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Steven A. Cook

Hasib J. Sabbagh Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies

Expertise

Middle East; Politics in the Arab world; U.S.-Middle East policy; Turkish politics; civil-military relations in the Middle East; Arab-Israeli conflict.

Featured Publications

Book

Restoring the Balance

Authors: Richard N. Haass, Stephen Biddle, Ray Takeyh, Gary Samore, Steven A. Cook, Isobel Coleman, Steven Simon, Martin S. Indyk, Michael O’Hanlon, Kenneth M. Pollack, Suzanne Maloney, Bruce O. Riedel, Shibley Telhami, Tamara Cofman Wittes, and Daniel L. Byman

Experts from the Council on Foreign Relations and the Saban Center at the Brookings Institution propose a new, nonpartisan Middle East strategy drawing on the lessons of past failures to address both the short- and long-term challenges to U.S. interests.

See more in Middle East and North Africa; Diplomacy and Statecraft

All Publications

Foreign Affairs Article

Adrift on the Nile

Author: Steven A. Cook

Bruce Rutherford's Egypt After Mubarak is an ambitious effort to explain how the Muslim Brotherhood, the judiciary, and the business sector can work in parallel, if not exactly together, to influence Egypt's political future.

See more in Egypt

Article

Steven Cook and Anya Schmemann on the U.S.-Turkey Relations Task Force Report

Authors: Steven A. Cook and Anya Schmemann
Council on Foreign Relations

Steven Cook and Anya Schmemann say that Turkey is a rising regional and global power that's more democratic, prosperous, and politically influential than it was a decade ago. However, it's not well understood in the United States, and the U.S.-Turkey Relations Task Force Report seeks to provide a better understanding and fuller picture of this significant country as it continues its consequential transformation.

See more in United States; Turkey

Article

Egypt's Hero?

Author: Steven A. Cook
Foreign Affairs

Summary

The return of Mohamed El Baradei to Egypt has raised questions about the country's political system and the rule of President Hosni Mubarak. Is reform possible, and if so, is El Baradei the man to lead it?

See more in Egypt

Current Projects

Roundtable on Reform in the Arab and Islamic World

Director: Steven A. Cook, Hasib J. Sabbagh Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies
July 1, 2004—Present

Since September 11, 2001, U.S.-Middle East policy has sought to promote reform in the Arab and Islamic World as a U.S. national security priority. This roundtable series sheds light on the complex issues that the countries of the Middle East present and explores the different avenues available to U.S. policymakers seeking to promote change in that region. By drawing on the experience of a variety of speakers with particular expertise on social, political, and economic reform, women's issues, education, and the media, this roundtable series intends to enrich the current debate on reform promotion in the Arab world with a range of top-tier perspectives and policy recommendations in an informal discussion setting.

Past Projects

Council Special Report on Syria

Staff: Steven A. Cook, Hasib J. Sabbagh Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies
Director: Paul B. Stares, General John W. Vessey Senior Fellow for Conflict Prevention and Director of the Center for Preventive Action
Author: Scott Lasensky, Senior Research Associate, United States Institute of Peace, and Mona Yacoubian, Special Adviser, Muslim World Initiative, United States Institute of Peace
May 2007—June 2008

This forthcoming report will focus on Washington's policy toward Syria. The Syrian regime believes it plays a pivotal role in the region and is seeking to capitalize on its influence in several major arenas: Iraq, Lebanon, Israel-Palestine, and Iran. This CSR will develop a set of policy recommendations for an effective strategy toward Damascus and prescribe an incentive-based approach to secure its cooperation in these areas.

