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 "Hamas"

Israelis and Palestinians: And Then What?

by Steven A. Cook
A pedestrian walks in the centre of Jerusalem (Ronen Zvulun/Reuters).

In December 1987 the first intifada began after a traffic accident involving an Israeli truck and a Palestinian pedestrian outside the Jabaliya refugee camp set off a wave of demonstrations against Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The sudden volleys of rocks pelting Israeli soldiers and the tear gas and rubber bullets in response changed the complexion of the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians almost overnight, likely forever. The mighty Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) were not traversing the Sinai Peninsula in three days, rescuing hostages in Entebbe, or spending two daring minutes over Baghdad, but breaking teenagers’ bones on the streets of Nablus, Hebron, Ramallah, and Gaza City. David had become Goliath and had no answer for Daoud’s slingshot. The Israelis must have been rattled by the images on television and pictures published in the press because, a few months after it all began, the Israeli consul general started doing the rounds of universities and colleges in the New York area to provide Jerusalem’s perspective on the unrest. I remember attending one such event on a chilly evening in a half-empty room at Vassar’s College Center. During the Q&A a member of the audience recalled an encounter with someone he identified as an “Arab friend in Israel.” He alleged that during a debate over politics his friend relayed that, despite their relationship, he would kill him if and when communal violence erupted. It was an odd non sequitur to what had, until that moment, been an interesting discussion thankfully lacking the overwrought theatrics of more recent conversations about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on America’s campuses. Read more »

Weekend Reading: The Syrian Opposition, Iraq’s Identity, and Hamas Holds Back…For Now

by Steven A. Cook
Free Syrian Army fighters, part of the Suqour al-Jabal (Mountain Hawks) brigade, rest with their weapons at their headquarters building in Aleppo, Syria, July 30, 2015 (Abdalrhman Ismail/Reuters).

Aymenn al-Tamimi examines the potential for a unified Syrian opposition as a result of Russian intervention.

Harith Hasan al-Qarawee and Matthew Schweitzer outline a strategy to rebuild Iraq’s cultural and historical identity. Read more »

Salvaging Abbas

by Steven A. Cook
U.S. President Barack Obama walks down Cross Hall with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas September 1, 2010 (Jason Reed/Courtesy Reuters).

This article was originally published here on on Tuesday, July 29, 2014.

Almost from the start of the conflict in the Gaza Strip, the commentariat has been seized with the idea of “empowering [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud] Abbas” as the only way out of the recurrent violence between Israel and Hamas. The discovery of this idea in Washington (and Jerusalem for that matter) is rather odd, not because it does not make sense, but rather because the idea is so reasonable and obvious that one wonders why — ten years after he became the Palestinian leader — it took so long to recognize it. Almost from the moment of Yasser Arafat’s death, Egypt sent high-level emissaries to the United States, warning that the new Palestinian president needed help lest he gradually cede the political arena to Hamas. He did not get it then and now it is likely too late to salvage Abbas. 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).

This article was originally published here on 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 »

Social Work, Violence, and Palestinian Nationalism

by Steven A. Cook
An Islamic Jihad militant stands guard during a rally marking the 25th anniversary of the movement's foundation in Gaza City (Suhaib Salem/Courtesy Reuters).

Is Islamic Jihad getting soft?  Most likely not, but last Sunday, Jodi Rudoren had an interesting piece in the New York Times about the group. For those not familiar with the details of Islamic Jihad (sometimes referred to as Palestinian Islamic Jihad), it was founded in the late 1970s by Palestinian students studying in Egypt, frustrated that, for all the rhetorical demands in the Arab world and beyond for the establishment of a Palestine state, no one was doing much about it.  As the group’s name implies, its focus was exclusively liberating Palestine—from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean—through violence. Read more »

Weekend Reading: 1967 Borders, Sectarianism in Egypt, and the Options for Iran

by Steven A. Cook
A vendor works on a copper item to be sold in a shop in Baghdad's al-Safafeer Souq bazaar (Mohammed Ameen/Courtesy Reuters).

Dahlia Scheindlin evaluates the pragmatism of Ghazi Hamad,  Deputy Foreign Minister of Gaza, who publicly recognized the 1967 borders last week. Read more »

Israel’s Jerusalem “Piece Process”

by Steven A. Cook
Jewish settlers hold Israeli flags and shout slogans from their balcony at left-wing activists (not seen) during a demonstration to show solidarity with Palestinians against a newly dedicated Jewish settlement in East Jerusalem (Amir Cohen/Courtesy Reuters).

So it has begun.  President Barack Obama travels to Israel—as well as Palestine and Jordan—this week and columnists, bloggers, and foreign policy wonks of all stripes have begun commenting on the visit.  My friend Aaron Miller weighed in Sunday morning with a big article in the Washington Post’s “Outlook” section about where the President can find common ground with Israeli and Palestinian leaders, though most of the piece was devoted to the relationship with Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. The National’s Hugh Naylor quotes Yossi Bellin, who will forever be identified as an “architect of the 1993 Oslo Accords,” as stating boldly that President Obama should not bother making the trip unless he comes with proposals to bring the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to an end. Overall, there have been at least sixteen articles and op-eds in the past few weeks dealing with the peace process and President Obama’s travels to the region. Most of them are in line with the low expectations that the White House has set ahead of the visit, suggesting that the meetings between the President and Israeli prime minister will deal almost exclusively with Syria and Iran. That may be the case, but there are some modest expectations bubbling up on the peace process. Read more »

Still Think Middle East Peace Doesn’t Matter?

by Steven A. Cook
Egyptian protesters shout slogans against Israel's ongoing military operation in the Gaza Strip, in old Cairo (Amr Dalsh/Courtesy Reuters).

The article below was originally published here on on Monday, November 19, 2012. I look forward to reading your comments.  Read more »

Weekend Reading: Kurdish Hunger Strikers, Jabari’s Assassination, and Jordan in Turmoil

by Steven A. Cook
Syrian Bedouin writer and journalist Lina Hawyan al-Hassan, reads a book at her home in Damascus (Khaled Al Hariri / Courtesy Reuters)

Jake Hess’ take on hunger striking Kurds.

Issandr el Amrani on Ahmed al Jabari’s assassination.

Katie Paul looks at the escalating crisis in Jordan.