Steven A. Cook

From the Potomac to the Euphrates

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

Mothers of the Middle East

by Steven A. Cook Monday, May 11, 2015
An Egyptian boy attends evening prayers called "Tarawih", during Laylat al-Qadr outside Amr Ibn El-Aas mosque, the first and oldest mosque ever built on the land of Egypt, during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan in Cairo September 16, 2009 (Amr Dalsh/Courtesy Reuters). An Egyptian boy attends evening prayers called "Tarawih", during Laylat al-Qadr outside Amr Ibn El-Aas mosque, the first and oldest mosque ever built on the land of Egypt, during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan in Cairo September 16, 2009 (Amr Dalsh/Courtesy Reuters).

As I write, Mother’s Day 2015 is coming to a close. It was a special day. Who is better than Mom? I called my mother, made breakfast in bed for my wife, spoke to my mother-in-law, and cheered all the Moms whose photos showed up on my Facebook feed. Yet for all of the celebration of Mom, there remain a few Mothers who—to the best of my knowledge— have gone without recognition this year, which is a bummer for them. So here goes, my favorite Middle Eastern Moms: Read more »

Weekend Reading: A Return to Idlib, Secular Politics in Egypt, and al-Qaeda in Syria

by Steven A. Cook Friday, May 8, 2015
Civilians react as they wear gas masks after what activists said was a chlorine gas attack on Kansafra village at Idlib countryside, Syria (Abed Kontar/Courtesy Reuters). Civilians react as they wear gas masks after what activists said was a chlorine gas attack on Kansafra village at Idlib countryside, Syria (Abed Kontar/Courtesy Reuters).

Ahmad al-Akla writes about people’s return to rebel-controlled Idlib, Syria.

A new party in Egypt calls for a secular constitution. Read more »

Hasbara…Hasbara Everywhere

by Steven A. Cook Monday, May 4, 2015
Doctors help an injured resident at the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) field hospital following Saturday's earthquake in Kathmandu, Nepal (Danish Siddiqui/Courtesy Reuters). Doctors help an injured resident at the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) field hospital following Saturday's earthquake in Kathmandu, Nepal (Danish Siddiqui/Courtesy Reuters).

Last week Israel took criticism for sending a contingent of doctors and search and rescue specialists to Nepal to participate in the earthquake relief efforts. Read that again. There is no “not” in between “for” and “sending.” The Israel Defense Forces sent 260 doctors, nurses, and personnel trained in finding disaster victims to Katmandu after the major (7.8 on the Richter scale) earthquake…and it was quickly dismissed as propaganda to deflect attention from Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and the humanitarian conditions in the Gaza Strip. The Israelis have a lot to answer for when it comes to the Palestinians, from continued expropriation of Palestinian land in the West Bank to death and destruction in Gaza, but what do those issues have to do with earthquake relief in Nepal? Apparently everything the Israelis do is hasbara. Read more »

Weekend Reading and Watching: Zarif in NY, Daily Life in Damascus, and Science in the Middle East

by Steven A. Cook Friday, May 1, 2015
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (L) speaks with Washington Post journalist David Ignatius at the New York University (NYU) Center on International Cooperation in New York (Lucas Jackson/Courtesy Reuters). Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (L) speaks with Washington Post journalist David Ignatius at the New York University (NYU) Center on International Cooperation in New York (Lucas Jackson/Courtesy Reuters).

Iranian FM Mohammad Zarif answers questions at New York University on the recent nuclear framework, terrorism, and more.

Rima Ayoubi talks about day to day difficulties she faces in Damascus. Read more »

Weekend Reading: Migrants and Libya?, Taking Tikrit, and Escaping Yemen

by Steven A. Cook Saturday, April 25, 2015
A group of 104 sub-Saharan Africans on board a rubber dinghy reach out for life jackets tossed to them by rescuers of the NGO Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS) some 25 miles off the Libyan coast (Darrin Zammit Lupi/Courtesy Reuters). A group of 104 sub-Saharan Africans on board a rubber dinghy reach out for life jackets tossed to them by rescuers of the NGO Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS) some 25 miles off the Libyan coast (Darrin Zammit Lupi/Courtesy Reuters).

Issandr El Amrani argues that a strong, stable Libya would not solve the migration problems in the Mediterranean.

