces, who had advanced to within striking distance of the capital Addis Ababa – the latest about-face in a war that has seen the balance of force between federal troops and Tigrayan rebels swing back and forth. It also comes alongside other signals that Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed may have tempered his initial goal of crushing Tigray’s leadership. 


This week on Hold Your Fire!, Richard Atwood, Naz Modirzadeh and William Davison, Crisis Group’s senior analyst for Ethiopia, discuss the causes and significance of the government's proposal. They map out the military dynamics on the ground and the evolving calculations of Tigrayan leaders, Prime Minister Abiy, other Ethiopian protagonists in the conflict and Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki, whose forces were also fighting alongside the federal troops against the Tigrayans. They talk about the role of foreign powers in supporting President Abiy Ahmed and in pushing for peace and break down how regional relations are shaping the conflict. They ask how optimistic we should be that the truce eases Tigray’s humanitarian disaster or even serves as a foundation for peace talks and how such talks might surmount the thorniest obstacles – notably resolving a territorial dispute in Western Tigray – to a political settlement.  


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




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Apr 01, 2022
S2 Episode 26: Decoding Russia’s Nuclear Threats over Ukraine
48:17

Since Russian forces crossed en masse the Ukrainian border a month ago, the war has been overshadowed by Moscow’s nuclear menacing. Vladimir Putin has made thinly veiled threats of nuclear escalation as a way to deter other governments coming to Ukraine’s aid. He also announced he was placing Russian nuclear deterrence forces on “high alert”, though the meaning of that is not entirely clear. Recent proclamations by Russian officials that Ukraine might use biological and chemical weapons add to concerns that Russia is laying the ground for its own use of such weapons. 


In this week’s episode of Hold Your Fire!, Richard Atwood and Olga Oliker, Crisis Group’s Europe and Central Asia Program Director, discuss the significance of Russia’s nuclear threats and what they aim to achieve. They talk about Russia’s nuclear doctrine and widespread perceptions in Western capitals about its “escalate to de-escalate” policy. Olya also runs through Moscow’s failure to conquer Ukraine quickly in the face of fierce Ukrainian resistance, backed by Western arms supplies, and what that might mean for the Kremlin’s calculations. They talk about the potential dangers of greater NATO involvement, scenarios that could lead to the use of nuclear weapons, what that would mean and ways of minimising risks of a catastrophic nuclear confrontation. 


For more information, explore Crisis Group’s analysis on our Ukraine country page and make sure to read our recent statement, “Avoiding an Even Worse Catastrophe in Ukraine” and Olga’s recent piece for Foreign Affairs, “Putin’s Nuclear Bluff”.



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Mar 25, 2022
S2 Episode 25: The Fallout from Ukraine: Iran Talks Stalled; U.S. Woos Caracas?
1:05:38

This week on Hold Your Fire!, Richard is joined by Crisis Group’s Iran and Andes senior analysts Naysan Rafati and Phil Gunson to talk about the Ukraine war’s fallout on Iran nuclear talks and Venezuela’s crisis. Naysan discusses Russia’s role in the talks over Iran’s nuclear program, what Moscow’s latest demands regarding carve-outs from Ukraine-related sanctions entail and whether they could scupper efforts to get back to the nuclear deal. Phil talks through a surprise visit to Caracas by a high-ranking U.S. delegation – its meeting with Venezuelan officials all the more surprising given that Washington formally recognises an opposition leader as Venezuela’s president. They discuss Venezuela-Russia relations, prospects for U.S.-Venezuela bridge-building and for reinvigorating talks between the Venezuelan government and its opponents.


Click here to listen on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.


For more information, explore Crisis Group’s analysis on our Ukraine country page and make sure to read our recent commentary, ‘A Twist in Caracas: Is a Venezuela-U.S. Reboot on the Cards?’ and statement, ‘Avoiding an Even Worse Catastrophe in Ukraine’.



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Mar 19, 2022
S2 Episode 24: France’s Troop Withdrawal from Mali
47:01

On 17 February, President Emmanuel Macron announced he would withdraw all French troops from Mali after a deployment in the country of almost ten years. In early 2013, French forces together with Chadian troops ousted jihadists from cities and towns in northern Mali, which created space for a peace deal between Bamako and other, non-jihadist rebels. Since then, however, the French-led campaign against militants in the Sahel has struggled against local al-Qaeda and Islamic State branches. French operations have killed jihadist leaders, but militants have extended their reach from northern Mali to its centre and to parts of Niger, Burkina Faso and even Gulf of Guinea countries. Inter-ethnic violence has ballooned. Mali has also suffered two coups over the past couple of years. Relations between Paris and the junta currently holding power have deteriorated sharply, partly because Mali’s military leaders had agreed, mid-2021, to the deployment of Russian private military contractors to help fight jihadists. Popular anger toward France’s deployment has also mounted, seemingly partly fuelled by disinformation. 


This week on Hold Your Fire!, Richard Atwood and Naz Modirzadeh talk with Ibrahim Yahaya Ibrahim and Richard Moncrieff, respectively Crisis Group’s senior Sahel analyst and interim Sahel director, about the French decision, its causes and its implications. They look at the collapse in relations between Bamako and Paris, the direction the junta is currently taking Mali and how other countries in the region have responded. They talk through what the French departure might mean for other forces, including the UN force in Mali and the G5 Sahel regional force. They also examine the repercussions for the balance of force between jihadists and their enemies in the Sahel and ask what a future French presence in the region might look like after the withdrawal from Mali. 


N.B. This episode was recorded before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. 


For more information, explore Crisis Group’s analysis on our Sahel regional page. For our analysis of African perspectives of the Ukraine War, check out our commentary ‘The Ukraine War: A Global Crisis’.





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Mar 16, 2022
International Women’s Day Special Episode: Can War Be Feminist?
55:24

Both our political mapping of conflict and peacebuilding efforts too often neglect the powerful role of gender dynamics in driving war. The identities of men and women shape their motivations and strategies at times of conflict, as well as the ways they experience violence, whether as victims, fighters or peacemakers. 


This week on Hold Your Fire!, Richard Atwood and Naz Modirzadeh are joined by Azadeh Moaveni, Crisis Group’s gender and conflict project director for a special episode for International Women’s Day to discuss the complex relationship between gender and conflict. They highlight some of Crisis Group’s recent work – discussing how women and girls experience Cameroon’s Anglophone crisis and their roles as insurgents and peace activists, as well as the story of women’s peacebuilding in Pakistan’s North West tribal belt, and how their hard-fought struggle for rights has shaped the prospects of a region mired in militancy and cultural conservatism. They also talk about the outlook for women across Afghanistan in the wake of the Taliban’s takeover, and the ongoing detention of ISIS-affiliated women and children in Syria, forbidden from returning to their home countries. They explore how considering gender can enrich our understanding of conflict resolution. They end with a discussion on several countries’ adoption over recent years of feminist foreign policies, what those policies entail and the value of framing foreign relations through a feminist lens. 


For more of Crisis Group’s work on gender, make sure to explore our Gender and Conflict page and check out our recent reports: “Women and Peacebuilding in Pakistan’s North West” and “Rebels, Victims, Peacebuilders: Women in Cameroon’s Anglophone Conflict”.



