World View: Russia and Turkey Head for Clash on Syria Border

AFP/Getty Images

AFP/Getty Images

Breitbart, by JOHN J. XENAKIS, Feb. 10, 2016:

This morning’s key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

  • Mass exodus from Aleppo, Syria continues amid reports Russians are using cluster bombs
  • United Nations demands that Turkey admit tens of thousands of Syrian refugees
  • Turkey border ‘buffer zone’ could result in clash with Syrian army

Mass exodus from Aleppo continues amid reports Russians are using cluster bombs

Refugee camp in northern Syria on border with Turkey on Monday (AP)

Refugee camp in northern Syria on border with Turkey on Monday (AP)

Russian warplanes continue to pound civilians, causing tens of thousands more to flee the city.

A report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) says that Russian warplanes used cluster bombs in at least 14 attacks across five provinces since January 26. Cluster bombs open in flight and scatter dozens of explosive munitions over wide areas. They are particularly effective in killing large numbers of civilians over a wide area.

The United Nations has warned that hundreds of thousands of civilians could starve if, as feared, forces loyal to the Syrian government encircle Aleppo and submit it to a siege, backed by Russian warplanes. It said that a huge new wave of refugees would be forced to flee from a Russian-backed assault. Independent (London) and Fox News and AP

United Nations demands that Turkey admit tens of thousands of Syrian refugees

Thousands more Syrians continue to flee Syrian army forces and Russian warplanes pounding Aleppo, and are joining the tens of thousands already massed on the border with Turkey.

The Red Crescent (the Islamic branch of the International Red Cross) has been overseeing refugee camps in Turkey, as well as aid to hundreds of thousands of refugees in Turkey, and is now providing eight tent camps and humanitarian aid for refugees in Syria massed on the border with Turkey. They have provided 2,000 tents, as well as blankets, food, water, and hygiene kits.

However, aid groups say that tents on the Syrian side of the border are overcrowded and that food is in short supply. The United Nations is demanding that Turkey open its border to “all civilians who are fleeing danger and seeking international protection as they have done since the start of this crisis.”

There are two major reasons why Turkey is reluctant to open its border to tens of thousands more refugees:

  • Once it is known that the border was open, tens of thousands more refugees would leave Aleppo for Turkey, making the problem even worse.
  • Turkey is already hosting 3 million refugees, 2.5 million of whom are Syrian. Turkey has said that it is “at capacity,” and cannot handle any more refugees.

Some Turkish columns are calling European Union calls to open the border “a joke”:

It’s almost like a bad joke. At the very moment when EU member states are doing their utmost to close their borders to Syrian refugees, the EU’s Foreign Policy Chief Frederica Mogherini is calling on Ankara to admit the tens of thousands of refugees piled up on Turkey’s borders near the town of Kilis, following the recent advances near Aleppo by al-Assad regime forces supported by Russia and Iran.

Mogherini is saying that there is a moral if not legal duty to provide protection to these people. According to her, the EU is also providing funds to ensure that Turkey has “the means, the instruments, and the resources to protect and host the people who are seeking asylum.”

This appears to be no more than a flimsy attempt to retain a moral high ground against Turkey at a time when Europe is reacting deplorably to the refugee crisis and therefore has much to answer for. What Mogherini says also completely disregards what Turkey has been doing for the past four years.

Turkish columnists also note that the EU has promised financial aid for refugees in Turkey, but that the financial aid has not materialized. Daily Sabah (Turkey) and Hurriyet (Ankara) and Washington Post

Turkey border ‘buffer zone’ could result in clash with Syrian army

There is another, more strategic reason why Turkey is setting up refugee camps on the Syrian side of the border near Aleppo.

For four years, Turkey has advocated setting up a “buffer zone” on the Syrian side of the border, starting at a time when hundreds of new refugees were entering Turkey each day rather than many thousands. Turkey received no international support for the idea, because of the concern that it would bring Turkey’s army into conflict with Syria’s army. (“17-Mar-12 World View — Turkey once again talks about a ‘buffer zone’ in Syria”)

Now, with tens of thousands of Syrian refugees massed on Turkey’s border, Turkey has managed to set up a de facto buffer zone. Turkey considers this even more urgently needed today not only because of the larger mass of refugees, but also because Turkey wants to prevent the hated Kurds from creating a de facto Kurdish state along the entire border, from western Syria all the way west into Iraq.

However, the concerns today about a clash with Syria’s army are just as real. Syrian officials are making it clear that they intend to “control the borders” with Turkey.

In an interview, Bouthaina Shaaban, advisor to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, said:

[There would be no letup in an army advance, which aimed] to liberate cities and villages that were controlled by the terrorists for 3-1/2 years, and also an attempt to liberate the city of Aleppo from the crimes of terrorism.

[We intend] to control our borders with Turkey, because Turkey is the main source of terrorists, and the main crossing for them. […]

We hope that the operation will continue in the north until we control the borders and stop the terrorists who Turkey has since the start of the crisis worked to send to Syria.

This is not something that Turkey would want to see, as it would certainly mean Kurdish control of the entire length of the border between Syria and Turkey.

Perhaps Turkey will back down and let the masses of refugees into Turkey, and allow the Syrian army to take control of the border region. Or, perhaps Syria will back down, and allow Turkey to keep its de facto buffer zone in Syria along the border.

Syrian army forces are already just 25 km from Turkey’s border. If neither side backs down, then there will be a clash in the next few weeks.

As long time readers know, Generational Dynamics has predicted for years that the entire Mideast is headed for a major war between Jews and Arabs, between Sunni and Shia Muslims, and among various ethnic groups. Things have been moving very quickly for the last few months, and each new week seems to have some event that brings that prediction closer to fruition. Reuters

Also see:

Middle East Strategic Outlook, February

Gatestone Institute, by Shmuel Bar, February 7, 2016

  • The EU-Turkey agreement of 25 November, which provided Turkey with 3 billion euros over two years in order to stop the flow of refugees to Europe, has not achieved that goal. Speaking privately, EU officials complain that Turkey has not taken any concrete measures to reduce the flow of refugees. In our assessment, Turkey will continue to prevaricate on steps to stem the flow of refugees as pressure on the EU to give more concessions.
  • During the coming year there will certainly be further terrorist attacks that will push European public opinion further to the right.
  • We assess that Iran will continue in indirect channels with a parallel nuclear program, realized long before the 10-year target of the JCPOA.
  • The demand for unification of Kurdistan — Iraqi and Syrian — will also begin to be heard. It is highly likely that Russia will take advantage of the trend and support the Kurds, effectively turning an American ally into a Russian one.

The announcement by the IAEA that Iran has fulfilled its obligations according to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) has triggered “Implementation Day” and the removal of the nuclear-related sanctions on Iran. The JCPOA, however, did not deal with Iran’s ballistic missile program, and the sanctions related to it are still nominally in force. These sanctions are minor and will not have any real effect on the Iranian missile program. The missile program will mature during this period and will include Ghadr missiles with ranges of 1,650-1,950 km, which may be capable of carrying nuclear warheads.

The question now is: whither the Iranian nuclear program? After the lifting of sanctions, and taking into account the impracticality of “snap-back” of sanctions, we assess that Iran will now initiate a parallel nuclear program. This will, of course, be far slower than the program that was dismantled by the JCPOA, but it will be realized long before the 10-year target of the JCPOA. One possibility for Iran to continue its nuclear program is through North Korea. The wording of the JCPOA is ambiguous on nuclear Iranian nuclear cooperation with other countries that are not a party to the agreement. North Korea could produce the whole chain of nuclear weapons and put it at Iran’s disposal in return for Iranian funding. North Korea would certainly profit economically from such collaboration and would not risk further sanctions. Such cooperation would be difficult to detect, and even if detected, may not reach the threshold of a material breach of the JCPOA.

The most immediate reward that Iran will receive is the release of frozen Iranian funds ($100-$150 billion). In addition, Iran may now market oil stored offshore in tankers (about 50 billion barrels) and is preparing to increase its production by 500 thousand bpd (from 2.8 million bpd). It is doubtful that Iran can truly increase its production as planned. Even if it does, the addition of Iranian oil is likely to drive prices down even further, counter-balancing much of the potential profit. Sanctions relief also is not a quick fix for the Iranian economy. While it removes legal impediments for investment and business in Iran, the risks that Western companies will face due to residual non-nuclear sanctions (that may be enhanced and enforced by a future American administration), lack of government protection, corruption, and the weakness of the Iranian market cannot be removed by decree. Therefore, European banks and investors may not hurry to invest in Iran at the levels needed to jump-start the Iranian economy after years of sanctions.

The Iranian regime’s goal is not only to block the path to the reformists or reformist-minded, but also to the extremists on the right to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. Such a balance could help the Iranian system maintain its “centrist” orientation and guarantee the continuity in the event of Khamenei’s death and the appointment of a new successor (or a triumvirate of several potential leaders). It will also facilitate the eventual takeover of the regime by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) after the demise of Khamenei. The backing that the Guardian Council received from the Supreme Leader for the results of its vetting process, in the face of Rouhani’s condemnation of the disapproval of almost all reformists, is also indicative of the balance of power in the regime.

The Iranian seizure of two US Navy patrol boats on January 12 and the publication of drone pictures of a US Navy aircraft carrier underlined the sense of immunity that Iran has achieved. These actions should be seen in the context of Iran’s attempt to change the rules of the game in the Persian Gulf, while testing the waters of American tolerance and sending to Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States an indirect message that Iran is ready and willing to risk conflict with the US and that the US is a paper tiger that cannot be relied upon in a confrontation between the Gulf States and Iran. In our assessment, Iran will continue with shows of force such as seizing of naval vessels of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States, stop and search operations of commercial vessels en route to the Gulf States, naval exercises — including missile tests close to Gulf sea-lanes and to the territorial waters of the Gulf States — in international waterways that implicitly interrupt and threaten shipping in the Gulf, “spooking” of Gulf aircraft and even false flag operations of mining, piracy or attacks by proxies in the Gulf and the Red Sea along the Yemeni coast. We may expect as a result possible frontier skirmishes on the shared littoral borders of Iran and Saudi Arabia, gas fields and disputed islands and in the international waters of the Gulf.

The Iranian seizure of two US Navy patrol boats on January 12 underlined the sense of immunity that Iran has achieved.

Saudi Arabia is drawing up its own map of interests and areas of influence that it is projecting as “no-go zones” for Iran — a Saudi “Monroe Doctrine” for the region. The most critical of these are: Yemen (due to the potential for threatening the Bab al-Mandeb Straits), subversion in the Gulf States (primarily Bahrain), the Strait of Hormuz and the international waters of the Gulf. To this list one must add the obvious: any Iranian-inspired or -planned attack on the Saudi homeland itself — government facilities, oil installations etc. — would be perceived as crossing a red line. While neither Saudi Arabia nor Iran is interested in direct conflict, and both would prefer to continue to work through proxies and in areas outside their respective sovereign territories, the dynamic nature of the situation can easily lend itself to misreading of such red lines and such miscalculation may lead to direct confrontation between them. While all-out direct war between Iran and Saudi Arabia remains a low probability, this assessment should be revisited again in the near future.

