Trump Shuts Down CIA Support for Syrian ‘Rebels’ After Years of Chronic Failure

PJ Media, by Patrick Poole, July 24, 2017:

The announcement last week that the Trump administration was shutting down the “covert” CIA program of arming Syrian “rebel” groups couldn’t have come too soon.

As I’ve reported here in more than three dozen articles over the past three years, the CIA support program had suffered chronic failures, including defections of groups “vetted” by the CIA defecting to al-Qaeda and ISIS, and leakage of weapons provided by the CIA into the hands of those same terror groups.

The pinnacle of this failure came in Obama’s last few hours in the White House in January, when he ordered the bombing of a terror training camp that also hosted fighters from a CIA-“vetted” group embedded with Al-Qaeda. That same CIA-“vetted” group officially partnered with Al-Qaeda a few days later.

Perhaps the defining moment of the U.S. support for Syrian “rebels” debacle came last year when CIA-backed groups were fighting against groups backed by the Pentagon:

The Washington Post announced the cancellation of the CIA support program last week, claiming without evidence that the move was made to placate Russia:

The termination of the program was confirmed by SOCOM Gen. Tony Thomas at the Aspen Security Forum on Friday:

Gen. Thomas specifically refuted the Washington Post‘s Russia tie-in to the announcement:

But as I reported here at PJ Media back in February, the CIA had already begun shutting down the weapons pipeline to the “rebel” groups.

Predictably, the “rebel” groups began flocking to Al-Qaeda as soon as the CIA pipeline began to slow.

In response to the program cancellation announcement, cheerleaders of the “vetted moderate rebels” complained that the U.S. hadn’t supported the groups enough.

But that talking point was rebutted by Obama nearly three years ago.

In an August 2014 interview with Tom Friedman in the New York Times, Obama dismissed the notion that more weapons would have given the “rebels” any kind of edge and expressed frustration at the inability to find enough “moderates”:

With “respect to Syria,” said the president, the notion that arming the rebels would have made a difference has “always been a fantasy.This idea that we could provide some light arms or even more sophisticated arms to what was essentially an opposition made up of former doctors, farmers, pharmacists and so forth, and that they were going to be able to battle not only a well-armed state but also a well-armed state backed by Russia, backed by Iran, a battle-hardened Hezbollah, that was never in the cards.”

Even now, the president said, the administration has difficulty finding, training and arming a sufficient cadre of secular Syrian rebels: “There’s not as much capacity as you would hope.”

And yet, just a month later the GOP congressional leadership passed $500 million in additional funds for an eventual U.S.-backed, Pentagon-trained army of 15,000 “vetted moderates” to combat ISIS. In less than a year, that half-billion dollar boondoggle approved by Congress turned into a disaster. By July 2015, fewer than 60 fighters had been successfully vetted and trained — costing taxpayers nearly $4 million for each fighter.

[…]

By any objective measure, the CIA’s assistance to the Syrian “rebel” groups has been a complete catastrophe.

The CIA’s botched handling in both Libya and Syria should serve as a cautionary tale to the Trump administration about the follies of ill-informed intervention. While those policies may have been driven by the best of intentions, the results have been horrifically bad.

And contrary to the program’s defenders, these efforts are very likely responsible for drawing Russia and Iran deeper into the region.

As the Assad regime, backed by Iran, Hezbollah and Russia, continues to make gains against the opposition’s positions, and U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces in the north of the country pressure ISIS, we can only expect that the opposition will grow even more dominated by the terrorist groups because they have largely been the only game in town. And it’s likely that continued CIA support would have accelerated that radicalization process, not delayed it.

A few of us lonely voices have said this is where the Syrian war was heading all along. And the cancellation of the CIA’s support program is at least a tacit recognition that we were right.

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Threat to Homeland High – Negotiation Not the Solution

Understanding the Threat, by John Guandolo, July 24, 2017:

Famed terrorist Carlos the Jackal said:  “Only a coalition of Marxists and Islamists can destroy the United States.”

In September 2015, UTT published a brief article entitled The Convergence of Threats which illuminates the marriage between the U.S. Islamic Movement and the hard-left Marxists.  Today, this marriage moves ever closer to is objective of overthrowing the U.S. government.

In a time when the Republic is in such grave danger from external (China, North Korea) and internal threats (Jihadists, Marxists, Progressives, Communists), and because the threats have massed and are launching unending assaults in our courts, our schools, our political system, and our communities – both violent and non-violent – the response cannot be gradual and it cannot be measured.