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Mar 11, 2022
S2 Episode 23: The Ukraine War: A View from Moscow
41:46

Russia’s war in Ukraine thus far has not gone Moscow’s way. Russian President Vladimir Putin appears to have expected that Russian forces would capture Ukraine without much resistance, but Ukrainian forces have put up a fierce fight. The Western response has been more united than Putin appears to have anticipated. Russia faces economic isolation, after Western leaders have enacted crippling, far-reaching sanctions, shutting off the country from the global economy. They have also sent arms to Ukraine and deployed additional NATO troops in the countries on the alliance’s eastern flank. Yet for now nothing suggests the Kremlin will reverse course. Talks between Russian and Ukrainian officials continue, but have yielded little. Russia has stepped up its bombardment of Ukrainian cities. Casualties on both sides, and among Ukrainian civilians, are mounting. 


This week on Hold Your Fire!, Richard Atwood is joined from Moscow by Andrey Kortunov, Crisis Group trustee, director-general of the Russian International Affairs Council and a leading expert on Russian foreign policy. They discuss Russian perspectives on the war, decision-making in the Kremlin, why President Putin appears to have miscalculated so badly and what the next few weeks might hold for the fighting. They look at the danger of the crisis escalating into a wider confrontation between Russia and NATO, potentially through one side misunderstanding the other’s intentions, and at ways to avoid that happening. Andrey also lays out what options exist for de-escalating the conflict and obstacles to that happening. 


For more of Crisis Group’s analysis, visit our Ukraine regional page, and make sure to read our recent Q&A: “No-Fly Zone: War with Russia by Another Name” and our commentary: “The Ukraine War: A Global Crisis?”.



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Mar 09, 2022
S2 Episode 22: Any Hope Left For Diplomacy Over Ukraine?
55:05

Fighting rages on in Ukraine. Despite massive advantages in fire and manpower, the Russian military is facing much fiercer Ukrainian resistance than Moscow appears to have anticipated and has stepped up airstrikes on Ukrainian cities. Diplomatic efforts still continue, with the two sides meeting to talk about humanitarian access. But casualties and the levels of destruction continue to rise. Western countries have responded with punishing sanctions, further NATO troop build-ups along the alliance's eastern flank and continued supplies of arms to Ukraine. Meanwhile, a UN General Assembly meeting on 2 March saw a large majority of states vote to condemn Russia’s aggression. Whether Moscow’s diplomatic and economic isolation will have any impact on the Kremlin’s calculations remains to be seen. 


This week on Hold Your Fire! Richard Atwood discusses again the war in Ukraine and its fallout, in a two-part episode with Crisis Group experts, Olga Oliker, Europe & Central Asia director and Richard Gowan, UN director. Olga talks about the latest fighting dynamics, what the coming weeks could bring, the Western response so far and whether diplomatic efforts stand any hope of getting to a ceasefire or end to the fighting. Richard Gowan then looks at the overwhelming condemnation in the UN General Assembly of Russia’s aggression and reactions to the crisis from around the world. He asks what role the UN might play in Ukraine and examines the war's potential impact on an already deeply divided Security Council and its conflict management more broadly. 


For more of Crisis Group’s analysis, visit our Ukraine regional page, and make sure to read our recent commentary, ‘The Ukraine War: A Global Crisis?’ and our statement, ‘War in Europe: Responding to Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine’.



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Mar 05, 2022
S2 Episode 21: Russia’s War in Ukraine
44:33

On Thursday 24 February, Russian President Vladimir Putin declared the launch of, in his words, a “special military operation” in Ukraine. Russian airstrikes on military and other infrastructure near Ukrainian cities were followed by massive troop advances from the north, east and south. Despite fierce Ukrainian resistance, Russian forces have reached the capital Kyiv, where fighting rages on the city’s streets. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has called on all Ukrainians to arm themselves to defend their homeland. Notwithstanding months of warnings, as perhaps as many as 200,000 Russian troops have massed at the Ukrainian border, the Kremlin’s invasion has left Europe, and indeed much of the world, in shock. It seems inevitable that it will exact a terrible human toll. 


This week on Hold Your Fire! Richard Atwood and guest host, Crisis Group’s president & CEO Comfort Ero are joined by Olga Oliker, our Europe & Central Asia director to discuss Russia’s aggression. They look at what’s happening on the ground, what the next few days could bring and what happens if the Zelenskyy government falls and the Russians try to install a pliant regime in Kyiv. They talk about the mood in Moscow and reactions to Russia’s invasion from around the world, including in China. They also talk through the Western response – the extent and impact of sanctions, what a NATO build-up would entail and whether Western powers should back Ukrainian resistance and what that might involve. They discuss the impact of Russia’s invasion on wider global affairs.  


For more of Crisis Group’s analysis, visit our Ukraine regional page, and make sure to read our recent statement ‘ War in Europe: Responding to Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine’. Comfort and Richard also discuss the Ukraine crisis in their piece, ‘10 Conflicts To Watch in 2022.



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Feb 26, 2022
S2 Episode 20: Can Western Diplomacy Still Avert War in Ukraine?
48:30

Russia has amassed over 150,000 troops at the Ukrainian border, fuelling growing fear that Moscow plans an attack. Russian leaders deny any such plan and in recent days, the defence minister has claimed that Moscow is pulling back troops and equipment as military drills come to a close. Other reports and satellite imagery suggest, however, that in fact more are arriving. At the same time, front lines in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region separating areas held by the Ukrainian government and those held by Russia-backed separatists have seen a barrage of shelling, raising further concern that Moscow might use the violence as a pretext for military action. All this comes after an intense few weeks of diplomacy by Western leaders aimed at deterring Moscow. 


This week on Hold Your Fire!, Richard Atwood and Comfort Ero, Crisis Group’s president & CEO, are joined by Olya Oliker, Crisis Group’s Europe and Central Asia Program director, to talk about latest developments, what to make of the recent shelling on front lines in Donbas and whether there is anything more the West can do to stave off further military action by Russia. They talk through Russian demands, from a halt to NATO expansion to Ukrainian compliance with Russia’s interpretation of the Minsk agreements that aim to resolve the Donbas conflicts. They discuss Western efforts to deter Moscow and the degree of unity among Western capitals. They also talk about what a Russian invasion could look like in practice, its human toll and how Western leaders should respond. They also examine prospects for talks on the wider European security architecture if Russia does pull back. 


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



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Feb 18, 2022
S2 Episode 19: Turkey's Foreign Relations Balancing Act
51:05

This week, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was in Kyiv. The Turkish leader has previously offered to use his ties to Ukraine and reasonably cordial relations with Russia to mediate between the two. They’re unlikely to take him up on the offer, but Erdoğan’s trip was another sign of Turkish involvement in nearby conflicts over the past few years and its changing foreign relations. In late 2020, a Turkish military intervention in Libya propped up the UN-recognised government in Tripoli – an ally of Ankara – and created space for peace talks. At about the same time, in the Caucasus, Ankara backed Azerbaijan in the second Karabakh war of November 2020 that saw Baku recapture territory in and near the breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh region. In the war's aftermath, Turkey has started normalising relations with its old adversary Armenia. Over the past year, Turkey has also sought to build bridges to the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, with whom relations were particularly fraught only a few years ago. 


