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 "Saudi Arabia"

Weekend Reading: Egypt’s Money Pit, Morocco’s Jewish Community, and Saudi Civil Society

by Steven A. Cook
Moroccan Jewish men pray at a synagogue in Tetouan (Rafael Marchante/Reuters). Moroccan Jewish men pray at a synagogue in Tetouan (Rafael Marchante/Reuters).

Nizar Manek and Jeremy Hodge chase after $9.4 billion worth of secret accounts and special funds hidden away by top Egyptian officials.

Evelyn Crunden examines how one group in Morocco remembers and revives the country’s Jewish heritage. Read more »

Weekend Reading: A Return to Idlib, Secular Politics in Egypt, and al-Qaeda in Syria

by Steven A. Cook
Civilians react as they wear gas masks after what activists said was a chlorine gas attack on Kansafra village at Idlib countryside, Syria (Abed Kontar/Courtesy Reuters). Civilians react as they wear gas masks after what activists said was a chlorine gas attack on Kansafra village at Idlib countryside, Syria (Abed Kontar/Courtesy Reuters).

Ahmad al-Akla writes about people’s return to rebel-controlled Idlib, Syria.

A new party in Egypt calls for a secular constitution. Read more »

Weekend Reading: Wahhabism and ISIS, the Yemeni State, and the State of Yemen

by Steven A. Cook
A boy sits at the site of an air strike at a residential area near Sanaa Airport (Khaled Abdullah/Courtesy Reuters). A boy sits at the site of an air strike at a residential area near Sanaa Airport (Khaled Abdullah/Courtesy Reuters).

Lorenzo Kamel examines how the Wahhabi establishment in Saudi Arabia attempts to differentiate itself from the ideology of ISIS.

Jay Ulfelder finds that recent events in Yemen challenges traditional conceptions of the state and the international system. Read more »

Saudi Arabia: How Do You Know?

by Steven A. Cook
Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah arrives at Heathrow Airport in west London October 29, 2007 (Dylan Martinez/Courtesy Reuters). Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah arrives at Heathrow Airport in west London October 29, 2007 (Dylan Martinez/Courtesy Reuters).

During one of my last semesters in graduate school, I was a teaching assistant for a course called “How Do You Know?” The goal of the class was to expose students to the way different disciplines in the social sciences, humanities, and hard sciences evaluate evidence. It was a terrific course. The students loved it and the instructors loved it. I hope the University of Pennsylvania still offers it because many of the people writing about Saudi Arabia after King Abdullah’s death on Friday morning (Saudi time) should enroll. It may not help, however. In too many instances commentators, be they declared “experts” or run-of the-mill pundits, are not dealing with any evidence at all. They are just repeating rumors or making up deep-sounding pronouncements after apparently crash-watching David Lean’s 1962 movie Lawrence of Arabia, which, by the way, had nothing to do with the al-Saud family, but rather their Hejazi rivals, the Hashemites. Here is my advice: Let’s everyone step back from their metaphorical desert tent, take a deep breath, sip some cardamom coffee, munch on a date, and understand—as best we can—what has and what has not happened in Saudi Arabia. Read more »

Weekend Reading: After Sultan Qaboos, Bahrain Goes To The Polls, and Saudi Arabia’s Elites

by Steven A. Cook
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (L) meets with Oman's Sultan Qaboos bin Said at Bait Al Baraka in Muscat, Oman, May 21, 2013 (Jim Young/Courtesy Reuters). U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (L) meets with Oman's Sultan Qaboos bin Said at Bait Al Baraka in Muscat, Oman, May 21, 2013 (Jim Young/Courtesy Reuters).

Georgia Travers considers the implications of rumors about Sultan Qaboos’ health on Omani political society.

Faten Bushehri assesses the state of Bahrain on the eve of its parliamentary elections. Read more »

The Contest for Regional Leadership in the New Middle East

by Steven A. Cook
Free Syrian Army fighters pose on a tank, which they say was captured from the Syrian army loyal to President Bashar al-Assad, after clashes in Qasseer, near Homs (Shaam News Network/Courtesy Reuters). Free Syrian Army fighters pose on a tank, which they say was captured from the Syrian army loyal to President Bashar al-Assad, after clashes in Qasseer, near Homs (Shaam News Network/Courtesy Reuters).

