John Bolton: Trump Administration Needs to Declare Muslim Brotherhood, Iranian Guard as Terrorist Groups

KHALIL MAZRAAWI/AFP/Getty Images

Breitbart, by John Hayward, July 12, 2017:

Former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton talked on Wednesday’sBreitbart News Daily with Sirius XM host Alex Marlow about victory in Mosul, strategy for a post-Islamic State Middle East, the diplomatic crisis in Qatar, and the North Korean nuclear problem.

“I don’t think it’s quite over in Mosul, but I don’t think there’s any doubt that ISIS is ultimately going to be defeated there, and ultimately, it will be defeated elsewhere in Syria and Iraq,” Bolton said.

“Remember, this is the signal battle. Over two-and-a-half years ago when ISIS burst out of Syria, burst out of nowhere, the Iraqi Army confronted them before Mosul and collapsed completely, just disintegrated,” he recalled. “This is the army that Obama and the Bush administration had been arming and training for years, and they just completely collapsed.”

Although victory in Mosul is an important milestone in the improvement of the Iraqi military, Bolton feared it is “a hollow victory for the United States.”

“Obviously, we want to destroy ISIS. Obama’s slow-roll policy allowed them to continue to recruit terrorists far longer than was necessary and allowed many of the top leaders, I think, to get out of the Middle East, to go somewhere else – to go to Libya, to go to Yemen, and to live to fight another day,” he explained. “But I think the worst part of it – and this will be even more manifest when Raqqa, the capital of the so-called ISIS caliphate, is taken hopefully in the near future – we have not prepared for the strategic situation after ISIS is defeated.”

“Or I could put it a different way and say Obama did prepare for it, and he was happy to have Iran and its surrogates fill the vacuum that ISIS is going to leave,” Bolton added. “That’s what is happening in Mosul now. The Iraqi government is, to all intents and purposes, under the control of the ayatollahs in Tehran. Not entirely, but I’d liken the situation to Eastern Europe in the late 1940s as the Soviet Union tightened its grip on the countries that were soon to become satellites. That’s what Iran is doing to Iraq.”

“What Iran’s objective is, when we collapse ISIS at the last stages, it wants to link up from Iran, through the Baghdad government in Iraq, to the Assad regime’s regular forces in Syria and the Hezbollah terrorists who are there in Lebanon,” Bolton warned. “There are press reports already that some Shiite militias from Iraq have already linked up with Assad’s forces.”

“The Iranians are trying to create an arc of control that lays the foundation for the next struggle in the Middle East, against the Sunni coalition led by the Saudis,” he said. “Barack Obama was entirely comfortable with that. I think that’s consistent with his view that, you know, Iran’s really basically a normal kind of nation, we’ll just talk them out of their nuclear weapons and then everything will be fine.”

“That’s not how the ayatollahs and the Revolutionary Guards Corps see it,” Bolton argued. “Now there are even stories in places like the Washington Post and the New York Times saying we could have some trouble here in Mosul and Western Iraq because of what I’ve just described.”

“I wish I could say the Trump administration had a strategy to deal with it,” he sighed. “I think the president’s probably in the right place on this, but I don’t think his bureaucracy has produced that kind of strategy yet. In the kind of strategic vacuum that may be developing, I think we’re going to have trouble in the not-too-distant future.”

Bolton said the “complex multi-party conflict” in the Middle East leaves the United States with “several objectives which are not always entirely consistent with one another.”

“The only good news is our adversaries have inconsistent objectives too,” he added.

“Our first objective – and what we’ve been pursuing in a far too relaxed pace under Obama; it speeded up under Trump – is to defeat and destroy the ISIS caliphate. It doesn’t end the ISIS problem, but it takes their territorial base away from them and forces them to go to places that are a lot less hospitable, like Libya, and gives us a chance to pursue them elsewhere,” he said.

“But then the question is, ‘What do you do with the vacuum, the political vacuum that exists once ISIS is defeated?’” Bolton asked. “The Sunni Arabs do not want to go under the control of the Baghdad government, for the reason I just said: it’s dominated by the ayatollahs. Nor do the Sunni Arabs of Syria want to happily resume being oppressed by the Assad regime, with both Assad and Iran obviously being backed by Russia. So you need a solution to the Sunni problem there in that hole that used to be the ISIS caliphate. We do not have a strategy.”

“I propose creating a new state, a secular but demographically Sunni state that the Saudis could help pay for, to provide some measure of stability and to prevent Iran from achieving that arc of control that I mentioned a few moments ago,” Bolton recommended.

“Really, this is part of the bigger picture of how we deal with Iran, which is continuing to pursue nuclear weapons along with its friends in North Korea and continuing to support terrorism around the world,” he explained. “That struggle with Iran is something that was just absent from the radar screen in the Obama administration, but it’s going to come to the fore again once ISIS is defeated.”

“We’ve got to be thinking ahead,” he urged. “It’s not enough to kind of wake up every day and say, ‘Well, gee, what problem do we have now?’ You have to have a strategy, and the strategy I think is critical is defeating radical Islamic terrorism and dealing with the threat of the world’s principal state sponsor of terrorism, which is Iran.”

Marlow asked Bolton how the diplomatic conflict between Qatar and the other Sunni nations fits into the Middle Eastern puzzle.

“Across the Gulf, the oil-producing monarchies of the Arabian peninsula, there’s a lot of financial support for terrorism,” Bolton replied. “Some of it comes directly from governments. Some of it comes from royal families, which is in many senses the same thing. Some of it comes from other wealthy people; the government gives them a wink and a nod and away they go. It comes from a lot of places.”

“The Saudis have picked on Qatar in particular because of its support for the Muslim Brotherhood, but I think also they’re worried about Qatar’s tilt toward Iran,” he continued. “They want a united Sunni Arab community here, in preparation for the coming conflict. Qatar’s response is, ‘Well, what are you picking on us for? Because of the Muslim Brotherhood? The United States hasn’t declared the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization, and neither have we, so why are we any different from you?’”

