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 "Tunisia"

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 »

Memorial Day Weekend Reading

by Steven A. Cook
Almost three thousand American soldiers—of whom 287 remain unknown—are buried just outside of Tunis (Photo by Steven A. Cook). Almost three thousand American soldiers—of whom 287 remain unknown—are buried just outside of Tunis (Photo by Steven A. Cook).

In the national collective memory of World War II, the North African campaign is often forgotten. Almost three thousand Americans were killed there in battles that took place between 1941 and 1945. Some of the earliest direct engagements of the war between U.S. and German forces took place in Tunisia, between the cities of Sidi Bouzid and Kasserine. There is no better book about this period than Rick Atkinson’s An Army At Dawn. Enjoy.

Tunisia: On the Road to Nowhere

by Steven A. Cook
A monument to Mohammed al-Bouazizi in Sidi Bouzid (Photo by Steven A. Cook). A monument to Mohammed al-Bouazizi in Sidi Bouzid (Photo by Steven A. Cook).

“The only things [that have] changed are the names of the streets. They used to be [called] November 7, now they are [called] December 17.”

A young Tunisian said this to me in Sidi Bouzid on Sunday. For those less familiar with Tunisian history, on November 7, 1987, Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali pushed the country’s founder, Habib Bourguiba, from power in a palace coup, and December 17, 2010, is the day when Mohammed al-Bouazizi set himself on fire in front of the governorate building in Sidi Bouzid—an act of desperation that began the Tunisian uprising that deposed Ben Ali almost a month later. The quote is a simple and powerful rebuke to the oft-repeated phrase that Tunisia is “the one Arab Spring success story.” The country is not yet a success, but it also is not a failure. Read more »

Tunisia: Saving Democracy in the Middle East? Really?

by Steven A. Cook
An unemployed graduate clashes with riot police during a demonstration to demand the government provide them with job opportunities in Tunis, Tunisia (Zoubeir Souissi/Reuters). An unemployed graduate clashes with riot police during a demonstration to demand the government provide them with job opportunities in Tunis, Tunisia (Zoubeir Souissi/Reuters).

Last Wednesday, the Washington Post ran an op-ed called “We Can—And Must—Save Tunisia from its Troubling Recent Descent” under the byline of Marwan Muasher and William J. Burns. Muasher was Jordan’s foreign minister from 2002 to 2004, deputy prime minister from 2004 to 2005, and now serves as vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (CEIP). Burns had one of the most distinguished careers in the U.S. foreign service, rising to become deputy secretary of state from 2011 to 2014. After he left government, he became Muasher’s boss as president of CEIP. Needless to say, these gentlemen know of what they speak. Their clarion call to help Tunisia is important for a variety of reasons, not least of which is the recognition that the country is not the “Arab Spring success” that it is often portrayed to be. The United States should help Tunisia, but mostly because it will help Tunisians, and not for the additional reasons that Muasher and Burns lay out, which amount to a reformulation of something called the “international demonstration effect.” Read more »

Weekend Reading: Egypt’s Unions, Tunisia’s Youth, and Syria’s Protests

by Steven A. Cook
Protesters carry a Free Syrian Army flags during an anti-government protest in the al-Sukari neighborhood of Aleppo, Syria (Abdalrhman Ismail/Reuters). Protesters carry a Free Syrian Army flags during an anti-government protest in the al-Sukari neighborhood of Aleppo, Syria (Abdalrhman Ismail/Reuters).

Giulio Regeni, in his last article before his death, finds that Egypt’s independent trade unions remain willing to defy the state.

Benoit Challand examines the alienation of Tunisia’s youth and its implications on jihadi recruitment. Read more »

Weekend Reading: Portraying Tunisia’s Revolution, Turkey’s TAK, and Orwellian Syria

by Steven A. Cook
A girl waves a Tunisian flags during celebrations marking the fifth anniversary of Tunisia's 2011 revolution, in Habib Bourguiba Avenue in Tunis, Tunisia (Zoubeir Souissi/Reuters). A girl waves a Tunisian flags during celebrations marking the fifth anniversary of Tunisia's 2011 revolution, in Habib Bourguiba Avenue in Tunis, Tunisia (Zoubeir Souissi/Reuters).

Khadija Mohsen-Finan discusses discrepancies in the portrayal of the Tunisian revolution around the world and Tunisians’ own purview on the achievements and difficulties of the past five years. 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: Turkey and the EU, Tunisia’s Nobel Winners, and Life in the Qandil Mountains

by Steven A. Cook
Hussein Abassi, head of the Tunisian General Labour Union (UGTT), speaks during an interview with Reuters in Tunis, Tunisia, in this August 16, 2013 photo. Tunisia's National Dialogue Quartet won the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday for helping build democracy in the birthplace of the Arab Spring, an example of peaceful transition in a region otherwise struggling with violence and upheaval (Anis Mili/Reuters). Hussein Abassi, head of the Tunisian General Labour Union (UGTT), speaks during an interview with Reuters in Tunis, Tunisia, in this August 16, 2013 photo. Tunisia's National Dialogue Quartet won the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday for helping build democracy in the birthplace of the Arab Spring, an example of peaceful transition in a region otherwise struggling with violence and upheaval (Anis Mili/Reuters).

Natasha Lennard examines the altering dynamics between Turkey and the European Union brought about by the refugee crisis.

Read the press release announcing that the Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet won the Nobel Peace Prize for 2015. Read more »

Weekend Reading: Journey to Iran, Alawites on the Run, and Tunisia’s Terror Law

by Steven A. Cook
An Iranian cleric reads the Koran during the 26th anniversary ceremony of Iran's Islamic revolution at the Khomeini shrine in the Behesht Zahra cemetery, south of Tehran, January 31, 2005 (Morteza Nikoubazl/Reuters). An Iranian cleric reads the Koran during the 26th anniversary ceremony of Iran's Islamic revolution at the Khomeini shrine in the Behesht Zahra cemetery, south of Tehran, January 31, 2005 (Morteza Nikoubazl/Reuters).

Larry Cohler-Esses, writing for Forward, discovers a dynamic and complex society during his recent trip to Iran.

Omar Abdallah speaks with Syrian Alawites who no longer believe that the Assad regime can guarantee their safety. Read more »

Weekend Reading: Rediscovering Saddam, Revisiting Tunisia’s Democracy, and Reviewing the Islamic State

by Steven A. Cook
Saddam Hussein testifies during his trial in Baghdad, Iraq, June 12, 2006 (Jacob Silberberg/Reuters). Saddam Hussein testifies during his trial in Baghdad, Iraq, June 12, 2006 (Jacob Silberberg/Reuters).

Victor Argo revisits the persona of longtime Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

Nadia Marzouki and Hamza Meddeb question the assumptions behind the claim that Tunisia is a democratic success story. Read more »