Steven A. Cook

From the Potomac to the Euphrates

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

Weekend Reading: Turkey’s Brass Goes to Jail, More on U.S.-Egypt Relations, and Digesting the Syrian Revolution

by Steven A. Cook Friday, September 28, 2012
A Turkish vendor sells dates and dried fruits at the Egyptian Bazaar in Istanbul (Murad Sezer/Courtesy Reuters). A Turkish vendor sells dates and dried fruits at the Egyptian Bazaar in Istanbul (Murad Sezer/Courtesy Reuters).

Mustafa Akyol writes about his mixed feelings on the Sledgehammer case trials in Turkey.

Nour Bakr on Egypt Monocle, reflects on the recent questions concerning the U.S.-Egypt relationship. Read more »

Morsi in New York: Making a Brand New Start of It

by Steven A. Cook Monday, September 24, 2012
Flags fly in front of the United Nations Headquarters in New York (Brendan McDermid/Courtesy Reuters). Flags fly in front of the United Nations Headquarters in New York (Brendan McDermid/Courtesy Reuters).

Perhaps the most anticipated speech at this year’s UN General Assembly meeting will be that of Egypt’s new president, Mohammed Morsi. The annual heads-of-state palooza at Turtle Bay is generally a yawner where very little news is made. The Turkish delegation’s brawl with UN security was the only memorable moment last year. In the past, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad and Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez could always be counted on for some shock value, but they have grown tedious. The flap about where Muammar Qadhafi would pitch his tent in 2009 was fun, but only in a sort of grotesque way—that was the rehabilitated Qadhafi who was morphed into an “eccentric desert leader” rather than the ruthless dictator he really was. Read more »

Weekend Reading: Understanding Sinai Through Maps, Misguided Anger, and Algeria’s Foreign Policy

by Steven A. Cook Saturday, September 22, 2012
A man reads the newspaper at a vendor's stall in Sanaa (Mohamed Al-Sayaghi/Courtesy Reuters). A man reads the newspaper at a vendor's stall in Sanaa (Mohamed Al-Sayaghi/Courtesy Reuters).

The Multinational Force & Observers’ interactive map of the Sinai.

Robin Yassin-Kassab, on his blog Qunfuz, says that last week’s protests sparked by a video mocking Mohammed are misguided, calling them a distraction from the really serious issues in the region. Read more »

Hello, West? It Really Is About the Movie

by Guest Blogger for Steven A. Cook Wednesday, September 19, 2012
Hardee's and a Kentucky Fried Chicken fast food outlet burns after protesters set the building on fire in Tripoli, northern Lebanon (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters). Hardee's and a Kentucky Fried Chicken fast food outlet burns after protesters set the building on fire in Tripoli, northern Lebanon (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters).

My friend and tweep, Ramy Yaacoub, penned today’s post. He disagrees with my piece, Mohammed, KFC, and US. He argues that the protests in the Muslim world are actually about an offensive movie and differing worldviews rather than a history of subordination to the West. It’s well done. I’m sure you’ll be hearing from Ramy again. Follow him on Twitter: @RamyYaacoub Read more »

No One Puts Morsi in a Corner

by Steven A. Cook Tuesday, September 18, 2012
Egypt's President Mohammed Morsi attends a meeting at the presidential palace in Cairo (Amr Dalsh/Courtesy Reuters). Egypt's President Mohammed Morsi attends a meeting at the presidential palace in Cairo (Amr Dalsh/Courtesy Reuters).

