10 Key Questions About The Khashoggi Affair To Answer Before Buying The Press Narrative

Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead

The discipline shown in the messaging campaign against Saudia Arabia suggests Turkis President Recep Erdogan is managing the Khashoggi file directly.

The Federalist, by Lee Smith, October 5,  2018:

On October 2, Saudi national and U.S. green-card holder Jamal Khashoggi reportedly walked into the Saudi consulate to resolve issues related to his marital status. Through anonymous leaks to the press, Turkish sources claim he did not leave the diplomatic facility alive. More anonymous sources claim he was tortured and murdered, allegations repeated in the U.S. press without evidence.

It is possible that the circumstances around Khashoggi’s disappearance will soon come to light. However, it’s equally likely that the passage of time will only further obscure events. To cast some light on the issue, I thought it was worthwhile asking what seem to me the central questions.

1. Is There Evidence Khashoggi Was Murdered?

Turkish sources say there is. The U.S. press has reported that unnamed Turkish officials have told them—or unnamed second-hand Turkish sources had told them—they have evidence, audio and video, that a team of Saudi officials detained, tortured, and killed Khashoggi.

However, no reporters, neither Western nor Turkish, have seen that evidence. If it exists, the Turks have not made it public. In one of the few leaks from the U.S. government, an intelligence official told CNN there is no hard evidence as to whether Khashoggi is dead or alive.

2. Why Has Turkey Asked Saudi Arabia to Join Its Khashoggi Investigative Team?

According to press reports, the government in Ankara has asked Riyadh to help investigate what happened to Khashoggi. The Turkish foreign minister recently complained that the “[Saudis] aren’t cooperating in full extent to uncover the circumstances of Khashoggi’s disappearance. We would like to see a genuine cooperation from them.”

This makes no sense. If Saudi Arabia is suspected of abducting or killing Khashoggi, its involvement in the investigation would compromise the probe, even giving a potential suspect opportunity to tamper with evidence. Further, if there is audio and video evidence that a Saudi team killed Khashoggi, as Turkish and U.S. media report, there is no need for an investigation—the case has already been solved.

The Turks’ two irreconcilable diplomatic tracks—official channels offering Saudi a role in the investigation while unnamed sources accuse it of murder—suggest that Ankara is negotiating with Riyadh. It’s unclear what the terms are.

3. Are Internal Turkish Issues a Factor in the Khashoggi Affair?

Because the Turkish figures and officials leaking to the press are anonymous, it’s not clear if, or to what extent, they represent President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Could the sources be hostile to Erdogan?

Two years ago, his opponents attempted to overthrow him, leaving hundreds of Turks dead. Erdogan responded by rounding up followers of the former ally he blames for the coup, Fethullah Gulen, a Muslim cleric who has lived in Pennsylvania for nearly two decades. Gulen, like Khashoggi, has a green card, reportedly facilitated by CIA officials.

Presumably, Erdogan has mostly rid his police force of the Gulenists who once dominated it. However, some sources identifying as police are challenging pieces of evidence that the Ankara government is using to illustrate Saudi guilt.

The discipline shown in the messaging campaign—accuse Riyadh through leaks and reveal nothing in public—suggests Erdogan is managing the Khashoggi file directly. However, his overall management of the crisis may make him vulnerable, again, to domestic rivals.

4. What Does the Khashoggi Affair Have to Do with the Gulf Cooperation Council Cold War?

Since spring 2017, the Gulf Cooperation Council has been split, with senior partner Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) pitted against another U.S. ally, Qatar. Riyadh and Abu Dhabi accused Doha of supporting terrorism and getting too close to Iran, and imposed an embargo on their junior partner.

Turkey sided with Qatar, where it has a military base. Erdogan has sought to heal relations with Riyadh but still has problems with the UAE as well as Abu Dhabi’s sprawling client, Egypt.

Qatari media outlets are leading the information campaign, publishing the most garish rumors, like the prospect that Khashoggi was cut into pieces. It’s not known what role Doha may be playing behind the scenes, but it’s clear that Erdogan sees the Khashoggi affair as an opportunity to advance Turkish interests against Qatar’s rivals.

Thus the Khashoggi affair is another battleground in the GCC Cold War.

5. Is the Release of Pastor Brunson Related to the Khashoggi Affair?

Turkish press sources say no. Trump said there was no deal to get back Andrew Brunson. However, the timing of the pastor’s release seems to say otherwise.

There were rumors in July of a deal to free Brunson. The United States helped win the release of a Turkish terror suspect held by Israel, but instead of releasing Brunson, Ankara put him under house arrest. The Trump administration sanctioned Turkish officials, and warned that an already damaged Turkish economy was vulnerable to more sanctions.

