Erdogan Claims Victory in Referendum Making Him Dictator

Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan (AP Photo)

PJ Media, by Rick Moran, April 16, 2017:

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan is claiming victory in a referendum that will greatly expand his powers, changing the country from a nominal parliamentary democracy into a presidential dictatorship.

But opposition groups are protesting the vote, which resulted in a closer outcome than expected.

Erdogan will apparently be denied the decisive victory he sought, despite his crackdown on the opposition since the failed military coup last year.

Reuters:

Nearly all ballots had been opened for counting, state-run Anadolu news agency said, although a lag between opening and counting them could see the lead tighten even further.

Erdogan called Prime Minister Binali Yildirim and the leader of the nationalist MHP party, which supported the “Yes” vote, to congratulate them, presidential sources said. They quoted Erdogan as saying the referendum result was clear.

The result appeared short of the decisive victory that Erdogan and the ruling AK Party had campaigned aggressively for. In Turkey’s three biggest cities – Istanbul, Izmir and the capital Ankara – the “No” camp appeared set to prevail narrowly, according to Turkish television stations.

Addressing a crowd outside the AKP’s headquarters in Ankara, Yildirim said unofficial tallies showed the “Yes” camp ahead.

“A new page has been opened in our democratic history,” Yildirim said. “We are brothers, one body, one nation.”

Convoys of cars honking horns in celebration, their passengers waving flags from the windows, clogged a main avenue in Ankara as they headed towards the AKP’s headquarters to celebrate. A chant of Erdogan’s name rang out from loud speakers and campaign buses.

A “Yes” vote would replace Turkey’s parliamentary democracy with an all-powerful presidency and may see Erdogan in office until at least 2029, in the most radical change to the country’s political system in its modern history.

The outcome will also shape Turkey’s strained relations with the European Union. The NATO member state has curbed the flow of migrants – mainly refugees from wars in Syria and Iraq – into the bloc but Erdogan says he may review the deal after the vote.

The opposition People’s Republican Party (CHP) said it would demand a recount of up to 60 percent of the votes, protesting against a last-minute decision by the electoral board to accept unstamped ballots as valid votes.

If you’re wondering how people could freely vote for dictatorship, this voter explains:

“I don’t think one-man rule is such a scary thing. Turkey has been ruled in the past by one man,” he said, referring to modern Turkey’s founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

Opponents say it is a step towards greater authoritarianism in a country where some 47,000 people have been jailed pending trial and 120,000 sacked or suspended from their jobs in a crackdown following a failed coup last July, drawing criticism from Turkey’s Western allies and rights groups.

Erdogan will be no ordinary dictator. He is, first and foremost, an Islamist in the heart of democratic Europe. He will control a large, well-trained army equipped with the latest NATO weapons in one of the most strategically located countries in the world. It will be very difficult to fight ISIS and blunt Iran’s ambitions without Erdogan’s cooperation.

That’s why criticism from NATO and the U.S. for this power grab will be muted. As noted above, Turkey is also a key player in the refugee crisis. Erdogan could make the lives of EU leaders miserable if he opens the floodgates of migrants and allows passage through Turkey into the west.

In other words, Erdogan enjoys a considerable amount of leverage. How he uses it will impact the security of NATO and the U.S.

Also see:

Turkish Govt Opened $100m Mosque in Washington DC as Turkish Intel Spied From Mosques Across Europe

PJ MEDIA, BY PATRICK POOLE, APRIL 2, 2017:

Editor’s Note: See Patrick Poole’s related article from yesterday, “Mosques Spying for Turkish Intelligence in Germany Prompt Raids, Government Probe

One year ago today Turkey’s president Recep Erdogan was in the Washington D.C. area to open a new $100 million mosque complex funded by the Turkish government and operated by the Diyanet, Turkey’s religious affairs ministry.

