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: Egypt’s Informers, Algeria’s Political Complexities, and The Non-Intifada

by Steven A. Cook
A supporter of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi shouts slogans against the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist groups, after the collection signatures for a petition in downtown Cairo (Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Courtesy Reuters). A supporter of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi shouts slogans against the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist groups, after the collection signatures for a petition in downtown Cairo (Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Courtesy Reuters).

Belal Fadl characterizes Egypt as a state-sponsored nation of informers.

Anna Jacobs explores the complexities of the Algerian political system. Read more »

Weekend Reading: Trouble In Morocco, Egypt 1990s Style, and What Are The Palestinians Saying?

by Steven A. Cook
Israeli border police officers walk past the Dome of the Rock on the compound known to Muslims as Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount in Jerusalem's Old City (Ammar Awad/Courtesy Reuters). Israeli border police officers walk past the Dome of the Rock on the compound known to Muslims as Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount in Jerusalem's Old City (Ammar Awad/Courtesy Reuters).

Zineb Belmkaddem examines how the Moroccan authorities are clamping down on opposition movements.

Dina El Khawaga argues that the Egyptian government is reproducing the authoritarian measures of the 1990s to consolidate its power. Read more »

Weekend Reading: Algeria’s Police Protest, Yemen’s Houthis Move In, and Egypt’s Liberals Explained

by Steven A. Cook
Police officers gather near the Presidential Palace in Algiers October 15, 2014 (Louafi Larbi/Courtesy Reuters). Police officers gather near the Presidential Palace in Algiers October 15, 2014 (Louafi Larbi/Courtesy Reuters).

Thomas Serres suggests that the recent police protests in Algeria demonstrate how Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s regime is “being inundated from all sides.” Read more »

Egypt’s Economy: Bringing The State Back In

by Steven A. Cook
Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi (R) meets with U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew at the presidential palace in Cairo (Hassan Ammar/Courtesy Reuters). Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi (R) meets with U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew at the presidential palace in Cairo (Hassan Ammar/Courtesy Reuters).

Secretary of the Treasury Jack Lew visited Cairo on Monday and no one seemed to notice or care. That’s probably because of the awful terrorist attack that took the lives of at least 31 Egyptian conscripts and reportedly two officers in the Sinai Peninsula over the weekend. Lew’s visit was not going to deal with any number of the hot topics on the U.S.-Egypt agenda—human rights, military and economic assistance, press freedoms, and the ongoing fight against extremism, anyway. “Economic statecraft,” it seems, is just not that sexy. Exciting or not, it is important, especially since the Obama administration seems to have come to the conclusion that the United States can be most constructive on Egypt through policies that focus on the economy. There is an assumption among many in the Beltway policy community that at least on economic issues and their solution, the United States and Egypt can agree. Working with other countries to aid their economic development is a good idea, of course, but I wonder whether, like so much of the conversation between Washington and Cairo, American and Egyptian officials have very different ideas about the right approach to Egypt’s economic problems. Don’t be surprised, then, if the economy becomes another point of friction, or if Egyptian decision makers just ignore Washington’s advice. Read more »

Weekend Reading: Reading History in Doha, Egypt Intervenes in Libya, and Nervous Gulfies

by Steven A. Cook
Kuwait's Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Sabah al Khalid al Sabah presides over the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) meeting in Riyadh June 2, 2014 (Faisal Al Nasser/Courtesy Reuters). Kuwait's Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Sabah al Khalid al Sabah presides over the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) meeting in Riyadh June 2, 2014 (Faisal Al Nasser/Courtesy Reuters).

Explore the Qatar Digital Library, an archive featuring the cultural and historical heritage of the Gulf and the wider region.

Janet Basurto, writing for Egyptian Streets, explores the reasons behind Egypt’s intervention in Libya. Read more »

Hating Mubarak; Loving Sisi

by Steven A. Cook
A supporter of Egypt's new President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi kisses his picture and dances as he leaves after taking his oath of office in front of the Supreme Constitutional Court in Cairo June 8, 2014 (Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Courtesy Reuters). A supporter of Egypt's new President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi kisses his picture and dances as he leaves after taking his oath of office in front of the Supreme Constitutional Court in Cairo June 8, 2014 (Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Courtesy Reuters).

Over the last few years, Egypt has become an object lesson in how narrow interests, greed, and politics can quickly undo noble ideas and aspirations. The time since former President Hosni Mubarak’s departure has been a period of political cynicism, unprecedented violence, and economic dislocation. Yet for all the troubles bearing down on Egyptians, there are many who believe that the country’s trajectory is positive. This is not just elites grateful that the military intervention of July 2013 has restored the old—in their minds, natural—political order, but widespread optimism. Treat the polling with caution, but they demonstrate an overwhelming amount of support for President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. Friends in Cairo insist that “as much as 80 percent of the population” supports the new program and believe that Egypt’s new leader has set the country on a proper course. If that is the case, then why do Egyptians seem so furious? Read more »

Weekend Reading: On Being Jewish in Egypt, Iraq’s Militias, and What Just Happened in Yemen?

by Steven A. Cook
Shi'ite Houthi rebels bury comrades, who were killed in recent fighting against government forces, in Sanaa (Khaled Abdullah/Courtesy Reuters). Shi'ite Houthi rebels bury comrades, who were killed in recent fighting against government forces, in Sanaa (Khaled Abdullah/Courtesy Reuters).

An old one from Eric Rouleau, who reflects on his experiences as an Egyptian-Jewish journalist.

Omar el-Jaffal examines the phenomenon of militias in Iraq and its implications on the Iraqi state. Read more »

Methinks Sisi Doth Protest Too Much

by Steven A. Cook
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi waits for a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry at the presidential palace in Cairo September 13, 2014 (Brendan Smialowski/Courtesy Reuters). Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi waits for a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry at the presidential palace in Cairo September 13, 2014 (Brendan Smialowski/Courtesy Reuters).

Every year at the annual United Nations General Assembly meeting there seems to be one world leader who garners all the attention. Last year’s UNGA “It Guy” was Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani. In 2012, the King of the Prom was Mohammed Morsi, Egypt’s first democratically elected leader and a Muslim Brother. The year before that everyone wanted to hear from then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey. This year all the Turtle Bay buzz is building around the man who is Erdogan’s bête noire and Morsi’s jailer, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. Even though he is not getting a coveted “bilateral” with President Obama, Sisi is breakfasting with Henry Kissinger, James Baker, and Madeleine Albright, breaking bread with New York’s titans of business over lunch, and presiding at a small meeting of opinion leaders in advance of his speech before fellow heads of state on Thursday, September 25. The Egyptian president’s message is a simple one: “Egypt is back, I am in charge, we have an economic plan, it is safe to invest, I am actually on the right side of history, and Egypt is stable.” Don’t believe it. Methinks Sisi doth protest too much. For all of the persistently positive messages coming from official circles in Cairo, there is nevertheless a certain skittish and vulnerable quality to them. Read more »

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 »