Steven A. Cook

From the Potomac to the Euphrates

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

Guest Post: Kurdish Issue,Turkish Problem

by Guest Blogger for Steven A. Cook Monday, October 29, 2012
Turkey's PM Erdogan attends a meeting with members of his ruling AK Party at his party headquarters in Ankara (Umit Bektas/Courtesy Reuters).

My friend and colleague, Dov Friedman, was nice enough to guest post while I’m convalescing from a recent injury. Enjoy.

Over the last six months, the Turkish military and the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) have renewed clashes and Kurdish groups have asserted control in northern Syria.  These developments reminded observers—if such a reminder was even necessary—that Turkey’s so-called “Kurdish Question” remains unresolved.  Yet, exactly how the ongoing conflict is called ties intimately into the search for a solution. Read more »

Weekend Reading: Women and Early Islam, Yemen’s Separatists, and Syrian Refugees in Egypt

by Steven A. Cook Friday, October 26, 2012
A vendor sits at the doorway of his shop in Hebron (Ammar Awad/Courtesy Reuters).

Weekend Reading: Deja Vu in Egypt?, Lebanese Security, and Jihadists in Syria

by Steven A. Cook Friday, October 19, 2012
An elderly man walks past street vendors waiting for customers at a market place in Sanaa (Khaled Abdullah Ali Al Mahdi/Courtesy Reuters).

Ibrahim El-Houdaiby wonders if Egypt’s Islamists will make the same mistakes as previous regimes.

Qifa Nabki offers an interesting profile of Wissam al-Hassan, the head of Lebanon’s Information Branch of the Internal Security Forces, who was assassinated in today’s attack in Beirut. Read more »

Weekend Reading: One on Egypt, Two on Turkey

by Steven A. Cook Friday, October 12, 2012
Tourists stroll at the Grand Bazaar, which was built during the Ottoman-era, in Istanbul (Murad Sezer/Courtesy Reuters).

Sarah Carr offers her reflections from Cairo during the march commemorating the one year anniversary of the Maspero massacre.

Stefan Fule, the EU commissioner responsible for enlargement policy, says that the project of Turkey’s accession to the EU has not been abandoned, despite widespread sentiment to the contrary. Read more »

Thinking About Algeria and “Analytic Overshooting”

by Steven A. Cook Tuesday, October 9, 2012
Algeria's President and head of the Armed Forces Abdelaziz Bouteflika (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters).

In the fall of 1991, Robert A. Mortimer writing in the Middle East Journal declared, “Although the leaders of the post-independence generation feared that a pluralistic Algeria would be too unruly to govern, today’s political elite has moved beyond that position.” It was not to be, however. Just a few months after Mortimer’s article appeared, Algeria’s senior military commanders pushed President Chadli Bendjedid from office and nullified the results of the country’s first competitive national elections when it became clear that the Front Islamique du Salut would win an outright majority in the National Assembly. The civil conflict that followed the military’s intervention took the lives of somewhere in the neighborhood of 100,000 Algerians, though some estimates go much higher. Read more »

The U.S.-Israel Relationship: What’s Love Got to Do With It?

by Steven A. Cook Wednesday, October 3, 2012
U.S. President Ronald Reagan meeting Israeli delegation including Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Defense Minister Ariel Sharon in Washington, DC (Handout/Courtest Reuters)

If it is “unbreakable,” “unshakeable,” and “a common commitment,” the United States and Israel are sure to share it, at least that is what American politicians of all stripes have been telling the American people for as long as anyone can remember.  There are, of course, influential voices who question the premise of these ties, but for a variety of political, strategic, and moral reasons, Washington and Jerusalem have what is known as a “special relationship.”  This is essentially a fact of U.S.-Middle East policy, which is why the current conversation about relations between the countries is so curious. Suffice it to say that Israel’s supporters are deeply unhappy about the way things have gone since almost the moment President Obama took office.  It’s true, there were Obama missteps.  Sticking it to the Israelis over settlement growth was, in principle, a good thing, but doing it at the same time as offering to talk to the Iranian leadership about anything anywhere was not the best way to start off.  Still, this was more clumsy than an effort to undermine that unshakeable bond between Washington and Jerusalem. Read more »