Needless to say, the opening of the Diyanet complex received national and international media attention:

But not without controversy:

But on the one year anniversary of the opening of the Diyanet Center of America, questions about its true purpose are raised by ongoing investigations by European officials into widespread spying allegations implicating Turkish government-funded Diyanet mosques across the continent – just like the one opened outside of Washington D.C. – spying on behalf of the the Turkish intelligence service, the Milli Istihbarat Teskilati (MIT).

Yesterday, I reported here at PJ Media on the investigations in Germany, where authorities have conducted raids targeting Diyanet imams and high ranking officers of the Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs (DITIB), the official arm of the Diyanet in Germany.

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Erdogan’s Caliphate Threatens NATO

The American Spectator, by Jed Babbin, March 21, 2017:

Among NATO’s most serious problems is Recip Erdogan, the president of Turkey. He is more than a political nuisance, because he threatens both the commitment of NATO’s members to defend each other and the Westernized composition of the nation he leads.

In the last half of the 19th century, under the Ottoman Empire’s last caliph Abdulmejid, Turkey was known as “the sick man of Europe.” Abdulmejid’s government was corrupt, dissolute, and entirely vulnerable. That third element led to the Gallipoli Campaign, which, in 1915-1916, saw troops from Australia and New Zealand under British command thwarted in their attempt to land and seize control of the Dardanelles.

One Turkish officer, Mustafa Kemal, found himself at the center of the invasion force. His counterattacks and ability to hold ground were the reasons the invasion failed.

After the war, when the Ottoman Empire fell and Abdulmejid’s reign ended, Mustafa Kemal became the leader of Turkey who was not as much followed as worshiped. In 1934, Mustafa Kemal became known as “Ataturk,” father of Turks. He remade the Islamic Ottoman state into a secular, non-Islamic nation aimed at joining the Western world.

Eighty-three years later, Turkey is led by a man whose principal goal is the re-creation of the Turkish Islamic state, Recip Erdogan.

Erdogan is not a dictator imposed by a military coup (though Turkey has had its share of them). He is highly popular, despite his many despotic actions, primarily because the Turks seem to have forgotten the reason for Ataturk’s success.

If you examine Erdogan’s past, it is no surprise that he is an Islamist. Erdogan is the product of a Turkish imam-hatip school. These are Islamic religious schools that aren’t quite the “madrassas” we’ve heard so much about since 9/11, but they are much like them. The imam-hatip schools reserve 30 percent of their students’ time for religious instruction. They teach Sunni Islamic law — Sharia law — as the exclusive legitimate source of authority. Those schools teach the political ideology we refer to as radical Islam.

Erdogan repeatedly has made clear his allegiance to radical Islam again and again throughout his presidency. He became prime minister in 2002 and has ruled the country ever since. His presidency, which began in 2014, is about to be converted into a pseudo-caliphate by a constitutional referendum that will be voted on next month.

Since Ataturk, the Turkish army has had the duty of maintaining the secularism of the Turkish state. It has had its successes and failures, but as Ataturk recognized, Turkey cannot be an Islamic state and a Western ally. For decades, many (if not most) Turkish officers have been trained in the U.S. and England and have been assigned to officer exchange programs that enabled them to serve with American forces.

From Korea to Afghanistan, Turkish troops have been a strong presence in NATO deployments. Gradually, since 2002, Erdogan has been weeding out non-Islamists from the Turkish armed forces. Graduates of the imam-hatip schools weren’t permitted to become officers in the Turkish army, but that may soon change. Erdogan has said those schools are “the hope of Turkey and the entire Muslim nation.”

Last July’s attempted coup against Erdogan sealed the Turkish army’s fate. Hundreds of non-Islamist senior officers were purged from the military. They and the journalists taken prisoner are among the more than 200,000 people arrested and (or) fired from their jobs in Erdogan’s response to the coup attempt.

Erdogan’s hopes lie in the referendum that will be voted on in April. It’s likely to be approved by the voters. In sum, the constitutional amendments it contains concentrate all executive power in the president and extend his legal term in office for at least another decade.

