Why the Saudis despised Jamal Khashoggi

Jamal Khashoggi AFP/Getty Images

New York Post, by Tony Badran and Michael Doran, October 18, 2018:

With the likelihood growing that the Saudi government was behind the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, pressure has built for severe, swift action. As President Trump awaits more answers and contemplates a response, it’s worth considering who Khashoggi actually was, what he stood for and why the regime might have wanted him dead.

This is not to suggest that the killing of Khashoggi is justified. It is, however, meant to observe that characterizations of him in the media are not fully accurate. He’s depicted as a “reformer,” a “democracy advocate” and a “journalist.” Yet these are half-truths that obscure the political role Khashoggi played.

Before anything else, he was a regime insider. He was a close associate of senior members of the royal family who were eclipsed by the new crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman.

Khashoggi was not merely a pen for hire. He represented a particular political perspective. An Islamist, his views on major issues consistently tracked with those of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Last September, for example, he lamented the crown prince’s new policy.

“Saudi Arabia,” Khashoggi said, “is the mother and father of political Islam.” But the Saudi government was forsaking this tradition. “Today,” the kingdom has turned against its very nature and is “fighting political Islam.” As a consequence, its “compass is lost.”

A Turkophile, Khashoggi hoped instead that the new crown prince would follow in the footsteps of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who supports the Muslim Brotherhood across the Arab world. Khashoggi envisioned a grand alliance between Riyadh and Ankara.

“Saudi Arabia must return to fully supporting the Syrian revolution and to ally with the Turks,” he said. Like Erdogan, Khashoggi was hostile to the Sisi regime in Egypt and opposed Mohammed bin Salman’s rapprochement with Israel.

This perspective also translated into a sympathetic attitude toward Qatar, which aligns regionally with Turkey and the Muslim Brotherhood. To MBS, however, Qatar has a sinister profile. When he broke off relations with the Qataris last year, he accused them of sponsoring members of the Saudi Islamist opposition, weaponizing media outlets against the kingdom and even plotting assassinations.

In the eyes of the young crown prince, Khashoggi symbolized the three-prong threat to his rule: the Muslim Brothers, the Turkish-Qatari axis and disaffected princes. When Khashoggi moved to America, Salman added a fourth prong: the element of the American elite that sought to downgrade Saudi Arabia’s friendship in US foreign policy.

Khashoggi found an influential perch at The Washington Post, from which he launched attacks on the crown prince. One of his recent columns, for example, calls for the end of the war in Yemen, which he portrays as an abject failure. He presents the Saudi government as an indiscriminate killer of fellow Muslims and blames the failure of peace talks on its obstinacy and incompetence.

These arguments hit the crown prince where it hurts most: They implicitly attack his Islamic legitimacy, essentially placing him in the same category as slaughterers of Muslims, such as the Syrian and Russian leaders, Bashar al-Assad and Vladimir Putin.

In presenting himself to his American friends, Khashoggi fashioned himself less the Islamist and more the democratic reformer. He made a tactical alliance with former Obama officials who seek to depict Trump’s pro-Saudi and anti-Iranian policy as a disaster.

Trump, in this view, is the enabler of a young, impetuous crown prince. Conflicts such as Yemen result from Saudi recklessness rather than Iranian expansionism.

Far from erasing this picture from the US media, Khashoggi’s disappearance has strengthened it. Given the opposition of former Obama officials to Trump’s strategy, they have an interest in stoking outrage at Khashoggi’s death. Their goal is to harness it in order to resurrect Obama’s outreach to Tehran.

Ironically, containing Iran is a goal that would make perfect sense to Khashoggi. In advocating a rapprochement between Riyadh and the Turkish-Qatari axis, he stressed the need for the Sunni powers to band together to thwart Tehran.

This is an aspect of his thought that he downplayed when making common cause with his American allies. It is the aspect, however, which President Trump would do well to remember most.

Tony Badran is research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Michael Doran is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute.

Also see:

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CAIR Proves Irony is Not Dead

One of our staffers made a mistake on social media Monday involving the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). When CAIR pointed it out, he acknowledged the error and deleted the inaccurate post.