After July’s events, Brunson’s lawyer filed a motion, and it was expected the pastor would be released from house arrest, although his passport would not yet be returned. Then Friday, Turkey sentenced and released him with time served.

The fact that Ankara is bargaining with Riyadh suggests that the Turks were looking to improve their position by giving the Trump administration something it wanted. Thus the release of Brunson is almost certainly related to the Khashoggi affair.

6. Did U.S. Intelligence Know the Saudis Were Planning an Operation Targeting Khashoggi?

According to press reports, U.S. intercepts captured Saudi communications about an operation to detain Khashoggi. A CNN story indicates that the United States likely found the information in reviewing its intercepts after Khashoggi went missing. Was U.S. intelligence asleep at the wheel while an ally was planning an operation conducted on the soil of a NATO member that was likely to have regional, and even international consequences?

Should Riyadh have notified its U.S. ally that it was planning an operation against a U.S. person? Saudi intelligence officials have historically enjoyed a close relationship with their U.S. counterparts, especially since 9/11, which raises an important question: Did the Saudis in fact tell the United States they were planning an operation targeting Khashoggi? Did anyone else know the Saudis were going after him?

7. How Did a Man with Extensive Ties to Intelligence Services as Well as Extremist Groups Get a Green Card?

Khashoggi writes a column for the Washington Post and worked at a number of Saudi media organizations, print and broadcast. Broadly speaking, he is a journalist, as the U.S. press is describing him—with the caveat that most Arab journalists primarily serve the political masters who pay and protect them, and often represent the interests of intelligence services.

Khashoggi was an adviser to former Saudi intelligence chief Turki al-Faisal when he was ambassador to London, then Washington. Khashoggi reportedly joined the Muslim Brotherhood in the 1970s and continues to advocate for political Islam. He called the late Saudi dissident Osama Bin Laden a friend and mourned his death. It appears that Khasshogi may have been something like Riyadh’s back channel to al-Qaeda, at least prior to 9/11.

So how did a former Saudi official with ties to intelligence services, connections to the Muslim Brotherhood, and a long history with a terrorist responsible for nearly 3,000 deaths on U.S. soil obtain permanent resident status?

Khashoggi must have important American patrons, because even though he reportedly moved to the United States in 2017, he already had a green card. According to the Washington Post’s David Ignatius: “Friends helped Khashoggi obtain a visa that allowed him to stay in the United States as a permanent resident.” So who vouched for him and why?

It might be useful to put these questions to former CIA director John Brennan. He was station chief in Riyadh from 1996-1999, when Khashoggi’s patron Turki al-Faisal was head of Saudi’s general intelligence directorate.

8. How Much of U.S. Press Coverage and Expert Opinion Is Shaped by the Pro-Iran ‘Echo Chamber’?

To market the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, commonly referred to as the Iran nuclear deal, the Obama administration built an echo chamber out of government officials, policy experts, and a supine press corps. But Obama’s signature foreign policy initiative was not only or even primarily an arms control deal. Rather, the JCPOA was purposed to realign U.S. interests in the Middle East, with Iran as the favored partner and traditional American allies, especially Israel and Saudi Arabia, downgraded.

Obama-era officials rightly saw the Trump administration as a threat to undo Obama’s policies. Trump not only got out of the Iran deal but also underscored the centrality of America’s traditional alliances. He made his first foreign visit to Saudi Arabia and moved the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

Khashoggi reportedly joined the Muslim Brotherhood in the 1970s and continues to advocate for political Islam.

Soon after Khashoggi fell out of public view, former Obama aides and other echo chamber associates went into action. To punish Saudi, they named specific policies. In particular, they argued that the administration should withdraw support for Riyadh’s war against the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen.

It’s hardly coincidental that Khashoggi himself had made similar points in a September Washington Post column: “Saudi Arabia’s crown prince must restore dignity to his country — by ending Yemen’s cruel war.” In the article, Khashoggi questioned the crown prince’s legitimacy as ruler of Saudi Arabia and custodian of Islam’s two holiest shrines.

The inability, Khashoggi wrote, “of Saudi authorities in preventing Houthi missiles from being fired in the first place serves as an embarrassing reminder that the kingdom’s leadership is unable to restrain their Iranian-backed opponent.” Khashoggi’s criticism of other policies implemented by Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman (MBS)—like trying to rein in Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri—also synchronized with echo chamber talking points.

It should come as no surprise that the Obama echo chamber used the Khashoggi affair as an opportunity to sound its anti-Saudi talking points. As a Saudi voice critical of MBS, Khashoggi’s work at the Post was integrated into the echo chamber’s anti-Saudi and pro-Iran messaging campaign. How much is U.S. reporting and opinion regarding the Khashoggi affair shaped by the pro-Iran echo chamber? Nearly all of it.