This week on Hold Your Fire!, Richard Atwood is joined from Istanbul by Nigar Göksel, Crisis Group’s Turkey director, to make sense of President Erdoğan’s foreign policy. They sketch out the motives for and implications of Turkish involvement in crises across the Middle East, North Africa, the Caucasus and the eastern Mediterranean, which include support for local forces in northern Syria and maritime disputes in the Mediterranean as well as the interventions in Libya and Azerbaijan. They discuss Turkey’s complicated relations with Russia, testy ties to Western capitals and signs of rapprochement with the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Israel. They ask how much of the evolution in Turkey’s foreign relations is by design, reflects the evolving geopolitics of Turkey’s neighbourhood, or a bit of both. They talk about whether it marks a return to Ankara’s aspirations in the 2000s to have a zero-problems foreign policy. 


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



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Feb 05, 2022
Season 2 Episode 18: Another Coup in West Africa: The Burkina Faso Military Seizes Power
40:40

Burkina Faso is the latest in a string of African states to fall victim to a military coup. Late January saw Burkinabé soldiers oust President Roch Marc Christian Kaboré, dissolve the government and suspend the country's constitution. Lieutenant Colonel Paul-Henri Damiba, the coup leader, has promised to address burgeoning violence across much of Burkina’s countryside. Fighting between jihadist militants and the army, together with state-backed militias, has over the past few years killed thousands and displaced 1.5 million people. Many Burkinabé, frustrated at the government’s inability to curb violence, took to the streets in celebration at the military’s power grab. The Burkina coup is the fifth in Africa over the past year, part of a worrying uptick in military takeovers on the continent. 


This week on Hold Your Fire!, Richard Atwood is joined by Rinaldo Depagne, Crisis Group’s deputy Africa director and an expert on Burkina Faso, to talk about the coup and its ramifications. They discuss the instability across parts of Burkina that fuelled anger within the population and military, paving the way for the coup. They talk about what Damiba and the military will do next, how his power grab might impact the country’s struggles against Islamist militancy and how it might shape politics in West Africa and the Sahel more broadly. They look at the Burkina coup alongside other military takeovers on the continent and discuss what is driving more frequent coups and the dilemmas the trend poses regional organisations, Western powers and the UN.  


For more information, explore Crisis Group’s analysis on our Sahel regional page and keep an eye out for an upcoming Q&A.



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Jan 28, 2022
Special Episode: Ten Conflicts to Watch in 2022
43:16

As Russia appears poised for a military escalation in Ukraine, humanitarian catastrophe looms in Afghanistan and negotiations over the Iran nuclear deal enter crunch time, what should we worry about in the year ahead? Each year Crisis Group’s flagship publication 10 Conflicts to Watch, published with Foreign Policy magazine, looks at the trends, wars and crises that keep us up at night.


On this week’s Hold Your Fire!, Richard Atwood and guest host Ásdís Ólafsdóttir, Crisis Group's Online Communications Manager, are joined by Comfort Ero, our new President & CEO, to talk about what we’re watching in 2022. They talk about big trends overshadowing global affairs: the impact of the pandemic and the climate crises on international peace and security, the human toll of the world’s worst wars, the major and regional power rivalries that hinder peacemaking and make for several increasingly perilous flashpoints, as well as the U.S.’s evolving global role one year into President Joe Biden’s tenure. They look up-close at the latest dynamics in individual crises, from Ukraine and Yemen to Afghanistan and Ethiopia, while sketching out some reasons for hope in an overall gloomy picture. 


For more information, make sure to explore the whole of our flagship commentary published with Foreign Policy magazine: “10 Conflicts to Watch in 2022”. For some more hopeful news, you can also check out Crisis Group’s Twitter thread 10 Reasons For Hope in 2022.



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Jan 21, 2022
S2 Episode 17: Will the Iran Nuclear Deal Survive and What Happens if Not?
49:51

It’s crunch time for negotiations over the Iran nuclear deal. That deal, the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), curtailed Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for substantial sanctions relief. In 2018, President Trump unilaterally withdrew the U.S. from the agreement. Four years later, Iran is closer than ever to being able to develop a nuclear weapon. While President Biden came to office vowing to rejoin the deal, months of sustained indirect talks in Vienna this year have made only slow headway. There is a real danger that talks collapse, Iran’s nuclear development continues and the U.S. faces a hard choice between accepting Iran as a nuclear threshold state – able to build a bomb even if not yet having done so – or trying to stop that happening, which could mean military strikes on Iran. 


This week on Hold Your Fire!, Richard Atwood and Naz Modirzadeh are joined by Crisis Group’s Iran Project Director Ali Vaez. They discuss the current state of negotiations in Vienna, impediments to the U.S. and Iran getting back to compliance with the deal, and strategic calculations in Tehran and Washington, as well as in Europe, China, Russia and the Middle East. They talk about where Iran’s nuclear program stands and what options exist if talks collapse. They also discuss what a potential military strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities could look like and what risks it might entail. Ali also lays out how the parties could yet salvage the deal in a way that gives them enough of what they need even if not all of what they want.  


For more information, explore Crisis Group’s analysis on our Iran regional page. Make sure to look out for our report coming out on Monday, ‘The Iran Nuclear Deal at Six: Now or Never’.




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Jan 14, 2022
S2 Episode 16: Can the U.S. Address Migration’s “Root Causes” in Central America?
47:13

Over recent years, an estimated million and a half Central Americans have made the journey up to the U.S. seeking a better life. Many are fleeing political instability, corruption, poverty or gang violence and predation. In Nicaragua, President Daniel Ortega has veered toward dictatorship, locking up his rivals and dismantling civil society organisations after winning a fourth term in an election widely condemned as rigged. Ortega’s counterpart in El Salvador, Nayib Bukele, a social media-savvy millennial leader, has had some success in reducing phenomenal levels of violence, seemingly through deals with gangs. But he too, shows worrying authoritarian traits, dismissing Supreme Court justices in an apparent bid to stay in power. There have been bright spots. In Honduras, opposition candidate Xiomara Castro won a peaceful election only a few weeks ago. The ruling party accepted defeat, allaying fears of a political crisis. 


This week on Hold Your Fire! Richard Atwood and Naz Modirzadeh are joined by Crisis Group’s Analyst for Central America, Tiziano Breda, and its Latin America Program Director, Ivan Briscoe. They talk about Nicaragua’s troubling direction under Ortega and how the outside world should respond. They also talk about Bukele’s record, what explains his popularity and his government’s controversial approach to gang violence. They discuss U.S. policy toward Central America under former President Donald Trump and what has changed under President Joe Biden and ask how much outside actors can realistically help mend the deep-rooted trends that drive migration. 


For more information, explore Crisis Group’s analysis on our Central America regional page.



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Dec 17, 2021
S2 Episode 15: Russia in Africa
42:47

After a post-Cold War hiatus, Russia is returning to Africa. Through both traditional diplomacy and the deployment of security contractors, Moscow’s influence on the continent is growing. Particularly controversial has been the role of the Wagner Group, a Russian military contractor. In the Central African Republic (CAR), Wagner forces have been at the forefront of operations against rebels. Overall, Russia’s muscular new visibility on the continent has unsettled Western powers. 


This week on Hold Your Fire!, Pauline Bax, Crisis Group’s senior Africa adviser, joins Richard Atwood and guest co-host Comfort Ero. Pauline has just written a piece on Russia’s role in CAR. They discuss how Russian mercenaries have shifted battlefield dynamics in that country in the government’s favour and popular perceptions of their gains, both in the capital Bangui and in areas affected by fighting. They discuss how Moscow, which had close ties to former Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, has navigated Sudan’s revolution. They also talk about Russia’s emerging role in the Sahel, where it has sought to capitalise on anti-France sentiment to win influence. They ask what Russia’s aims are in Africa and what the impact of its increased presence is for Africans themselves.