The strongest action possible must be taken against revolutionaries inside our nation, be they Antifa, Black Lives Matter, Industrial Areas Foundation, Communist Party USA, Muslim Brotherhood/Hamas, or any others.  All nations working to undermine the United States, like China, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Pakistan, Qatar, North Korea, Venezuela, and others must be dealt with harshly and swiftly.

We are at war for the integrity of our nation, and nothing should cause us to hesitate or falter.

During World War II, German spies/saboteurs arrived on American soil in 1944 with orders to destroy critical U.S. infrastructure.  Fearing capture, two of the spies turned themselves in and ratted out the other 6 who were captured at the end of June of the same year.  President Roosevelt ordered a military tribunal, and on August 8, approximately five weeks later, all six were executed.

While the Manhattan Project was in full operation creating the atomic bombs that would be dropped on Japan and end World War II, spies penetrated secret U.S. laboratories and were stealing secrets about the project.  Brigadier General Paul Tibbets (USAF, retired) who piloted the Enola Gay, which delivered the first atomic bomb in Hiroshima, Japan, spoke in November 2000 about his experiences.  Tibbets detailed how the United States handled at least two spies during wartime.  He told a story, directly related to him by one of the men involved, about a meeting between a traitor/spy and his handler in Chicago.  U.S. government officials witnessing the meeting shot them dead in the streets of Chicago and left them there. See Tibbets video HERE (43:55-45:50).

Today, Secret/Top Secret information is being leaked to the media for political gain, gravely damaging the security of the United States.  Government officials and elected representatives in both political parties at the federal level are protecting, aiding and abetting, and providing material support to enemies of the United States, including Hamas and Al Qaeda terrorists in suits, as well as leaders of hostile nation states like Iran and Saudi Arabia.

Members of the media are providing material support to these same terrorists by allowing terrorists to use their networks as platforms for propaganda and for destroying the reputations and lives of people who are working to fight against this threat, uphold the law, and honor their Oaths of Office.

Judges are using their benches to assault the integrity of our nation’s laws while ignoring their duty to the Constitution and the ideals found in the Declaration of Independence.

Local officials, including mayors, city council members, school board officials, some law enforcement leaders, university presidents and officials, and others are regularly surrendering our founding principles and our security to hard-left Marxists and jihadis just for the sake of avoiding conflict and controversy.

Our universities have, to a great extent, become places of indoctrination and not education, which is an intentional means to achieve our enemies objectives.

Understanding the threat is always the first step, but Americans must also understand these hostile movements at a much deeper level.  Every action taken by these movements – even if the action itself is legal – serves to aid these Movements’ overall goal of overthrowing the U.S. government.  This makes these actions unlawful under Title 18 US Code Chapter 115 as they act to aid in conspiracies to overthrow the government.  This includes Advocating Overthrow of Government, Seditious Conspiracy, Misprision of Treason, Treason, and others.

Yet, the federal government is catastrophically broken and is not currently able to deal with the threats bearing down on us.  This is why it is imperative for all Patriots to understand this war will be won – or lost – at the local level in their community.  Sheriffs and Pastors are key, but active citizens will win the day.

If you live in a community which is surrendering to the Islamic Movement and the hard-left Marxists, UTT suggests you move to a community that has a desire to live and thrive as a free people.

There is a war going on and every able-bodied Patriot is needed.  County by county, state by state.

By the grace of God and the help of a few Marines, America can be liberated.

***

Dom Raso warns that there is an organized anarchy occurring in America led by people who hate our president and who hate those who support him. With obstructionist politicians putting American security at risk in exchange for a cheering crowd and a photo opp, the media spewing false information and celebrities giving speeches about oppression, it’s time to cut the crap, Raso says. We’re at war with a growing evil culture that wants you dead.

Watch more episodes of Commentators on NRATV: https://www.nratv.com/series/commenta…

Dom Raso warns that the threat of radical Islamic terror is not going away. He urges Americans to get the training necessary to make our homes, neighborhoods and communities the worst places on earth to try to kill innocent people. The Second Amendment was written for times like these, says Dom, and it’s exactly what the founders intended.

Report: Trump Ending Obama’s Covert CIA Program to Arm and Train Syrian Rebels

AP Photo/Virginie Nguyen Huang

Breitbart, by John Hayward, July 19, 2017:

President Donald Trump is reportedly ending a covert CIA program to arm and train Syrian rebel forces that dates back to 2013.