Last week after the attack on the U.S. embassy in Cairo, American officials, political candidates, and pundits were asking, “Where is Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi?  How come he hasn’t made a strong statement about the attacks on our embassy? Why has he been so elusive?”  After a couple of days, Morsi did release a statement, but it was equivocal at best, falling well short of what Washington and the policy community deemed necessary. Yet from Morsi’s perspective it was the politically rational thing to do.  Indeed, there are no easy answers to this question except to say:  given what is at stake in Egypt broadly and, in particular, for Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood, the Egyptian president was never going to meet Washington’s expectations to denounce the protests in the way that satisfied Americans. Read more »

Meet the New Boss

by Steven A. Cook Monday, September 17, 2012
Shite Muslim supporters of the Imamia Student Organization (ISO) shout slogans as they burn a U.S. flag during an anti-American demonstration in Peshawar (Fayaz Aziz/Courtesy Reuters). Shite Muslim supporters of the Imamia Student Organization (ISO) shout slogans as they burn a U.S. flag during an anti-American demonstration in Peshawar (Fayaz Aziz/Courtesy Reuters).

This article was originally published here on ForeignPolicy.com on Friday, September 14, 2012

The attacks on the U.S. Embassy in Cairo and U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, this Sept. 11 echoed the worst moments of American impotence in the Middle East. They not only evoked memories of Iranian revolutionaries storming the U.S. Embassy in Tehran almost 33 years ago, but their occurrence on the anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington further reminded Americans of the deep roots of anti-American rage in the Arab world. Read more »

Weekend Reading: Snapshots of Protests in the Middle East

by Steven A. Cook Saturday, September 15, 2012
Protesters climb a fence at the U.S. embassy in Sanaa (Mohamed Al-Sayaghi/Courtesy Reuters). Protesters climb a fence at the U.S. embassy in Sanaa (Mohamed Al-Sayaghi/Courtesy Reuters).

Nafeesa Syeed provides a closer look at the ongoing protests at the U.S. embassy in Sana’a, Yemen.

Evan Hill offers an interesting analysis of the anti-American demonstrations sweeping the Arab world. Read more »

Egypt: Mohammed, KFC, and US

by Steven A. Cook Friday, September 14, 2012
A protester shouts slogans as he waves an Egyptian flag before a line of riot police along a road leading to the U.S. embassy, near Tahrir Square in Cairo (Amr Dalsh/Courtesy Reuters). A protester shouts slogans as he waves an Egyptian flag before a line of riot police along a road leading to the U.S. embassy, near Tahrir Square in Cairo (Amr Dalsh/Courtesy Reuters).

I have been traveling most of this week, watching events in the Middle East unfold from the American heartland.  The reaction among many of the people there was a mix of shock, anxiety, and fear.  They also wanted to know why people are storming U.S. diplomatic compounds.  Americans are in disbelief that this is happening over a movie that no one has ever heard of, much less seen.  In that they are correct.  Events in Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Sudan, and now Malaysia are far more complicated than an offensive movie and the madness of those who sought to provoke this violence by making it as well as those who have capitalized on it to encourage violence. Read more »

Egypt and the IMF: It’s Complicated

by Steven A. Cook Monday, September 10, 2012
Egypt's President Morsi meets with IMF Managing Director Lagarde at the Presidential Palace in Cairo (Amr Dalsh/Courtesy Reuters). Egypt's President Morsi meets with IMF Managing Director Lagarde at the Presidential Palace in Cairo (Amr Dalsh/Courtesy Reuters).

On Saturday, activists affiliated with the Popular Campaign to Drop Egypt’s Debt held a meeting at Cairo’s Press Syndicate to discuss ways to oppose the Egyptian government’s plan to sign a deal with the International Monetary Fund. Egyptian government spokesmen indicate that they hope to complete an agreement within the next two months. Negotiations have continued since Christine Lagarde visited Cairo in August and while the Fund’s representatives and the Egyptians have held the terms of the deal close to the vest because nothing has been finalized, there have been reports that the Egyptians would get five years to pay back a $4.8 billion loan (with a 39-month grace period) at a 1.1 percent interest rate. Even though Egypt’s needs are ten times more than what is currently on the table, an IMF agreement would likely unlock other sources of investment and loans by signaling to the international community that Egypt is a safe place to invest. Read more »