Ex-Syrian AQ Affiliate Disapproves of Turkish-Russian Agreement

Abu al-Fath al-Ferghali, Abu Maria al-Qahtani, and Abu Yaqthan al-Masri – (Modified by Enab Baladi)

IPT News, by John Rossomando,  

Syrian jihadists belonging to al-Qaida’s former Syrian affiliate Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) oppose a Turkish-Russian agreement to establish a demilitarized buffer zone around the country’s Idlib province. This area in northwestern Syria remains the last area west of the Euphrates River outside the control of the Assad regime and its allies. HTS and other smaller rival jihadist factions dominate the province.

President Trump warned Bashar al-Assad earlier this month not to invade the province, saying it would be a “human tragedy.” Clashes seemed imminent between Russia, Syria, Iran and the jihadists and triggered fears that millions of additional refugees might flood into Turkey.

Had Assad’s troops intervened, they also could have risked accidental clashes with Turkish troops stationed in Idlib. Turkey promised to crackdown on HTS and other jihadists. Numerous Uighur and Chechen foreign fighters are in the province.

An HTS commander who identified himself as “Abu al-Fath al-Fergali” told the Syrian news website Enab Baladi that surrendering his weapon would be “treason” to his religion.

Zaid al-Attar, former head of HTS’s political office, also rejected disarming because fighting provided “the only guarantee to the realization of the revolution’s aims of attaining dignity and freedom.” HTS’s enemies only understand force, he said.

HTS has a high-stakes game ahead of it to keep from splintering. If it looks too weak, it could lose fighters to groups that are even more hard line such as the remnants of ISIS and al-Qaida’s current affiliate Hurras al-Deen.

Turkey warned HTS and other jihadist groups they should disband or face elimination. Thus far, HTS has resisted those calls. The Assad regime has used HTS’s existence as an excuse for carrying out a scorched earth policy.

The Turks and Russians plan to use drones to patrol the buffer area. Rebel groups that cooperate with Turkey and Russia will not be attacked, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said.

Stratfor predicts that the Assad regime and Iran could also eventually challenge the deal because they are motivated to weaken Russia’s relationship with Turkey.

Also see:

Russia, Turkey to form buffer zone in Idlib as Syria vows to ‘liberate’ it

Smoke rising over Hobeit village, near Idlib, after a Syrian forces strike | Photo: AP

Offensive on rebel stronghold called off, they will have to leave Idlib by mid-October, Russian, Turkish officials say • Turkish leader says deal aims to avert humanitarian crisis • Syria’s U.N. envoy: Syrian government is prepared to fight rebels.

Russian and Turkish troops are to enforce a new demilitarized zone in Syria’s Idlib region from which “radical” rebels will be required to withdraw by the middle of next month, Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Monday after a meeting with his Turkish counterpart.

Russia, the biggest outside backer of Syrian President Bashar Assad in the seven-year conflict, has been preparing for an offensive on the city of Idlib, which is controlled by rebels and now home to about 3 million people.

But after Putin’s talks with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, who has opposed a military operation against the rebels in Idlib, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said there would not be an offensive now.

Erdogan, who had feared another cross-border exodus of Syrian refugees to join the 3.5 million already in Turkey, said the deal would allow opposition supporters to stay where they were, and avert a humanitarian crisis.

Putin told a joint news conference with Erdogan: “We agreed that by Oct. 15 [we will] create along the contact line between the armed opposition and government troops a demilitarized zone of a depth of 15-20 kilometers [9-12 miles], with the withdrawal from there of radically minded rebels, including the Nusra Front.

“By Oct. 10, at the suggestion of the Turkish president, [we agreed] on the withdrawal from that zone of the heavy weapons, tanks, rockets systems and mortars of all opposition groups. The demilitarized zone will be monitored by mobile patrol groups of Turkish units and units of Russian military police,” Putin said, with Erdogan standing alongside him.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi, Monday

Neither Putin nor Erdogan explained how they planned to differentiate “radically minded” rebels from other anti-Assad groups. It was also not immediately clear how much of the city of Idlib fell within the zone.

