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 "Syria"

Summer of Sadism

by Steven A. Cook
People ride a bus to be evacuated from the besieged Damascus suburb of Daraya, after an agreement reached on Thursday between rebels and Syria's army (Omar Sanadiki/Reuters). People ride a bus to be evacuated from the besieged Damascus suburb of Daraya, after an agreement reached on Thursday between rebels and Syria's army (Omar Sanadiki/Reuters).

I love the summer. When I was a kid, beginning around April 1, I would start counting down the days until I went to camp. As an adult, summer has always been the season when I can turn back the clock and be a little less adult. The Tuesday after Labor Day is just another day in the calendar and the weather is often no different from the day or month before, but for me, it is the most vile day of the year—it marks the end of summer. Read more »

Weekend Reading and Listening: Syria’s Druze, How to Define the Caliphate, and an Open Letter to Middle Eastern Governments

by Steven A. Cook
Druze clerics attend the funeral ceremony of top Druze cleric Sheikh Ahmed Salman al-Hajri in al-Suwayda city (Khaled al-Hariri/Reuters). Druze clerics attend the funeral ceremony of top Druze cleric Sheikh Ahmed Salman al-Hajri in al-Suwayda city (Khaled al-Hariri/Reuters).

Talal El Atrache explores how the Druze, who have never joined the Syrian rebellion, have navigated the conflict so far.

Taylan Gungor interviews Hugh Kennedy for Ottoman History Podcast to discuss the changing definitions of the term “caliphate” throughout history. Read more »

Weekend Reading: Inside the Islamic State, the Decline of Lebanon, and Sectarianism in Syria Again

by Steven A. Cook
People attend a demonstration against sectarianism, also calling for abolishing curfews put on Syrian refugees in Beirut, Lebanon (Mohamed Azakir/Reuters). People attend a demonstration against sectarianism, also calling for abolishing curfews put on Syrian refugees in Beirut, Lebanon (Mohamed Azakir/Reuters).

Jassim Muhammad, writing for Majallah, presents an inside look into the self-declared Islamic State through the testimony of a senior defector. Read more »

Weekend Reading: Libyan Identity, an Alawite State, and Cairo’s Ramadan Lanterns

by Steven A. Cook
A woman with her daughter look at a stall selling festival lights and Ramadan lanterns, or "fanoos Ramadan", at Sayida Zienab district market during the first day of Ramadan in old Cairo, Egypt (Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Reuters). A woman with her daughter look at a stall selling festival lights and Ramadan lanterns, or "fanoos Ramadan", at Sayida Zienab district market during the first day of Ramadan in old Cairo, Egypt (Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Reuters).

Nada Elfeituri discusses the politics of identity and tribalism in Libya as civil strife continues to unfold.

Stefan Winter examines a 1936 pro–Syrian unity petition by Sulayman al-Asad, grandfather of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who pushed against the creation of an Alawite state. Read more »

Weekend Reading: The Sarona Attacks, the Islamic State’s Factions, and What Is Ahrar al-Sham?

by Steven A. Cook
Relatives and friends mourn during the funeral of Ido Ben Ari, one of four Israelis who was killed in an Palestinian shooting attack in Tel Aviv, at a cemetery in Yavne, Israel (Ronen Zvulun/Reuters). Relatives and friends mourn during the funeral of Ido Ben Ari, one of four Israelis who was killed in an Palestinian shooting attack in Tel Aviv, at a cemetery in Yavne, Israel (Ronen Zvulun/Reuters).

J. J. Goldberg dissects the nature of the recent terrorist attack in Tel Aviv that killed four.

Tore Hamming examines the different ideological strains within the Islamic State group, focusing on its “extremist” wing. Read more »

Weekend Reading: Tunisia’s Beggars, Post-Islamist Islamists, and Assyrians in Syria

by Steven A. Cook
2016Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi (L), talks with Rached Ghannouchi, leader of the Islamist Ennahda movement, during the congress of the Ennahda Movement in Tunis, Tunisia (Zoubeir Souissi/Reuters). 2016Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi (L), talks with Rached Ghannouchi, leader of the Islamist Ennahda movement, during the congress of the Ennahda Movement in Tunis, Tunisia (Zoubeir Souissi/Reuters).

Inel Tarfa interviews street beggars in Tunis, who express a complete lack of faith in the Tunisian government.

Nervana Mahmoud remains skeptical of Rachid al-Ghannouchi’s plan to divorce political Islam from his Tunisian Islamist party Ennahda. Read more »

Weekend Reading: The Folly of Iraqi Partition, Turkey’s New Prime Minister, and Geopolitical Shiism

by Steven A. Cook
Tribesmen loyal to the Houthi movement perform the Baraa dance during a gathering to show support to the movement in Sanaa, Yemen (Khaled Abdullah/Reuters). Tribesmen loyal to the Houthi movement perform the Baraa dance during a gathering to show support to the movement in Sanaa, Yemen (Khaled Abdullah/Reuters).

Ben Connable contends that persistent arguments to partition Iraq are often incoherent and offer weak solutions.

Murat Yetkin profiles Turkey’s presumptive new prime minister, Binali Yildirim, who was formerly the minister of transportation. Read more »

Syria’s Doctors

by Steven A. Cook
Burnt vehicles are pictured in front of the damaged the Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF)-backed al-Quds hospital after it was hit by airstrikes, in a rebel-held area of Syria's Aleppo (Abdalrhman Ismail/Reuters). Burnt vehicles are pictured in front of the damaged the Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF)-backed al-Quds hospital after it was hit by airstrikes, in a rebel-held area of Syria's Aleppo (Abdalrhman Ismail/Reuters).

In late May 1994, I boarded a Pakistan International Airways flight bound for Islamabad with intermediate stops in the Netherlands and Syria. It was the summer between my two years at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, and I was headed to the Institute for Teaching Arabic to Foreigners in Damascus. Somewhere halfway across the Atlantic that night I struck up a conversation with the guy sitting next to me, who was juggling two little fidgety children. He was probably the same age that I am now. For the life of me I cannot remember his name or where in the United States he lived—I want to say Texas, but it could have been California or Illinois—but I do remember his profession. He was a doctor. Read more »

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 »