Study Group on Promoting Political and Economic Reform in the Middle East

Chair: Lisa Anderson, Columbia University
Staff: Steven A. Cook, Hasib J. Sabbagh Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies
July 1, 2004—January 1, 2006

This Study Group is organized around chapters of Steven Cook’s recently completed book manuscript titled: Ruling, But Not Governing: The Military and Political Development in Egypt, Turkey, and Algeria. Historically, Egypt, Turkey, and Algeria have exhibited a fairly predictable and similar set of political patterns which reflected the stability of authoritarian politics in these countries. In late 1990s and early 21st century, Turkey was able to break the political logjam of authoritarianism. What accounts for regime stability in Egypt, Algeria, and previously Turkey? Why was Turkey successful and Egypt and Algeria not successful? This book is intended to combine a scholarly approach to interesting questions concerning regime stability, Islamist political activity, civil-military relations, and transitions to and from democracy; yet it also contains a conscious policy edge that is relevant to current debates about democracy in the Arab and wider Muslim world.

The Study Group is made possible by the generous support from the Kauffman Foundation.

Recent Activity from From the Potomac to the Euphrates

CFR Events

General Meeting ⁄ New York

Turkey Update

Panelists:

Steven A. Cook, Hasib J. Sabbagh Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies, Council on Foreign Relations, Henri J. Barkey, Cohen Professor of International Relations, Lehigh University

Presider:

Jonathan Tepperman, Managing Editor, Foreign Affairs
April 7, 2014 12:30-1:00 p.m. - Lunch
1:00-2:00 p.m. - Meeting

This meeting is on the record.

ListenWatch

Corporate Meeting ⁄ Washington

Foreign Affairs Live: The New Emerging Markets

Speakers:

Steven A. Cook, Hasib J. Sabbagh Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies, Council on Foreign Relations; Author, "Turkey's Democratic Mirage," ForeignAffairs.com, Marcus Noland, Executive Vice President and Director of Studies, Peterson Institute for International Economics; Author, "South Korea: The Backwater That Boomed," Foreign Affairs, Mitchell Orenstein, Professor and Chair, Political Science Department, Northeastern University; Author, "Poland: From Tragedy to Triumph," Foreign Affairs

Presider:

Gideon Rose, Peter G. Peterson Chair and Editor, Foreign Affairs
January 29, 2014 5:30-6:00 p.m. - Registration and Reception
6:00-7:00 p.m. - Meeting
7:00-8:00 p.m. - Reception

This meeting is on the record.

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General Meeting ⁄ Washington, DC

Turmoil in Turkey

Speakers:

Steven A. Cook, Hasib J. Sabbagh Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies, Council on Foreign Relations, Ömer Taspinar, Nonresident Senior Fellow, Foreign Policy, Center on the United States and Europe, Brookings Institution, F. Stephen Larrabee, Distinguished Chair in European Security, RAND Corporation
June 28, 2013 8:00-8:30 a.m. - Breakfast Reception
8:30-9:30 a.m. - Meeting

This meeting is on the record.

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Corporate Meeting

The Situation in Turkey

Speakers:

Steven A. Cook, Hasib J. Sabbagh Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies, Council on Foreign Relations, Henri J. Barkey, Cohen Professor of International Relations and Department Chair, Lehigh University

Presider:

Bernard Gwertzman, Consulting Editor, Council on Foreign Relations
June 5, 2013 2:00-3:00 p.m. - Conference Call

This meeting is on the record.

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General Meeting ⁄ Washington

Egypt's Presidential Election: Before the Ballots

Speakers:

Steven A. Cook, Hasib J. Sabbagh Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies, Council on Foreign Relations, Michele Dunne, Director, Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East, Atlantic Council of the United States

Presider:

James J. Zogby, President, Arab American Institute
May 14, 2012 12:00-12:30 p.m. - Lunch Reception
12:30-1:30 p.m. - Meeting

This meeting is on the record.

