Foreign Podicy

A national security and foreign policy podcast from the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD).

Our Man in Geneva: The UN is bigger – but not better – than you think.

September 17th, 2020

The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations in New York is often a high-profile figure. Think of Nikki Haley, John Bolton, Jeane Kirkpatrick — or, going back further, Adlai Stevenson, Arthur Goldberg, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, and Andrew Young.

American ambassadors to the United Nations in Geneva – where there also are dozens of UN-affiliated international organizations – tend to be less well-known, but they have important work they can do – if they want to.

Ambassador Andrew Bremberg has been in that job for about a year, and he joins host Cliff May to discuss what he’s seen and done, and what the UN is and isn’t doing. Also contributing to the conversation is Richard Goldberg, a former White House National Security Council official who spent a decade on Capitol Hill overseeing U.S. foreign assistance. Rich now serves as a senior advisor at FDD and leads FDD’s International Organizations Program.

Ron Dermer on Israel in a Changing Middle East

August 26th, 2020

Ambassador Ron Dermer has been Israel’s ambassador to the United States since 2013 – not an uneventful period for Israel, America and the Middle East. Most recently he has been encouraged by the prospect of Israel and the United Arab Emirates normalizing relations, and by President Trump’s decision to “snap back” sanctions on Iran’s hostile rulers. Also on his mind: why Palestinian leaders would be smart to resume negotiations with Israeli leaders (and why they almost certainly won’t), and the threat posed by Hezbollah, the most powerful political and military force in Lebanon, a state suffering multiple crises. Ambassador Dermer discusses these and other issues with Foreign Podicy host Cliff May.

The Kasparov Defense

August 14th, 2020

Garry Kasparov is a former world chess champion, a former Russian dissident and democracy leader, and a current human rights activist. He’s founded a new organization, the Renew Democracy Initiative, committed to defending democratic values and freedoms in the U.S. and around the world. He joins host Cliff May for a wide-ranging discussion.

The Failing State of Lebanon

August 6th, 2020

Lebanon is a small country that has long been facing enormous perils. This week, its capital, Beirut, exploded – literally.  An enormous, devastating and mysterious blast in the port killed a still-unknown number of people, but reportedly over a hundred, injured thousands more, and caused billions of dollars in property damage.

Lebanon’s strongest political and military faction is Hezbollah, a designated terrorist organization loyal to the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran. The possibility of Hezbollah dragging Lebanon into another war with Israel remains real -- particularly as Hezbollah installs increasingly sophisticated missiles, tens of thousands of them, in Lebanese homes, hospitals, schools and mosques. The missiles are, of course, pointed at Israel.

All this falls within the context of Lebanon’s worsening economic crisis. James Rickards, a well-known writer on economics and geopolitics who serves on the Board of Advisors for FDD’s Center on Economic and Financial Power, has just released a new FDD report on this dire situation, written before the horrific explosion in Beirut.

He — along with Tony Badran, a research fellow at FDD, who was born and raised in Lebanon and has for years studied and written about the Levant — joins FDD Foreign Podicy host Cliff May to discuss the new report, and the very real possibility of Lebanon’s imminent collapse.

Pivoting Toward China

June 30th, 2020

In 1972, Nixon went to China, where he met with Communist leader Mao Zedong.

Thanks to that bold diplomatic initiative, the United States and the People’s Republic learned to peacefully co-exist, living happily ever after.

Well, not exactly.

What Nixon called “the week that changed the world” helped China become wealthier and more powerful, but Beijing did not become America’s strategic partner — or a reliable stakeholder — in what we like to think of as the liberal, international, rules-based order.

To discuss what China’s rulers have been doing, are doing, and intend to do, host Cliff May is joined by two scholars new to FDD.

Nathan Picarsic, a senior fellow at FDD, studies Beijing’s military-civil fusion strategy, and its competitive approach to geopolitics.

Emily de La Bruyère, also a senior fellow, has pioneered novel data collection and analysis tools tailored to Beijing’s strategic and institutional structures. She uses primary-source, Chinese-language materials to provide insight on geopolitical, technological, and economic change.

Israel’s Border Lands

June 3rd, 2020

Israelis are now pondering a hugely consequential decision: Should they change the status of some of the territories under their control, drawing borders that have for more than 70 years remained indeterminate?

The Trump administration appears to have given a green light to such alterations – so long as they’re in line with its peace plan, sometimes called – with either bravado or derision — “The Deal of the Century.”

