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"

How Erdogan Made Turkey Authoritarian Again

by Steven A. Cook
Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses the members of his ruling AK Party, as he stands in front of the portraits of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, founder of modern Turkey, and himself during a meeting at his party headquarters in Ankara (Umit Bektas/Reuters). Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses the members of his ruling AK Party, as he stands in front of the portraits of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, founder of modern Turkey, and himself during a meeting at his party headquarters in Ankara (Umit Bektas/Reuters).

This article was originally published here in the Atlantic on Thursday, July 21, 2016.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this. In October 2004, the European Commission offered Turkey a formal invitation to begin negotiations for membership in that exclusive club of democracies, the European Union. The Justice and Development Party (AKP), which had been in power for just two years at the time, hailed the commission’s offer as validation of its self-described Muslim Democrat worldview. Read more »

Where the Turkish Military Fails, Egypt’s Succeeds

by Steven A. Cook
Supporters of Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan celebrate after soldiers involved in the coup surrendered on the Bosphorus Bridge in Istanbul (Yagiz Karahan/Reuters). Supporters of Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan celebrate after soldiers involved in the coup surrendered on the Bosphorus Bridge in Istanbul (Yagiz Karahan/Reuters).

This article was originally published here on ForeignAffairs.com on Tuesday, July 19, 2016.

In a half-decade of extraordinary moments in the Middle East, images of citizens swarming tanks and other military vehicles have been among the most arresting. Within the emerging iconography of the era are photos from early July 2013 that capture overjoyed Egyptians celebrating that the military had emerged from its barracks to depose the country’s elected president, Mohammed Morsi, ending the Muslim Brotherhood’s year-long experiment in governance. The intervention reaffirmed the military’s prestige, influence, and authority in the Egyptian political system. Last Friday night, similar scenes played out in the streets of Istanbul and Ankara. Instead of joy, however, Turks were outraged that members of the military sought to depose President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a politician who has been winning elections as mayor of Istanbul, prime minister of Turkey, and head of state since 1994. The attempted coup failed, a purge is underway, and the Turkish armed forces—the second largest military in NATO—is in chaos. How was it that the Egyptian officers managed to do what that one faction in the Turkish military could not, especially given Turkey’s extensive history of coups? The answer lies in the interventions themselves and the underlying worldview that served as the basis of the officers’ apparent power. Read more »

Weekend Reading: Terror and Infrastructure in Iraq, Ladino Music, and the Return of South Yemen

by Steven A. Cook
Sunni and Shi'ite Muslims attend prayers during Eid al-Fitr as they mark the end of the fasting month of Ramadan, at the site of a suicide car bomb attack over the weekend at the shopping area of Karrada, in Baghdad, Iraq (Khalid al Mousily/Reuters). Sunni and Shi'ite Muslims attend prayers during Eid al-Fitr as they mark the end of the fasting month of Ramadan, at the site of a suicide car bomb attack over the weekend at the shopping area of Karrada, in Baghdad, Iraq (Khalid al Mousily/Reuters).

Sajad Jiyad, an Iraq-based researcher, argues that it was poor infrastructure as well as terrorism that contributed to the deaths of at least 250 people in Baghdad last Sunday. Read more »

Israel and Turkey: No Big Deal

by Steven A. Cook
Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Olmert (L) shakes hands with his Turkish counterpart Tayyip Erdogan at the Elysee Palace July 13, 2008, in this picture released by the Israeli Government Press Office (Avi Ohayon/Reuters). Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Olmert (L) shakes hands with his Turkish counterpart Tayyip Erdogan at the Elysee Palace July 13, 2008, in this picture released by the Israeli Government Press Office (Avi Ohayon/Reuters).

Many thanks to Brad Rothschild for his help with the Hebrew.

News came over the weekend that Israel and Turkey are making up. There have been on and off rumors to this effect over the last three or four years, but the expected rapprochement never came. There was some hope that Jerusalem and Ankara would patch things up quickly after President Barack Obama visited Israel in March 2013, and as a party favor—a “deliverable,” as it is known in the awful jargon of Washington wonkery—Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who was Turkey’s prime minister at the time before ascending to the presidency in August 2014, to apologize for the infamous 2010 Mavi Marmara incident. It was not to be, however. Negotiations dragged on with varying degrees of intensity between Turkish and Israeli diplomats in the ensuing years with episodic rumors and press report of imminent breakthroughs. Yet because the foreign ministries in both countries actually have limited influence on foreign policy, it was up to the leaders, and neither Netanyahu nor Erdogan seemed all that interested in a rapprochement. All that said, today’s official announcement that Israel and Turkey are restoring full diplomatic relations was not that much of a surprise. But as important a development as the deal may be, this is unlikely to be the dawn of a new day in Israeli-Turkish relations. Read more »

Weekend Reading: Beirut’s Elections, Armenian Artisans, and Egyptian Buildings

by Steven A. Cook
A picture of a candidate for municipality elections is hung near displayed mirrors of an antique shop in Beirut, Lebanon (Alia Haju/Reuters). A picture of a candidate for municipality elections is hung near displayed mirrors of an antique shop in Beirut, Lebanon (Alia Haju/Reuters).

Habib Battah examines the intersection of new and old in Lebanese politics in the context of Beirut’s municipal elections.

Nektaria Petrou narrates her quest to find a renowned Armenian hand engraver in Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar. Read more »

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 »