The referendum has been the source of Turkey’s recent conflict with Germany and Holland. About 1.5 million Turkish citizens live in Germany, but that doesn’t count the numbers who have come as refugees in the past two years. Turks make up the largest alien population in Germany.

At least 400,000 Turks live in Holland. Again, that number doesn’t reflect how many entered in the refugee floods of 2015-2016. All told, about four million ethnic Turks live in the EU nations.

Because those Turkish citizens can vote in the Turkish referendum, Erdogan is eager to get their votes. When he sent Turkish government representatives to hold rallies in Germany, several German cities wouldn’t allow the rallies to be held. Erdogan said the Germans were behaving like Nazis.

Holland went further, banning two Turkish government ministers from entering the country to hold such rallies. Erdogan accused the Dutch of Nazi-like behavior.

Relations are worsening by the day between the EU nations — almost all of which are NATO members — and Turkey. Last year, the EU entered into an agreement with Turkey to stop the flow of refugees from the Middle East and Africa. The EU promised to grant visa-free travel to Turkish citizens, which it hasn’t done based on Turkey’s poor human rights record. Now, Erdogan is threatening to open the floodgates to another million or more refugees to enter the EU. He has threatened to send Europe 15,000 refugees every month.

Last month, in a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Erdogan held a joint press conference in which Merkel referred to “Islamic terrorism.” Erdogan, furious at her statement, insisted that “Islam is peace.”

Turkey has been — in strategic and literal terms — a cornerstone of NATO. But Erdogan’s actions have been entirely inconsistent with that role. He negotiated an agreement with Russia’s President Putin to build a gas pipeline to and through Turkey to reach back into Europe. That’s not nearly the worst of it.

For more than a year, Turkey has reportedly been quietly supporting ISIS. It may have supplied money, arms, and troops. Erdogan has sided with Russia and may have a pseudo-alliance with Putin to help keep Bashar al-Assad in power in Syria. Turkish forces have made attacks against ISIS, but they have concentrated their firepower more on the Kurdish forces with which we are allied.

Last week, Erdogan blocked military exercises with NATO “partner” nations. He is evidently willing to continue to escalate his conflicts with NATO, believing there will be no response, because he has the EU over a barrel on the refugee issue.

Also last week, the Turkish foreign minister, reacting to the Dutch election, said that “holy wars will soon begin” in Europe. Shortly after that, Erdogan gave a speech in which he discussed the EU court ruling that allows EU nations to ban the wearing of the Muslim hijab by women. He said, “Shame on the EU. Down with your European principles, values and justice. They started a clash between the cross and the crescent, there is no other explanation.”

The “cross and the crescent” reference was nothing less than an accusation that the EU was reviving the Crusades.

There is no provision in the NATO treaty that permits throwing a member nation out of NATO. Turkey no longer makes a pretense of being a democratic state. As the Islamic state it has become, it cannot coexist with democracies.

Erdogan’s Turkey has been, for decades, trying to join the EU. It has apparently given up trying and is now more an ally of Russia than part of NATO. That was made most clear, after the July coup when Erdogan cut off electricity to our Incirlik Air Force Base in Turkey. Two months ago, Erdogan’s government hinted that he would shut the base down after we refused to support Turkish attacks in Syria.

Incirlik has been our key to the Middle East. Aircraft operating from there can quickly reach Syria, Iraq, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and pretty much the whole region. If Erdogan tried to shut the base down, it would be very tough to find another base location in the area, and it would cost billions to set it up to function as Incirlik does.

Threatening to cut off our foreign aid won’t be effective because Turkey gets only about $200,000 a year from us. It’s a trifle. Threatening Turkey could bring about a closer Turkish-Russian alliance.

What to do? President Trump has to make it clear to Erdogan that any further interference with Incirlik’s operations will not be tolerated.

