The politics of the Middle East and the history of the region are so complex they can quickly become daunting. I found two programs of Fresh Air, hosted by the amazing Terry Gross, to be very helpful.
On Wednesday, 7/19/06, she interviewed Vali Nasr, professor of Middle East and South Asia politics at the Naval Postgraduate School, who spoke primarily about the Shia strain of Islam. He's the author of The Shia Revival: How Conflicts Within Islam Will Shape the Future.
Her second guest was New Yorker writer Jeffrey Goldberg, who spoke about Hezbollah. He interviewed Hezbollah leaders for a 2002 article, "In the Party of God: Are Terrorists in Lebanon Preparing for a Larger War?" His being Jewish made for an interesting dynamic!
Meanwhile on Thursday, 7/20/06, she interviewed "Julia Choucair… an associate in the Democracy and Rule of Law Project at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and the deputy editor of the Carnegie's e-monthly, the Arab Reform Bulletin" on the subject of " Political Reform in the Arab World."
Thanks, NPR! Keep it coming!