Clifford D. May: Rise of the neo-Ottomans

Turkey supports terror. It imprisons more journalists than any other country. Its president equates Israel to Nazis. And, officially, the country is our ally. ADEM ALTAN/AFP/Getty Images

Turkey supports terror. It imprisons more journalists than any other country. Its president equates Israel to Nazis. And, officially, the country is our ally. ADEM ALTAN/AFP/Getty Images

National Post, by Clifford D. May, Dec. 5, 2014:

Turkey should have been part of the solution. Instead it’s become part of the problem. The problem, of course, is the spread of jihadism throughout the Middle East, North Africa and beyond.

Turkish policies have been aiding and abetting Jabhat al Nusra, an Al-Qaeda affiliate; the Islamic State (ISIS), which has turned large swaths of Syria and Iraq into killing fields; the Islamic Republic of Iran, still ranked by the U.S. government as the world’s leading sponsor of terrorism and well on its way to becoming nuclear-armed; and the Muslim Brotherhood, including Hamas, the group’s Palestinian branch.

Troubling, too, is the rhetoric we’ve been hearing from Turkish leaders. Fikri Işık, Turkey’s Science, Industry and Technology Minister, claimed last week that it was Muslim scientists who first discovered that the Earth is round. Two weeks earlier, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan insisted that Muslim sailors reached the Americas 300 years before Columbus — only to find that well-established Muslims in Cuba had built a beautiful mosque.

Such myth-making might be dismissed as nothing more than attempts to play to Islamic pride. Less easy to excuse is Mr. Erdoğan’s increasing xenophobia. “Foreigners,” he recently observed, “love oil, gold, diamonds and the cheap labour force of the Islamic world. They like the conflicts, fights and quarrels of the Middle East.” He added that Westerners “look like friends, but they want us dead, they like seeing our children die. How long will we stand that fact?”

If Turkey were just another tin-pot dictatorship none of this would much matter. But Turkey is a Muslim majority (98%) republic with a dynamic economy (not dependent on the extraction of petroleum), a member of NATO (making it, officially, an American ally) and a candidate for membership in the European Union (though that possibility now appears remote).

Just three years ago, President Barack Obama listed Mr. Erdoğan as one of five world leaders with whom he had especially close personal ties. He regarded the Turkish leader as a moderate, his interpreter of — and bridge to — the tumultuous and confusing Islamic world.

And now, as detailed in a new report by Jonathan Schanzer and Merve Tahiroglu, my colleagues at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), Erdoğan is refusing to allow the American-led coalition formed in August to launch strikes against the Islamic State from Turkish soil.

Worse, there is mounting evidence that weapons and fighters are crossing from Turkey into Syria where they are delivered to ISIS. Turkish officials are turning a blind eye — or maybe even facilitating the traffic. Stolen oil is moving in the other direction, sold to raise cash for ISIS. Inside Turkey, as well, Mr. Schanzer and Ms. Tahiroglu write, ISIS has “established cells for recruiting militants and other logistical operations.” Last weekend, Turkey’s main Kurdish party accused the Erdoğan government of allowing ISIS fighters to attack the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobani from within Turkey.

The FDD report cites numerous sources alleging that Turkey also has given assistance to A-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al Nusra. To be fair: The Turkish government, like the Obama administration, seeks the fall of Syrian dictator Bashar Al-Assad, satrap of the Islamic Republic of Iran. A Turkish official is quoted as saying that Nusra fighters are essential to that effort, adding: “After Assad is gone, we know how to deal with these extremist groups.”

Do they? Hamas is an extremist group and one of its top leaders, Saleh Al-Arouri, has been permitted to set up his headquarters in Turkey. In August, Israel’s Shin Bet security agency said it had thwarted a Hamas-led plot to topple Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas — and that Mr. Al-Arouri was behind it. Mr. Al-Arouri also claimed responsibility — in the presence of Turkey’s deputy prime minister — for the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli boys in the West Bank early last summer, an act of terrorism that led to a 50-day war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.

Also see:

A Turkish Quest to “Liberate” Jerusalem

Gatestone Institute, by Burak Bekdil, Nov.13, 2014:

Both Turkey’s President Erdogan and its Prime Minister Davutoglu have declared countess times that Gaza and Jerusalem (in addition to Syria, Iraq, Egypt, Somalia, and the Maghreb) are Turkey’s “domestic affairs.”

In truth, there is no mention of any city’s name in the Qur’an.

Turks have a different understanding of what constitutes an occupation and a conquest of a city. The Turkish rule is very simple: The capture of a foreign city by force is an occupation if that city is Turkish (or Muslim) and the capture of a city by force is conquest if the city belongs to a foreign nation (or non-Muslims).

For instance, Turks still think the capture of Istanbul in 1453 was not occupation; it was conquest.

In a 2012 speech, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (then Prime Minister) said: “Just like Mecca, Cairo and Istanbul are cities of the Qur’an.” In truth, there is no mention of any city’s name in the Qur’an. Never mind.

“Conquest,” Turkey’s top Muslim cleric, Professor Mehmet Gormez, declared in 2012, “is not to occupy lands or destroy cities and castles. Conquest is the conquest of hearts!” That is why, the top Turkish cleric said, “In our history there has never been occupation.” Instead, Professor Gormez said, “in our history, there has always been conquest.” He further explained that one pillar of conquest is to “open up minds to Islam, and hearts to the Qur’an.”

It is in this religious justification that most Turkish Islamists think they have an Allah-given right to take infidel lands by the force of sword — ironically, not much different from what the tougher Islamists have been doing in large parts of Syria and Iraq. Ask any commander in the Islamic State and he would tell you what the jihadists are doing there is “opening up minds to Islam, and hearts to the Qur’an.”

Both President Erdogan and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu have declared countless times that Gaza and Jerusalem (in addition to Syria, Iraq, Egypt, Somalia and the Maghreb) are Turkey’s “domestic affairs.”

This author wrote in this journal on Oct. 30:

In reality, with or without the normalization of diplomatic relations between Ankara and Jerusalem, the Turks have never hidden their broader goals in the Arab-Israeli dispute: that Jerusalem should be the capital of a Palestinian state; and that Israel should be pushed back to its pre-1967 borders. Until then, it will be ‘halal’ [permitted in Islam] for Erdogan to blame Israel for global warming, the Ebola virus, starvation in Africa and every other misfortune the world faces.

As if to confirm this whimsical view, Deputy Prime Minister Yalcin Akdogan has blamed Israel for democratic failings in the Arab world. “Israel works with [undemocratic] regimes and keeps its ship afloat.” So, it is because of Israel that Arab nations have never established democratic culture — before or after 1948; or before or after the Arab Spring revolts. But fortunately, Palestinians have a new “protector.”

From Prime Minister Davutoglu’s public speech on November 7:

Al-Aqsa [mosque in Jerusalem] will one day be liberated. The Israelis should know that the oppressed Syrians have a protector. The oppressed Palestinians too have a protector. That protector is Turkey. Just as Bursa [the Turkish city where he spoke] ended its occupation, the honorable Palestinians, honorable Muslims will end the [Israeli] occupation. Just as Osman Gazi [a sepulchre in Bursa] was liberated, al-Aqsa too will be liberated. Al-Quds [Jerusalem] is both our first prayer direction and has been entrusted with us by history. It has been entrusted with us by Hazrat Omar. The last freedom seen in Jerusalem was under our [Ottoman] rule. Al-Quds is our cause. It is the occupying, oppressive Israeli government that has turned the Middle East into a quagmire.