Our leverage is not entirely limited. Mr. Trump can begin by turning up the rhetorical heat on Erdogan, saying that NATO cannot tolerate his failure to cooperate and urging the EU to keep the door closed to refugees. Erdogan’s threats to use the refugees as a weapon against NATO nations should be viewed as a breach of the NATO treaty.

At some point, Erdogan’s actions will be a clear breach of the EU treaty. We’re not there yet, but Mr. Trump can and should hint that we’re thinking in those terms.

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Also see:

NatSec advisor Michael Anton outlines a way forward with an alternative to the “New World Order”

Michael Anton, center, at a White House news briefing Feb. 1. At left are Michael Flynn and K.T. McFarland. (Photo: Carolyn Kaster/AP)

Michael Anton, center, at a White House news briefing Feb. 1. At left are Michael Flynn and K.T. McFarland. (Photo: Carolyn Kaster/AP)

Note: Michael Anton is Deputy Assistant to the President for Strategic Communications, National Security Council. This article was prepared before the author accepted his current position. The views here reflect only those of the author. They do not represent the views of the Trump administration, the National Security Advisor, or the U.S. government.

American Affairs Journal

Trump’s campaign was driven by the basic awareness of ordinary citizens that American peace, prestige, and prosperity were not being served by our foreign policy. Among the many reasons to be hopeful about President Trump’s foreign policy is that he seems to understand that correcting the errors of the neo-interventionists does not require adopting those of the paleo-isolationists.

Excerpt:

Reforming the Liberal International Order

How best to remain safe, rich, and respected? Let us consider the ways in which the LIO might be reformed.

First, our trade policy is in obvious need of reform. The LIO elevates “free trade”—really, phonebook-thick agreements that regulate every aspect of trade, mostly to America’s disadvantage—to holy writ. It does so for political reasons as well as ideological ones, such as the often-inappropriate invocation of David Ricardo. The office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) has been composed entirely of true believers in the free trade doctrine for several decades. But the world economy has changed significantly since 1945, to state the obvious. In certain cases, at least, the conditions underlying that period’s commercial policy orientation (and the theoretical impulses behind it) no longer apply. The Trump administration is right to be skeptical of free trade ideology and to revisit trade policy based on core interests and commercial realities.

We could also be more sensible about our alliance structure. NATO is far from irrelevant today, but it could surely be made more relevant. Certainly, decades of joint exercise, interoperability rules, interchangeable weapons systems, and the like should not be tossed aside lightly, especially among countries with long histories of deep bonds and common interests. But it is reasonable to ask: What is the alliance for once its original purpose has evaporated? If it can be reformed to better address the threats of our time—terrorism, mass illegal migration—all to the good.

We must also ask: Why is it in our strategic interest to push that alliance’s borders ever outward? What do we gain by pledging American blood to defend places where it would take us a 48-hour airlift to mount a forlorn defense with one regiment? In what way does committing to impossible things enhance prestige?

The case for continued expansion of the LIO seems feeble indeed and has recently been taken to absurd extremes. One school of thought—let us call them the “neocons”—holds that since democracy is “our team,” and that team’s overall health improves when its prospects are expanding, then surely it is in our interest to democratize the world. No?

No. That is to say: America would likely be better off if the world were more democratic than it is, given that democracy correlates highly with friendliness or at least non-opposition to American interests, whereas “authoritarianism” (or, to be more precise, “tyranny”) correlates highly with opposition and even hostility to American interests. But in some regions, democracy also correlates highly with instability, which breeds war and chaos that are antithetical to American interests. In others, the rhetoric and mechanism of democracy are used—one man, one vote, once—to squelch robust democracy and impose a tyranny worse than what preceded the “democracy.”

Sticking with the LIO’s original context between 1945 and 1989, its first purpose was to preserve democracy where it already existed and was under threat, either by foreign conquest or foreign-directed internal subversion. Second, it was to restore democracy to “captive nations” whose liberty had been seized by a foreign power. Third, it was to develop democracy (gradually) in countries with substantial economies, deep reserves of human capital, and civil intuitions capable of serving as soil in which democracy could grow. Never did it mean imposition of democracy—much less suggest this imposition was a vital American interest.