In Syria, American positions have undergone a strategic shift that reflects the new balance of power created by the Russian intervention. On the military side, the Russian presence imposes a heavy constraint on the American activities, and U.S. officials caution that the success of the Ramadi operation will not be followed by a concerted effort to roll back the “Islamic State” in the Syrian theater. In regards to a political solution, the US has accepted the Russian-Iranian four-point-plan that envisages Bashar al-Assad remaining in office during a transition period and being allowed to run for President in “internationally supervised elections”. In our assessment, the Syrian opposition and their Arab supporters cannot accept any blueprint that would leave any doubt regarding Bashar al-Assad relinquishing power before any process begins. These developments will only feed the sense of the Sunni Arabs that the United States has turned its back on them and is supporting Iranian-Russian hegemony in the region. On this background, the prospects that the Syrian “peace talks” in Geneva will achieve any progress towards resolution or even mitigation of the civil war are close to nil.

Last month’s visit by Chinese President Xi Jin Ping to Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Iran was the first such visit of a Chinese President in the region since 2002, and the first foreign head of state to visit Iran since the announcement of “Implementation Day” of the JCPOA. The Chinese emphasis in all the visits was on economic cooperation, development and stability, but above all — in an implicit stab at the US and Russia — emphasizing that China does not seek proxies, to fill a power vacuum or hegemony in the region. The leitmotif of the visit was the integration of the Middle Eastern partners (i.e. the Arabs in general and Iran) into China’s “Belt and Road Initiative.” In spite of the inclusion of Iran in the visit, President Xi took care not to offend the Arabs. The agreements with Saudi Arabia included nuclear cooperation in a scope far greater than that which was offered to Iran, and the joint statement reflected the Saudi position on Yemen, stating, “both sides stressed support for the legitimate regime of Yemen.”

The “Arab Policy Paper” published on the eve of the visit stresses China’s commitment to “non-intervention and opposition to interference in the affairs of other countries”. This is seen by the Arab policy communities as a sign of implicit Chinese support for their position vis-à-vis Iran’s activities in the region, though they would have welcomed more explicit statements of support. There is no expectation in the region that China is going to play the “Big Power” card in the region. Taking sides in this conflict would be out of character for China. Saudi Arabia and the other Arab states will attempt to convince China to refrain from demonstrations of rapprochement with Iran and to support the Arab positions vis-à-vis Iranian provocations in the Gulf, Syria and Yemen. While China may show a slight implicit leaning towards the Arab position on these issues, it is not likely to take a clear anti-Iranian/pro-Arab position in the near future.

The European Union-Turkey agreement of 25 November, which provided Turkey with 3 billion euros over two years in order to stop the flow of refugees to Europe, has not achieved that goal. Speaking privately, EU officials complain that Turkey has not taken any concrete measures to reduce the flow of refugees. In our assessment, Turkey will continue to prevaricate on steps to stem the flow of refugees as pressure on the EU to give more concessions. Turkey has already signaled that the sum will not suffice for the task of maintaining the refugees inside Turkey alone, and certainly not for other security measures such as blocking the border with Turkey to prevent passage to and fro of “Islamic State” foreign fighters.

Aside from the 3 billion euros, the EU commitments will also not be easily implemented; visa waivers for Turkish citizens in general will encounter massive opposition within the EU. The road to Turkish accession to the EU must also go through complex negotiations on various aspects of compatibility of Turkey to the standards of the EU. All these discussions will encounter a veto by Cyprus, pending a peace deal with Turkish-occupied Northern Cyprus. This veto may be resolved if a referendum on unification of Cyprus takes place and supports re-unification later this year. However, the real obstacle towards Turkish accession is not technical or due to the Cyprus question; it revolves around the shift in European public opinion towards absorption of immigrants from Muslim countries. During the coming year, there will certainly be further terrorist attacks that will push European public opinion further to the right. Under these circumstances, Turkish accession or even visa waiver will be very unlikely.

In our assessment, the trend towards Kurdish independence will eventually lead to an independent Iraqi Kurdistan. The events in Syrian Kurdistan will also affect the pace and direction of the independence movement in Iraq’s Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). Unification of the parts of Syrian Kurdistan in the face of Turkish opposition and under Russian protection will give impetus to the demand to create a political fait accompli of independence in Iraqi Kurdistan. As the principle of Kurdish independence in Iraq gains more and more support and becomes a reality, the irredentist demand for unification of Kurdistan — Iraqi and Syrian — will also begin to be heard. This is the fulfillment of the Kurdish nightmare that Turkey has always feared. With the deterioration of relations between the AKP government and the Turkish Kurds inside Turkey, such a political reality of independent Kurdistan will add fire to the flames of the Kurdish rebellion in southern Turkey. It is highly likely that Russia will take advantage of the trend and support the Kurds, effectively turning an American ally into a Russian one. If this happens, the US will have lost an important potential ally in the new map of the Middle East.

The large number of players on the ground that may take a part in the campaign for Mosul will only complicate the campaign further and — if the city or part of it is retaken, will increase the chances of internal fighting between the components of the ad-hoc alliance of Iraqi government forces, Shiite militias, Sunni militias, Kurdish Peshmarga, Turks and American forces.

On this background, the Syrian “Peace Talks” in Geneva started (29 January) as “proximity talks” in which the UN representatives shuttle between the rooms of the opposing parties. The Saudi supported High Negotiations Committee (HNC) of the Syrian opposition ceded their original conditions — cessation of the attacks on civilians — though they refuse to meet with the regime representatives while the latter refuse to meet with “terrorists”. The Syrian regime representation is low-level as an indication that there is no intention to hold real negotiations. Furthermore, the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), whose military wing, the YPG, is the most effective fighting force on the ground against the “Islamic State,” were not included in the opposition delegation because of the Turkish threat to boycott the Geneva negotiations if it participates. Under these conditions, the prospects that the talks will achieve any progress towards resolution or even mitigation of the civil war are close to nil.

Dr. Shmuel Bar is a senior research fellow at the Samuel Neaman Institute for National Policy Studies at the Technion in Haifa, Israel, and a veteran of Israel’s intelligence community.

Aleppo siege marks dramatic upheaval on Syrian battlefield

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CNN, by Tim Lister, Feb. 7, 2016:

The images from Aleppo, Idlib and Syria’s border with Turkey can be described in one word: despair.

Tens of thousands of people have fled the relentless bombing and shelling that has paved the way for dramatic battlefield gains by the regime of President Bashar al-Assad and its allies. Hundreds of thousands more remain trapped, awaiting their fate with trepidation.

In the space of a few weeks, the Syrian battlefield has been transformed, the balance of forces pulverized and the prospects for peace talks — already dark — virtually extinguished. Another tide of displaced civilians converge on the Turkish border, trapped by the advance of regime forces.

Last week, the regime of Bashar al-Assad, supported by Iranian and Lebanese Shia militia, severed the main road from Aleppo to the Turkish border, a narrow corridor through which the rebels and NGOs alike moved supplies. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reports that several villages in the area were hit by airstrikes on Sunday.

A defining battle for Aleppo, Syria’s largest city before the war, seems imminent. Regime forces and their allies on the ground, supported by Russian bombers in the air, are tightening the noose around the eastern half of the city, still held by a coalition of rebel groups. It’s estimated some 320,000 people still live, or subsist, there — under continual bombardment.

Shortages of diesel and food are reported, but many people simply don’t dare or can’t afford to leave. One civil defense worker told the Guardian newspaper: “They think, ‘We can die in our own homes, we don’t need to go to other places to die.’ “

Russian revolution

Beyond the humanitarian catastrophe that looms, the plight of Aleppo symbolizes the rapid transformation of the Syrian battlefield since the regime, Iran and Russia came together. For much of 2015, Assad’s forces were on the defensive, as rebel groups consolidated and took major towns in Idlib, the Aleppo countryside and began to attack regime strongholds in Latakia.

It was the very real possibility of regime collapse that prompted Russian intervention in September. Russian airstrikes and Iranian militia have since bolstered regime troops and reversed the tide. Aleppo is their most prized target.

“Should the rebel-held parts of the city ultimately fall, it will be a dramatic victory for Assad and the greatest setback to the rebellion since the start of the uprising in 2011,” says Emile Hokayem in Foreign Policy.

The Institute for the Study of War says a successful regime offensive around Aleppo would “shatter opposition morale, fundamentally challenge Turkish strategic ambitions and deny the opposition its most valuable bargaining chip before the international community.”

Rebel groups have made desperate appeals for help in defending the city.

The notoriously fractious resistance groups are declaring alliances to bolster their collective resistance. One of the most important groups, Ahrar al Sham, announced at the weekend: “We extend our hands to all factions of the Syrian revolution … and we announce our acceptance for unity with them without any prerequisites.”

But even briefly united, they can’t shoot down planes, and they don’t have T-90 tanks.

Since Russia began its air campaign, most of its strikes have been on cities and towns held by the rebels in western Syria. The aim: to link regime-held territory from the capital to the coast. These are not areas where ISIS has much of a presence; al Nusra, Ahrar al Sham and elements of the Free Syrian Army are the main groups.

Resistance has been fierce, but the sheer scale of the assault has gradually pried one town after another — or rather their ruins — from rebel hands.

In the process, senior rebel commanders have been killed in Homs, Idlib and Aleppo provinces.

Some commentators believe that the Assad regime and Russia set out to hoodwink the West by agreeing to the Geneva peace process while stepping up their military campaign, to create “facts on the ground” that would vastly change the balance in the negotiations.

“Their ultimate objective is to force the world to make an unconscionable choice between Assad and ISIS,” says Hokayem. For now, ISIS is waiting out the battle for Aleppo and watching its rivals get pummeled. It is crowing that it is the only real defender of Sunni Muslims against the Shia-dominated forces now on the offensive.

The Syrian Kurds, whose attitude toward the Assad regime might be described as ambivalent, also appear to be taking advantage of the situation, chipping away at rebel-held villages north of Aleppo. According to diplomats in the region, they are being encouraged by Russia — keen to antagonize Turkey at any opportunity.

For Aleppo, read Grozny

Some analysts compare Russian President Vladimir Putin’s strategy in Syria with the Russian campaign in Chechnya in 1999, which he directed as Prime Minister. All opposition figures were marked as terrorists, and Russian forces destroyed cities such as Grozny in which insurgents lived, as well as the insurgents themselves. By some estimates, 80% of Grozny was rendered uninhabitable. Human Rights Watch published a report on the Chechen campaign in 2000 entitled “Welcome to Hell” and accusing Russian forces of egregious human rights violations.

Putin pursued an exclusively military solution against the Chechen insurgency, and ultimately it worked. It took six years and an unknown number of Russian military casualties, but today acts of resistance in Chechnya are few and far between, and the republic is run by a Putin loyalist.

The same approach is apparent in Syria. After his meeting with Putin at the United Nations in September, U.S. President Barack Obama said of the Russians’ view of the rebels: “From their perspective, they’re all terrorists.”

But Chechnya is not the only precedent.

Jihadists, some of them from the Caucasus, have threatened to turn Syria into another Afghanistan for the Russians. While they may be driven from territory they hold, they are unlikely to be driven from Syria and could revert to insurgency tactics such as ambushes, assassinations and suicide bombings.

To some analysts, the regime advance will only radicalize what remains of rebel forces in Syria. Hokayem speaks of a “widespread and understandable feeling of betrayal in the rebellion, whose U.S.-friendly elements are increasingly losing face within opposition circles.”

Last month, Osama Abu Zeid, a senior adviser to the moderate Free Syrian Army, complained that “the U.S. is gradually moving from a neutral position toward being a partner in crime as it allows Assad and his allies to kill Syrians.”

