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 "U.S. Foreign Policy"

Bill Maher Makes Us Dumber: How Ignorance, Fear and Stupid Pop-Culture Clichés Shape Americans’ View of the Middle East

by Steven A. Cook
Comedian Bill Maher - 89th Academy Awards - Oscars Vanity Fair Party - Beverly Hills, California (Danny Moloshok/Reuters).

This article, which I wrote with my good friend Michael Brooks—co-host of the award-winning independent political talk show The Majority Report and co-host of the trends and business podcast 2 Dope Boys & a Podcast—originally appeared here on Salon.com on Sunday, March 26, 2017. Read more »

Should the U.S. Maintain its Alliance With Saudi Arabia? Unfortunately, We’re Stuck With Them

by Steven A. Cook
Saudi Arabia's King Salman attends a Memorandum of Understanding signing ceremony in Putrajaya, Malaysia (Edgar Su/Reuters).

This article was originally published here at Salon.com on Sunday, February 26, 2017.

In late January, Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and his son, Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is also the minister of defense, celebrated the 50th anniversary of the opening of the King Faisal Air Academy. On the occasion, the Saudis reportedly added to their fleet of warplanes a number of brand new F-15SAs. The new planes are a variant of the Boeing-manufactured F-15 fighter jets and are part of a $29.4 billion deal signed in late 2011 that includes 84 new F-15SAs and an additional 68 of the F-15S variant that will be upgraded. Read more »

Our Man in the Middle East: The Confusing Worldview of Trump Aide Derek Harvey

by Steven A. Cook
U.S. President Donald Trump leaves the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) headquarters accompanied by National security adviser General Michael Flynn (2nd L) after delivering remarks during a visit in Langley, Virginia (Carlos Barria/Reuters).

This article was originally published here on Salon.com on Sunday, February 12, 2017.

Even since Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait on Aug. 2, 1990, the Middle East has been the central focus of American security and foreign policy. The United States maintains bases or access to facilities throughout the region. Its largest diplomatic post in the world is located in Iraq. American diplomats have spent countless hours encouraging democracy in Egypt and many more trying to forge peace between Israelis and Palestinians. The U.S. government has supported civil society in Tunisia and trained rebels in Syria. And the American defense industry sells billions of dollars worth of weapons to the region annually. Read more »

Middle East Derangement Syndrome: Egypt, Turkey and Israel Have All Fallen Prey to Delusions About Trump

by Steven A. Cook
Donald Trump arrives on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol in Washington before his inauguration (Win McNamee/Pool/Reuters).

This article was originally published here on Salon.com on Sunday, January 22, 2017. Read more »

Weekend Reading: Middle Eastern Comic Art, Relocating the U.S. Embassy in Israel, and Egypt’s IMF Deal

by Steven A. Cook
A man browses a selection of Islamic books at a shop in the old city of Cairo (Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Reuters).

Jonathan Guyer explores the history of comic and caricature art in the Arab world and its role in Middle Eastern society.

Michael Koplow examines the costly nuances of moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Read more »

The Misplaced Optimism of the Two-State Solution

by Steven A. Cook
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry delivers remarks on Middle East peace at the Department of State in Washington (James Lawler Duggan/Reuters).

In the spring of 1991, when I was a research assistant for the director of studies at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, I met Joseph J. Sisco. Long-since retired, he had been the assistant secretary of state for the Near East and South Asia and undersecretary of state for political affairs. Among other things, Mr. Sisco (as I called him, even though he told me to use “Joe”) played an important role in Middle East diplomacy in the late 1960s and the first half of the 1970s. I was fortunate that Mr. Sisco took an interest in me. He was generous with his time, and on the few occasions that I published op-eds, he was gracious enough to offer his comments and encouragement. I remember some years later I ran into him on the DC Metro. This was just about the time when the Oslo process was starting to come undone by waves of suicide bombers attacking buses in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and other Israeli cities. After greeting each other, I asked Mr. Sisco what he thought about the prospects for continued progress in the context of such gruesome bloodshed. He replied, “Steven, you always have to be optimistic.” That was the last time I saw him in person; he died in late 2004. I am afraid if Mr. Sisco were still alive, his perspective would likely be darker than it was that day aboard the Red Line, especially after the spectacle of this past week. Read more »

The Perplexing Problems of Solving Syria

by Steven A. Cook
Rebel fighters shoot their weapon towards Dabiq town in northern Aleppo countryside, Syria (Khalil Ashawi/Reuters).

This article was originally published here on War on the Rocks on Monday, October 17, 2016.

What is there to say about Syria? That it is a tragedy? That only the horrors of the Holocaust, Pol Pot’s reign of terror, and Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution diminish its human toll? That the so-called international community strenuously condemns the murder of hundreds of thousands and the displacement of half of Syria’s population? These are, as so many have pointed out, merely words to salve the collective conscience of officials who have chosen to do the absolute minimum while a major Middle Eastern country burns. This tragedy was coming. It was obvious once Syrian President Bashar al-Assad militarized the uprising that began in the southern town of Deraa in March 2011. Policymakers in Washington and other capitals assured themselves — against all evidence — that it was only a matter of time before Assad fell. But anyone who knew anything about Syria understood that the Syrian leader would not succumb the way Tunisia’s Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali or Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak did. No, Assad’s ignominy is different, borne of the unfathomable amount of blood he has spilled. There was a time when this violence could have been minimized and American interests served through an intervention, but policymakers acquiesced to the arguments of those who said it was only a matter of time or, when Assad did not fall quickly, that it was too hard. Until it actually was. Now, the desperate images emerging from Aleppo have made it impossible to look away. It remains a matter of debate precisely what the Syrian air force and its Russian partners seek in Aleppo, thought it seems that they are seeking to wrest control of the eastern half of the city by flattening it from the air. Read more »

Libya: Cameron, Sarkozy, and (Obama’s) Iraq

by Steven A. Cook
A member of Libyan forces prays as he prepares with his comrades for next advance against Islamic State holdouts in Sirte, Libya (Ismail Zitouny/Reuters).

There is a lot going on this week given that Tuesday marks the beginning of the United Nations General Assembly’s annual general debate. I cannot actually remember when something substantive happened during these meetings, but hopefully this year will be different as world leaders gather ahead of the debate for a summit called “Addressing Large Movements of Refugees and Migrants.” Read more »