ListenWatch

Guest Event ⁄ Washington

U.S.-Turkey Relations - A New Partnership: Report of a CFR-Sponsored Independent Task Force

Speakers:

Madeleine K. Albright, Chair, Albright Stonebridge Group; Former U.S. Secretary of State; Task Force Co-Chair, Stephen J. Hadley, Senior Adviser for International Affairs, U.S. Institute of Peace; Former U.S. National Security Adviser; Task Force Co-Chair, Steven A. Cook, Hasib J. Sabbagh Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies, Council on Foreign Relations; Task Force Project Director

Presider:

David Ignatius, Columnist and Associate Editor, "Washington Post"
May 9, 2012 12:00-12:30 p.m. - Lunch Reception
12:30-1:30 p.m. - Meeting

This meeting is on the record.

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Guest Event ⁄ New York

U.S.-Turkey Relations: A New PartnershipReport of a CFR-Sponsored Independent Task Force

Speakers:

Madeleine K. Albright, Chair, Albright Stonebridge Group; Former Secretary of State, Stephen J. Hadley, Senior Advisor for International Affairs, U.S. Institute of Peace, Steven A. Cook, Hasib J. Sabbagh Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies, CFR; Task Force Project Director

Presider:

Gary Rosen, Editor, Review, Wall Street Journal
May 8, 2012 12:30-1:00 p.m. - Lunch
1:00-2:00 p.m. - Meeting

This meeting is on the record.

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Symposium

Session Four: Regional Consequences: The Geopolitics of the Changing Middle East

Speakers:

Steven A. Cook, Hasib J. Sabbagh Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies, Council on Foreign Relations; Author, The Struggle for Egypt: From Nasser to Tahrir Square, Marwa Daoudy, Visiting Lecturer in International Affairs and Visiting Research Scholar, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University (Currently on leave as Fellow at St. Antony's College, University of Oxford), Avi Shlaim, Emeritus Fellow, St. Antony's College; Former Professor of International Relations, University of Oxford

Presider:

Michael Slackman, Deputy Foreign Editor and Former Cairo Bureau Chief, New York Times
March 29, 2012 - March 30, 2012 8:45-9:00 a.m.

This meeting is on the record.

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Academic Conference Call

The Struggle for Egypt: From Nasser to Tahrir Square

Speaker:

Steven A. Cook, Hasib J. Sabbagh Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies, Council on Foreign Relations
October 26, 2011 12:00-1:00 p.m. - (ET)

This meeting is not for attribution.

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Conference Call

Egypt’s Parliamentary Elections: Impact and Implications

Speaker:

Steven A. Cook, Hasib J. Sabbagh Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies, Council on Foreign Relations

Presider:

Robert McMahon, Editor, CFR.org, Council on Foreign Relations
November 30, 2010 12:30-1:30 p.m. - Conference call

This meeting is not for attribution.

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Academic Conference Call

Gaza Update

Speaker:

Steven A. Cook, Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies, Council on Foreign Relations

Presider:

Irina A. Faskianos, Vice President, National Program & Outreach, Council on Foreign Relations
January 22, 2009

This meeting is not for attribution.

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Conference Panel Session

Center for Preventive Action Symposium on Preventive Priorities for a New Era, Session Two: Outlook for Critical Regions

Speakers:

Steven A. Cook, Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies, Council on Foreign Relations, Michelle D. Gavin, Adjunct Fellow for Africa, Council on Foreign Relations, Daniel S. Markey, Senior Fellow for India, Pakistan, and South Asia, Council on Foreign Relations

Presider:

Jane Holl Lute, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacebuilding Support, United Nations
December 9, 2008

This meeting is not for attribution.

ListenWatch

General Meeting ⁄ New York

Muslim Views of the West

Speakers:

Geneive Abdo, Senior Analyst, Gallup Center for Muslim Studies; Author, Mecca and Main Street: Muslim Life in America After 9/11, Steven A. Cook, Douglas Dillon Fellow, Council on Foreign Relations, Mark Tessler, Samuel J. Eldersveld Collegiate Professor of Political Science; Director, International Institute; Vice Provost for International Affairs, University of Michigan

Presider:

Steven Simon, Hasib J. Sabbagh Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies, Council on Foreign Relations
March 13, 2007 7:45-9:00 a.m.