Democracy is a precarious flower. It will not grow just anywhere. There are a great many patches of land we could easily seize that are nonetheless fit for growing only cacti or weeds. If we see the democratic flower struggling to bloom in a place where and at a time when we have the capacity to water it, and it is in our interest to do so, by all means we should consider it. But the fact that America has a “team interest” in the success or non-failure of democracy does not mean that we have an interest in trying to impose democracy in places where it is almost certain to fail. In fact, the opposite is true, because glaring failures undermine our prestige.

I would ask careful readers to please note that, for all the criticism of the foreign policy establishment, nothing here has specifically criticized the LIO per se. It served our interests well in the times and places for which it was built. It remains superior to most alternatives, including paleo-isolationism and neocon overreach. Confusion may arise from the implicit conflation of the LIO with the latter. It is not an outrageous error to make, precisely because the neocons have expended a lot of effort since the end of the Cold War to meld the two in the public mind, beginning with the so-called Wolfowitz Doctrine strategy paper drafted in the Pentagon in 1992 and continuing in 2014 with Robert Kagan’s New Republicthink piece “Superpowers Don’t Get to Retire.”

The very phrase “liberal international order” hints at the problem. It is at least a better term than President George H. W. Bush’s “new world order,” for the simple reason that the LIO has never prevailed over the entire world and never had a chance to. The failure to see this limit was, it seems, the core mistake of America’s post–Cold War foreign policy. The establishment thought it could take a system built (more or less) for the OECD or the Rich Nations Club and make it work everywhere. That was never possible and still isn’t. The “liberal international order” is thus better termed the “liberal rich-country order” or—if you prefer foreign policy jargon—the “liberal functioning-core order.”

Even if one were to assert that America’s national interest is to build and maintain a liberal order in every corner of the globe (which it isn’t), we would still face the thorny problem that America lacks the means to do so. We have to choose. What do we choose and on what basis?

In sum, the reach of “liberal international order”—while mostly beneficial to American interests—is in practice a lot smaller than the whole world. Even when created in 1945–1950, it was never intended to encompass the globe. It was built to protect the interests of America and its non-Communist friends in Europe and Asia and (in an update to the Monroe Doctrine) keep Communism out of the Western Hemisphere. The Middle East was added later, in stages, as Anglo-French hegemony collapsed after Suez, as the original Western-friendly Arab kings fell, and as the West (and the United States especially) became net oil importers. The attempt, beginning in 1991–92, to extend that order over the whole world was a case of American eyes being much bigger than our stomachs (or teeth), a confusion of ideology and interests. In fact, however, such expansion was never necessary to core American interests—peace, prosperity, prestige.

The uncertainty of the present moment does not derive primarily from President Trump’s supposed disregard for the fundamentals of the liberal international order. On the contrary, the uncertainty arises from a growing awareness of the disconnect between the instrumental policies of that order and its overriding purpose. In restoring a sense of the core objectives behind the LIO’s institutions, Trump actually shows a greater regard for it. These institutions will survive only if prudently amended to serve their essential purposes and meet their members’ needs.

Trump’s campaign was driven by the basic awareness of ordinary citizens that American peace, prestige, and prosperity were not being served by our foreign policy. Among the many reasons to be hopeful about President Trump’s foreign policy is that he seems to understand that correcting the errors of the neo-interventionists does not require adopting those of the paleo-isolationists.

While orienting foreign policy around American peace, prestige, and prosperity still leaves room for disagreements in policy formation, focusing on the ends rather than the means marks a dramatic change in the way our diplomats see things. The quicker we make that change, the quicker we will find clarity in strengthening the institutions that make the American people safe, respected, and wealthy—and the quicker we can reform those that do not.

This article originally appeared in American Affairs Volume I, Number 1 (Spring 2017): 113–25.

Also see:

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.

