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"

The Tin-Pot Dictatorships of Egypt and Turkey

by Steven A. Cook
Zaman editor-in-chief Ekrem Dumanli, surrounded by his colleagues and plainclothes police officers (C), reacts as he leaves the headquarters of Zaman daily newspaper in Istanbul (Murad Sezer/Courtesy Reuters). Zaman editor-in-chief Ekrem Dumanli, surrounded by his colleagues and plainclothes police officers (C), reacts as he leaves the headquarters of Zaman daily newspaper in Istanbul (Murad Sezer/Courtesy Reuters).

Supporters of the governments of Egypt and Turkey have become adept at telling the world that under presidents Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Recep Tayyip Erdogan respectively, these countries are making progress toward more open and just political systems. In reality, they are nothing more than tin-pot dictatorships. Read more »

Weekend Reading: Egypt’s Spider-Man, Ottomania, and Iraq’s Militias

by Steven A. Cook
Turkish faithful pray in Ottoman-era Sultanahmet mosque, known as Blue mosque, on "Laylat Al Qadr" during the holy month of Ramadan, in Istanbul late July 23, 2014 (Yagiz Karahan/Courtesy Reuters). Turkish faithful pray in Ottoman-era Sultanahmet mosque, known as Blue mosque, on "Laylat Al Qadr" during the holy month of Ramadan, in Istanbul late July 23, 2014 (Yagiz Karahan/Courtesy Reuters).

Browse through Hossam Atef’s photo gallery, the photographer known as Antikka who recently made headlines with his latest project, “SpiderMan At Egypt.”

Pinar Tremblay investigates the discriminatory effects of introducing Ottoman Turkish to the national curriculum. Read more »

The President Who Ate Turkey

by Steven A. Cook
Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks during a news conference in Riga October 23, 2014 (Ints Kalnins/Courtesy Reuters). Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks during a news conference in Riga October 23, 2014 (Ints Kalnins/Courtesy Reuters).

This article was originally published here on Politico.com on Thursday, November 27, 2014.

Without fail every year, starting around November 10, my #Turkey Twitter feed is jammed with not just the latest news from Ankara and Istanbul, but also Auntie Jean’s turkey recipe and suggestions about how to deep fry the bird without blowing up your house. And every year, on behalf of Turks and Turkey scholars the world over, I plaintively ask the tweeting masses to change #Turkey to #Turkiye, the actual Turkish name for the country that borders Greece, Bulgaria, Iran, Iraq and Syria—alas, with no success. Read more »

Turkey And The United States: Death By A Thousand Slights

by Steven A. Cook
U.S. President Barack Obama hosts a bilateral meeting with Turkey's President Tayyip Erdogan during the NATO Summit at the Celtic Manor Resort in Newport, Wales September 5, 2014 (Larry Downing/Courtesy Reuters). U.S. President Barack Obama hosts a bilateral meeting with Turkey's President Tayyip Erdogan during the NATO Summit at the Celtic Manor Resort in Newport, Wales September 5, 2014 (Larry Downing/Courtesy Reuters).

The relationship between the United States and Turkey has hit the skids. The controversy over Kobani has revealed deep fissures and deep mistrust between Washington and Ankara. It is true that U.S.-Turkish ties were never easy. Beyond the gauzy rhetoric of fighting and dying together in Korea and standing shoulder-to-shoulder to counter the Soviet threat, there was a war of words between President Lyndon Johnson and Turkish Prime Minister Ismet Inonu over Cyprus, and then after the Turks invaded the island in 1974, Washington imposed an arms embargo on Ankara. In between and even in the years after the United States lifted the sanctions on Turkey, mistrust was a constant feature of the relationship. No doubt some Turkey watchers will claim that if bilateral ties survived the difficult period of the 1960s and 1970s, there is no reason to believe that relations will be permanently impaired now, but that is a lazy argument. The factors that drove the strategic relationship—the Soviet Union, Middle East peacemaking, Turkey’s EU project, and soft landings in the Arab world—no longer exist. At the same time, the accumulated evidence from recent experience in Syria, Israel-Palestine, Egypt, and Iraq indicate that Washington and Ankara simply have different goals. Read more »

Burying Ataturk In Erdogan’s Castle

by Steven A. Cook
Turkey's President Tayyip Erdogan leaves an official ceremony to mark Republic Day at the new Presidential Palace in Ankara (Umit Bektas/Courtesy Reuters). Turkey's President Tayyip Erdogan leaves an official ceremony to mark Republic Day at the new Presidential Palace in Ankara (Umit Bektas/Courtesy Reuters).

What can anyone say about Turkey’s new presidential palace that has not already been said? It is enormous. It is gaudy. It is expensive. I am not sure what was wrong with the old place, which is nestled into a hillside in the Cankaya area of Ankara. Inside, it was a tasteful blend of republicanism with a subtle nod to Ottoman greatness, but it was altogether understated. The aura of the old palace seemed consistent with the restraint and above-politics powers that were built into the Turkish presidency. I guess it was no longer right for the times. Read more »

Turkey Has Been Consistent, Just Not In Line With U.S.

by Steven A. Cook
Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses the 69th United Nations General Assembly at the UN headquarters in New York (Lucas Jackson/Courtesy Reuters). Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses the 69th United Nations General Assembly at the UN headquarters in New York (Lucas Jackson/Courtesy Reuters).

