Steven A. Cook

From the Potomac to the Euphrates

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

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Showing posts for "Turkey"

Weekend Reading: Comedy and the Islamic State, Protest and Failure in Egypt, and Insulting Erdogan

by Steven A. Cook
A view shows actors during the filming of the set of the television series, whose title is loosely translated as "State of Myths" in Baghdad (Thaier Al-Sudani/Reuters). A view shows actors during the filming of the set of the television series, whose title is loosely translated as "State of Myths" in Baghdad (Thaier Al-Sudani/Reuters).

Nathaniel Greenberg examines the use of comedy in Iraq to counter the narrative of the self-declared Islamic State.

One blogger expounds on the weaknesses and pitfalls of the Egyptian protest movement. Read more »

A Prolonged Period of Uncertainty

by Steven A. Cook
Pro-Turkish protestors hold Turkish national flags as they take part in a demonstration in Hamburg (Fabian Bimmer/Reuters). Pro-Turkish protestors hold Turkish national flags as they take part in a demonstration in Hamburg (Fabian Bimmer/Reuters).

This article originally appeared here on the Cipher Brief on Thursday, April 14, 2016.

In the late 1970s, Turkey experienced a convulsion of political violence between leftist and rightist factions that killed almost five thousand people by the time the military pushed out the government in a September 1980 coup d’état. The respite from violence was relatively brief, however. Since the mid-1980s, the terrorists of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Turkish state have been waging a war against each other that has taken the lives of tens of thousands. The recent violence in Ankara, Istanbul, and the Kurdish southeast is not unprecedented, but the fact that the PKK, an offshoot called the Kurdistan Freedom Falcons (TAK), and the Islamic State group are all targeting Turkey poses a variety of security challenges and dilemmas for Ankara. The Turkish military, which has laid siege to parts of the southeast; the police; and the National Intelligence Organization, do not seem to have an answer to the bloodshed except more bloodshed. Although episodic PKK violence has marked the Justice and Development Party (AKP) era, the general stability of the last thirteen-and-a-half years seems to have given way to a more uncertain and bloody future for Turks. Read more »

Weekend Reading: Smuggling in Syria, Marriage in Mosul, and Egypt’s Development Challenges

by Steven A. Cook
Iraqi soldiers launch artillery toward Islamic State militants on the outskirt of the Makhmour south of Mosul (Azad Lashkari/Reuters). Iraqi soldiers launch artillery toward Islamic State militants on the outskirt of the Makhmour south of Mosul (Azad Lashkari/Reuters).

Yasser Allawi interviews a Syrian smuggler, Abu Yazan, on the process of transporting refugees to Europe via Turkey.

Nawzat Shamdeen takes a look at marriage laws in Islamic State–controlled Mosul. Read more »

“How Happy Is the One Who Says, I Am a Turk!”

by Steven A. Cook
Flags with a picture of the jailed Kurdish militant leader Abdullah Ocalan and of modern Turkey's founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk (L) are pictured during a gathering of supporters of the Pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) (Murad Sezer/Reuters). Flags with a picture of the jailed Kurdish militant leader Abdullah Ocalan and of modern Turkey's founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk (L) are pictured during a gathering of supporters of the Pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) (Murad Sezer/Reuters).

This article originally appeared here on ForeignPolicy.com on Monday, March 28, 2016.

The war between the Turkish military and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) is back, and it seems more ferocious than ever. Over the past six months, an estimated 500 civilians have been killed in fighting between Turkish security forces and the Kurdish insurgent group. In February and March, PKK suicide bombers struck at the heart of Turkey’s capital, killing a total of 67 people within steps of the prime ministry and in Ankara’s bustling Kizilay neighborhood. All the while, the Turkish military has laid siege to the towns of Cizre and Nusaybin, PKK strongholds in the southeast, razing apartment blocks and sending desperate civilians fleeing. Read more »

Turkey to See More Ballot Boxes This Year

by Guest Blogger for Steven A. Cook
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan makes a speech during his meeting with mukhtars at the Presidential Palace in Ankara, Turkey (Umit Bektas/Reuters). Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan makes a speech during his meeting with mukhtars at the Presidential Palace in Ankara, Turkey (Umit Bektas/Reuters).

Ali Sokmen is an analyst covering Turkish affairs for Control Risks, the global business risk consultancy.