Several rebel groups, as well as Turkish officials, blame Washington for the failure to establish a “safe-haven” inside Syria last year. Some in Washington take the same view.

In an Op-Ed for The Washington Post, two former senior officials, Nicholas Burns and James Jeffries, urge the Obama administration to “dramatically expand funding for the moderate Sunni and Kurdish forces that pose an alternative to Assad’s government and the Islamic State” and “reconsider what it has rejected in the past: the creation of a safe zone in northern Syria to protect civilians, along with a no-fly zone to enforce it.”

But they acknowledge that “defending the zone, preventing it from being overwhelmed by refugees, grounding it in a convincing legal justification and keeping out jihadist groups would be daunting tasks.”

Europe’s next nightmare

The United Nations estimated Friday that 40,000 people have already been displaced by the fighting in Aleppo. But the current exodus is by no means the first since the Russian air campaign began. In just three weeks in October, the United Nations reported the displacement of 120,000 people from Aleppo, Hama and Idlib. Nor will it be the last.

Turkey — which already has 2.5 million Syrian refugees on its soil — says it is close to capacity. The European Union is pouring cash ($3.3 billion) into a vastly expanded program to house refugees in Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon, trying to forestall another surge of refugees across the Mediterranean. But it may not be enough.

Some EU officials see Europe’s expensive and divisive refugee crisis as an intended consequence of Russian policy.

“Putin likes to cast himself as a man of order, but his policies have brought more chaos, and Europe is set to pay an increasing price,” says Guardian columnist Natalie Nougayrède.

A ‘painful year’

The main supporters of the rebels in northwest Syria — Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar — are now short of options. They could send weapons across the border into Idlib, but the province is largely controlled by al Nusra.

They seem unlikely to walk away from a struggle in which they have invested so heavily and watch their Shia enemies — Hezbollah, the Alawite-led regime, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard — claim victory.

Fabrice Balanche at the Washington Institute speculates they may try to “set up a new rebel umbrella group similar to Jaish al-Fatah, and/or send anti-aircraft missiles to certain brigades…(or) open a new front in northern Lebanon.”

“The question is, do Riyadh and Ankara have the means and willingness to conduct such a bold, dangerous action?” Balanche asks.

It is hard to find anyone who believes the situation in Syria will get better before it gets much worse.

“The conditions are in place,” says Hokayem, “for a disastrous collapse of the Geneva talks — now delayed until late February — and a painful, bloody year in Syria.”

Also see:

Islamist running 140 tax-funded charter schools in U.S.

Muhammad Fethullah Gulen heads a global empire of schools and Islamic cultural centers and is one of Turkey’s most influential spiritual leaders. He lives in exile in the United States and has 140 charters schools in 26 states.

Muhammad Fethullah Gulen heads a global empire of schools and Islamic cultural centers and is one of Turkey’s most influential spiritual leaders. He lives in exile in the United States and has 140 charters schools in 26 states.

WND, by Leo Hohmann, Jan. 17, 2016:

Muhammad Fethullah Gülen is a Turkish Islamist, writer and preacher with a secret plan for bringing Shariah law to America.

Arguably Turkey’s most influential spiritual leader of the past 50 years, Gülen left that country in the late 1990s and now directs his cult-like Islamic movement from a guarded compound in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania.

Part of his empire consists of a thriving network of more than 140 charter schools in 26 states that sell themselves to parents as a secular and more academically rigorous alternative to public schools.

As the second largest chain of charter schools in the United States, Gülen schools rake in tens of millions of U.S. taxpayer dollars every year.

But the schools — which have innocent-sounding names like the Horizon Science Academies in Illinois, Harmony Schools of Excellence in Texas, Dove Science Academies in Oklahoma and Magnolia Science Academies in California — have long been the subject of investigations into alleged corruption scandals involving influence peddling and visa abuse.

USA Today reported recently that the Gülen faith movement secretly funded 200 overseas trips for congressional lawmakers and staff since 2008.

“Turkish leaders have asked the United States to extradite Gülen from the remote compound in rural Pennsylvania where he has lived for 20 years.

The movement has founded hundreds of charter schools across the United States and around the world, has its own media organizations, and was deeply entrenched with the Turkish regime until a falling out two years ago. That led President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to declare Gülen was running ‘a parallel state’ inside the country with the intent of undermining the government.”

Critics argue that the schools also covertly engage in Islamic missionary outreach, usually after-hours or during school extra-curricular activities.

Anti-Shariah activist Pam Geller says Gülen has been dubbed “the Turkish Khomeini” for a reason.

“It has been widely reported for years that he wants ultimately to restore the Islamic caliphate in Turkey. That alone should make his charter schools in the U.S. a subject of law enforcement scrutiny, but it largely hasn’t,” Geller told WND. “There have been allegations that funds from these schools have gone to a Turkish Islamization movement, Hizmet. The U.S. government shouldn’t be funding Gülen’s schools; it should be investigating them and shutting them down.”

See list of 140 Gülen charter schools in 26 states.

See sampling of state and federal grants to Gülen schools.

Most of the parents of students who attend Gülen charter schools have no idea about Gülen’s background as a Turkish Islamist and believer in civilizational jihad — which is a form of nonviolent jihad focused on infiltrating and overcoming Western nations over time through immigration and exploitation of the civil liberties available in those nations.

But a new book on Gülen and his U.S. schools hopes to blow the lid on his cloak of secrecy.

GulenClare Lopez, co-author with Christopher Holton of “Gülen and the Gulenist Movement: Turkey’s Islamic Supremacist Cult and its Contributions to Civilizational Jihad,” says the movement is extremely secretive but there’s no small amount of information for those willing to dig. She and Holton decided to peel back the layers.

“There have been many articles and of course the movement itself puts out a great deal of material and Fethullah Gülen himself is a prolific author of articles and books,” Lopez told WND.

Lopez, who is vice president of research and analysis for the Center for Security Policy, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank operated by former Defense Department analyst Frank Gaffney, said Gulen is “fundamentally jihadist in outlook,” while promoting orthodox Islamic tenets within a worldwide movement.

Gulen is also heavily involved in the global interfaith movement, which seeks to build bridges between the major faiths of Christianity, Islam and Judaism.

“While not very well known by many Americans he is nevertheless quite influential and works through the schools, cultural organizations and the media to promote not only the orthodox teachings of Islam, but also a positive outlook towards Turkey,” Lopez said. “We’re concerned about its influence on our children, civic leaders and elected officials.”

Listen to Clare Lopez talk about the subject of her new book, the shadowy Gülen movement.

Traditionally the centers of Islam have been based in Saudi Arabia for Sunnis and Iran for Shiites.

But Turkey has always been the wild card. Students of history will recall that it served as the head of the Ottoman Empire for more than 500 years, but crashed and burned in the aftermath of World War I and was steered into a more Western mindset by Ataturk.

Under Erdogan’s AKP party, however, that has all changed, as documented in the film “End Times Eyewitness” by Christian author and filmmaker Joel Richardson.

Erdogan has overturned the secularized Western influence that had banned the hijab and the fez in public places and eliminated the many Shariah-compliant restrictions placed on society.

Asylum in American

Gülen’s cultural empire, including his schools and media companies, had a lot to do with the return of Islamist values in Turkey. But Gülen lost out on the political power struggle and in 1998 fled to the U.S., where he was offered asylum.

In the U.S., Gülen schools are not outwardly Islamic. Any influence in that regard is subtle, Lopez said.

map-of-gulen-organizations-in-US

But he has become expert at buying influence from politicians in Washington and in state Capitols.

“There have been many allegations of abuse of the visa system, kickbacks in salaries, and attempted influencing of school administrators, parents and teachers, journalists, priests and rabbis, everyone,” Lopez said.

Sign the petition! Urge Congress to ‘halt Muslim immigration now!’

In 2013 Gülen and Erdogan had a final falling out.

“These are two powerful men each intent on seizing power for themselves, not that they disagree in any way over the direction to take Turkey, which is away from the West and toward the neo-Ottoman Islamic caliphate,” Lopez says.

The U.S. gave Gülen legal permanent resident status in 2008, and he is now eligible for citizenship.

Soaking the U.S. taxpayer

The amount of public taxpayer money Gulen’s charter schools receive every year runs into the tens of millions. A charter school is essentially operated like a private school only it receives taxpayer funding and does not answer to any widely elected school board.

“There’s all kinds of charter schools in the U.S. that receive taxpayer funding and that is how the Gulen movement has developed its network of schools in the U.S., making them attractive by making them STEM schools, which parents love,” Lopez said.

And when Congress passed the re-authorization of No Child Left Behind late last year, it included increased funding for taxpayer-funded charter schools run by unelected boards.

“Gulen Charter Schools exemplify the unconstitutionality of tax-funded school choice,” writes Charlotte Iserbyt, a former education adviser to President Ronald Reagan, in her blog, “The ABCs of Dumb Down.”

“There is no citizen accountability or oversight,” Iserbyt says. “No wonder there is corruption. Those who think that charters are the solution for Common Core, forget it.”

And for all of the taxpayer money flooding into the Gülen schools, most of the teaching positions go to foreigners who come to the U.S. on H-1B guest-worker visas from Turkey. This is the visa program that GOP presidential hopeful Sen. Marco Rubio wants to expand through his I-Squared bill, tripling the cap on such visas from about 66,000 per year to 195,000 per year.

“To the best of my knowledge in all the research I’ve done, I don’t see that the Gülen schools are being accused of teaching Islamic ideology in the schools, that’s not the issue, rather it’s the abuse of H-1B visa system to bring in Turkish teachers instead of hiring Americans,” Lopez said. “There is alleged abuse of the teachers who are required to kick back a percentage of their salaries, and they do teach a cultural emphasis on Turkey and Islam.”

Charges of influence peddling

The schools also are known for offering lavish, all-expenses paid trips to Turkey for friendly politicians at the state, local and federal level.

The USA Today investigation accuses the Gülen movement of falsifying its funding of trips for U.S. congressional members.

Lopez said teachers and parents have complained that the schools’ main purpose is to promote a love not only for Turkish culture but Islam.

“You’ll see in the book former teachers or people who’ve broken away from the movement who say there is an attempt to inculcate a positive view of Turkey and Islamic culture,” she said.

An Islamist with a hidden agenda

Joel Richardson is a Bible teacher, author and documentary filmmaker.

Joel Richardson is a Bible teacher, author and documentary filmmaker.

Richardson, the Christian author and filmmaker, said Gülen is without a doubt an Islamist with an hidden agenda. His strategy mirrors that of the Muslim Brotherhood, which advocates non-violent civilizational jihad as the means to infiltrate and influence Western societies.

“In the past, he has made very overt comments about the need to infiltrate the arteries of the system and so forth,” Richardson told WND. “On the other hand, he is definitely non-violent and has furthered the idea, popular within some of the Turkish-Islamist movement of non-violent Islamism.”

Erdogan struck harshly against the Gülen movement in Turkey, rooting numerous Gülen supporters out of the government and throwing them in prison. Erdogan has called for the U.S. to extradite Gülen for allegedly subverting the Turkish government.

“In terms of the danger that Gülen represents to the United States, I would say that five years ago, Gülen and his charter schools were a bigger concern,” Richardson said. “They still need to be defunded by the U.S. government. Today, however, compared to the much larger dangers we are facing, including the very real Islamists that Obama has allowed into the U.S. government, or the very real, very violent Islamists that have infiltrated the country, Gülen, with his ideological jihad, is a relatively small fish, in an ever-expanding pond of violent Islamists.”

