Steven A. Cook

From the Potomac to the Euphrates

Cook examines developments in the Middle East and their resonance in Washington.

Posts by Category

Showing posts for "Terrorism"

Weekend Reading: The Horrors of Yarmouk, IS Relief, Judicial Reform in Tunisia

by Steven A. Cook
Palestinians from the besieged al-Yarmouk camp gather as they receive food aid from UNRWA May 1, 2014 (Rame Alsayed/Courtesy Reuters). Palestinians from the besieged al-Yarmouk camp gather as they receive food aid from UNRWA May 1, 2014 (Rame Alsayed/Courtesy Reuters).

Rami Alhames shows the disturbing situation in the Yarmouk Palestinian Refugee Camp.

Hussam al-Jaber offers a glimpse into Deir al-Zor, Syria, under the self-proclaimed Islamic State’s harsh rules on aid and relief. Read more »

Weekend Reading: Wasting Capital on a New Capital, Jihadism in Tunisia, and Israel’s Election

by Steven A. Cook
A model of a planned new capital for Egypt is displayed for investors during the final day of Egypt Economic Development Conference (EEDC) in Sharm el-Sheikh (Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Courtesy Reuters). A model of a planned new capital for Egypt is displayed for investors during the final day of Egypt Economic Development Conference (EEDC) in Sharm el-Sheikh (Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Courtesy Reuters).

Khaled Fahmy criticizes the Egyptian government’s plan to invest money in building a new capital rather than fixing Cairo’s endemic problems.

Simon Cordall investigates the social and intellectual appeal of jihadism in Tunisia. Read more »

Ankara on Paris: Disturbingly Equivocal

by Steven A. Cook
French President Francois Hollande is surrounded by head of states including (LtoR) Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Mali's President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel, European Council President Donald Tusk, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, King Abdullah of Jordan and Queen Rania Al Abdullah as they attend the solidarity march (Marche Republicaine) in the streets of Paris (Yves Herman/Courtesy Reuters). French President Francois Hollande is surrounded by head of states including (LtoR) Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Mali's President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel, European Council President Donald Tusk, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, King Abdullah of Jordan and Queen Rania Al Abdullah as they attend the solidarity march (Marche Republicaine) in the streets of Paris (Yves Herman/Courtesy Reuters).

I have been reluctant to comment on the attacks in Paris. As with a whole host of people who have popped up on television to make sense of last week’s violence, terrorism and European Muslim communities are not my areas of expertise. There has also been so much excellent written commentary on the topic that even if I were inclined to write, I would not have much to add. That said, I find the Turkish leadership’s response to the events in France striking. Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu took part in the solidarity rally in Paris on Sunday, but among the near universal denunciation of the Charlie Hebdo massacre and subsequent killings at the Hyper Cache market, the Turkish reaction was disturbingly equivocal. In a public statement after the assault on the magazine, the foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu declared, “Terrorism and all types of Islamophobia perpetuate each other and we stand against this.” It is hard to disagree. Islamophobia, of which there is much in Europe and the United States, is bad, and terrorism is bad. Both are scourges that need to be fought, albeit in different ways. And while Davutoglu was more direct in his condemnation, cloaked in Cavusoglu’s outrage against anti-Muslim bias and terrorism, the foreign minister was saying something else entirely: The people targeted specifically in the Charlie Hebdo attack were Islamophobes who brought Cherif and Said Kouachi on themselves, producing a cycle of more Islamophobia and thus more violence. More broadly, Cavusoglu was signaling that the West is to blame for terror because it is irredeemably anti-Islam. 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: The Classics And The Middle East, ISIS vs. AQAP, and How Jihadi Groups Make Law

by Steven A. Cook
A Shi'ite Houthi mans a weapon on the back of a patrol truck, as Ansar al-Sharia flags are seen in the background November 22, 2014 (Mohamed al-Sayaghi/Courtesy Reuters). A Shi'ite Houthi mans a weapon on the back of a patrol truck, as Ansar al-Sharia flags are seen in the background November 22, 2014 (Mohamed al-Sayaghi/Courtesy Reuters).