9. Why Are Some DC Public Relations Firms Now Worried about Representing the Saudis?

Washington DC lobbyists and public relations firms, who represent some of the world’s worst, now appear to believe that the Saudis are beyond the pale. Is it because some of their other clients—like African despots, Central Asian oligarchs, and Latin American drug lords—don’t like the odor? No, it’s again a function of the GCC Cold War—and domestic American politics.

Both sides, Saudi Arabia/UAE and Qatar, have spent lavishly in their efforts to win the exclusive love of the American government. Many inside the Beltway have profited handsomely from the GCC conflict. Others, however, paid a price for putting themselves in the middle of warring tribes. For instance, the UAE-allied former finance chairman of the Republican National Committee chairman Elliott Broidy was targeted by the Qataris, who hacked his wife’s emails and leaked them to the New York Times.

Having acquired over the last several years the customs and manners of Arab media outlets, it’s only fitting the U..S press has taken sides against certain Arab regimes, just as it has taken sides against the current White House. Since Trump looks with favor on Saudi and the UAE, the media considers them enemies, too.

That’s why Congress’s hometown paper, the Washington Post, is warning the Saudis’ friends, allies, and employees to abandon Riyadh lest they forfeit their respectability. In other words, as long as publicists and lobbyists work for the Saudis, they can hardly expect the Post to give their other clients a fair hearing. It’s blackmail.

10. Why Are Conservative Policy Analysts and Journalists Advising Trump to Go Hard on Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman?

The dynamic public relations blitz waged on behalf of the 30-something heir to the throne appears to have backfired. It raised expectations way too high.

After winning praise from columnists like Thomas Friedman and Washington policy experts impressed by his favorable views toward political reform, Israel, women’s empowerment, and privatizing the economy, MBS stock has tumbled precipitously the last two weeks. Many of his former fans are barking the loudest because after they gave him the seal of approval, MBS embarrassed them in front of their peers.

A meltdown in the Persian Gulf may affect global stability in ways that no one can fathom—including the experts, analysts, and pundits who now counsel punishing MBS.

Prominent GOP policy experts and neoconservative journalists were lured into the anti-MBS campaign led by former Obama hands and “resistance” media. Now, they, too, demand that the Trump administration should punish the crown prince.

They propose, however, no back-up plan should the shaming campaign by Saudi’s American patron weaken MBS’ position, or even remove him from the line of succession. After all, plenty of members of his family have it out for him after he locked down and penalized hundreds of princes last year as part of an anti-corruption campaign.

Most of the foreign policy establishment’s MBS advocates misunderstood his appeal from the start. They liked him because he appeared to be a liberal, and he encouraged that conviction, casting trifles in their path—movie theatres, music concerts, women behind the wheel, etc.

No, what’s most attractive about MBS is that he is young. His youth is important not because it signals a tech-savvy reformer with liberal impulses who will come to turn the kingdom into a democracy. He sees that Saudi Arabia is in a vulnerable position. Oil is not a long-term solution. Nor are there easy fixes found in the freedom agenda slogans chanted by those who now want to hobble him. His youth matters because, with luck, it will afford him time to figure out how to temper, maybe even solve, some of the country’s most daunting issues.

If he doesn’t, Saudi Arabia is in big trouble and so is everyone else. A meltdown in the Persian Gulf may affect global stability in ways that no one can fathom—including the experts, analysts, and pundits who now counsel punishing MBS, even though they, like virtually everyone else, have no idea what is at the bottom of the Khashoggi affair.

Lee Smith is the media columnist at Tablet.
Also see:

Wall Street Journal Runs Editorial from Erdogan—World’s Biggest Jailer of Journalists

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan meets with media in Ankara on March 22, 2017. (Kayhan Ozer/Presidential Press Service, Pool Photo via AP)

PJ Media, by Patrick Poole, September 11, 2018:

One-third of all journalists jailed worldwide sit in the prisons of Turkey’s Islamist autocrat, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

So it’s startling that the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) has opened up its opinion page to him today.

Remarkably, this comes after Turkey imprisoned WSJ reporter Dion Nissenbaumfor two and a half days in December 2016, refusing to allow him to contact his colleagues or his family and later deporting him.

Then in October 2017, the Turkish regime convicted WSJ reporter Ayla Albayrak in absentia on charges of publishing “terrorist propaganda.”

