Hamas Turmoil in Gaza is a Reflection of a Deeper Development in the Arab World

Center for Security Policy, by Louis Fleischman, May 17, 2018:

For the last six weeks, Hamas has been organizing protests under the slogan “the march of return.” The protests are presented to the world as peaceful demonstrations, but as the demonstrations unfold, Hamas operatives begin to activate their people urging them to breach the Gaza/Israel border fence. Then, they proceed to instruct their terrorists to use gun fire against Israeli soldiers, and fly inflammable kites aimed at burning fields. Participation in protests is encouraged either by offering payment to participants or by applying direct threats. Women are sent to the forefront of the marches to give Western TV crews the impression that the demonstrations are genuine, spontaneous and conducted by innocent and defenseless individuals.

The purpose, of course, is to trigger an Israeli reaction that would lead to the killing of Palestinians, as martyrdom has always been part of Hamas strategy and indoctrination. That killing would provoke a reaction of anger in the Palestinian and Arab streets. The world would react with outrage. The United Nations would follow with a condemnation while too many western analysts and media would repeat the unfounded notion that the absence of peace between Israel and the Palestinians causes violence and terror.

The last wave of violence was planned on the day the United States transferred its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. That provided an additional reason to mislead the public and make it believe that Hamas has a reasonable motive to start terror activities, regardless of how many times the group has undermined and destroyed the peace process by weakening the Palestinian Authority, murdering its soldiers and carrying terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians. There is no need to remind our readers that Hamas has vowed to destroy the state of Israel.

However, this time there might be a deeper reason why Hamas started its provocation.

The Arab world finds itself in the midst of a very serious internal struggle for its soul. The Arab Spring has slowly begun to change the social contract between the Arab people and its rulers. Arab states are now forced to take into account the well-being and desires of their citizens, long scorned by Arab secular autocracies. Arab states try to avoid a mass rebellion and thus they are trying to respond to some pressing domestic issues.

For decades, Arab authoritarian regimes and religious fanatics used Israel as a scapegoat, as an external enemy and a big threat. This is not easily sold to the Arab public today. Arabs may not think highly of Israel but Israel is not their priority. As a young Arab intellectual told me: “We don’t care about the Palestinians. It is not our problem. We care about ourselves and our future prosperity.” In the Arab world, priority is given to economic improvement, restoration of security, reduction of high levels of illiteracy, and the future of their children

Thus, though Islamic radical extremists and violent groups have tried to capitalize on the chaos generated by the Arab spring in order to gain political power, they so far have failed to achieve what they wanted and expected.

In Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood was deposed with the blessing of the majority of Egyptian parties and groups. The government of Abdel Fattah El Sisi that deposed the Brotherhood is indeed authoritarian. However, according to several Arab intellectuals with whom I recently spoke, it enjoys support from Egyptians by virtue of the fact that during the year that the Brotherhood ruled Egypt, the country fell into a state of chaos, insecurity and disarray. Furthermore, he added, Egyptians are watching what is happening in other countries of the region such as Syria, Libya and Yemen where civil wars are having devastating effects. Egyptians view El Sisi as the person who saved the unity of the country and restored order. My Arab interlocutors told me cut and clear: people are afraid of Islamists and religious fanatics.

Along these lines, in Tunisia, the Islamist party known as “Enhanda” understood that Tunisian citizens were not willing to live the kind of life that Islamists proposed. Thus, it evolved into a party that attempts to adapt to what Tunisian citizens really demand, which is freedom from tyrannical rule and better conditions. Enhanda also accepted defeat in the elections and transfer of power. Furthermore, the leader of the party, Rachid Ghanouchi openly and publicly rejected the Iran/Taliban type of religious coercive/totalitarian rule.

Likewise, the atrocities committed by ISIS in Syria and Iraq and the fact that ISIS ruled part of these territories, became living proof of what living under Islamic rule is like. This has contributed to discrediting Islamists as well. As I was told by one of the Arab intellectuals I spoke with, “How is it that these organizations that represent religious extremism carry signs that call for Death to America and Israel but we, Arabs, are the only ones dying”?

In fact, even regarding Israel, things have begun to change. El Sisi has introduced the peace agreement with Israel in the curriculum of Egyptian schools; Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman recognized Israel’s right to have a homeland (thus indirectly also recognized the right of the Jewish nation to have a homeland); and; Bahrain, in an unusual statement, recognized Israel’s right to defend itself. In addition, these countries and Israel have been working together for some time to counteract Iran’s regional expansion.