Joining Foreign Podicy host Cliff May to discuss the multiple factors and variables involved in the Israeli decision are Jonathan Schanzer, FDD’s senior vice president for research who has written extensively on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and other Middle East issues, and John Hannah, senior counselor at FDD, who has worked as a top advisor in both Republican and Democratic administrations.

War and Peace and Other Options in Afghanistan

June 1st, 2020

In recent weeks, the pandemic – the global spread of a deadly virus that originated in China – has dominated the news media, and therefore most of the public’s attention.

Among the important stories that have been marginalized: the on-going conflict in Afghanistan, as well as America’s diplomatic attempts to end that conflict, or at least reduce America’s participation in it.

Discussing these and related issues with host Cliff May are Tom Joscelyn, FDD senior fellow, senior editor of FDD’s Long War Journal, and a regular contributor to The Dispatch; and Bradley Bowman, senior director of FDD’s Center on Military and Political Power. Brad served more than 15 years as an active duty U.S. Army officer, including time as a company commander, Blackhawk pilot, congressional affairs officer in the Pentagon, and staff officer in Afghanistan.

National Security Council for Dummies ft. Richard Goldberg (part two)

April 27th, 2020

Richard Goldberg just finished a year on the National Security Council (NSC) where he served as the Director for Countering Iranian Weapons of Mass Destruction.

Now back at FDD as a senior advisor, he’s going to explain to host Cliff May and Foreign Podicy listeners how the NSC operates; its relationship with other government departments; how it makes policies and attempts to have those policies implemented; what it’s doing and what it’s managed to get done during President Trump’s first three years in office.

Predators in the Global Jungle

April 20th, 2020

David Kilcullen is an Australian-American soldier and scholar who served as a top advisor to the U.S. military in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

He also has worked in Pakistan, the Horn of Africa, and Southeast Asia.

And he’s an advisor to FDD’s Center on Military and Political Power (CMPP).

His new book, The Dragons and the Snakes: How the Rest Learned to Fight the West, looks at the military threats facing America and its allies, including what the dragons — Moscow and Beijing — and the snakes — Tehran, Pyongyang, and non-state jihadi groups – are learning from each other. He suggests the options that need to be considered if free nations are “to evolve and survive the long twilight struggle ahead.”

He discusses these and related national security issues with host Cliff May on episode 54.

Special Edition: The U.S. Army and National Security

April 6th, 2020

To address an increasingly complex and challenging international security environment, the U.S. Army is undertaking a massive restructuring—the likes of which has not been seen for decades.

Objectives range from fielding new and innovative weapons to stay ahead of potential adversaries, to developing new operational concepts and warfighting doctrines.

And the stakes could not be higher. The quality of these efforts will determine nothing less than the outcome of future conflicts and the security of the United States and its allies.

General Joseph Martin is the 37th Vice Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army and is currently the Army’s second highest ranking active duty officer. He has proudly served the United States in uniform for 34 years, deploying to Iraq on numerous occasions and commanding at all levels.

On this special edition of Foreign Podicy, General Martin joins Bradley Bowman, Senior Director of FDD’s Center on Military and Political Power, to discuss Army readiness, modernization, the defense budget, and more.

Since this discussion several weeks ago, the focus has shifted to tackling the coronavirus crisis. But solving these issues facing the U.S. Army remains paramount to U.S. national security.

War and Peace, and Wars Between Wars

March 23rd, 2020

In the past — at least in the past as we like to remember it — wars began with declarations and ended with surrenders or negotiated “peace agreements.”

In the real world — most emphatically in the real world of the 21st century — there are wars, and there are wars between wars.

Jacob Nagel, a senior fellow at FDD, served as head of Israel’s National Security Council. Before that, he served in the Israel Defense Forces, rising to the rank of brigadier general.

Bradley Bowman is senior director of FDD’s Center on Military and Political Power (CMPP). He has served as a national security advisor to members of the Senate Armed Services and Foreign Relations committees. He was also a U.S. Army officer, “Blackhawk” pilot, and assistant professor at West Point, from which he also graduated.

They join host Clifford D. May to discuss issues of war and peace — and the grey zone in between.


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Sharpening the Iran File ft. Richard Goldberg (part one)

March 9th, 2020

The deal President Obama cut with Iran's rulers provided them with billions of dollars and a "patient pathway" to the acquisition of nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them to targets anywhere on the planet.

