As the ISIS “Caliphate” in Syria and Iraq faces annihilation in coming weeks, the U.S.  must rethink relations with its highly problematic but effective ally in the ISIS fight – the Syrian Kurdish PYD – which controls the U.S.-allied Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) –a joint Kurdish-Sunni Arab militia that has ...

President Donald Trump and the Emir of Kuwait – one of two Gulf countries that has not cut ties with Qatar – said in a joint news conference at the White House on Thursday that the boycott of Qatar by its Arab neighbors will soon be resolved. Trump even announced ...

Qatar announced on Thursday it is restoring full diplomatic ties with Iran. “The state of Qatar expressed its aspirations to strengthen bilateral relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran in all fields,” the Qatari Foreign Ministry said in a statement, adding that Qatar’s ambassador will return to Iran after a ...

  Relations between Turkey and the European Union – already fraught – have deteriorated swiftly over the last few months. In June, the refusal of Turkish officials to allow German parliamentarians to visit their troops stationed at the Incirlik air base in southeastern Turkey, who are part of the fight ...

Turkey’s relations with the EU and place within NATO have come under increased scrutiny over the past year, especially during Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's campaign to win a constitutional referendum this April, which many saw as a power grab. Now, a row over the access of German parliamentarians to ...

In the run up to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's campaign to win a constitutional referendum this April, rhetorical vitriol between Turkey and EU countries reached historic highs, including accusations that Dutch and German politicians were “Nazi remnants.”. Now, a row over the access of German parliamentarians to Turkey's critical ...

The Iraq-Syria border has emerged in recent months as the hottest piece of real estate in the multi-sided struggle between the Islamic State (ISIS), anti-ISIS fighters, and Iran’s militia proxies. Why is this? I’ve stood on the Iraq-Syrian border many times and it is not much to look at. Empty ...

The Fund For Peace’s 2017 Fragile States Index paints an alarming, but justified, picture of Turkey: it is declining dramatically in most areas measured by the index. Turkey saw drops in security, fractionalized elites, group grievances, human rights, and refugees and internally displaced persons. Only the last, refugees and IDPs, ...

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited Washington last week to meet with U.S. President Donald Trump. Despite budding tensions over the Trump administration’s decision to arm the Kurdish YPG (Peoples’ Protection Units) militia in Syria, which Erdogan considers to be a terrorist organization, the meeting largely went off without a ...

Turks went to the polls on Sunday and voted “Yes” in Turkey’s constitutional referendum by a margin of just over 51 percent to nearly 49 percent.   Turkey’s three largest cities, Istanbul, Ankara, and Izmir, all voted “No.” Major opposition parties have contested the validity of the results, citing concerns that ...

Turkey has a checkered history with democracy. Since adopting a multiparty parliamentary system, the country has suffered periodic military coups – including a failed putsch last July – designed to reassert the control of traditionalist military and political elites. Now, Turkey faces a new attempt to consolidate power, but not ...

Speaking at a rally in Istanbul on March 26, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan further escalated his ongoing fight with Europe: “Have you [Europeans] not burned and destroyed my mosques? You are fascists, fascists!” Erdogan’s creation of alt-facts, wholesale targeting of all Europeans as “fascists,” and bare knuckles fight with European countries, initially appear ...

Speaking at a rally in Istanbul on March 26, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan further escalated his ongoing fight with Europe: “Have you [Europeans] not burned and destroyed my mosques? You are fascists, fascists!” Erdogan’s creation of alt-facts, wholesale targeting of all Europeans as “fascists,” and bare knuckles fight with ...

On April 16, Turkey will hold a constitutional referendum, which if passed, promises to transform the country’s governing system. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan stands to gain expansive new executive powers - powers that critics say will create a de facto dictatorship in Turkey. For his part, Erdogan has branded ...

Syria has by far the smallest Kurdish population of any country with major Kurdish minorities. However, in the last two years, the Kurds of Syria have risen to local, regional, and international prominence. As the civil war grinds on, Syria's main Kurdish political group, the PYD, has become America's principal ...

Before the civil war, few outside the Middle East had ever heard of Syria’s Kurds. Syria has by far the smallest Kurdish population of the four countries with Kurdish minorities. However, the Syrian Kurds have risen to international prominence as their most powerful political group, the Democratic Union Party (PYD), ...