The Center for a New American Security (CNAS) just published this report that I coauthored with Jacob Stokes, Bacevich fellow at  CNAS, and my research associate Alexander Brock.

“The Contest for Regional Leadership in the New Middle East” shows how, in addition to the historic political change occurring within the major states of the Middle East, there is a transformative process underway remaking the dynamics among the states of the region. The reordering of the geopolitics of the region has exposed rivalries among the contenders for leadership, as well as different ideological, economic, nationalistic and sectarian agendas. The report argues that Washington has sought to accommodate these changes in a way that continues to secure its strategic interests. What role the United States will play in a “new Middle East” is the subject of intense debate among Americans, Arabs and Turks. Nevertheless, it is clear that with all the problems regional powers have confronted trying to shape the politics of the region, American leadership will continue to be indispensable. Read more »

How Personal Politics Drive Conflict in the Gulf

by Guest Blogger for Steven A. Cook
Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani (Louafi Larbi/Courtesy Reuters). Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani (Louafi Larbi/Courtesy Reuters).

David Roberts, lecturer in the Defence Studies Department at King’s College London, based at the Joaan Bin Jassim Staff College in Qatar, offers expert insight into the recent tensions among the major GCC states.

“I love all the countries of the Gulf, and they all love me.” With this less than subtle statement, Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the vocal Qatar-based Muslim Brotherhood scholar tried to do his part to repair regional relations in the Gulf that have badly frayed in recent weeks. Long-brewing discontent erupted in early March with the unprecedented withdrawal of the Saudi, Emirati, and Bahraini ambassadors from Qatar. Subsequent mediation from Kuwait’s Emir has led the protagonists to the cusp of a modus vivendi, and a vague document has been agreed upon. Read more »

Weekend Listening/Viewing/Reading: Satire in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia’s “Garden,” and Lebanese Relief Workers

by Steven A. Cook
Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) employees count votes at an analysis centre in Baghdad May 2, 2014 (Thaier Al-Sudani/Courtesy Reuters). Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) employees count votes at an analysis centre in Baghdad May 2, 2014 (Thaier Al-Sudani/Courtesy Reuters).
Karl Sharro discusses Lebanese politics and the role of satire in political analysis of the Middle East on Karl Morand’s Middle East Week Podcast. Read more »

Saudi, The MB, and The Politics of Terrorism

by Steven A. Cook
A supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood and ousted Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, wearing a headband that reads "We all are Rabaa", takes part in a protest against the military and interior ministry (Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Courtesy Reuters). A supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood and ousted Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, wearing a headband that reads "We all are Rabaa", takes part in a protest against the military and interior ministry (Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Courtesy Reuters).

Last Friday, the Saudi government declared the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization, lumping the Brothers in with Jabhat al Nusra, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, and al Qaeda.   The announcement was not terribly surprising.  Riyadh has proven to be Cairo’s staunchest patron since the July 3 coup d’état and both governments have led the effort to delegitimize the Brotherhood ever since.  This actually has much more to do with politics than it does with terrorism, which prompted me to tweet: Read more »

Weekend Reading: America’s Quagmire?, an Egyptian Thanksgiving, and Foreign Workers No Longer in Saudi

by Steven A. Cook
Yemeni workers, deported from Saudi Arabia, wait to leave a bus on which they were deported, at the Saudi al-Tewal border outpost with Yemen (Khaled Abdullah/Courtesy Reuters). Yemeni workers, deported from Saudi Arabia, wait to leave a bus on which they were deported, at the Saudi al-Tewal border outpost with Yemen (Khaled Abdullah/Courtesy Reuters).

Ammar Abdulhamid looks at the consequences of U.S. inaction in Syria and elsewhere.

Maged Atiya remembers his first Thanksgiving. Read more »