Explaining the Middle East to Western audiences requires a certain commitment that goes beyond veracity. To get a nicely balanced view of the many political and socioeconomic dimensions of the Middle East, your best bet is to read established authors who live in the region but have developed meaningful connections with Europe and the Americas. We are talking about writers who feel comfortable providing context to English language readers, and here are a few you should be following:
Robert Fisk, Correspondent for The Independent
Having lived in Beirut since the mid-1970s gives Robert Fisk an excellent perspective for reporting Middle East news. He is no stranger to reporting from the frontlines; he was assigned to Northern Ireland during some of the most violent years of the conflict known as “The Troubles,” and he would later cover the Lebanese Civil War happening just outside his door. Mr. Fisk is an excellent writer who has seen as much combat as hardened soldiers, and he has received numerous awards for excellence in journalism.
Amir Handjani, Atlantic Council Fellow
Following the money trail comes easy to Middle East Expert Amir Handjani. In a 2019 article published by Foreign Policy magazine, Handjani explained the rationale behind the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia purchasing a major stake in the Jamnagar Refinery complex in India, which happens to be the largest oil refinery in the world. At a time when Saudi Aramco recently underwent an initial public offering, reading articles penned by Handjani can give prospective investors solid insight; after all, he is the director of the Ras al Khaimah Petroleum Public Company.
David Gardner of the Financial Times
David Gardner is an award-winning journalist and editor who has been covering the Middle East since 1995, a few years after the first Persian Gulf changed the balance of power in the region, bringing about economic change and geopolitical strife. Gardner is a sharp observer of geopolitics; he does not pull punches when writing about military failures suffered by regional and foreign powers, and he has been closely following the war in Yemen for the purpose of explaining the mess that bumbling warring factions have created at the expense of thousands of civilian casualties.
Jonathan Spyer of the Jerusalem Post
Most of the columnists listed herein are based in the Middle East, and they also have a deep connection to the region. Jonathan Spyer was born in the United Kingdom, but he moved to Israel from a young age to serve in the Israeli Defense Forces. A degree from the London School of Economics in addition to his military experience make him a very interesting author to read; he has been covering armed conflict in Syria and Iraq since 2010, and he compiled his experiences and insights into a book released a couple of years ago. Spyer is the type of journalist who believes everything should be reported; when you read his articles, you get a sense of what is like to live in a war zone, and you also learn about the socioeconomic impact of armed conflict.