Through one man’s journey from al-Qaeda bomb-maker to MI6 agent, Conflicted explores the historic, religious and political tensions that have embroiled the Middle East for decades.
Aimen Dean, an ex-jihadi who joined al-Qaeda at 16 only to become a British double agent by 20, tells his story alongside co-host Thomas Small – a former monk in training who decided instead to spend several years travelling the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East.
Each week, Thomas and Aimen walk us through a sprawling conflict that spans continents and stretches through decades – from Bosnia to Yemen, from 9/11 to the Arab Spring, from Al Qaeda to ISIS. At each stage, our hosts unpack complexities and unravel common misconceptions with a refreshing combination of high-level analysis and candid intimacy. All that combined with an uncanny ability to work in the odd Rambo III reference when you might least expect it.
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What compels a jihadi to take up arms in defence of Islam? How are they recruited – and where are they recruited from? In the final episode of this series, Aimen gets into the specifics of the importance of a prophetic narrative and why so many fighters travelled to Syria from every corner of the globe to join ISIS. We’ll also find out how Aimen was finally outed as an MI6 spy inside al-Qaeda and how he escaped.
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SYRIA This episode brings us to one of the most complicated conflicts raging in the Middle East. Thomas and Aimen, who both know the country well, walk us through the actors and their motives. They’ll also explain how Syria became such a killing field as a result of the Arab Spring and how Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a onetime eye-doctor in London, played a direct role in the failure of the American post-war project, as he released Syria’s jihadists from prison and facilitated their migration to Iraq.
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YEMEN The Yemeni civil war is one of the most brutal civil wars in the Middle East. As it continues to rage on, Thomas and Aimen explain who the players are in this conflict, why it is all about Water, and the reasons Saudi Arabia and UAE are using it to fight an existential war of future survival with their arch rival, Iran.
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IRAQ Last week Aimen left listeners with a final thought: the biggest mistake in the War on Terror was the invasion of Iraq. This week, our hosts explain how this explosive conflict played into the jihadists’ apocalyptic dreams, how it spurred Osama bin Laden and other conflicts forward in neighbouring countries, and his frustrations as a double agent as he watched the region falling deeper into war.
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WAR ON TERROR The War on Terror has lasted 18 years with no clear end in sight. What would it take to resolve a conflict this sprawling and complex - and resolve it successfully? In episode two, Aimen and Thomas grapple with this question, exploring how the counter terrorism efforts of the west have spurred fundamentalism rather than dismantled it.
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9/11 Where were you on 9/11? Our hosts Thomas Small and Aimen Dean use this watershed moment as a starting point as they grapple with how al-Qaeda went from being a relatively small army of jihadists seeking a caliphate in the Middle East to main player, at the centre of the global stage.
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TRAILER Aimen Dean and Thomas Small, a former jihadi turned MI6 spy and trainee monk turned filmmaker, have been embedded at the heart of conflicts in the Middle East. Together, they unpack the realities of war, fundamentalism and their global implications through first-hand experience.