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 "European Union"

How Europe Can Save Turkey

by Steven A. Cook
Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan gestures during the Ministry for European Union Affairs' EU-Istanbul Conference in Istanbul June 7, 2013 (Osman Orsal/Courtesy Reuters).

This article was originally published in the Washington Post on Friday, June 7, 2013.

In the past five years, Turkey has veered from what was once a promising path of liberal democracy — and the European Union can pull it back. Read more »

Europe’s Syria Prevarications

by Steven A. Cook
French Foreign Affairs Minister Laurent Fabius (C), Syrian Opposition Coalition vice-president Riad Seif (R) and member Suheir Atassi (L) attend the international meeting to support the Syrian National Council in Paris (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters).

The West’s overall approach to Syria since the uprising began in March 2011 has been a combination of empty sloganeering (“we strongly and unequivocally condemn this violence”), wishful thinking (“it is only a matter of time before Assad falls”), and hand wringing (“Syria is not Libya”).  Yet recently, there seems to have been a subtle, yet important shift that would augur a more active American and European role in managing the conflict.  The recent Friends of Syria meeting in Istanbul gave Secretary of State John Kerry an opportunity to signal an evolution of U.S. policy and the British and the French have publicly entertained  the idea of lifting the arms embargo on the rebellion. This all seems to be good news, yet it may be more apparent than real.  This is not to suggest that Washington will renege on the pledge that Kerry made in Turkey or that the Foreign Office and Quay d’Orsay are not serious about the prospects of supplying weapons to the Free Syrian Army, but this support is far from unequivocal. Read more »

The EU+Hizballah=Cynicism

by Steven A. Cook
The Achille Lauro (Courtesy Reuters).

Hizballah has been in the news recently.  The group that a senior U.S. government official once described as the “ ‘A-team’ of terrorism,” took a back seat to al-Qaeda over the last decade.  Prior to the attacks on New York and Washington in September 2001, Hizballah was responsible for more American deaths than any other organization on the State Department’s list of terrorists.  The most spectacular of Hizabllah’s operations since the organization’s founding in 1982 was the destruction of the U.S. Marine Corps barracks in Beirut in the spring of 1983.  More recently, the Bulgarian government fingered Hizballah for the July 2012 bus bombing that killed five Israelis and a Bulgarian bus driver in the resort town of Burgas.  Also, the New York Times reported last week that the Lebanese newspaper, al Akhbar—a pro-Hizballah daily—has been engaged in an effort to intimidate prosecution witnesses set to appear before the International Criminal Court, which is trying four members of Hizballah for the murder of former Prime Rafik Harriri.  Then there are the thousands of Hizballah fighters in Syria supporting the Assad regime in that country’s civil war. Read more »

Erdogan and Merkel: Almost Auf Wiedersehen

by Steven A. Cook
Turkey's PM Erdogan and German Chancellor Merkel adjust their earphones for the translations as they address a news conference following their bilateral talks in Berlin (Fabrizio Bensch/Courtesy Reuters)

Last week brought some seemingly good news for Turkey’s long moribund effort to join the European Union. At a joint press conference in Berlin with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, German Chancellor Angela Merkel declared that “The EU is an honest negotiating partner” and that Brussels would pursue Turkey’s membership in “good faith.” In a way, there was reason for Turks to celebrate Merkel’s forward leaning statements. Read more »

Weekend Reading: Syria’s Revolution, Egypt’s Crossroads, and Turkey’s EU Bid

by Steven A. Cook
A view of mosques in Old Cairo is pictured before sunset during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan (Amr Dalsh/Courtesy Reuters).

Husam Dughman writes for Informed Comment on why Syria’s revolution is different than Libya’s.

Shahira Amin says that in light of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi’s recent military purge, it is up to him to show that authoritarianism is a thing of the past in the country. Read more »