For more information, explore Crisis Group’s analysis on our Russia and Africa pages.



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Dec 10, 2021
S2 Episode 14: Will Russia Invade Ukraine?
37:14

Over recent weeks, some 100,000 Russian troops have massed on the Ukrainian border -- for the second time this year. Ukrainian officials warn of a potential Russian invasion; Western leaders warn of severe consequences if that happens. 


This week on Hold Your Fire! Richard Atwood talks to Crisis Group’s Europe and Central Asia director, Olga Oliker, and Oleg Ignatov, senior Russia analyst. They discuss developments leading to the troop build-up: the breakdown of a ceasefire in eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region between Russian-backed separatists and Ukrainian security forces; and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s increasingly testy statements about Ukraine’s relations with NATO member states. They look at what Putin may hope to gain with the troop deployments, whether Moscow is really prepared to use military force, what a military intervention might entail and how Ukraine and its Western partners might respond. They also look at what Western powers could do to deter an attack. 


For more information, explore Crisis Group’s analysis on our Ukraine and Russia pages.



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Dec 03, 2021
S2 Episode 13: Western Policy and Afghanistan’s Humanitarian Devastation
50:22

Afghanistan is on the brink of becoming the world’s worst humanitarian emergency. Western governments responded to the Taliban takeover in August by suspending aid, freezing state assets and imposing stringent sanctions regimes. The country’s economy was plunged into freefall as a result. Government salaries remain unpaid, the financial sector has collapsed and cash is in short supply. Millions of the country’s civilians struggle to access basic necessities and feed their families. The UN has already warned that half the country’s citizens are suffering from extreme hunger. Things only look set to get worse as winter sets in. 


This week on Hold Your Fire! Richard Atwood and Naz Modirzadeh talk to Crisis Group’s Afghanistan expert Graeme Smith about this crisis and the responsibility shouldered by Western governments. They talk about the Taliban’s refusal to do much in the way of compromise on draconian policies so far, especially limiting education for girls and women, curtailing women’s right to work and shunning demands for political inclusion. They discuss the dilemma facing Western governments, Washington’s status as an economic gatekeeper, the role played by the Europeans and how Afghanistan’s neighbours have responded to the Taliban takeover. They ask what Western policymakers, particularly in Washington, should do to help humanitarian organisations operate effectively and alleviate the looming emergency.


For more information, explore Crisis Group’s analysis on our Afghanistan page and keep an eye out for our upcoming report. 





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Nov 26, 2021
S2 Episode 12: Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte: Populist or Peacemaker?
38:57

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte’s term ends next June. Abroad, Duterte is arguably best known for a brutal anti-drug campaign which has killed thousands of people, prompting the International Criminal Court to open an official probe into alleged crimes against humanity. Yet Duterte has also nudged along a peace process in the Muslim-majority region of Mindanao, where Duterte himself is from, helping turn the page on a decades-long conflict that had killed 120,000 people. 


This week on Hold Your Fire!, Richard Atwood and Naz Modirzadeh are joined by Georgi Engelbrecht, Crisis Group’s senior analyst for the Philippines. They discuss Duterte’s legacy as his term comes to a close. They talk about the splits in Duterte’s own political camp, as his daughter, Sara Duterte-Carpio, registers to run as vice presidential candidate on a rival ticket. They discuss the cost of the violent anti-drug campaign and Duterte’s popularity among Filipinos. They also talk about the peace process in Mindanao, the continued challenge posed by Islamist militancy and Duterte’s failed attempts to open talks with communist rebels. Lastly, they look at Duterte’s foreign policy and efforts to pivot toward closer relations with China. 


For more information, explore Crisis Group’s analysis on our Philippines page and read Georgi’s recent Q&A ‘The Philippines: Three More Years for the Bangsamoro Transition’.



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Nov 19, 2021
S2 Episode 11: Bosnia Unravelling?
33:13

Bosnia faces what the current international High Representative to the country, Christian Schmidt, calls “its greatest existential threat of the post-war period”. It is grappling with dual crises that could upend the fragile status quo that has endured since the 1995 Dayton Accords ended Bosnia’s brutal civil war. In October, Milorad Dodik, the de facto leader of the autonomous Serb-dominated region, Republika Srpska, vowed to pull out of state institutions, paving the way for independence or union with neighbouring Serbia. Meanwhile, Bosniaks and Croats have yet to resolve a longstanding electoral dispute and, divided, cannot join together to counter Dodik’s secessionist threats. Both Serbs and Croats threaten to boycott elections planned for 2022. 


This week on Hold Your Fire!, Naz Modirzadeh and Richard Atwood are joined by Crisis Group Balkans expert Marko Prelec to talk about the crises. They discuss the motives for the Serbian drive for secession, the ongoing electoral dispute that has left Croats feeling disenfranchised, and the High Representative’s role. They look at quick fixes to calm both crises, the necessity but challenges of constitutional reform and revisiting the framework established at Dayton, and what international actors can do to help. 


For more information, explore Crisis Group’s analysis on our Bosnia And Herzegovina page and make sure to read our recent Q&A ‘Grappling with Bosnia’s Dual Crises’.



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Nov 12, 2021
S2 Episode 10: Will Tigrayan Rebels Attack Ethiopia’s capital?
37:06

 This week, as Ethiopia’s civil war enters its second year, Tigrayan rebels captured the strategically placed cities of Dessie and Kombolcha, only hours away from the country’s capital Addis Ababa. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed imposed a state of emergency and exhorted citizens to take up arms to defend the capital. With Tigrayan forces at striking distance, is an all-out assault on the capital imminent?


This week on Hold Your Fire!, Richard is joined by Crisis Group’s Senior Ethiopia Analyst William Davison to discuss what might happen next. They discuss the factors explaining Tigrayan forces’ offensive, the strain on Ethiopia’s federal forces and the impact of Tigrayan gains on Prime Minister Abiy’s position and his ruling party. They look at the war’s international dimensions: Eritrea’s continued involvement, how Djibouti might respond were Tigrayan forces able to reach the Djiboutian border and seek to open supply lines, and the risk Sudan gets sucked in. They discuss what an assault on the capital by Tigrayan forces might entail and how that can be averted. 


For more information, explore Crisis Group’s analysis on our Ethiopia page and read our latest briefing Ethiopia’s Civil War: Cutting a Deal to Stop the Bloodshed.



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Nov 05, 2021
S2 Episode 9: The Military’s Dangerous Power Grab in Sudan
38:55

On 25 October, Sudan’s military leaders ousted the country’s civilian government, detaining Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and several of his ministers. The coup took place two and a half years after a mass uprising that toppled long-standing ruler Omar al-Bashir. The military, fearful of losing their grip over the economy and of facing judicial action for abuses committed during Bashir’s rule and against protesters, had been reluctant partners in a transitional power-sharing government. Coming less than a year before a planned handover of power to civilians, the power grab was met with fury on the streets. Demonstrations have erupted in a defiant rejection of military rule. 


This week on Hold Your Fire!, Naz and Richard are joined by two Crisis Group experts, Murithi Mutiga, Project Director for the Horn of Africa, and Jonas Horner, Senior Analyst for Sudan, to talk about the coup, why it happened and what it means for risks of violence and Sudan’s future. They discuss potential splits within the security forces, the possible role played by outside governments, and the way the African Union and Western powers should respond. They also ask if Sudan’s generals have overestimated their hand and how to walk them back from the brink. 