To be sure, radical Islam has not yet been defeated. There is still a long way to go to remove its toxic and malicious influence. However, they are in military and political retreat despite their continuous acts of terrorism. ISIS is being defeated in the Levant. Iran has been pushed to the corner and forced to beg to the Europeans to keep the deal so vital for their economic survival.  Furthermore, recent confrontations between Iran and Israel in Syria and the destruction of Iran’s infrastructure in Syria have exposed Iran as weak and vulnerable.

Most importantly,  as the Tunisian and Egyptian case show, the situation generated after the Arab Spring has shown that their ways are not accepted by a large segment of the Arab public. As it was previously mentioned, Islamist parties such as Enhanda  have turned pragmatic and focused on economic challenges , which is the priority of the Arab street.

Thus, Hamas’s bombastic acts such as the “March of Return“ were aimed to serve not only Palestinian Islamic radicalism. It is important to remember that Hamas is not just a Palestinian organization. It views itself as part of a larger Pan–Islamist movement. It is an offshoot of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, and it is supported by Iran, ISIS, Qatar and last but not least Turkey. Turkey, that once was presented as a model of democratic Islam (even by our own former President Barack Obama), is clearly showing its radical Islamist face. As scholar Soner Captgay pointed out last February, Islamic law is gaining ground in large sectors of Turkish society. Turkey’s military actions in Syria have been described as “jihad”; Turkey’s 90,000 mosques were instructed to recite the Koran’s ‘Prayer of conquest”; and; national police are actively involved in intimidation and censorship of writings and comments considered to be offensive to Islam. Turkey’s Ministry of Education is using its power to impose Islamic practices in public schools and force teachers to bring students to pray in local Mosques.

Turkey’s foreign policy has been to make alliances with Iran and the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. It facilitated ISIS activities while launching a war against Kurdish groups that were fighting the Islamic State. In its rhetoric, Turkey is as hostile to Israel and to the Jewish people as any radical Islamist group and Iran and is currently a key supporter of Hamas.

The bloodshed and immolation of Palestinians organized by Hamas is not only an attempt to revive the Palestinian cause but also revitalize radical Islam in general.

Hamas actions are not about freedom for the Palestinians, the site of the American Embassy, or about the Israeli blockade. It is about the radical Islamic agenda, Palestinian and beyond, seeking a new impulse in the midst of defeat and isolation.

About Luis Fleischman

Dr. Luis Fleischman is a Senior adviser to the Menges Hemispheric Security Project at the Center for Security Policy in Washington DC. He is also an adjunct professor of Political Science and Sociology at Barry University He is the author of the book, “Latin America in the Post-Chavez Era: The Security Threat to the United States.”

Five Top ISIS Officials Captured in U.S.-Iraqi Sting

Iraqi state television broadcast images of four of the men arrested in the operation.

New York Times, by Margaret Corker, May 9, 2018:

BAGHDAD — Five senior Islamic State officials have been captured, including a top aide to the group’s leader, in a complex cross-border sting carried out by Iraqi and American intelligence, two Iraqi officials said Wednesday.

The three-month operation, which tracked a group of senior Islamic State leaders who had been hiding in Syria and Turkey, represents a significant intelligence victory for the American-led coalition fighting the extremist group and underscores the strengthening relationship between Washington and Baghdad.

Two Iraqi intelligence officials said those captured included four Iraqis and one Syrian whose responsibilities included governing the Islamic State’s territory around Deir al-Zour, Syria, directing internal security and running the administrative body that oversees religious rulings.

Iraq’s external intelligence agency published a statement confirming the arrests, but did not mention any details of the role played by the Americans or the Turks. The two Iraqi intelligence officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss details that had not been made public.

Turkey did not immediately comment on the operation. The White House and the C.I.A. declined to comment.

The developments quickly took over many Iraqi news broadcasts on Wednesday night, with news anchors praising Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi for what the intelligence service called a “major victory.” The news came at an opportune time for Mr. Abadi, who faces a tight parliamentary race on Saturday.

The two Iraqi officials said that they had been tracking several of their targets for months, but the breakthrough came at the start of the year.