“It’s not entirely accurate, the way they put it, but they’ve raised a fair point,” Bolton conceded. “My reaction is, ‘Great, let’s take this opportunity and do what we should have done anyway. Let’s declare the Brotherhood a terrorist organization.’ Having done that, we turn back to Qatar and say, ‘Now, you follow suit.’”

“I think we ought to use the president’s summit meeting in Riyadh a couple of weeks ago, where they created this pan-Arab, pan-Muslim center for combating extremism and give all these governments the cover they need to cut off the sources of terrorist financing,” he said. “Cut it off from Qatar and the Qatari royal family, cut it off from Saudi Arabia, cut it off from all of the Arab countries that have so much excess cash flowing around because of the oil revenues.”

“There’s a way to me here to advance American objectives and get Arab unity back, which we do need as we look at the coming problem with Iran,” Bolton judged.

He suggested adding Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps to the designated terrorist list because “that’s fundamentally what it is,” but he acknowledged that applying that designation to the Muslim Brotherhood has proven surprisingly difficult.

“There’s been an amazing campaign. It’s always amazing to me how these stories and op-eds and lines of chatter appear simultaneously, all very well-coordinated,” said Bolton. “The argument being the Muslim Brotherhood is a complicated organization, not every part of it is devoted to the support of terrorism. Some of them do humanitarian work and so on; a declaration that the entire Brotherhood is a foreign terrorist organization would actually buttress the cause of the jihadis; so, therefore, don’t do anything.”

“Let’s take the notion inherent in that argument as having some validity, that there are pieces of the Muslim Brotherhood that don’t qualify under the statutory definition we have of a foreign terrorist organization,” he allowed. “My response to that is, ‘Okay, we need some careful drafting based on the evidence we have now that excludes some affiliates, some components of the Muslim Brotherhood from the designation.’ I’m prepared to live with that, of course, until we get more complete information.”

“But the argument of the proponents of the Brotherhood is because things are complicated, do nothing. Do not declare any part of it a terrorist organization. That’s the wrong conclusion. The right conclusion is, things are complicated? Okay, fine. Just declare part of it a terrorist organization. We’ll deal with the rest of it later,” he said.

“It’s not an argument to do nothing,” Bolton insisted. “It’s an argument to be precise in designating what is a foreign terrorist organization. I think good lawyers, good counterterrorism experts could do this without a huge amount of difficulty, and I really think it’s the right thing to do in terms of policy. And as you say, I think it’s the right thing to do politically for the Trump administration as well.”

Marlow concluded by bringing up another extremely complex situation: North Korea’s nuclear missile program and the odds that China will take meaningful action to halt it. “Is China increasingly belligerent to the United States, and are they doing enough on North Korea at this point in time?” he asked.

“I think they’re increasingly belligerent all around their frontier and in the world as a whole,” Bolton replied. “Take trying to take over the South China Sea as just one example of it.”

“On North Korea, they’ve said for 25 years they don’t want North Korea to have nuclear weapons because it will cause instability in East Asia, and that’s a bad thing for their economic growth. That’s what they say, but they never deliver on that,” he noted.

“I personally think they’ve been playing a double game. They appear to tighten sanctions on North Korea until our attention wanders and we look at something else, and then we’re back to business as usual. They’ve done it to Donald Trump. He’s already noted that in his famous tweet. But that’s been a pattern they’ve followed for a long, long time on North Korea,” he said.

“I think we’ve got to call them on it because I think the North Korean threat is getting increasingly dangerous, increasingly risky for the United States, and our options are limited. Fiddling around with China as we have for 25 years is not going to solve the problem,” Bolton advised.

John Bolton is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and head of his own political action committee, BoltonPAC.

Russia’s new favorite jihadis: The Taliban

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Long War Journal, by Thomas Joscelyn, January 4, 2017:

Note: This article was first published by The Daily Beast.

More than 15 years into America’s war in Afghanistan, the Russian government is openly advocating on behalf of the Taliban.

Last week, Moscow hosted Chinese and Pakistani emissaries to discuss the war. Tellingly, no Afghan officials were invited. However, the trio of nations urged the world to be “flexible” in dealing with the Taliban, which remains the Afghan government’s most dangerous foe. Russia even argued that the Taliban is a necessary bulwark in the war against the so-called Islamic State.

For its part, the American military sees Moscow’s embrace of the Taliban as yet another move intended to undermine NATO, which fights the Taliban, al Qaeda, and the Islamic State every day.

After Moscow’s conference, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova spoke with reporters and noted that “the three countries expressed particular concern about the rising activity in the country of extremist groups, including the Afghan branch of IS [the Islamic State, or ISIS].”

According to Reuters, Zakharova added that China, Pakistan, and Russia agreed upon a “flexible approach to remove certain [Taliban] figures from [United Nations] sanctions lists as part of efforts to foster a peaceful dialogue between Kabul and the Taliban movement.”

The Taliban, which refers to itself as the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, quickly praised the “Moscow tripartite” in a statement posted online on Dec. 29.

“It is joyous to see that the regional countries have also understood that the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan is a political and military force,” Muhammad Sohail Shaheen, a spokesman for the group’s political office, said in the statement. “The proposal forwarded in the Moscow tripartite of delisting members of the Islamic Emirate is a positive step forward in bringing peace and security to Afghanistan.”

Of course, the Taliban isn’t interested in “peace and security.” The jihadist group wants to win the Afghan war and it is using negotiations with regional and international powers to improve its standing. The Taliban has long manipulated “peace” negotiations with the U.S. and Western powers as a pretext for undoing international sanctions that limit the ability of its senior figures to travel abroad for lucrative fundraising and other purposes, even while offering no serious gestures toward peace.

