Peter Kenyon

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Since Turkey's government survived a violent coup attempt on July 15, it has pointed the finger at followers of an elderly, U.S.-based cleric. His name is Fethullah Gulen, and he denies any involvement. Turkey is demanding his extradition from the U.S., where he's lived in Pennsylvania since the late 1990s.

Gulen moved to America in 1999, amid worries that Turkey's secular and military elite was after him. Gulen became a close ally of Erdogan and his AKP party when the party came to power, but the two had a falling out several years later.

For more than a decade, U.S. foreign policy has centered on military action in the Middle East. Often overlooked, but still critical, is U.S. diplomacy. It's a slow and often frustrating art. It can also involve unpopular compromises with allies and rivals.

But there's no way around it. Consider Turkey, with a strategic location that makes it important in Syria, Iraq, and the migrant crisis. But the U.S. and Turkey have had a roller-coaster relationship that took a sharp downward turn after an attempted coup last month against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

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