And just today the Erdogan regime arrested another Western journalist:

Today’s Erdogan op-ed follows another New York Times op-ed by the Turkish dictator just a month ago — published on the same day the NYT editorial board questioned whether Turkey was still an American ally:

The bizarre love affair of the American corporate media continues as 169 journalists sit in Turkish prisons:

This has earned Turkey the title of the world’s largest jailer of journalists:

But Erdogan has not been content with just jailing journalists.

Since the so-called “coup” attempt in July 2016, Erdogan associates have taken over many of Turkey’s newspapers.

Just last week one of the few remaining independent newspapers, Cumhuriyet, had a new board installed, which promptly sacked the editor-in-chief and prompted the resignations of more than a dozen of its reporters.

And Erdogan doesn’t hesitate to show his contempt for media criticism, such as comments he made just two weeks ago:

When called out by the international media for jailing journalists, he’s defended his actions by saying that they’re not journalists but terrorists:

Not content to limit his attacks on the media to just Turkey, Erdogan’s regime has used a number of avenues to attack journalists abroad.

Just a few days ago Gissur Simonarson was notified by Twitter that one of his tweets reporting on the attacks by Turkish troops operating inside Syria had been proscribed by Turkish courts:

Turkish hackers have also targeted American media personalities, in some cases hijacking their Twitter accounts:

It was reported this past January that social media death threats targeting Belgian journalists had come from IP addresses assigned to the Turkish embassy in Brussels.

What explains the ongoing love affair between the American media and dictators around the world? What would compel a media outlet to give space or airtime to a brutal dictator who holds one-third of all journalists jailed worldwide in his prisons?

That’s a good question for the editors at the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times.

America’s Turkey Problem Finally Comes to a Head

Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan (center) with Iranian president Hassan Rouhani (left) and Russian president Vladimir Putin at a ceremony in Ankara, Turkey, April 4, 2018. (Tolga Bozoglu/Pool/Reuters)

This week brought signs that the deeply flawed status quo of U.S.-Turkish relations has begun to crack.

National Review, by Matthew RJ Brodsky, August 3, 2018:

For successive administrations, inertia may have kept the flawed status quo of U.S.–Turkey relations in place, but the train appears finally to be running out of track. It was bound to happen eventually, regardless of the Trump administration’s just-announced decision to impose sanctions on two Turkish cabinet officials in response to Turkey’s continued detention of an American pastor. And now it has: The final version of the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which passed the House last week and is set to come to a vote in the Senate in August, contains a handful of provisions that take aim at Turkey, which is officially a NATO ally but has come to resemble a “frenemy” at best over the past decade.

At issue is Turkey’s plan to simultaneously purchase two weapons systems that would have long-term strategic implications for the United States and its most loyal allies. The Senate version of the NDAA contains a provision calling for Turkey to be sanctioned if it completes the purchase of Russia’s S-400 long-range air- and missile-defense system. Another provision directs the Pentagon to submit a plan to Congress to remove Turkey from participation in the F-35 Lightning II program, effectively barring Ankara from receiving the top-of-line U.S-manufactured joint-strike fighter. The House version, for its part, would halt all weapons sales to Turkey until the Pentagon analyzes the worsening tensions between the two nations.

Turkey’s desire to acquire both the F-35 and the S-400 has rightfully set off alarm bells in Washington and beyond, because the two systems were designed by fierce adversaries to counteract each other. Despite having its share of critics, the fifth-generation F-35 fighter jet with stealth capabilities is considered by many to be the best multi-role combat aircraft in the world. In the other corner, the Russia-made S-400 is the most advanced air-defense system in use. It would pose a significant challenge to the air capabilities of the U.S. and its allies — including those that fly the F-35.

The problem isn’t merely the fact that Turkey is purchasing a surface-to-air-missile (SAM) system from Russia. Unlike the Patriot SAM system that Ankara rejected, the S-400 doesn’t integrate within NATO’s military architecture. Meanwhile, Israel continues to highlight the Patriot’s ability to tackle a diverse array of targets. This leads observers to question why Turkey would pursue a deal with Russia (or even China) at the expense of its supposed allies, especially if doing so wouldn’t boost NATO’s collective air defenses.

Indeed, while the S-400 wouldn’t play nice with the rest of NATO’s missile-defense systems, it would undoubtedly have more than a sympathetic ear for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. For instance, Russia’s S-400 radar can act as a platform to collect electronic and signal intelligence from the F-35, which is a problem that could threaten the entire F-35 fleet. By operating both systems together, Turkey could test and share information about the limitations or advantages of each. That is valuable intelligence it might choose to share with its newfound partners in Moscow and Tehran rather than with NATO. The result would be an optimized S-400 system able to detect aircraft from an even greater range, with a deeper understanding of how the top-shelf U.S. fighter plane operates.

