Steven A. Cook

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Syrians are fond of saying that their country is “the beating heart of the Arab world,” having played an outsize role in the history and politics of the region, from the Islamic golden age in the 7th century and the Arab Revolt during World War I to the Arab-Israeli wars. After 2 1/2 years of civil conflict, however, it is becoming more difficult to think of Syria as the spirit and soul of the region.

Among the catalogue of horrors that Bashar al-Assad and his supporters have perpetrated against their people, the use of chemical weapons in Ghouta on Aug. 21 is particularly egregious.…  Seguir leyendo »

In the past five years, Turkey has veered from what was once a promising path of liberal democracy — and the European Union can pull it back.

The recent massive street protests in Istanbul started as a backlash against the government’s plan to develop a beloved park into a shopping mall, but they also reflect popular frustration at the country’s authoritarian turn, made clear in the rise of crony capitalism, intimidation by government forces and the centralization of power in the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), led by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. It was just a decade ago that then-Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul told an audience at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy audience that the main reason his government was pursuing wide-ranging democratic reforms was the possibility of fully joining the European Union.…  Seguir leyendo »

Cairo is tense and polarized. Egypt’s military is groping for solutions to the many political and economic problems that have beset the country since the fall of the old government. Various political parties and groups are united in their opposition to military rule despite being divided among themselves. The Muslim Brotherhood, meanwhile, is trying to remain above the fray and out of the line of fire by making deals with the army. And despite the promise of parliamentary elections and the prospect of a new constitution, the situation remains highly unstable.

One could be forgiven for thinking this is a description of early 2012, but it is actually an account of early 1954, when Gamal Abdel Nasser and his military colleagues, known as the Free Officers, first consolidated their power in Egypt.…  Seguir leyendo »

Egyptians lined up this week to vote in the first Parliamentary elections since the fall of President Hosni Mubarak. The high turnout in a peaceful, orderly election contrasted sharply with the violence and chaos of the previous week, when hundreds of thousands returned to Tahrir Square after security forces killed at least 42 people and left 3,000 injured. But Washington should not be fooled by the peace that has returned to Egyptian streets. Even successful elections can not erase months of political mismanagement by the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (S.C.A.F.) or the bloodshed committed under its auspices.

The U.S.…  Seguir leyendo »