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An independent student publication by the Cornell International Affairs Society


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EDITORS-IN-CHIEF: Marc Masson ● Catherine Hwang WRITERS & STAFF: Ben Abeles ● Christopher Arce TJ Ball ● Julia Li Copyright © 2016 by the Cornell International Affairs Society All rights reserved. This document or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the editors of the Cornell International Affairs Observer except when used for educational purposes. Commercial reproduction or reference to this document requires the express written consent of the editors of the Cornell International Affairs Observer. Further terms of use for commercial purposes will be determined on a case-by-case basis.



From the Editors


What is CIAS?


Left Behind: Where is the Rohingya’s Place in Burma’s Democracy?

Marc Masson, Catherine Hwang

Catherine Hwang, Marc Masson

Christopher Arce


The Pushers and Pullers: Interning at the US Consulate in Milan Ben Abeles


A Discourse on the Efforts to Establish a Kurdish Nation State: Part I Thomas (TJ) Ball


In Defense of Turkey: What the Turkish Coup Means for NATO Julia Li



Career Spotlight Daniel Cohanpour


MARC MASSON Marc is a senior in the ILR School, concentrating in International and Comparative Labor and minoring in International Relations, Law & Society, European Studies, and International Development. A dual French and American citizen, Marc spent his childhood attending a French international school in Chicago, IL. In addition to his involvement with CIAO, Marc is a Worker Institute Research Fellow and the Native French Speaker for the Cornell Language House. Marc is interested in learning about the challenges of international development, and especially those pertaining to decent employment and access to justice.

CATHERINE HWANG Catherine is a junior in Arts & Sciences, double majoring in Government and Information Science, concentrating in Data Science in the latter, and minoring in German Studies. Before coming to Cornell, she enjoyed the temperate weather of the San Francisco Bay Area. Beyond CIAO, Catherine writes for the Arts sections of the Cornell Daily Sun, works on research and as a TA. She is interested in studying revolutions and the flow and ebb of thought, ideas, and ideologies.

From the Editors Dear Reader, We are so proud to be presenting to you the inaugural edition of the Cornell International Affairs Observer (CIAO), formerly known as the CIAS Digest. As an international affairs journal staffed by students passionate about the study and practice of international relations and global politics, our goal is to provide you with astute analysis of international events, articles from professionals in the field of international affairs, and highlights from the activities of the Cornell International Affairs Society (CIAS). Between stressful internships and fun summer days, our writers have worked hard to produce articles on a variety of subjects in international affairs. Through this publication, we hope to capture what CIAS is and give an understanding of the various interests our members have. From Turkey to Burma, the geographic focus of these articles are indicative of CIAO’s global scope. On behalf of all of us at CIAO, we hope you enjoy this publication. All the Best, Marc Masson ‘17 Catherine Hwang '18 Editors-in-Chief



About CIAS

International Travel Teams. Debate. Conferences. Expos & Panels. Community. Leadership. Networking. Catherine Hwang, | Marc Masson,

WHAT IS CIAS? CIAS, which stands for the Cornell International Affairs Society, is a large, multifaceted student-run organization dedicated to understanding international affairs and encouraging the development of essential skills such as leadership, public speaking, and diplomacy. Through active and fun G-Body meetings, and a strong presence at panels, lectures, and countless other on-campus activities, CIAS stands as a place to form meaningful friendships and as a resource to engage in intellectual discussion, take on leadership roles, and network outside of the organization. E-BOARD & G-BODY CIAS maintains its activities and dedication through various branches within the club. The club as a whole is overseen by an Executive Board, with activities managed by Directors. These activities include (but are not limited to) academic events such as speaker panels and debates, career events, outreach beyond Cornell, training sessions, social events and get-togethers, and this publication. MODEL UN Undoubtedly, CIAS is currently best known for its high participation in Model UN. Through the travel team system, CIAS sends various members out to several collegiate Model UN conferences such as McMUN (McGill Model United Nations) and SCSY (Security Council Simulation at Yale), winning several awards every year. CIAS also hosts conferences in Ithaca every year. In the fall, CIAS runs the Cornell International Affairs Conference (CIAC), a young collegiate conference that grows rapidly every year. Last fall, CIAC drew over 100 delegates and is expected to continue to grow. CIAC’s sister conference, the Cornell Model United Nations Conference (CMUNC), is held every spring for high school students across the world. Celebrating its fifteenth run last year, CMUNC was a thou2