An Iraqi intelligence unit responsible for undercover missions had tracked an Iraqi man, Ismail Alwaan al-Ithawi, known by the nom de guerre Abu Zeid al-Iraqi, from Syria to the Turkish city of Sakarya, about 100 miles east of Istanbul, these officials said.

Mr. Ithawi, described by the Iraqis as a top aide to the Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al- Baghdadi, had been in charge of fatwas, or religious rulings, in the Islamic State’s so-called caliphate. He was also in charge of the education curriculum, and was a member of the body that appointed security and administrative leaders for the Islamic State’s territory, which had included large parts of Iraq and Syria.

He had been living in Turkey with his Syrian wife under his brother’s identity, one of these officials said.

The Iraqis sent the Turks an intelligence file they had amassed on Mr. Ithawi, and the Turkish security forces arrested him on Feb. 15, and extradited him to Iraq, this official said.

Iraqi and American intelligence officials then spent weeks interrogating him, learning the details and whereabouts of other ISIS leaders in hiding, the officials said.

The American-led coalition used this information to launch an airstrike in mid-April that killed 39 suspected Islamic State members near Hajin, in the Deir al-Zour district of Syria, the second official said.

The joint Iraqi-American intelligence team then set a trap, according to these officials. They persuaded Mr. Ithawi to contact several of his Islamic State colleagues who had been hiding in Syria and lure them across the border, the officials said.

The Iraqi authorities were waiting, and arrested the group soon after they crossed the frontier, the officials said.

Those arrested included Saddam al-Jammel, a Syrian who had been the head of the Islamic State territory around Deir al-Zour, and Abu Abdel al-Haq, an Iraqi who had been the head of internal security for the group. Two other Iraqis were also arrested, the officials said.

Iraq’s state television broadcast images of four of the detainees. Wearing yellow prisoner jumpsuits, the men, some with long beards and some clean-shaven, explained in short statements their responsibilities in the Islamic State. Each appeared to be in good health.

It was unclear where they were being held or whether they had been given access to a lawyer.

Turkey made no public comment on the arrests, but frequently announces arrests of Islamic State suspects in Turkish cities. Last week, Turkish news media reported the capture of three people in Sakarya who were accused of being members of the Islamic State. The reports said one of the three was the group’s leader in Deir al-Zour.

It is not known if those arrests were related to the arrest of Mr. Ithawi.

Relations have been strained between Turkey and the United States recently, in particular over American support for the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces.

But counterterrorism cooperation between the two countries remains close. Turkey, which was criticized for allowing jihadists from all over the world open access to Syria in the early years of the Syrian war, has closed its border and rounded up hundreds of suspected Islamic State members in Turkey over the past two years.

Falih Hassan contributed reporting from Baghdad, Carlotta Gall from Istanbul, and Eric Schmitt from Washington.

Turkey Calls on Europe to Criminalize “Islamophobia”

Gatestone Institute, by Uzay Bulut

  • Given Turkey’s inhospitable treatment of non-Muslims throughout the ages, it is the height of hypocrisy for its foreign minister to complain about Europe’s attitude towards Muslims, which has been the opposite of Islamophobic.
  • To refresh Çavuşoğlu’s memory, a review of Turkey’s record is in order.
  • By proposing to block all criticism of Islam on the grounds that it is “extremist, anti-immigrant, xenophobic and Islamophobic,” Çavuşoğlu is revealing that he would welcome banning free speech to protect a religious ideology.

At an event held on April 11 to unveil the 2017 European Islamophobia Report — released by the Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research — Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Çavuşoğlu called on EU governments to criminalize Islamophobia.

“There is no ideology or terminology called ‘Islamism’; There is only one Islam and it means ‘peace,'” he declared — incorrectly: salaam means peace; Islam means submission. He also claimed that populist politicians are “increasingly engaging in extremist, anti-immigrant, xenophobic, and Islamophobic rhetoric to get a few more votes,” and that “centrist politicians are… using a similar rhetoric to get back the votes they have lost.”

Urging all politicians to recognize Islamophobia as “a hate crime and a form of racism” in their constitutions, Çavuşoğlu accused European judiciaries of applying a double standard by not paying as much attention to Islamophobia as they do to anti-Semitism. Using the Holocaust as an analogy, he continued: “There is no need to relive Auschwitz or wait for Muslims to be burned in gas chambers like Jewish people.”

