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: Tunisian Economics, Assad and the Jihadis, and Palestinians in Egypt

by Steven A. Cook
Tunisian lawyers demonstrate against the government's proposed new taxes, near the courthouse in Tunis, Tunisia (Zoubeir Souissi/Reuters). Tunisian lawyers demonstrate against the government's proposed new taxes, near the courthouse in Tunis, Tunisia (Zoubeir Souissi/Reuters).

Francis Ghiles finds that persistent economic problems threaten the stability and success of Tunisia’s democratic transition.

Elias Muhanna speculates on the relationship between Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and jihadi groups. Read more »

Weekend Reading: Tension in Turkey, Kuwait’s Election, and Reexamining Tunisian History

by Steven A. Cook
Kuwaiti women cast their votes during parliamentary election in a polling station in Kuwait City, Kuwait (Stringer/Reuters). Kuwaiti women cast their votes during parliamentary election in a polling station in Kuwait City, Kuwait (Stringer/Reuters).

Nick Ashdown discusses the tense political and social climate in Turkey in the months after the failed coup attempt.

Habib Toumi argues that reforms to Kuwait’s electoral law in July 2006 have succeeded in diminishing the influence of large tribal coalitions in last weekend’s parliamentary elections. Read more »

Weekend Reading: Tunisia’s Saints, Egyptians React to the U.S. Election, and the Battle for Mosul Pictured

by Steven A. Cook
A member of Shi'ite fighters carries a weapon during a battle with Islamic State militants at the airport of Tal Afar west of Mosul, Iraq (Thaier Al-Sudani/Reuters). A member of Shi'ite fighters carries a weapon during a battle with Islamic State militants at the airport of Tal Afar west of Mosul, Iraq (Thaier Al-Sudani/Reuters).

Inel Tarfa explores Tunisia’s heritage of Sufi saints, which has come under attack by Islamist militants in recent years.

Shahira Amin finds that while there are those in Egypt who either support or oppose the election of Donald J. Trump to the U.S. presidency, most Egyptians remain ambivalent. Read more »

Thinking About Culture and the Middle East

by Steven A. Cook
Tunisian lawyers gather as they demonstrate against the government's proposed new taxes, near the courthouse, in Tunis, Tunisia (Zoubeir Souissi/Reuters). Tunisian lawyers gather as they demonstrate against the government's proposed new taxes, near the courthouse, in Tunis, Tunisia (Zoubeir Souissi/Reuters).

I read Ross Douthat’s column in the New York Times every Sunday. I guess that qualifies me as a fan, but it’s not that I agree with everything he writes. On at least one occasion, I thought his column was downright weird. For the most part, though, I appreciate his insights into cultural and religious conservatives that are the bread and butter of his work. On Sunday, October 9, he offered his readers a piece called “Among the Post-Liberals.” It was an exposition on how the “new radicals,” “new reactionaries,” and “religious dissenters” within the West are engaged in trenchant critiques of the Western, liberal, democratic, capitalist order, though none of these groups have developed a unified theory of what ails this system or of what should come next. Of Douthat’s 808 words, it was the following passage that really grabbed me: Read more »

Weekend Reading: Syria’s Trauma, Tunisia’s Sayings, and Egypt’s Economic Woes

by Steven A. Cook
People who fled from Islamic State-controlled areas arrive in the northern Syrian rebel-held town of Waqf, near al-Rai town, in Aleppo Governorate, Syria (Khalil Ashawi/Reuters). People who fled from Islamic State-controlled areas arrive in the northern Syrian rebel-held town of Waqf, near al-Rai town, in Aleppo Governorate, Syria (Khalil Ashawi/Reuters).

Peter Harling delves into the political and psychological trauma that the Syrian conflict’s victims and fighters suffer from.

Inel Tarfa guides readers through the world of Tunisian sayings and proverbs. 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 »

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 »