For more information, explore Crisis Group’s analysis on the Sudan page and read our statement ‘Reversing Sudan’s Dangerous Coup’.



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Oct 29, 2021
S2 Episode 8: U.S.-China Tensions and Beijing’s Show of Strength in the Taiwan Strait
35:53

In recent weeks, record numbers of Chinese fighter jets have entered Taiwan’s Air Defence Identification Zone in what appears to be a deliberate show of strength by Beijing. This comes at a time when tensions between Beijing and the U.S. are particularly fraught. A core part of Washington’s China policy seeks to deter China’s assertiveness in its neighbourhood, as Beijing expands its military presence within the first island chain, which stretches from Japan past Taiwan to the Philippines and Borneo in the South China Sea. 


In this episode of Hold Your Fire! Richard Atwood is joined by Amanda Hsiao, Crisis Group’s Senior China Analyst. They talk about what Beijing hopes to achieve with the flights and how they’re perceived in Taiwan. They also discuss the military build-up in the region and how U.S. and Chinese militaries are more frequently coming into contact with one another. Amanda also talks through how Beijing views its relations with Washington and, with a virtual summit between U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping scheduled for some time this year, prospects for dialling back tensions.  


For more information, explore Crisis Group’s analysis on our China page. Make sure to check out Amanda’s recent Q&A



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Oct 22, 2021
S2 Episode 7: Cameroon's Forgotten Anglophone Conflict
44:44

For almost five years, Cameroon’s western provinces have been wracked by a deadly separatist insurgency. In 2016, Anglophone protesters took to the streets angry at the increasing use of French in courtrooms and schools. The government’s crackdown fuelled support for separatism and the emergence of several separatist militias calling for a new state: Ambazonia. Separatists attacked security forces and for years also enforced a school boycott, depriving hundreds of thousands of children of their education. For the most part, Paul Biya’s government has refused to talk directly to separatist leaders and has waged a brutal military campaign. Violence has killed thousands of people and displaced some 700,000 more. For now, no end is in sight. 


In the latest episode of Hold Your Fire!, Richard Atwood and Naz Modirzadeh talk with Arrey Elvis Ntui, Crisis Group’s Senior Analyst for Cameroon, about the war, its toll and prospects for a settlement. They discuss the origins of Anglophone grievances and the motives of separatists and Biya’s government in Yaoundé. They also talk about the role women play in both the insurgency and peacemaking efforts. They ask what a peaceful settlement would look like, and the role Cameroon’s foreign partners could play in getting the parties to the table.


For more information, explore Crisis Group’s analysis on our Cameroon page. Make sure to keep an eye out for our upcoming report. 



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Oct 15, 2021
S2 Episode 6: Lebanon is Falling Apart
41:59

Lebanon is in the midst of what the World Bank describes as what could be one of the worst economic crises of the past 150 years. Over three-quarters of the population have been plunged into poverty, often struggling to obtain food, medicine and basic necessities amid rampant inflation, currency collapse and widespread shortages. State institutions, including the security forces and police, are increasingly strained. Unrest has mounted as political elites defer necessary reform. The newly appointed government has promised to break the deadlock but it is difficult to see the path out of the crisis, especially with elections only months away. 


In this episode of Hold Your Fire! Naz and Richard are joined by Heiko Wimmen, director of Crisis Group’s Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon Project to discuss the country’s plight. They discuss the origins of the crisis, its everyday consequences for Lebanese citizens, the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and the role played by competing political factions, including Hezbollah. Three decades after the end of the devastating civil war, they ask what Lebanon’s economic implosion means for relations among the country’s sects and assess risks of violence.


For more information, explore Crisis Group’s analysis on our Lebanon page. Make sure to look out for our upcoming report on the political and social ramifications of the crisis. 




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Oct 08, 2021
S2 Episode 5: Could Talking to Mali's Jihadists Bring Peace?
51:56

The war in the Sahel appears to have reached a stalemate. In Mali, fighting pits the Malian security forces, backed by regional militaries and French special forces and airpower, against an al-Qaeda-linked jihadist coalition, JNIM (the Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims). Since Mali’s crisis in 2012-2013, efforts to defeat jihadist militants have only seen their influence expand. Violence has spread across the Sahel at terrible human cost. Two successive coups in Bamako, Mali’s capital, have fuelled political instability. French officials appear exasperated by the lack of progress. Yet militants themselves are also under pressure, with several leaders killed over recent years. 


In this episode of Hold Your Fire! Richard Atwood and Naz Modirzadeh are joined by Ibrahim Yahaya Ibrahim, Crisis Group’s Sahel expert, to ask whether it is time for a new approach. They take stock of the insurgency’s current state, its aims and JNIM’s relationship with al-Qaeda. They discuss the future of the French presence and the consequences of the recent coups. They also speak at length about prospects for talks between the government and JNIM leaders, what such talks might entail and the challenges such a path would pose. 


For more information, explore Crisis Group’s analysis on our Sahel and Mali regional pages as well as our work on Jihad in Modern Conflict. Be sure to keep an eye out for Ibrahim’s upcoming report. 



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Oct 01, 2021
S2 Episode 4: Avoiding Another Afghanistan: Could Al-Shabaab Seize Power in Somalia?
43:53

Many people in the Somali capital Mogadishu watched with apprehension as the Taliban seized control of Afghanistan. Could Somalia, struggling against its own Islamist insurgency -- Al—Shabaab -- face a similar fate? In this episode of Hold Your Fire! Richard Atwood and Naz Modirzadeh are joined by Omar Mahmood, Crisis Group’s Senior Analyst for Somalia, to discuss the resurgence of Al—Shabaab as political instability wracks the country and the withdrawal of African Union troops potentially looms. They discuss the state of the insurgency, the capability of Somali defence forces, the troubled relationship between the central government and Somalia’s regions, and the role of East African and other foreign powers. They also talk about whether there is any hope of a political settlement with Al—Shabaab. 


For more information, explore Crisis Group’s analysis on our Somalia and Horn of Africa pages. 




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Sep 24, 2021
S2 Episode 3: License to Kill: Lawyering in the War on Terror
1:11:30

Only days after the 9/11 attacks, Congress ushered in extraordinarily broad legislation that authorised President Bush to use military force in order to eliminate terrorist threats to the U.S. In this episode of Hold Your Fire! – the second in a podcast series looking at the legacy of the 9/11 attacksRichard Atwood and Naz Modirzadeh are joined by Stephen Pomper, Crisis Group's Interim Chief of Policy, to discuss the lasting legacy of this Authorisation for the Use of Military Force (AUMF). They discuss the forthcoming Crisis Group report on the topic, “Overkill: Reforming the Legal Basis for the War on Terror”, reflecting on how the AUMF became the legal basis for increasingly wide-ranging military actions embraced by successive administrations, from Bush to Biden, as the fighting against Islamist militants expanded in scope. They also discuss the role of law and lawyers in establishing the boundaries of presidential authority and the consequences of diminished congressional oversight.


For more information, explore Crisis Group’s analysis on our United States page. This episode also features as part of our series The Legacy of 9/11 and the "War on Terror”.