Lopez said the Gülen movement helped drag Turkey back to its Islamic roots and so his influence should not be under-estimated in the U.S., and certainly should not be given taxpayer funding.

“Look what’s happened to Turkey, the Islamists were voted in, and Erdogan is on a neo-Ottoman path to take Turkey back to its roots as a jihadist state, so I think there is ever good reason to be concerned about his activities (in the U.S.),” Lopez said.

Security Analyst Warns: Islamic State Has Global Ambitions For 2016

SAFIN HAMED/AFP/Getty Images

SAFIN HAMED/AFP/Getty Images

Breitbart, by Simon Kent, Dec. 31, 2015:

Islamic State terrorists plan to take their struggle across the world in 2016 and push their fighters into a final showdown with liberal western democracies.

To that end hundreds of sleeper cells in “dozens of countries” will mobilise in an unprecedented bid to spark a huge military retaliation in the Middle East, according to one of the world’s leading authorities on the death cult.

The claim comes as fears grow of a New Year’s Eve terror plot in London and other major European cities including Paris and Brussels cancel or curtail their traditional celebrations to say farewell to the year.

ttttThe next 12 months will see a huge increase in both the number and scale of major terror attacks, Dr Theodore Karasik, a Gulf-based analyst of regional geo-political affairs who has extensively studied Islamic State’s behaviour, has revealed. He warned:

“ISIS’s media operation is taunting its enemy to come to fight their Final Battle.

“But first, it wants to show its global reach with zeal…from cells, to lone wolves, to bedroom jihadists – to target landmarks and crowds in dozens of countries across the world.”

Dr Karasik added that by his estimate there are close to 40 ISIS affiliates globally with millions of adherents and believers around the world. The New Year may ring in with disturbing terror attacks. He added:

“ISIS is an airborne disease and still remains robust as the movement enters into a new combative and aggressive phase.

“Many of us see the change of year as ‘turning over a new leaf’ and ISIS may do the same.

“The level of ISIS’s destructiveness, to force confrontations across the world, indicates that 2016 is likely to be more chaotic than 2015.

“The threat is real, and the requirement for international, regional, and local cooperation is truly necessary and will be tested again and again in perhaps unexpected places.”

As Breitbart News reported, Dr Karasik’s warning comes as two men suspected of being Islamic State militants were arrested in Turkey, allegedly for plotting a suicide bomb attack during New Year’s Eve celebrations in the capital of Ankara.

The UK Daily Mail relayed Turkish media reports that the bombers were targeting Kizilay Square, also known as Red Crescent Square, which will be packed with revelers on New Year’s Eve.

Earlier this week ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi released an audio message threatening Israel while taunting the “Crusader” West for failing to launch a ground campaign against his terrorist organization.

“Crusaders and Jews don’t dare to come on the ground because they were defeated in Iraq and Afghanistan,” Baghdadi stated in the 23-minute recording.

Baghdadi vowed the establishment of an Islamic State caliphate in Israel. “Jews, soon you shall hear from us in Palestine which will become your grave,” he said.

***

Also see:

Escaped Muslim Civilians: Islamic State’s Utopia Is a Failure

Reuters/Stringer

Reuters/Stringer

Breitbart, by Mary Chastain, Dec. 3, 2015:

A new report from The New York Times joins the long list of articles that shows the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) is failing at its attempt to establish a Caliphate paradise for Muslims in Syria and Iraq.

The Times related the story of one former civilian attemping to live under ISIS rule: a technician who stayed behind in Syria after his town was conquered. ISIS offered him his same job of pumping oil at three times the salary. The man accepted the offer, but soon realized the money was not worth it. It grew dangerous when ISIS started executing suspected spies. Then President Bashar al-Assad’s forces bombed the region, destroying their homes and work. He noted that watching the money coming in from oil “financing the jihadists” instead of schools and hospitals ultimately led him to make the dangerous voyage out of the Caliphate.

“We thought they wanted to get rid of the regime, but they turned out to be thieves,” said the technician.

The man eventually fled to Turkey.

ISIS has released numerous propaganda videos and photos to lure people to the territories they have conquered, in particular women and civilian men. Families, its propaganda boasts, will cement ISIS rule, as children grow up indoctrinated by the Sunni jihadists. The Islamic State has largely failed in keeping those civilians once they make the trek, however, as airstrikes and ISIS fighters acting “like an organized-crime ring rather than their defenders” scare them away. Human smugglers have managed to build an industry on sneaking Muslim civilians out of ISIS territory.

“So many people are migrating,” explained a teacher, who escaped to Turkey. “ISIS wants to build a new society, but they’ll end up all alone.”

Those who can provide essential services are no longer around. Residents in one town said the jihadists placed a construction worker, for example, in charge of medical services. In another town, the women do not have a doctor, as ISIS does not allow men to examine females.

Last year, The Washington Post also interviewed people in Turkey who fled ISIS in Syria:

In the Iraqi city of Mosul, the water has become undrinkable because supplies of chlorine have dried up, said a journalist living there, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to protect his safety. Hepatitis is spreading, and flour is becoming scarce, he said. “Life in the city is nearly dead, and it is as though we are living in a giant prison,” he said.

In the Syrian city of Raqqa, the group’s self-styled capital, water and electricity are available for no more than three or four hours a day, garbage piles up uncollected, and the city’s poor scavenge for scraps on streets crowded with sellers hawking anything they can find, residents say.

One video showed women and children begging for bread:

These reports contradict the ISIS propaganda. In January, the terrorist group used British hostage John Cantlie in a video that portrays life in Mosul, Iraq, “as business as usual.” ISIS captured Iraq’s second-largest city in June 2014.

“It’s not a city living in fear as Western media would have you believe,” he said. “It’s just a normal city going about its daily business.”

The video is no longer accessible online, but it showed Cantlie touring through filled markets and operating hospitals. People appeared content.

They also used Cantlie in a propaganda video for Aleppo, Syria, to show life in the city as productive and normal. Shots from the video included people farming, praying at mosques, and children at school.

A few months later, ISIS issued a tourism brochure to show off the glorious life in Mosul. The Daily Mail reported:

Images of the Mosul marketplace show pizzas and succulent burgers being cooked amid bustling stalls packed with all manner of sweet treats and toys for children.

Men are seen browsing the stalls nonchalantly, seemingly oblivious to the fact the city is an ISIS stronghold and on the frontline of the Iraqi regime’s freshly launched fightback against the terrorists.

Trays of sweet baklava give a sense of abundance in the crisis-hit city, which is considered key to ISIS presence in Iraq thanks to the millions of pounds generated each day from the militant-held oil fields dotted around Nineveh province.

ISIS terrorists also display photos on social media:

IS prop

IS prop 2

IS prop 3

IS prop 4

Despite the propaganda, more and more escaped residents from these cities paint a realistic picture of life under ISIS.

“Public support is important, and they don’t have it,” the technician told The New York Times. “People heard good words from them but didn’t see anything good come out of it.”

Also see:

Madness: Amid Refugee Crisis, EU Willing to Fast-Track Turkish Membership

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses a rally in Bayburt, Turkey, Friday, Nov. 27, 2015. (AP Photo/Yasin Bulbul, Presidential Press Service, Pool )

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses a rally in Bayburt, Turkey, Friday, Nov. 27, 2015. (AP Photo/Yasin Bulbul, Presidential Press Service, Pool )

PJ Media, by , Nov. 29, 2015:

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu is one happy man. The reason is that the European Union is set to give in to every single one of his country’s demands in order to do something about the refugee crisis.

The EU wants Turkey to stem the refugee flow into Europe by taking care of them in Turkey. In return, Turkey wants 3 billion euros (around $3.2 billion US) in extra aid, visa-free traveling for Turks in EU-countries, and a re-launch of EU-accession talks. In other words: Turkey demands fast-track membership:

“Today is a historic day in our accession process to the EU,” Davutoğlu told reporters on arrival for the talks, in which EU leaders will offer Turkey cash, visa-free travel to Europe and re-launching of accession talks in exchange for Ankara’s help in stemming the flood of migrants to the EU.”With EU leaders today we will be sharing the destiny of our continent, global challenges of the economic crisis as well as regional geopolitical challenges in front of us, including migration issues,” Davutoğlu said.

This is lunacy. Not only is Turkey currently involved in a serious crisis and trade war with Russia, the country’s authorities are also arresting journalists on a scale never seen before. At least not in a free and democratic country. A few days ago, two journalists of Cumhuriyet were arrestedbecause they had the audacity to report on a truck filled with weapons that was traveling from Turkey to Syria. These weapons were in all likelihood going to radical Islamic groups fighting the Assad regime. When Cumhuriyet pointed that out, they were accused of “treason” and are now threatened with years imprisonment.

Another Turkish columnist has been told he faces up to five years and four months in prison for “insulting” President Erdogan. His “crime” was speaking out against the president’s foreign policy, especially with regards to Syria and the resulting refugee crisis.

In an op-ed entitled “Listen, grand man” written after the tragic death of Aylan Kurdi, a three-year-old Syrian Kurdish refugee whose body washed ashore a Turkish beach, Özkök slammed Middle Eastern actors for turning the region into “the most brutal land in the world.”Although Özkök did not mention anyone specifically, the article referred to a “dictator” who thought the country was the “property of his father.”

“Release your fingers that are clenched for the Rabia gesture… Unclench your fist clenched by your black politics and let that hands raise for prayer… Look, my friend, you are the murderer of that kid,” were among the sentences deemed insulting by the prosecutor’s office.

The indictment claimed Özkök’s writing “degraded” its collocutor and exceeded the limits of “acceptable criticism.”

Meanwhile, journalists critical of the government are told to hand in their press cards for an early renewal. When they do, they quickly find out that their cards are cancelled:

The Press Card Commission, which recently underwent significant changes after a new regulation was introduced by the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government, is forcing journalists known for their critical stance against the government to return their permanent press cards under the pretext of renewal, and then systematically canceling them without presenting a valid reason.

That’s bad, but it gets even worse. Last year, President Erdogan told Muslim Brotherhood leaders that they were welcome in Turkey when Qatar decided to deport them. The Muslim Brothers are a radical Islamic organization dedicated to islamizing the Middle East first, and the rest of the world after that. Many terrorist organizations — Al Qaeda and ISIS among them — are among the group’s many infamous and violent offshoots. These are the kind of people Erdogan welcomes into his country and, if Turkey joins the EU, the rest of Europe.

In other news, Turkey even admitted to treating wounded ISIS commanders in its hospitals.

It’s clear that the EU needs Erdogan to act against the tidal wave of Middle Eastern refugees, but he can be convinced to do so without fast-tracking his EU membership. He can be bought off and, if necessary, threatened. After all, the EU sends financial aid to Turkey every single year. If that’s cut off, Erdogan has a serious problem.

Re-opening EU-accessions talks with Turkey — fast-tracking them — is sheer madness. This country does not belong in Europe, at least not as long as Erdogan is its president.

NATO is harbouring the Islamic State

1-uPGE-GLlKmVVEvfyKjqzHwWhy France’s brave new war on ISIS is a sick joke, and an insult to the victims of the Paris attacks

INSURGE INTELLIGENCEby Nafeez Ahmed, Nov. 19, 2015:

“We stand alongside Turkey in its efforts in protecting its national security and fighting against terrorism. France and Turkey are on the same side within the framework of the international coalition against the terrorist group ISIS.”