Turkey’s damaging crisis with Europe is self-generated in large part – a tactic sometimes used by Ankara to create a problem and then hold the other party responsible. Acting the victim also deflects domestic attention from the government’s own accountability and justifies revenge. Turkey is stirring a crisis with the ...

Relations between Turkey and Europe have been tense for decades. Turkey first applied to the European Economic Community – the European Union’s precursor – in 1987. Turkey has been an associate member since 1963, but the EU still has not offered it full membership, despite the country’s membership in NATO ...

Relations between Europe and Turkey are tense. In the past weeks, Turkey has called the Netherlands “the capital of fascism” and accused Germany of “fascist actions” reminiscent of the Nazi period, after Germany cancelled political rallies aimed at gathering support for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his referendum on ...

The so-called “deep state” is like dark matter. There is wide belief in countries like Turkey, Egypt, and Pakistan that it exists, but no one has ever actually seen it. The term has now—rather surprisingly—become a part of the political lexicon in the United States. Among many others, President Donald ...

The term “Deep State” has achieved new popularity in recent weeks, but not in reference to opaque military elites in faraway countries. Today, the term is aimed at the U.S. government itself. In particular, the deep state has become a catchall term, which credits a shadow network of spies and ...

Turkey has once again been very much on Europeans’ minds. This time, the issue has been about the Turkish referendum on April 16 over whether the country moves from its current parliamentary system to an executive presidency. The vote could be close, and the Turkish leader, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, needs ...

Despite its fearsome codename, Operation Wrath of Euphrates, the campaign by U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to capture Raqqa from ISIS has progressed in fits and starts since its announcement on November 6th of last year. However, that changed this month, with the operation appearing to have accelerated and SDF ...

As Iraqi forces close in on ISIS fighters stranded in eastern Mosul - the group's last urban bastion in Iraq - U.S.-backed Syrian rebels are simultaneously closing in on Raqqa, the capital of the Islamic State. Supported by coalition weapons, airstrikes, military advisers, and now several hundred U.S. Marines, the ...

On January 28, President Donald Trump signed an order for the U.S. military to review the campaign against ISIS and develop a decisive plan to defeat it within 30 days. Given the threats that ISIS poses to our homeland, our allies, and partners, we argue this is the right approach. However, destruction of the ISIS “state” in Iraq and ...

Russia, Iran and Turkey on Tuesday pledged to jointly enforce the fragile ceasefire in Syria, wrapping up two days of peace talks in Astana, Kazakhstan. The countries wrote in a statement that they will “seek, through concrete steps and using their influence over the parties, consolidation of the ceasefire” and ...

The December 30 ceasefire in Syria, brokered by Russia and Turkey, has for the most held throughout the country, despite violence undermining the pact.  This ceasefire is the third of its kind attempted within the space of a year. But with backing from Russia and Turkey, as well as seals ...

As 2016 comes to a close, Russia and Turkey have cobbled together a ceasefire in Syria, paving the way for peace talks to end the more than five-year long war that has destroyed the country and torn asunder its social fabric.  Though past initiatives failed to silence the guns, the ...

The agreement between Turkey and Russia stipulates a halt to the fighting throughout Syrian territory from midnight on December 29, with the exception of areas with a Fatah al-Sham (formerly the al-Nusra Front) or Islamic State presence. In addition, the agreement provides for President Bashar al-Assad to remain in power ...

On Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that a nationwide ceasefire in Syria would begin at midnight on Thursday night. This is the third such agreement this year – all other negotiated ceasefires have failed – but this deal will be enforced by Russia, Turkey, and Iran, the largest international ...

Editor’s Note: Over the coming days, The Cipher Brief presents some of our most incisive coverage on key issues of 2016 and a look ahead at what is yet to come in 2017. 2016 has been a year of fundamental change for Turkey. In Syria, the threat of ISIS and ...

Russian President Vladimir Putin took to the stage for a marathon end-of-year press conference on Friday, declaring Russian’s military might, denying accusations of hacking in the U.S. elections, and addressing concerns over a new nuclear arms race. At the annual event, just shy of four hours in length this year, ...

After the assassination of Russian Ambassador to Turkey, Andrey Karlov, by an off-duty Turkish police officer, relations between Ankara and Moscow have remained surprisingly resilient. This article written by Soner Cagaptay for The Cipher Brief on July 8 takes a look at the rocky path that has led Turkey to ...