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Sep 16, 2021
S2 Episode 2: Al-Qaeda and ISIS Twenty Years after 9/11
42:30

On the eve of the twentieth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, a new episode of Hold Your Fire! looks at the shadow cast by the “global war on terror” across South Asia, the Middle East and Africa. Richard Atwood and Naz Modirzadeh discuss how Islamist militants – groups like al-Qaeda and later ISIS – have fared in twenty years marked by the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, the 2011 Arab revolutions, the war in Syria and U.S. counter-terrorism operations in many other corners of the world. They talk about al-Qaeda’s recovery after losing its safe havens in Afghanistan, its vicious local branch in Iraq and its expansion through affiliates elsewhere. They also discuss how al-Qaeda’s Iraq branch exploited the Syrian war and evolved into ISIS, and the later struggle between ISIS and al-Qaeda. They take stock of where Islamist militancy stands today, with groups fighting in an increasing number of warzones across Africa and in light of the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan. They examine what efforts against militants look like today and some of the flaws of existing counter-terrorism policy.


The episode is the first in a series on this podcast looking at the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks and the impact of the “global war on terror”. For Crisis Group's other publications on this topic, see our series The Legacy of 9/11 and the "War on Terror”.






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Sep 10, 2021
S2 Episode 1: Afghanistan: the Islamic State, still no Taliban government and a looming humanitarian catastrophe
47:02

After days of chaos at Kabul airport, including an attack by the Islamic State’s local chapter, the last American plane has left, ending the Americans’ twenty-year war against the Taliban. As yet, the Taliban have not announced a new government, and what its rule will look like remains unclear. Afghanistan’s neighbours, other regional powers and Western governments are still working out what engagement with the new government will entail. 


This week Richard Atwood and Naz Modirzadeh welcome back Crisis Group expert Ibraheem Bahiss, who is joined by Graeme Smith, a long-time Crisis Group consultant on Afghanistan, to discuss where things stand. They talk about the Islamic State in Afghanistan, its battles with the Taliban and the Taliban’s relations with other transnational militants, including al-Qaeda. They also discuss the emerging resistance in the Panjshir valley, why the Taliban are taking time to form a government, the increasingly desperate humanitarian crisis and what the world can do to address it. They talk about how regional governments appear to be positioning themselves regarding Taliban rule, some of the dilemmas this poses for Western powers and how much the Taliban might be prepared to compromise in return for recognition, sanctions relief and aid. 



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Sep 03, 2021
Special Episode: What Will the Taliban Do Next?
34:02

The Taliban is back in power in Afghanistan. A few days ago, insurgents entered the Afghan capital Kabul, topping off a week in which they had swept through cities and towns across the country. Back from a summer hiatus for this special episode, Richard Atwood talks to Crisis Group expert Ibraheem Bahiss about some of the decisions the group will have to make. What will a Taliban government look like? Will the movement share power? What will its rule look like? Will it roll back some of the freedoms Afghans – women in particular – have enjoyed over the past two decades? How will it pay for the costs of running a state? What will its foreign relations look like? They unpack these key questions and what the days ahead could hold for Afghanistan. 


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



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Aug 19, 2021
Episode 46: Iraq: Protests, Iran’s Role and an End to U.S. Combat Operations
37:47

After a meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi earlier this week, U.S. President Joe Biden announced that American forces would end their combat mission in Iraq by the end of 2021. Biden’s announcement comes after a turbulent few years for Iraq. Mass protests saw young people camp out in city and town squares across much of the country despite harsh crackdowns by security forces and Iran-backed paramilitaries. Although demonstrations forced one government to step down and have largely dissipated this year, few of the protesters’ grievances have been addressed, and it is far from clear whether elections in October this year offer a chance for political renewal. In this week’s episode, Richard Atwood and Naz Modirzadeh are joined by Lahib Higel, Crisis Group’s senior analyst for Iraq, to talk about Iraqi politics, Iran’s role, how much of a threat ISIS poses, and what an end to U.S. combat operations likely means for the country. 


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


This is the last episode of the first season of Hold Your Fire!. Please do get in touch with any feedback for the hosts or ideas for the next season at podcasts@crisisgroup.org.



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Jul 30, 2021
Episode 45: The Taliban’s Advance in Afghanistan
44:35

The past few weeks have seen sweeping gains by Taliban insurgents across parts of Afghanistan as U.S. forces withdraw. This week, Richard Atwood is joined by Laurel Miller, Crisis Group’s Asia director, and Andrew Watkins, Crisis Group’s senior Afghanistan analyst, to discuss what is arguably the most dramatic shift in the Afghan war since the U.S. intervention 20 years ago ousted the then Taliban government. Andrew describes the Taliban’s steady expansion into many of Afghanistan’s districts and what it means for the government’s control in bigger cities and other provincial capitals. They discuss the Taliban’s political and military strategy as foreign forces pull out. Laurel looks at how the evolving battlefield dynamics are viewed in Washington and the broader debates around the future of U.S. policy in South Asia. They discuss what the Taliban’s advance means for peace talks between the insurgents and the Afghan government and other factions. They talk about how Afghanistan’s neighbours and other regional powers view what is happening and what their policies might entail. They also look at what foreign powers would ideally do in the months ahead and what people should watch for a sense of the conflict’s trajectory. 


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



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Jul 22, 2021
Episode 44: #WhatsHappeningInMyanmar
35:55

Six months after the military seized power in Myanmar, mass strikes and a brutal crackdown by the regime continue to paralyse the country – as the economy and public services, including the health system, have collapsed and new forms of armed resistance are emerging. Joining Richard Atwood and guest co-host Comfort Ero this week to discuss what’s happening in the country is Richard Horsey, Crisis Group’s senior adviser for Myanmar. Richard describes new forms of armed resistance emerging against the regime and the military’s heavy-handed retaliation that has displaced tens of thousands of people. He explains how these locally organised civilian militias have altered what was already a complex conflict landscape. They discuss the relationship among these new militias, underground resistance cells in cities like Yangon and Mandalay, the opposition National Unity Government and the ethnic armed groups that have long operated in parts of the country. They look at whether there is any hope of the regime changing course. They also examine what options exist for outside powers to ease humanitarian suffering and try to find a way out of the crisis. 


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



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Jul 15, 2021
Episode 43: Ten Years of South Sudanese Statehood
39:52

This week marks the tenth anniversary of South Sudan’s independence, much-celebrated at the time but now eclipsed by the brutal civil war that followed. The conflict, which saw the army split along ethnic lines, killed an estimated 400,000 people and displaced a third of the country’s population. A 2018 peace deal signed by the war’s two main protagonists, President Salva Kiir and his former Vice President Riek Machar, ended much of the fighting. But millions still suffer from chronic hunger and unchecked militia violence. This week on Hold Your Fire!, Richard Atwood and Naz Modirzadeh are joined by Alan Boswell, Crisis Group’s senior analyst for South Sudan, for an in-depth look at the past decade of statehood, the problems still blighting the world’s newest country and prospects for turning the page on the brutal civil war. 


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



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Jul 08, 2021
Episode 42: A Dramatic Turn in Ethiopia’s Tigray War
36:21

Earlier this week, fighters loyal to the ousted leaders of Ethiopia’s Tigray region recaptured Mekelle, the regional capital, as Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed withdrew federal forces and announced a unilateral ceasefire after eight months of brutal war. This week on Hold Your Fire!, Richard Atwood and Naz Modirzadeh talk to William Davison, senior analyst for Ethiopia, about this dramatic turnaround, its immediate fallout and what may come next. William explains how Tigrayan forces managed to consolidate control in rural areas, build up forces thanks in large part to popular support and launch attacks on Tigrayan cities and towns. They look at the balance of power in Tigray today and the likelihood of further fighting between Tigrayan forces and those of Eritrea, who were fighting alongside the Ethiopian army. They also examine prospects for a Tigrayan offensive to capture back disputed territory currently held by the Amhara, another of Ethiopia’s ethnic groups. William explains how Abiy has portrayed the withdrawal of government troops and the potential implications of their retreat for his popularity in the rest of Ethiopia. They also discuss the importance of getting aid in and what international actors should focus on in the days ahead. 