This meeting is on the record.

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Conference Call ⁄ New York

Fractured Alliance? The Future of U.S.-Turkey Relations

Speakers:

Steven A. Cook, Douglas Dillon Fellow, Council on Foreign Relations; and coauthor, Council Special Report, Generating Momentum for a New Era in U.S.-Turkey Relations, Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall, Adjunct Senior Fellow for Alliance Relations, Council on Foreign Relations; and coauthor, Council Special Report, Generating Momentum for a New Era in U.S.-Turkey Relations

Presider:

Marc Grossman, Vice Chairman, The Cohen Group; and former United States Ambassador to Turkey
June 22, 2006

This meeting is on the record.

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Symposium ⁄ New York

The Emerging Shia Crescent Symposium: Is Shia Power Cause for Concern?

Speakers:

Steven A. Cook, Douglas Dillon Fellow, Council on Foreign Relations, Toby C. Jones, Mellon Post Doctoral Fellow in Middle East History, Swarthmore College, Ray Takeyh, Senior Fellow, Middle Eastern Studies, Council on Foreign Relations

Presider:

Ethan S. Bronner, Deputy Foreign Editor, The New York Times
June 5, 2006

This meeting is on the record.

ListenWatch

Press/Panels

Video Interview

Assad: "Expect everything" in Response to Any Missile Strike

CFR's Steven Cook appears on MSNBC's Martin Bashir to debate the consequences of a possible U.S. missile strike in Syria, as well as the costs of supporting true regime change, as Syria's Bashar al-Assad threatens retaliation for any attack, with Lara Setrakian, managing editor of "Syria Deeply."

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Radio Interview

U.S. Intervention in Syria Likely has a Time Limit

The crisis in Syria deepens as reports surface that the government is using chemical weapons against its civilians. Syria denies the allegation and President Obama has not made a final decision regarding military intervention. "There needs to be a signal sent to the international community that the use of these types of weapons are beyond the pale and that there would indeed be consequences as a result of using them," says CFR's Steven Cook on Marketplace.

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Radio Interview

Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood Remains Defiant After Crackdown

Hundreds of people were killed in Egypt when armed forces cleared protest camps set up by supporters of ousted President Morsi. CFR's Steven Cook, in an interview on NPR, explains that the recent military crackdown on those protesters can be seen as an attempt by the Muslim Brotherhood to delegitimize the government appointed by the military and their use of violence and martyrdom, increasing sectarian tensions in the country.

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Radio Interview

Egypt's Military "A Builder, A Liberator and Savior"

In the wake of the military intervention in Egypt that removed President Mohammed Morsi from power, CFR's Steven Cook talks with NPR's Audie Cornish about the current and historical role of the Egyptian military in politics, arguing that the Egyptian military is apolitical and does not have an ideological commitment to one particular group, only wanting to protect its own interests and its reputation as the protector of the Egyptian state.

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Radio Interview

Egypt at a Crossroads...Once Again

Egypt is bracing for increased violence between massive crowds for and against Mohamed Morsi. Tanks are in the streets of Cairo, and Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood claims there has been a military coup. Has the United States given its tacit approval? What are the potential consequences for democracy in Egypt and the Middle East? CFR's Steven Cook says, in an interview with KCRW's Warren Olney, that the United States is a side-show to the continuous struggle for power in Egypt, and that Washington's primary interest in the Middle East is security and not democracy.

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Video Interview

"Dire Situation" in Syria Forces U.S. to Act Pro

The White House has promised to step up assistance to Syrian rebels, after determining that the Assad government has used chemical weapons against the rebels. CFR's Steven Cook says this may be too little, too late. In an interview on CNBC, Cook explains that the rebels are on the defensive, and in the meantime Assad's regime is strengthening its position.