The problem is not just theoretical, either. It is an immediate operational concern in Syria, where the U.S. is engaged with the Islamic State in the east, Israel is enforcing its red lines regarding Iran in the center and to the west, and the relentless air campaign mounted by Russia and Assad has combined with frequent Iranian air shipments of fighters and military equipment to further crowd the country’s airspace. Given such conditions, the type of air assets and aerial-defense systems at issue here can often be a determining factor in the success of any mission.

Take the F-35. Israel already purchased the aircraft as an upgrade to its aging fleet of F-15 and F-16 fighter jets. In May, Israel Air Force (IAF) commander Major General Amikam Norkin disclosedthat the aircraft had already participated in two airstrikes over the Middle East, making Israel the first country to operate an F-35 in combat, just as it was the first to use the F-15 in 1979. But while Israel is now relying on the F-35 for air superiority in Syria, Russia has brought in the S-400 system to protect its expanded Khmeimim airbase along the coast. Why, you ask, did Russia feel compelled to bring in its world-class air-defense system if it was operating against terrorist groups that didn’t even have aircraft? The answer lies in Turkey.

A few months after Russia decisively entered the Syrian war in 2015, a Turkish F-16 shot down a Russian Su-24 that allegedly crossed into its airspace. Russia’s solution was to deploy the S-400 in addition to the already-formidable S-300. Both are weapons systems that Israel considers “game-changing,” but since they are operated by Russia — not Assad’s or Iran’s forces — Israel has been forced to work with Moscow in reaching an understanding on its red lines, in addition to maintaining its active de-confliction lines.

Preventing the transfer of such systems to Iran or Israel’s enemies in Syria and Lebanon is a priority for the IAF, which has mounted, by some estimates, over 100 one-off airstrikes in Syria for just that purpose. Notably, in one of three aerial attacks this year on the T-4 airbase deep inside Syria, Israel destroyed a soon-to-be-unpacked “Third Khordad” aerial-defense system, an Iranian version of Russia’s S-300. Iran received this technology when it purchased and tested the S-300 from Russia following the implementation of the Obama administration’s nuclear agreement. It is believed to be currently deployed around the hardened Fordow nuclear facility in Qom. Clearly, both the U.S. and Israel have an interest in minimizing the number of advanced Russian SAM sites guarding Iranian and Syrian assets in case a military showdown over Iran’s nuclear program becomes a necessity.

This congested military dance over Syria is taking place alongside a flurry of recent diplomatic activity in which all concerned parties are plowing a path to Putin. Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan met with the Russian leader in late July, on the sidelines of the BRICS summit in South Africa, to further their cooperation as they prepare to violate the last of four de-escalation zones they created last year. And days before the Helsinki summit in which President Trump and President Putin discussed Syria, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu again met with Putin to impress upon him the need to push Iran out of the country. Short of that, which remains unlikely, Israel hopes to at least keep Russia and the S-400 on the sidelines as it continues to target Iranian assets.

While far from ideal from Israel’s perspective, on an operational level this delicate balance in Syria has worked out for the Jewish state. For instance, on July 22, Israel targeted a military complex north of Masyaf, which is located less than five miles from Russia’s S-400. Hardly a peep was heard from Moscow.

Instead, the most bellicose voice these days comes from Ankara, which is seeking its own advantage over its neighbors and beyond. Erdogan recently slammed the U.S. for asking Turkey to comply with sanctions against Iran, because he considers the regime in Tehran to be Turkey’s “strategic partner.”

Indeed, Erdogan has even picked up some negotiating pointers from Tehran, such as how to use Western hostages as bargaining chips. Andrew Brunson, an Evangelical Presbyterian pastor from North Carolina, was arrested in Turkey in 2016, during the regime’s crackdown on journalists, academics, and Christian minorities. He was released on house arrest last Wednesday, but Erdogan won’t let him go free. Another wrinkle in the story developed over the weekend when it came to light that as part of a trade for the pastor’s release, President Trump asked Prime Minister Netanyahu to release a Turkish national arrested earlier in July on terrorism-related charges. Netanyahu complied the following day, but Erdogan failed to hold up his end of the deal. As a result, the Trump administration decided to sanction Turkey’s justice and interior ministers.

It was not exactly the message one would expect to hear from the Turkish president if he were trying to gain favor in the halls of the U.S. Congress. Then again, this is a man who dispatched his security detail to brutally assault peaceful demonstrators in Washington, D.C., last year, while he watched from his limo. The problem runs far deeper than that case or the matter of Brunson, but if such behavior is any indication of what the future holds, there’s little reason for the U.S. to afford Turkey any kind of preferential treatment.