But that wasn’t good enough. CAIR likened his position working for IPT Executive Director Steven Emerson to being “‘Chief Googler’ for David Duke.”

The episode is telling, and not in any manner CAIR thinks it is. For starters, it shows how CAIR is quick to point out other people’s mistakes but never acknowledges its own failings. And it shows that CAIR officials lack any sense of irony or self-awareness.

CAIR likened Emerson to the former Ku Klux Klan leader and renowned hater 24 hours after its Missouri chapter co-sponsored a conference with a group called American Muslims for Palestine (AMP), a group which supports Hamas and doesn’t simply oppose Israeli policies, but tries to undermine Israel’s entire legitimacy.

The gathering featured a speech by Linda Sarsour. Just a week earlier, the Investigative Project on Terrorism exposed Sarsour’s anti-Semitic tirade in which she blamed Jews for police shootings of unarmed black people in the United States. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL), she said, “takes police officers from America, funds their trips, takes them to Israel so they can be trained by the Israeli police and military, and then they come back here and do what? Stop and frisk, killing unarmed black people across the country.”

Here’s the clip:

Sarsour rejects sovereignty for the Jewish people, rejects political support from Zionists and pushes a conspiracy theory that can only foster hatred toward Jews. That sounds an awful lot like David Duke. Yet, she still is welcomed and honored at CAIR events, including fundraisers.

She’s not the only one. CAIR hosts its national fundraising banquet Oct. 20 outside Washington, D.C. Speakers include Yasir Qadhi, a religious leader who advocates for Saudi Arabian-styled restrictions on Muslim women’s lives and has spoken againstcapitalism and democracy, and Hatem Bazian, a leader of the BDS campaign that aims to isolate Israel economically and politically.

CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad, meanwhile, embraces Turkey’s authoritarian Islamist President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has jailed thousands of journalists and dissidents and allowed Turkey to be a base for exiled Hamas leaders.

Other Muslims have taken CAIR to task for blindly supporting Erdogan.

But Erdogan’s support for Hamas is relevant to CAIR’s reaction to our staffer’s Twitter error.

It started when Zuhdi Jasser, founder and president of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD) reposted an irreverent comic strip called “Jesus and Mo” as part of “Blasphemy Day.” The comic casts Jesus and Mohamed in an “Odd Couple” sort of roommate arrangement in a series that mocks religion.

CAIR’s national Twitter account used Jasser’s post to smear him – a Muslim who advocates for reform of his faith – as an “Islamophobia enabler” and later claimed that reposting a Jesus and Mo comic shows that Jasser and AIFD don’t “have the same respect for our beloved Prophets.”

Maajid Nawaz, a former radical and a fellow advocate for reform within Islam, suggested Wednesday morning that CAIR’s rhetoric could lead radical Muslims to target Nawaz.

“There’s nothing wrong with criticising Islam,” Nawaz wrote, “especially (but not exclusively) if done by Muslims, like him. He’s defending satire here, not criticising it himself. That word Islamophobia is a total misnomer, for this very reason.”

CAIR, meanwhile, grew reticent when the AIFD challenged it to condemn Hamas or acknowledge that Hamas is a terrorist organization.

It’s a question that CAIR officials have ducked as far back as 2001. Sometimes they try to talk around the question. Other times, they try to use indignation to steamroll the questioner.

Bullying is easy. Acknowledging skeletons in its own closet is a bit more difficult. And CAIR has plenty of skeletons.

It has never directly addressed its roots in a Muslim Brotherhood network in the United States called the “Palestine Committee.” Evidence seized by the FBI show that the committee was charged with helping Hamas politically and financially. And a meeting agenda dated within weeks of CAIR’s 1994 formation places it under the committee’s umbrella.

Awad, the only executive director CAIR has ever had, was listed in a Palestine Committee telephone list.

The evidence was so substantial it prompted the FBI to prohibit agents from working with CAIR outside of formal investigations in 2008, “until we can resolve whether there continues to be a connection between CAIR or its executives and HAMAS.”

That policy remains in effect a decade later, so the questions either have not been resolved or have answers CAIR doesn’t want you to consider.