The Obama administration has repeatedly tried, and failed, to open the door to peace. In May 2014, the U.S. transferred five senior Taliban figures from Guantanamo to Qatar. Ostensibly, the “Taliban Five” were traded for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, an American who reportedly deserted his fellow soldiers and was then held by the Taliban and its jihadist allies. But the Obama administration also hoped that the exchange would be a so-called confidence-building measure and lead to more substantive negotiations. The Taliban’s leaders never agreed to any such discussions. They simply wanted their comrades, at least two of whom are suspected of committing war crimes, freed from Guantanamo.

Regardless, Russia is now enabling the Taliban’s disingenuous diplomacy by pretending that ISIS is the more worrisome threat. It’s a game the Russians have been playing for more than a year.

In December 2015, Zamir Kabulov, who serves as Vladimir Putin’s special representative for Afghanistan, went so far as to claim that “the Taliban interest objectively coincides with ours” when it comes to fighting ISIS head Abu Bakr al Baghdadi’s loyalists. Kabulov even conceded that Russia and the Taliban have “channels for exchanging information,” according to The Washington Post.

The American commanders leading the fight in Afghanistan don’t buy Russia’s argument—at all.

During a press briefing on Dec. 2, General John W. Nicholson Jr., the commander of NATO’s Resolute Support and U.S. Forces in Afghanistan, discussed “the malign influence of external actors and particularly Pakistan, Russia, and Iran.” Gen. Nicholson said the U.S. and its allies are “concerned about the external enablement of the insurgent or terrorist groups inside Afghanistan, in particular where they enjoy sanctuary or support from outside governments.” Russia, in particular, “has overtly lent legitimacy to the Taliban.”

According to Nicholson, the Russian “narrative” is “that the Taliban are the ones fighting the Islamic State, not the Afghan government.” While the Taliban does fight its jihadist rivals in the Islamic State, this is plainly false.

The “Afghan government and the U.S. counterterrorism effort are the ones achieving the greatest effect against Islamic State,” Nicholson said. He went on to list the U.S.-led coalition’s accomplishments over the past year: 500 ISIS fighters (comprising an estimated 25 to 30 percent of the group’s overall force structure) were killed or wounded, the organization’s “top 12 leaders” (including its emir, Hafiz Saeed Khan) were killed, and the group’s “sanctuary” has been reduced from nine Afghan districts to just three.

“So, this public legitimacy that Russia lends to the Taliban is not based on fact, but it is used as a way to essentially undermine the Afghan government and the NATO effort and bolster the belligerents,” Nicholson concluded. While Nicholson was careful not read too much into Russia’s motivation for backing the Taliban, he noted “certainly there’s a competition with NATO.”

There’s no doubt that ISIS’s operations in Afghanistan grew significantly in the wake of Baghdadi’s caliphate declaration in 2014. However, as Nicholson correctly pointed out, Baghdadi’s men are not adding to the territory they control at the moment. Their turf is shrinking. The same cannot be said for the Taliban, which remains the most significant threat to Afghanistan’s future. At any given time, the Taliban threatens several provincial capitals. The Taliban also controls dozens of Afghan districts and contests many more. Simply put, the Taliban is a far greater menace inside Afghanistan than Baghdadi’s men.

Regardless, the Russians continue to press their case. Their argument hinges on the idea that ISIS is a “global” force to be reckoned with, while the Taliban is just a “local” nuisance.

Kabulov, Putin’s special envoy to Afghanistan, made this very same claim in a newly-published interview with Anadolu Agency. Kabulov contends that “the bulk, main leadership, current leadership, and the majority of Taliban” are now a “local force” as a “result of all these historical lessons they got in Afghanistan.”

“They gave up the global jihadism idea,” Kabulov adds. “They are upset and regret that they followed Osama bin Laden.”

Someone should tell the Taliban’s media department this.

In early December, the Taliban released a major documentary video, “Bond of Nation with the Mujahideen.” The video included clips of the Taliban’s most senior leaders rejecting peace talks and vowing to wage jihad until the end. It also openly advertised the Taliban’s undying alliance with al Qaeda. At one point, an image of Osama bin Laden next to Taliban founder Mullah Omar is displayed on screen. (A screen shot of this clip can be seen above.) Photos of other al Qaeda and Taliban figures are mixed together in the same shot.

An audio message from Sheikh Khalid Batarfi, an al Qaeda veteran stationed in Yemen, is also played during the video. Batarfi praised the Taliban for protecting bin Laden even after the Sept. 11, 2001 hijackings. “Groups of Afghan Mujahideen have emerged from the land of Afghans that will destroy the biggest idol and head of kufr of our time, America,” Batarfi threatened.

A narrator added that the mujahideen in Afghanistan “are the hope of Muslims for reviving back the honor of the Muslim Ummah [worldwide community of Muslims]!” The Afghan jihadists are a “hope for taking back the Islamic lands!” and a “hope for not repeating defeats and tragedies of the last century!”

The Taliban’s message is, therefore, unmistakable: The war in Afghanistan is part of the global jihadist conflict.

All of this, and more, is in one of the Taliban’s most important media productions of 2016. There is no hint that the Taliban “regrets” allying with al Qaeda, or has given “up the global jihadism idea,” as Kabulov claims. The exact opposite is true.

There is much more to the Taliban-al Qaeda nexus. In August 2015, al Qaeda honcho Ayman al Zawahiri swore allegiance to Mullah Mansour, who was named as Mullah Omar’s successor as the Taliban’s emir. Mansour publicly accepted Zawahiri’s fealty and Zawahiri’s oath was prominently featured on the Taliban’s website. After Mansour was killed earlier this year, Zawahiri pledged his allegiance to Mansour’s replacement, Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada. Zawahiri and other al Qaeda leaders regularly call upon Muslims to support the Taliban and reject the Islamic State’s Afghan branch.

In his interview with Anadolu Agency, Kabulov concedes that not all of the Taliban has “given up” the global jihadist “ideas.” He admits that within the Taliban “you can find very influential groups like the Haqqani network whose ideology is more radical, closer to Daesh [or ISIS].”