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Video Interview

Turkey Explained: CFR Analyst Outlines Issues

Turkey's government is facing its biggest protests in years as demonstrators and police clashed for a 12th consecutive day. CFR's Steven Cook explains the situation in Turkey and the clashes between street demonstrators and the ruling AK party led by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

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Radio Interview

After Protests, Evaluating Turkey's Role as a Democracy

CFR's Steven Cook, talking on NPR, examines Turkish prime minister Erdogan's illiberal and authoritarian turn in Turkey in light of the recent protests in Istanbul's Gezi Park and discusses what this means for the prospects of Turkish leadership in the region as a "democracy."

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Radio Interview

Recognizing the Armenian Genocide

President Obama recognized the annual Remembrance Day for the estimated 1.5 million Armenians who died in the former Ottoman Empire; however, Obama stopped short of calling the term "genocide" to define the awful events of 1915. CFR's Steven Cook, in an interview with Larry Mantle on Air Talk, explains that the Obama administration does not want to create tension in U.S.-Turkey relations, and using the term "genocide" would do just that.

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Radio Interview

The Challenges to Democracy in Egypt

Ongoing violence in Egypt highlights the continued tensions between the government and the opposition, and raises questions about the prospects of Egypt's transition into a democracy. CFR's Steven Cook talks with Neal Conan of NPR, claiming that Egypt has quickly moved from an exhilarating moment of national unity to a deep polarization, which has complicated Morsi's ability to govern and calls into question Egypt's democratic transition. Should things continue to get worse, he says, there could possibly be a military intervention in Cairo.

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Video Interview

Egyptians Vote on New Constitution

CFR's Steven Cook discusses the latest on Egypt's first referendum on the draft constitution that will drive Egypt's policies in the future.

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Article

Steven Cook Wins Washington Institute Book Prize

Steven A. Cook's The Struggle for Egypt, a chronicle of modern Egypt that culminates in the revolution that overthrew Hosni Mubarak, has been awarded the gold medal in The Washington Institute's 2012 Book Prize competition.


Radio Interview

Regional Implications for Israel-Hamas Conflict Could be a “Nightmare Scenario”

What is at stake for Israel's neighboring countries, in light of the new conflict between Israel and Hamas? "The Israelis could be looking at a situation in which their relations are deteriorating with Egypt, faced with the possibility of two fronts in Gaza, and in the north from Hezbollah, and the crumbling of its relationship with Jordan. All around, a nightmare scenario," says CFR's Steven Cook in an interview for PRI's The World.

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Radio Interview

The US and Syria After the Election

CFR's Steven Cook talks to PRI's The World and explains the intense reluctance among officials at the Department of Defense, the State Department, and the White House to commit to involvement in Syria. He says that Washington wants to be sensitive to Syria's security concerns without getting directly involved and entering into a situation that might turn into another Afghanistan or something similar.

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Radio Interview

Egypt Vows Swift Response to Violent Attack from Sinai Region

Egypt has blocked access to the country from the Gaza Strip in the wake of an assault on an Egyptian border station. "The residents of the Sinai have long felt that they have been neglected by the central government in Cairo. They have been abused by the police. There are significant socio-economic problems throughout the Sinai but, in particular in northern Sinai," says CFR's Steven Cook, speaking on PRI's The World. The real issue, he says, is whether post-revolutionary Egypt has the capacity to deal with the Sinai's complex challenges.

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Video Interview

Who's supporting Syria's regime abroad?

How influential has international help been for Assad, and what can the West do to stop the violence? CFR's Steven Cook appears on Fox News and says the Assad regime remains in place mainly due to the large amount of support it gets from the Russians and Iranians, while the rebels have received minimal international aid. Cook claims that this is not a "fair fight," and warns that we are in for much more bloodshed in Syria unless there is concerted international action.

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Radio Interview

Should the West Intervene in Syria?

The failure by the Arab League mission to stop the violence in Syria puts more pressure on the international community at large to intervene in that country, but the United States has no plans to do that. "If we want to see an end to the violence and a hope for democracy in Syria, the next stop is international intervention. If not, Assad will likely be around for some time and will kill many more people," argues CFR's Steven Cook on PRI's The World.

