Peter Kenyon

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The decision last week by Gulf Arab states to sever ties and halt trade with the tiny, hydrocarbon-rich country of Qatar has focused attention on what critics call Qatar's funding of Islamist groups, including the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas.

U.S. investigators believe the crisis was sparked by hackers who transmitted fake, inflammatory messages appearing to come from Qatar's emir.

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Turkish voters will decide Sunday whether to replace the Turkish Republic's parliamentary form of government with a strong presidency. It's a vote that could alter — or, opponents say, endanger — the democratic traditions of this key U.S. ally. Turkey is a NATO member helping fight ISIS.

If the referendum passes, it will increase the power of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Polls released late in the campaign showed a narrow lead for "yes," with a large number still declaring themselves undecided. Erdogan is predicting at least a 55 percent margin for "yes."

A late March snow descends on a modest farmhouse in central Anatolia. An oil stove hisses away inside, as afternoon gives way to twilight.

A heavyset man with a thick black mustache adjusts his cap, takes a deep breath and fills the room with a piercing, impassioned cry. The small audience settles back for an evening of traditional dengbej singing.

For centuries, dengbej songs served as a combination news bulletin, history lesson and evening's entertainment. Master singers built up large repertoires of songs — and could recite the historical events they describe.

During his first trip to Turkey as secretary of state, Rex Tillerson said the U.S. and its NATO ally were struggling with "difficult choices" on a strategy to defeat the Islamic State in Syria.

The U.S. has been trying to balance its reliance on Turkey in the fight against ISIS with its support for Kurdish fighters in northern Syria — which infuriates Turkey. Tillerson said he and Turkish leaders discussed options for how to clear the extremist group from its remaining strongholds, such as Raqqa, and stabilize those areas.

President Trump's revised travel ban – which suspends visas from six predominantly Muslim countries and suspends refugee admittances – was to have gone into effect at 12:01 a.m. March 16, before a court in Hawaii blocked it on Wednesday.

This spring, voters in Turkey are being asked if they want to transform their government, giving broader executive powers to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Opposition parties say the proposed constitutional changes would put Turkey on the road to one-man rule, but supporters say in these dangerous times, Turkey needs a strong leader to fend off enemies at home and abroad.

The vote is expected in April, and the government is already in campaign mode, trumpeting its accomplishments and promising more if the referendum is approved.

In the days leading up to today's announcement of additional U.S. sanctions on Iran, the U.S. and Iran have made claims and counter-claims as to whether Iran's ballistic missile test on Sunday violated a U.N. Security Council resolution and the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers, including the U.S.

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After more than two weeks, a manhunt in Turkey is over. Overnight, police captured the main suspect in a deadly attack at an Istanbul nightclub. The suspect is described as a native of Uzbekistan and a supporter of ISIS.

Iran's former president, Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, was buried Tuesday, and the large outpouring of grief at his funeral reflects the uncertainty facing Iranian moderates.

Rafsanjani may have risen along with the country's 1979 Islamic revolution that toppled the U.S.-backed shah, but in later years, his pragmatic streak and respected position made him a leading voice of moderation.

A week after a gunman killed 39 people in an Istanbul nightclub, the suspected assailant remains at large and secular Turks are feeling under attack. ISIS claimed the shooting, calling it an assault on what it called "a pagan holiday." The government's pledge to defend all lifestyles hasn't kept an atmosphere of fear from descending on some of Istanbul's secular neighborhoods.

Turkey has announced eight detentions in connection with Sunday's shootings at an Istanbul nightclub. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack that left 39 dead and 69 wounded. An intensive police search is under way for the gunman, who was not among those picked up Monday.

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In the battle for Mosul, Islamic State fighters who aren't killed are usually taken away for questioning by Iraqi or Kurdish intelligence. But there are also local Iraqis accused of helping ISIS — and they're put through a judicial process of sorts.

One such case was heard recently in a makeshift courthouse, where a displaced judge from Mosul presides.

The Sheikhan criminal court occupies a municipal office building north of Mosul. The courtroom is a medium-sized office with light brown paneling and four desks.

When I last visited Damascus in 2008, the historic Old City district was full of Western students learning Arabic. Before bloody conflicts engulfed them, both Damascus and the Yemeni capital, Sana'a, were favorites with foreigners seeking to learn Arabic.

Eight years ago, U.S. student Kara Francis told me that while she did have to field some questions about then-President George W. Bush, she never felt looked down on for being American.

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Let's get a look at the fight to retake the city of Mosul in Iraq from the Islamic State. Iraqi forces have been waging that fight for some weeks with U.S. help. And NPR's Peter Kenyon is in Erbil, a city in northern Iraq not far away. Hi, Peter.

Donald Trump's election win has focused attention on his business interests around the world and how they might affect his foreign policy. One such place is Turkey, an important NATO ally neighboring the hot spots of Syria, Iraq and Iran. By far the most prominent reminders of the U.S. president-elect in Turkey are Istanbul's own Trump Towers.

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In the stone courtyard of a lovingly — if quirkily — restored 500-year-old house in the Old City of Damascus, a ginger-bearded man in a baseball cap opens his arms to another set of visitors.

"Hi," says Syria's most successful sculptor, Mustafa Ali. "This is my place."

Tourists may be avoiding Damascus, thanks to more than five years of war that has killed hundreds of thousands of people and displaced millions more. But Ali's artists' retreat, a combination gallery, performance space and fun-house, is nearly always busy.

The European Union is desperate to keep Syrian refugees from bolting from Turkey for Europe. But the prospects for Syrians in Turkey have been slim. Now the EU is launching its biggest aid program yet — more than $375 million aimed at a million of the neediest Syrians in Turkey.

And it's not bags of rice thrown from the back of a truck. It's a bit more modern: a debit card that can be used to buy whatever food, medicine or clothing a family needs, or to get cash.

Just up the hill from Istanbul's Old City, lines are forming outside the district governor's office. This is where Turks can find a new "crisis management center," where those caught up in the post-coup purge can finally be heard in their own defense – or in defense of a relative now behind bars. At a desk, people can submit their written defenses.

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