A Turk's sacrifice for America
Turkish police officers react after an explosion at the entrance of the U.S. Embassy in Ankara Friday, February 1, in this picture provided by Milliyet Daily Newspaper.
March 1st, 2013
12:49 PM ET

A Turk's sacrifice for America

By Jill Dougherty, traveling with Secretary of State John Kerry

In Ankara, Turkey, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry came face to face with a tragedy that scarred his first day in office: the death of a security guard at the U.S. Embassy in the capital city.

Mustafa Akarsu died in a suicide bombing at the gates to the embassy he had guarded for 20 years. On Friday, his wife, two children and their uncle sat in the sunshine on the lawn of the embassy as Kerry expressed condolences on behalf of President Barack Obama and the American people.

"That was my first day as secretary of state," he said. "When I raised my hand to take the oath of office, this tragedy was immediately on my mind and in my heart, and I have carried the memory of that courage in every embassy I have walked into since, and I will in the days ahead."

Kerry presented to the family the American flag that flew over the embassy the day Akarsu died.

When the terrorist came to the gate, he said, "Mustafa didn't hesitate for a moment. He and his fellow guards acted heroically, saving lives, with quickness and with bravery."

Recalling other guards who have been killed at other embassies, Kerry said it is a "dangerous world," but embassy staff members do "indispensable work." FULL POST


Filed under: Diplomacy • Hot Spot Dispatch • John Kerry • Turkey
Kerry hits the road: Pitfalls ahead
Secretary of State John Kerry boards his plane at Andrews Air Force Base on Sunday before leaving for his first official trip in his new role.
February 24th, 2013
09:02 AM ET

Kerry hits the road: Pitfalls ahead

By Jill Dougherty, reporting from London

John Kerry's first international trip as secretary of state is right out of diplomatic "central casting" - at least the first half, designed to avoid diplomatic pitfalls. But that may end up being impossible.

The 11-day, nine-country sojourn - to England, Germany, France, Italy, Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar - begins with a warm embrace for America's traditional European allies.

Four years ago, his predecessor, Hillary Clinton, headed east, as part of the Obama administration's "pivot to Asia." Kerry will reassure Europe that it still matters to Washington. What's more, the administration needs Europe's help on the heavy-lifting issues of stopping Iran's nuclear program and for any next steps to help the Syrian opposition.

But even before he departs Washington, there's trouble. On Saturday, the Syrian Opposition Coalition, angered about what it called international inaction on Syrian government attacks against Aleppo, announced it was boycotting an international meeting in Rome where its representatives were expected to meet Kerry.

FULL POST

International mine countermeasure exercise
September 24th, 2012
12:59 PM ET

Scenes from the military mine sweeping exercise

Military from more than three dozen countries converged on the Arabian Gulf for the 2012 International Mine Countermeasure Exercise.  The U.S. military says these exercises are strictly "defensive," but the show of force in light of Iran's threats is hard to ignore.  CNN's Chris Lawrence has been reporting on the exercise and sent back these photos of the action.

Watch Chris' story: FULL POST

September 21st, 2012
12:00 AM ET

Massive minesweeping exercise begins off Bahrain

By Chis Lawrence

More than three dozen nations have converged on the seas around Bahrain for a massive military minesweeping exercise.

The at-sea maneuvers will involve a series of techniques and involve surface ships, aircraft, and underwater "explosive ordnance disposal" diving teams during the nearly two weeks of International Mine Countermeasure Exercise.

Remote piloted submersibles, known as unmanned underwater vehicles, or UUVs, will get their most sustained test yet in combination with regular forces.

The U.S. military says these exercises are strictly "defensive," but the show of force in light of Iran's threats to mine the Strait of Hormuz is hard to ignore.

FULL POST

Egyptian protestors taunt Clinton with cries of "Monica, Monica"
July 15th, 2012
08:58 PM ET

Egyptian protestors taunt Clinton with cries of "Monica, Monica"

By Elise Labott, reporting from Cairo

Egyptian protesters threw tomatoes and shoes at U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's motorcade Sunday and shouted, "Monica, Monica, Monica" as she left the newly reopened U.S. Consulate in Alexandria.

Clinton said she was in Alexandria to answer critics who believe Washington has taken sides in Egyptian politics. There were already vocal protesters at the start of her visit to the consulate, forcing the ceremony to be moved inside.

