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"

Weekend Reading: Ben Ali’s Flight, the Nawari of Gaza, and Algeria’s Independence Reconsidered

by Steven A. Cook
Tunisia's President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali addresses the nation in this still image taken from video, January 13, 2011 (Tunisian State TV/Handout/Reuters).

Middle East Eye interviews Mahmoud Cheikhrouhou, the pilot who flew Tunisia’s ousted president, Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, to Saudi Arabia in January 2011. Read more »

The Misplaced Optimism of the Two-State Solution

by Steven A. Cook
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry delivers remarks on Middle East peace at the Department of State in Washington (James Lawler Duggan/Reuters).

In the spring of 1991, when I was a research assistant for the director of studies at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, I met Joseph J. Sisco. Long-since retired, he had been the assistant secretary of state for the Near East and South Asia and undersecretary of state for political affairs. Among other things, Mr. Sisco (as I called him, even though he told me to use “Joe”) played an important role in Middle East diplomacy in the late 1960s and the first half of the 1970s. I was fortunate that Mr. Sisco took an interest in me. He was generous with his time, and on the few occasions that I published op-eds, he was gracious enough to offer his comments and encouragement. I remember some years later I ran into him on the DC Metro. This was just about the time when the Oslo process was starting to come undone by waves of suicide bombers attacking buses in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and other Israeli cities. After greeting each other, I asked Mr. Sisco what he thought about the prospects for continued progress in the context of such gruesome bloodshed. He replied, “Steven, you always have to be optimistic.” That was the last time I saw him in person; he died in late 2004. I am afraid if Mr. Sisco were still alive, his perspective would likely be darker than it was that day aboard the Red Line, especially after the spectacle of this past week. Read more »

Weekend Reading: Libyan Music, Gazan Tunnels, and Moroccan Politics

by Steven A. Cook
A voter casts his ballot at a polling station in Rabat, Morocco (Youssef Boudlal/Reuters).

Matthew Millan’s short documentary introduces us to the world of Libya’s revolutionary musicians.

Marina Chamma takes a look at the inner workings of a tunnel traversing the Egypt-Gaza border and what it means to Palestinians. Read more »

Weekend Reading: Waiting on Mosul, Talking With Ghassan Kanafani, and Oman’s Houthi Policy

by Steven A. Cook
Pro-government soldiers march during a military parade celebrating the 54th anniversary of North Yemen's revolution in the central province of Marib (Ali Owidha/Reuters).

Mustafa Habib provides a breakdown of the various groups and armed forces operating in Iraq’s Nineveh governorate, where the city of Mosul, controlled by the self-styled Islamic State, is located. Read more »

Israelis and Palestinians: And Then What?

by Steven A. Cook
A pedestrian walks in the centre of Jerusalem (Ronen Zvulun/Reuters).

In December 1987 the first intifada began after a traffic accident involving an Israeli truck and a Palestinian pedestrian outside the Jabaliya refugee camp set off a wave of demonstrations against Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The sudden volleys of rocks pelting Israeli soldiers and the tear gas and rubber bullets in response changed the complexion of the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians almost overnight, likely forever. The mighty Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) were not traversing the Sinai Peninsula in three days, rescuing hostages in Entebbe, or spending two daring minutes over Baghdad, but breaking teenagers’ bones on the streets of Nablus, Hebron, Ramallah, and Gaza City. David had become Goliath and had no answer for Daoud’s slingshot. The Israelis must have been rattled by the images on television and pictures published in the press because, a few months after it all began, the Israeli consul general started doing the rounds of universities and colleges in the New York area to provide Jerusalem’s perspective on the unrest. I remember attending one such event on a chilly evening in a half-empty room at Vassar’s College Center. During the Q&A a member of the audience recalled an encounter with someone he identified as an “Arab friend in Israel.” He alleged that during a debate over politics his friend relayed that, despite their relationship, he would kill him if and when communal violence erupted. It was an odd non sequitur to what had, until that moment, been an interesting discussion thankfully lacking the overwrought theatrics of more recent conversations about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on America’s campuses. Read more »

Weekend Reading: The Syrian Opposition, Iraq’s Identity, and Hamas Holds Back…For Now

by Steven A. Cook
Free Syrian Army fighters, part of the Suqour al-Jabal (Mountain Hawks) brigade, rest with their weapons at their headquarters building in Aleppo, Syria, July 30, 2015 (Abdalrhman Ismail/Reuters).

Aymenn al-Tamimi examines the potential for a unified Syrian opposition as a result of Russian intervention.

Harith Hasan al-Qarawee and Matthew Schweitzer outline a strategy to rebuild Iraq’s cultural and historical identity. 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: Egypt’s Informers, Algeria’s Political Complexities, and The Non-Intifada

by Steven A. Cook
A supporter of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi shouts slogans against the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist groups, after the collection signatures for a petition in downtown Cairo (Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Courtesy Reuters).

Belal Fadl characterizes Egypt as a state-sponsored nation of informers.

Anna Jacobs explores the complexities of the Algerian political system. Read more »

Weekend Reading: Trouble In Morocco, Egypt 1990s Style, and What Are The Palestinians Saying?

by Steven A. Cook
Israeli border police officers walk past the Dome of the Rock on the compound known to Muslims as Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount in Jerusalem's Old City (Ammar Awad/Courtesy Reuters).

Zineb Belmkaddem examines how the Moroccan authorities are clamping down on opposition movements.

Dina El Khawaga argues that the Egyptian government is reproducing the authoritarian measures of the 1990s to consolidate its power. Read more »

Salvaging Abbas

by Steven A. Cook
U.S. President Barack Obama walks down Cross Hall with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas September 1, 2010 (Jason Reed/Courtesy Reuters).

This article was originally published here on on Tuesday, July 29, 2014.

Almost from the start of the conflict in the Gaza Strip, the commentariat has been seized with the idea of “empowering [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud] Abbas” as the only way out of the recurrent violence between Israel and Hamas. The discovery of this idea in Washington (and Jerusalem for that matter) is rather odd, not because it does not make sense, but rather because the idea is so reasonable and obvious that one wonders why — ten years after he became the Palestinian leader — it took so long to recognize it. Almost from the moment of Yasser Arafat’s death, Egypt sent high-level emissaries to the United States, warning that the new Palestinian president needed help lest he gradually cede the political arena to Hamas. He did not get it then and now it is likely too late to salvage Abbas. Read more »