Steven A. Cook

From the Potomac to the Euphrates

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

Posts by Category

Showing posts for "Egypt"

Weekend Reading: Surveillance in Egypt, Inside ISIS, and Peace in Libya

by Steven A. Cook
Demonstrators protest against the Libyan Parliament's decision to call on the United Nations and the Security Council to immediately intervene to protect civilians and state institutions in Libya (Esam Al-Fetori/Courtesy Reuters). Demonstrators protest against the Libyan Parliament's decision to call on the United Nations and the Security Council to immediately intervene to protect civilians and state institutions in Libya (Esam Al-Fetori/Courtesy Reuters).

Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai reports on the mysteries surrounding Egypt’s new surveillance system. Read more »

Revisiting Rabaa

by Steven A. Cook
Suspects are rounded up near a burnt annex building of Rabaa Adawiya mosque after the clearing of a protest camp around the mosque, in Cairo August 15, 2013 (Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Courtesy Reuters). Suspects are rounded up near a burnt annex building of Rabaa Adawiya mosque after the clearing of a protest camp around the mosque, in Cairo August 15, 2013 (Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Courtesy Reuters).

Between the war in Gaza, the ISIS advance on Iraq, Libya’s disintegration, and the monumental brutality of the Syrian conflict—the last week of July was the deadliest of the civil war—the world barely noticed the one year anniversary of the violent dispersal of a sit-in at Cairo’s Rabaa al-Adawiya Square. Now as the annual UN General Assembly meeting is set to begin, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, and lesser officials are descending upon New York to spread the good word that everything in Egypt is just fine. They are hoping—in some cases demanding—that people don’t ask hard questions about what transpired last year. Despite these wishes, let’s reviewOn August 14, 2013 almost 1,000 Egyptians were killed and another 3,000 injured mostly at the hands of the Ministry of Interior’s Central Security Forces, but also under the watchful eyes of the Egyptian armed forces. The sit-in at Rabaa and al-Nahda Squares had been underway since the coup d’état that ousted President Mohammed Morsi on July 3. Human Rights Watch recently released a report detailing the massacre. It makes for a chilling read. Others have weighed-in on this terrible event as well. Of particular interest is a piece that Amy Austin Holmes, who is an assistant professor of sociology at the American University in Cairo, posted at the Washington Post’s Monkey Cage blog under the title “Why Egypt’s Military Orchestrated a Massacre.” In it Holmes poses an important question: “How do we explain the behavior of the Egyptian military on Tahrir in January 2011 [which was ostensibly peaceful] and in Rabaa in 2013?” As Holmes recounts—she observed the Rabaa protests—the clearing of the square was the worst massacre in modern Egyptian history and it was, by Egyptian officials’ own admission, entirely planned. The massacre itself tells analysts something important about the trajectory of Egyptian politics in general, but the conduct of the armed forces, which had previously vowed never to use violence against fellow Egyptians, cries out for explanation. Holmes comes up short, however. She offers sound analysis without ever getting to the heart of matter. So what is the deal? How come there was no massacre in Tahrir, but one at Rabaa? Read more »

Weekend Reading: HRW Reports on Raba’a, Defeating IS, and Iran’s Man in Baghdad

by Steven A. Cook
Shi'ite volunteers, from Abbas Unit who have joined the Iraqi army to fight against militants of the Islamic State parade down a street in Kerbala, southwest of Baghdad August 14, 2014 (Mushtaq Muhammed/Courtesy Reuters). Shi'ite volunteers, from Abbas Unit who have joined the Iraqi army to fight against militants of the Islamic State parade down a street in Kerbala, southwest of Baghdad August 14, 2014 (Mushtaq Muhammed/Courtesy Reuters).

Full text of the Human Rights Watch report on last year’s forcible dispersal of the pro-Morsi Raba’a sit-in.

Nabeel Khoury, writing for The Tahrir Forum, argues that if the United States fails to defeat the Islamic State, then Iran and Hezbollah will have to do it. Read more »

The Last Great Myth About Egypt

by Steven A. Cook
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (L) speaks with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in Cairo July 22, 2014 (Charles Dharapak/Courtesy Reuters). U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (L) speaks with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in Cairo July 22, 2014 (Charles Dharapak/Courtesy Reuters).

This article was originally published here on ForeignPolicy.com on Monday, July 21, 2014.

In the 1970s, Henry Kissinger fell in love with Anwar Sadat. To Kissinger, the Egyptian president “had the wisdom and courage of the statesman and occasionally the insight of the prophet.” It was from this romance that a set of ideas about Egypt became inculcated in American Middle East policy: Egypt would be a bulwark against the Soviet Union, a base from which U.S. forces would launch in the event of a crisis in the Persian Gulf, and a mediator between Arabs — especially the Palestinians — and Israelis. Read more »

Weekend Reading: Assad’s Inaugural Address, A Review of Rouhani, and Egypt’s Reconciliation Problems

by Steven A. Cook
Syria's President Bashar al-Assad places his right hand on a Koran as he is sworn in for a new seven-year term, at al-Shaab presidential palace in Damascus July 16, 2014 (Sana Sana/Courtesy Reuters). Syria's President Bashar al-Assad places his right hand on a Koran as he is sworn in for a new seven-year term, at al-Shaab presidential palace in Damascus July 16, 2014 (Sana Sana/Courtesy Reuters).