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Article

Books for the Discerning Stocking

Slate.com recommends Dr. Steven Cook's new book, The Struggle for Egypt: From Nasser to Tahrir Square, saying, "Cook brings the revolution to life."

Radio Interview

What's at Stake in Egypt?

The elections in Egypt have exposed deep rifts between the ruling Military Council and various opposition groups. CFR's Steven Cook discusses what is at stake for Egypt's military in light of the recent parliamentary elections. Speaking on PRI's The World, he explains the military's desire to maintain its power, and how their legitimacy is being threatened by the possibility a true democracy emerging in Egypt.

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Article

What's Next for Egypt?

Christian Science Monitor calls The Struggle for Egypt:From Nasser to Tahrir Square by Dr. Steven Cook, "[An] excellent new book."

Article

What the Generals Did to Egypt

Thanassis Cambanis for the New York Times Sunday Book Review says, "Cook has given us is a scholar's well-informed, analytical history, which offers invaluable insights to anyone interested in how Egypt came to its present impasse" about Dr. Steven Cook's new book, The Struggle for Egypt: From Nasser to Tahrir Square.

Radio Interview

Egypt, 30 Years After Anwar Sadat's Death

Lynn Neary, from NPR's Morning Edition, talks to Steven Cook, senior follow for Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, about the 30th anniversary of the assassination of former Egyptian President Anwar Sadat. They discuss how the past is shaping Egypt's future.


Article

The Struggle for Egypt on Kirkus Reviews

Dr. Steven Cook's new book, The Struggle for Egypt: From Nasser to Tahrir Square is reviewed by Kirkus Reviews: "[A] detailed account of the build-up to revolution and how recent developments were organized . . . Cook, who is intimately familiar with Egypt and its political and cultural history, begins from Nasser's 1952 coup, providing broad context for his discussion."

Video Interview

Update on Turkey

Dr. Steven Cook appears on Charlie Rose to discuss the recent resignations of Turkey's top military officers.

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Radio Interview

Six Months of Revolution and Change in the 'Arab Spring'

It has been six months since popular protests forced Tunisian President Zine Abidine Ben Ali to announce he was stepping down. That event has shaken the Arab world. CFR's Steven Cook talks with PRI's The World, saying that many changes have been made but that it is still too early to tell what the political trajectory of the region will be, as Tunisia, like Egypt, is still having difficulty realizing its revolutionary promise.

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Radio Interview

Will more countries follow Egypt?

CFR's Steven Cook, in an interview with PRI's The World, discusses the prospects for a regional "domino effect" in Egypt's neighborhood.

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Video Interview

Hosni Mubarak Meets with President Obama

A look at Hosni Mubarak's meeting with President Obama in Washington with Steven Cook of The Council on Foreign Relations and Michele Dunne of The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace on Charlie Rose.

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Bio

Steven A. Cook is Hasib J. Sabbagh senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). He is an expert on Arab and Turkish politics as well as U.S.-Middle East policy. Dr. Cook is the author of The Struggle for Egypt: From Nasser to Tahrir Square (Oxford University Press, Fall 2011), which won the Washington Institute for Near East Policy's gold medal for best book on the Middle East in 2012, and Ruling But Not Governing: The Military and Political Development in Egypt, Algeria, and Turkey (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2007).

Dr. Cook has published widely in a variety of foreign policy journals, opinion magazines, and newspapers. He currently writes the blog, "From the Potomac to the Euphrates."

Prior to joining CFR, Dr. Cook was a research fellow at the Brookings Institution (2001–2002) and a Soref research fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (1995–96).

Dr. Cook holds a BA in international studies from Vassar College, an MA in international relations from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, and both an MA and PhD in political science from the University of Pennsylvania. He speaks Arabic and Turkish and reads French.