After having voted four times over the past two years, many Turkish citizens think they have seen enough ballot boxes. Turkish politicians seem to disagree. Read more »

Weekend Reading: Remaking Turkey’s Southeast, Barzani Speaks, and Sisi’s Parliament

by Steven A. Cook
raqi Kurdistan region's President Massoud Barzani attends a news conference with Britain's Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond in Erbil, Iraq (Azad Lashkari/Reuters). raqi Kurdistan region's President Massoud Barzani attends a news conference with Britain's Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond in Erbil, Iraq (Azad Lashkari/Reuters).

Nicholas Glastonbury and Defne Kadioglu discuss the salient role of urban governance in the conflict between the Turkish government and its Kurdish southeast. Read more »

Shameless in Turkey: Aydinlik, Sabah, and Henri

by Steven A. Cook
A man places carnations at the scene of a suicide bombing at Istiklal street, a major shopping and tourist district, in central Istanbul, Turkey (Osman Orsal/Reuters). A man places carnations at the scene of a suicide bombing at Istiklal street, a major shopping and tourist district, in central Istanbul, Turkey (Osman Orsal/Reuters).

On Saturday there was a horrific bombing in Istanbul that killed four and injured thirty six. It is the fourth attack in Turkey in six weeks. The country is under grave threat from the self-declared Islamic State, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), and the Kurdistan Freedom Falcons, known as the TAK. Ankara has fingered a suspect named Mehmet Ozturk, who is believed to be a Turkish member of the Islamic State, for the weekend’s violence. One would think that the Turkish press would spend its time looking into the attacker’s background, trying to understand who his accomplices are and how he got past Turkey’s rather intensive security. Many journalists are doing just that, but the Turkish newspapers Aydinlik and Sabah had something different in mind for their readers this weekend. Aydinlik’s front-page headline screamed “Barkey’s Bombs Exploded.” The “Barkey” in the headline is Professor Henri J. Barkey of Lehigh University and the director of the Middle East Program at the Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars in Washington. For its part, Sabah reported “Istiklal Bomb Threat From CIA” with a picture of Barkey (which Aydinlik had also included). Read more »

Between Ankara and Rojava

by Steven A. Cook
Kurdish women gesture and shout slogans during a demonstration against the exclusion of the Syrian Kurds from the Geneva talks, in the northeast Syrian Kurdish city of Qamishli (Rodi Said/Reuters). Kurdish women gesture and shout slogans during a demonstration against the exclusion of the Syrian Kurds from the Geneva talks, in the northeast Syrian Kurdish city of Qamishli (Rodi Said/Reuters).

This article originally appeared here on ForeignAffairs.com on Tuesday, March 15, 2016.

Nearly seven years ago, U.S. President Barack Obama traveled to the Turkish capital, Ankara, to address the country’s parliament. Turkey was second only to Russia in its need of a “reset.” The war in Iraq had damaged Washington’s ties with Ankara, which had warned of the dangers of a U.S. invasion and paid a price for its destabilizing effects. The new U.S. president’s gauzy rhetoric before the Grand National Assembly about how Turkish and Americans soldiers stood shoulder-to-shoulder “from Korea to Kosovo to Kabul” and his admiration for “Turkey’s democracy” seemed to hit exactly the right notes. It was the dawn of a new era in which close relations with a large, prosperous, democratizing, predominantly Muslim country would exemplify a more constructive, less belligerent course for U.S. foreign policy. Read more »

Weekend Reading: Portraying Tunisia’s Revolution, Turkey’s TAK, and Orwellian Syria

by Steven A. Cook
A girl waves a Tunisian flags during celebrations marking the fifth anniversary of Tunisia's 2011 revolution, in Habib Bourguiba Avenue in Tunis, Tunisia (Zoubeir Souissi/Reuters). A girl waves a Tunisian flags during celebrations marking the fifth anniversary of Tunisia's 2011 revolution, in Habib Bourguiba Avenue in Tunis, Tunisia (Zoubeir Souissi/Reuters).

Khadija Mohsen-Finan discusses discrepancies in the portrayal of the Tunisian revolution around the world and Tunisians’ own purview on the achievements and difficulties of the past five years. Read more »

Thinking About “the Kurds”

by Steven A. Cook
Kurdish demonstrators gesture during a protest against the curfew in Sur district and security operations, in the southeastern city of Diyarbakir, Turkey (Sertac Kayar/Reuters). Kurdish demonstrators gesture during a protest against the curfew in Sur district and security operations, in the southeastern city of Diyarbakir, Turkey (Sertac Kayar/Reuters).

Hi folks. It’s been a while. During my hiatus it seems the world has gone mad or madder. I am not exactly sure where to begin. The list of blog topics that I have collected over the last few weeks is long. I am going to pick up where I left off, with Turkey. Read more »