Council on Foreign Relations Newsletter

At least forty-one people were killed and scores wounded in an attack carried out by three suicide bombers at Istanbul’s Ataturk international airport Tuesday evening. The victims were mostly Turkish citizens and included nationals from Saudi Arabia, Iran, Ukraine, China, Iraq, Jordan, Tunisia, and Uzbekistan (Al Jazeera). Turkey declared a national day of mourning as Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said there were indications that the self-proclaimed Islamic State was responsible (Hurriyet), though no group claimed has responsibility for the attack (NYT). The attack is the latest in a string of terror incidents in Turkey in recent months, including suicide bombers at a Kurdish peace rally in Ankara that killed one hundred people last October and two suicide bombings in Istanbul.


“About five years ago, everyone was talking about the ‘Turkish model.’ People in the West and in the Muslim world held up Turkey as a shining example of the compatibility of Islam and democracy. Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who was then prime minister and is now president, was praised as a reformist who was making his country freer, wealthier and more peaceful. These days, I think back on those times with nostalgia and regret. The rhetoric of liberal opening has given way to authoritarianism, the peace process with the Kurdish nationalists has fallen apart, press freedoms are diminishing and terrorist attacks are on the rise,” Mustafa Akyol writes for the New York Times.

“Initially, Turkey considered the Syrian regime of President Bashar Assad as a bigger threat than the Islamic State and was reluctant to cooperate closely with the United States, but more recently the government has helped U.S-led efforts. Last year, Turkey allowed U.S. aircraft to fly from Incirlik air base to target militants in Iraq and Syria. Turkey has also increased efforts to prevent foreign fighters from moving through its border into Syria,” Jim Michaels writes for USA Today.

“At times, the battle against the Islamic State (ISIS) has seemed to hinge on the 560-mile line that divides Turkey and Syria. The United States and Russia have frequently urged Ankara to seal off its southern border in order to cut off supplies and volunteers destined for the radical group. For much of the conflict, Turkish officials have responded coolly to such calls. Some have argued that closing off the border is impossible. ISIS has seized significant portions of territory on the Syrian side of the perimeter, and walling off, or manning, such a distance would be expensive and require a huge number of security personnel. Further, stopping all traffic out of Syria would also mean turning away refugees en masse,” Ryan Gingeras writes for Foreign Affairs.