Çavuşoğlu’s view is not new, but it is a gross distortion of past and contemporary history; it seems shaped by a notion that Islam is superior to other religions, as well as from surah 9:33 of the Quran:

“It is He who has sent His Messenger with guidance and the religion of truth to manifest it over all religion…” (Sahih Translation)

Çavuşoğlu’s views also echo those of the Turkish government, headed by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Non-Muslims, as we all have been seeing, are persecuted throughout the Islamic world. Muslims in Europe, on the other hand, enjoy equal rights and religious liberty. Unfortunately, many radical imams use the freedoms granted to them by European democracies to preach Jew-hatred and violent jihad, to recruit fightersand to establish sharia (Islamic) law courts in their neighborhoods.

Some Muslims, inspired by the teachings of and atmosphere created by these imams, engage in gruesome, religiously motivated crimes against non-Muslims. A disabled 85-year-old Holocaust survivor, for instance, was recently raped, tortured and murdered in her Paris apartment by an extremist Muslim.

Çavuşoğlu, in his talk against Islamophobia, did not mention the atrocities committed by radical Islamists in Europe. Those abuses are at the root of the debate about how to tackle the calls to violence in Islam without hampering the civil liberties of law-abiding Muslims. By proposing to block all criticism of Islam on the grounds that it is “extremist, anti-immigrant, xenophobic and Islamophobic,” Çavuşoğlu is revealing that he would welcome banning free speechto protect a religious ideology.

Given Turkey’s inhospitable treatment of non-Muslims throughout the ages, it is the height of hypocrisy for its foreign minister to complain about Europe’s attitude towards Muslims, which has been the opposite of Islamophobic. To refresh Çavuşoğlu’s memory, a review of Turkey’s record is in order.

Non-Muslims in Turkey have been exposed to severe persecution and attempts at annihilation, such as the 1914-1923 Christian genocide; the 1941-1942 conscription of the “twenty classes,” of all male Christians and Jews, including the elderly and mentally ill; and the 1942 Wealth Tax, which aimed to impoverish non-Muslims and transfer their wealth to Muslims.

Today, only 0.2 percent of Turkey’s population of nearly 80 million is Christian or Jewish. The following is a brief account of how Turkish governments have rid the country of its non-Muslim citizens:

Greeks: There are fewer than 2,000 Greeks left in Istanbul, which, until the 15th century Ottoman Turkish invasion, was the Greek city of Constantinople. Even despite its tiny size, the community still suffers from violations of its rights. Among these was the forced closure in 1971 of the Orthodox Halki Seminary, the only school for training the leadership of Orthodox Christianity. Since that time, the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, the spiritual center of Orthodox Christianity, based in Turkey, has been unable to train clergy and potential successors for the position of patriarch.

It is also important to note that the cities in Asia Minor or Anatolia, which were established by Greeks during the 9th and 8th centuries B.C., no longer have any Greeks. They were either murdered, deported or forced to flee severe persecution, including the anti-Greek pogrom of September 1955 in Istanbul, and the 1964 expulsion of Greeks from all over Turkey.

Armenians: Even after the 1915 genocide, in which 1.5 million Armenians perished, the persecution of Armenians in Turkey did not end. Since then, the remaining Armenians have witnessed the continued seizure of their property and other assets. In addition, verbal and physical attacks against Armenian community members, schools and the only Armenian newspaper in the country by the Turkish public and the media are still common.

Jews: Since 1923, when the Turkish Republic was established, Jews have been exposed to systematic discrimination and various pressures. The laws that excluded Jews and other non-Muslim citizens from certain occupations in the 1920s and blocked the Jews’ freedom of movement; the 1934 anti-Jewish pogrom in eastern Thrace, and the continued anti-Jewish hate speech in the Turkish media and certain political circles are among the forms of persecution and discrimination against Jewish citizens of Turkey.

Assyrians: According to the Minority Rights Group International, Assyrian Christians in Turkey

“suffered forced evictions, mass displacement and the burning down of their homes and villages, abductions (including of priests,) forced conversions to Islam through rape and forced marriage, and murder. These pressures, and other insidious forms of persecution and discrimination, have decimated the community.”

Today, there are only around 20,000 Assyrians left in the country. And they are still struggling to open an elementary school in Istanbul, as the government refuses to grant them any financial support. Meanwhile, both the government and some Muslim Kurdish locals in southeast Turkey continue to seize their lands and property illegally.