CORNELL INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS OBSERVER | AUGUST 2016 sand-person affair, with roughly 800 delegates, 100 advisors, and 100 staff members. Beyond travel teams and running conferences, CIAS sends members to Beijing every year to chair committees for WeMUN, the largest conference in Asia, and holds MUN training sessions for high school students in New York City. NETWORKING, CAREERS, & CIAO However, CIAS is not limited to MUN--in recent years, CIAS has seen exciting developments in new directions. CIAS co-developed and co-hosted the Careers in the Public Sector Expo with the Cornell Roosevelt Institute, an expo dedicated to spreading awareness about career opportunities in the public sector, for the second consecutive year this past spring. The Cornell International Affairs Observer was also established last year, engaging members in serious discussion and writing on international affairs and serving as a resource for members interested in journalism, writing, and/or academia. The CIAS Alumni Association also offers opportunities to network with former CIAS members and learn more about what they do now. Our alumni work for a variety organisations including government agencies, consulting firms, investment banks, multinational corporations, and more. Some are currently pursuing graduate degrees in the U.S. or abroad. All are deeply attached to CIAS, and willing to serve as a resource for CIAS members contemplating their futures and wondering how best to use the opportunities available to them at Cornell. COMMUNITY Above all, CIAS is a tight-knit community of friends. Many of our members are also affiliated with other organisations on campus, but CIAS has a special place in the hearts. We host frequent social events, including Date Night and End-of-Year Gala, and strive to make CIAS fun and approachable for everyone. Our members come from many countries and majors, and are united by our common love for international affairs. At the core, CIAS is an organization of people who simply love international affairs and has always organically evolved over the years with its members. From Model UN to general body discussions to academic writing, CIAS is an organization that encompasses nearly all activities related to international affairs and all people with an interest in this subject. HOW DO I JOIN? CIAS is a tight-knit community, but loves to see new faces! Regardless of what year or major you’re in, we encourage you to join us. Joining CIAS is easy--just show up to one of our G-Body meetings on Wednesdays at 5:00 PM in Malott 228 (Bache Auditorium). More information on CIAS is available on the CIAS website:



Left Behind Where is the Rohingya's Place in Burma's Democracy? Christopher Arce,


everal months ago, I wrote on the prospect of reform in Burma, expressing why I did not expect much reform to occur during the National League for Democracy’s (NLD) first term. Now that we are several months into the NLD’s term, my doubts have been confirmed thus far. After Burma’s National League for Democracy defeated the incumbent Union and Solidarity Party in a landslide victory in November of 2015, Western nations rejoiced over what appeared to be the beginning of the end of Burma’s long history of authoritarian governments, and presumably, with that, the end of its abhorrent human rights record. As a result, in May 2016, the United States went as far as to amend the sanctions once imposed on the Burmese dictatorship, intending to “support trade with Burma; facilitate the movement of goods within Burma… with the goal of incentivizing further democratic reforms and maintain pressure on targeted individuals.” This was all due to the belief that “Burma [had] reached a historic milestone over the last year by holding competitive elections and peacefully transitioning to a democratically-elected government.” 1

Unfortunately, as time has shown us, this is only a historic milestone because the results of the election were respected—the NLD had secured a victory in the 1990 election, but was prevented from taking power by the incumbent government. 2 But beyond that, the election was not a “historic milestone”, much less a “democratic” election. The Burmese has continued its history of persecuting the Rohingya people of the Rakhine State—people who are not even recognized as citizens and thus barred from participating in the “democratic” elections. Moreover, in the election, the Burmese military was automatically guaranteed 25% of seats in the government that are reserved for the Burmese military alone, regardless of election results. In January, Aung San Suu Kyi’s NLD had expressed concerns with “rocking [the] boat” with the Burmese military. 3 In May, when United States Secretary of State John Kerry visited Suu Kyi, Suu Kyi asked for “enough space” to deal with the human rights situation the Rohingya find themselves in. The leader went as far as to ask the United States to “refrain from using the term ‘Rohingya’ for the persecuted Muslim minority”, arguing that such “[emotive] terms make it very difficult for us to find a peaceful and sensible solution to our problems”. 4 Suu Kyi’s approach to U.S. Department of the Treasury, "Treasury Amends Burmese Sanctions Regulations, Identifies Blocked Companies Owned By Designated Persons, And Delists Several Burmese State-Owned Entities," Press Center, May 17, 2016, 2 Human Rights Watch, " Burma/Bangladesh: Burmese Refugees in Bangladesh -- III. Discrimination in Arakan," . 2000. 3 Hnin Zaw, "Myanmar's Suu Kyi Avoids 'rocking Boat' with Military Ahead of Handover," Reuters, Jan. 13, 2016. 4 Lesley Wroughton, "Suu Kyi Calls for 'space' to Address Myanmar's Rohingya Issue as Kerry Visits," Reuters, May 22, 2016. 1


