Steven A. Cook

From the Potomac to the Euphrates

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

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

by Steven A. Cook Friday, March 20, 2015
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 »

Weekend Reading: Egypt’s Invest-A-Thon 2015

by Steven A. Cook Friday, March 13, 2015
(L-R) U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Jordanian King Abdullah, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas meet on the sidelines of the Egypt Economic Development Conference in Sharm el-Sheikh (Brian Snyder/Courtesy Reuters). (L-R) U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Jordanian King Abdullah, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas meet on the sidelines of the Egypt Economic Development Conference in Sharm el-Sheikh (Brian Snyder/Courtesy Reuters).

Watch the latest advertisement for the 2015 Egypt Economic Development Conference held in Sharm el-Sheikh from March 13 to March 15.

Former Deputy Prime Minister of Egypt Ziad Bahaa-Eldin writes that the high expectations surrounding the conference poses five challenges for the government. Read more »

Ahmet Davutoglu: Only in New York

by Steven A. Cook Friday, March 6, 2015
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu (C) stands at a conference table at the outset of his meeting with United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon at U.N. Headquarters in New York, March 5, 2015 (Mike Segar/Courtesy Reuters). Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu (C) stands at a conference table at the outset of his meeting with United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon at U.N. Headquarters in New York, March 5, 2015 (Mike Segar/Courtesy Reuters).

With all the hubbub over Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu’s visit to New York City this week was almost entirely overlooked in the United States. Turkey’s opposition press—or what is left of it—is pretty much convinced that Davutoglu is not visiting Washington because he is not welcome here. That seems unlikely. No matter the discord between Washington and Ankara over the fight against the Islamic State, how to deal with Egypt, the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, and Turkey’s rollback of civil and political rights, the Turkish prime minister (regardless of who holds the position) is important enough to rate a meeting. Read more »

Weekend Reading: Erdogan and Davutoglu, Egypt’s Prisons, and Negotiating with Assad?

by Steven A. Cook Saturday, February 21, 2015
Syria's President Bashar al-Assad is seen during the filming of an interview with the BBC, in Damascus (Sana Sana/Courtesy Reuters). Syria's President Bashar al-Assad is seen during the filming of an interview with the BBC, in Damascus (Sana Sana/Courtesy Reuters).

Ismet Berkan examines how Turkey’s upcoming parliamentary elections might affect the relationship between President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu. Read more »

American Leadership and the Middle East

by Steven A. Cook Wednesday, February 18, 2015
U.S. President Barack Obama is flanked by Vice President Joe Biden (L) and Secretary of State John Kerry (R) as he delivers a statement on legislation sent to Congress to authorize the use of military force against the Islamic State (Jonathan Ernst/Courtesy Reuters). U.S. President Barack Obama is flanked by Vice President Joe Biden (L) and Secretary of State John Kerry (R) as he delivers a statement on legislation sent to Congress to authorize the use of military force against the Islamic State (Jonathan Ernst/Courtesy Reuters).

It was hard to zero in on a topic to write about this week with all that is happening in the Middle East. There are now three countries that seem to be breaking apart—Libya, Yemen, and Iraq—and a certain permanence has settled over the horrific violence in Syria. The Palestinian Authority is on the verge of collapse. Egypt, along with the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, and Qatar, are now involved in the conflict among various Libyan factions. Yes, it seems that yet another proxy war is underway in the Middle East. All of this happened against the backdrop of new ISIS horrors—a seemingly weekly event. I have not had the courage to bring myself to watch the video of the twenty-one Egyptian Christians slaughtered by the so-called Islamic State on a beach in Libya. It is too gruesome. Needless to say, they were beheaded for no other reason than they were Christians, which is not to diminish the fact that a vast majority of ISIS’s victims have been Muslims. Read more »

Weekend Reading: Sisi Speaks, Libya’s Copts, and Vengeance in Jordan

by Steven A. Cook Friday, February 13, 2015
Jordan's King Abdullah (L) offers his condolences to Safi al-Kasaesbeh, the father of Jordanian pilot Muath al-Kasaesbeh, at the headquarters of the family's clan in the city of Karak (Petra News Agency/Courtesy Reuters). Jordan's King Abdullah (L) offers his condolences to Safi al-Kasaesbeh, the father of Jordanian pilot Muath al-Kasaesbeh, at the headquarters of the family's clan in the city of Karak (Petra News Agency/Courtesy Reuters).

Read Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s full interview with Der Spiegel. Read more »

Weekend Reading: Kurds in ISIS, Houthis in Sanaa, and Netanyahu in Washington

by Steven A. Cook Friday, February 6, 2015
Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a visit to Mount Hermon in the Golan Heights near the Israel-Syria border (Baz Ratner/Courtesy Reuters). Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a visit to Mount Hermon in the Golan Heights near the Israel-Syria border (Baz Ratner/Courtesy Reuters).

Rebecca Collard reports on Kurdish men who have joined ISIS and attacked their own people.

Nabeel Khoury looks at who the Houthis are, their ambitions, and the options before them. Read more »

Emperor Erdogan

by Steven A. Cook Wednesday, February 4, 2015
Turkey's President Tayyip Erdogan addresses the media at the Presidential Palace in Ankara January 12, 2015 (Umit Bektas/Courtesy Reuters). Turkey's President Tayyip Erdogan addresses the media at the Presidential Palace in Ankara January 12, 2015 (Umit Bektas/Courtesy Reuters).

This article was originally published here on Politico.com on Tuesday, February 3, 2015.

Last month, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan did something so outrageous he went viral. On January 12, Erdogan was photographed at the bottom of a grand staircase in his new mega-palace with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Behind them were 16 men wearing military garb celebrating pre-Ottoman Turkic and Ottoman-era warriors. From the picture it was unclear whether Abbas looked so painfully uncomfortable because he was meeting one of the leading patrons of his archrival Hamas or because of the awkward pageant unfolding around him that suggested he was standing next to the natural successor to the Ottoman sultans. Read more »