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 "Palestinian Authority"

Yasser Arafat: Dead Again

by Steven A. Cook
Photo by Steven Cook. Photo by Steven Cook.

With all the important news going on in the Middle East this past week, Al Jazeera took time out to remind its audience that Yasser Arafat is still dead. It has been nine years since the Palestinian leader passed away in a French hospital, yet Abu Ammar is still making news, of sorts.  This week a Swiss investigative team reported that there are indications that Arafat was poisoned with polonium, yet others who took part in the examination of the remains and soil samples around the man’s grave at the Muqata’a in Ramallah have not been so definitive nor willing to release their findings.  Sounds suspicious. Read more »

Palestine in India

by Steven A. Cook
An example of Rangoli--Indian folk art that is intended as a welcoming of Hindu gods. An example of Rangoli--Indian folk art that is intended as a welcoming of Hindu gods.

Mumbai, India—A few nights ago, I had the opportunity to speak about the Middle East at an interfaith forum in Chennai.  India is not without its sectarian problems and periodic spasms of terrible religion-inspired violence, but the country’s well-deserved reputation for spirituality seems to take the edge off on a daily basis.  For that reason, I was looking forward to the interfaith dialogue.  This is a country of six major religions, and though 80 percent are Hindus, departments of Religious Studies at Indian universities teach about Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Jainism, Sikhism, and Buddhism.  That’s not all, of course.  Another almost 7 million people adhere to a variety of other religions.  The interfaith forum provided an opportunity for me to see how the Indians make it all work.  I was imagining a lot of Namaste (a hard to translate expression of reverence and respect). The rangoli—a symbolic offering to Hindu gods—just outside the building where the dialogue was taking place only heightened my expectations about how the evening would unfold. The event started off well-enough with the director of the center giving a “Moon is in the 7th House—all religions teach love—peace is our destiny” oration that in a previous era inspired a generation of hippies. Read more »

Weekend Reading: Al-Qaeda’s Spring, Tunisia’s Violence, and Palestine’s Perspective

by Steven A. Cook
A Muslim man reads the Koran at the Al-Rajhi mosque east of Riyadh, during the holy month of Ramadan (Faisal Al Nasser/Courtesy Reuters). A Muslim man reads the Koran at the Al-Rajhi mosque east of Riyadh, during the holy month of Ramadan (Faisal Al Nasser/Courtesy Reuters).

Musa al-Gharbi claims that the Arab Spring has failed to render al-Qaeda irrelevant, and it is now on the verge of resurgence.

Tunisia-Live’s live blog for updates on Thursday’s assassination of Mohammed Brahmi, leader of the opposition Popular Movement Party in Tunisia. Read more »

Weekend Reading: Egypt’s Economy, Turkey’s Foreign Ministry, and Greening the West Bank

by Steven A. Cook
People rest near Ramadan lanterns, or Fanoos Ramadan, which are displayed for sale at shops a day ahead of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan in Cairo (Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Courtesy Reuters). People rest near Ramadan lanterns, or Fanoos Ramadan, which are displayed for sale at shops a day ahead of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan in Cairo (Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Courtesy Reuters).

Matt Phillips, writing for Quartz, provides some startling figures about Egypt’s economy following the ouster of former President Hosni Mubarak. Read more »

Weekend Reading: Egypt’s Revolutionary Symbols, Religious Tolerance on the Nile, and Israel Is Not Feeling Lucky

by Steven A. Cook
A man feeds camels at the camel market in Agadez, northern Niger. The Libyan crisis has affected the camel trade in Agadez badly, as Libya was a large market for the animal, and now there is no trade available from the country. (Luc Gnago/Courtesy Reuters). A man feeds camels at the camel market in Agadez, northern Niger. The Libyan crisis has affected the camel trade in Agadez badly, as Libya was a large market for the animal, and now there is no trade available from the country. (Luc Gnago/Courtesy Reuters).

Muftah analyzes the Muslim Brotherhood’s appropriation of revolutionary symbols, such as the Ultras,  to claim popularity among the youth in Egypt. 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). 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 »

Dissolve the Palestinian Authority

by Steven A. Cook
A member of the Palestinian security forces is seen behind a flag during a celebration in the West Bank city of Ramallah upon the return of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas from the U.N. General Assembly in the U.S., September 25, 2011 (Darren Whiteside/Courtesy Reuters). A member of the Palestinian security forces is seen behind a flag during a celebration in the West Bank city of Ramallah upon the return of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas from the U.N. General Assembly in the U.S., September 25, 2011 (Darren Whiteside/Courtesy Reuters).

Negotiation? Done it. Violence? Check. Spoken openly of a one-state solution? Already part of the playbook. Declared statehood?  A few times.  UN recognition?  In the bag.  In the last almost decade and a half, the Palestinians have tried almost everything to force the Israelis to be more forthcoming on the issues that divide them—settlements, refugees, Jerusalem—all to no avail.  For a combination of political reasons and security concerns the Israeli leaders have resisted the pressure, arguing either that the Palestinians cannot deliver or that Israel will not respond to threats. Indeed, the Israelis have been ruthlessly effective in demonstrating to the Palestinians that these tactics do not work through violence, settlements, and economic pressure.  The result has been a crippled Palestinian leadership and bred despair among both West Bankers and Gazans. Read more »

Obsessive Are the Peacemakers

by Steven A. Cook
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry addresses the press (Jason Reed/Courtesy Reuters). U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry addresses the press (Jason Reed/Courtesy Reuters).

Lost in all the reporting and blogging about President Obama’s planned March visit to Israel were the first phone calls his new Secretary of State, John Kerry, made even before entering office.  Even before figuring out how to use his new email, learning the way to the cafeteria, and filling out “Emergency Contact” forms, Secretary Kerry called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli President Shimon Peres and president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas.  Perhaps America’s new chief diplomat was merely extending a courtesy to important Middle East allies or maybe he was giving them a heads-up that the White House was going to announce the president’s visit to Israel and the West Bank or perchance Secretary Kerry wants to have a go at making peace between Israelis and Palestinians. 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). 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 ForeignPolicy.com on Monday, November 19, 2012. I look forward to reading your comments.  Read more »

In Shifting Sands of Middle East, Who Will Lead?

by Steven A. Cook
Hamas Prime Minister Haniyeh and the Emir of Qatar arrive at a cornerstone laying ceremony in Khan Younis (Mohammed Salem/Courtesy Reuters) Hamas Prime Minister Haniyeh and the Emir of Qatar arrive at a cornerstone laying ceremony in Khan Younis (Mohammed Salem/Courtesy Reuters)

This article was originally published here on CSMonitor.com on Thursday, November 15, 2012

Even before the recent round of Hamas rockets and airstrikes from Israel in the Gaza Strip, the Palestinian enclave was in the news as the diplomatic destination of choice for the leaders of the Middle East. Last month, the emir of Qatar visited Gaza. Bahrain’s embattled king is also weighing such a trip. Turkey’s prime minister, too, announced his intention to travel to the strip. Read more »