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 "North Africa"

Weekend Reading/Viewing: Lingo in Morocco, Lights Out in Yemen, and Urban Housing in Cairo

by Steven A. Cook
Framed by the Egyptian flag, a supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood and ousted Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi shouts slogans outside the police academy, where Morsi's trial took place, on the outskirts of Cairo (Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Courtesy Reuters). Framed by the Egyptian flag, a supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood and ousted Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi shouts slogans outside the police academy, where Morsi's trial took place, on the outskirts of Cairo (Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Courtesy Reuters).

Mohamed Kasmi discusses the linguistic richness in Morocco, and the related linguistic policies the government has enacted over the years. Read more »

Mubarak Still Rules

by Steven A. Cook
Protesters cheer with Egyptian flags and a banner of army chief Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, seen between former presidents Gamal Abdel Nasser and Anwar Sadat, as they gather for a mass protest to support the army in front of the presidential palace in Cairo (Asmaa Waguih/Courtesy Reuters). Protesters cheer with Egyptian flags and a banner of army chief Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, seen between former presidents Gamal Abdel Nasser and Anwar Sadat, as they gather for a mass protest to support the army in front of the presidential palace in Cairo (Asmaa Waguih/Courtesy Reuters).

This article was originally published here at ForeignPolicy.com on Wednesday, August 14, 2013. 

My friend, the late Hassan El Sawaf, was correct. When I spoke to him on the evening of February 11, 2011, he was exuberant. After years of a lonely and personal struggle against Hosni Mubarak’s rule, the dictator was suddenly gone. A new era had begun. The prospects for democracy had never seemed so bright. Read more »

Wanting Egypt to Fail

by Steven A. Cook
An Egyptian Air Force F-16 fighter jet flies low over thousands of anti-government protesters gathered at Tahrir square in Cairo January 30, 2011. (Yannis Behrakis/Courtesy Reuters). An Egyptian Air Force F-16 fighter jet flies low over thousands of anti-government protesters gathered at Tahrir square in Cairo January 30, 2011. (Yannis Behrakis/Courtesy Reuters).

Egypt is a mess.  Just two short years after the uprising that brought Hosni Mubarak’s long-rule to an end, the country is paralyzed politically, protests have become increasingly violent, sectarian tensions are high, the public health system is in total disarray, and the economy is near collapse.  Nothing has gone right in this country of 84 million people that has traditionally been the most influential in the region—for good or bad—and since the mid-1970s a pillar of U.S.-Middle East policy.  It is not only the peace between Egypt and Israel, but also the U.S. Navy’s access to the Suez Canal, the many daily U.S. military overflights critical to the United States in confronting the Iranian threat, and Egypt’s logistical assistance for U.S. operations in Afghanistan and until not too long ago Iraq that are of paramount importance to Washington.  As a result, an objective observer might come to the reasonable conclusion that Egypt needs help and that the international community should do what it can to help pull Egyptians back from the brink.  That is certainly the view of most analysts from across the political spectrum, yet in one corner of the commentariat, they are actually hoping for Egypt to fail. Read more »

Meet the New Boss

by Steven A. Cook
Shite Muslim supporters of the Imamia Student Organization (ISO) shout slogans as they burn a U.S. flag during an anti-American demonstration in Peshawar (Fayaz Aziz/Courtesy Reuters). Shite Muslim supporters of the Imamia Student Organization (ISO) shout slogans as they burn a U.S. flag during an anti-American demonstration in Peshawar (Fayaz Aziz/Courtesy Reuters).

This article was originally published here on ForeignPolicy.com on Friday, September 14, 2012

The attacks on the U.S. Embassy in Cairo and U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, this Sept. 11 echoed the worst moments of American impotence in the Middle East. They not only evoked memories of Iranian revolutionaries storming the U.S. Embassy in Tehran almost 33 years ago, but their occurrence on the anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington further reminded Americans of the deep roots of anti-American rage in the Arab world. Read more »

Weekend Reading: Snapshots of Protests in the Middle East

by Steven A. Cook
Protesters climb a fence at the U.S. embassy in Sanaa (Mohamed Al-Sayaghi/Courtesy Reuters). Protesters climb a fence at the U.S. embassy in Sanaa (Mohamed Al-Sayaghi/Courtesy Reuters).

Nafeesa Syeed provides a closer look at the ongoing protests at the U.S. embassy in Sana’a, Yemen.

Evan Hill offers an interesting analysis of the anti-American demonstrations sweeping the Arab world. Read more »

After the Arab Spring on TheAtlantic.com

by Steven A. Cook

A Kingdom of Libya flag is seen during a demonstration in support of the Bahraini people in Baghdad's Sadr city (Stringer Iraq/Courtesy Reuters)

Hi folks,

Below is an excerpt from my piece on TheAtlantic.com that appeared today. To read the full text, click here.

A couple of days before Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was finally forced from office, it rained in Cairo. When the storm passed and the sun re-appeared, one of the protesters pointed out on Twitter that a rainbow had appeared over downtown — a sign, she believed, of the freedom and prosperity that was to come. Caught up in the romance of the barricades, it was hard for demonstrators and democracy activists, in Egypt and beyond, not to think that way. It seemed that Middle East was on the verge of a democratic breakthrough. It was one thing for Tunisians to force a tin-pot dictator like Zine Abidine Ben Ali to flee to Jeddah, it was quite another for Egyptians to dump the Pharaoh. That’s not supposed to happen. And as Tunisians inspired Egyptians, what the revolutionaries in Cairo accomplished gave impetus to Pearl Square, where Bahrain’s own protesters have gathered, and to Benghazi, the base of Libya’s rebellion against Muammar Qaddafi. Yet the successes of Tahrir or November 7 squares have not easily translated to these other places. It seems entirely possible that the Arab spring could end on the banks of the Nile. What went wrong?

Read more »

The Calculations of Tunisia’s Military

by Steven A. Cook

Tunisian army soldier stands in front of the headquarters of the Constitutional Democratic Rally party of ousted president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali during a demonstration in Tunis on January 20, 2011 (Zohra Bensemra/Courtesy Reuters)

Hi folks,

Below is my article on Tunisia that is now up on Foreign Policy. Enjoy.

Aren’t Middle Eastern militaries supposed to crack down and kick butt? Aren’t they supposed to be the “backbone” of regimes? The guarantors of last resort? The ultimate instrument of political control? Read any account of civil-military relations and the Middle East — including my own — and the answers to these questions are a resounding yes. So when the Tunisian armed forces, allegedly at the command of General Rashid Ammar, told Tunisian President Zine Abidine Ben Ali that the military would not shoot protesters demanding the strongman’s ouster and then pushed him from power, the commanders were clearly not playing to type. The role that the military has played in the Tunisian uprising thus far is intriguing and as Tunisia grapples with phase two of the post-Ben Ali era, what the military does (and doesn’t do) will be critical in the country’s political trajectory.

Read more »