CAIR has faced few other consequences for its history, for the radical and often bigoted messages spewed by its officials throughout the country. Reporters rarely ask about them and give CAIR kid-glove treatment.

Despite that, CAIR’s first reaction is to go for the smear. Oppose Islamism and repost a provocative cartoon? You’re an Islamophobe! Make an incorrect assertion, which is acknowledged and corrected? Invoke David Duke.

And in those rare cases in which you are asked about your record? Deflect and attack.

It does tell people a lot about CAIR.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/turkey-will-spread-islamic-terrorism-like-saudia-arabia-once-did

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Also see:

Erdogan Tightens His Grip On Turkey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP/Getty

Breitbart, by Simon Kent, June 10, 2018:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

90 Years In, The Muslim Brotherhood Faces An Uncharted Future

by Hany Ghoraba
Special to IPT News
April 19, 2018

The Muslim Brotherhood has managed to weather many storms during nine decades in Egypt. Presidents Gamal Abdel Nasser, Anwar Sadat and Hosni Mubarak all tried to contain and suppress the Islamist movement, which ultimately seeks a global Muslim Caliphate. But opportunity suddenly presented itself after Mubarak’s fall in 2011, and the Brotherhood won power a year later. Any high hopes among voters led to an ill-fated year under President Mohamed Morsi, who was ousted from power when millions of frustrated Egyptians took to the streets during the June 30, 2013 revolution.

A resulting military crackdown put top Brotherhood leaders in jail and sent others into exile. As a result, the Brotherhood celebrated its 90th anniversary April 1 in Istanbul, Turkey, one of the group’s last strongholds in the region. It attracted Ibrahim Munir, the group’s London-based secretary general and de-facto supreme guide, and Khaled Meshaal, the former head of the Hamas political bureau. The two leaders bragged about the Brotherhood’s survival  under what they labeled tyranny and oppression.

And they tried to project a united front to supporters despite factors that prove otherwise.

The first is an internal struggle over tactics exposed by communiqués denouncing members, such as former Secretary General Mahmoud Hussein, for criticizing deadly Muslim Brotherhood attacks on Egyptian police and the army.

Hussein, an official Brotherhood communiqué said, “not only sought to stop any attempt at rapprochement, he would occasionally go out in the media to reignite the atmosphere of disagreement and strengthen division within the ranks of the Brotherhood without regard to circumstances or regulations.”

Egyptian public opinion toward the Brotherhood changed radically after Morsi’s failed tenure, dropping from 80 percent support at the start of the Arab Spring to less than half of that by 2014. “When Egyptians voted in the MB in 2012, it was because they believed they would bring a better life to all,” said Azza Radwan Sedky, a Canadian-based Egyptian political analyst and author of Cairo Rewind: The first two years of Egypt’s Revolution. “It proved to be a sham.”

The group’s future never looked bleaker. According to Egyptian political strategist Ahmed Sarhan, “the group’s local organization in Egypt has suffered severely under continuous successful security crackdown over the past 5 years, and it is now safe to assume that the leadership has been completely wiped off, most of the senior leaders are serving jail sentences, and [a ]few managed to escape to Qatar and Turkey.”

Sedky agreed, saying that she doubts that the Muslim Brotherhood can survive as a powerful organization that can galvanize the majority of Egyptians behind it. Although the group managed to survive previous security crackdowns, it now lacks the public support that it relied on to endure the hard times. This is due to its open war strategy that it is accused of waging against the Egyptian armypolicepublic officials and even common citizens.

A loss of public support isn’t the Brotherhood’s only challenge. Financial and political support from countries such as Turkey and Qatar could be affected by mounting pressure from states opposed to the Brotherhood, such as Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose affinity for the Muslim Brotherhood is well known, defended Brotherhood activities in Turkey labeling them as  “ideological and not terrorist.”

But that support for the Brotherhood isolates Turkey and Qatar politically and economically from neighboring states. Turkey’s ailing economy and worsening relations with the EU pose immediate threats. That situation is not sustainable long-term, Sarhan said.