Andrew Gilmour argues that the study of classics is useful to understanding contemporary power struggles in the modern Middle East.

Cole Bunzel discusses the rivalry between ISIS and al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) playing out in Yemen. Read more »

Weekend Reading: No Way to Defeat Takfiris, Handicapping Turkey’s Elections, and Syria’s borders.

by Steven A. Cook
Supporters of Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan wave Turkish and AK Party (AKP) flags during an election rally in Istanbul March 23, 2014 (Murad Sezer/Courtesy Reuters). Supporters of Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan wave Turkish and AK Party (AKP) flags during an election rally in Istanbul March 23, 2014 (Murad Sezer/Courtesy Reuters).

Nader Bakkar says that harsh punishment, such as the recent wave of death sentences on Muslim Brotherhood members, is no way to combat radical takfiri ideology. 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 »

Turkey’s Summer of Discontent: Ergenekon Blues

by Steven A. Cook
Former Chief of the Turkish General Staff Ilker Basbug (Umit Bektas/Courtesy Reuters). Former Chief of the Turkish General Staff Ilker Basbug (Umit Bektas/Courtesy Reuters).

With the dramatic developments in Egypt over the last month, Turkey has fallen out of the news even though it has been an eventful summer along the Bosphorus.  The opposition to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan that began after authorities tried to clear Istanbul’s Gezi Park in late May has proven more durable than virtually everyone predicted.  The government has responded to this political turbulence with a variety of coercive measures making Erdogan’s illiberal turn appear to be downright authoritarian.  At the same time, Ankara’s strategic position in the Middle East continues to crumble.  The prime minister’s reaction to Egypt’s July 3 coup d’état may be principled, but his harsh and oddly emotional rhetoric has alienated yet another important Middle Eastern country.  In an irony of ironies, the Egyptian press recently reported that if Erdogan makes a much-delayed visit to Gaza in late August, he will have to do it through Israel.  That makes Israel, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Iraq the major regional powers with whom Turkey is at odds. Read more »

Weekend Reading: Al-Qaeda’s Spring, Tunisia’s Violence, and Palestine’s Perspective

by Steven A. Cook
A Muslim man reads the Koran at the Al-Rajhi mosque east of Riyadh, during the holy month of Ramadan (Faisal Al Nasser/Courtesy Reuters). A Muslim man reads the Koran at the Al-Rajhi mosque east of Riyadh, during the holy month of Ramadan (Faisal Al Nasser/Courtesy Reuters).

Musa al-Gharbi claims that the Arab Spring has failed to render al-Qaeda irrelevant, and it is now on the verge of resurgence.

Tunisia-Live’s live blog for updates on Thursday’s assassination of Mohammed Brahmi, leader of the opposition Popular Movement Party in Tunisia. Read more »

The EU+Hizballah=Cynicism

by Steven A. Cook
The Achille Lauro (Courtesy Reuters). The Achille Lauro (Courtesy Reuters).

Hizballah has been in the news recently.  The group that a senior U.S. government official once described as the “ ‘A-team’ of terrorism,” took a back seat to al-Qaeda over the last decade.  Prior to the attacks on New York and Washington in September 2001, Hizballah was responsible for more American deaths than any other organization on the State Department’s list of terrorists.  The most spectacular of Hizabllah’s operations since the organization’s founding in 1982 was the destruction of the U.S. Marine Corps barracks in Beirut in the spring of 1983.  More recently, the Bulgarian government fingered Hizballah for the July 2012 bus bombing that killed five Israelis and a Bulgarian bus driver in the resort town of Burgas.  Also, the New York Times reported last week that the Lebanese newspaper, al Akhbar—a pro-Hizballah daily—has been engaged in an effort to intimidate prosecution witnesses set to appear before the International Criminal Court, which is trying four members of Hizballah for the murder of former Prime Rafik Harriri.  Then there are the thousands of Hizballah fighters in Syria supporting the Assad regime in that country’s civil war. Read more »