FULL POST

July 15th, 2012
01:20 PM ET

Clinton urges smooth Egypt transition

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met Sunday with the head of Egypt's military leadership, a day after she urged the country's first democratically elected president to "assert the full authority" of his office.

Clinton's meeting with Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, held out of the view of reporters, came amid a political tug of war between President Mohamed Morsy and the military council that Tantawi heads.

Elise Labott assesses Hillary Clinton's diplomatic mission to Egypt following the secretary of state's meeting with the military.

February 10th, 2012
10:16 AM ET

Danger of destroying the U.S.-Egypt alliance

The traditional U.S.-Egypt partnership is in danger of shredding, Ben Wedeman reports from Cairo. The cartoons in a state-run Cairo paper set the tone, a nasty looking Uncle Sam spying on Egypt but wielding the pistol of aid is confronted by an Egyptian cannon. The caption read 'dignity.'

In this land where national pride is a national obsession, the criminal charges brought against 43 staff members at US and European non-governmental organizations, including 19 Americans, threaten to shake the decades-old ties between Egypt and the United States.

Watch Ben's report above.

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Filed under: Egypt • Hot Spot Dispatch • Middle East • NGO
Turkey responds to Perry remarks
January 17th, 2012
09:35 AM ET

Turkey responds to Perry remarks

By Ivan Watson and Yesim Comert

Turkey's foreign ministry condemned Texas Gov. Rick Perry Tuesday for saying that Turkey was a "country that is being ruled by what many would perceive to be Islamic terrorists."

Perry made the statement during a spirited debated between Republican presidential candidates in South Carolina Monday night.

Most of Turkey was fast asleep during the live broadcast, and Turkish newspapers had already gone to print by the time Perry declared that Turkey had moved "far away from the country I lived in back in the 1970s United States Air Force. That was our ally that worked with us, but today we don't see that."

The Texas governor also argued that it was time for Washington to cut foreign aid to Ankara.

A spokesman for Turkey's foreign ministry fired back Tuesday, accusing Perry of making "baseless and improper claims."

In a statement e-mailed to CNN, Selcuk Unal said presidential candidates should "be more informed about the world and be more careful their statements." FULL POST


Filed under: Hot Spot Dispatch • NATO • Terrorism • Turkey
An overwhelming silence in Baghdad
Army armored vehicles in Kuwait City wait to be shipped to the next destination after they leave Iraq Thursday.
December 15th, 2011
07:12 AM ET

An overwhelming silence in Baghdad

By Barbara Starr reporting from Baghdad

We are traveling with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey.

We landed in Baghdad airport about four hours before the ceremony that would mark the end of nearly nine years of war.

It's a cold dusty morning. What is so striking is the silence. The U.S. military is down to just a few thousand troops in Iraq and maybe just a few hundred in Baghdad.

We are led across a now empty basketball court, past an empty gym and deserted chapel-all once elements of home away from home for the thousands who served here.

The silence is overwhelming, people speak almost in whispers.

But some things haven't changed. The ceremony is in a small courtyard surrounded by blast walls. Before the formal ceremony starts, everyone is told which bunker to go to if we take indirect fire.

December 5th, 2011
07:03 PM ET

Exotic Myanmar

By Foreign Affairs Reporter Jill Dougherty

Myanmar. Burma. No matter what you call it (the United States and some other countries still refer to it as Burma), it’s one of the most exotic places I have ever traveled to.

Technologically in the dark ages–no credit cards, everything in cash, international cell phones like Blackberries don’t work, even the airport in the new capital has no lights for night landings–it once was the jewel of Asia.  On our barefoot visit to the Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon I was stunned by its blinding beauty.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s trip was built on a slender reed of hope that the Myanmar president and some other members of the government really do want to open up, reform the political system, end the ethnic conflicts that have scarred this country for too long.

We moved from the bizarre new capital, Nay Pyi Daw, with its massive government complexes (shades of Pyonyang, North Korea) to the home of Nobel Peace Prize-winner and democracy icon Aun San Suu Kyi in Yangon.  Slender, almost delicate, she nevertheless exudes a deep inner force. Suu Kyi believes the president is sincere about reform.

With Suu Kyi’s blessing Clinton made this trip.  Shaded from the blazing sun they embrace.  My camera captures the moment.  Is it an historic beginning?  Or a hope that that will soon be swallowed by new repression?

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