“Turkey and Qatar have offered safe haven to many of the MB middle level leaders, where they have helped establish media outlets to spread their message. Nevertheless, the future of the support given to MB members in these countries [is] questionable,” Sarhan said.

Meanwhile, intellectual and organizational stagnation has the Brotherhood pushing the same political agenda it offered during the 1970s. That program focused on infiltrating Egypt’s Parliament, vocational syndicates and student unions while promoting archaic social programs that don’t fit modern times. This included attempts to ban forms of arts such as opera and ballet. During its one year in power, an aggressive program of “Brotherhoodization” of the Egyptian state was pursued through major government appointments of Brotherhood-aligned officials.

“Islamists in general, and MB sympathizers in particular, will always find their ways through the different political organizations in Egypt, especially labor syndicates and parties of the left movement,” Sarhan said. “The only way [to stop that] is to open up the political landscape to the liberal parties, while keeping the pressure on Islamists.”

Techniques that helped the Brotherhood survive for 90 years, when little was known about its activities, may be less effective under Egypt’s current crackdown. Egyptians recoiled from Morsi’s rule, and the Brotherhood’s influence has suffered, both at home and abroad. The Brotherhood’s past success fooling Western sympathizers into believing it was a moderate force in a chaotic region may be more difficult to preserve.

“MB groups in exile will eventually wither away,” Sarhan said, “since they won’t be allowed to return home. We can take lessons from Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiyyah in the 1990s, which collapsed under the security forces pressure, and their affiliates abroad ceased to exist.”

All of these factors indicate that the Muslim Brotherhood in its traditional structure and cultural impact may fade away. It is possible that it will split into smaller entities.

“It will take the MB years to build a new hierarchical organization,” Sarhan said. It may be able to build an organization in exile, biding time until conditions in Egypt are more favorable. He cited the example of Tunisia’s Ennahda movement, whose leader Rached al-Ghannouchi lived in exile in London for decades before returning to lead the government coalition in 2011.

As Sedky said, “The dream of reigning supreme across the Muslim World and the whole world doesn’t die easily.”

Hany Ghoraba is an Egyptian writer, political and counter-terrorism analyst at Al Ahram Weekly, author of Egypt’s Arab Spring: The Long and Winding Road to Democracy and a regular contributor to the BBC.

Clare Lopez: Gulen and the Gulenist Movement

The United West, Feb. 4, 2018:

From May 10, 2016

Clare M. Lopez, Vice President for Research and Analysis at the Center for Security Policy, is the co-author of the recently published book “Gülen and the Gülenist Movement: Turkey’s Islamic Supremacist Cult and its Contributions to the Civilization Jihad.” Fethullah Gülen is the head of a vast political network in Turkey that promotes theocracy and has infiltrated the Turkish state. Gülen lives in the U.S. where he has established a significant number of charter schools. Her remarks included commentary on Gülen’s erstwhile ally, now opponent, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Lopez is a Senior Fellow at the London Center for Policy Research and a member of the Board of Advisors for the Canadian Mackenzie Institute. In 2016, she was named to Senator Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign national security advisory team. Since 2013, she has served as a member of the Citizens Commission on Benghazi. Formerly Vice President of the Intelligence Summit, she was a career operations officer with the Central Intelligence Agency, a professor at the Centre for Counterintelligence and Security Studies, Executive Director of the Iran Policy Committee from 2005-2006, and has served as a consultant, intelligence analyst, and researcher for a variety of defense firms. She was named a 2011 Lincoln Fellow at the Claremont Institute. Already an advisor to EMP Act America, in February 2012 Ms. Lopez was named a member of the Congressional Task Force on National and Homeland Security, which focuses on the Electro-Magnetic Pulse (EMP) threat to the nation. She serves as a member of the Boards of Advisors/Directors for the Center for Democracy and Human Rights in Saudi Arabia, the United West, and the Voice of the Copts. She has been a Visiting Researcher and guest lecturer on counterterrorism, national defense, and international relations at Georgetown University.

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Clare Lopez talks Iran, Russia and Turkey, Gulen and the Muslim Brotherhood, Jan 30, 2018