Echoing that view, President Erdogan said that protecting Islamic sites in the Holy Land is a sacred mission (for his government), and bluntly warned that any attack against the al-Aqsa mosque is no different than an attack on the Kaaba in the holy city of Mecca.

Spot the difference: In the eyes of Turkey’s political and religious leadership, Istanbul and its Hagia Sophia (once a Greek Orthodox Basilica) were legitimately “conquered” by the Muslim Ottomans, while Jerusalem and its al-Aqsa mosque (built atop the ruins of the Jewish Temples) are illegally “occupied” by Israel. (Images source: Wikimedia Commons)

No doubt, after Gaza, al-Aqsa (and Jerusalem) has become a powerful Turkish obsession, and a treasure-trove of votes, especially in view of Turkey’s parliamentary elections next June. And do not expect the Turkish leadership only to corrupt facts. Plain fabrication is a more favored method. All the same, someone, sometimes, would unwillingly reveal the truth often when trying to corrupt other facts.

Since Davutoglu claimed that “Jerusalem has been entrusted with the Turks by Hazrat Omar,” it may be useful to refresh memories. Hazrat Omar is Omar bin Al-Khattab (579-644), one of the most powerful and influential Muslim caliphs in history. Within the context of “conquest vs. occupation,” he was referenced by the top cleric, Professor Gormez in a 2012 speech:

After Hazrat Omar conquered al-Quds [Jerusalem], he was invited to pray at a church [as there were no mosques yet in Jerusalem]. But he politely refused because he was worried that the [conquering] Muslims could turn the church into a mosque after he prayed there.

Since medieval historical facts cannot have changed over the past two years, the top Turkishulama [religious scholar], referencing a most powerful Muslim caliph, is best witness that when the Muslims had first arrived in Jerusalem there was not a single mosque in the city. Why? Because Jerusalem was not a Muslim city. Why, then, do Turkish Islamists claim that it is Muslim? Because it once had been “conquered.” Would the same Turks surrender Istanbul to the occupying forces that took the city after World War I because its capture in 1920 made it a non-Turkish city? No, that was not conquest, that was occupation!

Had Messrs Erdogan and Davutoglu been schoolchildren, such reasoning might have been called bullying and cheating.

Burak Bekdil, based in Ankara, is a Turkish columnist for the Hürriyet Daily and a Fellow at the Middle East Forum.

Basting Turkey’s New Prime Minister

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (left) with Ahmet Davutoğlu (right)

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (left) with Ahmet Davutoğlu (right)

by Daniel Pipes
The Washington Times
August 28, 2014

As Recep Tayyip Erdoğan ascends today to the presidency of Turkey, his hand-picked successor, Ahmet Davutoğlu, simultaneously assumes Erdoğan’s old job of prime minister. What do these changes portend for Turkey and its foreign policy? In two words: nothing good.

He asked me about the neo-conservative movement in the United States, then at the height of its fame and supposed influence. I began by expressing doubts that I was a member of this elite group, as Davutoğlu assumed, and went on to note that none of the key decision-makers in the George W. Bush administration (the president, vice president, secretaries of state and defense, or the national security adviser) was a neo-conservative, a fact that made me skeptical of its vaunted power. Davutoğlu responded with a subtle form of antisemitism, insisting that neo-conservatives were far more powerful than I acknowledged because they worked together in a secret network based on religious ties. (He had the good grace not to mention which religion that might be.)In June 2005, when Davutoğlu served as chief foreign policy adviser to Erdoğan, I spoke with him for an hour in Ankara. Two topics from that conversation remain vivid.

In turn, I asked him about the goals of Turkish foreign policy in the Middle East in the era of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) that had begun in 2002, noting Ankara’s new ambitions in a region it had long disdained. He conceded this change, then took me on a quick tour d’horizon from Afghanistan to Morocco, noting Turkey’s special ties with many countries. These included the presence of Turkic-speakers (e.g., in Iraq), the legacy of Ottoman rule (Lebanon), economic symbiosis (Syria), Islamic ties (Saudi Arabia), and diplomatic mediation (Iran).

What struck me most was the boastful optimism and complete self-assurance of Davutoğlu, former professor of international relations and an Islamist ideologue. He not only implied that Turkey had waited breathlessly for him and his grand vision but he also displayed an unconcealed delight at finding himself in a position to apply his academic theories to the great canvas of international politics. (This privilege occurs surprisingly rarely.) In sum, that conversation inspired neither my confidence nor my admiration.

While Davutoğlu has done remarkably well for himself in the intervening years, he did so exclusively as consigliere to his sole patron, Erdoğan. His record, by contrast, has been one ofinconsistent policy and consistent failure, a failure so abject it borders on fiasco. Under Davutoğlu’s stewardship, Ankara’s relations with Western countries have almost universally soured, while those with Iran, Iraq, Syria, Israel, Egypt, and Libya, among other Middle Eastern states, have plummeted. To top it off, Turkish rule is endangered even in its own northern Cypriot satrapy.

Having failed as foreign minister, Davutoğlu now – in an application of The Dilbert Principle – ascends to a heady but subservient leadership of both the AKP and the government. He faces two major challenges:Symbolically, Turkey is slipping away from the NATO alliance of democracies and toward the shoddy Sino-Russian grouplet known as the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation. As Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, leader of the opposition, sadly notes, “Turkey has grown lonely in the world.”

As AKP leader, he is tasked with producing a great victory in the June 2015 parliamentary elections to modify the constitution and turn the semi-ceremonial position of president into the elected sultanate Erdoğan lusts for. Can Davutoğlu deliver the votes? Color me skeptical. I expect that Erdoğan will rue the day he relinquished his prime ministry to become president, as he finds himself ignored and bored living in the sprawling presidential “campus.”

As Turkey’s 26th prime minister, Davutoğlu faces a bubble economy perilously near collapse, a breakdown in the rule of law, a country inflamed by Erdoğan’s divisive rule, a hostile Gülen movement, and a divided AKP, all converging within an increasingly Islamist (and therefore uncivil) country. Moreover, the foreign policy problems that Davutoğlu himself created still continue, especially the ISIS hostage emergency in Mosul.

The Turkish consulate in Mosul before its seizure.

The unfortunate Davutoğlu brings to mind a cleanup crew arriving at the party at 4 a.m., facing a mess created by now-departed revelers. Happily, the contentious and autocratic Erdoğan no longer holds Turkey’s key governmental position; but his placing the country in the unsteady hands of a loyalist of proven incompetence brings many new concerns for the Turks, their neighbors, and all who wish the country well.

Mr. Pipes (DanielPipes.org) is president of the Middle East Forum.

ISIS Declares War On Hamas And The Muslim Brotherhood

771By Walid ShoebatAugust 23, 2014:

There is a war of fatwas and some serious cyber rattling back and forth between the Muslim Brotherhood on the one hand and the organization of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) on the other hand. The fatwa wars erupted after Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, president of the World Federation of Muslim Scholars, the spiritual father of the Muslim Brotherhood, denounced the legitimacy for Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as Caliph of the Muslim world. In turn, the ISIS denounced the Muslim Brotherhood and in addition Hamas as “apostates” and “followers of witchcraft theology”

The fatwa wars erupted when Qaradawi reiterated his call that announcing a Caliphate is under the authority of the Union of Muslim Scholars which it only represented the decision making in Muslim world. The Quran clearly says that Muslims need to obey “Allah, his messenger and the people of authority” (Q4:59). Qaradawi said: “The announcement for a Caliphate is not an entitlement to any faction because this function in every Muslim nation is entitled only to the scholars to indicate the legitimate government in such matters.”