Kabulov is right that the Haqqanis are committed jihadi ideologues, but he misses the obvious contradiction in his arguments. Siraj Haqqani, who leads the Haqqani network, is also one of the Taliban’s top two deputy leaders. He is the Taliban’s military warlord. Not only is Siraj Haqqani a “radical” ideologue, as Kabulov mentions in passing, he is also one of al Qaeda’s most committed allies. Documents recovered in Osama bin Laden’s compound show that al Qaeda’s men closely cooperate with Siraj Haqqani on the Afghan battlefields.

Kabulov claims that the Islamic State “operates much more smartly” than al Qaeda and has “learned from all the mistakes of al Qaeda.” He says Baghdadi’s enterprise has “brought more advanced and sophisticated people to design, plan, and [execute] policy.” Once again, the exact opposite is true.

Al Qaeda has long known the pitfalls of the Islamic State’s in-your-face strategy, and has smartly decided to hide the extent of its influence and operations. Zawahiri and his lieutenants have also used the Islamic State’s over-the-top brutality to market themselves as a more reasonable jihadi alternative. And both the Taliban and al Qaeda are attempting to build more popular support for their cause as much of the world remains focused on the so-called caliphate’s horror show.

Al Qaeda’s plan has worked so well that the Russians would have us believe that the Taliban, al Qaeda’s longtime ally, should be viewed as a prospective partner.

Kabulov says that Russia is waiting to see how the “new president, [Donald] Trump, describe[s] his Afghan policy” before determining what course should be pursued next.

Here’s one thing the Trump administration should do right away: Make it clear that the Taliban and al Qaeda remain our enemies in Afghanistan.

Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Senior Editor for FDD’s Long War Journal.

Meet the New Authoritarian Masters of the Internet

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Breitbart, by John Hayward, Sept. 29, 2016:

President Barack Obama’s drive to hand off control of Internet domains to a foreign multi-national operation will give some very unpleasant regimes equal say over the future of online speech and commerce.

In fact, they are likely to have much more influence than America, because they will collectively push hard for a more tightly controlled Internet, and they are known for aggressively using political and economic pressure to get what they want.

Here’s a look at some of the regimes that will begin shaping the future of the Internet in just a few days, if President Obama gets his way.

China

China wrote the book on authoritarian control of online speech. The legendary “Great Firewall of China” prevents citizens of the communist state from accessing global content the Politburo disapproves of. Chinese technology companies are required by law to provide the regime with backdoor access to just about everything.

The Chinese government outright banned online news reporting in July, granting the government even tighter control over the spread of information. Websites are only permitted to post news from official government sources. Chinese online news wasn’t exactly a bastion of freedom before that, of course, but at least the government censors had to track down news stories they disliked and demand the site administrators take them down.

Unsurprisingly, the Chinese Communists aren’t big fans of independent news analysis or blogging, either. Bloggers who criticize the government are liable to be charged with “inciting subversion,” even when the writer in question is a Nobel Peace Prize winner.

Chinese citizens know better than to get cheeky on social media accounts, as well. Before online news websites were totally banned, they were forbidden from reporting news gathered from social media, without government approval. Spreading anything the government decides is “fake news” is a crime.

In a report labeling China one of the worst countries for Internet freedom in the world, Freedom House noted they’ve already been playing games with Internet registration and security verification:

The China Internet Network Information Center was found to be issuing false digital security certificates for a number of websites, including Google, exposing the sites’ users to “man in the middle” attacks.

The government strengthened its real-name registration laws for blogs, instant-messaging services, discussion forums, and comment sections of websites.

A key feature of China’s online censorship is that frightened citizens are not entirely certain what the rules are. Huge ministries work tirelessly to pump out content regulations and punish infractions. Not all of the rules are actually written down. As Foreign Policy explained:

Before posting, a Chinese web user is likely to consider basic questions about how likely a post is to travel, whether it runs counter to government priorities, and whether it calls for action or is likely to engender it. Those answers help determine whether a post can be published without incident — as it is somewhere around 84 percent or 87 percent of the time — or is instead likely to lead to a spectrum of negative consequences varying from censorship, to the deletion of a user’s account, to his or her detention, even arrest and conviction.

This was accompanied by a flowchart demonstrating “what gets you censored on the Chinese Internet.” It is not a simple flowchart.

Beijing is not even slightly self-conscious about its authoritarian control of the Internet. On the contrary, their censorship policies are trumpeted as “Internet sovereignty,” and they aggressively believe the entire world should follow their model, as the Washington Post reported in a May 2016 article entitled “China’s Scary Lesson to the World: Censoring the Internet Works.”

China already has a quarter of the planet’s Internet users locked up behind the Great Firewall. How can anyone doubt they won’t use the opportunity Obama is giving them, to pursue their openly stated desire to lock down the rest of the world?

Russia

Russia and China are already working together for a more heavily-censored Internet.Foreign Policy reported one of Russia’s main goals at an April forum was to “harness Chinese expertise in Internet management to gain further control over Russia’s internet, including foreign sites accessible there.”

Russia’s “top cop,” Alexander Bastrykin, explicitly stated Russia needs to stop “playing false democracy” and abandon “pseudo-liberal values” by following China’s lead on Internet censorship, instead of emulating the U.S. example. Like China’s censors, Russian authoritarians think “Internet freedom” is just coded language for the West imposing “cultural hegemony” on the rest of the world.

Just think what Russia and China will be able to do about troublesome foreign websites, once Obama surrenders American control of Internet domains!

Russian President Vladimir Putin has “chipped away at Internet freedom in Russia since he returned to the Kremlin in 2012,” as International Business Times put it in a 2014 article.

One of Putin’s new laws requires bloggers with over 3,000 readers to register with the government, providing their names and home addresses. As with China, Russia punishes online writers for “spreading false information,” and once the charge is leveled, it’s basically guilty-until-proven-innocent. For example, one of the “crimes” that can get a blogger prosecuted in Russia is alleging the corruption of a public official, without ironclad proof.

Human-rights group Agora estimates that Russian Internet censorship grew by 900% in 2015 alone, including both court orders and edicts from government agencies that don’t require court approval. Censorship was expected to intensify even further throughout 2016. Penalties include prison time, even for the crime of liking or sharing banned content on social media.