Turkey’s Descent into Islamist Tyranny Deepens

(AP Photo/Emrah Gurel)

(AP Photo/Emrah Gurel)

Executions, purges, and the shuttering of opposition and Kurdish media mark Erdogan’s ongoing power grabs — as he tries to end NATO’s mission stemming refugee flows to Europe.

CounterJihad, October 31, 2016:

Turkey’s military forces have just seized the Hagia Sophia, appointing a full-time imam to lead Islamic prayers there after 80 years of it being held as a neutral place for both Christians and Muslims.  The move is symbolic, but shows clearly the designs of Turkey’s Islamist president.

The Turkish government under Recep Tayyip Erdoğan used the abortive coup of this summer to deepen its control over every aspect of Turkish life, but especially the media and education.  Over ten thousand public servants have been purged from the government in recent days, raising the total figure to over a hundred thousand — some 37,000 of whom have been arrested. Erdoğan has pressed the Turkish parliament to reinstate the death penalty so that he can begin disposing of those he has identified as his enemies.

“Our government will take this proposal [on capital punishment] to parliament. I am sure parliament will approve it, and when it comes back to me, I will ratify it…Soon, soon, don’t worry. It’s happening soon, God willing. The West says this, the West says that. Excuse me, but what counts is not what the West says. What counts is what my people say.”

According to CounterJihad’s sources, the detained who are subjected to trial must submit to having all of their conversations with their lawyers recorded whenever the prosecution requests it.  Such recordings are of course admissible as evidence against the client — or the lawyer, if he comes to be considered an enemy of the state from working too hard to defend people already classified as ‘enemies of the state.’

The detained include especially members of opposition media.  The leadership of the Cumhuriyet daily newspaper, which is nearly a century old, were arrested and their laptops seized by the police.  Their paper is not only critical of Erdoğan , but occasionally supportive of the Kurdish minority.  That appears to be grounds for arrest in Turkey now:  even two mayors were seized by order of a Turkish court on suspicion of being sympathetic to Kurdish militants.  In addition to the attacks on the Cumhuriyet daily, 15 Kurdish news outlets have been shuttered by order of the state.  A pro-Kurdish television station was raided by police and forced off the air.

In addition to the media, the state has moved to consolidate control over its system of higher education.  Some 1267 academics who signed a “Peace Petition” last January have been removed from their jobs according to CounterJihad’s sources, and several have been arrested and charged with “terroristic acts” for signing or forwarding that petition.  Our sources tell us that under the new laws, President Erdoğan must personally approve all new university presidents.

At the same time, the Turkish government is pressing NATO to end its naval mission aimed at containing migration flows across the Mediterranean sea.  Turkey claims that the mission is no longer needed, but the siege of Mosul is expected to produce at least a million new refugees in the coming months.  The Russian operations against Aleppo are likewise expected to produce new waves of migrants.

Turkey appears to be using its position within NATO to advance Russia’s interest here, which is to flood Europe with migrants in order to overburden European governments.  That will produce a Europe less able to resist Russian expansion into Eastern Europe.  Turkey and Russia recently signed a major energy deal, clearing the way for at least an economic alliance.  Erd also moved to abandon daylight savings time, a shift that places Turkey in the same time zone as Moscow.  Russia for its part appears to be negotiating a peace between Turkey and Iran on a partition of Iraq, one that would give Turkey greater control over its Kurdish problems.  If Russia succeeds in peeling Turkey off from NATO, it would invalidate the alliance as NATO requires unanimous decisions for all military decisions.

Also see:

Turkey’s New Territorial Claims Threaten NATO

turkey-islamic-2Will Russia help give a new birth to a resurgent Ottoman Empire? It’s a tricky bit of diplomacy, but their recent successes suggest they could do so — and thereby destroy the major international alliance controlling Russian aggression.