Idlib is held by an array of rebels. The most powerful is Tahrir al-Sham, an amalgamation of Islamist groups dominated by the Nusra Front, an al-Qaida affiliate until 2016.

Other Islamists, and groups fighting as the Free Syrian Army banner, are now gathered with Turkish backing under the banner of the National Front for Liberation.

“With this agreement, we have precluded experiencing a large humanitarian crisis in Idlib,” Erdogan said.

“The opposition will continue to remain in the areas where they are. In return, we will ensure that the radical groups, which we will determine with Russia, will not operate in the area under discussion,” he said.

Ahead of the trip to Russia, Erdogan had said Turkey’s calls for a cease-fire in Idlib region were bearing fruit after days of relative calm but that more work needed to be done.

Putin this month publicly rebuffed a proposal from Erdogan for a cease-fire there when the two met along with Iran’s president for a three-way summit in Tehran.

Syria’s U.N. ambassador said Monday that Damascus was committed to “liberate it [Idlib] from terrorism and foreign occupation,” adding that there is no de-escalation zone in rebel-held Idlib because “armed groups refused to dissociate themselves from terrorist groups.”

Bashar Ja’afari told the U.N. Security Council on Friday that “the situation is as it is now in Idlib because the countries sponsoring terrorism do not want to distinguish between terrorists and armed opposition.”

Ja’afari said, “Those who facilitated the entry of foreign terrorist fighters into my country, especially the Turkish government, still have a chance to remove them from Idlib province.”

But he warned that “in case the armed terrorist groups refuse to lay down weapons, refuse to leave Syrian territory to go back to where they came from, the Syrian government is prepared.”

Ja’afari said Syria is aware of the humanitarian consequences that might result and “we take all precautions and preparations to protect civilians, to provide safe passage for them to leave, just as we have done in similar situations.”

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And just today the Erdogan regime arrested another Western journalist:

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

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

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

But Erdogan has not been content with just jailing journalists.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New Alliance Emerges in Eastern Mediterranean to Reshape Regional Security Landscape

Strategic Culture, by Peter Korzun, September 7, 2018: (H/T Warsclerotic)

The military-political landscape in Europe and the Mediterranean is changing. NATO is not as unified as it once was, and Turkey’s membership has become more of a formality than a real thing. A pro-US group consisting of Great Britain, Poland, and the Baltic States has emerged as part of a North Atlantic Alliance that is divided by differences and the open rift over the 2% financial contribution, a decree that is largely ignored, along with the other divisions that are weakening the bloc. Other groups are arising that also have common security interests. A new pact, an Arab NATO allied with the United States, will soon materialize in the Middle East.  Changes are coming, but they are hard to predict as everything is currently in a state of flux.

“The United States is interested in increasing its use of military bases and ports in Greece,” said General Joseph Dunford, the Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff (CJCS), on Sept. 4 during his visit to Athens.  “If you look at geography, and you look at current operations in Libya, and you look at current operations in Syria, you look at potential other operations in the eastern Mediterranean, the geography of Greece and the opportunities here are pretty significant,” he added. According to the Military Times, “[N]o specific bases have been identified, but that Supreme Allied Commander Europe Army Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti is evaluating several options for increased US flight training, port calls to do forward-based ship repairs and additional multilateral exercises.” US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross came to Greece right after the CJCS’s visit to take part in the annual Thessaloniki International Trade Fair.

Washington’s relations with Ankara continue to deteriorate. The idea of expelling Turkey from NATO is being discussed in the most prestigious American media outlets. The view that Ankara is more of an adversary than an ally is commonly held among American pundits.  General Dunford pointedly did not include Turkey on his itinerary, as top US military officials would normally do in order to maintain balance in their relationship with Athens and Ankara. This is a clear message to Turkey.