Putin, incidentally, has described the entire Internet as a CIA plot designed to subvert regimes like his. There will be quite a few people involved in the new multi-national Internet control agency who think purging the Web of American influence is a top priority.

The Russian government has prevailed upon Internet Service Providers to block opposition websites during times of political unrest, in addition to thousands of bans ostensibly issued for security, crime-fighting, and anti-pornography purposes.

Many governments follow the lead of Russia and China in asserting the right to shut down “extremist” or “subversive” websites. In the United States, we worry about law enforcement abusing its authority while battling outright terrorism online, arguing that privacy and freedom of speech must always be measured against security, no matter how dire the threat. In Russia, a rough majority of the population has no problem with the notion of censoring the Internet in the name of political stability, and will countenance absolutely draconian controls against perceived national security threats. This is a distressingly common view in other nations as well: stability justifies censorship and monitoring, not just physical security.

Turkey

Turkey’s crackdown on the Internet was alarming even before the aborted July coup attempt against authoritarian President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Turkey has banned social media sites, including temporary bans against even giants like Facebook and YouTube, for political reasons. Turkish dissidents are accustomed to such bans coming down on the eve of elections. The Turkish telecom authority can impose such bans without a court order, or a warning to offending websites.

Turkey is often seen as the world leader in blocking Twitter accounts, in addition to occasionally shutting the social media service down completely, and has over a 100,000 websites blacklisted. Criticizing the government online can result in anything from lost employment to criminal charges. And if you think social-media harassment from loyal supporters of the government in power can get pretty bad in the U.S., Turks sometimes discover that hassles from pro-regime trolls online are followed by visits from the police.

Turkish law infamously makes it a crime to insult the president, a law Erdogan has already attempted to impose beyond Turkey’s borders. One offender found himself hauled into court for creating a viral meme – the sort of thing manufactured by the thousands every hour in America – that noted Erdogan bore a certain resemblance to Gollum from Lord of the Rings. The judge in his case ordered expert testimony on whether Gollum was evil to conclusively determine whether the meme was an illegal insult to the president.

The Turkish example introduces another idea common to far too many of the countries Obama wants to give equal say over the future of the Internet: intimidation is a valid purpose for law enforcement. Many of Turkey’s censorship laws are understood to be mechanisms for intimidating dissidents, raising the cost of free speech enough to make people watch their words very carefully. “Think twice before you Tweet” might be good advice for some users, but regimes like Erdogan’s seek to impose that philosophy on everyone. This runs strongly contrary to the American understanding of the Internet as a powerful instrument that lowers the cost of speech to near-zero, the biggest quantum leap for free expression in human history. Zero-cost speech is seen as a big problem by many of the governments that will now place strong hands upon the global Internet rudder.

Turkey is very worried about “back doors” that allow citizens to circumvent official censorship, a concern they will likely bring to Internet control, along with like-minded authoritarian regimes. These governments will make the case that a free and open Internet is a direct threat to their “sovereign right” to control what their citizens read. As long as any part of the Internet remains completely free, no sector can be completely controlled.

Saudi Arabia

The Saudis aren’t too far behind China in the Internet rankings by Freedom House. Dissident online activity can bring jail sentences, plus the occasional public flogging.

This is particularly lamentable because Saudi Arabia is keenly interested in modernization, and sees the Internet as a valuable economic resource, along with a thriving social media presence. Freedom House notes the Internet “remains the least repressive space for expression in the country,” but “it is by no means free.”

“While the state focuses on combatting violent extremism and disrupting terrorist networks, it has clamped down on nonviolent liberal activists and human rights defenders with the same zeal, branding them a threat to the national order and prosecuting them in special terrorism tribunals,” Freedom House notes.

USA Today noted that as of 2014, Saudi Arabia had about 400,000 websites blocked, “including any that discuss political, social or religious topics incompatible with the Islamic beliefs of the monarchy.”

At one point the blacklist included the Huffington Post, which was banned for having the temerity to run an article suggesting the Saudi system might “implode” because of oil dependency and political repression. The best response to criticism that your government is too repressive is a blacklist!

The Saudis have a penchant for blocking messaging apps and voice-over-IP services, like Skype and Facetime. App blocking got so bad that Saudi users have been known to ask, “What’s the point of having the Internet?”

While some Saudis grumble about censorship, many others are active, enthusiastic participants in enforcement, filing hundreds of requests each day to have websites blocked. Religious figures supply many of these requests, and the government defends much of its censorship as the defense of Islamic values.

As with other censorious regimes, the Saudi monarchy worries about citizens using web services beyond its control to evade censorship, a concern that will surely be expressed loudly once America surrenders its command of Internet domains.

For the record, the Saudis’ rivals in Iran are heavy Internet censors too, with Stratfor listing them as one of the countries seeking Chinese assistance for “solutions on how best to monitor the Iranian population.”

North Korea

You can’t make a list of authoritarian nightmares without including the psychotic regime in Pyongyang, the most secretive government in the world.

North Korea is so repressive the BBC justly puts the word “Internet” in scare quotes, to describe the online environment. It doesn’t really interconnect with anything, except government propaganda and surveillance. Computers in the lone Internet cafe in Pyongyang actually boot up to a customized Linux operating system called “Red Star,” instead of Windows or Mac OS. The calendar software in Red Star measures the date from the birth of Communist founder Kim Il-sung, rather than the birth of Christ.

The “Internet” itself is a closed system called Kwangmyong, and citizens can only access it through a single state-run provider, with the exception of a few dozen privileged families that can punch into the real Internet.

Kwangmyong is often compared to the closed “intranet” system in a corporate office, with perhaps 5,000 websites available at most. Unsurprisingly, the content is mostly State-monitored messaging and State-supplied media. Contributors to these online services have reportedly been sent to re-education camps for typos. The North Koreans are so worried about outside contamination of their closed network that they banned wi-fi hotspots at foreign embassies, having noticed information-starved North Korean citizens clustering within range of those beautiful, uncensored wireless networks.