Under Erdogan’s leadership, the state has become a revisionist power with imperial ambitions that include re-creating a version of the Ottoman Empire based on the Muslim Brotherhood model. In this sense, he has far more in common with Vladimir Putin, who seeks to redraw the map of Europe in the service of his vision of “Eurasia from Lisbon to Vladivostok,” as Putin and his foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, called it.

Erdogan isn’t subtle about his preferences. Whenever he has seen an opportunity to exploit the weakness of a U.S. ally, he has taken advantage, whether it was supporting the Muslim Brotherhood against the Egyptian people or siding with Qatar when the Gulf States had isolated the kingdom. He is downright hostile to Greece and Cyprus, even as he cozies up to Russia, Iran, and China. And, of course, he remains a vocal and major financial supporter of Hamas and never misses an opportunity to liken Israelis to Nazis as he vies for leadership of the Middle East’s anti-Israel powers.

In that sense it isn’t just the thought of the F-35 and the S-400 parked together in a Turkish hangar that should have Washington worried; it’s everything about the U.S.-Turkish relationship. Erdogan’s drift away from NATO’s core values has become an unobstructed stampede toward brutish authoritarianism. He now behaves as an amateur Mafia boss demanding protection money for the damages he causes. The recent episode with Pastor Brunson is just par for the course, not an aberration or passing episode. Moreover, it is rather illustrative: A true ally such as Israel accedes to a U.S. request even when it receives little in return. Reneging on a hostage negotiation while openly courting America’s enemies is adversarial behavior.

So a reevaluation of the relationship is long overdue, and Washington should take the time now to get it right. As long as Turkey continues to prioritize its temporary alliances with Russia and Iran over its relationship with NATO, the U.S. should downgrade its ties and take its own punitive measures. That means the F-35 should be off the table for the foreseeable future and a cost, perhaps in additional sanctions, should be associated with Turkey’s decision to purchase the S-400. We cannot afford to reward Ankara’s bad behavior, nor to risk the security of America’s allies and the delicate balance of power that exists over Syria.

MATTHEW RJ BRODSKY — — Matthew RJ Brodsky is a senior fellow at the Security Studies Group in Washington, D.C. and the co-author of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies study, “Controlled Chaos: The Escalation of Conflict between Israel and Iran in War-Torn Syria.”

The Trouble with Turkey’s Erdogan…and His Global Supporters

Terror Trends Bulletin, by Christopher W. Holton, June 26, 2018:

Predictably, Recep Tayyip Erdogan was re-elected in Turkey in the latest demonstration of his seizure of absolute power there.

What was once a largely secular nation is now careening toward and Islamic State to fulfill Erdogan’s dream of re-establishing the Ottoman Empire, the last widely recognized Islamic caliphate, which was shut down nearly a century ago.

Erdogan’s behavior is obviously very troubling to the West in general and NATO in particular.

• He has cozied up to the Ayatollahs in Tehran and maintained their “right” to enrich uranium.

• He has become increasingly close to Putin’s Russia, including buying advanced surface to air missile systems from the Russians, despite Turkey’s membership in NATO. Worse yet, Turkey is now procuring American F-35 strike fighters, raising the specter that Erdogan could share its advanced technology with the Russians, whose aviation industry is at least a generation behind America’s.

• Erdogan has supported the Jihadist terrorist organization HAMAS and has become increasingly hostile toward Israel. He recently called for an international Muslim military force to defend Gaza from Israel.

• Erdogan has become a major supporter of the global Muslim Brotherhood and has closely allied with Qatar, a nation that has been revealed as a major supporter of Jihadist terrorism and Islamist ideology.

What many observers are now seeing is that Turkey is becoming the major global sponsor of Jihad as the new Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia curtails that country’s activity along those lines. Michael Rubin explains in today’s Washington Examiner:


In addition to the Ayatollahs and Vladimir Putin, we can judge Erdogan by those who support him:

Prominent leaders and personalities from around the world on Monday continued to praise President Recep Tayyip Erdogan following his historic election win on Sunday.

Sudan’s ruling National Congress Party said the Turkish election results indicate “Turkish nation’s trust for AK Party and its alliances, and support for Erdogan and his party’s policies.” [NOTE: Sudan is an officially designated state sponsor of terrorism and its ruling regime is guilty of genocide.]

The leader of the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, Abdurrahman Mustafa also congratulated the president over his election victory [NOTE: Erdogan has supported Jihadist organizations in Syria, not out of ignorance, but precisely because he knows who and what they are.]