It was reported in May that the US military had started to operate MQ-9 aerial vehicles out of Greece’s Larissa military base.  That same month, the USS Harry S. Truman aircraft carrier was one of the American ships making a port call. Greece’s Souda Bay naval base is being used to support US operations in Syria. US Ambassador to Greece Geoffrey Pyatt has often cited the strategic significance of the ports of Alexandroupolis and Thessaloniki.

Washington is interested in helping the Greek military conduct more effective operations in the Aegean and the Mediterranean. Greece is a crucial element in dealing with the challenges of the Eastern Med, the Maghreb, the Balkans, and the Black Sea region.

There can be no doubt that Ankara’s dispute with Cyprus and Israel over drilling rights in the Mediterranean was also on the agenda of the talks during Gen. Dunford’s visit, although no comments were made to the media in regard to this issue. Greece wants to transform Alexandroupoli into a hub for the gas being exported from Israel and Cyprus to Europe. The pipeline’s approximate length is between 1,300 to 2,000 kilometers, and it will begin in Israel and cross through the territories of Cyprus, Crete and Greece to eventually end in Italy. The hub will also have a rail link to Bulgaria. A floating LNG reception, storage, and regasification unit will be part of this project, to make it possible to bring in US LNG supplies.

The planned route of the EastMed pipeline, a project supported by the EU, will bypass Turkey, despite the increased cost. Ankara will hardly sit idly by and watch this turn of events. Turkey claims that part of the exclusive economic zone of Cyprus is under Turkish jurisdiction.  According to Turkey’s President Erdogan, the “Eastern Mediterranean faces a security threat should Cyprus continue its unilateral operations of offshore oil and gas exploration in the region.” The countries involved in the project may need US protection and help in order for this to come to fruition.

For the US, strengthening its relations with Greece means expanding support for the emerging Greece-Israel-Cyprus Eastern Mediterranean Alliance (EMA) that has been driven by the discovery of hydrocarbons in Israeli and Cypriot waters and by opposition to Turkey. As Ambassador Pyatt put it, “Americans are back in a really big way.”

A year ago the US opened its first permanent military base in Israel run by the US military’s European Command (EUCOM). Officially, the primary mission of the air-defense facility located inside the Israeli Air Force’s Mashabim air base, west of the towns of Dimona and Yerucham, is to detect and warn of a possible ballistic missile attack from Iran. This is part of a broader process as a new military alliance with its own infrastructure emerges.

In 2015, Greece and Israel signed a military cooperation agreement. Bilateral and trilateral military drills, such as Nobel Dina, a multinational joint air and sea exercise conducted under the partnership of Greece, Israel, and the United States, have become routine. In March 2014, Israel opened a new military attaché office in Greece to signify this ever-closer relationship.

Israel has a strong defense and military relationship with Cyprus. The three nations are pledging deeper military ties, in keeping with the declaration they issued at the first-ever trilateral defense summit last year.  Both Greece and Cyprus are EU members and Israel needs allies within the bloc. Greece opposed the EU’s decision to label products from Israel’s settlements. In May, the leaders of the three allied Eastern Mediterranean nations paid a joint visit to Washington.

Albania, Greece’s neighbor, has recently offered to establish a US military base on its soil. Albania‘s defense minister, Olta Xhacka, made the proposal in April during her visit to Washington.

Of all the members of the emerging alliance, only Israel is not a NATO member, but it’s an enhanced partner and a member of the Mediterranean Dialogue. What we actually have is a new alliance within the alliance, which was unofficially established to counter Turkey, a full-fledged NATO member.  Under the circumstances, it would only be natural for Ankara to distance itself from NATO to move toward Russia, Iran, China, the SCO, and, perhaps, the Eurasian Union.

The alliance of the US and the three Eastern Mediterranean states has emerged as a political and military “petite entente,” a force to be reckoned with at a time when NATO is facing serious challenges to its unity and the EU’s future is in question.

The two large entities that bring together nations sharing the same “values,” or the desire to counter China or Russia, are giving way to smaller groups of countries pursuing shared regional interests, thus undermining the very concept of what is known as the United West.

America’s Turkey Problem Finally Comes to a Head

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.