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Helena Cobban

Helena Cobban

Non-Resident Senior Fellow

Helena Cobban is a writer and researcher on international relations, with special interests in the Middle East and the international system. She is the author of seven books on current international affairs, four of them focusing on the Middle East. She contributed a regular column on global issues to The Christian Science Monitor, 1990-2007, and is a Contributing Editor of Boston Review.

Ms. Cobban has a BA and an MA from Oxford, where she read Philosophy and Economics. From 1974 through 1981, she worked as a Beirut-based correspondent for news outlets including The Christian Science Monitor, The Sunday Times, ABC Radio, and the BBC, traveling broadly throughout the region for those media. While in Beirut she became fluent in French and Arabic.

In 1982, she moved to the United States to take up a research fellowship at Harvard University Center for International Affairs, where she wrote her first book, The Palestinian Liberation Organisation (Cambridge U.P., 1984.) In 1985, despite not having a doctorate, she won an SSRC-Macarthur post-doc grant in International Peace and Security Studies, which she took up at the Center for International Security Studies at Maryland (CISSM), using that experience to write a book on US-Soviet interactions in the Syria-Israel theater.

For much of the time she was contributing a regular column to The Christian Science Monitor, she was also writing a separate column for Arabic-language international daily Al-Hayat.

Throughout the 2000s, she undertook numerous research/writing trips to the Middle East. In February 2003 she started publishing "Just World News", a blog on global issues that gained a broad global readership and was cited in Le Monde diplomatique and elsewhere.

In early 2010, she founded the publishing company Just World Books, which proceeded to publish 38 original titles on Middle Eastern and other international issues. In early 2018, the company entered hiatus from issuing new titles. Ms. Cobban then spent more time running Just World Educational, a non-profit, where as Executive President she also contributed to its blog, its podcast series, and other programs. In Spring 2019, she resumed her own writing career.

She was a long-time member of the International Institute for Strategic Studies and sat for many years on the Middle East Advisory Committee of Human Rights Watch and on the board of Virginians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty. In 2007-08 she was a 'Friend in Washington' with the Friends Committee on National Legislation, and in 2008-11 a member of Search for Common Ground's US-Syria Working Group.



February 12, 2020

Syria and “Transitional Justice”

by Helena Cobban

Almost from the beginning of the US-supported regime-change project in Syria, US policymakers have incorporated several kinds of planning for what is called “transitional justice” into their pursuit of the project.

February 4, 2020

What the New York Times doesn’t want you to know about Idlib

by Helena Cobban

If you rely only on the New York Times to understand events in Syria, you likely have the idea that the peaceable people of the Idlib province in the northwest of the country have for some years now been subjected to gratuitous attacks by the Syrian and Russian air forces that, for some unknown reason, seem to have illegally “targeted” hospitals and schools.

February 7, 2020

Did Washington use a false pretext for its recent escalation in Iraq?

by Helena Cobban

The United States almost immediately accused the Iran-backed Ketaib Hizbullah (KH) militia of responsibility. But Rubin quotes by name Brig. General Ahmed Adnan, the chief of intelligence for the Iraqi federal police at the same base, as saying, “All the indications are that it was Daesh” — that is, ISIS.

January 9, 2020

Trump & Khamenei de-escalate. Political struggle inside Iraq continues.

by Helena Cobban

The coming weeks will almost certainly see an escalation in this political struggle between Iran and the United States, inside Iraq. It will be a struggle not only for the “hearts and minds” of Iraq’s long-suffering people and for influence over its decisionmakers, but also, quite likely, for the continued unity of the country itself.

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