He said in a statement that all those things that took place with ISIS “are without any criteria of legitimacy nor are realistic and does more harm than good,” adding “We are all dreaming of an Islamic caliphate on a platform of prophecy and hope from the bottom of our hearts that will be held today before tomorrow, but Islam taught us, and the school of life has taught us: that such a major project needs hard and long thinking and heavy preparation.”

The latest statements by the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood Yusuf al-Qaradawi, was that the “Islamic Caliphate” for the whole world is Istanbul Turkey, claiming that “Istanbul is the capital for the Islamic Arab world and the West,” calling on the Turkish people to support Recep Tayyip Erdogan, “because God and Gabriel and Muhammad support Erdogan and the angels after that will be revealed.”

Those opinions raised an eyebrow from the ISIS when its chief ideologue, Shanqiti denounced the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas governments as apostates, and mocked Qaradawi’s fatwa which according to him goes along the principle of “the rule of the people,” saying that the Muslim Brotherhood:

“seeks to support the religion in terms of the Social Contract theory and is resorting to the ordinances and other exaggerations from the trash bin of ideas. Whoever does this is someone who claims to support the religion while they practice witchcraft.”

Shanqeeti said in his response to Qaradawi that the Muslim Brotherhood is harming the Muslim world:

“The Brotherhood by this deed damaged the Muslim world more than benefiting it and they delay the return of the Caliphate for decades by wasting tremendous financial and human resources running behind a mirage telling their followers that “God is their goal, and that the Prophet is their example and that Islam is their destiny?!””

Shanqeeti mocked Qaradawi’s fatwa saying:

“O Sheikh; The caliph is our Prince of the Mujahidin, Sheikh Ibrahim Awad al-Badri [Al-Baghdadi], who needs not your advice and has been given allegiance from battle hardened warriors who has gone through battles, trials and tribulations; your despicable fatwah will not hurt them”.

He pointed out that the Muslim Brotherhood is only interested in power and making peace treaties with Israel as is with Turkey:

“as soon as they [The Muslim Brotherhood] came to power until things turned against them, their destination and their example went alongside the atheists and secularists with lubricity for America and appeasement for Israel, and we saw the same thing in Turkey and Gaza and Egypt during the reign of the ‘apostate Juggernaut Mohamed Morsi,’”

Shoebat.com has predicted that an escalation in Caliphate mania will arise. In this case we have the foxes on one hand and the bullies on the other. In the end, the foxes will win the minds of the Muslim masses and a Caliphate will be established in Turkey.

REFERENCES
Translated from AlBawabh (The Gate News) http://www.albawabhnews.com/748771

Also see:

Time to Part Ways with Erdogan

erdoganby Ari Lieberman:

There is no question that Turkey, because of its size and geo-strategic location maintains a pivotal role in NATO. Its armed forces are NATO’s second largest and its troops had acquitted themselves well during the Korean War. Turkey had also played a constructive role in bridging relations between Israel and the Muslim world acting as an effective interlocutor. But with the ascent of the Islamist Justice and Development party in 2002 and the rise of Recep Tayyip Erdogan as party boss, things have taken a stark turn for the worse.

Under the stewardship of an increasingly unbalanced Erdogan, Turkey has renounced secularism in favor of Islamist dogma and creeping sharia. Turkey’s new president elect has, through intimidation and strong-arm tactics, usurped control of Turkey’s judiciary and press. Indeed, Turkey holds the dubious distinction of being the world’s largest incarcerator of journalists followed only by Iran and China.

An increasingly paranoid Erdogan has also declared war on social media and in March threatened to ban Facebook and YouTube, accusing the sites of “every kind of immorality and espionage for their own ends.” Erdogan had already banned YouTube for two years though the restriction was lifted in 2010.

Erdogan’s disloyalty to the United States and NATO began early in his term of office as prime minister but his betrayals have only increased in recent years.

In March 2003, during Operation Iraqi Freedom, Turkey refused to allow the deployment of US troops on Turkish soil which would have enabled the US to open a second front against Saddam Hussein. Turkey also refused to allow the US to utilize Turkish airspace and airbases to launch strikes against Iraqi forces.

In 2010, Turkey was one of only two nations in the UN Security Council (the other being Brazil) that voted against imposing sanctions against Iran in connection with its nuclear proliferation activities. Turkey (along with China) is currently taking a lead role in helping the Islamic Republic circumvent sanctions, often fronting for the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps and instituting various other schemes to bypass legal obstacles.  Turkey’s stance on Iran has even drawn praise from mullah’s official propaganda outlet, Press TV.

It is clear that Turkey, acting as Iran’s conduit to Europe has become the Islamic Republic’s premier enabler. Turkey’s outreach to Iran represents a disturbing pattern by Erdogan to curry favor with nations and entities whose interests substantially diverge from Washington’s. Turkey has established itself as the world’s foremost supporter of Hamas and Hezbollah, both of which are listed as terrorist organizations by the United States.  Turkey has also opted to purchase air defense platforms from a Chinese firm already on a designated sanctions list for violating embargoes against Iran and North Korea. Moreover, the Chinese systems are incompatible with NATO platforms but to Erdogan, NATO’s defense needs play second fiddle to his disconcerting policy of thumbing his nose at the West.

Central to any defense pact and cooperation between allies is trust. But Erdogan has proven that he is anything but trustworthy. In fact, he has established himself as the premier betrayer of trust when, in violation of all norms and protocol within the intelligence community, he betrayed a network of spies working to compile data on Iran’s proliferation activities.

Read more at Front Page

Did a Hamas Plot to Seize the West Bank Really Cause the Gaza War?

fatah-hamas-450x252Front Page, By Daniel Greenfield:

If some of this information holds up, then the picture of the Gaza War changes significantly.

A large-scale Hamas terrorist formation in the West Bank and Jerusalem planned to destabilize the region through a series of deadly terror attacks in Israel and then topple the Fatah-ruled Palestinian Authority, the Shin Bet said Monday.

The Turkey-based Hamas overseas headquarters orchestrated the plot which centered on a string of mass casualty terror attacks on Israeli targets, the Shin Bet added.

The end goal was to destabilize the Palestinian territories and use the instability to carry out a military coup, overthrowing the government of PA President Mahmoud Abbas.

The Hamas infrastructure relied on support from cells in neighboring Jordan, and on couriers who delivered terrorist finances, totaling at least two million shekels, which were used to purchase weapons and homes that were used as hideouts, according to the investigation.

Ninety three Hamas members are in Israeli custody, and the Shin Bet has questioned 46 so far. Security forces plan to indict some 70 suspects. The investigation began in May, and is ongoing, security sources said.

The earliest timeline of the arrests appears to predate the official onset of the fighting. Also the operation was orchestrated from Turkey, much like the kidnapping and murder of the three Israeli teens.

What that may really mean is that Israel was caught in the middle of a power play between Turkey and Saudi Arabia. If Turkey’s tyrant Erdogan seemed even more hysterical during the war than usual, it was because he had helped set it off. And if Saudi Arabia seemed a bit suspiciously supportive, that was because it was using Israel in its proxy war with Qatar and Turkey.

Once it was clear that the operation was exposed, Hamas decided to go all in while counting on Turkey and Qatar to bring Obama to the rescue. The results have been mixed, but if Israel ends up making concessions then all the bad guys on both sides will get what they want.