CORNELL INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS OBSERVER | AUGUST 2016 the military has been reconciliatory, cautious of respecting boundaries that the Burmese military has weaved into the government during its reign. While well-intentioned and understandable in light of the absolute authority the military is given under the Burmese constitution, Suu Kyi’s overly meticulous approach to the military has drastically hampered reform needed to address the human rights abuses faced by the Rohingya. It is important that the NLD carefully navigate the terrain of the Burmese military, but the Rohingya cannot wait any longer to gain their basic, fundamental rights that they are owed. After all, how does one liberate an oppressed people without “rocking the boat”? For Suu Kyi to empower a group of people that the military has historically oppressed and ostracized, she must be willing to cross boundaries that historically were respected. 5 Today, hundreds upon thousands of Rohingya find themselves in Internally Displaced People camps, with little access to basic necessities. 6 Some have gone as far as to compare the state of these camps to concentration camps. For Rohingya outside of the camps, life is not much better. Many Rohingya live in isolated communities on the periphery, often in abject poverty with limited resources. During humanitarian crises, aid is seldom allowed to reach the Rohingya camps/ communities, often obstructed by the government.7 A study conducted by Mahmood Saad Mahmood for Harvard University found that “there is only one physician per 140,000 Rohingya, but in the parts of the Rakhine state dominated by the Rakhine, there is one doctor per 681 people. Acute malnutrition affects 26 percent of people in the Rohingya dominated areas of northern Rakhine state, whereas the figure is just 14 percent in Rakhine-dominated areas”.8 Many legal scholars argue that the systematic oppression the Rohingya face today amounts to genocide, intentional ethnic cleansing on the part of the Burmese government. Yale Law School’s Allard K. Lowenstein International Human Rights Clinic concluded that based on the Genocide Convention adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations, which criminalizes genocide and defines genocide acting with “the intent to destroy in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial, or religious group”, the Burmese treatment of the Rohingya meets the threshold for genocide. The clinic notes how the Rohingya have endured human rights abuses for decades, with Burmese security forces engaging in “widespread violence, acts of torture… rape and other crimes causing serious physical and mental harm… in the [Internally Displaced Persons] camps… Rohingya lack freedom of movement, access to food, clean drinking water, sanitation, medical care, work opportunities, and education. They live in conditions that appear to have been calculated to bring about their destruction”.9 Even with such flagrant violations of human rights, and evidence of genocide all too clear, European Union diplomats have conceded to NLD demands that they refrain from using the term Allard K. Lowenstein, “Persecution of the Rohingya Muslims,” Yale Law School International Human Rights Clinic, Oct. 2015. 6 Katie Arnold, "Myanmar's Shame: Living inside Rohingya Ghettos," CNN, March 31, 2016. 7 Joanne Lu, "Rohingya Controversy Muddies the Waters of Flood Relief Efforts in Myanmar’s Rakhine State," Humanosphere, Aug. 10, 2016. 8 Richard Cockett, "Aung San Suu Kyi Is in Power. So Why Is She Ignoring Her Country's Most Vulnerable People?" Foreign Policy Magazine, June 9, 2016. 9 Allard K. Lowenstein, “Persecution of the Rohingya Muslims,” Yale Law School International Human Rights Clinic, Oct. 2015. 5


CORNELL INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS OBSERVER | AUGUST 2016 “Rohingya” when describing the Muslim minority.10 Suu Kyi’s call for space and patience only breeds inaction that will prolong and further enable the genocide of the Rohingya. Though Suu Kyi might not be actively partaking in the genocide of the Rohingya, her decision to not “rock the boat” with the military does nothing to prevent further persecution of the Rohingya, only enabling it. The significance of Suu Kyi’s call to not name the Rohingya cannot be overstated. George Stanton, following the Rwandan Genocide, set forth the eight stages of genocide that is used by the United States State Department to classify such acts. The first is classification; Suu Kyi’s decision to not name the Rohingya, to not call them “Rohingya”, further strips them of their Burmese identity, and further isolates from the rest of Burma, alienating them, classifying them as “others” against the rest of Burma. Suu Kyi’s attempt to create “enough space” to act has only worsened the very problem that she is supposed to be working to overcome. The United States cannot afford to make the same mistake as the European Union diplomats and refuse to name one of the most heavily persecuted peoples in the world. It must continue to exert pressure on the NLD to recognize the atrocities committed against the Rohingya if it wishes to see all sanctions on Burma lifted--the “democratic” elections were insufficient. The draconian citizenship laws of Burma must be repealed and the Rohingya must be recognized as Burmese citizens. If the Burmese government prevents aid from getting to the Rohingya, there must be consequences. If the Burmese government disproportionately targets the Rohingya, there must be consequences. Failing to punish the Burmese government for its continued persecution of the Rohingya has only normalized this genocide and warranted the suffering and deaths of thousands of Rohingya. The U.S. is understandably eager to cement its position in Southeast Asia, and take advantage of an alliance with Burma. China, which has been a historical ally of the military government of Burma, accounting for 32% of all foreign investment in Burma, with total Chinese investment in Burma exceeding $14 billion, has experienced increased resentment from the Burmese people in recent years.11 In 2013, then Burmese President, Thein Sein, went as far as“[suspending] the $3.6 billion Chinese-built Myitsone hydroelectric project” in Burma that angered locals because of the environmental ramifications the project had. This, coupled with China’s provocative decision to “stage live-fire military excercises along the border in early June [of 2013 has] further tarnished relations with [Burma]...”, leaving the United States a perfect window of opportunity to invest in an economy that has only recently began to open up to the rest of the world. 12 However, the U.S. must do so in a way that is conducive to its values as a democratic nation. We cannot support a governmennt that refuses to name its ethnic minorities, and that is committing genocide against its ethnic minorities, no matter how lucrative the business opportunities are and strategic the alliance might be. A ruthless pursuit of success should not be the cornerstone of our foreign policy.

Tun Khin, "Burma's Rohingya Need International Help Now More Than Ever," The Huffington Post, August 10, 2016. Accessed August 28, 2016. 11 Sophie Song, "Myanmar FDI: China Accounts For One Third Of Foreign Investment In Myanmar With $14 Billion," International Business Times, October 29, 2013. Accessed August 28, 2016. 12 Mark Magnier, "Myanmar Pivots Uneasily Away from China," Los Angeles Times, March 24, 2013. Accessed August 28, 2016. 10