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



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Jul 01, 2021
Episode 41 : Biden in Europe
27:37

This week on Hold Your Fire!, Richard Atwood and Naz Modirzadeh are joined by Michael Hanna, Crisis Group’s U.S. Program director, to talk about U.S. President Joe Biden’s first overseas trip since taking office. Biden embarked on a tour of European capitals last week, with a first leg at the G7 summit in the UK, followed by meetings with EU and NATO officials in Brussels and finally a meeting with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Geneva. Michael explains that while Biden’s predecessor Donald Trump’s legacy still looms large, his presence among European allies signals a return to more traditional U.S. diplomacy, even if their collective pledge on the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines to vulnerable countries was underwhelming. They discuss prospects for the alliance of democracies Biden had talked up before the trip, the tone and conclusions of the Brussels meetings, and U.S.-Turkey relations after Biden’s first face-to-face encounter with Turkish President Recip Tayyep Erdogan. Michael also unpacks what Biden’s meeting with President Putin means for the future of U.S.-Russia relations. They then discuss the Biden administration’s deepening rivalry with China and the potential dangers in such an approach. 


For more information, browse Crisis Group’s analysis on our U.S. page.



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Jun 24, 2021
Episode 40: Iran: the Vote and the Bomb
33:42

As Iranians go to the polls on Friday to elect a new president, Iranian diplomats are meeting their Western counterparts in Vienna in their latest efforts to get back to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. This week on Hold Your Fire!, Richard Atwood and Naz Modirzadeh are joined by Ali Vaez, Crisis Group’s senior adviser to the president and Iran project director, for an in-depth look at the elections, the nuclear talks and Iran’s role in the region. Ali explains that while elections in the Islamic Republic are never free or fair, this vote is likely to be even less competitive than usual, with the playing field narrowed to favour current front runner, the hardliner Ebrahim Raisi. They talk about how this could relate to Supreme Leader Ali Khameini’s succession plans. They also talk about where things stand in the talks over Iran’s nuclear program, with U.S. and other diplomats locked in a sixth round of talks with their Iranian counterparts aimed at reviving the nuclear deal. They discuss what would happen if the parties fail to reach an agreement. They also talk about the deal’s significance for regional politics and whether recent talks between Iranian and Saudi officials in the Iraqi capital Baghdad offer some hope of calming the bitter Iran-Saudi rivalry that has overshadowed the region for decades. 


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



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Jun 17, 2021
Episode 39: COVID-19, Inequality and Protests in Colombia
34:23

This week on Hold Your Fire!, Richard Atwood and Naz Modirzadeh talk to Renata Segura, deputy program director for Latin America and the Carribean, and Beth Dickinson, senior analyst for Colombia, about the anti-government protests across Colombia. They discuss what the deadly unrest looks like, a controversial tax reform proposed in April that triggered protests and the blockades that have sprung up across the country’s cities, towns and villages. They unpack protesters’ demands, notably the role of the COVID-19 pandemic in aggravating already rife inequality, and how police crackdowns have further fuelled people’s anger. They also talk about how Colombian society views the protests, whether protesters’ demands are widely shared and how likely it is that President Ivan Duque’s government will take measures to address their grievances. They discuss the likelihood of similar protests elsewhere in Latin America, given that many other countries in the region suffer the same inequality, worsened by COVID, that has taken people to the streets in Colombia. 


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



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Jun 10, 2021
Episode 38 : The Insurrection in Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado
36:29
This week on Hold Your Fire!, Richard Atwood and guest co-host Comfort Ero, our Interim Vice President and Africa Program Director, talk to Crisis Group’s Deputy Africa Director Dino Mahtani about the insurrection unfolding in Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado region. The militants - known locally as al-Shabab, and now labelled by the U.S. as a branch of the Islamic State - have been terrorising the population for years now without clearly stating their demands. Dino talks about who they really are and what their interests might be. He also discusses the Southern African Development Community (SADC) meeting in Maputo coming up in two weeks’ time, when the bloc plans to lobby for the deployment of a regional force, amid growing fears that the conflict could spread beyond the borders of Mozambique. Dino unpacks the government’s response to al-Shabab, its turn to Rwanda for military support as it attempts to diversify its security partners, and what the next steps should be. 

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Jun 03, 2021
Episode 37: What Does Hamas Want?
32:53

This week on Hold Your Fire!, Richard Atwood talks to Tareq Baconi, Crisis Group’s senior Israel/Palestine analyst, about Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist movement that governs Gaza. They talk about how Hamas views the latest bout of violence which saw the group fire more than 4,000 rockets at Israel, provoking Israel’s bombardment of the strip. Tareq looks at how Palestinians in Gaza and elsewhere view the movement, its relations with its main Palestinian rival Fatah and its efforts to navigate geopolitical changes in the Middle East. They also discuss the conditions imposed by the Quartet (the European Union, Russia, the UN and U.S.) on Hamas after it won elections in 2006: that the group recognise Israel, as well as previous agreements with Israel, and renounce violence. They discuss debates within Hamas about those conditions and about its use of tactics that target civilians. They talk about whether, after this latest bout of fighting, there is any prospect of moving beyond an uneasy ceasefire punctuated by outbreaks of Hamas rocket fire and Israeli bombardments that perpetuate suffering in Gaza. 

For more information:



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May 27, 2021
Episode 36: Another War: Views from Israel/Palestine
43:41

This week on Hold Your Fire!, Richard Atwood talks to Crisis Group experts Azmi Keshawi, Tahani Mustafa and Mairav Zonszein, respectively based in Gaza, the West Bank and Israel, about the latest war – the fourth between Hamas and Israel in the past fifteen years. Azmi talks about his experiences in Gaza under intense Israeli bombardment, what Hamas hopes to achieve with its rocket fire into Israel and whether anything will change for Gaza after a ceasefire. Tahani and Mairav discuss how the war and the events that led to it have looked from the West Bank and East Jerusalem and from Israel. They discuss how Israeli and Palestinian leaders have responded and what Israel hopes to achieve with the bombardment of Gaza. They describe the violence between Palestinians and Israeli Jews in Israel and the West Bank and how much that is a game changer for Israel. They also talk about the shifting terms of the debate in the U.S. within the Democratic party and what that might mean for American policy. They reflect on how much a ceasefire would change the conditions that led to the fighting and what the longer-term implications of this latest war are for Israelis and Palestinians.  

For more information:



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May 20, 2021
Episode 35: UN Security Council Crankiness and Antonio Guterres' Re-election
36:43

This week on Hold Your Fire!, Richard Atwood and Naz Modirzadeh talk to Crisis Group’s UN Director Richard Gowan. They reflect back on Antonio Guterres’ first term as UN Secretary-General now that he is seeking a second. They discuss his approach to crisis diplomacy, some of the challenges and some of the successes over the past five years. They also talk about Security Council dynamics, particularly the fraught relations among its most powerful members, and what those mean for its role and that of the Secretary-General in peacemaking. They look ahead to the big challenges Guterres is likely to face in the next five years. 