According to a report by the Washington Postthe president made the decision almost a month ago in an Oval Office meeting with CIA Director Mike Pompeo and National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster.

The Post frames this as a huge victory for Russia, citing the decision as an aspect of “Trump’s interest in finding ways to work with Russia, which saw the anti-Assad program as an assault on its interests.” The Post notes that Russia targeted some of these Syrian fighters with airstrikes when it intervened in the Syrian civil war and quotes an unnamed “current official” who bluntly declared, “Putin won in Syria.”

However, the same report notes that even supporters of the CIA program have “questioned its efficacy,” admits U.S. leverage against the Assad regime has grown “limited,” concedes that ending the program was not a condition for the cease-fire agreement Trump reached with Russian President Vladimir Putin, and notes that Jordan supports Trump’s decision.

Even a former Obama administration official, Ilan Goldenberg, described Trump’s decision as “probably a nod to reality.” However, he added that ending all support for the Syrian rebels would be a “huge strategic mistake.” Pentagon programs to assist rebel forces are said to remain in effect, including a plan Trump approved in May to arm the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces.

The Washington Post piece quotes some American intelligence officials who say it was President Barack Obama’s failure to respond to Russian intervention against increasingly successful rebel forces in 2015 that set the stage for Assad’s eventual triumph.

The Obama administration also gave up on some high-profile efforts to train and equip a proxy force in Syria, most notably a $500 million effort that ended in absolute disaster and became a laughingstock across the Middle East.

The Washington Post also fails to mention that a distressing number of the weapons shipped by the CIA to Syrian rebels under Obama ended up in the hands of black marketeers and terrorists. Some of those weapons were used to kill Americans. The ability of the U.S. government to “vet” Syrian rebels and keep American equipment away from terrorist groups, including al-Qaeda, has long been questioned.

Sometimes the rebels Obama provided with weapons openly threw in their lot with al-Qaeda and its Nusra Front franchise because they had the best chance of defeating the Syrian military and its allies.

Spicing up reports of this decision with dark insinuations about Trump’s ties with Russia does not conceal the cold truth that regime change in Syria is very unlikely, and it was President Barack Obama who made it that way – not that much enthusiasm for plunging the United States into Syria’s civil war, and possibly ending up in combat against Russian and Iranian forces, could be found in any corner of the political spectrum.

Even the cynical notion of arming unsavory Syrian insurgents against Assad and letting them bleed each other out proved to be a disaster because it led to a humanitarian horror show and a flood of refugees that may have changed Europe forever. Those who insinuate Trump is doing Vladimir Putin’s bidding by ending the CIA program to arm Syrian rebels should be prepared to explain their strategy for achieving something other than a bloody stalemate, civilian slaughter, and an endless flow of refugees. Clearly, no one associated with Barack Obama had any such strategy.

If Muslims Are Honest About Jihad, They Think They’re Winning

Understanding the Threat, by John Guandolo, July 16, 2017:

After 9/11/01, Americans were told Islam does not “stand for violence” and that Islam “rejects” violence, despite the fact the 19 hijackers were all muslims stating they killed nearly 3,000 Americans because it is a command from Allah.

Then we heard the “concept of jihad” was a part of Islam, but it is a muslim’s “struggle” to better himself or herself.

President Obama’s Counter-Terrorism advisor John Brennan, who became the Director of Central Intelligence, and – who we now know converted to Islam – then said “Nor do we describe our enemy as ‘jihadists’ or ‘Islamists’ because jihad is a holy struggle, a legitimate tenet of Islam, meaning to purify oneself or one’s community, and there is nothing holy or legitimate or Islamic about murdering innocent men, women and children.”

Mr. Brennan did not mention that Islam “purifies” the community by doing every thing necessary to impose sharia on the entire earth which includes:  giving non-muslims the option to convert to Islam, submit to sharia and pay the non-muslim poll tax (jizya), or be killed; by killing apostates – those who leave Islam; and by doing whatever else needs to be done to ensure the sharia is the law on the entire earth.

A few years ago while at my (John Guandolo) alma mater – the U.S. Naval Academy – I attended a day-long program on Islam which avoided any substantive discussion of the issues related to U.S. national security, sharia, Islam, and other related matters.  However, when asked by a midshipman what the word “jihad” means, I was surprised to hear two Islamic scholars sitting on a panel both immediately reply, “Holy war.”

