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 Saudi Islands, the Hezbollah Corporation, and Syria’s Alawites

by Steven A. Cook
A former presidential candidate and lawyer Khaled Ali shouts slogans against President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and the government during a demonstration protesting the government's decision to transfer two Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia, in front of the Press Syndicate in Cairo, Egypt (Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Reuters). A former presidential candidate and lawyer Khaled Ali shouts slogans against President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and the government during a demonstration protesting the government's decision to transfer two Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia, in front of the Press Syndicate in Cairo, Egypt (Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Reuters).

Maged Atiya reflects on the public reaction to Egypt’s transfer of the islands of Tiran and Sanafir, situated at the entrance of the Gulf of Aqaba, to Saudi Arabia. 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: Saudi Arabia’s War, Tunisia’s Sidi Bouzid, and the Middle East’s Public Spaces

by Steven A. Cook
A boy holds up a rifle as he shouts slogans during a demonstration against Saudi-led strikes in Yemen's capital Sanaa November 20, 2015 (Khaled Abdullah/Reuters). A boy holds up a rifle as he shouts slogans during a demonstration against Saudi-led strikes in Yemen's capital Sanaa November 20, 2015 (Khaled Abdullah/Reuters).

Sharif Abdel Kouddous reports on the human toll of the Saudi-led war in Yemen.

Christine Petre looks at Sidi Bouzid five years after Tunisian fruit seller Mohammed Bouazizi’s self-immolation that sparked the Arab uprisings. Read more »

Weekend Reading: Egypt’s Jews, Lebanon’s Mukhtars, and Saudi Arabia’s Women

by Steven A. Cook
Saudi woman Fawzia al-Harbi, a candidate for local municipal council elections, uses her laptop at a shopping mall in Riyadh (Faisal Al Nasser/Reuters). Saudi woman Fawzia al-Harbi, a candidate for local municipal council elections, uses her laptop at a shopping mall in Riyadh (Faisal Al Nasser/Reuters).

Hanin Ghaddar talks to Magda Haroun, head of Cairo’s Jewish community, about her people’s legacy to Egypt.

Nora Stel explores the role of mukhtars—elected neighborhood- or village-level state representatives—in Lebanon’s consociational political system. Read more »

Weekend Reading: The Saudi-Iranian Cold War, the Return of the Free Syrian Army, and Lebanon’s Protests

by Steven A. Cook
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, left, shakes hands with Saudi Arabia's King Salman at the Royal Court, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Thursday, May 7, 2015 (Andrew Harnik/Reuters). U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, left, shakes hands with Saudi Arabia's King Salman at the Royal Court, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Thursday, May 7, 2015 (Andrew Harnik/Reuters).

Reza Marashi argues that ending the rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran is necessary to create a new and effective security framework in the Middle East.

Alex Rowell examines the slow and quiet return of the Free Syrian Army to prominence as a relevant player in Syria’s civil war. Read more »

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 »