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



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May 12, 2021
Episode 34: Delayed Palestinian Polls, Israeli Politics and U.S. Middle East Policy
42:57

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”. 

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



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May 06, 2021
Episode 33: What Déby’s Death Means for Chad and the Region
35:22

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. 

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



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Apr 29, 2021
Episode 32: Rising Russia-Ukraine Tensions and the West
39:21

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 being 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. 

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



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Apr 22, 2021
Episode 31: Is The Gulf Dispute Actually Over?
40:03

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. 



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Apr 15, 2021
Episode 30: How Afghanistan Views the U.S. Troop Drawdown
40:12

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.

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



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Apr 08, 2021
Episode 29: Tshisekedi Consolidates Power in DR Congo
35:48

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.

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



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Apr 01, 2021
Episode 28: Ethiopia’s Tigray Crisis and Horn of Africa Politics
37:51

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 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. 

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



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Mar 25, 2021
Episode 27: Good News in Libya?
35:02
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.

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Mar 18, 2021
Episode 26: The War on Drugs in Colombia’s Countryside
42:30

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 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.  

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. 



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Mar 11, 2021
Special Episode: Gender and Conflict
31:40

This week on Hold Your Fire!, Naz Modirzadeh and Richard Atwood talk to Azadeh Moaveni, Crisis Group’s Gender Project Director, in honor 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.

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



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Mar 08, 2021
Episode 25: A Dangerous New Turn in Yemen’s War
44:26

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.

For more information, see:

Crisis in Marib: Averting a Chain Reaction in Yemen 

Rethinking Peace in Yemen



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Mar 04, 2021
Episode 24: The War in the Sahel
37:33

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



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Feb 25, 2021
Episode 23: The Coup in Myanmar
35:23

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.



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Feb 18, 2021
Episode 22: Latin America’s Tough Year Ahead
43:54
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 Caribbean, 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.

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Feb 11, 2021
Episode 21: Africa in 2021
36:01
This week on Hold Your Fire!, Naz Modirzadeh and Richard Atwood bid farewell to Rob Malley, who has left Crisis Group to join the Biden administration, and discuss trends on the African continent in 2021 with Crisis Group’s Africa Program Director and interim Vice President Comfort Ero. Comfort points out the rising violent jihadist threat in the Sahel, the Lake Chad basin, Somalia and Mozambique, the risky political transitions and tense elections in Uganda and Ethiopia, and the role of African powers in the continent’s crises.

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Feb 05, 2021
Episode 20: Syria’s Frozen Conflict
35:15
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. 

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Jan 28, 2021
Episode 19: U.S. Sanctions: An Overused Foreign Policy Tool?
37:25
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.

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Jan 21, 2021
Episode 18: Social Media and the U.S. Capitol Events
42:29

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



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Jan 14, 2021
Episode 17: 10 Conflicts to Watch in 2021
39:55

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:



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Jan 07, 2021
Episode 16: Trump’s Morocco-Israel Transaction
42:02
This week on Hold Your Fire!, Rob Malley and guest host Richard Atwood unpack the normalization 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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Dec 17, 2020
Episode 15: Michael Kovrig: Two Years in Arbitrary Detention in China
33:06
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.     

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Dec 10, 2020
Episode 14: Regime Change Re-examined
49:23

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? 

Background reading:

Losing the Long Game: The False Promise of Regime Change in the Middle East, Philip H. Gordon. St. Martin's Press. 



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Dec 03, 2020
Episode 13: Afghanistan's Peace Process
41:21

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 organization does its work in wartime.

Background readings by Crisis Group:

Afghanistan's Peace Process Will Be Long, Incremental, and in Need of a Mediator

Ethiopia Expels Crisis Group Senior Analyst



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Nov 26, 2020
Episode 12: Ethnicity and Conflict in Myanmar
42:51

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 Olya 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. 

Background readings by Crisis Group:

Another Landslide Victory for Aung San Suu Kyi’s Party in Myanmar – But at What Cost? - November 2020 Q&A
Identity Crisis: Ethnicity and Conflict in Myanmar - August 2020 report



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Nov 19, 2020
Episode 11: “First, Do No Harm”: A New U.S. Foreign Policy under Biden?
45:49

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”. 

Background readings by Crisis Group:

Staving off Violence around Somalia’s Elections - 2020 Briefing

Ethiopia: Not too Late to Stop Tigray Conflict from Unravelling Country - 2020 Op-Ed

Algérie: un air de déjà vu? - 2020 Q&A



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Nov 13, 2020
Episode 10: Protests against Police Brutality Shake Nigeria
40:14

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. 

Background readings by Crisis Group:

Nigeria’s #EndSARS Protest: De-escalate Tensions, Start Deep Police Reform

The Islamic State Franchises in Africa: Lessons from Lake Chad

Facing the Challenge of the Islamic State in West Africa Province

Violence in Nigeria’s North West: Rolling Back the Mayhem

Video: The Fate of Women Who Lived With Boko Haram



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Nov 05, 2020
Episode 9: Can the U.S. Avoid an Election Crisis?
39:22

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.

Background readings by Crisis Group:
The U.S. Presidential Election: Managing the Risks of Violence
Too Much to Lose: Steering the U.S. Away from Election-Related Violence



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Oct 29, 2020
Episode 8: What Makes Peace? Colombia’s Ex-President Santos Says It’s Harder than War
38:15

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. 

Background reading by Crisis Group:

Leaders under Fire: Defending Colombia’s Front Line of Peace - 2020 report mentioned by Rob in the interview
The Missing Peace: Colombia’s New Government and Last Guerrillas - 2018 report
Colombia’s Armed Groups Battle for the Spoils of Peace - 2017 report



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Oct 22, 2020
Episode 7: Turkey Flexes Its Foreign Policy Muscles
40:20

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. 

Background readings by Crisis Group:

Crisis Group Statement (October 14): Reducing the Human Cost of the New Nagorno-Karabakh War



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Oct 15, 2020
Episode 6: What’s Behind the Fighting in Nagorno-Karabakh
34:51

This week on 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 an analysis of the role played by Turkey, Russia, and other external actors in the conflict. 

Background reading by Crisis Group on the war in Nagorno-Karabakh:

De-escalating the New Nagorno-Karabakh War - statement on the most recent escalation

Digging out of Deadlock in Nagorno-Karabakh - 2019 report mentioned by Olesya in the interview

Nagorno-Karabakh’s Gathering War Clouds - 2017 report mentioned by Olesya in the interview

The Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict: A Visual Explainer



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Oct 08, 2020
Episode 5: President Trump’s Off-the-Rails Foreign Policy
34:22
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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Oct 01, 2020
Episode 4: Libya's Proxy War
38:45
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. 

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Sep 24, 2020
Episode 3: Ethiopia's political crisis
34:12
Naz and Rob 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. Crisis Group's senior analyst for Ethiopia, Will Davison, then joins them to discuss the enormous challenges facing Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed amid rising ethnic tensions in Africa's second-most populous country. 

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Sep 17, 2020
Episode 2: Afghan Peace Talks: Dealing with the Taliban
35:43
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? 

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Sep 10, 2020
Episode 1: Israel, the UAE, and Normalisation
34:24
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 met with an international, collective shrug. 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.

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Sep 03, 2020