Twelve people have been detained in connection with the New Year’s night club gun attack in Istanbul that left 39 people dead. Islamic State has claimed responsibility, although it offered no further details. A manhunt is underway for the lone gunman, who is still on the run. The attack comes ...

The attempted military coup against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is perhaps the most important political event in Turkey of the past 16 years, and has fundamentally changed the country's internal politics and external priorities. Ambassador James Jeffrey's article, written for The Cipher Brief on July 19, explores some of ...

The “complete meltdown of humanity” in Aleppo, as recently described by the United Nations, is an indictment of Russian/Syrian/Iranian barbarism, Arab indifference, and American dereliction and policy failure in the Levant.  The horrendous human tragedy, which is barely causing a yawn in the West—and across the Arab world as well—will ...

One day after Russia's ambassador to Turkey was killed in Ankara, foreign ministers from the two countries met in Moscow to discuss the crisis in Syria — and to vow they will keep their delicate diplomatic relationship on track in the wake of Andrey Karlov's assassination. During Monday's attack at ...

Police in Turkey have detained six people following the killing of Russian Ambassador Andrey Karlov. State media reports that the attacker’s mother, father, sister and two other relatives had been detained in the west of the country as well as his flat mate in Ankara. Ambassador Karlov was shot dead ...

Amid the dizzying array of jihadist groups, rebel militias, umbrella opposition alliances, and state-level actors either directly or indirectly involved in Syria’s conflict, it can be difficult to tell who is fighting whom and why. Headlines have captured the fierce battle for Aleppo’s rebel-held east, pitting Syrian government forces and ...

Following the aggressive Russian and Turkish interventions in Syria, it can be difficult to tell where the various parties in the conflict stand. Between the U.S.- backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and the mix of opposition forces trapped in east Aleppo, it can be difficult to tell where the rebellion ...

As Iraqi Army forces enter Mosul proper and anti-ISIS coalition forces encircle the city, the complex and bloody operation to safely wrest a city of approximately one million people from the grip of ISIS militants will continue to dominate headlines. However, for the region’s power players, the question of what ...

Over the past month, the exchange of words between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al Abadi has reached a bitter crescendo. Focused primarily on the Turkish military base at Bashiqa in northern Iraq, which Abadi says is an unsanctioned violation of Iraqi territory, the diplomatic ...

The Mosul operation, launched on October 17, has once again highlighted the complicated nature of Turkey’s involvement in the fight against the Islamic State (IS). Ahead of the offensive, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan made repeated appeals for Turkish troops to partake in the operation, warning against the liberation of ...

In the coming months, and possibly weeks, the Iraqi Security Forces, with the help of a diverse group of fighters spanning the Iraqi political spectrum, will raise the Iraqi flag atop the Ninevah Provincial Government Center in Mosul. This symbolic gesture will signal to Iraq, and to the world, that ...

Heightened concern that some Gulf States and Turkey want to give Syrian rebels in Aleppo more advanced weaponry has Washington warning about the potential for their misuse, as well as experts saying more weapons would prolong the conflict and increase fatalities in the long run. Last week, U.S. officials raised ...

Tensions between the U.S. and Turkey have been on the rise, beginning with different priorities over Syria and ISIS, and then ham-handed American reactions to, and Turkish accusations of, U.S. involvement in the failed July 15 Turkish coup. Unsurprisingly, this has raised the question, can the U.S. rely on Turkey?   ...

In March of this year, Turkey came to an agreement with the European Union (EU) on Syrian migration. In return for $6 billion in aid assistance, visa-free travel for Turks within the EU, and a promise to restart Turkey’s E.U. accession talks, Turkey agreed to restrict the number of Syrian ...

Since its birth, modern Turkey has occupied a delicate position in the world. Straddling both Asia and Europe, the ancient Ottoman capital of Istanbul captures the blessing and the curse of Turkish geography. On the one hand, it sits at the center of the old world, bordered by western Europe, ...

Turkey is claiming its forces, along with Western-backed Syrian rebels, have completely cut off the Islamic State’s access to the 500-mile long Turkish/Syrian border. Though professing complete control of the border is somewhat specious, they have seemingly shut a fair number of previous access points to Syrian territory from Turkey, ...

President Barack Obama and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan met this weekend for the first time since the July 15 failed coup attempt. “This is the first opportunity that I’ve had to meet face to face with President Erdogan since the terrible attempted coup,” Obama said during their meeting ...