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: Erdogan and Davutoglu, Egypt’s Prisons, and Negotiating with Assad?

by Steven A. Cook
Syria's President Bashar al-Assad is seen during the filming of an interview with the BBC, in Damascus (Sana Sana/Courtesy Reuters). Syria's President Bashar al-Assad is seen during the filming of an interview with the BBC, in Damascus (Sana Sana/Courtesy Reuters).

Ismet Berkan examines how Turkey’s upcoming parliamentary elections might affect the relationship between President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu. Read more »

Weekend Reading: Dogging It In Cairo, Lebanon’s Pretty Good Year, and Rethinking Syria Before The War

by Steven A. Cook
Dogs trot outside a mausoleum at the El'arafa cemetery located in the City of the Dead, near Cairo (Ahmed Jadallah/Courtesy Reuters). Dogs trot outside a mausoleum at the El'arafa cemetery located in the City of the Dead, near Cairo (Ahmed Jadallah/Courtesy Reuters).

Adham Elsherif presents a short, English-subtitled film on life in Cairo through the eyes of street dogs.

Elias Muhanna argues that, despite its troubles, Lebanon had a better year in 2014 that expected. Read more »

Weekend Reading: Fighting Assad And ISIS, The Islamic State Before The Islamic State, and Libya’s Draft Constitution

by Steven A. Cook
A man holds a bandage to his head at a field hospital after being injured in what activists said was an air strike by the forces of Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in the Duma neighbourhood of Damascus January 4, 2015 (Badra Mamet/Courtesy Reuters). A man holds a bandage to his head at a field hospital after being injured in what activists said was an air strike by the forces of Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in the Duma neighbourhood of Damascus January 4, 2015 (Badra Mamet/Courtesy Reuters).

Ruslan Trad interviews Abu Ibrahim al-Raqqawi, a Raqqa-based Syrian activist fighting both the Assad regime and ISIS.

Kevin Jackson investigates a jihadist caliphate that existed prior to ISIS. Read more »

Weekend Reading: Syrian Deals, Tunisia’s Libya, and Israeli Elections

by Steven A. Cook
Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrives to a session of the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, in Jerusalem (Ronen Zvulun/Courtesy Reuters). Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrives to a session of the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, in Jerusalem (Ronen Zvulun/Courtesy Reuters).

Yezid Sayegh, in an interview with Syria Deeply, argues that a deteriorating situation in Syria may incentivize some rebels to strike a deal with the Assad regime. Read more »

Assadomasochism

by Steven A. Cook
Syria's President Bashar al-Assad heads a meeting of his new cabinet in Damascus August 31, 2014 (Sana Sana/Courtesy Reuters). Syria's President Bashar al-Assad heads a meeting of his new cabinet in Damascus August 31, 2014 (Sana Sana/Courtesy Reuters).

There is now no question that the United States is about to get a lot more involved in Iraq (and perhaps Syria) than President Obama had ever intended.  So far, the administration has made it clear that the goal is to defeat ISIS, but it has been more difficult determining how to make that happen. The administration has not publicly offered much in the way of what its strategy is other than to say that a broad international coalition is necessary to crush ISIS.  Here is a question: Will Syria be part of that coalition? That sounds crazy after Bashar al Assad has killed 190,000 of his own people and made three million of them refugees.  Hasn’t virtually everyone inside the Beltway declared that “Assad must go”? Still, the issue lingers.  There has been some speculation that the United States is coordinating with Bashar al Assad via the Emiratis and last winter there were mysterious reports of Western intelligence officers reaching out to Damascus.  Who knows what to make of these stories, yet it is clear that serious, but cold-hearted people both within the United States government and outside of it have advanced the idea of working with Assad “because the alternative [i.e. ISIS] is worse.” This is a losing proposition and among the worst policy recommendations to surface since Syria’s descent into bloodshed began three summers ago. Read more »

Weekend Reading: Assad’s Inaugural Address, A Review of Rouhani, and Egypt’s Reconciliation Problems

by Steven A. Cook
Syria's President Bashar al-Assad places his right hand on a Koran as he is sworn in for a new seven-year term, at al-Shaab presidential palace in Damascus July 16, 2014 (Sana Sana/Courtesy Reuters). Syria's President Bashar al-Assad places his right hand on a Koran as he is sworn in for a new seven-year term, at al-Shaab presidential palace in Damascus July 16, 2014 (Sana Sana/Courtesy Reuters).

Full text of Bashar al-Assad’s inauguration speech at his swearing-in ceremony last Wednesday, translated by the Center for Research on Globalization. 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 »

Weekend Reading: Meeting Assad’s Biographer, Alawis Have No Religion, and Egypt’s War on Artists

by Steven A. Cook
Supporters of Abdel Fattah al-Sisi celebrate at Tahrir square in Cairo May 28, 2014 (Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Courtesy Reuters). Supporters of Abdel Fattah al-Sisi celebrate at Tahrir square in Cairo May 28, 2014 (Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Courtesy Reuters).

When Martin Kramer met Patrick Seale.

Robin Yassin-Kassab’s primer on Syria’s Alawis.

Delegitimizing artists in Sisi’s Egypt.  (Hat tip to Arabist)

Arab Spring Reality Check

by Steven A. Cook
Protesters from Tunisia's marginalised rural heartlands hold a hunger strike as they prepare to spend their second night outside the Prime Minister's office in Tunis January 24, 2011 (Zohra Bensemra/Courtesy Reuters). Protesters from Tunisia's marginalised rural heartlands hold a hunger strike as they prepare to spend their second night outside the Prime Minister's office in Tunis January 24, 2011 (Zohra Bensemra/Courtesy Reuters).

This article was originally published here on Muftah on Tuesday, April 22, 2014. 

It has been more than three years since the uprisings in the Arab world began.  The civil war in Syria, the persistent conflict between rebel militias and the government in Libya, the return of authoritarianism in Egypt, and the ongoing bloody crackdown in Bahrain all make for considerable hand-wringing among regional observers—to say nothing of Middle Easterners themselves, who once hoped for a better future. Read more »