This article was originally published here on NYTimes.com on Tuesday, October 14, 2014.

Turkey could still commit itself to becoming a more active member of the anti-ISIS coalition, though that seems unlikely. Last Friday, Ankara agreed to train members of the Free Syrian Army, and is still considering whether it will allow American and allied forces to use the Incirlik air base in the fight against the militant group. However, the permission to use this sprawling airfield close to the Syrian border may not be the breakthrough that U.S. officials have touted, revealing a continuing gap between Washington’s security needs and Turkey’s political dilemmas. Read more »

Fiddling While Kobani Burns

by Steven A. Cook
Turkish soldiers watch over the Syrian town of Kobani as they take position near Mursitpinar border crossing on the Turkish-Syrian border (Murad Sezer/Courtesy Reuters). Turkish soldiers watch over the Syrian town of Kobani as they take position near Mursitpinar border crossing on the Turkish-Syrian border (Murad Sezer/Courtesy Reuters).

This article was originally published here on ForeignPolicy.com on Tuesday, October 7, 2014.

Last week, the Turkish Grand National Assembly voted to authorize the use of force in Syria and Iraq. Turkish legislators also voted to permit the deployment of foreign forces in Turkey for the purpose of fighting against the Islamic State (IS). The votes were heralded in the Turkish and U.S. media as proof that Ankara is a dependable ally in the ongoing battle against the Islamic State. So why are Turkish forces sitting idly along the border while jihadist militants advance toward the border? Read more »

What a Turkey!

by Steven A. Cook
Turkey's Prime Minister and presidential candidate Tayyip Erdogan addresses his supporters during an election rally in Istanbul August 3, 2014 (Murad Sezer/Courtesy Reuters). Turkey's Prime Minister and presidential candidate Tayyip Erdogan addresses his supporters during an election rally in Istanbul August 3, 2014 (Murad Sezer/Courtesy Reuters).

This article was originally published here on Politico.com on Tuesday, August 5, 2014.

If Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan were an American politician, he would be an excellent candidate for one of Chris Cillizza’s “Worst Week in Washington” features. First, on Friday, July 19, a day after the State Department spokesperson criticized him for his frequent invocation of the Nazis to describe Israel’s behavior, Erdogan asked, “What do Americans know about Hitler?” Given that almost 200,000 young Americans died fighting in Europe during WWII, quite a lot, actually. Second, in an open and embarrassing display of just how far the cult of Erdogan’s personality has gone, the 60-year-old prime minister appeared in a friendly soccer match—wearing a bright orange uniform—and miraculously scored three goals in 15 minutes to the collective delirium of announcers, fans and opposing players from the Istanbul Basaksehir club. (It was a bit of a disappointment that he did not pull off his jersey in triumph after the hat trick; it would have given the growing Tayyip Erdogan-Vladimir Putin comparisons an additional element of absurdity.) Third, the American Jewish Congress demanded that Erdogan return the “Profiles in Courage” award the organization bestowed upon him in 2004 for his commitment to protect Turkish Jewry, combat terrorism and forge peaceful coexistence in the Middle East. The prime minister—who is also a recipient of the Muammar al-Qaddafi prize for human rights—was, in the words of Turkey’s ambassador in Washington, “glad” to return the honor. Finally, Cillizza’s colleague at the Washington Post, Richard Cohen, penned a column about Erdogan’s “Hitler fetish,” wondering whether the Turkish prime minister had lost his marbles. Read more »

The Contest for Regional Leadership in the New Middle East

by Steven A. Cook
Free Syrian Army fighters pose on a tank, which they say was captured from the Syrian army loyal to President Bashar al-Assad, after clashes in Qasseer, near Homs (Shaam News Network/Courtesy Reuters). Free Syrian Army fighters pose on a tank, which they say was captured from the Syrian army loyal to President Bashar al-Assad, after clashes in Qasseer, near Homs (Shaam News Network/Courtesy Reuters).

The Center for a New American Security (CNAS) just published this report that I coauthored with Jacob Stokes, Bacevich fellow at  CNAS, and my research associate Alexander Brock.

“The Contest for Regional Leadership in the New Middle East” shows how, in addition to the historic political change occurring within the major states of the Middle East, there is a transformative process underway remaking the dynamics among the states of the region. The reordering of the geopolitics of the region has exposed rivalries among the contenders for leadership, as well as different ideological, economic, nationalistic and sectarian agendas. The report argues that Washington has sought to accommodate these changes in a way that continues to secure its strategic interests. What role the United States will play in a “new Middle East” is the subject of intense debate among Americans, Arabs and Turks. Nevertheless, it is clear that with all the problems regional powers have confronted trying to shape the politics of the region, American leadership will continue to be indispensable. Read more »