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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Showing posts for "Egypt"

Whatever is the Matter With Egypt? Nothing All That New

by Steven A. Cook
Men wave national flags while riding a motor bike in Tahrir where people gather to celebrate the opening of the new Suez Canal, Cairo, Egypt (Asmaa Waguih/Reuters). Men wave national flags while riding a motor bike in Tahrir where people gather to celebrate the opening of the new Suez Canal, Cairo, Egypt (Asmaa Waguih/Reuters).

My friend Hisham Melham, Al Arabiya’s Washington bureau chief, dean of the Beltway-based Arab press corps, farmer, and intellectual with few peers, wrote a piece that appeared over the weekend called “Whatever is the matter with Egypt?” It is a terrific question and one that I have been rolling around in my head for some time, but especially since two Sundays ago when I celebrated my birthday. That morning my lovely wife did what has become de rigueur in the era of Facebook: She posted a photo of me with my daughters wishing me a wonderful day. Among my many well-wishers, an old friend from Cairo posted the following: “Happy birth day Steve hoping you all the best. It might be good idea to visit Egypt after the inauguration of the new Suez Canal. You might change your position or at least sympathize with huge challenges facing Egypt. Take care.” I was happy to hear from my friend and just dismissed the added commentary about my work, thinking “Par for the course in Egypt these days, but—wow!—it is like the dude could not help himself.” I guess I had not exactly shrugged it off because I then planned to write a “what’s the matter with Egypt?” post using this birthday greeting as a device to explore the subject. Read more »

Weekend Reading: A Gift to the World

by Steven A. Cook
Mohab Mameesh, chairman of the Suez Canal Authority, holds an Egyptian flag while overlooking work at the New Suez Canal, Ismailia, Egypt (Stringer/Reuters). Mohab Mameesh, chairman of the Suez Canal Authority, holds an Egyptian flag while overlooking work at the New Suez Canal, Ismailia, Egypt (Stringer/Reuters).

Mada Masr highlights the celebrations for “Egypt’s gift to the world,” the New Suez Canal.

Michael Collins Dunn examines the original festivities for the opening of the Suez Canal in 1867. Read more »

The U.S.-Egypt Strategic Dialogue: Drift Along the Nile

by Guest Blogger for Steven A. Cook
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (L) is thanked by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi after speaking at the Egypt Economic Development Conference in Sharm el-Sheikh March 13, 2015 (Brian Snyder/Reuters). U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (L) is thanked by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi after speaking at the Egypt Economic Development Conference in Sharm el-Sheikh March 13, 2015 (Brian Snyder/Reuters).

My friend and colleague, Amy Hawthorne, wrote this terrific preview of the upcoming U.S.-Egypt strategic dialogue.  I hope you find it interesting and useful.

On August 2, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will visit Cairo for the first U.S.-Egypt “strategic dialogue” since 2009. The high-level forum has been held on and off since the Clinton administration as part of the still-unmet goal of expanding the relationship beyond security issues into more robust trade, investment, and educational ties. During the presidency of Hosni Mubarak, the dialogue was mostly a talk shop and sop to Egypt for support on counterterrorism and the Palestinian-Israeli peace process. In light of today’s diminished ties, similarly modest expectations for this Sunday’s conclave are in order, despite the State Department’s upbeat announcement that the dialogue “reaffirms the United States’ longstanding and enduring partnership with Egypt and will…further our common values, goals, and interests.” Read more »

Weekend Reading: Remembering Omar Sharif

by Steven A. Cook
Egyptian actor Omar Sharif poses for a photograph during the presentation of his latest film entitled "Disparadme" at a hotel in Aviles, northern Spain, June 16, 2009 (Eloy Alonso/Reuters). Egyptian actor Omar Sharif poses for a photograph during the presentation of his latest film entitled "Disparadme" at a hotel in Aviles, northern Spain, June 16, 2009 (Eloy Alonso/Reuters).

Randa Ali from Al-Ahram remembers legendary Egyptian actor Omar Sharif.

Magdi Abdelhadi laments Omar Sharif’s death as a reminder of a bygone era of Egyptian culture. Read more »

Weekend Reading: Condemning or Condoning Egypt,Urban Redevelopment in Alexandria, and Linking ISIS?

by Steven A. Cook
A boy holds a Tunisian flag as he stands near bouquets of flowers laid at the beachside of the Imperiale Marhabada hotel, which was attacked by a gunman in Sousse, Tunisia (Zohra Bensemra/Reuters). A boy holds a Tunisian flag as he stands near bouquets of flowers laid at the beachside of the Imperiale Marhabada hotel, which was attacked by a gunman in Sousse, Tunisia (Zohra Bensemra/Reuters).

Maged Atiya writes that, two years after, the removal of former President of Egypt Mohammed Morsi is as difficult to condemn as it is to condone.