Statement by French Foreign Ministry, July 2015

The 13th November Paris massacre will be remembered, like 9/11, as a defining moment in world history.

The murder of 129 people, the injury of 352 more, by ‘Islamic State’ (ISIS) acolytes striking multiple targets simultaneously in the heart of Europe, mark a major sea-change in the terror threat.

For the first time, a Mumbai-style attack has occurred on Western soil — the worst attack on Europe in decades. As such, it has triggered a seemingly commensurate response from France: the declaration of a nationwide state of emergency, the likes of which have not been seen since the 1961 Algerian war.

ISIS has followed up with threats to attack Washington and New York City.

Meanwhile, President Hollande wants European Union leaders to suspend the Schengen Agreement on open borders to allow dramatic restrictions on freedom of movement across Europe. He also demands the EU-wide adoption of the Passenger Name Records (PNR) system allowing intelligence services to meticulously track the travel patterns of Europeans, along with an extension of the state of emergency to at least three months.

Under the extension, French police can now block any website, put people under house arrest without trial, search homes without a warrant, and prevent suspects from meeting others deemed a threat.

“We know that more attacks are being prepared, not just against France but also against other European countries,” said the French Prime Minister Manuel Valls. “We are going to live with this terrorist threat for a long time.”

Hollande plans to strengthen the powers of police and security services under new anti-terror legislation, and to pursue amendments to the constitution that would permanently enshrine the state of emergency into French politics. “We need an appropriate tool we can use without having to resort to the state of emergency,” he explained.

Parallel with martial law at home, Hollande was quick to accelerate military action abroad, launching 30 airstrikes on over a dozen Islamic State targets in its de facto capital, Raqqa.

France’s defiant promise, according to Hollande, is to “destroy” ISIS.

The ripple effect from the attacks in terms of the impact on Western societies is likely to be permanent. In much the same way that 9/11 saw the birth of a new era of perpetual war in the Muslim world, the 13/11 Paris attacks are already giving rise to a brave new phase in that perpetual war: a new age of Constant Vigilance, in which citizens are vital accessories to the police state, enacted in the name of defending a democracy eroded by the very act of defending it through Constant Vigilance.

Mass surveillance at home and endless military projection abroad are the twin sides of the same coin of national security, which must simply be maximized as much as possible.

“France is at war,” Hollande told French parliament at the Palace of Versailles.

“We’re not engaged in a war of civilizations, because these assassins do not represent any. We are in a war against jihadist terrorism which is threatening the whole world.”

The friend of our enemy is our friend

Conspicuously missing from President Hollande’s decisive declaration of war, however, was any mention of the biggest elephant in the room: state-sponsorship.

Syrian passports discovered near the bodies of two of the suspected Paris attackers, according to police sources, were fake, and likely forged in Turkey.

Earlier this year, the Turkish daily Meydan reported citing an Uighur source that more than 100,000 fake Turkish passports had been given to ISIS. The figure, according to the US Army’s Foreign Studies Military Office (FSMO), is likely exaggerated, but corroborated “by Uighurs captured with Turkish passports in Thailand and Malaysia.”

Further corroboration came from a Sky News Arabia report by correspondent Stuart Ramsey, which revealed that the Turkish government was certifying passports of foreign militants crossing the Turkey-Syria border to join ISIS. The passports, obtained from Kurdish fighters, had the official exit stamp of Turkish border control, indicating the ISIS militants had entered Syria with full knowledge of Turkish authorities.

The dilemma facing the Erdogan administration is summed up by the FSMO: “If the country cracks down on illegal passports and militants transiting the country, the militants may target Turkey for attack. However, if Turkey allows the current course to continue, its diplomatic relations with other countries and internal political situation will sour.”

This barely scratches the surface. A senior Western official familiar with a large cache of intelligence obtained this summer from a major raid on an ISIS safehouse told the Guardian that “direct dealings between Turkish officials and ranking ISIS members was now ‘undeniable.’”

The same official confirmed that Turkey, a longstanding member of NATO, is not just supporting ISIS, but also other jihadist groups, including Ahrar al-Sham and Jabhat al-Nusra, al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria. “The distinctions they draw [with other opposition groups] are thin indeed,” said the official. “There is no doubt at all that they militarily cooperate with both.”

In a rare insight into this brazen state-sponsorship of ISIS, a year agoNewsweek reported the testimony of a former ISIS communications technician, who had travelled to Syria to fight the regime of Bashir al-Assad.

The former ISIS fighter told Newsweek that Turkey was allowing ISIS trucks from Raqqa to cross the “border, through Turkey and then back across the border to attack Syrian Kurds in the city of Serekaniye in northern Syria in February.” ISIS militants would freely travel “through Turkey in a convoy of trucks,” and stop “at safehouses along the way.”

The former ISIS communication technician also admitted that he would routinely “connect ISIS field captains and commanders from Syria with people in Turkey on innumerable occasions,” adding that “the people they talked to were Turkish officials… ISIS commanders told us to fear nothing at all because there was full cooperation with the Turks.”

In January, authenticated official documents of the Turkish military were leaked online, showing that Turkey’s intelligence services had been caught in Adana by military officers transporting missiles, mortars and anti-aircraft ammunition via truck “to the al-Qaeda terror organisation” in Syria.

According to other ISIS suspects facing trial in Turkey, the Turkish national military intelligence organization (MIT) had begun smuggling arms, including NATO weapons to jihadist groups in Syria as early as 2011.

The allegations have been corroborated by a prosecutor and court testimony of Turkish military police officers, who confirmed that Turkish intelligence was delivering arms to Syrian jihadists from 2013 to 2014.

Documents leaked in September 2014 showed that Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan had financed weapons shipments to ISIS through Turkey. A clandestine plane from Germany delivered arms in the Etimesgut airport in Turkey and split into three containers, two of which were dispatched to ISIS.

A report by the Turkish Statistics Institute confirmed that the government had provided at least $1 million in arms to Syrian rebels within that period, contradicting official denials. Weapons included grenades, heavy artillery, anti-aircraft guns, firearms, ammunition, hunting rifles and other weapons — but the Institute declined to identify the specific groups receiving the shipments.

Information of that nature emerged separately. Just two months ago, Turkish police raided a news outlet that published revelations on how the local customs director had approved weapons shipments from Turkey to ISIS.

Turkey has also played a key role in facilitating the life-blood of ISIS’ expansion: black market oil sales. Senior political and intelligence sources in Turkey and Iraq confirm that Turkish authorities have actively facilitated ISIS oil sales through the country.

Last summer, Mehmet Ali Ediboglu, an MP from the main opposition, the Republican People’s Party, estimated the quantity of ISIS oil sales in Turkey at about $800 million — that was over a year ago.

By now, this implies that Turkey has facilitated over $1 billion worth of black market ISIS oil sales to date.

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WATCH: Turkish Football Fans Boo And Cry ‘Allahu Akbar’ During Silence For Paris Victims

Burak Kara/Getty

Burak Kara/Getty

Breitbart, by LIAM DEACON,  Nov. 18, 2015:

Turkish football fans booed and shouted “Allahu Akbar” during a minute’s silence for the victims of the Paris terror attacks, during which 132 people died at the hands of Islamist Jihadists.

The silence was held before a friendly game between the Turkish national team and Greece on Tuesday night in Istanbul. There are long standing historical tensions between the two rival nations, and it was the first time the two teams had met for eight years.

Fans in the 17,000 strong sell-out crowd began jeering and shouting as soon the collective gesture of respect and morning for the victims and refection on the horrors that befell France began.

As well as “Allahu Akbar” — Arabic for “god is great” — spectators also chanted, “the martyrs are immortal, the fatherland indivisible”, a popular slogan used by nationalists against the Kurdish, but also one which appears to imply sympathy for the dead ISIS terrorists and suicide bombers.

Speaking after the game, the Turkish manager Fatih Terim suggested that fans at the Basaksehir Fatih Terim Stadium should have been more respectful.

“Our fans should have behaved during the national anthems and during the one minute silence,” he said, adding: “Greece is our neighbour. Today is world neighbours day, but our fans didn’t behave like neighbours in this match.”

The Turkish Football Federation had announced a string of additional security measures before the match following the attack on France’s Stade de France on Friday and last night’s cancellation of the Germany Netherlands game because of a bomb scare.

Britain’s left wing Newspaper the Independent attempted to argue that, “the boos were not to disrespect those who had died in the attacks – but more to do with the hypocrisy of the Western world.”

In October, European leaders led by Germany’s Chancellor Merkel promised that in return for Turkey absorbing more Syrian migrants for long-term settlement, the EU will fast-track “visa liberalisation” for Turks, granting Schengen-style free movement in the EU for all 75 million Turkish residents.

Terrorist Groups Praise Erdogan on Turkish Election Win

Turkey's Islamist President Erdogan (left) with Hamas leader in Gaza Ismail Haniyeh in the Turkish parliament. (Photo: © Reuters)

Turkey’s Islamist President Erdogan (left) with Hamas leader in Gaza Ismail Haniyeh in the Turkish parliament. (Photo: © Reuters)

Clarion Project, Nov. 2, 2015:

Leading terrorist organizations were among the first to congratulate Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Islamist AK party after their surprising sweep in the November 1 election.

Hamas issued congratulations to the “Turkish people and their leadership on the success of the Turkish parliamentary elections,” according to the Palestinian Information Center, a Hamas-affiliated website,

In a press statement, Hamas categorized the Turkish elections as a victory for democracy and a “reflection of the state of stability and civilization in the capital of the Islamic caliphate.”

Turkey is reported to be the top financial sponsor of Hamas since 2012, with Erdogan arranging for the transfer of between $250-300 million anually to the terrorist organization. Turkey is also said to have trained Hamas security forces in Gaza through non-governmental groups.

The Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood also hailed Turkey’s Islamist party’s victory, offering its “sincere congratulations.” Ironically, amid much documentation of voter fraud, the Brotherhood stated, “The election results and the impressive turnout, which exceeded 87%, show how the state’s strengths can be bolstered with the people’s free will and free choice when they are not subject to despotic and repressive military rule.”

Erdogan’s Islamist government was openly dismayed at the popularly-supported military intervention that toppled the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. According to the Arab newspaper Al-Arabiya, Turkey has since “become the regional hub for the Muslim Brotherhood’s international organization.”

The Islamic Front, an umbrella group funded by Saudi Arabia comprising Islamist jihadi rebels fighting Assad, also sent a letter of congratulations to Erdogan, stating, “The Turkish government and the Turkish people have played a major role in embracing the Syrians and supporting the revolution and have stood by them in the time of their trouble.

“Turkey withstood a lot of internal and external pressure to back off from this unique position but it continued to implement this moral policy. We hope to have good relations – like brothers – between the people of Syria and Turley in the future after Assad and his regime will fall.”

Eight groups signed the Islamic Front’s letter including the Salafist movement Ahrar ash-Sham al Islamiya, the Damascus-based Jaysh al-Islam (the Army of Islam), Filaq al Rahman and Ansar al-Sham.

The well wishes came amid serious accusations of voter fraud which saw the AK party regain its majority in the parliament, taking the country back to single-party rule.