CounterJihad, October 13, 2016:

A significant claim is being pushed by the Turkish government, one that could redraw the lines of the old Ottoman Empire:

Тhe spat erupted after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan took the country and the region by surprise last month by calling into question the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne, which defined modern Turkey’s borders.  He declared Turkey had been blackmailed by foreign powers into giving up vast swaths of territory that were once part of the Ottoman Empire….

[A]ccording to visiting Carnegie Europe scholar Sinan Ulgen[:]  “The message should be seen more of a signal in relation to Turkish polices towards the south, Syria and Iraq. I read it as a backdrop to a policy that tries to build domestic support for a more long-term presence, particularly in Syria, by pointing out, at allegedly past historical mistakes,” Ulgen said.

Turkish forces are currently in Syria and Iraq. But the Turkish presence at the Bashiqa base, close to the Iraqi city of Mosul, has become the center of a deepening dispute with Baghdad. The base is ostensibly tor training Sunni militia to fight Islamic State.

On Tuesday, Erdogan dismissed Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s calls to withdraw Turkish troops, telling him “he should know his place.”

Ulgen went on to point out that Turkey has historical claims not only to Mosul, currently contested in the fight against the Islamic State (ISIS).   Both Mosul and oil-rich Kirkuk were part of the original design of the modern-day Turkey.  The Turks’ traditionalists and nationalists view the treaty that gave them away as having been forced on them at the end of World War I.

If Russian diplomacy can broker a deal that allows Turkey to expand into Iraq and Syria, it could cement Turkey’s move into Russia’s sphere.  Until recently, that looked unlikely at best.  Last year, Turkmen fighters shot down a Russian jet over repeated incursions by the Russian air force.  At that time, relations between the two nations became quite tense.  Russia is backing Iran’s play in the region, apparently in the hope that a powerful Shi’a Iran will create a buffer zone between Russia and the Sunni jihadist forces that have acted to inflame Muslim minorities in Central Asia.  Likewise, the war in the Middle East draws attention away from Russia’s strategic moves in Eastern Europe, such as last week’s deployment of nuclear missileson the very borders of Poland and the Baltic States.

Turkey’s latest move appears likely to inflame Iraq’s government, and Russia’s ally Iran intends to control Iraq at the end of this conflict.  Surrendering territory, especially oil-rich territory, may be a difficult negotiation.  On the other hand, Kirkuk is also disputed with the Kurds, and whichever government formally holds it after the war is going to have to fight to keep it.  Iran may be willing to be persuaded to concede the fight to Turkey in return for a more firmly-controlled corridor between Tehran and the Levant.

That will require some subtle diplomacy to negotiate, but right now Russia is having significant success in its diplomatic moves.  In the wake of a new energy deal between Turkey and Russia, the Russian diplomatic corps seems to have a lot of momentum on its side.  Turkey was already looking away from NATO and Europe in the wake of its Islamist purge following an alleged attempted coup.  Should Russia be able to get a process of negotiation going between Turkey, Iraq and Iran on the issue of Turkish territorial expansion, Russia would assume the leadership role in the region.  Should it actually resolve the negotiations successfully, it could expect Turkey to become part of the Russian sphere of influence.  That would potentially derail NATO, as NATO’s decisions must be taken by a unanimous vote.  If Turkey becomes as strong a Russian ally as China, NATO could become as useless an organ for opposing Russian ambition as the United Nations Security Council (on which Russia has a veto).

American diplomacy is meanwhile spinning its wheels.  The United States broke off talks with Russia, and then called for war crimes investigations into Russia and Assad for their campaign in Syria.  American Secretary of State John F. Kerry also accused Russia of interfering with America’s elections.  However, it appears that Kerry now wants a new push for a cease-fire in Aleppo, which would require Syria and Russia to sign on.

American diplomatic weakness is partially a function of American military weakness in the region.  Russian diplomatic success is partially likewise a function of its deployment of air and naval-gunnery forces, as well as its so-far successful alliance with Iran.  Better American leadership might help, but for now, the situation is rapidly sliding away from America and towards the Russians.