Steven A. Cook

From the Potomac to the Euphrates

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

Egypt: Constitutional Principles?

by Steven A. Cook Monday, April 30, 2012
Mohamed Mursi, head of Muslim Brotherhood's political party, and Brotherhood's new presidential candidate, talks during interview with Reuters in Cairo (Asmaa Waguih/Courtesy Reuters)

Egypt continues to be extraordinarily interesting.  As I write, we are expecting a cabinet reshuffle, there are rumors that Mohamed Morsi—the Muslim Brotherhood/Freedom and Justice Party candidate for president—will pull out of the race if the Brothers get a place in the new government, the Salafi al Nour party endorsed Abdel Monem Aboul Fotouh for president, and Mohamed ElBaradei has returned to the political arena with the formation of the Constitution Party.  All this occurred in a single weekend, which really isn’t the astonishing thing about these developments.  Rather, it is astonishing that Egypt has had more than a few weekends like this since Hosni Mubarak’s flight to Sharm El Sheikh in February 2011.  The last four weeks or so, in particular, have been a real barnburner as Egyptians gear up for the presidential election slated for May 23.  Throughout the ups and downs and twists and turns of Egyptian politics during the last 16 months observers—including myself—have held fast to a number of assumptions that form the basis of what’s become a standard narrative about the future of Egypt.  Yet, it is entirely unclear after all that has happened since the promising days and weeks after the uprising that these ideas reflect reality. Read more »

Weekend Reading: Women in the Arab World, Engaging Islamists, and the Great Wall of Israel

by Steven A. Cook Friday, April 27, 2012
Ultra-orthodox Jewish youths study the Talmud, a rabbinic interpretation of biblical law, inside their school's synagogue in Bnei Brak (Gil Cohen Magen/Courtesy Reuters)

A compilation of reactions to Mona el-Tahawy’s controversial piece, “Why Do They Hate Us?”.

Quinn Mecham writes a policy brief for POMED on a strategy for sustained engagement with Islamist parties. Read more »

Civil-Military Relations in Turkey, Objectively Speaking

by Steven A. Cook Monday, April 23, 2012
Turkish officers stand at attention during an official ceremony to mark the 88th anniversary of Republic Day at Anitkabir in Ankara (Umit Bektas)

Since January, I’ve written a few posts on fascinating developments in Turkey’s civil-military relations.  It is a critical and evolving story that will have long-lasting effects on Turkey’s political development.  Please let me know what you think. Read more »

Weekend Reading: The Greening of the Middle East?, War Drums in Sudan, and the Emirates vs. Iran

by Steven A. Cook Friday, April 20, 2012
Steven Cook reads Foreign Affairs in his office at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, DC (Alexander Brock)

Mohamed Abdel Raouf encourages renewable energy and green jobs in the Arab world.

The Arabist sheds light on the potential war between the Sudans. Read more »

Islamic Law and Justice for All?

by Guest Blogger for Steven A. Cook Tuesday, April 17, 2012
A general view of the opening session of Tunisia's constitutional assembly in Tunis (Zoubeir Souissi/Courtesy Reuters)

My dear friend, Nervana Mahmoud, an Egyptian-born doctor in the UK, is a keen observer of events in Egypt and the Middle East.  Her post on Islamic law and constitutions in the region is extraordinarily interesting.  Enjoy….

I once asked a Salafi acquaintance what he thought of Bouazizi. He paused for a moment then said: “He committed a major sin; he deserves the punishment of hell.” Then he added, “God has made from his bad action, something good.” I later asked a Muslim Brotherhood supporter the same question and his reply was roughly the same, except that he added “probably” to his verdict, showing slightly more sympathy and understanding. Read more »

Weekend Reading: Secularism in AKP’s Turkey, Extremism in Syria?, and Remembering Algeria’s Ben Bella

by Steven A. Cook Friday, April 13, 2012
A Muslim man reads the Koran on the second day of Ramadan in Khartoum (Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah/Courtesy Reuters)

Turan Kayaoglu argues that, despite opinions to the contrary, there is a way in which secularism is actually thriving in the AKP’s Turkey. Read more »

Egypt: The Omar Theories

by Steven A. Cook Thursday, April 12, 2012
A supporter of Egypt's former vice president Omar Suleiman uses a mobile phone near images of him during a gathering in Cairo (Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Courtesy Reuters)

It is fair to say that Omar Suleiman’s bid to be Egypt’s next president is one of the most unexpected developments in post-Mubarak Egypt.  The last time anyone had seen or heard from Suleiman, he appeared on Egyptian television and declared:

Citizens, in these difficult circumstances the country is going through, the President Mohamed Hosni Mubarak has decided to leave his position as president of the Republic, and has entrusted the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces to administer the nation’s affairs. Read more »

Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, Meet General Kenan Evren

by Steven A. Cook Monday, April 9, 2012
Turkey's former President Kenan Evren casts his vote during a referendum in Ankara (Umit Bektas/Courtesy Reuters)

Last Wednesday was a big day in Turkey. General Kenan Evren, the leader of the September 12, 1980 coup d’etat, was charged in an Ankara courtroom with “acts against the forces of the state” during the military’s three year intervention that ended in 1983.  This development may not be as earth-shattering as the fall of Middle Eastern dictators or Syria’s collapse into civil war, but most Turks and observers of Turkey never thought they would see the likes of Evren in the dock.   True, the Turkish government has spent the better part of the last two years prosecuting a bevy of army officers for crimes—both real and imagined—against the state, but Evren seemed untouchable. Read more »

Weekend Reading/Viewing: Media in the MENA

by Steven A. Cook Friday, April 6, 2012
A boy reads the Koran at Al Fatima Al Quran, a religious seminary, in Lahore (Mohsin Raza/Courtesy Reuters)

The Mosireen Collective, an Egyptian video project, recently nominated for “Best Video Channel” category of the distinguished Deutsche Welle International Blog awards (The BOBs)

Zeinab El Gundy for Ahram Online interviews some of the most influential Twitter users during Egypt’s revolution, getting their opinions on the role of the social media network going forward. Read more »

Don’t Fear a Nuclear Arms Race in the Middle East

by Steven A. Cook Tuesday, April 3, 2012
Iran's President Ahmadinejad speaks during a ceremony at the Natanz nuclear enrichment facility (Caren Firouz/Courtesy Reuters)

This article was originally published here on on Monday, April 3, 2012. 

On March 21, Haaretz correspondent Ari Shavit wrote a powerful op-ed in the New York Times that began with this stark and stunning claim: “An Iranian atom bomb will force Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Egypt to acquire their own atom bombs.” Indeed, it has become axiomatic among Middle East watchers, nonproliferation experts, Israel’s national security establishment, and a wide array of U.S. government officials that Iranian proliferation will lead to a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. President Barack Obama himself, in a speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) last month, said that if Iran went nuclear, it was “almost certain that others in the region would feel compelled to get their own nuclear weapon.” Read more »