Protest, Democracy, and Violence in the New Middle East: A Conversation with Steven Cook (S. 5, Ep. 37)

On this week’s POMEPS podcast, Marc Lynch speaks with Steven Cook, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and the author of a new book, False Dawn: Protest, Democracy, and Violence in the new Middle East.

“The book is really written for a broad audience. To me it was important to kind of investigate what happened [during the Arab Uprisings],” said Cook. “Were these revolutions were— or were they just rebellions? The institutional legacies that people like Hosni Mubarak, Muammar Gaddafi, and Ben Ali left behind? Or how the Turkish government, which was elected in 2002 and promised to raise the authoritarian institutions of the state— are now using similar authoritarian means to gain control of political power? To me, these were important things.”

“In the prologue of the book, I put my reader in the middle of Tahrir Square, with me trying to get into Tahrir Square on January 25th. I remember what an exhilarating viewing it was when I got there and was talking to people,” said Cook. “But I remember two things. One, on February 11— 18 days later— when Mubarak fell and there were these huge parties going on in Tahrir Square. I said if I were Egyptian, I would never leave Tahrir Square. No way would I trust the Egyptian military to— as they were saying at the time— prepare the country for democracy.  That was never their intention. They were salvaging the regime. They were making sure the regime didn’t fall. They were insuring that there was a leadership change. And that’s one of the key aspects of the book, is that for all of the change that went on, basically what you had was a change in personalities in Egypt.”

“In False Dawn, what I’m trying to do for the policymaker is provide a broader context for them to think about these things.”

In this podcast, Cook also spoke about the Trump administrations goals in the Middle East, and Turkey’s future.

Music for this season’s podcast was created by Feras Arrabi. You can find more of his work on his Facebook and Instagram page.

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