The Pushers & Pullers Interning at the U.S. Consulate General in Milan. Ben Abeles,


f you have ever shaken four-hundred hands in just over an hour, the result is the pain that I imagine seafood market lobsters endure, their claws immobilized and stinging, squeezed by wide rubber bands. After such ceremonial rigor, no amount of Purell can cleanse, and a champagne flute seems not to be made of crystal, but lead. The occasion for this marathon of salutation is the U.S. Consulate General in Milan’s Independence Day celebration. Standing at the end of the receiving line between the Consul General and his assistant, I greet guests— army generals, banking executives, artists, rock-stars (Bruce Springsteen’s tour happens to overlap)— invite them to funnel in, have a drink, and enjoy the evening. Over, and over, and over, again. For any State Department post, Independence Day is the biggest event— if not highlight— of the year. In Milan, the Consulate General celebrates America’s birthday with a bash in a 15th century castle; the 2016 rendition consists of bite-sized hotdogs, endless prosecco, the performance of the Italian and American anthems by an opera soprano, and projected fireworks, all consumed and enjoyed by nearly 1000 guests. Behind the glamour of Red, White and Blue flags draped on 15th century stone, the logistics, the speechwriting and the numerous staff-wide meetings all reveal the inner-workings of diplomacy, which as a State Department summer intern, I had the privilege to observe. The days leading up to this year’s jubilee, colloquially referred to in the elevator lobbies as J4, is a flurry: a minute-by-minute plan of the event is drafted, then re-done. A rain contingency plan is designed. Milan is electing its new mayor in a runoff; both candidates have to be invited, but without specific referral to the obvious politics. Hundreds of pounds of Lays potato chips are in transit from an American Army base, and the interns’ hands are flashing, assembling 1200 U-S-of-A pinwheels. With less than 24 hours to go, the major components are in place. The entire ConGenMilan workforce gathers to review the plan. State Department posts are typically divided into five sections: Consular, Management, Political, Economic, and Public Affairs. The heads of each “cone” as they are officially known give a brief summary, though the event is largely the fruit of collaboration between Management and Public Affairs. All flip through a packet and all are on the same page. The CG— Consul General— gives his approval; the meeting is adjourned. Later in the afternoon, the interns receive a briefing on Pushing and Pulling, State Department jargon for politely herding/pushing/wrangling guests away from the Consul General and through the door. We learn the script in English and Italian, rehearse amongst each other, and get back to the pinwheels. 7

CORNELL INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS OBSERVER | AUGUST 2016 At the whim of fate, I am chosen as the lead Pusher/Puller, the so-called “CG Control,” and I am to internalize the minute-by-minute schedule, get the CG to where he needs to be, and politely steer away any overly chatty guest when the CG waves a quick predetermined gesture. At the day-of walkthrough, I explain the logistics once more to the CG. The Chief of Public Affairs hands me two copies of the evening’s speech, the CG makes his edits, and I place one copy on the inside of his podium. The second copy I save in my inner breast pocket; a move that could save a career, I am advised. Fortunately, the backup speech never comes into play, nor does the rain contingency plan. The receiving line passes with relative ease, and just one guest needs to be escorted to the bar after chatting for far longer than allotted. Many line up for a photo-op with the Marines who performed Colors; the pinwheels are a hit. Overall the evening is a success, the guests welcomed in and herded out, all hopefully leaving with a positive impression of American culture. The following Tuesday when we return to the office, the normal rhythm and assignments will return, which is decidedly not as sexy, but just as important to the Mission. As a Management intern, I am assigned a large project, one that will consume the majority of the remaining weeks. Since in Ulaanbaatar the cost of living significantly differs from that in Milan, or London, or Lima, the State Department calculates a sort of consumer price index to standardize and equalize pay. The process of this survey is intricate, inextricably long, mind-numbing and the perfect work for an intern. Throughout Post, interns have a number of other important and useful assignments. Those in Consular interview visa applicants and print emergency passports; those in Poli/Econ skim local and national newspapers for a myriad of topics, those in Public Affairs post on social media and work on translations. Though unpaid, interns are certainly compensated: we all learn and are exposed to an incredible amount— after all, a consulate, unlike an embassy, is a small, tight-knit community, a setting perfect for not just networking, but asking questions and building relationships. For any student interested in international affairs, a student program with the State Department is well-worth pursuing. How to Apply The application opens on the USAJobs website in early September, with the deadline typically falling around four weeks later. Applicants are required to write a short statement of interest and provide transcripts and references. The complex part of the application process occurs after a conditional offer is given; all positions require a security clearance, which is a lengthy procedure that requires around a hundred pages of paperwork, ink fingerprints, numerous references, an inperson interview with a Diplomatic Security agent, and up to six months. Advice Plan in advance: think about why international relations matter to you, say no to drugs and don’t pirate music. (Seriously.) If you keep your personal statement concise and modest, you stand a much better chance of receiving an offer. Lastly, if you apply to intern at an embassy or consulate abroad, it is likely you will receive multiple offers; therefore, consider taking time before accepting an offer as other options may become available.



A Discourse on the Efforts to Establish a Kurdish Nation State PART 1

Thomas (TJ) Ball,


eveloping a comprehensive understanding of any case study in international relations fundamentally requires that one take into account the various cultural and ideological factors which shape the behaviors and perspectives of parties that we observe. Numerous world issues today are steeped in layers of complications, but few are as multi-faceted and complex as the question of Kurdish sovereign statehood. In this paper I will analyze why attempts at establishing a sustainable Kurdish nation-state have failed up to this point in history. As we question what the future may hold for the Kurds as a social and political entity, it is important that one consider why the Kurdish case of self-determination is different from other efforts aimed at establishing a nation-state. Political relations in the Middle East are arguably more wrought with cultural and ideological tension than anywhere else in the world, most likely as a result of longstanding historical conflict between ethnic and religious groups, the effects of colonialism, and the very demographic and geographic composition of the region. The major implications of these attributes are further convoluted in the case of the Kurds because their population is divided across the borders of Turkey, Iraq, Iran, and Syria.

As we delve further into this question of why a sustainable Kurdish nation-state has yet to be established, it is paramount that we understand how Kurdish culture is distinguished from neighboring cultures, as well as what are the driving forces behind the Kurds wanting a state of their own in the first place. The Kurdish people identify as a nation as a result of their shared ethnicity and language—though there are several major dialects—the majority of their people practicing either Islam or a “Cult of Angels” religion, and their common customs and experiences of persecution and repression.1 Though the Kurds do not have a set territory which they have always laid claim to, “there are a considerable number of clans, tribes, and tribal considerations in Kurdistan today, each with its own defined territory. Many of these tribes have been in existence—with the same names—for several thousand years".2 This means that for many Kurds the territory they are trying to secure in Syria, Iraq, Turkey, and Iran is the closest thing to a homeland they have. Despite the Kurds' long history in the region, it wasn’t until the 20th century that the Kurdish 1 2

Mehrdad R.. Izady, The Kurds: A Concise Handbook, (Washington: Taylor & Francis, Inc., 1992), 137. Ibid 74.


CORNELL INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS OBSERVER | AUGUST 2016 people started pursuing the creation of their own nation-state. The persecution and oppression of Kurds by governments and populations in the Middle East not only helped build the Kurdish national identity, it also encouraged Kurds to take a stand against existing powers so they could establish protective sovereignty. Though an institutionalist perspective takes into account the Kurds’ desire to protect themselves as one of the origins of autonomous sentiment, institutionalism argues Kurdish efforts for statehood were ultimately sparked by post-colonial, post-conflict promises of homelands for several nations in the Middle East. For instance, the Balfour Declaration of 1917 promised the establishment of two homelands for Israelis and Palestinians, which led to Kurdish efforts for the same. In 1920, the Treaty of Sèvres not only secured territory for both Israelis and Palestinians, it also promised to divide the Ottoman Empire such that the Kurds would receive control of their own autonomous territory, however the Treaty of Lausanne, introduced in 1923, replaced the Treaty of Sèvres and took away the possibility of the Kurds having their own sovereign territory. Considering the fact that Israeli, Palestinian, Kurdish, and Armenian statehood were all promised by, and afterwards nullified by, related agreements, why is it that in the present time Israeli, Palestinian, and Armenian statehood attempts have received so much more attention and such greater success? On page 74 of Ahmed and Gunter, it is argued that the Holocaust provided a strong argument for the establishment of an Israeli state. This argument, they go on to say, was surely aided by the fact that “Israel has developed a case that its continued existence is essential to Western interests in the Middle East,”.3 But what about Palestine and Armenia? Though the former state has yet to be established, it could be argued that both Palestine and Armenia have had more progress than the Kurds due to fewer Kurds leaving the Middle East than any of the other groups. One of the biggest driving forces for the establishment of nation-states, especially in the 20th and 21st centuries, is Western support, and because a fairly substantial number of Israelis (Jews), Palestinians (Arabs), and Armenians have settled in Western Europe and the United States as a result of diaspora, those groups have seen greater success in the establishment of their own states. Even if we look beyond traditional zionist movements and simply examine the power structure in other Middle Eastern countries, it’s obvious why the Kurds have been so insistent upon a state of their own. Most major groups in the region with decisive divisions, e.g. Arabs, Persians, & Turks and Sunnis & Shi’a, have control of at least one state each, even if they don’t necessarily have nation-states. Arab governments dominate most governments in the region, including Egypt and Jordan, while the Persians and Shi’a have Iran, and Sunnis control Saudi Arabia.4 Some states have a minority group in power, such as the Sunni minority government in Bahrain governing over the Shi’a majority, but within the region as a whole each major group has some state they control, for instance Iran in the case of the Shi’a. Almost every major group in the Middle East has some kind of representation in a state authority—that is, except for the Kurds. Though the re-drawing of territorial borders in the Middle East after the fall of the Ottoman Empire wasn’t very well thought out, as the persistent sectarian violence which plagues the region shows, the states established by world powers unintentionally empowered almost every major Mohammed M.A. Ahmed and Michael Gunter, eds. The Kurdish Spring, (Costa Mesa: Mazda Publishers, Inc., 2013), 74. 4 Wadie Jwaideh, The Kurdish National Movement: Its Orgins and Development. (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 2006), 292-3. 3


CORNELL INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS OBSERVER | AUGUST 2016 group in the region with a state government that represented them. As a result of this, most countries in Southwest Asia are cognizant of how greatly state representation affects the preservation of national ideology, religion, ethnicity, and customs. In The Kurds: A Nation Denied, McDowell discusses how Turkey and Iran, which also happen to be home to the majority of the Kurdish population, are aware of how significant a Kurdish nation-state would be and know “strategic security, historical experience, the difficulties already experienced with their neighbors,” and I might add the economic success of Kurdish autonomous regions due to natural resources, “leave the Kurdish case for independent nation status unnegotiable,” because of the increased threat this would pose to the region’s current power structure.5 I believe another reason Kurdish efforts to create a state of Kurdistan have proved so unsuccessful is because the state powers which control the de facto Kurdish territory, along with other regional neighbors, simply don’t want the emergence of a Kurdish state power. While the Kurdish nationalist movement has given rise to a multitude of “nuisances” for the governments of Iran, Iraq, Turkey, and Syria—nuisances which have been manifested by Kurdish political parties and Kurdish terrorist cells, as I will address later in this paper—it’s easier for Arab states to deal with conflict from Kurdish minority opposition within their own borders than it is to deal with broader interstate Kurdish conflict. One of the features of Kurdish national identity which I didn’t address earlier is their association with mountainous territory.6 While most Kurds who migrate to plateaus and neighboring flat regions are assimilated into the national identity of those surrounding countries, the Kurds have been able to build their own identity from their connection with the mountains where persecution is harder and they can be more autonomous. Unfortunately for the Kurds, the mountains also make unity more difficult. "Just as the mountains create autonomy for the Kurds, they often prohibit easy communication between them… The mountains have broken down the language of the Kurds to a babble of dialects, their religions to a case study in diversity, and their art and costumes to a zoo of colorful variety. Because of this diversity, in the past, and some may argue even today, the Kurds have never achieved sufficient unity to produce even the prototype of an organized pan-Kurdish political movement for independence".7 Over the past century, state actors’ dealings with the Kurds have partially contributed to their consolidation in more mountainous regions, and by extension their fragmentation as a nation. If Iraq’s Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) is any measure of the economic and military prowess a Kurdish state could achieve, it’s obvious to see why it is in the interest of neighboring Arab states to continue repressing the Kurds and forcing them into mountainous regions where it’s harder to create unity. It benefits those governments which immediately surround the Kurds to continue dividing the nation across territorial borders, to ensure that the minority do not secure their own state and generate a more substantial economic or political threat to the interests of neighboring powers or Arab nations. According to Ahmed and Gunter, “the Iraqi Kurds have constructed the basic institutional pillars of a state and have the resources to sustain it as an independent state, [but] they need the support and recognition of a regional or Western state to back them up,”.8 It could easily be argued that this is true not only for the Iraqi Kurds but for the David McDowell, The Kurds: A Nation Denied, (London: Minority Rights Group, 1991), 3. Mehrdad R.. Izady, The Kurds: A Concise Handbook, (Washington: Taylor & Francis, Inc., 1992), 188. 7 Ibid. 8 Mohammed M.A. Ahmed and Michael Gunter, eds. The Kurdish Spring, (Costa Mesa: Mazda Publishers, Inc., 2013), 132. 5 6


CORNELL INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS OBSERVER | AUGUST 2016 Kurdish nation as a whole. Even if the Kurds were able to establish a powerful and cohesive national identity in the face of geographical fragmentation from the mountains, they would still have to get their neighboring Arab states, as well as Turkey, Iran, Iraq, and Syria, to forego major disincentives in order for a sustainable and secure Kurdistan to be created. The geopolitical constraints placed on the Kurdish national movement by post-colonial borders and the very ethnic make-up of the Middle East are only the first of several major issues the Kurds have faced in attempting to establish a Kurdish nation state. In the next edition of CIAO I will take a closer look at how the tactics used by the Kurds within Iran, Iraq, Turkey, and Syria have impacted the overall success of the Kurds’ movement.



In Defense of Turkey What the Turkish Coup Means for NATO Julia Li,


s members of Turkey’s military attempted to stage a coup on Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s government on July 15, world leaders were quick to warn the Turkish President not to use the coup as a pretext to strengthen his power. However, while the fate of the nation’s membership in NATO has been questioned and criticized by world leaders and top ranking Turkish officials, realistically, NATO should not suspend Turkey’s membership in the alliance primarily due to the militarily and geopolitically strategic role the nation currently and has historically played in the alliance. Since July 15, President Erdoğan has detained over 26,000 people accused of being a part of the plot.1 Among those accused is US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen whom Erdoğan blames for orchestrating the coup. Erdoğan’s massive crackdowns have drawn criticism about whether or not the response violates due process and the preamble of the North Atlantic Treaty (also known as the Washington Treaty) that all parties are founded on the principles of democracy. However, NATO leaders have also overwhelmingly condemned the coup attempt with NATO’s Secretary-General welcoming “the strong support shown by the people and all political parties to democracy and to the democratically elected government,” and calling on Turkey to “ensure full respect for democracy and its institutions, the constitutional order, the rule of law and fundamental freedoms.” 2 John Kerry, the US Secretary of State, also denounced the putsch, calling Turkey “both a NATO ally and a key member of the coalition to defeat Dae’sh” (also known as ISIS or ISIL) while also urging “restraint by the Turkish government and respect for due process.”3 German chancellor Angela Merkel additionally told Erdoğan that Ankara must stick to the rule of law while adding her country’s concern about Erdoğan’s support to reintroduce the death penalty, a move that is “in no way compatible” with Turkey’s goal of joining the European Union.4 The question, thus, is whether Erdoğan’s response to the coup is in line with Turkey’s duties as a democratically elected government and as a member of the alliance. While world leaders are justified in warning Erdoğan against violating due process, a Turkish exit from NATO would threaten the legitimacy of the alliance as a whole and would be detrimental for NATO’s military strategy in the region. As the precedent stands, NATO and the US have always embraced Turkey as a strategic asset, overlooking Turkey’s abuse of democracy. This was made most clearly during the Gezi Park protests where Erdoğan sent the Turkish police to use tear gas on peaceful demonstrators which killed

Lizzie Dearden, "Turkey Coup Attempt: Number of People Detained Passes 26,000 amid International Concern over Crackdown," The Independent, Independent Digital News and Media, Aug. 9 2016. 2 "NATO Secretary General Statement following Attempted Coup in Turkey," NATO Secretary General Statement following Attempted Coup in Turkey, NATO, Jult 18, 2016. 3 "Secretary Kerry's Call With Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu," U.S. Department of State, 16 July 2016. 4 Melissa Eddy, "Angela Merkel Condemns Turkish Overthrow Attempt," The New York Times, July 16, 2016. 1


CORNELL INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS OBSERVER | AUGUST 2016 several. His crackdown on both protestors, media, and those within Turkish state institutions mirrors the corruption exhibited in the President’s reaction to the coup. Nonetheless, Turkey has never been the exception. The preamble of the North Atlantic Treaty mentions democratic values. However, in 1949, NATO allowed Portugal to become a member while being ruled by Antonio de Oliveira Salazar, a dictator. This disregard of non-democratic values happened again, continually after successful coups in Greece and Turkey when NATO did not suspend the memberships of the countries even under military rule. And while Turkey is criticized, specifically by European Union leaders, of bringing back capital punishment, the death penalty in no way violates the Washington Treaty. Not to mention, the death penalty is legal in the United States, and while Erdoğan has come out in support of the death penalty, he has asserted that the issue will be decided democratically through the Turkish Parliament.5 Whether or not Turkey upholds its democratic values is becoming less and less important as NATO leaders continue to agree that the risk of alienating Turkey is worth tolerating Erdoğan’s authoritarian tendencies. If NATO were to suspend Turkey’s membership due to its abuse of democracy, it would have happened during the 2013 antigovernment Gezi Park protests or because of the Turkish-Kurdish conflict. Similarly, Erdoğan’s crackdown of those accused and media outlets, and his request for the US to extradite Fethullah Gulen, although criticized of being excessive, violates neither the Washington Treaty nor the Membership Action Plan (MAP). Erdoğan is also accused of violating the preamble of the Treaty (which does not qualify Turkey for immediate suspension of membership), but the coup attempt reaffirms that parties of the alliance are at even greater of an obligation to support Turkey. Article 5 states that an attack against one or more parties “shall be considered an attack against them all.”6 It is true that the coup attempt was an internal threat and may not warrant the defense of all other NATO countries, but NATO leaders have still come out in support of Turkey’s democratically elected government. Because the collective defense clause essentially is the glue of the alliance, a suspension of Turkey’s membership would threaten the legitimacy of the alliance as a whole. NATO leaders have made it clear that Turkey’s role as a political ally is paramount to NATO’s leniency of Erdoğan’s authoritarianism. Turkey is essential to NATO’s current strategic concept just as it has always played an important geopolitical role – during the Cold War, as it was right up against the Soviet sphere of influence, and currently, as it lies right above the Middle East and against the Black Sea. Turkey is also the only member of the alliance that has a Muslim majority and has the second largest military in NATO.7 Turkey is also home to 20 NATO installations, major land based forces, and the Allied Land Command (LANDCOM) in Izmir which is the subordinate counterpart of the NATO Supreme Allied Commander in Europe. Without LANDCOM, the mobility of NATO troops is severely inhibited. However, far more importantly, Turkey houses the Incirlik airbase. Incirlik is positioned only 70 miles from Syria and 700 miles from Iraq—close enough to hit. Incirlik also holds 2000 US troops, has played crucial roles in the Persian Gulf and Afghanistan wars, and has a significant number of nuclear weapons, more than any other NATO base.8 Historically, Incirlik has been used in the Cold War as defense against the Soviet Union, in 2003 when it was used as "Turkey Coup: Erdogan Backs Return of Death Penalty at Vast Istanbul Rally," BBC News, Aug. 8 2016. "The North Atlantic Treaty," NATO, Accessed Aug. 23, 2016. 7 Adam Taylor, "Turkey’s Increasingly Complicated Relationship with NATO," Washington Post, July 19 2016. 8 Dion Nissenbaum, Emre Peker, and Ayla Albayrak, "Attempted Coup Sets Off Fight for Control of Turkey," Wall Street Journal, July 16 2016. 5 6


CORNELL INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS OBSERVER | AUGUST 2016 the headquarters for Operation Northern Watch, and currently as an intelligence base for the coalition against ISIS.9 In addition to Incirlik, Turkey also holds a radar installation as a part of NATO’s Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) which has installations in Romania, Germany, and Spain.10 This recent installation is further evidence that despite the controversies surrounding Erdoğan since he took office in 2014, NATO and the US have little intention of cutting Turkey off as an ally. Without Turkey, NATO loses all of its major military facilities, bringing about the question of what will happen to the nuclear weapons located at the Incirlik air base. The uncertainty of the future of the weapons and the prospect of Erdoğan being in complete control of the weapons is great enough of a threat to provide oversight for Erdoğan, at least until Turkey’s 2019 presidential elections. And without Turkey, NATO will be exposed for being an alliance of predominantly Christian member states and will suffer in out of area operations. Specifically, NATO will find its efforts against the Islamic State far more difficult; the destabilization of Turkey alone would be enough to embolden Russia and ISIS to act more aggressively, respectively in the region and specifically in border countries including Syria. To say that Turkey has been a no-conflict member of NATO is certainly a stretch of the imagination; the accusations of Turkey and Erdoğan’s regime violating human rights and democratic values do not go unwarranted. At any rate, the threat of revoking Turkey’s NATO membership is a moot point. The Washington Treaty makes no mention of having membership suspended or consequences for misbehavior. According to Article 13 of the treaty, membership can only be terminated by the party itself. 6 Erdoğan is the only one that can decide if Turkey will continue to be a part of NATO, but it is not a simple decision for him. Turkey has always benefited politically and militarily from being a part of the organization. Historically, Turkey needed NATO in the face of Soviet aggression which still continues to be a risk today. There simply is no better alternative for Turkey besides the European Union, which a Turkish exit from NATO would likely close the door on. The relationship between NATO and Erdoğan has certainly and will continue to be strained, but neither has a solid alternative to each other. The relationship has always been this way and will move forward as an alliance, not a friendship. Whether or not continued Turkish membership in the organization is a benefit for Turkey or NATO is something that can only be determined over time. The coup may not be the greatest test of Turkey’s relationship with NATO. Rather, the 2019 presidential elections where Erdoğan will likely decide to run for another 5 year term will be the true indicator of the President’s authoritarianism. The West will be closely monitoring the legitimacy, fairness, competitiveness, transparency, and results of the elections. It is only in a situation where Erdoğan “pulls a Putin” and conducts a power switching operation by consolidating control as Putin did from 2008-2012 when President Dimitri Medvedev appointed Putin Prime Minister (which he could attempt in 2024 if he continued his presidency from 2019-2024). With approval from Parliament, Erdoğan could essentially hold power as Turkey’s Prime Minister for an unlimited amount of time. Thus, Erdoğan’s true intentions, democratic or not, can only be manifested through time. And with Turkey beginning to work towards reconciling relations with Russia, NATO should not suspend Turkish membership, but rather do what is within reason to keep the country in the alliance.


Jim Garamone, "Incirlik Provides Important NATO Capability," US DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE, Dec. 14, 2014. "NATO and Turkey: Allies, Not Friends," Deutsche Welle, Aug. 2, 2016.




Career Spotlight Dan Cohanpour, CIAS Alumnus Hey CIAS! If you don’t know me, I’m Dan, 2014-2015 CIAS President. A bit of an introduction on me… I graduated from Cornell in 2015 as a Government major and Information Science minor. My primary focus has always been a relatively complex question: how do we help people in developing countries turn ideas into businesses and leverage technology to do so? I spent much of my time at Cornell working in the global development and social enterprise spaces both in the states and abroad. I now work as a consultant for Accenture, a global professional services firm working in more than 120 countries and in hundreds of sectors and lines of business. At Accenture, I serve as the Analyst for the Human Services and Nonprofit practice. I focus on our social impact clients – since I joined, I have worked on a variety of projects all focusing on integrating technology to help global organizations expand both their bottom line and social impact. I help US federal government clients deliver hundreds of millions of grant dollars to farmers around the world by advancing their digital interface and financial back-end. I have sculpted digital strategies for one of the largest veteran non-profits in the nation as well as the largest development finance institution. In addition to my day-job, I work at Accenture to develop our growth strategies to expand our presence in a variety of social impact accounts. I love my job, as I believe it allows me to integrate all aspects of my Cornell education into one penultimate, highly integrative experience. Four months ago, our client completely switched the scope of the project overnight. We were tasked with executing the deliverable – a comprehensive three-year growth plan – within the same 16

CORNELL INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS OBSERVER | AUGUST 2016 timeline. Sitting on the floor of our office at midnight and assuring my team that we were going to get it done and figuring out the exact way that we were going to get it done reminded me of Model UN in so many ways. It is in those exact instances – whether it be a client project or a working paper for a Model UN General Assembly committee – that you learn how to work together as a team and leverage the unique value-add that each individual brings to the table. It’s such an important concept that so many forget. CIAS remains to be integral to my daily work. Model UN was one of those experiences that shapes and will continue to shape everything that I do personally and professionally. It taught me how to debate, negotiate, manage, lead, and socialize. It took me around the world and introduced me to people that remain to be close friends. It set me up for a career in negotiating, coordinating stakeholders, and delivering a final product from seemingly impossible circumstances. It taught me how to brainstorm and execute a project from start-to-finish. It taught me how to be a better team-player, moderator, and leader. My one piece of advice to give you: take advantage of your time in CIAS. Take the initiative. If you are on the Executive Board, constantly come up with ways to innovate. If you have just joined, get involved! If you have an idea, bring it to leadership and discuss it. Becoming active in CIAS will benefit you in so many ways – many of which you will only begin to see after you leave. Be outspoken, soak up knowledge from people that may know more than you about a certain issue or topic, as well as express your own views. Have a wonderful semester, and don’t hesitate to reach out to me to chat career stuff or to just talk. If you find yourself in DC, shoot me a message and we can grab coffee/drinks. Once in CIAS, always in CIAS. - Dan



Questions or Comments? Let us know! Contact either of the Editors-in-Chief with your thoughts; we're more than happy to hear them. Marc Masson, Catherine Hwang,

The Cornell International Affairs Society (CIAS), an independent student organization located at Cornell Universty, produced and is responsible for the content of this publication. This publication was not reviewed or approved by, nor does it necessarily express or reflect the policies or opinions of, Cornell University or its designated representatives. Organization Faculty Advisor: Thomas Pepinsky,

Cornell International Affairs Observer - Vol. 2 No. 1  

August/September 2016

Cornell International Affairs Observer - Vol. 2 No. 1  

August/September 2016