This doesn’t stop South Koreans from attempting cultural penetration of their squalid neighbor’s dismal little online network. Lately they’ve been doing it by loading banned information onto cheap memory sticks, tying them to balloons, and floating them across the border.

Sure, North Korea is the ultimate totalitarian nightmare, and since they have less than two thousand IP addresses registered in the entire country, the outlaw regime won’t be a big influence on Obama’s multi-national Internet authority, right?

Not so fast. As North Korea expert Scott Thomas Bruce told the BBC, authoritarian governments who are “looking at what is happening in the Middle East” see North Korea as a model to be emulated.

“They’re saying rather than let in Facebook, and rather than let in Twitter, what if the government created a Facebook that we could monitor and control?” Bruce explained.

Also, North Korea has expressed some interest in using the Internet as a tool for economic development, which means there would be more penetration of the actual global network into their society. They’ll be very interested in censoring and controlling that access, and they’ll need a lot more registered domains and IP addresses… the very resource Obama wants America to surrender control over.

Bottom line: contrary to left-wing cant, there is such a thing as American exceptionalism – areas in which the United States is demonstrably superior to every other nation, a leader to which the entire world should look for examples. Sadly, our society is losing its fervor for free expression, and growing more comfortable with suppressing “unacceptable” speech, but we’re still far better than anyone else in this regard.

The rest of the world, taken in total, is very interested in suppressing various forms of expression, for reasons ranging from security to political stability and religion. Those governments will never be comfortable, so long as parts of the Internet remain outside of their control. They have censorship demands they consider very reasonable, and absolutely vital. The website you are reading right now violates every single one of them, on a regular basis.

There may come a day we can safely remand control of Internet domains to an international body, but that day is most certainly not October 1, 2016.

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Technology CEOs Shamefully Lubricate Internet’s Surrender by Frank Gaffney

Congress has just showed why so many Americans are sick of their politicians and ready to throw the bums out. The Senate and House leadership have agreed to President Obama’s surrender of your Internet to freedom’s enemies.

The deed was done yesterday when Majority Leader Mitch McConnell pushed through the Senate a funding bill without a prohibition on the Internet give-away.  The House is expected to rubber stamp it today.

Political cover came from something called the Technology CEO Council.  This group of interested parties, whose lobbyists give generously to politicians’ campaigns, blithely assured Congress: “Placing stewardship of these technical but important functions beyond the control of any one government or group of governments will best secure the principles of Internet freedom and de-politicization of technology.”

Shame on the CEOs for disseminating such transnational rubbish – and the Congress for swallowing it.

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How America Will Be Attacked: Irregular Warfare, the Islamic State, Russia, and China

mr-article2bThe Gorka Briefing, by Dr. Sebastian Gorka, Aug. 26, 2016:

An article I wrote that was published in the latest issue of Military Review: The Professional Journal of the US Army. The articles is a primer on the roots of unconventional war theories behind the current Islamic insurgency being conducted by the Islamic State, Russia’s current approach to warfare, and the progress of Chinese unrestricted warfare.

HOW AMERICA WILL BE ATTACKED: IRREGULAR WARFARE, THE ISLAMIC STATE, RUSSIA, AND CHINA

“[The Future Operating Environment] “will feature the erosion of sovereignty, weakened developing states, the empowerment of small groups or individuals, and an increasingly contested narrative environment favoring agile nonstate actors and state actors demonstrating persistent proficiency in the irregular domain.” —ARSOF Operating Concept: Future Operating Environment, U.S. Army Special Operations Command

“You may not be interested in War but War is interested in you.”—Apocryphally attributed to Leon Trotsky

As this paper is being written, the U.S. national security establishment is under significant internal and external pressures: internally from the consequences of prosecuting the longest war in the Republic’s history, which has seen unprecedented post-Cold War operational tempos, matched by constant downsizing of our forces and sustainment budgets; externally from the events occurring in the Middle East, North Africa, Asia, and Africa, which has included the rise the Islamic State (IS), the most powerful jihadist organization of the modern age, and the concurrent displacement of more than sixty-five million refugees, a historic world record surpassing even World War II. These pressures are not going to abate, which will most probably lead to the reality of our armed forces having to accomplish more missions with less resources.

At the same time, both nonstate and nation-state adversaries of the United States who have become supremely adept at exploiting irregular warfare (IW) and unconventional modes of attack will exploit these forces. This article is an introduction to three of the most important enemies we face today and who we will also face in the future, and how these actors use IW and unconventional warfare (UW) against our interests: the Islamic State, China, and Russia. . . . (read the article)

Listen to John Batchelor interview with Dr. Sebastian Gorka:

isis-beheading

ISIS & Mao: Institutionalizing Savagery.

“Phase One: The Vexation Phase (IS four years

ago). In the initial stage the jihadist organization will

apply IW to execute dramatic terror attacks against

the infidel and his regional partners. The goal here is to

attrit and weaken the infidel and apostate governments

and prepare the battlespace for Phase Two….”

http://thegorkabriefing.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/militaryreview_20161031_sg.pdf

https://www.joomag.com/magazine/military-review-english-edition-september-october-2016/0635488001471895116?page=42

About Obama’s Receding Tide of War…

obama-work-here-is-done-610x400PJ MEDIA, BY CLAUDIA ROSETT,  APRIL 19, 2016:

Years ago, looking out at the Pacific surf from a beach in Chile, a friend — alert to the ways of tsunamis — gave me some advice about what to do if suddenly the water all went away. “Run. Run for your life. Because it’s all coming back.”

That advice has come to mind all too often since President Obama made his 2012 reelection campaign proclamations about the receding tide of war. Not that the tide of war has receded anywhere except perhaps in the fantasies of Obama and his followers. But after more than seven years of U.S. policy predicated on such propaganda, it’s getting ever harder to read the daily headlines without the sense that there’s a deluge coming our way.

