Steven A. Cook

From the Potomac to the Euphrates

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

Egypt’s Nexus of Power

by Guest Blogger for Steven A. Cook Wednesday, July 31, 2013
Egypt's Defense Minister Abdel Fattah al Sisi is seen during a news conference in Cairo (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters).

My dear friend, Nervana Mahmoud, an Egyptian-born doctor in the UKis a keen observer of Egyptian politics.  Her article below discusses power dynamics among Egypt’s principal political actors and how those dynamics might play out in the next presidential elections there. Enjoy… Read more »

Turkish Double Speak: Realism Trumps Idealism in The AKP Era

by Guest Blogger for Steven A. Cook Tuesday, July 30, 2013
Turkey's Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu (Umit Bektas/Courtesy Reuters).

The article below, about the AKP’s foreign policy in the Middle East, was written by my friend and colleague, Aaron Stein. I hope you find it interesting. 

In September 2011, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was being hailed from Marrakesh to Bangladesh for his country’s handling of the Arab revolts. Ankara was an adamant supporter of the uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia, and, after being presented with the equivalent of a diplomatic fait accompli from its Western allies, supported the military intervention in Libya. On the whole, Turkey’s rhetorical embrace of Arab democracy positioned Ankara as the natural “face” of the new Middle East and as a potential model for the three countries in transition. Yet, after a brief moment of Pax-Turkana in the region, Turkey’s transcendent foreign policy began a rapid decline. While Turkey’s democratic and economic progress were often cited as the reasons for Turkey’s growing regional role, Ankara has never included democracy promotion as a key pillar of its regional strategy. Read more »

Weekend Reading: Al-Qaeda’s Spring, Tunisia’s Violence, and Palestine’s Perspective

by Steven A. Cook Saturday, July 27, 2013
A Muslim man reads the Koran at the Al-Rajhi mosque east of Riyadh, during the holy month of Ramadan (Faisal Al Nasser/Courtesy Reuters).

Musa al-Gharbi claims that the Arab Spring has failed to render al-Qaeda irrelevant, and it is now on the verge of resurgence.

Tunisia-Live’s live blog for updates on Thursday’s assassination of Mohammed Brahmi, leader of the opposition Popular Movement Party in Tunisia. Read more »

A Faustian Pact: Generals as Democrats

by Steven A. Cook Friday, July 26, 2013
Protesters hold a poster featuring the head of Egypt's armed forces General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in Tahrir Square in Cairo (Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Courtesy Reuters).

This article was originally published here in the New York Times on July 25, 2013.

The luxurious officers’ club of Egypt’s elite Republican Guard sits near downtown Cairo, its pool and patios surrounded by high walls with reliefs and paintings lauding Egypt’s military history, going back to the pharaohs. Where a huge poster of the deposed president Hosni Mubarak once stood, a new one declares: “The Army. The People. One Hand.” Read more »

Presidents and Pretenders: Meet Egypt’s New Government

by Steven A. Cook Tuesday, July 23, 2013
Egypt's interim President Adli Mansour attends a meeting with U.S. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns at El-Thadiya presidential palace in Cairo, July 15, 2013 (Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Courtesy Reuters).

This article was originally published here on on July 22,2013.

On July 18, the tenth day of Ramadan, Egypt’s interim president, Adly Mansour, addressed the nation. The speech lasted ten minutes and was delivered in eloquent Arabic. Egyptians rejoiced. After two and a half politically grueling years during which, by virtually every measure, Egyptians became worse off than they had been before Hosni Mubarak’s 2011 fall, it had come to this: celebrating because the leader of the moment gave a speech that was short and intelligible. Read more »

Weekend Reading: Egypt’s Economy, Turkey’s Foreign Ministry, and Greening the West Bank

by Steven A. Cook Friday, July 19, 2013
People rest near Ramadan lanterns, or Fanoos Ramadan, which are displayed for sale at shops a day ahead of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan in Cairo (Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Courtesy Reuters).

Matt Phillips, writing for Quartz, provides some startling figures about Egypt’s economy following the ouster of former President Hosni Mubarak. Read more »

Echoes of Nasser

by Steven A. Cook Wednesday, July 17, 2013
Army soldiers take their positions on a bridge which leads to the Raba El-Adwyia mosque square, where members of the Muslim Brotherhood and supporters of ousted Egyptian President Muhammad Morsi are at, in Cairo July 4, 2013 (Louafi Larbi/Courtesy Reuters).

This article was originally published here on on Tuesday, July 16.

It was October 26, 1954, and Gamal Abdel Nasser was regaling a crowd gathered in Alexandria’s Manshiya Square. A Muslim Brother named Mahmoud Abdel Latif squeezed through the crowd and fired eight shots at the Egyptian leader, all of them missing. Perhaps Abdel Latif was a poor marksman or perhaps, as many have since wondered, the assassination attempt was staged — whatever the case, Nasser went on to finish his speech to the thunderous approval of his audience. The extraordinary boost in popularity that the failed assassination attempt gave Nasser and his military comrades provided the regime with wide latitude to crush the Muslim Brotherhood: In Cairo, activists soon destroyed the Brotherhood’s headquarters, while near the Suez Canal, regime supporters sacked Brotherhood-affiliated businesses. Read more »

Middle Eastern Mad Libs: “Egypt is ____________”

by Steven A. Cook Monday, July 15, 2013
Security personnel watch over supporters of former Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi during a demonstration outside the Republican Guard building in Cairo July 6, 2013 (Louafi Larbi/Courtesy Reuters).

After the January 25 uprising, uninformed observers asked “Is Turkey the ‘model’ for Egypt?” or “Will Egypt follow Indonesia’s path?”  Comparisons are always useful in the effort to explain how the world works, but under the circumstances it seemed that people were flailing away looking for something, anything to make sense of a new vastly more complicated Middle East.  If Egypt was Turkey—which at the time looked more liberal and prosperous than it does now—then perhaps for the many challenges that lay ahead for Egyptians (and U.S. interests), all would end well. Read more »

Weekend Reading: Egypt’s Narratives, Polarization, and Gas

by Steven A. Cook Friday, July 12, 2013
A poster of deposed Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi is seen as his supporters wait to break fast on the first day of Ramadan at the Rabaa Adawiya square where they are camping in Cairo July 10, 2013 (Khaled Abdullah/Courtesy Reuters).

Sarah Carr examines the implications of the divisive narratives that mark Egyptian discourse in the context of the June 30 uprising.

Nour Youssef explores the polarization of Egyptian discourse through the eyes of the anti-Morsi camp. Read more »

Egypt’s Civilians Should Control Military

by Steven A. Cook Friday, July 5, 2013
Protesters, who are against Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, react in Tahrir Square in Cairo July 3, 2013 (Suhaib Salem/Courtesy Reuters).

This article was originally published here at on Thursday, July 4, 2013.

For the millions of Egyptians celebrating President Mohamed Morsi’s ouster, the military’s move promises a brighter future. Yet the laudable democratic goals of Egypt’s twin revolutions will remain beyond reach so long as the officers continue to be the source of power and authority in the political system. Read more »