President Trump withdrew from that deal and, in its place, initiated a "maximum pressure" campaign of economic sanctions intended to change the regime's behavior — if not change the regime itself.

Richard Goldberg, who recently served as a director on the National Security Council (NSC) and is now back at FDD as a senior advisor, joins host Cliff May to discuss what the Trump administration's policies and strategies on Iran have — and have not — achieved so far.

Where There’s a George Will, There’s a Way

February 24th, 2020

For more than 40 years, George Will has been producing erudite political commentary on a wide range of issues. Currently a regular contributor to The Washington Post and various television news outlets, Mr. Will was once labeled by The Wall Street Journal as "perhaps the most powerful journalist in America."

Many find his arguments persuasive. When they don’t, they likely have to wrack their brains to figure out why not, and what arguments could possibly stand up to his.

He’s recently published “The Conservative Sensibility” — no subtitle — a 538-page reflection on Western political philosophy and tradition, and the specifically American vision of the Founders. He joins Cliff to discuss his book, his career, and the current state of American foreign policy.

China and the Future of Defense

February 10th, 2020

The Chinese Communist Party represents a multi-faceted and increasingly formidable threat to the United States and its democratic allies. In this intense competition with Beijing, the U.S. must ensure its war fighters have the most capable and technologically advanced weapons in the world.

If America’s technological superiority is allowed to deteriorate, Beijing may be tempted to undertake aggression that the U.S. could struggle to defeat — aggression that could have been avoided.

To prevent this from happening, the House Armed Services Committee has established a Future of Defense Task Force focused on the U.S. defense innovation base.

On this special edition episode of Foreign Podicy, Bradley Bowman — Senior Director of FDD’s Center on Military and Political Power (CMPP)— is joined by the task force’s co-chair — Congressman Seth Moulton, a Democrat from Massachusetts — to discuss the goals of the task force, the health of the U.S. defense innovation base, and the growing threat from China.

Deal or No Deal

January 28th, 2020

Following a lengthy period of incubation, President Trump has unveiled a plan intended to resolve the long-running Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Whether it can achieve that — whether such a goal is achievable any time soon — is worth an in-depth discussion. There’s no one better to have that conversation with than Jonathan Schanzer, senior vice president for research at FDD, who has written extensively on Palestinian politics and related topics.

Saeed Ghasseminejad’s Iranian-American Journey

January 13th, 2020

Growing up in the Islamic Republic of Iran, Saeed Ghasseminejad’s parents hoped he’d become a scientist or perhaps an engineer... anything but what he actually became: a dissident and a freedom fighter.

But he couldn’t remain silent about the theocratic oppression in his native land.

He ended up in Iran’s infamous Evin prison, his sentence handed down by none other than Abolghassem Salavati, otherwise known as the “Hanging Judge” who was recently designated by the United States for his decades of human rights abuses. After that, he went into exile abroad.

Today, as FDD’s senior advisor on Iran and Financial Economics, he’s responsible for granular research and incisive analysis, and his insights and recommendations are heard at the highest levels of the U.S. government.

Nukes for the Ayatollah

December 30th, 2019

The acquisition of nuclear weapons has long been a central goal of Iran’s revolutionary Islamist rulers.

President Obama concluded a deal to delay that eventuality. His claim that the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action would stop Iran’s supreme leader from achieving this capability was never justified.

President Trump withdrew from the unsigned JCPOA, and has been waging what he calls a “maximum pressure” campaign to prevent the theocrats from achieving their goal. They’ve not given up yet – nor have they agreed to new negotiations.

Joining Foreign Podicy host and FDD president Cliff May to discuss the current state of nuclear play are Andrea Stricker, a research fellow at FDD and an established expert on nuclear weapons proliferation and illicit procurement networks; and Behnam Ben Taleblu, a senior fellow at FDD where he focuses on Iranian security and political issues.

Special Edition: Defense Dialogue

December 16th, 2019

The threats facing the United States and its allies are not static. They grow. They transform. America’s defense strategies and defense budgets need to respond with creativity and muscularity.

In November, the U.S. Congress employed a legislative tool known as a Continuing Resolution (CR) to provide temporary funding for the U.S. Military. Now, in December, there is another funding deadline looming. But this kind of uncertainty puts America’s national security and our military personnel at heightened and unnecessary risk.

