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 "Libya"

Weekend Reading: Libyan Identity, an Alawite State, and Cairo’s Ramadan Lanterns

by Steven A. Cook
A woman with her daughter look at a stall selling festival lights and Ramadan lanterns, or "fanoos Ramadan", at Sayida Zienab district market during the first day of Ramadan in old Cairo, Egypt (Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Reuters). A woman with her daughter look at a stall selling festival lights and Ramadan lanterns, or "fanoos Ramadan", at Sayida Zienab district market during the first day of Ramadan in old Cairo, Egypt (Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Reuters).

Nada Elfeituri discusses the politics of identity and tribalism in Libya as civil strife continues to unfold.

Stefan Winter examines a 1936 pro–Syrian unity petition by Sulayman al-Asad, grandfather of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who pushed against the creation of an Alawite state. Read more »

Libya: Disconnect and Fragmentation

by Steven A. Cook
Supporters of the unity government shout slogans during a demonstration at Martyrs' Square in Tripoli (Hani Amara/Reuters). Supporters of the unity government shout slogans during a demonstration at Martyrs' Square in Tripoli (Hani Amara/Reuters).

Over the last few years, I have been quietly following events in Libya. I must admit, I don’t feel the country “in my bones” the way I do other places in the Middle East, but the more I dig into Libyan politics, the more it fascinates me. I have great guides, though: folks like my dear friend Karim Mezran, who is a wise tutor; Fred Wehrey, who has had the courage to go to Libya when the rest of us wouldn’t dare; and Dirk Vandewalle, whom I have long admired from afar. What has struck me about Libya and Libyan politics is how at first blush it can seem weirdly different from other countries in North Africa and the Middle East, but upon closer inspection, there are compelling similarities. When, on the day that long-standing leader Muammar al-Qaddafi was driven from Tripoli in August 2011, I pointed out that, at a level of abstraction, Libya and Iraq were not all that different, and that Libya may not end up a democracy, I was pilloried. That is Twitter for you… Read more »

Weekend Reading: Lights Out in Libya, Jordan’s Brothers, and Alaa’s Tax Shelters

by Steven A. Cook
A member of the media works on a staircase at the Rixos hotel during a power cut in Tripoli (Paul Hackett/Reuters). A member of the media works on a staircase at the Rixos hotel during a power cut in Tripoli (Paul Hackett/Reuters).

Naziha Arebi illuminates the daily life of Libyans in the shadows of electricity cuts through a series of photographs and conversations.

Osama Al Sharif ponders whether tensions between Jordan’s Muslim Brotherhood and the government will lead to an outright ban on the group. Read more »

Weekend Reading: Libya Five Years On, Iran and the Shia, and Contextualizing Heikal

by Steven A. Cook
Libyans celebrate the fifth anniversary of the Libyan revolution, at Martyrs' Square in Tripoli (Ismail Zitouny/Reuters). Libyans celebrate the fifth anniversary of the Libyan revolution, at Martyrs' Square in Tripoli (Ismail Zitouny/Reuters).

Nada Elfeituri ruminates on the five years since Libya’s February 17, 2011, revolution and the mistakes her fellow Libyans have yet to learn from.

Robin Yassin-Kassab questions the assumption that Iran acts as a protector for Shia Muslims throughout the Middle East. Read more »

Weekend Reading: Fact and Fiction in Libya, a Saudi in Iran, and “Turkishness”

by Steven A. Cook
Iranian protesters chant slogans during a rally against the execution of Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr in Saudi Arabia, after Friday prayers in Tehran (Raheb Homavandi/Reuters). Iranian protesters chant slogans during a rally against the execution of Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr in Saudi Arabia, after Friday prayers in Tehran (Raheb Homavandi/Reuters).

Valentina Viene reviews the struggle to fictionalize the enigmatic persona of Muammar al-Qaddafi, the former leader of Libya, in Yasmina Khadra’s latest novel, The Dictator’s Last Night. Read more »

Weekend Reading: Egypt’s State of Idiocy, Darth Mediene, and Libya’s Tribes

by Steven A. Cook
A man reads newspaper in the alley of the old city of Algiers Al Casbah, Algeria (Zohra Bensemra/Reuters). A man reads newspaper in the alley of the old city of Algiers Al Casbah, Algeria (Zohra Bensemra/Reuters).

Maged Atiya laments the Egyptian state’s devolution into idiocy.

Sam Metz and Abdallah Brahimi explore the potential reasons behind the recent dismissal of Algerian spy chief Mohammed Mediene. Read more »

Weekend Reading: Libya’s Forgotten War, Egypt’s Hidden Coup, and Falling Oil Prices

by Steven A. Cook
A Tuareg boy stands next to a camel in the desert during the 19th Ghat Festival of Culture and Tourism, in Ghat, about 1,360 km (845 miles) south of Tripoli December 30, 2013 (Esam Omran Al-Fetori/Reuters). A Tuareg boy stands next to a camel in the desert during the 19th Ghat Festival of Culture and Tourism, in Ghat, about 1,360 km (845 miles) south of Tripoli December 30, 2013 (Esam Omran Al-Fetori/Reuters).

Valerie Stocker explores the overlook conflict between Libya’s Tebu and Tuareg communities.

Hossam Bahgat investigates a secret military trial in Egypt of twenty-six officers accused of plotting a coup with the Muslim Brotherhood to overthrow President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. 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). 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: Iran and Us, Idlib and Assad, Libya and the Abyss

by Steven A. Cook
Iran's Foreign Minister Javad Zarif gestures as he speaks during a news conference at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne on April 2, 2015, after Iran nuclear program talks finished with extended sessions (Brendan Smialowski/Courtesy Reuters). Iran's Foreign Minister Javad Zarif gestures as he speaks during a news conference at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne on April 2, 2015, after Iran nuclear program talks finished with extended sessions (Brendan Smialowski/Courtesy Reuters).

Read the full text of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the framework agreement between the P5+1, the European Union, and Iran regarding the Iranian nuclear program.

Aron Lund considers the strategic value of Idlib to Syria’s anti-Assad rebels. Read more »

Who’s Afraid of Negotiations?

by Guest Blogger for Steven A. Cook
Then-General Khalifa Haftar speaks during a news conference at a sports club in Abyar, east of Benghazi May 21, 2014 (Esam Omran Al-Fetori/Courtesy Reuters). Then-General Khalifa Haftar speaks during a news conference at a sports club in Abyar, east of Benghazi May 21, 2014 (Esam Omran Al-Fetori/Courtesy Reuters).

My intern, Alex Decina, wrote this terrific post on the current state of play in Libya. I hope you find it interesting and useful.

Last Thursday could have been an important day for Libya. It could have marked the beginning of the end of the brutal civil war that has rocked the country for several months. It could have been the day divergent factions came together in spite of their political differences to form a unity government, one that could bring Libya forward. Since last week, the country’s two competing governments—the General National Congress (GNC) in the western city of Tripoli and the House of Representatives (HoR) in the eastern city of Tobruk—and their respective allies have been meeting in Morocco for what the United Nations hopes is the final phase of negotiations. If they can put this conflict behind them, Libya might see light at the end of what has been a very dark tunnel. While these negotiations show more promise than previous talks in Ghadames and Madrid, and the UN remains optimistic as it tries to push forward a unity government, they will likely still fail. The rival parties have shown time and again they are not above prolonging Libya’s violence to vie for political leverage and complete supremacy over each other. Without significant pressure, they will avoid resorting to compromise as a political solution. Read more »