The editors at the Middle East Research and Information Project urge for a humanitarian corridor for foreign nationals and Yemenis to escape Yemen. Read more »

One Hundred Years After Gallipoli

by Steven A. Cook Friday, April 24, 2015
Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, with a portrait of modern Turkey's founder Ataturk in the background, works at his office at the AK Party headquarters in Ankara June 13, 2011 (Umit Bektas/Courtesy Reuters). Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, with a portrait of modern Turkey's founder Ataturk in the background, works at his office at the AK Party headquarters in Ankara June 13, 2011 (Umit Bektas/Courtesy Reuters).

This article was originally published here on ForeignAffairs.com on Thursday, April 23, 2015.

On April 25, 1915, when British, French, and Australian and New Zealand troops landed on the strategic Gallipoli Peninsula, their objective was to knock out Ottoman defenses and make way for Allied navies to steam up the Dardanelles strait toward Istanbul. It was a risky and costly endeavor that culminated in their total retreat eight months later. For Gallipoli’s defenders, who lost 86,692 men, the battle was an important victory in defense of the Ottoman Empire. Paradoxically, it also became a touchstone of the nationalism that was so important to the establishment of the Republic of Turkey less than a decade later. Likewise, celebrations planned for the battle’s centenary reflect the tension between the valorization of the Ottoman era and the hallowed memory of Mustafa Kemal—Ataturk—modern Turkey’s founder. In many ways, the memory of Gallipoli is still shaping, and is being shaped by, the country’s political trajectory. Read more »

The King of the Arab Street vs. the Pope

by Steven A. Cook Wednesday, April 22, 2015
Pope Francis and Turkey's President Tayyip Erdogan prepare to leave after a press conference at the presidential palace in Ankara November 28, 2014 (Umit Bektas/Courtesy Reuters). Pope Francis and Turkey's President Tayyip Erdogan prepare to leave after a press conference at the presidential palace in Ankara November 28, 2014 (Umit Bektas/Courtesy Reuters).

This article was originally published here on ForeignPolicy.com on Wednesday, April 22, 2015.

As the world commemorates the centennial of the Armenian genocide this week, Turkey’s government once again finds itself fighting an old, losing battle. According to Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, the recent spate of calls to recognize the genocide is the work of an “evil gang” bent on slandering the country’s honor. Read more »

Weekend Reading: The Horrors of Yarmouk, IS Relief, Judicial Reform in Tunisia

by Steven A. Cook Friday, April 17, 2015
Palestinians from the besieged al-Yarmouk camp gather as they receive food aid from UNRWA May 1, 2014 (Rame Alsayed/Courtesy Reuters). Palestinians from the besieged al-Yarmouk camp gather as they receive food aid from UNRWA May 1, 2014 (Rame Alsayed/Courtesy Reuters).

Rami Alhames shows the disturbing situation in the Yarmouk Palestinian Refugee Camp.

Hussam al-Jaber offers a glimpse into Deir al-Zor, Syria, under the self-proclaimed Islamic State’s harsh rules on aid and relief. Read more »

Weekend Reading: Overplaying Sectarianism in Yemen, Iraqi Cinema, and Peacemaking in Oman

by Steven A. Cook Friday, April 10, 2015
A Saudi border guard patrols near Saudi Arabia's border with Yemen, along a beach on the Red Sea, near Jizan (Faisal Al Nasser/Courtesy Reuters). A Saudi border guard patrols near Saudi Arabia's border with Yemen, along a beach on the Red Sea, near Jizan (Faisal Al Nasser/Courtesy Reuters).

Abubakr al-Shamahi’s blog post on the misuse of the terms “Sunni” and “Shia” in the context of Yemen remains as pertinent today as it was when he published it a year ago. Read more »

Neither Shocked nor Awed: The Arab Reaction to the Iran Deal

by Guest Blogger for Steven A. Cook Thursday, April 9, 2015
Saudi King Salman attends the opening meeting of the Arab Summit in Sharm el-Sheikh (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters). Saudi King Salman attends the opening meeting of the Arab Summit in Sharm el-Sheikh (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters).

My research associate, Amr Leheta, wrote this terrific post on the Arab reaction to the framework agreement between the P5+1 and Iran. Enjoy!

“The Nuclear Agreement…A Strategic Earthquake in the Middle East” read one headline in a London-based, pan-Arab newspaper on April 4. In the article underneath, published a couple of days after the announcement of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) regarding Iran’s nuclear program, the editorial board of Al-Quds Al-Arabi wrote the following: Read more »