Steven A. Cook

From the Potomac to the Euphrates

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

RIP Turkey, 1921–2017

by Steven A. Cook Monday, April 17, 2017
Supporters of Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan celebrate in Istanbul (Huseyin Aldemir/Reuters).

This article was originally published here on ForeignPolicy.com on Sunday, April 16, 2017.

On Jan. 20, 1921, the Turkish Grand National Assembly passed the Teşkilât-ı Esasîye Kanunu, or the Law on Fundamental Organization. It would be almost three years until Mustafa Kemal — known more commonly as Ataturk, or “Father Turk” — proclaimed the Republic of Turkey, but the legislation was a critical marker of the new order taking shape in Anatolia. Read more »

Weekend Reading: Egyptian Copts, Libyan Political Culture, and Syria’s Pain

by Steven A. Cook Friday, April 14, 2017
A relative of one of the victims reacts after a church explosion killed at least 21 in Tanta, Egypt (Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Reuters).

Maged Atiya critiques how observers discuss the Copts of Egypt, who are in the process of acquiring new identities, at a time of increased violence against them.

Patrick Haimzadeh argues that a failure to incorporate local political culture is why a viable political settlement for Libya has not yet been achieved. Read more »

Welcome to Syria, President Trump: Years of Rational Policy Led to This Horror, and There’s No Easy Way Out

by Steven A. Cook Friday, April 7, 2017
U.S. President Donald Trump delivers an statement about missile strikes on a Syrian airbase, at his Mar-a-Lago estate in West Palm Beach, Florida (Carlos Barria/Reuters).

This article was originally published here on Salon.com on Friday, April 7, 2017.

It happened again. Syrian government forces used a chemical weapon against the town of Khan Sheikhoun in southern Idlib province. The horrifying photos were too much to bear, especially given the large number of dead children. Social media when into righteous — and appropriate — rage over the latest of President Bashar al-Assad’s war crimes but then quickly deteriorated into point scoring among supporters of President Donald J. Trump and former President Barack Obama. High-dudgeon Twitter is never useful, but it only got worse when the White House released a statement quite rightly calling the attack “reprehensible” and “heinous.” Few failed to notice that the Trump administration’s response to atrocities in Syria sounded a lot like its predecessor’s denunciations of the same. A good time was had by all. Read more »

Egypt Goes From Bad to Worse: Under President Sisi, the Nation Longs for the Good Old Days of Mubarak

by Steven A. Cook Monday, April 3, 2017
Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak speaks during opening session of annual conference of National Democratic Party in Cairo on October 31, 2009 (Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Reuters).

This article was originally published here on Salon.com on Sunday, April 2, 2017.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is visiting Washington. Since being elected in 2014 after orchestrating a coup d’état in the summer of 2013, the Egyptian leader has sought a White House meeting. President Barack Obama resisted, given the iron fist Sisi has employed to establish control over Egyptian society. The country is now among the top jailers of journalists in the world, thousands of others have been arrested for their opposition to the government, and Egyptian security forces killed about 800 people on a single day in August 2013. Read more »

Weekend Reading: Iraq’s Jews, Polarization in Lebanon, and Jihadis From Fayoum

by Steven A. Cook Saturday, April 1, 2017
A man sits near the waterfall at Wadi El-Rayan in the Al Fayoum Governorate, southwest of Cairo, Egypt (Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Reuters).

Jacky Hugi reports on Oded Amit’s efforts to preserve the cultural heritage of the Jewish Iraqi language.

Aya Fatima Chamseddine contends that the legacy of sectarianism and factionalism will limit the ability of Lebanon’s youth to break free of a pattern of political polarization. Read more »

Bill Maher Makes Us Dumber: How Ignorance, Fear and Stupid Pop-Culture Clichés Shape Americans’ View of the Middle East

by Steven A. Cook Monday, March 27, 2017
Comedian Bill Maher - 89th Academy Awards - Oscars Vanity Fair Party - Beverly Hills, California (Danny Moloshok/Reuters).

This article, which I wrote with my good friend Michael Brooks—co-host of the award-winning independent political talk show The Majority Report and co-host of the trends and business podcast 2 Dope Boys & a Podcast—originally appeared here on Salon.com on Sunday, March 26, 2017. Read more »

The Deep State Mirage in Turkey

by Steven A. Cook Thursday, March 23, 2017
People wear masks depicting Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan during the Democracy and Martyrs Rally (Umit Bektas/Reuters).

This article originally appeared here in the Cipher Brief on Wednesday, March 22, 2017.

The so-called “deep state” is like dark matter. There is wide belief in countries like Turkey, Egypt, and Pakistan that it exists, but no one has ever actually seen it. The term has now—rather surprisingly—become a part of the political lexicon in the United States. Among many others, President Donald J. Trump’s senior policy advisor, Stephen K. Bannon, and prominent radio personality Rush Limbaugh have invoked the deep state to explain the damaging leaks that have come out of the White House, and allegedly the intelligence community, during the administration’s first 60 days in office. These claims have been met with significant criticism, but it seems that in the polarized political environment that characterizes the United States today, the idea of the deep state is here to stay. Read more »