Yesterday’s elections followed a June vote that resulted in a hung parliament. In that election, the AK party, which had garnered only 41 percent of the vote, was not able to form a coalition in order to govern.

Meanwhile, according to the Emirates News Agency, Erdoğan issued words of support for Islamic State (ISIS) jihadis who claimed to have shot down a Russian passenger plane in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, killing all 224 people aboard.

“How can I condemn the Islamic State for shooting down a Russian plane as its passengers were returning from a happy vacation in a time when our co-religionists in Syria are bombed by Putin’s fighter jets?” Erogan is quoted as saying. “It is the natural outcome of Moscow’s actions in Syria and the support for Assad.”

***

Also see:

The New Cold War: The Russia-Shia Alliance VS the Islamic State

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin (2nd R) meets with Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani (2nd L) on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, September 28, 2015. REUTERS/Mikhail Klimentyev.

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin (2nd R) meets with Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani (2nd L) on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, September 28, 2015. REUTERS/Mikhail Klimentyev.

By Brian Fairchild, October 31, 2015

The New Cold War:

In late-September 2015 Russia and Iran launched a clandestine strategic military campaign to support Syria’s Bashar al-Assad.  Russia’s bold move took the West by surprise and changed the balance of power in the Middle East in Russia’s favor.  It will go down in history as the milestone depicting Russia’s first aggressive military action outside of its own sphere of influence since the fall of the Soviet Union, and, when viewed from a global strategic perspective, will be remembered as the first clear sign that a New Cold War had erupted between the US and Russia.

Russia’s Middle Eastern campaign is formed around the new “quadrilateral alliance”, which has divided the region into two sectarian blocs:  the Russian-led Shia Muslim alliance, which forms a powerful “Shia Crescent” stretching from Iraq, through Iran and Syria, to Lebanon, and the Sunni Arab bloc led by Saudi Arabia with minimal backing by the United States.

Thus far, Russia’s campaign has been executed seamlessly. Upon entering Syria clandestinely, Russian forces immediately deployed sophisticated surface to air missile defense batteries as well as top-of the-line jet fighters to protect Russian and Syrian forces from the US coalition.  Once air defenses were in place, Moscow began a barrage of airstrikes targeting anti-Assad rebels in order to re-establish and consolidate Assad’s power.  The airstrikes were subsequently integrated with ground operations carried-out by Syrian military units, Iranian Quds forces, Shia militia from Syria and Iraq, and Hezbollah fighters.  There are also credible news reports that Cuban Special Forces have joined the fray for the first time since Cuba’s proxy wars in Angola and central Africa in the 1970’s on behalf of the Soviet Union.

The Russia-Shia Alliance and its Effect on Iraq, Jordan, and the Kurds:

Iraq:

In tandem with its military campaign, Russia launched a diplomatic campaign that has been just as effective.  Iraq is the geographical base for US coalition operations against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, but American influence in Iraq has steadily diminished over the past year.

In early October 2015, Iraq secretly established a new Russia-Iran-Syria-Iraq intelligence center in the middle of Baghdad that surprised and angered American military commanders.  Worse, after Russia’s increasingly effective Syrian air campaign, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi called for Russia to begin unilateral airstrikes against the Islamic State in Iraq.  The Pentagon became so alarmed by the possibility that Russia might get a strategic foothold in Iraq that on October 21, 2015, it dispatched Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford to Baghdad to deliver an ultimatum to the Iraqi leadership.  Dunford told the Iraqi Prime Minister and Defense Minister that Iraq had to choose between cooperating with Russia or the US.  Upon his departure from Baghdad, General Dunford told the media that he received assurances that Iraq would not seek Russian assistance, but just three days later, Iraq officially authorized Russian airstrikes in-country.

Jordan:

On that same day, another of America’s most dependable allies, the Kingdom of Jordan, announced its agreement to create a new Russian-Jordanian military coordination center to target the Islamic State and that this center would go well beyond just a formal information exchange.  According to Jordan’s Ambassador to Russia:

  • “This time, we are talking about a specific form of cooperation — a center for military coordination between two countries. Now we will cooperate on a higher level. It will not be just in a format of information exchange: we see a necessity ‘to be on the ground’ as Jordan has a border with Syria”

The Kurds:

Moscow is attempting to undermine US relations with the Kurds.  Since the rise of the Islamic State, the US has sought to provide anti-Islamic State military support to the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq via the Iraqi central government, but the Iraqi government has no desire to see the KRG gain additional power in the north so this mission has been largely ineffective.  The US has had a measure of success providing limited support to the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), but has balked at providing full support because any support whatsoever angers Turkey due to contacts between the YPG and the Kurdish Worker’s Party (PKK), a separatist organization, that seeks to overthrow the Turkish government.  On October 29, 2015, Turkish president Erdogan demonstrated this anger when he vehemently criticized US support for the YPG and stated that Turkey would attack the YPG on the Iraqi side of the border if it attempts to create a separatist Kurdish administrative zone.  Because Turkey is a NATO ally, Turkish threats cause the US significant political and diplomatic problems, but they will not deter Putin from moving to organize and utilize Kurdish forces in pursuit of his goals; in early October, he went out of his way to show disdain for Turkey and NATO by allowing his Syrian-based jets to illegally invade Turkish airspace.

No Kurdish group is happy with the current situation of getting limited support from the United States to fight the Islamic State, but all of them have expressed interest in cooperating with Russia.  Significantly, Sergey Ivanov, the head of the Kremlin administration, specifically urged cooperation between the Syrian Kurdish militia and the US-backed YPG.

The Russia-Shia Alliance and the Islamic State:

The Shia composition of the quadrilateral alliance is extremely significant because it plays directly into the Islamic State narrative.  The Islamic State and the majority of the world’s Muslims are Sunni, but in the heart of the Middle East, the Shia governments of Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon, with Russian support, dominate, and these countries surround the Islamic State’s new “caliphate” on three sides.  Understanding this strategic disadvantage, the Islamic State knows that it must muster as much international Sunni support as possible to survive, so it carries-out a relentless policy to polarize the international Sunni population against the Shia.

The chance to remove Bashar al-Assad, who represents the Shia Alawite sect, was the primary reason the Islamic State moved to Syria from Iraq, and removing al-Assad from power served as its initial rallying cry to the global Sunni community.  It was this rallying cry that created the dangerous “foreign fighter” phenomenon that subsequently brought more than 30,000 radical Sunni Muslims from around the world to the new caliphate.

The Islamic State repeatedly emphasizes in its official publications and statements its contention that Shia Muslims are not true Muslims and must be eradicated, and, in these communications, it refers to Shia Muslims as “Rafidah” (rejecters).  But of all the Shias in the world, the Islamic State has a particular hatred for the Shia Iranians, who are Persian rather than Arab, and who ruled Islam during the ancient Safavid (Persian) empire, which the Islamic State regards as religiously illegitimate.  It therefore refers to Iranians as the “Safavid Rafidah”.

Moreover, the Islamic State accuses the US and Russia of being modern day “crusaders” who have joined forces with the Iranians to destroy Sunni Islam, a contention made clear on March 12, 2015, when its spokesman Abu Mohamed al-Adnani stated:

  • The Safavid Rāfidah (Shia Iranians) today have entered a new stage in their war against the Sunnis. They have begun to believe that it is within their power to take areas of the Sunnis and control them completely. They no longer want a single Muslim from the Sunnis living in the empire they desire…O Sunnis…if the Islamic State is broken…then there will be no Mecca for you thereafter nor Medina…Sunnis! The Crusader-Safavid (Christian-Iranian) alliance is clear today.  Here is Iran with its Great Satan America dividing the regions and roles amongst each other in the war against Islam and the Sunnis…We warned you before and continue to warn you that the war is a Crusader-Safavid was against Islam, and war against the Sunnis…”

The Shia Alliance and the Saudis:

Saudi Arabia considers itself to be the leader of the world’s Sunni population and the custodian of Islam’s two most holy places:  the mosques of Mecca and Medina where the prophet Muhammad received Allah’s revelations.  Because Iran is the Kingdom’s religious and regional nemesis the Islamic State’s anti-Shia narrative resonates greatly among many Saudis who are increasingly alarmed at Iran’s growing military influence and power.  In a letter signed by 53 Saudi Islamic scholars in early October 2015, the clerics lashed out at Iran, Syria and Russia and echoed the main points made by the Islamic State:

  • “The holy warriors of Syria are defending the whole Islamic nation. Trust them and support them … because if they are defeated, God forbid, it will be the turn of one Sunni country after another”

Saudi King Salman was willing to allow this unofficial letter to be published because it permitted the Saudi government an indirect manner to issue a warning to Iran, but as the Russian-Iran alliance continued to make military gains throughout October, the Kingdom’s anxiety was such that it decided to allow its Foreign Minister to issue the following direct warning to Iran:

  • “We wish that Iran would change its policies and stop meddling in the affairs of other countries in the region, in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen…We will make sure that we confront Iran’s actions and shall use all our political, economic and military powers to defend our territory and people…”

Conclusion:

The New Cold War:

Just one month ago, the US was the only major military player in the Middle East, but that has all changed.  Russia’s aggressive and well-planned military campaign in Syria has tilted the balance of power in the region away from the US and toward Russia and its new Shia-dominated quadrilateral alliance.  As a result, the US plan to effect regime change in Syria is now impossible, but more importantly, US influence in Iraq is steadily diminishing, and thus, the number of options available to American military commanders to degrade the Islamic State are also diminishing.

Five days after Iraq rejected General Dunford’s ultimatum and authorized Russian airstrikes in Iraq, Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter ignored this fact in his testimony before the Senate’s Armed Forces Committee when he stated that the United States plans to increase the number of airstrikes in Iraq as well as direct action raids by US special operations forces in Iraq.

Unfortunately, such an increase in US military actions require Iraqi permission, and for the second time in a week, Iraq rejected the United States.  On October 28, 2015, Prime Minister al-Abadi’s spokesman told the media that Iraq has no intention of allowing increased American participation because:

  • “This is an Iraqi affair and the government did not ask the U.S. Department of Defense to be involved in direct operations…”

If Iraq enforces this restriction, and limits the US to only training and arming Iraqi forces while allowing Russia to conduct aggressive operations in-country, the situation could become untenable for the United States, further reducing America’s ability to degrade the Islamic State.

The Islamic State:

Once Russia consolidates Assad rule in Syria, Putin will undoubtedly use the new Russia-Shia alliance to move against the Islamic State.  Because the alliance dominates the geographical terrain on three sides of the “caliphate” and has demonstrated a willingness to engage in unified military air and ground operations, it is likely that Russian airpower and Shia ground forces will succeed in dismantling many Islamic State elements in Syria and Iraq.

Such success by the Russia-Shia alliance, especially if it forces the evacuation of the capital of the Islamic State’s “caliphate” in Raqqa, Syria, will further polarize and enrage radical Sunnis and likely increase the number of foreign fighters from Europe and the Middle East.  It will also likely result in more domestic lone jihad attacks in the US and Russia, a call the Islamic State has already made in its October 13, 2015 statement:

  • “…the Islamic State is stronger today than yesterday, while at the same time America is getting weaker and weaker…America today is not just weakened, it has become powerless, forced to ally with Russia and Iran…Islamic youth everywhere, ignite jihad against the Russians and the Americans in their crusaders’ war against Muslims.”

