Steven A. Cook

From the Potomac to the Euphrates

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

Weekend Reading: Morsi’s First Year, Qatar’s Royal Family, and Political Islam in Tunisia

by Steven A. Cook Friday, June 28, 2013
Islamists, members of the brotherhood, and supporters of Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi shout slogans holding the Holy Quran during a protest around the Raba El-Adwyia mosque square in the suburb of Nasr City, Cairo (Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Courtesy Reuters).

Steve Negus, writing on, reviews President Mohammed Morsi’s first year.

visual of Qatar’s ruling family, the al-Thani dynasty, depicting family dynamics of the recent succession. Read more »

The Strong Man at His Weakest

by Steven A. Cook Thursday, June 20, 2013
Supporters hold a poster of Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan during a rally of ruling AK party in Istanbul June 16, 2013 (Murad Sezer/Courtesy Reuters).

This article was originally published here on on Wednesday, June 19, 2013.

“Re-cep Tay-yip Er-do-gan! Re-cep Tay-yip Er-do-gan!” chanted supporters of the Turkish prime minister, as a friend and I made our way through the absolutely mammoth crowd that descended on the Kazlicesme area of Istanbul last Sunday to hear their leader speak. As with Erdogan’s rally in the capital, Ankara, the day before, the people who turned out here, many of whom were decked out in scarves, T-shirts, and masks supporting the prime minister, vastly outnumbered the Gezi Park protesters who have captured global headlines. Young, old, well-to-do, decidedly modest, religious, and secular all declared their devotion to the Justice and Development Party (AKP) and Erdogan. When the prime minister surveyed the 295,000 souls who had come to express their devotion and thundered, “Taksim Square is not Turkey!” it was a vindication of his vision, his economic policies, and the strength of his leadership. Yet the irony was that at Kazlicesme, Erdogan’s demonstration of strength revealed his profound weakness and political vulnerability. Read more »

Weekend Reading: Parks and Turks, Red Lines, and Iran’s Elections

by Steven A. Cook Friday, June 14, 2013
Men stand in line to vote during the Iranian presidential election at a mosque in Qom, 120 km (74.6 miles) south of Tehran June 14, 2013 (Mohammad Akhlag/Courtesy Reuters).

Timur Hammond and Elizabeth Angell discuss the transformation of Turkey’s public spaces into spheres of public and engaged discourse. Read more »

How Europe Can Save Turkey

by Steven A. Cook Monday, June 10, 2013
Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan gestures during the Ministry for European Union Affairs' EU-Istanbul Conference in Istanbul June 7, 2013 (Osman Orsal/Courtesy Reuters).

This article was originally published in the Washington Post on Friday, June 7, 2013.

In the past five years, Turkey has veered from what was once a promising path of liberal democracy — and the European Union can pull it back. Read more »

Weekend Reading: Turkey: Democrats and Liberals, #OccupyGezi, and Fethullah Gulen

by Steven A. Cook Friday, June 7, 2013
Anti-government protesters and other men pray during Friday prayers in Istanbul's Taksim square June 7, 2013 (Yannis Behrakis/Courtesy Reuters).

Suat Kiniklioglu discusses the reasons behind Turkey’s democrats and Liberals’ support for the protests, despite their traditional pro-AKP stance.

The OccupyGezi Tumblr blog, with updated pictures of the protests sweeping Turkey. Read more »

Keep Calm, Erdogan

by Steven A. Cook Tuesday, June 4, 2013
A demonstrator waves Turkey's national flag as he sits on a monument during a protest against Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan and his ruling AKP in central Ankara, 2013 (Umit Bektas/Courtesy Reuters).

This article was originally published on on Monday, June 3, 2013. 

When Recep Tayyip Erdogan was mayor of Istanbul in the mid-1990s, he did what successful big city mayors do — he made life a little easier for the millions of residents of his beautiful, maddening megalopolis. Erdogan cleaned up the garbage in the streets, unknotted traffic, and literally cleared the air by introducing environmentally friendlier public transportation. Always one for grand ambitions, during his tenure at City Hall the future prime minister made a now often repeated statement to a journalist from the daily Milliyet, “Democracy,” he declared, “is like a tram. You ride it until you arrive at your destination, then you step off.” Read more »

How Democratic Is Turkey?

by Steven A. Cook Monday, June 3, 2013
An anti-government protester holds Turkey's national flag with a portrait of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, founder of modern Turkey, on it during a demostration in Ankara late June 2, 2013 (Umit Bektas/Courtesy Reuters).

This article that I co-authored with my good friend and colleague Michael Koplow was originally published on on Sunday, June 2, 2013.  Read more »