Steven A. Cook

From the Potomac to the Euphrates

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

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The Deep State Mirage in Turkey

by Steven A. Cook
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 »

Weekend Reading: Egypt’s Colonial Laws, Building a New Cairo, and Erdogan’s Early Life

by Steven A. Cook
Buildings and houses are seen through the window of an airplane above Cairo (Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Reuters).

The Project on Middle East Democracy interviews Mohamed El Ansary on the use of a colonial-era law by the Egyptian state to contain unrest and crush demonstrations. Read more »

Weekend Reading: The Taxi Drivers of Damascus, Women’s Prisons in Egypt, and Morocco’s Meteorite Trade

by Steven A. Cook
A vendor sells books at Mutanabi Street in Baghdad (Mohammed Ameen/Reuters).

Mohamed Ozon explores life in Damascus today through the lens of the city’s taxi drivers.

Ravy Shaker, in a photo essay, takes a look at life inside women’s prisons in Egypt. Read more »

Weekend Reading: Islam and Liberalism, Lebanon’s Christians, and Turkey’s Dwindling Syria Options

by Steven A. Cook
Turkish soldiers participate in an exercise on the border line between Turkey and Syria near the southeastern city of Kilis, Turkey (Murad Sezer/Reuters).

Nervana Mahmoud critiques Brookings scholar Shadi Hamid’s assertion that illiberal Islam is a viable future for Muslim societies.

Tarek Osman explores the relationship between Lebanese Christians and foreign protectors, especially in light of French presidential contender Marine Le Pen’s visit last month. Read more »

Should the U.S. Maintain its Alliance With Saudi Arabia? Unfortunately, We’re Stuck With Them

by Steven A. Cook
Saudi Arabia's King Salman attends a Memorandum of Understanding signing ceremony in Putrajaya, Malaysia (Edgar Su/Reuters).

This article was originally published here at Salon.com on Sunday, February 26, 2017.

In late January, Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and his son, Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is also the minister of defense, celebrated the 50th anniversary of the opening of the King Faisal Air Academy. On the occasion, the Saudis reportedly added to their fleet of warplanes a number of brand new F-15SAs. The new planes are a variant of the Boeing-manufactured F-15 fighter jets and are part of a $29.4 billion deal signed in late 2011 that includes 84 new F-15SAs and an additional 68 of the F-15S variant that will be upgraded. Read more »