The lesson for UTT readers today is this:  Muslims are more open and honest about their true intentions, the truth of what sharia commands, and the obligation upon all muslims to wage jihad (only defined in sharia as “warfare”) if they believe the Islamic Movement is close to victory.

In other words, you will know everything you need to know about sharia when Islam has you under it.  So, if members of the Islamic community openly explain their legal rights over you after sharia is imposed, it is a clear warning the muslim community believes it is winning or has won, and are simply waiting for their time to claim victory.

Two days ago I had a lengthy taxi ride with a Libyan muslim who explained Islam to me in great detail. Everything he said was in line with sharia.  He was very open, including his explanation of the time when the Islamic prophet Jesus returns to kill all the Jews and cast all Christians into hell for not converting to Islam.  His honesty was refreshing, I must say.  But it was disturbing as well, because it illuminated his belief that he can speak so openly about these matters.

At the national level, jihadis like Linda Sarsour, Nihad Awad, Mohamed Magid, Salam al Marayati and so many others lie when tough questions are asked in order to deter U.S. leaders from understanding the threat.  However, if you listen carefully to their words and filter them through sharia, they are getting closer to the truth as time goes by.

The more muslims talk about sharia and jihad honestly, the more danger we are in.  The clock is ticking.

House Witnesses: Al-Qaeda ‘Strongest in Syria’ Where It Could ‘Incorporate’ Failing Islamic State

AFP PHOTO / OMAR HAJ KADOUR

Breitbart, by Edwin Mora, uly 13, 2017:

WASHINGTON, DC — Al-Qaeda, the primary target of the U.S. war on terror that followed the 9/11 attacks, has evolved and grown stronger mainly in Syria where it has set the conditions to establish an Islamic emirate while America primarily focuses on defeating the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL), some analysts tell House lawmakers.

“ISIS has strengthened al Qaeda,” argued Katherine Zimmerman from the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) in written testimony, adding, “Should ISIS’s global network collapse, al Qaeda will be able to capture the remnants and incorporate ISIS’s capabilities into its own organization.”

Meanwhile, Dr. Seth Jones, the director of the International Security and Defense Policy Center at the Rand Corporation, argued in his prepared remarks that al-Qaeda “has been in decline,” failing to “conduct or inspire many attacks in the U.S. homeland.”

The al-Qaeda experts testified before the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence during a hearing Thursday titled, “The Persistent Threat: Al Qaeda’s Evolution and Resilience.”

Zimmerman and Jennifer Cafarella from the Institute for the Study of War agreed that Syria serves as al-Qaeda’s primary base.

They pointed out that the group has capitalized on the international community’s single-minded focus against ISIS to grow stronger and remain a prominent threat to the United States.

ISIS has suffered significant losses in Iraq and Syria at the hands of the coalition and its local partners.

Zimmerman testified:

US strategy is setting the stage for al Qaeda to lead the Salafi-jihadi movement again when that movement is the strongest it has ever been globally. Al Qaeda has adapted and evolved as America focused myopically on retaking two cities [Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa in Syria] from the Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham (ISIS). Al Qaeda has become more resilient and ready to exploit our own strategic weaknesses.

Amid the ongoing U.S.-led efforts to defeat ISIS, some analysts and news reports predicted that al-Qaeda would eventually be positioned to establish its own Islamic state in Syria.

Cafarella explained in her written testimony:

Al Qaeda’s main effort is in Syria, which has become the world’s largest jihadist incubator. Al Qaeda’s intent in Syria is to embed within the uprising against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al Assad and to transform that uprising into a global religious insurgency… Al Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate, Jabhat al Nusra, announced its formation in a video on January 2012 but did not state its goal to establish an al Qaeda emirate in Syria that could become a future component of a global al Qaeda caliphate.

Although Jabhat al-Nusra claimed in July 2016 it was no longer al-Qaeda’s affiliate, Voice of America (VOA) reported that most Western experts had dismissed the offshoot’s break with the jihadist organization as deceptive.

“Al Qaeda is strongest in Syria, where it has used the conditions created by the Syrian civil war and [the U.S.-led coalition’s] Operation Inherent Resolve against ISIS to establish deep sanctuary in the northwest and position itself to expand farther into the Syrian theater,” Zimmerman told lawmakers.

