Steven A. Cook

From the Potomac to the Euphrates

Cook examines developments in the Middle East and their resonance in Washington.

Egypt Update

by Steven A. Cook Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Situation here is fluid.  Conflicting reports of clashes and protestors gaining on police.  Al Jazeera showing footage of large protests in Cairo. Unconfirmed reports of very bad situation in Suez. No longer on the streets.  Will update.

Protests Rock Egypt

by Steven A. Cook Wednesday, January 26, 2011

It’s 2am and I am finally back in my hotel.  It’s been an extraordinary day.  Tens of thousands of Egyptians—perhaps more—took to the streets across the country to demand change.  Even the “Red Sea Riviera” was not spared the anger of Egyptians who are fed up with the brutality and lies of the regime.   Read more »

The Calculations of Tunisia’s Military

by Steven A. Cook Thursday, January 20, 2011

Tunisian army soldier stands in front of the headquarters of the Constitutional Democratic Rally party of ousted president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali during a demonstration in Tunis on January 20, 2011 (Zohra Bensemra/Courtesy Reuters)

Hi folks,

Below is my article on Tunisia that is now up on Foreign Policy. Enjoy.

Aren’t Middle Eastern militaries supposed to crack down and kick butt? Aren’t they supposed to be the “backbone” of regimes? The guarantors of last resort? The ultimate instrument of political control? Read any account of civil-military relations and the Middle East — including my own — and the answers to these questions are a resounding yes. So when the Tunisian armed forces, allegedly at the command of General Rashid Ammar, told Tunisian President Zine Abidine Ben Ali that the military would not shoot protesters demanding the strongman’s ouster and then pushed him from power, the commanders were clearly not playing to type. The role that the military has played in the Tunisian uprising thus far is intriguing and as Tunisia grapples with phase two of the post-Ben Ali era, what the military does (and doesn’t do) will be critical in the country’s political trajectory.

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Tunisia – The Weekend After

by Steven A. Cook Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A protester chants slogans as she holds a placard during a demonstration in downtown Tunis January 18, 2011. Tunisia’s new coalition government hit trouble on Tuesday, with three ministers quitting and an opposition party threatening to walk out in protest at the presence of members of the party of the ousted president. The placard reads, “No to a government born of corruption”. (Zohra Bensemra/Courtesy Reuters)

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The Last Days of Ben Ali III

by Steven A. Cook Friday, January 14, 2011

A man embraces a soldier as protesters walk past soldiers while shouting slogans during a demonstration against Tunisian President Ben Ali in Tunis (STR New/Courtesy Reuters)

Update: Hats off to those who saw the unraveling of Ben Ali’s regime coming.  The army moved in today and Ben Ali is no longer in control.  This is good, but only the first phase.  Best that I can tell from Washington, it seems that the military command has understood the demands from Tunisian society.  What they do now is crucial.  I know that the best way to support democracy is to support democracy, but in a way, the military’s intervention (and the way the officers intervened), may yet set the stage for a democratic Tunisia.

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