VICE Investigates’ second episode, “A Middle East Divided” follows VICE Founder Shane Smith as he travels to Yemen, Israel, Bahrain, and Lebanon to take a look at the Middle East’s shifting geopolitical landscape and better understand the tensions in the region.
To say the situation in the Middle East is complicated would be an understatement. VICE News as had reporters on the ground in countries all over the Middle East for decades covering various conflicts. Smith’s goal for the episode is to better explain the changing status of the regional conflict as Saudi Arabia and Iran gather their allies. Additionally, Trump’s policies have had a major impact on the region. By speaking to political leaders as well as people on the ground directly affected by the policies in place, Smith is able to piece together what is happening within bite-size portions for people like me, who are mostly unfamiliar with Middle Eastern politics, to understand.
In addition to being able to get a quote from the President of Iran, Hassan Rouhani, while at the UN General Assembly, the most interesting part of the episode is Smith’s interview with Jared Kushner, who in addition to being married to Ivanka Trump, is the Senior Advisor to the President of the United States and has become a major voice in regards to Middle Eastern policy. Smith focuses his questions on Trump’s policies regarding Iran and his new budding alliance with Suadi Arabia as well as Kushner’s controversial peace policy. Kusher is a bizarre figure and his inexperience shows in a lot of his answers, especially when compared with other experts that are interviewed.
Smith addresses Kushner’s peace plan which laid out an economic plan for the region. The plan was pushed during the Peace to Prosperity workshop in June of this year which took place in Bahrain. However, the plan was basically dead on arrival as Smith pointed out, since Palestinian officials boycotted the event in protest of the Trump administration’s decision to move the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
“A Middle East Divided” highlights some of the repercussions from the decision to move the embassy including showing the violence that broke along the Gaza Strip. The episode showed the opening of the new embassy and the protesters on both sides. The most interesting part was the Isreali police who were hell-bent on not letting Smith speak to the Palestinians gathered at the event, including Ahmad Tibi, a Deputy Speaker in The Knesset, the unicameral national legislature of Israel. Tibi said the timing of the move is “provocative and shameful.” The Palestinians see Jerusalem as their capital and a key part of their ongoing negotiations with Isreal. Considering the United States’ relationship with Isreal, it is rare to see mainstream media feature a Palestinian voice. While I knew the move of the embassy was controversial and overall bad, I didn’t necessarily know why until now.
In addition to the Trump administration’s policy decisions in Isreal, Smith also covers how the White House is handling its relationship with the Saudis. Currently, the United States provides Saudi Arabia with millions of dollars in arms while the country is locked in a war with Yemen, fighting a group that is anti-American and anti-Isreali. Relations with the country have been complicated since 9/11 and while Trump has been able to strengthen them since taking office, the current King of Saudi Arabia Mohammad bin Salman has most recently been accused of murdering a Saudi journalist. The United States’ allying itself with tyrannical leaders is concerning, to say the least.
“A Middle East Divided” delves into each part of the region as best as it can in the time allotted but with a situation so complicated, it is hard to say if anything was really properly explained. The episode would have been better it was two or three episodes, each focused on the separate issues. While the transitions between issues are done well, it still feels like there was a lot left to cover. That being said, the situation in the Middle East is incredibly complicated and while I still don’t feel confident speaking on it in the way I do other political issues, I do feel that I learned a lot, especially in regard to how Trump’s decisions have impacted the region. Overall, if you are looking for a crash course on the current state of the region, “A Middle East Divided” is a good place to start.
VICE Investigates is streaming now on Hulu with new episodes dropping once a month.
VICE Investigates Season 1, Episode 2 - A Middle East Divided
The episode would have been better it was two or three episodes, each focused on the separate issues. That being said, the situation in the Middle East is incredibly complicated and while I still don’t feel confident speaking on it in the way I do other political issues, I do feel that I learned a lot, especially in regard to how Trump’s decisions have impacted the region.