The war as we saw it, was actually a semi-accidental result of a larger Hamas operation going off prematurely as part of an internal civil war within the Muslim world.

The twist in all this is that the Unity Government of Fatah and Hamas was only a prelude to Hamas stabbing Fatah in the back.

Middle East Meltdown: Here’s What’s Happening

Screen-Shot-2012-09-15-at-8.28.27-PMBy Patrick Poole:

The Middle East is in full meltdown and the U.S. is rapidly nearing full retreat in the region. But considering the incompetents running our foreign policy, our absence may be best for the Middle East for the moment.

So here’s what’s happening:

Iraq: Last night Prime Minister Maliki gave a speech accusing new President Fuad Masum of violating the constitution as Golden Dawn militias backing Maliki took up strategic positions around Baghdad, including the Green Zone, in an all-out coup. Remarkably, Maliki is accusing Masum of a coup. Maliki’s issue with Masum is that the new president has not selected Maliki for a third term as prime minister. One report said that U.S. forces had to extricate President Masum from the presidential palace when it came under mortar fire from Maliki’s renegades. Let’s not forget the words of President Obama in December 2011, when he declared that “we’re leaving behind a sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq” upon pulling out all remaining U.S. troops.

Islamic State: A coup, of course, is exactly what Iraq needs right now as the terrorist Islamic State continues to push south despite U.S. airstrikes, as the Islamic State conducts ethnic and religious cleansing of Yahzidis and Christians creating a staggering humanitarian crisis. Last week the Islamic State forces captured the dam north of Mosul, the largest dam in Iraq that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers described in 2007 as “the most dangerous dam in the world” because of its instability. This is a key strategic asset that will give the Islamic State control of the Tigris River as they push towards Baghdad. The best hope to stall this push is not the Iraqi Army, which collapsed several weeks ago when the Islamic State began their offensive, but Kurdish forces. The Islamic State is also preparing to target Saudi intelligence officials as they plan to open a front there, despite the fact that much of their funding has come from Saudi Arabia.

Lebanon: Iraq is not the only place where the Islamic State has launched an offensive. Last week they launched an attack on the Lebanese border town of Arsal, overrunning Lebanese Army checkpoints and taking Lebanese soldiers hostage. Arsal is home to a large camp housing refugees from Syria. ISIS took the captives hoping to exchange them for a Syrian Islamist militia commander supported by Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State that had been arrested by Lebanese authorities. Although the terrorist groups eventually agreed to withdraw and release their captives, the New York Times quoted one their commanders that the attack forces included the Islamic State, Jabhat al-Nusra (the Syrian Al-Qaeda affiliate) and the Free Syrian Army – the same Free Syrian Army receiving weapons from the U.S. As I reported here last month, some of those U.S.-backed Free Syrian Army forces have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State. Meanwhile, Lebanon remains without a president as Hezbollah and their March 8 Alliance allies in parliament refuse to elect a president, a position reserved for a Maronite Christian. Syrian refugees now make up one-third of the country’s population, further destabilizing Lebanon.

Syria: The war in Syria drags on as 170,000 people are estimate to have been killed – one-third of those civilians – and many of its largest cities, such as Homs, lie in complete ruin. The Islamic State controls a wide swath of territory in the north, while the Iranian and Russian-backed Assad forces fight to hold onto the coast and Damascus with no end to the war in sight. The recent successes of the Islamic State are prompting many Syrian rebels to join with the terror group.

Turkey: Yesterday’s presidential election saw the Islamist current Prime Minister Recep Erdogan elected.  Last week Erdogan signaled that as president he intended to turn the office from its largely ceremonial role to running the country from this new position. Under Erdogan, the country has grown increasingly authoritarian, with last year’s Gezi protests violently suppressed and the country remaining the largest jailer of journalists in the world. Concerns have been raised about Erdogan’s support for terrorism, particularly financing of Hamas and looking the other way as terrorist groups operate openly on the country’s Syrian border. Recent news reports have directly linked Erdogan to internationally-banned Al-Qaeda financier Yasin al-Qadi, even meeting with him repeatedly despite being on Turkey’s own terrorism list. Despite Erdogan’s dictatorial manner President Obama has hailed the neo-Ottoman Erdogan as one of his top five favorite world leaders, and notwithstanding its support for terrorist groups, Turkey remains as co-chair of the State Department’s Global Counterterrorism Forum.

Israel/Gaza: A new 72-hour truce was announced last night in the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas. While negotiators are headed back to Cairo today for continued talks, there remains a Mexican standoff: Israel has no intention of ending the blockade on Gaza allowing Hamas to resupply itself as it continues to rain down rockets on Israel, and Hamas has made the border openings a pre-condition to any deal. Since the beginning of Israel’s Operation Protection Edge, Hamas and other terrorist groups have launched 3,488 rockets at Israel and casualties in Gaza are approaching 2,000 (though many media outlets and even the UN are expressing long-overdue caution about casualty figures being supplied by Hamas-controlled ministries).

Egypt: One of the chief causes of the current Israel/Hamas conflict is that the Egyptian government has wisely put a stranglehold on the smuggling tunnels between Egypt and Gaza. Since the ouster of Muslim Brotherhood president Mohamed Morsi a year ago, Egypt has shut down and destroyed a reported 80 percent of the Gaza smuggling tunnels, putting a severe crimp in the Hamas finances that netted the terror group $1 million every day and stocked the terror group with material and weapons. Thus, Hamas is eager to have the Rafah border crossing reopened. The Egyptian presidential election in May that saw Abdel Fattah al-Sisi installed as president seemed to definitively resolve the country’s political crisis, but terror attacks in Sinai and around Egypt directed at the new government continue. These same terrorist groups have also used the Sinai to launch rockets towards Israel. This past weekend the Muslim Brotherhood and its allies announced the formation of the “Egyptian Revolutionary Council” in Istanbul, hoping to model itself off the Syrian opposition and portending a continued insurgency against the Egyptian government. Violence could erupt this week as the first anniversary of the dispersal of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Rabaa protests last August 14th, and attacks on Coptic Christians continue in Upper Egypt, where I recently visited.

Read more at PJ Media

Turkish Leader Doubles Down on Blaming Israel for Anti-Semitism

1407370126197.cachedBy Eli Lake:

Turkey’s prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has some advice for his strongest supporters in the U.S. Congress: If you don’t like the rise of anti-Semitism that has accompanied Israel’s latest war, then you should pressure Israel to stop killing Palestinians.

An August 5 letter written by one of Erdogan’s top advisers on behalf of the prime minister and obtained by The Daily Beast disputes accusations that his recent statements about Israel were anti-Semitic. Those statements include an assertion on July 19 that Israel’s actions in Gaza “surpassed what Hitler did to them.” A few days earlier, a top newspaper in Turkey affiliated with Erdogan called on Turkish Jews to apologize for the actions of Israel’s military in Gaza.

“Each Israeli attack undermines the peace and tranquility of Jews living all around the world and turns them into targets of hate speech,” wrote Volkan Bozkir, a former Turkish ambassador to the European Union and now an Erdogan adviser and legislator who serves as the chairman of the Turkey-USA Inter-Parliamentary Friendship Caucus and the Turkish parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee.

He added: “We would therefore recommend that you, instead of trying to silence the legitimate criticisms towards Israel, call on and pressure the Israeli government to put an end to its policies of occupation and destruction. This would be the best and the strongest response to anti-Semitism.”