The day the CR expired, FDD’s Brad Bowman discussed these and related issues with Congressman Jim Banks of Indiana. Representative Banks, a member of the House Armed Services and Veterans Affairs Committees, is himself a veteran who deployed to Afghanistan in 2014 and 2015 — experience that gives him an especially informed voice. Brad serves as Senior Director of FDD’s Center on Military and Political Power. Brad previously worked as a senior director in the U.S. Senate, as well as an army officer, pilot, and assistant professor at West Point.

Israel and the Fire Next Time

November 25th, 2019

Israel is not always fighting a war but neither is it ever entirely at peace.

Most recently, a battle was fought in Gaza against Palestinian Islamic Jihad, a terrorist group supported and instructed by the Islamic Republic of Iran. Soon after, Israel hit threatening Iranian military installations in Syria.

To discuss Israel’s strategy for the battles and wars, present and future, Foreign Podicy host and FDD president Cliff May is joined by Gen. Jacob Nagel, a visiting fellow at FDD and a visiting professor at the Technion Aerospace Engineering Facility. In 2016 – 17, Gen. Nagel served as head of Israel’s National Security Council, and as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s National Security Advisor. He also headed the “Nagel Committee” which was responsible for Israel’s decision to develop the Iron Dome missile defense system.

Also joining the discussion is Jonathan Schanzer, FDD’s senior vice president for research who has written extensively about the Middle East in general and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in particular.

Troubles Mount in Lebanon

November 4th, 2019

For weeks, the people of Lebanon have been taking to the streets to demonstrate against the political class that rules them – or, rather, misrules them. They’re protesting corruption, economic mismanagement, high unemployment and poor government services.

But there’s something else at work, something much of the media are reluctant to report: the extent to which Hezbollah, a proxy of the Islamic Republic of Iran, a terrorist organization deeply involved in international organized crime, now calls the shots in Lebanon.

FDD research fellow Tony Badran, Lebanon born and bred, and Reuel Marc Gerecht, a former CIA operative, now a senior fellow at FDD, join Foreign Podicy host Cliff May to discuss the turmoil in the Levant and the policy responses of the United States and other countries.

The Rise and Incomplete Fall of the Islamic State

October 14th, 2019

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi — five years ago proclaimed the caliph of the Islamic State — has been eliminated by American Special Operators in Syria, underscoring both the importance of having boots on Syrian ground and the benefits of partnering with Kurdish-led forces.

In this episode of Foreign Podicy, FDD founder and president Clifford D. May offers thoughts on this development. Then, in a conversation recorded prior to the death of ‘Big Baghdadi’, Cliff discusses the Islamic State in a broader context with Seth Frantzman, author of After ISIS: America, Iran and the Struggle for the Middle East, based on four years of on-the-ground reporting from ten countries in the region,  and John Hannah, senior counselor at FDD and former national security advisor to Vice President Dick Cheney.

Whose Side is Turkey On?

September 23rd, 2019

Turkey is a NATO ally that claims also to be on the same side as the United States in the international fight against terrorism.

Nevertheless, has Turkey — under President Erdogan — become what is known as “a permissive jurisdiction for illicit and terror finance?”

A lawsuit leading to that conclusion has now been filed against a bank, partly owned by the Turkish government, on behalf of an American victim of terrorism and members of his family.

Foreign Podicy host Cliff May is joined by Jonathan Missner, an attorney representing the plaintiffs, in his first interview about this case. Jon is managing partner of Stein Mitchell Beato & Missner LLP and chair of the firm’s Global Practices and Corporate Strategy Groups. He’s also an adjunct professor of law at Georgetown University Law Center.

Akyan Erdemir, a former member of the Turkish parliament, now a senior fellow at FDD, and Jonathan Schanzer, FDD’s senior vice president for research, also join the discussion — focusing on where Turkey is going, and the implications for the United States and Middle East.

Zombie Socialism

August 26th, 2019

In 2002, scholar Joshua Muravchik wrote a history of socialism which he thought would serve as the epitaph for an experiment that had failed over and over in country after country around the world, including in Europe, Latin America, Asia and Africa. But socialism has now risen from the grave — including in the United States.

Dr. Muravchik joins Foreign Podicy host Clifford D. May to discuss where this walking-dead ideology may be heading and who its victims are likely to be.

Syria’s Sorrow and Pity

July 29th, 2019

Over recent days, Syrian and Russian forces continued their bombing campaign against civilians in Syria's Idlib province — this time conducting airstrikes on a market, killing dozens.