In a Twitter message, the chairman of Qatar-based International Union of Muslim Scholars, Yousef al-Qaradawi, congratulated Erdogan and the Turkish nation “for their success in the democracy wedding”. [NOTE: Qaradawi is the ideological mentor of the Muslim Brotherhood and has been banned from traveling to the US, the UK and France due to his “extremism.” For more on Qaradawi, visit this link: http://www.shariahfinancewatch.org/2012/03/26/sheikh-yusuf-al-qaradawi-banned-from-france/

Against this backdrop, it is certainly very interesting that certain American Muslim leaders have chimed in in praise of Erdogan’s sham re-election…

The head of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Nihad Awad, congratulated the Turkish nation for the successful election, saying that a high voter turnout marked the polls.

Oussama Jamal, the secretary-general of the U.S. Council of Muslim Organizations, said the Turkish elections were held in democratic maturity and sent a message to the world.

The executive director of the Chicago-based charity Zakat Foundation, Halil Demir also said President Erdogan proved that he was not the president of his ruling AK Party, but the entire country.

Also see:

Erdogan Tightens His Grip On Turkey

The Federalist, By Megan G. Oprea, June 25, 2018:

Turkey went to the polls yesterday, a full year earlier than the country’s planned national election, to decide whether to extend President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s hold on power. Erdogan has been president for 15 years, and based on 96 percent of votes that have been counted so far, that term will be extended another five years.

Why did Erdogan hold elections early? For one thing, the Turkish economy is doing well now, a boon to the Erdogan administration that might not last another year. But really, all you need to know about this election is summed up in Erdogan’s campaign motto: “A great Turkey needs a strong leader.”

Many in Turkey (and abroad) see Erdogan as a flourishing authoritarian who is leading Turkey away from the democracy it embraced upon its modern founding after World War I. Since that time, Turkey has also insisted on strict secularism. These twin pillars are what have distinguished Turkey from the rest of the Muslim world over the past century. But democracy and secularism have steadily been eroded under Erdogan.

One of the accelerators of that erosion was the failed coup attempt in the summer of 2016, which gave Erdogan the opportunity to crack down severely on dissent in the military, the universities, the judiciary, and in the press. Nor did he miss the chance to lock up a number of opposition members. Then, last year, Erdogan held a referendum on making constitutional changes that would significantly expand executive powers over parliament and the judiciary. It would also extend how long a president could serve. Erdogan had himself in mind, naturally, which brings us to yesterday’s election.

With Erdogan’s reelection, those expanded presidential powers can now take effect. Of course, Erdogan’s election is being questioned by members of the opposition parties, which all banded together to try to bring him down, to no avail. Not only does the opposition question the election results themselves, but there’s also the small matter of a number of opposition members being imprisoned in the lead-up to the election.

But not everyone in Turkey is lamenting Erdogan’s victory. The budding dictator has a large constituency that makes up about half of the country, which is for most part the country’s conservative Muslim population. These Muslims desire a return to Islamic law in some form. That’s why, ahead of the election, Erdogan began opening religious schools. But he’s not just opening new schools, he’s replacing old schools, changing the curriculum, and firing tens of thousands of teachers and allowing religious groups to take over. This isn’t mere pandering to his constituency. Erdogan himself is an Islamist who wants to raise what he has called “a pious generation.” After yesterday, he will have mostly unfettered powers to transform Turkey in his own image.

All this raises a couple of important questions: First, why did the United States just sell a bunch of F-35s to Turkey in the face of opposition from Congress? The answer to that is that Turkey is a NATO member. Not selling to Ankara would be an affront to a supposed ally. But, as Turkey moves ever further toward authoritarianism and away from democracy, another question inevitably hovers on the horizon: why is Turkey still a member of NATO, and how long can that last?

Megan G. Oprea is the managing editor of the Texas National Security Review. She is a senior contributor to The Federalist and editor of the foreign policy newsletter INBOUND. She holds a PhD in French linguistics from the University of Texas at Austin. You can follow her on Twitter.

Erdogan Predicts ‘War Between the Cross and Crescent’ over Austria Mosque Closures


Breitbart, by Simon Kent, June 10, 2018:

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan attacked Austria’s impending closure of mosques and consequent expulsion of Turkish-funded imams, saying the move is anti-Islamic while promising a response.

“These measures taken by the Austrian prime minister are, I fear, leading the world towards a war between the cross and the crescent,” Erdogan said in a speech in Istanbul covered by AFP.

Austria’s populist government made the announcement on Friday morning at a press conference as part of the governing coalition’s campaign against radical Islamic ideology and the influence of countries like Turkey in the Austrian Islamic community, Kronen Zeitung reports.

Media reports that between 40 and 60 imams, including their families, could be expelled in total. The imams all stand accused of receiving funding from abroad. Official investigations have been launched in 11 cases. Two of the imams had already been denied extensions to their residency permits.