Bozkir wrote that he was sending the letter to Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) at Erdogan’s behest in response to a letter the Turkish prime minister received last week from four co-chairmen of the Congressional Caucus on U.S.-Turkish Relations and Turkish Americans. Normally that caucus can be counted on to offer strong support for Turkey, a NATO ally that has had a long-standing relationship with the U.S. military going back to the Cold War.

But on July 29, Reps. Foxx, Steve Cohen (D-TN), Gerald Connolly (D-VA), and Ed Whitfield (R-KY) warned Erdogan that some of his statements about Israel and Jews in general “make it increasingly difficult to communicate in a positive way about Turkey when interacting with our colleagues.”

The State Department has condemned Erdogan’s recent remarks. But Secretary of State John Kerry has worked closely with his Turkish counterparts to reach an Israel-Hamas ceasefire. Unlike Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, Turkey has an open political relationship with Hamas. Some of thegroup’s top leaders reside in Turkey, including Saleh al-Arouri, a man some Israelis suspected of facilitating the June 15 kidnapping and killing of three Israeli teenagers that sparked the current round of fighting.

Read more at The Daily Beast

Qatar, and other American “allies”, are among the villains in Gaza

Gatestone Institute, by Alan M. Dershowitz:

American allies, especially Qatar and Turkey, have been providing material support to Hamas, which the United States has listed as a foreign terrorist organization. This support includes financial, diplomatic, media and even the provision of weapons that deliberately target Israeli civilians from behind Palestinian civilians who are used as human shields. It also includes harboring war criminals, especially leaders of Hamas, who direct their followers from the safety of Doha. Without the support of Qatar and Turkey, Hamas would never have started this bloody war that has caused so much human suffering.

Qatar, which is more of a family-owned gas station than a real country, regards itself as untouchable because of its oil wealth. Its residents—they are not really citizens because there are no genuine elections or freedom of speech or religion—are the richest in the world. It can buy anything it wants, including the 2022 World Cup, several American university campuses, some of the world’s greatest art, Al Jazeera television and other luxuries. It can also buy terrorist groups such as Hamas. Indeed, after Iran, which is the world’s worst state sponsor of terrorism, Qatar ranks near the top of this dishonor role of death.

Any individual who provides material support to a designated terrorist group such as Hamas commits a crime under the United States Penal law and the laws of several European countries. If Hamas were ever to be convicted of war crimes by the International Criminal Court, as it may well be, any individual who was an accessory to such crimes would be guilty as well. It is entirely fair, therefore, to describe Qatar as a criminal regime, guilty of accessory to mass murder.

In some ways Turkey is even worse. Its erratic prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has incited anti-Semitism, provoked conflict with Israel, provided material support to Hamas and undercut efforts to achieve a realistic end to the Gaza War. He has demanded that his Jewish subjects do his bidding, telling “our Jewish citizens’ leaders” that they must “adopt a firm stance and release a statement against the Israeli government.” He has suggested that if they fail to do so they will not be regarded as “good Turks,” thus raising the old canard of “dual loyalty.”

Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan (right) gives a warm welcome to Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, who travelled from Gaza to Turkey on an official visit in January 2012. (Image source: MEMRI)

Erdogan also recently said of Israel that “they always curse Hitler, but they now even exceed him in barbarism.” And he responded to Americans who complain about the “comparisons with Hitler,” by saying “You’re American, what’s Hitler got to do with you,” forgetting that Hitler’s forces killed thousands of American soldiers and civilians. He also conveniently forgets that Turkey, which remained immorally “neutral” in the war against Nazism, provided Hitler with the playbook for his genocide, by its own genocide against Armenians. As Hitler asked rhetorically when planning his genocide: “Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?” So Hitler matters to America, as it should to Turkey, which still mendaciously denies that it committed genocide against the Armenians.

Yet it was Qatar and Turkey to which Secretary of State John Kerry turned in his efforts to get Israel and Hamas to agree to a cease fire. This not only infuriated Israel, which considers these two countries as accessories to Hamas’ war crimes, but also Jordan, Egypt and the Palestinian Authority, which also see Qatar and Turkey as allies of Hamas and enemies of moderate Arab states.

The time has come for the United States and the international community to reassess the status of Qatar and Turkey. These two countries have become part of the problem, rather than part of the solution. A nation that hosts Hamas leaders and finances their terrorism should not also host the World Cup. Nor should American universities send their faculty and students to a nation complicit in terrorism that has taken the lives of many Americans as well as Israelis.

Turkey’s role in NATO must also be reevaluated. Membership in this organization entails certain responsibilities, and Turkey has failed in these responsibilities. They have become untrustworthy partners in the quest for peace.

It is a truism that we, as a nation, must deal with devils, because men and women are not angels. I do not fault Secretary of State Kerry for trying to use Qatar and Turkey to pressure Hamas into accepting a deal, although the deal they ultimately came up with was a bad one. My point is that Qatar’s wealth and Turkey’s size should not preclude us from telling it as it is: Qatar and Turkey are among the worst villains in the Gaza tragedy. Nor should we reward such villains, and such complicit in war crimes, by international gifts, such as the World Cup. Both Qatar and Turkey should be treated as pariahs unless and until they stop becoming state sponsors, supporters and facilitators of terrorism.

Alan Dershowitz’s latest book is “Taking the Stand: My Life in the Law”.

Terror Group Tied to Turkish Gov’t Recruits Hamas Human Shields

Children and women acting as human shields for Hamas fighters seen in the middle of the group (Photo: CNN video screenshot)

Children and women acting as human shields for Hamas fighters seen in the middle of the group (Photo: CNN video screenshot)

BY RYAN MAURO:

A terror-linked charity closely linked to the Turkish government is organizing human shields in the Gaza Strip and pledging to “erect the flag of Islam everywhere.” Prime Minister Erdogan is a top backer of Hamas and allows this charity, the Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH), to operate.

IHH’s website has a photo of the sign-up event in front of the Israeli embassy. The website refers to the Hamas terrorists targeted by Israel as “resistance fighters.” CNN Turkey reports that IHH has signed up at least 73 volunteers for human shields in Gaza, with 38 being women.

Another page on the website talks about an IHH press conference where its president, Bulent Yildirim, openly talked about its organizing of human shields. Its press release was endorsed by the Association of Muslim Scholars, a body led by the spiritual leader of Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood.

“We, as IHH started the human shield project,” Yildirim said.

He said that it is negotiating safe passage with the Syrian government and if the Assad regime refuses, they will arrive by boat. He also called on Muslim countries to “provide weaponry support for self-protection.”

Shockingly, Yildirim said the objective of sending the human shields is to spark a war between Israel and Turkey and the broader Muslim world. He explained:

“[W]e will tell Turkey that they will have to protect us. When we are passing by sea, if Israel fires at the Turkish ships protecting us, they will come face to face with the Israel and Turkey alliance. We are looking at how this war will end up. We are ready.”

The long-term goal of IHH is to create a caliphate, as Yildirim stated matter-of-factly:

“Israel has done what we could not do. Israel has laid the foundation of an Islamic Union by attacking Gaza. I believe that soon, all Muslim countries will unite to become members of the establishment of the Islamic Union,” Yildirim said.

Read more at Clarion Project

Secretive Turkish Movement Buys U.S. Influence

Fethullah Gülen is pictured at his residence in Saylorsburg, Pa., last September. Reuters

Fethullah Gülen is pictured at his residence in Saylorsburg, Pa., last September. Reuters

By :

HOUSTON — The secretive religious and political movement inspired by the Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen has become a potent, and surprising, force in a set of obscure races for the House of Representatives, as Gülen sympathizers around the country donate tens of thousands of dollars to an overlapping set of candidates.

