Steven A. Cook

From the Potomac to the Euphrates

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

Weekend Reading: Remembering Heikal, Iran’s Elections, and the Arab Media’s Refugees

by Steven A. Cook Friday, February 26, 2016
Iran's former Parliament speaker Ali Akbar Nateq-Nouri fills in his ballot during elections for the parliament and Assembly of Experts, which has the power to appoint and dismiss the supreme leader, in Tehran (Raheb Homavandi/Reuters). Iran's former Parliament speaker Ali Akbar Nateq-Nouri fills in his ballot during elections for the parliament and Assembly of Experts, which has the power to appoint and dismiss the supreme leader, in Tehran (Raheb Homavandi/Reuters).

Maged Atiya reflects on the late Mohammed Hassanein Heikal’s relationship with his readers and his role in Egyptian society.

Rouzbeh Parsi examines the paradoxes of Iran’s parliamentary and Assembly of Experts 2016 elections. Read more »

Thinking About “the Kurds”

by Steven A. Cook Tuesday, February 23, 2016
Kurdish demonstrators gesture during a protest against the curfew in Sur district and security operations, in the southeastern city of Diyarbakir, Turkey (Sertac Kayar/Reuters). Kurdish demonstrators gesture during a protest against the curfew in Sur district and security operations, in the southeastern city of Diyarbakir, Turkey (Sertac Kayar/Reuters).

Hi folks. It’s been a while. During my hiatus it seems the world has gone mad or madder. I am not exactly sure where to begin. The list of blog topics that I have collected over the last few weeks is long. I am going to pick up where I left off, with Turkey. Read more »

Weekend Reading: Libya Five Years On, Iran and the Shia, and Contextualizing Heikal

by Steven A. Cook Friday, February 19, 2016
Libyans celebrate the fifth anniversary of the Libyan revolution, at Martyrs' Square in Tripoli (Ismail Zitouny/Reuters). Libyans celebrate the fifth anniversary of the Libyan revolution, at Martyrs' Square in Tripoli (Ismail Zitouny/Reuters).

Nada Elfeituri ruminates on the five years since Libya’s February 17, 2011, revolution and the mistakes her fellow Libyans have yet to learn from.

Robin Yassin-Kassab questions the assumption that Iran acts as a protector for Shia Muslims throughout the Middle East. Read more »

Weekend Reading: Iraq’s Kakai, “Being Syrian,” and a Death in Cairo

by Steven A. Cook Friday, February 12, 2016
Syrians line up as they wait to cross into Syria at Oncupinar border crossing in the southeastern city of Kilis, Turkey (Osman Orsal/Reuters). Syrians line up as they wait to cross into Syria at Oncupinar border crossing in the southeastern city of Kilis, Turkey (Osman Orsal/Reuters).

Ako Shawais discusses Iraq’s Kakai minority and describes his role as their first political representative in Iraq’s Kurdistan Regional Government. Read more »

Weekend Reading: Fact and Fiction in Libya, a Saudi in Iran, and “Turkishness”

by Steven A. Cook Friday, February 5, 2016
Iranian protesters chant slogans during a rally against the execution of Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr in Saudi Arabia, after Friday prayers in Tehran (Raheb Homavandi/Reuters). Iranian protesters chant slogans during a rally against the execution of Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr in Saudi Arabia, after Friday prayers in Tehran (Raheb Homavandi/Reuters).

Valentina Viene reviews the struggle to fictionalize the enigmatic persona of Muammar al-Qaddafi, the former leader of Libya, in Yasmina Khadra’s latest novel, The Dictator’s Last Night. Read more »

Weekend Reading: Non-Sectarian Refugees, the Transformation of Egyptians, and Inside the Fight Against the Islamic State

by Steven A. Cook Saturday, January 30, 2016
Egyptians celebrate on Tahrir Square during the fifth anniversary of the uprising that ended 30-year reign of Hosni Mubarak in Cairo, Egypt (Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Reuters). Egyptians celebrate on Tahrir Square during the fifth anniversary of the uprising that ended 30-year reign of Hosni Mubarak in Cairo, Egypt (Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Reuters).

Laura Dean reflects on the surprising absence of sectarianism among Syrian refugees in Lebanon.

Amro Ali encourages Egyptians to recognize their individual political transformations as the true achievement of the 2011 revolution. Read more »

Weekend Reading: Sunnis Fighting With Shias, Agatha Christie in Arabic Literature, and Who is Ali Abd al-Aal?

by Steven A. Cook Friday, January 15, 2016
A man looks at a book outside of a bookshop that sells Islamic and reference books for Al-Azhar students near the Al-Azhar mosque in Cairo, Egypt, May 18, 2015 (Asmaa Waguih/Reuters). A man looks at a book outside of a bookshop that sells Islamic and reference books for Al-Azhar students near the Al-Azhar mosque in Cairo, Egypt, May 18, 2015 (Asmaa Waguih/Reuters).

Mustafa Saadoun reports on the cautious optimism of Sunni recruitment to Iraq’s Shiite militias, the Popular Mobilization Units. Read more »

Erdogan’s Hitler Problem

by Steven A. Cook Monday, January 4, 2016
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan makes a speech during his meeting with mukhtars at the Presidential Palace in Ankara, Turkey, November 26, 2015 (Umit Bektas/Reuters). Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan makes a speech during his meeting with mukhtars at the Presidential Palace in Ankara, Turkey, November 26, 2015 (Umit Bektas/Reuters).

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has a Hitler problem. When he was asked last Friday to comment on his strong desire to establish what Turks call an “executive presidency” and how that might affect the “unitary structure” of the Turkish state, Erdogan replied, “There are already examples in the world. You can see it when you look at Hitler’s Germany.” In the firestorm of criticism that followed, the Turkish presidency sought to clarify Erdogan’s remark. The Guardian quoted an anonymous official stating, “There are good and poor examples of presidential systems and the important thing is to put checks and balances in place…Nazi Germany, lacking proper institutional arrangements, was obviously one of the most disgraceful examples in history.” The same official also accused the president’s opponents of purposefully distorting his remarks. Fair enough, but one has to wonder why Nazi Germany was the first example Erdogan could think of. Read more »

Holiday Reading

by Steven A. Cook Friday, December 25, 2015
Israeli-Arab Issa Kassissieh wears a Santa Claus costume as he rides a camel and poses for the media during an annual Christmas tree distribution by the Jerusalem municipality on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem (Ammar Awad/Reuters). Israeli-Arab Issa Kassissieh wears a Santa Claus costume as he rides a camel and poses for the media during an annual Christmas tree distribution by the Jerusalem municipality on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem (Ammar Awad/Reuters).
Wishing everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Apologies for the light blogging lately. I have been focused on a big project that has been occupying all of my brain power and time.

Over the holidays, I am reading Gallipoli by Jenny Macleod.