Other examples of the Assad regime's assault on the Syrian people include the recent targeting of the hospitals that treat injured survivors. Russia and the Islamic Republic of Iran are aiding and abetting this barbarism. Also underway: efforts by Iran’s rulers to colonize Syria. The so-called international community is mostly turning a blind eye and, in some cases, actually facilitating the continuing carnage, occupation and population displacements.

To better understand who is committing these war crimes and why, host Clifford D. May is joined by Mouaz Moustafa, executive director of the Syrian Emergency Task Force; and David Adesnik, FDD’s director of research.

Fraternal Islamists: Getting to Know the Muslim Brotherhood

July 1st, 2019

For 1,300 years, there were caliphs — “successors” to the Prophet Muhammad. In 1924, however, the last caliph, Abdulmecid II was sent into exile by Mustafa Kemal — Ataturk, father of the secular Republic of Turkey.

In Egypt, four years later, Hassan al-Banna founded the Muslim Brotherhood – an organization dedicated to reviving the caliphate, and uniting Muslims around the world.

In its motto, the Brotherhood declares: “The Quran is our law; Jihad is our way; dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope.”

What’s the state of the Muslim Brotherhood today? How serious a threat does it represent? And what should be done about it?

To find and discuss the answers, host Cliff May is joined by Samuel Tadros, senior fellow at the Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom, and Jonathan Schanzer, FDD’s senior vice president for research.

Venezuela: A Riches to Rags Story

June 3rd, 2019

More than 50 nations now recognize Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s legitimate interim president. But Cuba, Russia, Iran and China have formed an anti-American and authoritarian alliance to prop up Nicolas Maduro who, following in the footsteps of Hugo Chavez, has turned what was once a wealthy, free and promising land into an impoverished and oppressive hellhole.

To discuss what went wrong and why, and what may happen next, host Cliff May is by FDD Senior Fellow Emanuele Ottolenghi.

Israelis stay the course

April 29th, 2019

In the Middle East, elections are few, far between and rarely free and fair – except in Israel. After a tight, tough race, Benjamin Netanyahu has again been chosen by Israelis, positioning him to become Israel’s longest-serving prime minister. FDD senior vice president Jonathan Schanzer was on the ground during the final days of the campaign. He joins host Cliff May to discuss the outcome and what lies ahead for Israel and the Middle East. 

International Orders and Disorders

April 15th, 2019

Yoram Hazony is a political philosopher, president of the Herzl Institute in Jerusalem, and the author—most recently—of a book that’s been stirring controversy: “The Virtue of Nationalism.” He joins host Cliff May to discuss tribalism, nationalism, imperialism, freedom, sovereignty, and globalism.

Israel on the Brink, As Usual

April 1st, 2019

Israeli elections are approaching, President Trump’s envoys are working on a new plan aimed at resolving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and officials of the Islamic Republic of Iran continue to threaten the Jewish state with annihilation.

To help make sense of these complex challenges, host Cliff May is joined by former Ambassador Daniel Shapiro and FDD Senior Vice President and expert on Palestinian politics Jonathan Schanzer. Prior toserving as U.S. envoy to Israel under President Obama from 2011 to 2017, Ambassador Shapiro worked on both the Hill and the National Security Council. He is currently a distinguished visiting fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University.

In the Line of Fire: Human Shields

March 18th, 2019

War is always going to be hell, but the laws of war are intended to make armed conflicts a little less hellish.

With that in mind, Congress recently passed—and the president signed—critical new legislation against the use of human shields: putting civilians in the line of fire to protect combatants. But more remains to be done.

To discuss this war crime, host Cliff May is joined by FDD CEO Mark Dubowitz and FDD Senior Fellow Professor Orde Kittrie, who have been working long and hard to counter what Ambassador Nikki Haley told Cliff is “the most cowardly act you can imagine.”


From the episode:
"Get Serious About Human Shields" by Mark Dubowitz and Orde Kittrie in The Wall Street Journal:

"Lawfare: Law as a Weapon of War" by Orde Kittrie (Oxford University Press, 2016:

Cliff's interview with Ambassador Nikki Haley at FDD's National Security Summit (video and transcript):

Mark and Orde speaking at FDD's panel on Capitol Hill "Legal Implications Surrounding the Use of Human Shields" (video):

More from Mark:

More from Orde:

More from Cliff:

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