If the Islamic State experiences set-backs and defeats in Syria and Iraq such defeats would likely motivate it to launch mass casualty attacks in the United States and Europe in order to prove to its followers that it remains relevant. Mass casualty attacks in tandem with increased lone jihad attacks would make an already bad domestic security situation, grave.

On October 23, 2015, FBI Director Comey revealed that the FBI is pursuing approximately 900 active cases against Islamic State extremists in the United States and that this number continues to expand.  Comey added that should the number of cases continue to increase, it won’t be long before the FBI lacks the adequate resources to “keep up”.   Europe, too, faces grave security challenges.  A few days after Comey’s revelations, the head of MI5, Britain’s domestic intelligence service, stated that the terror threat in the United Kingdom from the Islamic State and al Qaeda is the highest he has “ever seen”.

Brian Fairchild was a career officer in CIA’s Clandestine Service.  He has served in Asia, Southeast Asia, Europe, the Arabian Peninsula, and Afghanistan.  Mr. Fairchild writes periodic intelligence analyses on topics of strategic importance.

Turkish elections have potential to alter the balance of power in the Middle East

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Center for Security Policy, by John Cordero, Oct. 28, 2015:

Turks head to the polls once again this upcoming Sunday to determine the composition of their parliament. At stake is the direction Turkey will take both internally and externally, with the main domestic concern being unemployment and the principal foreign policy issue being the Syrian civil war.

This election comes after Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) failed to secure a majority for the first time in 14 years, and was unable form a coalition government after the original June 7 elections.

Turkey’s Parliament consists of 550 seats, a minimum of 276 of which are necessary for a party to form a government. In the June elections, AKP failed to secure a majority, with only 258. The People’s Democratic Party (HDP), affiliated with Turkey’s Kurdish community, saw their representation increase to 80 MPs from the previous 40, when they fielded individual candidates, thanks in part to picking up anti-AKP protest votes. None of the AKP’s rivals would consent to a coalition government, hence the need for the upcoming elections.

The AKP’s drop in political support has stemmed largely from the authoritarian behavior of former Prime Minister and current President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Under Erdoğan, the AKP has successfully transformed Turkey from a secular NATO ally to an increasingly Islamist government which is openly aligned with the Muslim Brotherhood, supports Hamas, and has been credibly accused of supporting al Qaeda in Syria and the Islamic State. The AKP has also demanded amending the Turkish constitution to enable additional powers for the President (currently Erdoğan, who was Prime Minister since the AKP achieved Parliamentary majority in 2002).

While the AKP continues to enjoy substantial support, its base has been eroded by corruption scandals and the Syrian war, which has proved disastrous for Turkish foreign policy. Erdoğan’s inaction during the Islamic State siege of the Syrian border town of Kobani, during which the Kurdish YPG militia prevailed even after Ankara ignored their requests for assistance, drove many religious Turkish Kurds to support the HDP.

After first courting them via peace talks with the PKK and religious rhetoric, his self-defeatist policy of focusing on Kurds as a threat to national security at the expense of the Islamic State and the other jihadist factions in Syria directly led to the AKP losing their parliamentary majority in June and to the PKK picking up their weapons after a two-year cease-fire and the collapse of peace talks.

This Sunday’s elections represent a bet by Erdoğan that the Turkish people will prefer a restoration of the old order and hand AKP a majority in parliament. John Hannah writes that “the terrorist threat from the PKK will re-emerge, putting at risk civil order, national security, and even Turkey’s territorial integrity. Indeed, Erdoğan has more or less explicitly said that all of these dangers would have been avoided if only the Turkish public had chosen more wisely in the elections.” Rising unemployment, depreciation of the lira, and widespread protests are held up by the President as evidence of what happens when the AKP does not have its majority.

If the AKP once again fails to clear the majority threshold, a prospect that seems very likely, expect Turkey to continue its factionalism along ideological lines: the Islamists, the secular Kemalists, the Kurds, and the Conservatives. The seculars are ideologically opposed to the AKP’s platform, while the Kurds feel betrayed and used for political points by Erdoğan.

The AKP’s only hope to form a coalition government may lie with the conservative Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), which opposes peace talks with the PKK. Instead of calling for yet another election, Erdoğan may have to swallow his pride and enter into a coalition, which may at least temporarily check his neo-Ottoman revival project.

Also see:

Turkey Is on the Path to Rogue Dictatorship

by Daniel Pipes
National Review Online
October 26, 2015

Should President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s AK Party not win a majority of seats in the Nov. 1 vote, the mainstream media hold that his power will diminish. The headline of a much-circulated Reutersanalysis sums up this view: “Erdoğan seen with little choice but to share power after Turkish vote.”Agence France-Presse predicts that winning less than half the seats “would again force [the AKP] to share power or call yet another election.” Almost identically, Middle East Online sees this situation forcing the AKP “to share power or organise yet another election.” And so on, almost invariably including the words “share power.”

The Supreme Election Board (Yüksek Seçim Kurulu) oversees voting in Turkey; will it be forced to rig the election on Nov. 1?

The Supreme Election Board (Yüksek Seçim Kurulu) oversees voting in Turkey; will it be forced to rig the election on Nov. 1?

But what if Erdoğan chooses not to share power? He then has two options. If the results are close, election fraud is a distinct possibility; reports suggest sophisticated software (think Volkswagen) to skew the results.

If the results are not close, Erdoğan can sideline the parliament, the prime minister, the other ministers, and the whole damn government. This sidelining option, which the press ignores as a possibility, follows directly from Erdoğan’s past actions. Since he left the prime ministry in August 2014 to become Turkey’s president, he has diminished his old office, depriving it of nearly all authority. He turned it over to a professorial foreign-policy theorist with no political base, Ahmet Davutoğlu, and controls him so tightly that Davutoğlu cannot even decide on his own aides(who also double as Erdoğan’s informants).

At the same time, Erdoğan built himself a 1,005-room presidential palace housing a staff of 2,700 which constitutes a bureaucracy that potentially can take over the other ministries of state, leaving a seemingly unchanged government in place that behinds the scenes follows orders from the palace.

Erdogan and Davutoglu

Erdoğan will surely sideline parliament as well; not by turning it into a grotesque North Korea-style rubber-stamp assembly but into an Egypt- or Iran-style body consumed with secondary matters (school examinations, new highways) while paying close heed to wishes of the Big Boss.

Then, to complete his takeover, he will deploy his many tools of influence to control the judiciary, the media, corporations, the academy, and the arts. He will also shut down private dissent, especially on social media, as suggested by the many lawsuits he and his cronies have initiated against ordinary citizens who dare criticize him.

At this point, the Hugo Chávez/Vladimir Putin of Turkey, the one who compared democracy to a trolley (“You ride it until you arrive at your destination, then you step off”) will truly have arrived at his destination. As a reward, he may even declare himself the caliph of all Muslims.

Chavez abd Putin

Returning to the present: The number of AKP seats in parliament hardly matters because Erdoğan will do what it takes, legally or illegally, to become the new sultan. He will not have to “share power,” but will seize more power by hook (sidelining parliament) or crook (electoral fraud). Foreign capitals need to prepare for the unpleasant likelihood of a rogue dictatorship in Turkey.


Oct. 26, 2015 update: Kadri Gürsel explores various possibilities should the AKP not win a majority of the votes, including Erdoğan forcing a third round of voting. But he does not raise the sidelining of parliament as one of the president’s choices.

Also see:

Erdoğan Leads Turkey to the Precipice

by Daniel Pipes
Australian
October 17, 2015

[N.B.: The Australian‘s title is “Would-be dictator Erdogan leading Turkey to the precipice” and its version uses Australian spelling]

The Republic of Turkey is undergoing possibly its greatest crisis since the founding of the state nearly a century ago. Present trends suggest worse to come as a long-time Western ally evolves into a hostile dictatorship.

The crisis results primarily from the ambitions of one very capable and sinister individual, Turkey’s 61-year old president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. A career politician who previously served four years as the mayor of Turkey’s megacity, Istanbul, and then eleven years as the country’s prime minister, he forwards two goals hitherto unknown in the republic: dictatorship and full application of the Shari’a, Islam’s law code.

During his first eight years of power, 2003-11, Erdoğan ruled with such finesse that one could only suspect these two aspirations; proof remained elusive. This author, for example, wrote an article in 2005 that weighed the contradictory evidence for and against Erdoğan being an Islamist. A combination of playing by the rules, caution in the Islamic arena, and economic success won Erdoğan’s party, Justice and Development (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi, or AKP), increasing percentages of the vote in parliamentary elections, going from 34 percent in 2002, to 46 percent in 2007, to 50 percent in 2011.

That 2011 election victory, his third in succession, gave Erdoğan the confidence finally to remove the armed forces from politics, where they had long served as Turkey’s ultimate power broker. Ironically, this change ended the increasing democratization of prior decades for his fully taking charge allowed Erdoğan to develop an oversized ego, to bare his fangs, flex his despotic muscles, and openly seek his twin objectives of tyranny and Shari’a.

Indeed, Erdoğan made his power felt in every domain after 2011. Banks provided loans to the businessmen who kicked back funds to the AKP. Hostile media found themselves subject to vast fines or physical assault. Ordinary citizens who criticized the leader found themselves facing lawsuits, fines, and jail. Politicians in competing parties faced dirty tricks. Like a latter-day sultan, Erdoğan openly flouted the law and intervened at will when and where he wished, inserting himself into legal proceedings, meddling in local decisions, and interfering with police investigations. For example, he responded to compelling raw evidence of his own and his family’s corruption by simply closing down the inquiry.

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The Islamic order also took shape. School instruction became more Islamic even as Islamic schools proliferated, with the number of students in the latter jumping from 60,000 to 1,600,000, a 27-fold increase. Erdoğan instructed women to stay home and breed, demanding three children apiece from them. Burqas proliferated and hijabs became legal headgear in government buildings. Alcohol became harder to find and higher priced. More broadly, Erdoğan harked back to the piety of the Ottoman Empire (1299-1922), eroded the secular republic founded in 1923 by Kemal Atatürk, and positioned himself as the anti-Atatürk.

Erdoğan also faced some serious problems after 2011. The China-like economic growth slowed down and debt spiraled upwards. A disastrously inept Syria policy contributed to the rise of the Islamic State, the emergence of a hostile Kurdish autonomous area, and millions of unwelcome refugees flooding into Turkey. Foreign relations soured with nearly the entire neighborhood: Tehran, Baghdad, Damascus, Jerusalem, Cairo, Athens, the (Greek) Republic of Cyprus, and even (Turkish) northern Cyprus. Ties also went south with Washington, Moscow, and Beijing. Good relations were limited to Doha, Kuala Lumpur, and – until recently, as shown by the many indications of Turkish state support for the Islamic State – Raqqa.

Erdoğan has pugnaciously responded to this predicament by stating, “I do not mind isolation in the world” and even to suggest that other leaders were “jealous” of him. But he fools no one. The old AKP slogan of “Zero problems with neighbors” has dangerously turned into “Only problems with neighbors.”

If Erdoğan’s base loves his strongman qualities and stands by him, his aggressive actions and policy failures cost him support, as major blocs of voters rejected him, especially Kurds (an ethnic minority), Alevis (a religious community spun off from Islam), and seculars. The AKP’s vote dropped accordingly from 50 percent in 2011 to 41 percent in the June 2015 elections, a reduction that meant its losing a long-standing majority in parliament and the numbers to govern on its own.