“Al Qaeda has set conditions for the future establishment of an Islamic emirate—not necessarily under al Qaeda’s name—that will secure al Qaeda’s objective to build an Islamic polity in Syria,” she reiterated, adding, “The Syrian al Qaeda network is one of the best-resourced nodes in al Qaeda because of Syria’s primacy in the global theaters for jihad. Syria remains a top destination for al Qaeda’s foreign-fighter flow, creating a large foreign recruitment base.”

Zimmerman accused both Qatar and Turkey of lending support to al-Qaeda, noting that the jihadist group also generates funds from kidnappings for ransom, taxation, and commercial enterprise.

Contradicting the assessments from Zimmerman and Cafarella, Jones from the Rand Corporation testified:

Al-Qaida affiliates in Yemen, Syria, Somalia, Algeria, and Mali also consistently failed to hold territory because of poor leadership, incompetent governance, limited local support, excessive violence, internal tensions, and other factors. Another problem has been a lack of overall Muslim support.

Nevertheless, he conceded that “the Islamic extremism that al-Qaida represents will not go away soon.”

Zimmerman notes that al-Qaeda has intentionally avoided attacks against Western targets to fuel the “false narrative that it was weak.”

“Al Qaeda is not in decline; it is preparing to emerge from the shadows to carry forward the Salafi-jihadi movement,” she told the Houe panel.

Also see:

Poole: Libyan Army Spox Says Obama, Clinton “Abandoned the Libyan People to the Terrorists”

PJ Media, by Patrick Poole, July 11, 2017:

In an exclusive interview with PJ Media, the Libyan National Army (LNA) spokesman, Col. Ahmed al-Mesmari, says that President Obama and Hillary Clinton “abandoned the Libyan people to face these terrorists alone,” and implicates the Obama administration in supporting terrorist militias.

With the continuing crisis between several Arab nations, including the Tobruk-based Libyan House of Representatives, and Qatar, Col. al-Mesmari discusses Qatar’s role in arming and financing terrorist militias in Libya.

He also ties the Muslim Brotherhood militias that have been fighting against the LNA with al-Qaeda and ISIS elements operating in the country.

Col. al-Mesmari also claims that the February 17th Martyrs Brigade hired by the State Department to protect the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi cooperated with Ansar al-Sharia in attacking the consulate compound on September 12, 2012,which led to the deaths of four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens.

Libyans celebrated last week when after three years of battle the LNA finally liberated Benghazi from all terrorist groups in the city.

And over the past month Col. al-Mesmari has publicly charged Qatar with direct support of terrorist groups operating in Libya.

The following is an exclusive interview I conducted by email earlier today with Col. Ahmed al-Mesmari, official spokesman for the Libyan National Army:

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Saudi Game of Thrones: King Appoints Son Crown Prince After Power Struggle

Saudi Interior Ministry via AP

Breitbart, by John Hayward, June 22, 2017:

Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz made a surprise announcement on Wednesday morning that his son Mohammed bin Salman, 31, would become the new crown prince of the kingdom.

As it happens, Saudi Arabia already had a Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Nayef. Nayef is over 25 years senior to Mohammed bin Salman and was also the deputy prime minister and interior minister of Saudi Arabia. He was stripped of all these positions at once.

He appeared to handle his demotion quite well, having no doubt seen the writing on the wall ever since Salman became deputy crown prince. “I am content,” said Nayef to his replacement, as quoted by Al Jazeera. “I am going to rest now. May God help you.”

To the dismay of the Western world, Nayef was considered one of the most pro-American of the Saudi royal family. He received counterterrorism training from the FBI and Scotland Yard in the eighties, maintained good relations with U.S. officials, and was instrumental as both an operational leader and spokesman in the Saudi war against al-Qaeda after 9/11.

His commitment to fighting the terrorist group did not waver after a 2009 suicide bomb attack against him. The CIA was sufficiently impressed with his work to give him a counterterrorism medal in February, personally awarded by CIA Director Mike Pompeo.

The new Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has been nicknamed “Mr. Everything” because he has been put in charge of just about everything in Saudi Arabia. He was the chief architect of the “Saudi Vision 2030” plan intended to make his country less dependent on oil money, a plan regarded as the biggest change to the Saudi economy in the country’s history.

Nayef, on the other hand, has been nicknamed “The Prince of Darkness” because of his role in Saudi intelligence. Saudi dissidents find nothing whimsical about the nickname, as they blame Nayef for using the al-Qaeda crackdown as a pretext for imprisoning the politically inconvenient.