Amro Ali examines the debate on urban development in Alexandria and the rebuilding of that city’s famed lighthouse. Read more »

Egypt’s Coming Chaos

by Steven A. Cook
Relatives of 21-year-old Mohamed Adel, one of the army officers who died in yesterday's Sinai attacks, carry his coffin during the funeral in Al-Kaliobeya, near Cairo, Egypt, July 2, 2015 (Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Reuters). Relatives of 21-year-old Mohamed Adel, one of the army officers who died in yesterday's Sinai attacks, carry his coffin during the funeral in Al-Kaliobeya, near Cairo, Egypt, July 2, 2015 (Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Reuters).

This article originally appeared here on ForeignPolicy.com on Friday, July 3, 2015.

When Egyptian Prosecutor-General Hisham Barakat’s car was blown up in Cairo this week by as of yet unknown terrorists, there was a profound sense of foreboding that Egypt was in some new, unprecedented phase of violence. These concerns were only reinforced when the Islamic State-affiliated Wilayat Sinai, or “Province of Sinai,” killed dozens of soldiers and policemen in a spectacular raid on the town of Sheikh Zuweid the following day. Egypt is indeed entering unchartered territory, fighting an undeclared war in the Sinai Peninsula that is spreading to population centers in the Nile Valley. It is hard to imagine how Egyptians will avoid a prolonged period of bloodshed. Read more »

Reinventing Egypt’s Jews

by Steven A. Cook
An Egyptian army soldier stands beside a star of David, on a wall surrounding the Israeli Embassy in Cairo September 4, 2011 (Mohamed Abd El-Ghany/Reuters). An Egyptian army soldier stands beside a star of David, on a wall surrounding the Israeli Embassy in Cairo September 4, 2011 (Mohamed Abd El-Ghany/Reuters).

After two millennia, it seems Jews are “in” in the Middle East. In what can only be described as a stunning turn of events, Jews—though not Israelis—have become “What’s Hot” in the region, and the Muslim Brotherhood has become “What’s Not.” The nostalgia for lost Jewish communities has been a recurring theme since at least 2012 with the release of Amir Ramses’ documentary Jews of Egypt. The latest installment is the Egyptian Ramadan serial called The Jewish Alley (Haret el-Yahood). In between, there has been a rediscovery of Jewish life and culture in Tunisia, Morocco, and Lebanon, where the Maghen Abraham synagogue has been undergoing a lengthy renovation. It is easy to overstate the case given Egypt’s recent history of seemingly pathological anti-Semitism, but Egyptians seem to have gone further than others in the region in their rediscovery of Jewish life and culture. This should make well-meaning people feel all warm and fuzzy inside, but what is happening in Egypt is actually less rediscovery than reinvention. Read more »

Weekend Reading: Kurdish in Turkey, The Ghost of Omar Pasha, and Islam vs. Jihadism

by Steven A. Cook
Former spy chief and presidential candidate Omar Suleiman talks during an interview with Reuters at his office in Cairo April 14, 2012 (Asmaa Waguih/Reuters). Former spy chief and presidential candidate Omar Suleiman talks during an interview with Reuters at his office in Cairo April 14, 2012 (Asmaa Waguih/Reuters).

Nadeen Shaker investigates how Turkey’s Kurds are reclaiming their language in the classroom.

Farah Halime of Rebel Economy has published a translation of former Vice President of Egypt Omar Suleiman’s September 2011 court testimony in the case against former President Hosni Mubarak. Read more »

Weekend Reading: Egypt’s Jews, an Afternoon With Hezbollah, and Moroccan Salafis

by Steven A. Cook
An Afghan man reads the Koran on the holy fasting month of Ramadan at a mosque in Herat (Mohammad Shoib/Reuters). An Afghan man reads the Koran on the holy fasting month of Ramadan at a mosque in Herat (Mohammad Shoib/Reuters).

Sigal Samuel reviews a new Ramadan television series about Egypt’s Jewish community.

The Beirut Report recounts the story of a journalist held by Hezbollah in southern Beirut. Read more »

Weekend Reading: Debunking Iraq’s Myth, Demolishing History in Egypt, and Biking Syria’s Civil War

by Steven A. Cook
The word "Mubarak" is seen inside the burnt headquarters of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's political party National Democratic Party (NDP) during its demolition in Cairo, Egypt (Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Reuters). The word "Mubarak" is seen inside the burnt headquarters of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's political party National Democratic Party (NDP) during its demolition in Cairo, Egypt (Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Reuters).

Sara Pursley, in a two-part report on Jadaliyya, debunks the myth of Iraq as an artificial state.

Mahmoud Riad protests the demolition of the National Democratic Party’s headquarters in Cairo. Read more »