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 "Human Rights"

Night Terror, Turkey, and Refugees

by Steven A. Cook
A Kurdish Syrian refugee waits for transport during a sand storm on the Turkish-Syrian border near the southeastern town of Suruc in Sanliurfa province, September 24, 2014 (Murad Sezer/Reuters).

Exactly a decade ago I became a father for the first time. At the very moment I first laid eyes on my daughter I experienced something I had never felt before. It was total. In an instant my life’s mission became: At all costs, whatever it takes, ensure the health and well-being of this human. I went from a guy existing in the goofy, unreal world of impending first-time fatherhood to “parent,” with all the primordial and overwhelming—until it aches—feelings of unconditional love that come with it. These are the reasons why I have been unable to bring myself to read about poor Aylan Kurdi, the Syrian-Kurdish toddler who washed ashore in Bodrum on the southeastern coast of Turkey, fleeing the cataclysm that has engulfed his country. It is why I had to fight back tears at just the sight of his father who has lost Aylan, his older brother, Galip, and their mother. Abdullah Kurdi’s reality is my night terror. So much has been written about the Kurdi family, Europe’s “migrant crisis,” and the Syrian conflict since the photo of Aylan lying facedown on the beach was published last week, but how many little boys and girls have died in the Syria disaster? We have collectively averted our eyes to unbearable suffering. Another picture of Aylan cradled in the arms of a Turkish police officer reminded me that not everyone has, however. Readers of this blog know that I have been routinely critical of the Turkish government, the Justice and Development Party, and especially Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, but when it comes to handling the situation of Syrian refugees in their country, the Turks deserve praise. Read more »

Weekend Reading: AKP and the Kurds, IS in Syria, and Arab Cartoonists

by Steven A. Cook
Pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) deputy Sebahat Tuncel (1st row, 3rd L) and her party members are surrounded by riot police as they hold a sit-in protest near Gezi Park in central Istanbul July 28, 2013 (Murad Sezer/Courtesy Reuters).

Serkan Demirtas writes about the AKP and the quest for peace with the Kurds

Mohammad Raba’a discusses Wadi Barada, an Islamic State foothold in Syria. Read more »

Hasbara…Hasbara Everywhere

by Steven A. Cook
Doctors help an injured resident at the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) field hospital following Saturday's earthquake in Kathmandu, Nepal (Danish Siddiqui/Courtesy Reuters).

Last week Israel took criticism for sending a contingent of doctors and search and rescue specialists to Nepal to participate in the earthquake relief efforts. Read that again. There is no “not” in between “for” and “sending.” The Israel Defense Forces sent 260 doctors, nurses, and personnel trained in finding disaster victims to Katmandu after the major (7.8 on the Richter scale) earthquake…and it was quickly dismissed as propaganda to deflect attention from Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and the humanitarian conditions in the Gaza Strip. The Israelis have a lot to answer for when it comes to the Palestinians, from continued expropriation of Palestinian land in the West Bank to death and destruction in Gaza, but what do those issues have to do with earthquake relief in Nepal? Apparently everything the Israelis do is hasbara. Read more »

Weekend Reading: Migrants and Libya?, Taking Tikrit, and Escaping Yemen

by Steven A. Cook
A group of 104 sub-Saharan Africans on board a rubber dinghy reach out for life jackets tossed to them by rescuers of the NGO Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS) some 25 miles off the Libyan coast (Darrin Zammit Lupi/Courtesy Reuters).

Issandr El Amrani argues that a strong, stable Libya would not solve the migration problems in the Mediterranean.

The editors at the Middle East Research and Information Project urge for a humanitarian corridor for foreign nationals and Yemenis to escape Yemen. Read more »

Weekend Reading/Viewing: Media in the MENA

by Steven A. Cook
A boy reads the Koran at Al Fatima Al Quran, a religious seminary, in Lahore (Mohsin Raza/Courtesy Reuters)

The Mosireen Collective, an Egyptian video project, recently nominated for “Best Video Channel” category of the distinguished Deutsche Welle International Blog awards (The BOBs)

Zeinab El Gundy for Ahram Online interviews some of the most influential Twitter users during Egypt’s revolution, getting their opinions on the role of the social media network going forward. Read more »

Syria: The Limits of Diplomacy

by Steven A. Cook
Tunisia's Foreign Affairs Minister Rafik Abdessalem addresses the Friends of Syria Conference in Tunis (Jason Reed/Courtesy Reuters)

Below is the first installment in a series of three posts looking specifically at the prevailing debates on Syria and what to do about the situation there.

In mid January, I wrote a piece on The Atlantic  titled, “It’s Time to Think Seriously about Intervening in Syria.” I am gratified that in the ensuing seven weeks there has been a robust debate on the op-ed pages, blogs, Twitter, Beltway roundtables, and within the Obama administration about what to do about Syria.  No doubt, this has less to do with my 1500 or so words than the deteriorating situation on the ground in Syria, especially the onslaught in Homs.  As the debate suggests, this is not an easy issue.  As I mentioned in the article, “Syria has become a place where violence, colonial legacies, the mistakes of the recent past, and the hopes for a better Middle East have collided to create layers of complications and unsettling trade-offs for policymakers and outside observers.”  It is all these things and much more—the Syria issue intersects with great power politics, international order, the United Nations, the use of military force, and philosophy.  I’ve been struck by the way in which proponents and opponents of intervention have used precisely the same evidence to marshal support for their claims.  For example, Moscow’s support for the Assads is leveraged in a way both to suggest that only force can stop the killing and  as a reason not to intervene because with the help of the Russian (and Chinese and Iranians) whatever force that is brought to bear will do little to bring Assad down while killing a lot of people.  This is not a function of muddled thinking.  (There are many very smart people who are engaged in this debate.)  Rather, we are dealing with a complex problem, with little information, faulty analogies, and fresh memories of a searing decade of violence and intervention in the Middle East.  Unlike Libya, Syria is hard. Read more »