The Saudi Vision 2030 plan put Mr. Everything at the helm of some $2 trillion in overseas investments on the reasonable proposition that breaking the country’s dependence on oil would involve buying a tremendous amount of stock in companies that do not sell oil and are not headquartered in Saudi Arabia. Among his many duties, Salman is the chairman of the national oil company, Saudi Aramco – the first member of the royal family to have such a direct role in managing the all-important corporation.

Mohammed bin Salman was popular when the reform program was launched, and he remains popular today. The UK Daily Mail notes that Saudi Arabia’s enormous youth population sees him as a rock star, a symbol of hope and prosperity for the future.

The Daily Mail floats rumors that Salman and Nayef were engaged in a fairly bitter power struggle behind the scenes, and it might not be over yet, even after the king moved to resolve it in Salman’s favor before his death. The deciding factor might simply have been that the king likes Salman better, and is impressed by his charisma, erudition, and 16-hour-day work ethic.

Another advantage to Salman is that his youth and energy suggest a certain stability for Saudi Arabia for decades to come. The previous king, Abdullah, was the world’s oldest monarch at the time of his death in early 2015 at age 90; King Salman is currently 81. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman puts a younger face on the monarchy and might well end up occupying the throne for five decades.

Middle East Eye cites analysts who say the king wanted to reassure Western governments, regional allies, and business partners there would be “continuity in foreign and economic policies.” There was evidently very little confidence that Nayef would have offered such continuity.

Also, Middle East Eye observes that Nayef had a testy relationship with a crucial Saudi ally, Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, while Salman and Zayed have become close friends.

Most intriguingly, a Saudi citizen told MEE that President Donald Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia played a role in reshaping the monarchy, as King Salman took the occasion to convince Trump the new crown prince is “the right horse to back” despite Nayef’s favorable reputation in Washington.

The monarchy moved quickly to secure Salman in his new position, announcing that 31 of 34 royals supporting his ascension and arranging a meeting in Mecca for them to formally pledge allegiance within a matter of hours. The senior Islamic council swiftly endorsed the decision, followed by welcomes from the leaders of Saudi Arabia’s Sunni Muslim allies. The Saudi stock market added its congratulations by climbing over five and a half percent.

Some other Middle Eastern powers were less enthusiastic about the shift in Saudi leadership. Iranian state media grumbled that Crown Prince Salman’s ascension was a “soft coup” in which the “son becomes the successor of the father,” which would seem to betray a fundamental Iranian misunderstanding of how hereditary monarchy works.

Reuters suggests Iran correctly sees Salman’s ascension as a sign of more aggressive Saudi policy toward Tehran and its projects, such as the Houthi rebellion in Yemen and whatever the Qatari royal family has been up to for the past decade. Nayef’s focus was on al-Qaeda, while Salman has been an outspoken enemy of Iran, supporter of Saudi intervention in Yemen, and critic of Qatar. In fact, he is seen as one of the prime movers behind Saudi Arabia’s decision to isolate Qatar.

The Saudis will probably let Iran’s criticism roll off their backs, but Turkey is more problematic. The government of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is fairly close to Nayef but still working on building a relationship with Salman. It is not going terribly well, as Salman has refused every Turkish invitation to visit Ankara since he was named deputy crown prince.

Erdogan has expressed support for Qatar, putting it at odds with one of Salman’s major policy initiatives, and he disagrees with Salman’s dim view of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Middle East Eye cites Turkey-watchers who foresee a potentially serious conflict between Erdogan and Salman over Turkey’s least favorite Middle Eastern faction, the Kurds. Either as a power play, or because he sincerely favors their cause, Salman may support the Kurds in Syria – which would inflame Turkish fears of the Kurds carving out chunks of Turkey, Syria, and Iraq to form an independent state. Turkish media is reportedly speculating that Salman will threaten to put Saudi Arabia’s chips on the Kurds unless Erdogan backs away from supporting Qatar.

CNN notes that if Salman does succeed his father, he will be the first Saudi king who is not the son of national founder Ibn Saud, who became King Abdul Aziz al-Saud. Naming Mohammed bin Salman as his heir allowed King Salman to reshape the line of succession for decades, and perhaps centuries, to come.

It also puts Saudi Arabia more firmly under the guidance of the most liberal leader it has ever had, with respect to everything from women’s rights to representative government. Granted, that’s a fairly low bar to clear in one of the world’s most repressive countries, but it’s good to see a future king trying to clear it at a moment when the United States is realigning Middle East policy back toward Saudi Arabia and its allies