The movement, whose leader draws intense interest from Washington to Ankara from his compound in rural Pennsylvania, has long involved itself in American life, organizing in particular around a group of charter schools and Turkish community institutions. Started in Turkey as a moderate Islamic movement in the secular 1960s and 1970s, the movement — also known as Hizmet, roughly meaning “service” in Turkish — runs schools, businesses, and media outlets around the world. There is no formal membership: Affiliates say they are “inspired” by Gülen and many groups aligned with him deny any official affiliation.

But the movement’s agenda, in Turkey, has clarified in recent months. Gülen — who left Turkey for the Poconos in 1999 following charges that he was attempting to undermine the Turkish state — broke bitterly with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan last year over a corruption investigation that has rocked Erdogan’s party and that the prime minister has blamed on Gülen and his followers.

Here in the United States, meanwhile, Gülen’s allies have been stepping up their involvement in U.S. politics, emerging as a force in districts from South Texas to South Brooklyn. Liberal Democrats like Yvette Clarke, Sheila Jackson Lee, and Al Green, and conservative Republicans like Ted Poe and Pete Olson have all benefitted from donors affiliated with Gülen in one way or another.

Leaders in the movement deny that there is any top-down organization of the donations (or, indeed, that the Gülen movement has any organization at all), but the patterns of giving suggest some level of coordination in a community beginning to flex its political muscle. Gülen himself reportedly told followers in 2010 that they could only visit him in the Poconos if they donated to their local congressman, according to the Wall Street Journal, though Gülen has denied the comment.

The donations, taken together, comprise significant totals for some U.S. House members in relatively safe seats. For instance, people connected to the Gülen-inspired charter schools donated $23,000 to Texas Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee in October 2013 — a large sum considering Jackson Lee has raised just more than $130,000 this cycle in individual contributions, according to documents filed with the Federal Election Commission.

Read more at Buzz Feed

Turkey, Erdogan, and the Muslim Brotherhood in Iraq

 

This photograph shows ISIL commander Abu Muhammad, April 16, 2014, allegedly receiving free treatment in Hatay State Hospital after being injured during fighting in Idlib, Syria.

This photograph shows ISIL commander Abu Muhammad, April 16, 2014, allegedly receiving free treatment in Hatay State Hospital after being injured during fighting in Idlib, Syria.

Should Iraq split into thirds (Kurdistan, a Shia division, and a Sunni division), the Iraqi Muslim Brotherhood would likely take power.

By J. Millard Burr:

A recent photograph taken 16 April 2014, which appeared in Turkey’s Hurriyet Daily, shows an injured ISIL commander Abu Muhammad “allegedly receiving free treatment,” in Turkey’s Hatay State Hospital. It was reported that commander Muhammad was injured during fighting in Idlib, Syria.

Two lawmakers from Turkey’s opposition Republican People¹s Party had the temerity to accuse the government of both “protecting and cooperating with jihadist militants of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and the al-Nusra Front.” The Turkish government was quick to deny the claim.

The appearance of a wounded jihadist commander being treated in a Turkish hospital is a subtle reminder that Turkey is governed by a leading member of the Ikhwan al-Muslimun — the Muslim Brotherhood. It is also a reminder that when one scratches a Muslim Brother, a jihadist bleeds. While it is true that some Brothers, like Ikhwan ideologues Yusuf al-Qaradawi and Hasan al-Turabi, will take up the pen rather than take up arms in the movement to revive the Islamic Caliphate, both Ikhwan intellectual and soldier are equally determined. And so too are the Ikhwan’s politicians, people like Erdogan of Turkey, Ghannouchi of Tunisia and Morsi of Egypt, who are determined to re-create Islam’s Caliphate.

Members of the Ikhwan, from its founder Hasan al-Banna to Turkey’s Erdogan, have all been aware that terrorism can be a useful adjunct in the Islamist revolution. It has been used more frequently in that epoch of Arab history that dates from the Muslim world’s rejection of Arab nationalism. Following the death of Nasser (Arab nationalism’s primary sponsor), in the nineteen-seventies a plethora of jihadist branches sprang from the Ikhwan tree. Uniformly, the organizations rejected the Ikhwan’s evolutionary philosophy that had been forced on it by Nasser and then by Egypt’s powerful military caste.

The Islamist movement came to a boil with the war in Afghanistan. It festered with the American presence in the first war in Iraq, and gained strength with the war in the Balkans. In that war, Muslim Brothers Sudan’s Hassan al-Turabi and Bosnia’s Izetbegovic, together with Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his mentor Islamist politician Necmettin Erbakan (1926-2011) had played a major role. In the early 1990s, Erbakan and Erdogan served as money launderers and arms purchasers in the Islamist-backed insurgency in Bosnia, Kosovo and Albania. Their activity can be seen as a starting point in what would be a continuing Islamist effort to infiltrate the Turkish polity and dominate its future. Egyptian Muslim Brother Yusuf al-Qaradawi, from his exile in Qatar, Tunisia’s Rashid Ghannouchi, from his exile in London, and the members of the Egyptian Ikhwan at home and in exile, also played part in the Balkan war, though less directly.

Erbakan funeral

Erbakan funeral

Erdogan eulogy of Erbakan, his political (and Ikhwan) mentor, showed he remained in the thrall of such predecessors as the internationalist al-Afghani, the Ikhwan al-Muslimun founder Hassan al-Banna, the Brotherhood’s terrorist ideologue Sayid Qutb and the Afghan-Arab and Palestinian Ikhwan Abdalla Azzam. Thus, the appearance of an Islamist mujahideen in a Turkish hospital surprised few Turks who had been following developments in the wake of the so-called Arab Spring.

The genesis of the Arab Spring is found in Tunisia where the previously outlawed Ennahda party — an Ikhwan al-Muslimun institution — came to power following the overthrow of an entrenched secular (and sclerotic) government. Immediately, the jailed jihadists were released. And the former Arab-Afghan mujahideen emerged from hiding. Ironically, the capture of Tunisia’s polity should have been easy were it not for the fact that neither Ghannouchi nor his Ennahda politicians and gunmen showed any leadership.

Read more at American Center for Democracy

 J. Millard Burr is a Senior Fellow at the American Center for Democracy.

Turkish Support for ISIS

by Daniel Pipes
The Washington Times
June 18, 2014

N.B. Washington Times title: “Turkey’s support for ISIS Islamist terrorists. Aiding jihadists could put Ankara at odds with Iran”

The battle in Iraq consists of “Turkish-backed Sunni jihadis rebelling against an Iranian-backed Shi’ite-oriented central government,” I wrote in a recent article.

Some readers question that the Republic of Turkey has supported the “Islamic State in Iraq and Syria,” the main Sunni group fighting in Iraq. They point to ISIS attacks on Turkish interests, within Turkey, along itsborder with Syria, and in Mosul and a successful recent meeting of the Turkish and Iranian presidents. Good points, but they can be explained.

First, ISIS is willing to accept Turkish support even while seeing the Islamist prime minister and his countrymen as kafirs (infidels) who need to be shown true Islam.

Second, the presidential visit took place on one level while the fighting in Syria and Iraq took place on quite another; the two can occur simultaneously. Turkish-Iranian rivalry is on the rise and, as the distinguished Turkish journalist Burak Bekdil notes in the current issue of the Middle East Quarterly:

Recent years have often seen official language from the two countries about prospering bilateral trade and common anti-Israeli ideological solidarity. But mostly out of sight have been indications of rivalry, distrust, and mutual sectarian suspicion between the two Muslim countries.

