Steven A. Cook

From the Potomac to the Euphrates

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

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After the Arab Spring on

by Steven A. Cook
March 28, 2011

A Kingdom of Libya flag is seen during a demonstration in support of the Bahraini people in Baghdad's Sadr city (Stringer Iraq/Courtesy Reuters)

Hi folks,

Below is an excerpt from my piece on that appeared today. To read the full text, click here.

A couple of days before Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was finally forced from office, it rained in Cairo. When the storm passed and the sun re-appeared, one of the protesters pointed out on Twitter that a rainbow had appeared over downtown — a sign, she believed, of the freedom and prosperity that was to come. Caught up in the romance of the barricades, it was hard for demonstrators and democracy activists, in Egypt and beyond, not to think that way. It seemed that Middle East was on the verge of a democratic breakthrough. It was one thing for Tunisians to force a tin-pot dictator like Zine Abidine Ben Ali to flee to Jeddah, it was quite another for Egyptians to dump the Pharaoh. That’s not supposed to happen. And as Tunisians inspired Egyptians, what the revolutionaries in Cairo accomplished gave impetus to Pearl Square, where Bahrain’s own protesters have gathered, and to Benghazi, the base of Libya’s rebellion against Muammar Qaddafi. Yet the successes of Tahrir or November 7 squares have not easily translated to these other places. It seems entirely possible that the Arab spring could end on the banks of the Nile. What went wrong?

Post a Comment 2 Comments

  • Posted by Matt Handel

    Excellent article, Steven. Given your pessimism, what do you think are the implications for two of your favorite subjects:

    1. Turkey
    2. Israel

    With the potential for new blocs in the Arab world based on their response to the democracy protests, what are the opportunities and risks for both countries? And are you willing to predict where both will be a year from now in their relations with these blocs?

  • Posted by Steven Cook


    Thanks for your comment. The Israelis have much to be nervous about. The region in which they live is being rewired before their eyes at an astonishing speed. It’s clear that there is going to be a new relationship with Egypt and to the extent that public opinion will matter more in the foreign policies of other Arab countries, there will be demands to take a tougher line on Israel. What that means in practical terms is not yet clear, but you can imagine that the Egyptians will, for example, open the border with Gaza and the Jordanians will demands more accountability from the Israelis on the West Bank.

    Turkey’s days as regional leader may very well be numbered. Ankara has been able to play the role that is has been playing over the last five years because there was no leadership in the Arab world. That said, the Turks will still be players because their economic interests in the region are becoming more and more substantial.

    Thanks for reading.

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