Among the mosques facing closure is the Mosque of the Grey Wolves on Antonsplatz, in the working-class Vienna district of Favoriten, where the Gallipoli reenactment took place.

The other six mosques are in Vienna, Upper Austria and Carinthia, in all of which hardline salafist teachings are said to be widespread.

Mr. Erdogan, speaking Saturday, said: “They say they’re going to kick our religious men out of Austria. Do you think we will not react if you do such a thing?”

“That means we’re going to have to do something,” he added without elaborating.

Around 360,000 people of Turkish origin live in Austria, including 117,000 Turkish nationals.

Relations between Ankara and Vienna have been strained since a failed coup against Erdogan in 2016 which was followed by a wave of arrests. Mr. Erdogan’s speech precedes presidential and legislative elections on June 24 in which he faces stiff opposition.

During last year’s Turkish referendum on expanding the president’s powers, tensions ran high between Vienna and Ankara after Austria said it would not allow campaign-related events.

The new policy comes after a number of scandals involving mosques in Austria, including one in which Islamists were plotting to overthrow the government to replace it with an Islamic caliphate. The ATIB association came under fire last week when a Turkish mosque posted images of young children swearing oaths to the Turkish state.

New book “Ally No More” details jihadist threat from Turkey

Center for Security Policy, April 17, 2018:

Watch the Facebook Livestream launch event 

A panel of expert contributors were on hand to discuss the new book:
  • Clare M. Lopez, Vice President for Research and Analysis, Center for Security Policy
  • Deborah Weiss, Esq., Senior Fellow, Center for Security Policy, attorney, author and public speaker
  • Uzay Bulut, Turkish journalist focusing on antisemitism and minority rights
  • Moderator: Christopher C. Hull, Ph.D., Executive Vice President, Center for Security Policy


“Whither Turkey?” is a question that has become one of the most pressing national security topics of our time. The available evidence – including, notably, the increasingly overt ambition of Recep Tayyip Erdogan to become the Caliph of a neo-Ottoman empire, his naked hostility toward the United States and the damage being done by Turkey to America’s vital interests and those of the rest of NATO and other allies like Israel and the Kurds – suggests the answer is alarming.

That evidence is thoughtfully assessed in a new book from the Center for Security Policy Press,Ally No More: Erdogan’s New Turkish Caliphate and the Rising Jihadist Threat to the West. Its ten essays include a detailed treatment of the presence of Turkish influence operations and infrastructure in this country that could enable the regime in Ankara not only to harm U.S. interests elsewhere, but to engage in subversion here – making it required reading for American policy-makers and the public, alike. ​

A group of highly respected authors/experts – notably including Harold Rhode Burak Bekdil, Uzay Bulut, David Goldman, Daniel Pipes and the Center for Security Policy’s Executive Vice President Christopher Hull and Senior Fellow Deborah Weiss – contributed chapters to this much-needed book. So did the Center’s Vice President for Research and Analysis, Clare M. Lopez, who also served as Ally No More’s editor.

This extensively footnoted collection of essay features insightful treatments of: Turkey’s own demographic and economic situation; Erdogan’s increasingly autocratic disregard for Turkey’s constitution and escalating record of human rights abuses; and the apparently not-quite-final divorce from Erdogan’s longtime jihadist collaborator, Fethullah Gulen.

Dr. Rhode’s chapter as well as two others focus on a strategic look at how Turkey is not only alienating itself from its own Ataturk legacy by pursuing a frankly jihadist agenda, but from the U.S. directly, through Erdogan’s brazen alliance with the Muslim Brotherhood on U.S. territory. Dr. Pipes offered suggestions for necessarily tough, but effective, measures for Turkey’s NATO allies to take in response to Erdogan’s overtly hostile policies.

Overall, this is a most timely and scholarly contribution to our understanding of shifting realities that must be dealt with in a clear-eyed and expeditious manner if U.S. national security priorities are to be preserved.

Upon the release of Ally No More: Erdoğan’s New Turkish Caliphate and the Rising Jihadist Threat to the West, Frank Gaffney Jr. President of the Center for Security Policy observed:

Few recent geostrategic developments are as fraught as the transformation of Turkey from a reliable, secular and democratic allied nation to one ruled by a hostile, Sharia-supremacist and increasingly despotic regime.  This book maps out that trajectory and its implications – and offers astute and timely suggestions for how America must respond.

Ally No More: Erdogan’s New Turkish Caliphate and the Rising Jihadist Threat to the West is available for purchase in Kindle and paperback.

It can also be viewed and downloaded for free in PDF format

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