Ankara may deny helping ISIS, but the evidence for this is overwhelming. “As we have the longest border with Syria,” writes Orhan Kemal Cengiz, a Turkish newspaper columnist, “Turkey’s support was vital for the jihadists in getting in and out of the country.” Indeed, the ISIS strongholds not coincidentally cluster close to Turkey’s frontiers.

Kurds, academic experts and the Syrian opposition agree that Syrians, Turks (estimated to number 3,000), and foreign fighters (especially Saudis but also a fair number of Westerners) have crossed the Turkish-Syrian border at will, often to join ISIS. What Turkish journalist Kadri Gursel calls a “two-way jihadist highway,” has no bothersome border checks and sometimes involves the active assistance of Turkish intelligence services. CNN even broadcast a video on “The secret jihadi smuggling route through Turkey.”

Actually, the Turks offered far more than an easy border crossing: they provided the bulk of ISIS’ funds, logistics, training and arms. Turkish residents near the Syrian border tell of Turkish ambulances going to Kurdish-ISIS battle zones and then evacuating ISIS casualties to Turkish hospitals. Indeed, a sensational photograph has surfaced showing ISIS commander Abu Muhammad in a hospital bed receiving treatment for battle wounds in Hatay State Hospital in April 2014.

 

Abu Muhammad of ISIS in Hatay State Hospital in April 2014, recovering from wounds received fighting in Syria.

One Turkish opposition politician estimates that Turkey has paid $800 million to ISIS for oil shipments. Another politician released information about active duty Turkish soldiers training ISIS members. Critics note that Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has met three times with someone, Yasin al-Qadi, who has close ties to ISIS and has funded it.

 

The flag of Rojava, or Syria Kurdistan.

Why the Turkish support for wild-eyed extremists? Because Ankara wants to eliminate two Syrian polities, the Assad regime in Damascus and Rojava (the emerging Kurdish state) in the northeast.

Regarding the Assad regime: “Thinking that jihadists would ensure a quick fall for the Assad regime in Syria, Turkey, no matter how vehemently officials deny it, supported the jihadists,” writes Cengiz, “at first along with Western and some Arab countries and later in spite of their warnings.”

Regarding Rojava: Rojava’s leadership being aligned with the PKK, the (formerly) terrorist Kurdish group based in Turkey, the authoritative Turkish journalist Amberin Zaman has little doubt “that until recently, Turkey was allowing jihadist fighters to move unhindered across its borders” to fight the Kurds.

More broadly, as the Turkish analyst Mustafa Akyol notes, Ankara thought “anybody who fought al-Assad was a good guy and also harbored an “ideological uneasiness with accepting that Islamists can do terrible things.” This has led, he acknowledges, to “some blindness” toward violent jihadists. Indeed, ISIS is so popular in Turkey that others publicly copy its logo.

 

An Istanbul-based charity (acronym: HİSADER) has adopted the ISIS logo with the Islamic statement of faith.

In the face of this support, the online newspaper Al-Monitor calls on Turkey to close its border to ISIS while Rojava threatened Ankara with “dire consequences” unless Turkish aid ceases.

In conclusion, Turkish leaders are finding Syria a double quagmire, what with Assad still in power and the Kurdish entity growing stronger. In reaction, they have cooperated with even the most extreme, retrograde and vicious elements, such as ISIS. But this support opened a second front in Iraq which, in turn, brings the clash of the Middle East’s two titans, Turkey and Iran, closer to realization.

Mr. Pipes (DanielPipes.org) is president of the Middle East Forum. © 2014 by Daniel Pipes. All rights reserved.

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Also see:

Erdogan’s Theological Justification for His Dictatorial Stance

 

Recep Tayyip Erdogan in 2009. (Image source: World Economic Forum)

Recep Tayyip Erdogan in 2009. (Image source: World Economic Forum)

by Timon Dias:

“Both materially, and in essence, sovereignty unconditionally and always belongs to Allah.” — Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Prime Minister, Turkey.

What is surprising is that so many Western politicians, including EU-minded ones, apparently still ignore what the consequences could be of such an ideology. Do they really assume it could never happen to them?

Once again, Turkey’s Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is – although ineffectively – cracking down on social media, most notably Twitter, which public outrage forced him to reinstate, and the latest municipal elections were again ridden with intimidation and fraud.

On September 12, 1980, the Turkish military cracked down on religious opposition movements that challenged the secular state, and took power over the country. What stood out during these events was that Western nations, with political structures vigorously opposed to military involvement in civil politics, were actually relieved by the military’s action[1]. After all, one year earlier the secular and allied state of Iran had transformed into a theocratic and hostile nation.

Over time, however, a worrying dynamic revealed itself: The Western view of Islamic religious political movements changed, while the core ideology and intentions of these movements did not. This phenomenon coincided with the “New Left” consolidating its “March through the institutions,” referring to its takeover of the academy and journalism.[2]

The West stopped seeing political Islam as an expansionist, possibly antagonistic, ideology, and started actively to aid the consolidation of Islamist power, particularly in Turkey. The EU stated that if Turkey were ever going to join it, the country would have to abolish the influence the Turkish military had over civil politics. It is reasonable that the EU did not want a member state with a military that could undo a democracy at will. But it was unreasonable of the EU to think that the only way a democracy could be undone was by a military, or, in the instance of Turkey, that of the then-secular Turkish military. The EU may also have been naïve to dismiss out of hand the claims of the Turkish military that Islamist doctrine was inherently anti-Western.

True, modern Turkish Islamists, with the current Erdogan government as a prime example, have started out by preaching their theocratic intentions in more discrete and innocent-sounding ways. Erdogan for example said: “All the schools will become [madrassa-like religious] Imam Hatip schools”[3] and “I am the Imam of Istanbul”[4], but it is not as if Erdogan is a master of disguise. The truth was out there for those not taken by wishful thinking. Erdogan, during his time as mayor of Istanbul, 1994-1998, had said that “Democracy is like a streetcar. When you come to your stop, you get off.” What is somewhat less known is that Erdogan stated in 1998: “Our reference [guide] is Islam. Our only goal is an Islamic state. They can never intimidate us. If the skies and the earth open up, if storms blow on us, if the lava of volcanoes flow on us, we will never change our way. My guide is Islam. If I cannot live according to Islam, why live at all? [Turk], Kurd, Arab, Caucasian cannot be differentiated; because these peoples are united under the roof of Islam.”[5]

Read more at Gatestone Institute

Also see:

The Red Line and the Rat Line

Seymour M. Hersh on Obama, Erdoğan and the Syrian rebels:

In 2011 Barack Obama led an allied military intervention in Libya without consulting the US Congress. Last August, after the sarin attack on the Damascus suburb of Ghouta, he was ready to launch an allied air strike, this time to punish the Syrian government for allegedly crossing the ‘red line’ he had set in 2012 on the use of chemical weapons. Then with less than two days to go before the planned strike, he announced that he would seek congressional approval for the intervention. The strike was postponed as Congress prepared for hearings, and subsequently cancelled when Obama accepted Assad’s offer to relinquish his chemical arsenal in a deal brokered by Russia. Why did Obama delay and then relent on Syria when he was not shy about rushing into Libya? The answer lies in a clash between those in the administration who were committed to enforcing the red line, and military leaders who thought that going to war was both unjustified and potentially disastrous.