Just a modest sampling of some of the latest warning signs:

— Russian warplanes have been demonstrating that they can with impunity buzz our military aircraft and ships. Which is by now no surprise, because Russian President Vladimir Putin has already learned — in the flexible era of the Obama “reset” — that the U.S. is no serious obstacle to such stunts as Russia swiping the entire territory of Crimea from Ukraine, moving back into the Middle East, propping up Syrian dictator Bashar Assad, and offering fugitive Edward Snowden a home after the grand hack of the National Security Agency.

— China, while brushing off U.S. protests, keeps pushing its power plays and territorial grabs in East Asia — and has just landed a military jet on an island it has built, complete with runway, in the South China Sea.

— Iran, having pocketed the Obama-legacy rotten nuclear deal, has continued testing ballistic missiles, with Iran’s Fars News Agency advertising that two of the missiles launched just last month were emblazoned in Hebrew with the phrase “Israel must be wiped out.” Presumably these missiles are being developed just in case Iran feels a need to propel toward a target some highly unpeaceful products of its “exclusively peaceful” nuclear program? Meantime, Iran is wielding the nuclear agreement itself as a threat. Just this past week, we had the head of Iran’s Central Bank in Washington threatening that Iran will walk away from Obama’s cherished nuclear deal unless the Obama administration provides yet more concessions — in this instance, a U.S. welcome mat for Iran’s banking transactions, so Iran, the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism, can avail itself of easy access to dollars.

— Saudi authorities have been threatening that if Congress passes a bill allowing the Saudi government to be held responsible for any part in the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, they will dump hundreds of billions worth of U.S. assets. (What’s most arresting here is less the prospect of a self-defeating Saudi fire sale on U.S. assets than the reality that the Saudis — beset by everything from relatively low oil prices to regional tumult, including an aggressively expansionist Iran — feel free to try to bully the U.S.).

— And oh, by the way, North Korea, has been visibly preparing for a fifth nuclear test. If they carry it out during the grand window of opportunity provided by Obama’s final nine months in office, this would be the fourth North Korean nuclear test on Obama’s watch. That’s not a good trend, especially given North Korea’s history of marketing its weapons and nuclear know-how to places such as the Middle East.

That’s before we even get to the carnage and refugee flows spilling out of such places as Syria and Libya; such terrorist outfits and networks as ISIS, the Taliban, Hezbollah, al Qaeda…and the mix-and-match extent to which various states not entirely friendly to the U.S. tend to officially deplore terrorism while also sponsoring or abetting it, as convenient.

Obama likes to lecture us that all these things are transient problems, speed bumps on the road to wherever that utopian arc of history finally bends toward some great big pot of justice at the end of the rainbow. In his view, as he told NBC’s Matt Lauer this past January, “there are no existential threats” confronting the U.S. today. Thus, as Fox News reported earlier this month in a superb documentary on “Rising Threats, Shrinking Military,” Obama is both gutting the U.S. military and reshaping it, the priorities here being not to win wars, but to be, above all, eco-aware and gender malleable.

In a televised inteview April 10, with Fox News host Chris Wallace, Obama opinedthat if you just step back and look at the big picture, there’s not much to worry about: “America’s got the best cards. We are the envy of the world. We have the most powerful military on earth, by a mile.”

That’s true, but it’s not a product of Obama’s brand of leadership, and it’s not enough to have the best cards if your leaders are busy throwing them away. America’s greatness is the incredible legacy of many generations of work and sacrifice under a system of capitalism and freedom, and of leaders willing at crucial moments to stand up for this country. It takes a lot of effort to run that down, but this is what Obama has been doing, with the apology tours, the terrible deals, the fading red lines, the hollow speeches, the inert declarations about standing “shoulder-to-shoulder” with the “international community,” the insults to America’s allies and the come-hither courting of America’s enemies.

None of the nations now defying, threatening or bullying America is likely, individually, to win a war with the United States. But collectively, they keep pushing the envelope, and finding no serious resistance. There is every sign that they are learning from each other, emboldening each other, and in some disturbing matters willing to work together. This is how wars start.

On April 17, novelist and political writer Mark Helprin published an important op-ed in The Wall Street Journal, under the headline “The Candidates Ignore Rising Military Dangers,” with the subhed: “Obama is weakening U.S. defenses and credibility, but there’s little debate about the growing risk of war.” The entire article is worth reading. But if you want a quick summary of what’s out there, it’s in the caption to a photo than ran with the piece: “War games last year in southern Russia involved troops from countries including Russia, China, Pakistan and Venezuela.” You can bet, whatever they are preparing for, it is not a receding tide of war.

Frank Gaffney: Erdogan Transformed Turkey into an ‘Islamist Police State’ That Is No Longer a ‘Reliable NATO Ally’

AFP

AFP

Breitbart, by John Hayward, April 15, 2016:

Center for Security Policy founder and Sen. Ted Cruz foreign-policy adviser Frank Gaffney joined host Stephen K. Bannon on Breitbart News Daily Friday morning to talk about the recent proclamation of “Islamic unity” from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose country will now assume the chairmanship of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) for two years.

Gaffney argued that Erdogan’s statement was actually an example of taqqiya, the Muslim practice of lying for the greater good of the faith, and Erdogan’s true agenda was Islamic supremacism.

“I think what he’s trying to tell us is different from what he’s trying to tell his own people,” Gaffney said of Erdogan’s proclamation.  “He’s telling us that he’s all about solidarity, and tolerance, and ecumenicalism, and we all need to pull together, and so on.”

“But the main message he’s been sending to his own people, for something like 13 years now, is Islamic supremacism,” Gaffney continued.  “It has nothing to do with [singing] ‘Kumbaya’ with infidels.  It is about forcing them to submit, in the classic tradition ofsharia.

He described Erdogan as “Muslim Brotherhood old Islamist who believes, at the end of the day, that he is going to be the new Caliph.”

