Steven A. Cook

From the Potomac to the Euphrates

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

Weekend Reading: Waiting on Mosul, Talking With Ghassan Kanafani, and Oman’s Houthi Policy

by Steven A. Cook Friday, October 14, 2016
Pro-government soldiers march during a military parade celebrating the 54th anniversary of North Yemen's revolution in the central province of Marib (Ali Owidha/Reuters). Pro-government soldiers march during a military parade celebrating the 54th anniversary of North Yemen's revolution in the central province of Marib (Ali Owidha/Reuters).

Mustafa Habib provides a breakdown of the various groups and armed forces operating in Iraq’s Nineveh governorate, where the city of Mosul, controlled by the self-styled Islamic State, is located. Read more »

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

by Steven A. Cook Friday, October 7, 2016
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: Shimon Peres, Egypt’s Ultras, and the Kurds of Iran

by Steven A. Cook Friday, September 30, 2016
Israeli President Shimon Peres reads a newspaper during the Ambrosetti workshop in Cernobbio, next to Como (Paolo Bona/Reuters). Israeli President Shimon Peres reads a newspaper during the Ambrosetti workshop in Cernobbio, next to Como (Paolo Bona/Reuters).

Michael Koplow contemplates the legacy of Israeli founding father and politician Shimon Peres, who died earlier this week.

Karim Zidan takes a look at the Ultras of Egypt, die-hard fans of the soccer club Al-Ahly, exploring the role they play in Egyptian politics and society. Read more »

Turkey: Writing “Erdo” Stories

by Steven A. Cook Monday, September 26, 2016
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses the United Nations General Assembly in the Manhattan borough of New York (Eduardo Munoz/Reuters). Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses the United Nations General Assembly in the Manhattan borough of New York (Eduardo Munoz/Reuters).

Sometime last week, my friend Mustafa Akyol tweeted, “In Turkey, it is so easy and rewarding to give in to ‘Erdoganism’. In the West, it is also easy and rewarding to give in to anti-‘Erdoganism’.” I have been thinking about this remark ever since. The news from Turkey this summer has been relentless and virtually nonstop, beginning with the attack on Ataturk International Airport in Istanbul in late June, the failed coup about two weeks later, and the government’s ongoing purge of the military, the bureaucracy, the academy, and the media. It has been hard to take some time to reflect on the way analysts and journalists study Turkey. Has there been too much emphasis on President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the expense of a broader and deeper understanding of what makes Turkey tick? The more I think about it, the more I find the answer to be yes, but also no. Before anyone rolls their eyes, I am not trying to have it both ways. There is indeed too much focus on Erdogan the person, but there are good analytic reasons why the Turkish leader gets so much ink. Read more »

Weekend Reading: Morocco’s Amazigh, Istanbul’s Rent, and the Teacher of al-Minya

by Steven A. Cook Friday, September 23, 2016
Local Amazigh people attend a rally in celebration of the Amazigh New Year, and also to express solidarity with Libyan Amazigh people, in Rabat (Stringer/Reuters). Local Amazigh people attend a rally in celebration of the Amazigh New Year, and also to express solidarity with Libyan Amazigh people, in Rabat (Stringer/Reuters).

Celeste Hicks examines the political struggle of the Amazigh community in Morocco to designate Tamazight as an official state language. Read more »

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

by Steven A. Cook Tuesday, September 20, 2016
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). 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 »

Weekend Reading: Literature and Resistance in Turkey, Art and the Dictator, and a Year in Yemen

by Steven A. Cook Friday, September 16, 2016
A farm boy, with his face covered with sand, is pictured as he leaves the farm he works on, near Sanaa, Yemen (Khaled Abdullah/Reuters). A farm boy, with his face covered with sand, is pictured as he leaves the farm he works on, near Sanaa, Yemen (Khaled Abdullah/Reuters).

Pinar Tremblay discovers that literary magazines in Turkey have become increasingly useful as a means of communicating messages of popular resistance while easily evading censorship. Read more »

Summer of Sadism

by Steven A. Cook Monday, September 12, 2016
People ride a bus to be evacuated from the besieged Damascus suburb of Daraya, after an agreement reached on Thursday between rebels and Syria's army (Omar Sanadiki/Reuters). People ride a bus to be evacuated from the besieged Damascus suburb of Daraya, after an agreement reached on Thursday between rebels and Syria's army (Omar Sanadiki/Reuters).

I love the summer. When I was a kid, beginning around April 1, I would start counting down the days until I went to camp. As an adult, summer has always been the season when I can turn back the clock and be a little less adult. The Tuesday after Labor Day is just another day in the calendar and the weather is often no different from the day or month before, but for me, it is the most vile day of the year—it marks the end of summer. Read more »

Weekend Reading and Listening: Syria’s Druze, How to Define the Caliphate, and an Open Letter to Middle Eastern Governments

by Steven A. Cook Friday, September 9, 2016
Druze clerics attend the funeral ceremony of top Druze cleric Sheikh Ahmed Salman al-Hajri in al-Suwayda city (Khaled al-Hariri/Reuters). Druze clerics attend the funeral ceremony of top Druze cleric Sheikh Ahmed Salman al-Hajri in al-Suwayda city (Khaled al-Hariri/Reuters).

Talal El Atrache explores how the Druze, who have never joined the Syrian rebellion, have navigated the conflict so far.

Taylan Gungor interviews Hugh Kennedy for Ottoman History Podcast to discuss the changing definitions of the term “caliphate” throughout history. Read more »

Weekend Reading: Inside the Islamic State, the Decline of Lebanon, and Sectarianism in Syria Again

by Steven A. Cook Friday, September 2, 2016
People attend a demonstration against sectarianism, also calling for abolishing curfews put on Syrian refugees in Beirut, Lebanon (Mohamed Azakir/Reuters). People attend a demonstration against sectarianism, also calling for abolishing curfews put on Syrian refugees in Beirut, Lebanon (Mohamed Azakir/Reuters).

Jassim Muhammad, writing for Majallah, presents an inside look into the self-declared Islamic State through the testimony of a senior defector. Read more »