****

The full extent of US co-operation with Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar in assisting the rebel opposition in Syria has yet to come to light. The Obama administration has never publicly admitted to its role in creating what the CIA calls a ‘rat line’, a back channel highway into Syria. The rat line, authorised in early 2012, was used to funnel weapons and ammunition from Libya via southern Turkey and across the Syrian border to the opposition. Many of those in Syria who ultimately received the weapons were jihadists, some of them affiliated with al-Qaida. (The DNI spokesperson said: ‘The idea that the United States was providing weapons from Libya to anyone is false.’)

In January, the Senate Intelligence Committee released a report on the assault by a local militia in September 2012 on the American consulate and a nearby undercover CIA facility in Benghazi, which resulted in the death of the US ambassador, Christopher Stevens, and three others. The report’s criticism of the State Department for not providing adequate security at the consulate, and of the intelligence community for not alerting the US military to the presence of a CIA outpost in the area, received front-page coverage and revived animosities in Washington, with Republicans accusing Obama and Hillary Clinton of a cover-up. A highly classified annex to the report, not made public, described a secret agreement reached in early 2012 between the Obama and Erdoğan administrations. It pertained to the rat line. By the terms of the agreement, funding came from Turkey, as well as Saudi Arabia and Qatar; the CIA, with the support of MI6, was responsible for getting arms from Gaddafi’s arsenals into Syria. A number of front companies were set up in Libya, some under the cover of Australian entities. Retired American soldiers, who didn’t always know who was really employing them, were hired to manage procurement and shipping. The operation was run by David Petraeus, the CIA director who would soon resign when it became known he was having an affair with his biographer. (A spokesperson for Petraeus denied the operation ever took place.)

The operation had not been disclosed at the time it was set up to the congressional intelligence committees and the congressional leadership, as required by law since the 1970s. The involvement of MI6 enabled the CIA to evade the law by classifying the mission as a liaison operation. The former intelligence official explained that for years there has been a recognised exception in the law that permits the CIA not to report liaison activity to Congress, which would otherwise be owed a finding. (All proposed CIA covert operations must be described in a written document, known as a ‘finding’, submitted to the senior leadership of Congress for approval.) Distribution of the annex was limited to the staff aides who wrote the report and to the eight ranking members of Congress – the Democratic and Republican leaders of the House and Senate, and the Democratic and Republicans leaders on the House and Senate intelligence committees. This hardly constituted a genuine attempt at oversight: the eight leaders are not known to gather together to raise questions or discuss the secret information they receive.

The annex didn’t tell the whole story of what happened in Benghazi before the attack, nor did it explain why the American consulate was attacked. ‘The consulate’s only mission was to provide cover for the moving of arms,’ the former intelligence official, who has read the annex, said. ‘It had no real political role.’

Washington abruptly ended the CIA’s role in the transfer of arms from Libya after the attack on the consulate, but the rat line kept going. ‘The United States was no longer in control of what the Turks were relaying to the jihadists,’ the former intelligence official said. Within weeks, as many as forty portable surface-to-air missile launchers, commonly known as manpads, were in the hands of Syrian rebels. On 28 November 2012, Joby Warrick of the Washington Post reported that the previous day rebels near Aleppo had used what was almost certainly a manpad to shoot down a Syrian transport helicopter. ‘The Obama administration,’ Warrick wrote, ‘has steadfastly opposed arming Syrian opposition forces with such missiles, warning that the weapons could fall into the hands of terrorists and be used to shoot down commercial aircraft.’ Two Middle Eastern intelligence officials fingered Qatar as the source, and a former US intelligence analyst speculated that the manpads could have been obtained from Syrian military outposts overrun by the rebels. There was no indication that the rebels’ possession of manpads was likely the unintended consequence of a covert US programme that was no longer under US control.

By the end of 2012, it was believed throughout the American intelligence community that the rebels were losing the war. ‘Erdoğan was pissed,’ the former intelligence official said, ‘and felt he was left hanging on the vine. It was his money and the cut-off was seen as a betrayal.’ In spring 2013 US intelligence learned that the Turkish government – through elements of the MIT, its national intelligence agency, and the Gendarmerie, a militarised law-enforcement organisation – was working directly with al-Nusra and its allies to develop a chemical warfare capability. ‘The MIT was running the political liaison with the rebels, and the Gendarmerie handled military logistics, on-the-scene advice and training – including training in chemical warfare,’ the former intelligence official said. ‘Stepping up Turkey’s role in spring 2013 was seen as the key to its problems there. Erdoğan knew that if he stopped his support of the jihadists it would be all over. The Saudis could not support the war because of logistics – the distances involved and the difficulty of moving weapons and supplies. Erdoğan’s hope was to instigate an event that would force the US to cross the red line. But Obama didn’t respond in March and April.’

There was no public sign of discord when Erdoğan and Obama met on 16 May 2013 at the White House. At a later press conference Obama said that they had agreed that Assad ‘needs to go’. Asked whether he thought Syria had crossed the red line, Obama acknowledged that there was evidence such weapons had been used, but added, ‘it is important for us to make sure that we’re able to get more specific information about what exactly is happening there.’ The red line was still intact.

An American foreign policy expert who speaks regularly with officials in Washington and Ankara told me about a working dinner Obama held for Erdoğan during his May visit. The meal was dominated by the Turks’ insistence that Syria had crossed the red line and their complaints that Obama was reluctant to do anything about it. Obama was accompanied by John Kerry and Tom Donilon, the national security adviser who would soon leave the job. Erdoğan was joined by Ahmet Davutoğlu, Turkey’s foreign minister, and Hakan Fidan, the head of the MIT. Fidan is known to be fiercely loyal to Erdoğan, and has been seen as a consistent backer of the radical rebel opposition in Syria.

 Sitting around the table (left to right): Ahmet Davutoglu (Turkish FM)–back of head–,Tayyip Erdogan, Hakan Fidan, John Kerry, Barack Obama, (possibly Hilary Clinton), Tom Donilon.

Sitting around the table (left to right): Ahmet Davutoglu (Turkish FM)–back of head–,Tayyip Erdogan, Hakan Fidan, John Kerry, Barack Obama, (possibly Hilary Clinton), Tom Donilon.

The foreign policy expert told me that the account he heard originated with Donilon. (It was later corroborated by a former US official, who learned of it from a senior Turkish diplomat.) According to the expert, Erdoğan had sought the meeting to demonstrate to Obama that the red line had been crossed, and had brought Fidan along to state the case. When Erdoğan tried to draw Fidan into the conversation, and Fidan began speaking, Obama cut him off and said: ‘We know.’ Erdoğan tried to bring Fidan in a second time, and Obama again cut him off and said: ‘We know.’ At that point, an exasperated Erdoğan said, ‘But your red line has been crossed!’ and, the expert told me, ‘Donilon said Erdoğan “fucking waved his finger at the president inside the White House”.’ Obama then pointed at Fidan and said: ‘We know what you’re doing with the radicals in Syria.’ (Donilon, who joined the Council on Foreign Relations last July, didn’t respond to questions about this story. The Turkish Foreign Ministry didn’t respond to questions about the dinner. A spokesperson for the National Security Council confirmed that the dinner took place and provided a photograph showing Obama, Kerry, Donilon, Erdoğan, Fidan and Davutoğlu sitting at a table. ‘Beyond that,’ she said, ‘I’m not going to read out the details of their discussions.’)

Read more at London Review of Books

Walid Shoebat has some interesting observations on this here: CIA Was Involved In Benghazi Attack