“He is going to create a neo-Ottoman Empire.  And anything that is communicated to the West – in various international fora, or through proclamations, or through other means – is what is known, in the traditions of sharia, as taqqiya – that is, essentially, lying for the Faith.  And I think this should be discounted as such,” said Gaffney.

Gaffney explained that it’s not just permitted, but “obligatory,” for followers of the Islamic supremacist doctrine to “dissemble, to deceive the unbeliever, and to use deception as Mohammed did – the perfect Muslim – to triumph over the infidel, and to successfully create conditions under which they will be effectively enslaved, or reduced to a dhimmistatus.”

He thought the Turkish president’s carefully crafted message would play well to Western media and government, which are suffused with the endless hope that “there’s a degree of moderation on the part of people like Erdogan, or others in the Muslim Brotherhood movement – the global jihad movement, for that matter.”

“It just ain’t so,” Gaffney argued.  “This is a guy who has transformed his country, let’s be clear, from a secular democratic nation – a Muslim one to be sure, but definitely in the secular tradition of Ataturk – into what is now an Islamist police state.”

“Particularly people in the press, who are trying to portray this in the most rose-colored glass mode, should understand what he’s doing to the press in Turkey,” Gaffney stressed.  “He’s crushing it, unless it bends to his will.”

He noted that Erdogan is famous for having said “Democracy is like a bus – you take it to your destination, and then you get off.”

“He’s long since gotten off, internally,” Gaffney warned.  “We should be under no illusion: he is not aligned with us.  He is aligned with the Islamists around the world – with Iran, with China, with Hamas of course.  This is a guy who is no longer, in his country, a reliable NATO ally.  And that’s the unvarnished and unhappy truth.”

Breitbart News Daily airs on SiriusXM Patriot 125 weekdays from 6:00AM to 9:00AM EST.

You can listen to the full interview with Frank Gaffney below:

Also see:

Top Intel Officials: U.S. Faces Highest Terror Threat Level Since 9/11

James Clapper / AP

James Clapper / AP

Iran, N. Korea enhancing ties, ISIS more powerful than al Qaeda, terrorists pouring out of Syria

Washington Free Beacon, by Adam Kredo, Feb. 25, 2016:

Top intelligence community officials warned Thursday that the United States faces the highest terrorist threat level since the 9/11 terror attacks, citing a record-breaking increase in the flow of foreign fighters to Syria and Iraq, as well as joint Iranian-North Korean plans to boost “attack capabilities” and other efforts by leading terror groups to increase their offensive capabilities.

As Iran “continues to be the foremost sponsor of terror” across the globe, ISIS has emerged as the “preeminent global terrorist threat,” with its combined strength now exceeding al Qaeda’s, according to Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, who warned lawmakers on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence that “unpredictable instability has become the new normal.”

The United States has never dealt with this type of threat landscape and struggles to ensure it can continue gathering intelligence on these terror groups, which have shown unprecedented proficiency at obfuscating their actions.

Violent extremists now operate in 40 countries, Clapper said. Another seven countries have collapsing governments, and 14 are in danger of falling due to violent instability. An additional 59 countries have been marked as facing “significant risk of instability through 2016,” Clapper said.

Instability in these countries could enable them to become terrorist safe havens, as has been the case in Syria, Clapper said.

“There are now more Sunni [Muslim] violent extremist groups, members of safe havens, than any time in history,” Clapper said, noting that the rate of foreign fighters now traveling to Syria and Iraq is “without precedent.”

At least 38,200 foreign fighters, including 6,900 from Western countries, have made their way to Syria from about 120 different countries since the Syrian conflict began in 2012.

“Returning foreign fighters [to Europe and elsewhere], with first-hand battlefield experience, poses a dangerous operational threat,” Clapper said, citing last year’s massive terrorist attack in Paris.

Meanwhile, threats from global pandemics such as the Zika virus also threaten the U.S. homeland. The U.S. intelligence community expects up to 4 million Zika virus cases in just in the Western hemisphere, Clapper said.

Officials said that as the United States and other countries implement the Iran nuclear agreement, the Islamic Republic strengthens its alliance with terrorist groups and rogue nations such as North Korea.

“Iran continues to be the foremost state sponsor of terror and exert its influence in regional crises in the Mid-East through the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force, its terrorist partner Lebanese Hezbollah, and proxy groups,” Clapper said. “Iran and Hezbollah remain a continuing terrorist threat to U.S. interests and partners worldwide.”

Intelligence sources have predicted that Iran’s hatred for America will not abate despite the nuclear deal championed by the Obama administration.

“Iran’s supreme leader continues to view the U.S. as a major threat and we assess his views will not change despite the implementation of the [nuclear] deal, the exchange of detainees, and the release of the 10 sailors,” Clapper said.

Technology challenges remain for the U.S. as it seeks to disrupt cyber attacks and infiltrate online terror networks.

Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea continue to collect sensitive data from hacking American networks, Clapper said.

“Targeting collection of the U.S. political, military, economic, and technical information by foreign intelligence services continues unabated,” he said. “Russia and China post the greatest threat, followed by Iran and Cuba on a lesser scale.”

Terrorist groups such as ISIS and al Qaeda have demonstrated an ability to hide their online operations.

“The increased use by violent extremists of encrypted and secure Internet and mobile-based tech has enabled terrorist actors to go dark and serves to undercut intelligence and law enforcement efforts,” Clapper said.

Rep. Devin Nunes (R., Calif.), the intelligence committee’s chairman, expressed concern over the government’s ability to address all of these threats.

“The U.S. faces the highest threat level since the 9/11 attacks,” he said. “The intelligence community is being stretched thin and is overwhelmed by a complex threat matrix.”

Nunes also highlighted several instances of waste, fraud, and abuse in the U.S. defense network.

Whistleblowers have informed Congress that officials at U.S. Central Command have deleted “both files and emails” to hide them from lawmakers.

Additionally, sources have identified billions of dollars in waste and excess spending for programs, including “documentation showing the Department of Defense has provided false information to Congress.”

Several congressional committees are currently investigating this behavior.

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