Full text of Bashar al-Assad’s inauguration speech at his swearing-in ceremony last Wednesday, translated by the Center for Research on Globalization. Read more »

Weekend Reading: The King of the Kurds, Sexual Violence in Egypt, and Israel’s Accidental War

by Steven A. Cook
A Sunni Sheikh carries a mock of a rocket during a demonstration organised by Lebanese Sunni Islamists and Palestinians to denounce Israeli air strikes on the Gaza strip (Ali Hashisho/Courtesy Reuters). A Sunni Sheikh carries a mock of a rocket during a demonstration organised by Lebanese Sunni Islamists and Palestinians to denounce Israeli air strikes on the Gaza strip (Ali Hashisho/Courtesy Reuters).

Sarah Carr, writing for Mada Masroffers an in-depth and graphic look at sexual assault and the Egyptian state.

J.J. Goldberg explores the triggers to an “unintended” war in Gaza. Read more »

Silence in Egypt

by Guest Blogger for Steven A. Cook
Peter Greste, Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed (L-R) listen to the ruling at a court in Cairo June 23, 2014 (Asmaa Waguih/Courtesy Reuters). Peter Greste, Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed (L-R) listen to the ruling at a court in Cairo June 23, 2014 (Asmaa Waguih/Courtesy Reuters).

My research associate, Alex Brock, is in Cairo getting some well-deserved rest.  I thought you would be interested in his thoughts on recent developments in Egypt.  Enjoy.

Cairo, Egypt—I waited, and waited, checking Twitter.  I stopped by Tahrir Square a few times, figuring if anything would happen it would be there.  Some BBC employees staged a moment of silence, but that was in London. There was nothing in Cairo after a court convicted three Al Jazeera journalists and sentenced them to 7-10 years in prison.  Just silence.  The Twittersphere went crazy over the verdicts while the rest of Egypt went about its business.  The political turmoil in Egypt has become a fight between elites, while the rest of the country seems to want some sense of normalcy. Read more »

The Contest for Regional Leadership in the New Middle East

by Steven A. Cook
Free Syrian Army fighters pose on a tank, which they say was captured from the Syrian army loyal to President Bashar al-Assad, after clashes in Qasseer, near Homs (Shaam News Network/Courtesy Reuters). Free Syrian Army fighters pose on a tank, which they say was captured from the Syrian army loyal to President Bashar al-Assad, after clashes in Qasseer, near Homs (Shaam News Network/Courtesy Reuters).

The Center for a New American Security (CNAS) just published this report that I coauthored with Jacob Stokes, Bacevich fellow at  CNAS, and my research associate Alexander Brock.

“The Contest for Regional Leadership in the New Middle East” shows how, in addition to the historic political change occurring within the major states of the Middle East, there is a transformative process underway remaking the dynamics among the states of the region. The reordering of the geopolitics of the region has exposed rivalries among the contenders for leadership, as well as different ideological, economic, nationalistic and sectarian agendas. The report argues that Washington has sought to accommodate these changes in a way that continues to secure its strategic interests. What role the United States will play in a “new Middle East” is the subject of intense debate among Americans, Arabs and Turks. Nevertheless, it is clear that with all the problems regional powers have confronted trying to shape the politics of the region, American leadership will continue to be indispensable. Read more »

The Banality of Abdel Fattah al-Sisi

by Steven A. Cook
People walk in front of an election campaign poster of presidential candidate and Egypt's former army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, along a highway in downtown Cairo (Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Courtesy Reuters). People walk in front of an election campaign poster of presidential candidate and Egypt's former army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, along a highway in downtown Cairo (Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Courtesy Reuters).

This article was originally published here on ForeignAffairs.com on Sunday, June 8, 2014. 

“I wish I was like Nasser,” Egypt’s new president, the retired field marshal Abdel Fattah al-Sisi told Egyptian journalists during a televised interview in early May, referring to the former president, Gamal Abdel Nasser. “Nasser was not just a portrait on walls for Egyptians but a photo and voice carved in their hearts.” Sisi’s comments seemed rather appropriate; his crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood, his military background, and his apparent popularity have a distinctly 1950s feel to them. Yet Sisi is not Nasser. Nor is he Anwar Sadat or Hosni Mubarak, or any other formative Egyptian leader. Sisi is just Sisi. As much as the new president has been billed as a hero and a savior, his coming rule is likely to be banal. Read more »

Weekend Reading: Investing in Egypt, Haunting 1967 Photos, and August in Turkey

by Steven A. Cook
Galatasaray fans light flares to celebrate their goal against Fenerbahce during the Turkish Super League derby soccer match between Galatasaray and Fenerbahce in Istanbul (Murad Sezer/Courtesy Reuters). Galatasaray fans light flares to celebrate their goal against Fenerbahce during the Turkish Super League derby soccer match between Galatasaray and Fenerbahce in Istanbul (Murad Sezer/Courtesy Reuters).

Hdeel Abdelhady says that Egypt’s new investment law is not a solution to its economic woes, but rather is a symptom of the country’s inability to conceive and implement coherent economic policies. Read more »