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"

Weekend Reading: Non-Sectarian Refugees, the Transformation of Egyptians, and Inside the Fight Against the Islamic State

by Steven A. Cook
Egyptians celebrate on Tahrir Square during the fifth anniversary of the uprising that ended 30-year reign of Hosni Mubarak in Cairo, Egypt (Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Reuters). Egyptians celebrate on Tahrir Square during the fifth anniversary of the uprising that ended 30-year reign of Hosni Mubarak in Cairo, Egypt (Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Reuters).

Laura Dean reflects on the surprising absence of sectarianism among Syrian refugees in Lebanon.

Amro Ali encourages Egyptians to recognize their individual political transformations as the true achievement of the 2011 revolution. Read more »

Is Turkey Really at the Table?

by Steven A. Cook
Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (C) delivers opening remarks at in a working session on the global economy with fellow world leaders at the start of the G20 summit at the Regnum Carya Resort in Antalya, Turkey, November 15, 2015 (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters). Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (C) delivers opening remarks at in a working session on the global economy with fellow world leaders at the start of the G20 summit at the Regnum Carya Resort in Antalya, Turkey, November 15, 2015 (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters).

This article originally appeared here on Politico.com on Tuesday, November 24, 2015.

To Westerners, it might seem that Vladimir Putin was exaggerating in anger when, after a Turkish F-16 on Tuesday shot down a Russian fighter jet allegedly violating Turkish airspace, he referred to the government in Ankara as “terrorists’ accomplices.” Read more »

Weekend Reading: Tourism in Egypt, Descartes in Reyhanli, and Corruption in the KRG

by Steven A. Cook
A girl holds a child inside a refugee camp for the internally displaced in Jrzinaz area, southern part of Idlib province, Syria October 13, 2015 (Khalil Ashawi/Reuters). A girl holds a child inside a refugee camp for the internally displaced in Jrzinaz area, southern part of Idlib province, Syria October 13, 2015 (Khalil Ashawi/Reuters).

Farah Halime studies how continued violence in Egypt, particularly against the tourism industry, negatively impacts the country’s economy.

The blogger Maysaloon discusses teaching identity, philosophy, and Descartes to Syrian refugee children. 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: 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). 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 »

Weekend Reading: Revisionist Jihad, Rationalism in Iraq, and Turkish-Kurdish Relations

by Steven A. Cook
A rebel fighter from the Ahrar al-Sham Islamic Movement reacts as they fire grad rockets from Idlib countryside, towards forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad stationed at Jureen town in al-Ghab plain in the Hama countryside, April 25, 2015 (Mohamad Bayoush/Reuters). A rebel fighter from the Ahrar al-Sham Islamic Movement reacts as they fire grad rockets from Idlib countryside, towards forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad stationed at Jureen town in al-Ghab plain in the Hama countryside, April 25, 2015 (Mohamad Bayoush/Reuters).

Sam Heller discusses the revisionist ideology of Syria’s Ahrar al-Sham and the future of jihadi thought.

Marwan Jabbar takes at look at Iraqis translating scientific articles into Arabic in an effort to combat extremism. Read more »

Weekend Reading: Iran’s Parliament, Syria Divided, and Egyptian Illusions

by Steven A. Cook
Abdel Fattah Al Sisi, president of Egypt, addresses a plenary meeting of the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit 2015 at United Nations headquarters in Manhattan, New York (Mike Segar/Reuters). Abdel Fattah Al Sisi, president of Egypt, addresses a plenary meeting of the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit 2015 at United Nations headquarters in Manhattan, New York (Mike Segar/Reuters).

Farideh Farhi explores the Iranian parliament’s review of the nuclear deal.

Abdulrahman al-Rashed examines the consequences of a divided Syria. Read more »

Syria: Let Putin Bleed

by Steven A. Cook
Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (L), U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (C) and Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir stand together before a trilateral meeting in Doha, Qatar August 3, 2015 (Brendan Smialowski/Reuters). Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (L), U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (C) and Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir stand together before a trilateral meeting in Doha, Qatar August 3, 2015 (Brendan Smialowski/Reuters).

Early September brought the news that the Russians were deploying military forces to Bassel al-Assad International Airport near Latakia on the Syrian coast. The Aviationist website recently reproduced satellite imagery showing twenty-eight combat aircraft, including four Sukhoi Su-30SM multirole (air-to-air and ground interdiction) fighters, twelve Sukhoi Su-25 attack planes, and twelve Sukhoi Su-24 attack planes. In addition, the Russians have deployed fifteen helicopters, nine tanks, three missile batteries, cargo planes, refueling aircraft, and about five hundred soldiers to the same airfield. The Obama administration has not said much about the deployment, only that it was seeking clarification from Moscow. Pentagon officials were generally mum last Friday after Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter called his Russian counterpart, Sergei Shoigu, saying only that they are watching the situation closely. The administration’s critics and supporters have responded to these developments in ways one might expect—howling criticism or over rationalization justifying why the presence of Russian forces in Syria is actually no big deal. They both have it wrong, though. Of course, the Russian buildup is a very big deal and marks a new, even more complicated and potentially dangerous phase in the Syrian conflict, but that is precisely why we should welcome it. Read more »

Syria and the Question of Intervention

by Guest Blogger for Steven A. Cook
A Syrian refugee man covered with dust arrives at the Trabeel border, after his crossed into Jordanian territory with his family (Muhammad Hamed/Reuters). A Syrian refugee man covered with dust arrives at the Trabeel border, after his crossed into Jordanian territory with his family (Muhammad Hamed/Reuters).

My friend, Timothy Kaldas, offers this provocative post on the conflict in Syria.  He raises a host of issues that many people have been struggling with since the civil war began.  I hope readers find it interesting and useful. Read more »

Overstating the Islamic State

by Steven A. Cook
A man rides a motorcycle with a child in the historical city of Palmyra, September 30, 2010 (Nour Fourat/Reuters). A man rides a motorcycle with a child in the historical city of Palmyra, September 30, 2010 (Nour Fourat/Reuters).

Ever since the self-declared Islamic State overran Mosul in June 2014, virtually everyone has made it fairly clear in mostly unintended ways that we do not understand a lot about the group. Perhaps that is a bit unfair. There are a number of talented scholars who have done great work on the origins and worldview of the Islamic State. Both Will McCants and Dan Byman have new books on the group and Aaron Zelin has long been a terrific resource on all things extremist. Their work should help Washington understand how to meet the challenge the Islamic State presents, yet I keep hearing the same things about the Islamic State that I have been hearing since everyone discovered it and rediscovered Iraq fifteen months ago. One of the most dissatisfying is this, or some variation of it: “The Islamic State cannot provide services in the areas that it controls thereby sowing the seeds of its own demise.” This strikes me as one of those things that make a lot of sense to those of us here, but seems erroneous in the context of the Islamic State. It is pretty clear to me that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi does not care about guaranteeing services, that failing to provide things like electricity will not actually undermine the Islamic State, and that the inability (or unwillingness) to extend services to people living in IS-land does not make it all that different from any number of states in Middle East. Read more »