The poor showing in June 2015 blocked Erdoğan from legitimately gaining his dream powers as executive president. But being the politician who stated long ago, when mayor of Istanbul, that democracy is like a trolley, “You ride it until you arrive at your destination, then you step off,” he predictably did not let something as petty as election results get in his way. Instead, he immediately began scheming to get around them.

He opted for a pair of tactics: First, he rejected power sharing with other parties and called another election for Nov. 1; in effect, he offered Turks another chance to vote as he wanted them to. Second, after years of negotiating with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (Partiya Karkerên Kurdistanê‎, or PKK), Turkey’s leading Kurdish violent insurgent group, he renewed war on it. In doing so, he hoped to win over supporters of the anti-Kurd ethnic Turkish nationalist party, Nationalist Action (Milliyetçi Hareket Partisi, or MHP).

These tactics appear to be futile; polls show the AKP losing as many Kurds as it gains Turkish nationalists, and so likely to fare in November about the same as it did in June. But the tactics are highly consequential, tearing apart the body politic, creating tensions and prompting violence. The current round began in July with the bombing of peace marchers leaving 33 dead, followed by PKK retaliation against representatives of the state, a Kurdish town placed under siege, and twin bombings in the capital Ankara (widely considered ultimately attributable to Erdoğan) which killed 105 peaceful protestors. And yet two weeks remain before voting day …

Polls of Turkish voters since the June 7, 2015 elections.

In other words, Erdoğan’s obsession to win a parliamentary majority is doing fundamental damage to the country, damage that takes it to the precipice of civil war.

What makes the situation slightly absurd is that, whatever the results of the Nov. 1 election, Erdoğan will doggedly continue his campaign to become dictator. If he cannot do so legitimately, he will do so illegitimately. Repeating what I wrote just before the June election, “how many seats the AKP wins hardly matters. Erdoğan will barrel, bulldoze, and steamroll his way ahead, ignoring traditional and legal niceties with or without changes to the constitution. Sure, having fully legitimate powers would add a pretty bauble to his résumé, but he’s already the tyrant and Turkey’s course is set.”

Assuming the AKP does not win the votes necessary to make Erdoğan a legal strongman, how might he manage this illegally? The past year, since he became president, offers a hint: Erdoğan has bleached the once-powerful prime minister’s office of its authority. In all likelihood, he will extend this process to the rest of the Turkish government by setting up an alternative bureaucracy in his huge, new presidential palace, with operatives there controlling the ministries of state. An apparently unchanged formalistic structure will take orders from the palace autocrats.

Likewise, the parliament will remain untouched in appearance but voided of true decision making. Civil society will also find itself under palatial control as, exploiting his financial and legal levers, Erdoğan shuts down publicly dissenting voices in the judiciary, the media, the academy, and the arts. In all likelihood, private dissent will next be proscribed, leaving Padishah Recep I master of all he surveys.

What will he do with this authority? In part, he will exult in it, in the unbridled range of his ego and his writ. Beyond that, he will use this might to advance his Islamist agenda by harking back to the Ottoman imperial legacy, further undoing the Atatürk revolution, and imposing Sunni Islamic laws and customs. Just as autocracy came to Turkey in tranches, so will Shari’a be implemented piecemeal over time. The processes already underway – Islamic content in schools, women urged to stay home, alcohol disappearing – will continue and accelerate.

Assuming that Erdoğan’s mystery diseases stay under control, this Islamist idyll contains just one flaw: foreign relations, the most likely cause of its demise. Unlike a fellow dictator like Hugo Chávez of Venezuela, who had the good fortune to rule in the placid confines of South America, Erdoğan is surrounded by the world’s most crisis-ridden region. His domestic success increases the chances of an ego-driven blunder that diminishes or ends his rule. Tense relations with Iran and Russia over the fighting in Syria offer one temptation, as the seemingly purposeful Russian penetrations of Turkish airspace highlight; or with Israel over Jerusalem or Gaza; or with Cyprus over the newly discovered gas fields.

(With this prospect presumably in mind, Erdoğan’s son Bilal recently relocated to Bologna, Italy, supposedly to work on a Ph.D. thesis; a whistleblower plausibly claims Bilal from there will manage the family’s vast fortune.)

Refep ans son Bilal

When the Erdoğan era expires, the country will be much more divided than when it began in March 2003 between Turk and Kurd, Sunni and Alevi, pious and secular Sunnis, and rich and poor. It will contain millions of difficult to assimilate Syrian refugees and Kurdish areas declared independent of the state. It will be isolated internationally. It will contain a hollowed-out government structure. It will have lost the tradition of legal impartiality.

Erdoğan’s larger accomplishment will have been to reverse Atatürk’s Westernizing policies. Whereas Atatürk and several generations of leaders wanted Turkey to be in Europe, Erdoğan brought it thunderingly back to the Middle East and to the tyranny, corruption, female subjugation, and other hallmarks of a region in crisis. As Turks struggle over the years to undo this damage, they will have ample opportunity to ponder the many evils bequeathed them by Erdoğan.

Also see:

Yet Again: Turkey, Israel Terror Attacks Committed By ‘Known Wolves’

PJ Media, by Patrick Poole, Oct. 14, 2015:

Multiple individuals suspected in the terror attacks over the past week in Turkey and Israel appear to be additional examples of the phenomenon I have termed “known wolf” terrorism. The attacks were committed in part by people already known to law enforcement and national security authorities as being dangers.

Saturday’s horrific suicide bombing of a Kurdish peace rally in Ankara killed more than one hundred people and injured more. According to Reuters, the suspects are thought to be members of a previously identified terror network – the “Adiyaman cell”:

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said on Monday Islamic State was the prime suspect. Officials in Ankara said they were focusing on the so-called “Adiyaman cell” — a group of Turks, some of whom had traveled to Syria, and who were thought also to have been behind a suicide bombing in July in the town of Suruc near the Syrian border, which killed 34 people.

The cell is also believed to have been involved in the bombing of a pro-Kurdish opposition rally in the southeastern city of Diyarbakir on the eve of Turkey’s last election in June.

Additional information indicates that one of the bombers in Saturday’s attack in Ankara — Yunus Emre Alogaz — was the brother of a bomber who struck in Suruc back in July and who had been identified by Turkish media as potentially planning an attack:

Miller tweet

Additionally, the suspect’s father had reported his son to police, but to no avail:

Blaser tweet

What makes this “known wolf” situation all the more tragic is that the Turkish government has established policies that only allow for action against suicide bombers once they have struck, and presumably are already dead:

tweets 22

Information regarding the recent wave of terror attacks in Israel also indicates that many of these so-called “lone wolf” Palestinian terrorists were also already known to Israeli authorities.

One terrorist who struck in Jerusalem yesterday by ramming his car into a bus stop and then attacking onlookers — killing one — had been interviewed by Israeli TV last year after two of his relatives had butchered five people in an attack on a synagogue. He praised their actions, Arutz Sheva reports:

The Bezeq telephone company responded to the car attack conducted in Jerusalem Tuesday by its employee Alaa Abu Jamal, claiming there were “no warning signs” of his lethal terrorist leanings — but an interview he gave just one year ago would seem to prove that wrong.

Well before he used his company car to murder Rabbi Yeshiyahu Krishevsky and wound another person — running into passersby with the car and then getting out with a butcher’s knife before being shot – Jamal appeared on Yedioth Aharonoth where he gave an interview about the Har Nof massacre last November.

Jamal was in fact the cousin of the two terrorists who conducted the brutal attack with hatchets, knives and guns in western Jerusalem, in which four Jews were murdered at prayer — with two of them reportedly beheaded — in addition to a Druze police officer who was also killed in a subsequent shoot out with the murderers.

Speaking to the news station in Arabic in an interview broadcast on Israeli TV, Jamal appeared in the black and white khefiyeh associated with arch-terrorist Yasser Arafat, and spoke about the attack.

“This act was because of the pressure of the Israeli occupation government against the Palestinian people and Jerusalem in general, and the ongoing harm to the Al-Aqsa Mosque. It’s a normal thing that can be expected from every man who has courage and a feeling of belonging to his people and to Islam. It’s a normal reaction to the treatment we receive.”

Asked if he thinks there will be more incidents, he said, “I don’t know, everyone is responsible for themselves. We were also surprised by the act.”

“But you’re happy?,” asked the interviewer, apparently noting Jamal’s wide smirk. The future terrorist immediately responded, “thank Allah, someone who dies as a martyr, that’s a great thing.”

The Jerusalem Post reports that more of the Palestinian terrorists who have struck this week, including Alaa Abu Jamal, were already known to the Shin Bet:

The deadly stabbing and shooting attack on board a Jerusalem bus was carried by two terrorists; The first was 23-year-old Baha Alian from Jabel Mukaber in east Jerusalem, who is affiliated with Fatah and has a history of extremist statements, according to the Shin Bet intelligence agency.

Alian was shot and killed in the attack.

A second terrorist involved in the bus attack, who has not been named, was described by the Shin Bet as a Hamas operative from Jabel Mukaber, who has served time in an Israeli prison in 2013 to 2014 due to Hamas-related activities. He is being questioned by security forces.

The deadly vehicular and axe attack on Malacei Yisrael Street in Jerusalem was carried out by Ala Abu Jamal, 33, a resident of Jabal Mukaber. He is the uncle of Adi and Asan Abu Jamal, who carried out the gun and axe attack on Jewish worshippers in the Har Nof synagogue in Jerusalem in November 2014.

After last year’s attack, he made radical statements, and made online pledges of support for ISIS, the Shin Bet said.

Additionally, the suspect who got in a a gunfight with police last week in a Paris suburb had already been tagged by French authorities as a radicalization threat:

french t

The “known wolf” phenomenon is something that I have repeatedly documented here at PJ Media over the past year:

Oct. 24, 2014: ‘Lone Wolf’ or ‘Known Wolf’: The Ongoing Counter-Terrorism Failure

Dec. 15, 2014: Sydney Hostage Taker Another Case of ‘Known Wolf’ Syndrome

Jan. 7, 2015: Paris Terror Attack Yet Another Case of ‘Known Wolf’ Syndrome

Feb. 3, 2015: French Police Terror Attacker Yesterday Another Case of ‘Known Wolf’ Syndrome

Feb. 15, 2015: Copenhagen Killer Was yet Another Case of ‘Known Wolf’ Terrorism

Feb. 26, 2015: Islamic State Beheader ‘Jihadi John’ Yet Another Case of ‘Known Wolf’ Terrorism

Apr. 22, 2015: Botched Attack on Paris Churches Another Case of “Known Wolf” Terrorism

May 4, 2015: Texas Attack Is Yet Another Case of ‘Known Wolf’ Terrorism

June 26, 2015: France’s Beheading Terrorist Was Well-Known By Authorities

July 16, 2015: Report: Chattanooga Jihadist Was Yet Another ‘Known Wolf’ Terrorist, Anonymous Feds Dispute

Aug. 22, 2015: European Train Attacker Another Case of ‘Known Wolf’ Terrorism

Yet the persistent media narrative, fed by many Western governments, is that the escalating wave of terrorism is from unknown individuals striking randomly.

Until Western authorities are willing to acknowledge their failures in identifying and acting on these threats, it is likely that this “known wolf” terrorism phenomenon will only continue to grow.

***

“Rise of Jihadist Attacks and the Fallacy of the ‘Lone Wolf’ Terrorist” – with Patrick Poole

Also see: