Foreign Policy Blogs

U.S. Embassy Bombing in Ankara: Why? Why now?

Copyright: BBC -

Copyright: BBC –

On February 1, U.S. Embassy in Ankara – in a calm, residential and business neighborhood — was bombed. At the time of writing this, police statements indicate that it is believed to be a suicide attack and the attacker(s) detonated the bomb inside the security checkpoint bunker, killing at least one security guard. Growing up in the nice and pleasant middle-class neighborhood around the embassy, the attack was of particular shock to me.

Who attacked the embassy or what their motives were, will definitely be clear as the investigation continues, however the timing of the attack was of particular importance. Most specifically, CNN-Turk’s Nevsin Mengu has brought several important factors into consideration:

  1. Earlier in the morning on February 1, Osama bin Laden’s son-in-law Suleiman M., was captured by a joint CIA – MIT (Turkish National Intelligence Agency). The police statement indicates that Suleiman M. had entered Turkey as a political asylum-seeker, with the final goal of traveling to Saudi Arabia to reunite with his wife.
  2. Israeli airstrike on Syria – and the fact that Israel had contacted Washington before the strike – infuriated not only Syria, but also Iran and Russia. A preemptive Israeli airstrike is not new in the region, but the consent and knowledge of Washington at this political juncture is seen as a very serious act of indirect hostility by the Syria-Iran-Russia axis.
  3. Turkey had requested NATO Patriot-missile protection on its Syrian border later in 2012 – NATO had responded positively and a number of Patriot missile sites were established with a group of American, German and Dutch military oversight mission. The final shipment of Patriot missiles and launcher system had arrived several days earlier and the full system went operational earlier on February 1.


One, or a combination of these factors have possibly caused the attack today – U.S.-Turkish relations have recovered significantly from its 2003-2008 “low” and both countries have been cooperating extensively in a number of very critical strategic policy issues. U.S. Embassy bombing in Ankara may be an indicator of how this cooperation is seen as a threat, as the attack probably sought to punish both Washington and Ankara.



Akin Unver

Dr. Ünver is an assistant professor of international relations at Kadir Has University, Istanbul.

Previously he was the Ertegün Lecturer of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University, Near Eastern Studies department - the only academic to retain this prestigious fellowship for two consecutive years. He conducted his joint post-doctoral studies at the University of Michigan’s Center for European Studies and the Center for the Middle East and North African Studies, where he authored several articles on Turkish politics, most notable of which is ”Turkey’s deep-state and the Ergenekon conundrum”, published by the Middle East Institute.

Born and raised in Ankara, Turkey, he graduated from T.E.D. Ankara College in 1999 and earned his B.A. in International Relations from Bilkent University (2003) and MSc in European Studies from the Middle East Technical University (2005). He received his PhD from the Department of Government, University of Essex, where his dissertation, ‘A comparative analysis of the discourses on the Kurdish question in the European Parliament, US Congress and Turkish National Assembly‘ has won the Middle East Studies Association (MESA) 2010 Malcolm H. Kerr Dissertation Award in Social Sciences.

Akın also assumed entry-level policy positions at the European Union Secretariat-General, Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Eurasian Center for Strategic Studies (ASAM) and the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (D.C.), as well as teaching positions at the University of Essex (Theories of International Relations) and Sabancı University (Turkey and the Middle East).

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