Protestants: The Turkish government does not recognize the Protestant community as a “legal entity.” Hence, according to a 2017 human rights violations report by Turkey’s Association of Protestant Churches, Protestants are still devoidof the right freely to establish and maintain places of worships. Other problems encountered by Protestants include but are not limited to hate crimes and speech, verbal and physical attacks and workplace discrimination.

Yazidis: The Turkish government does not recognize Yazidism as a religion. Therefore, the “religion” box on the ID papers of Yazidis in Turkey is either left blank or marked with an “X.” Due to continued persecution and pressure from the government and society, many Yazidis from Turkey have fled to Europe. Their privately-owned lands were reportedly invaded and their owners threatened. Some of their abandoned villages have become uninhabitable. Most of the former Yazidi villages in Turkey have been completely Islamized. The estimated population of Yazidis in the country today is approximately 350 — excluding the recent asylum-seekers from Iraq and Syria. Recently it was reported:

“The Yazidis, who were recently the target of massacre, rape and sex slavery by Isis, are now facing forcible conversion to Islam under the threat of death from Turkish-backed forces which captured the Kurdish enclave of Afrin on 18 March.”

Alevis: The Turkish government does not recognize Alevism, another minority faith. Alevis in Turkey have been subjected to perpetual massacres and pogroms, including: the 1937-1938 Dersim (Tunceli) Massacres, the 1978 Malatya Massacre, the 1978 Sivas Massacre, the 1978 Maras Massacre, the 1980 Corum Massacre, the 1993 Sivas Massacre and the 1995 Gazi Massacre. Today’s Alevis in Turkey are still often exposed to threats and arbitrary arrests.

The faces of many of the victims who were murdered in the 1993 Sivas massacre of Alevis are featured on this poster, used in a 2012 commemoration in Germany. (Image source: Bernd Schwabe, Wikimedia Commons)

Since the 11th century — when Turkic tribes originally from Central Asia, who had converted to Islam and began occupying cities in Asia Minor and the Armenian highland — Turks seem to have had a tradition, as above, of being unneighborly to non-Muslims. The West needs to be reminded that this tradition is alive and well in modern Turkey.

Çavuşoğlu’s critique of Europe may have been an attempt to cloud his country’s sordid past and precarious present, but it should serve as a warning about the danger posed to liberal democracies the world over.

Uzay Bulut is a journalist from Turkey and a fellow with the news and public policy group Haym Salomon Center. She is presently based in Washington D.C.

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New book “Ally No More” details jihadist threat from Turkey

Center for Security Policy, April 17, 2018:

Watch the Facebook Livestream launch event 


A panel of expert contributors were on hand to discuss the new book:
  • Clare M. Lopez, Vice President for Research and Analysis, Center for Security Policy
  • Deborah Weiss, Esq., Senior Fellow, Center for Security Policy, attorney, author and public speaker
  • Uzay Bulut, Turkish journalist focusing on antisemitism and minority rights
  • Moderator: Christopher C. Hull, Ph.D., Executive Vice President, Center for Security Policy

NEW CENTER BOOK DOCUMENTS THAT TURKEY IS AN ALLY NO MORE, ERDOGAN’S NEW-OTTOMAN JIHAD STATE MUST BE TREATED AS SUCH

“Whither Turkey?” is a question that has become one of the most pressing national security topics of our time. The available evidence – including, notably, the increasingly overt ambition of Recep Tayyip Erdogan to become the Caliph of a neo-Ottoman empire, his naked hostility toward the United States and the damage being done by Turkey to America’s vital interests and those of the rest of NATO and other allies like Israel and the Kurds – suggests the answer is alarming.

That evidence is thoughtfully assessed in a new book from the Center for Security Policy Press,Ally No More: Erdogan’s New Turkish Caliphate and the Rising Jihadist Threat to the West. Its ten essays include a detailed treatment of the presence of Turkish influence operations and infrastructure in this country that could enable the regime in Ankara not only to harm U.S. interests elsewhere, but to engage in subversion here – making it required reading for American policy-makers and the public, alike. ​

A group of highly respected authors/experts – notably including Harold Rhode Burak Bekdil, Uzay Bulut, David Goldman, Daniel Pipes and the Center for Security Policy’s Executive Vice President Christopher Hull and Senior Fellow Deborah Weiss – contributed chapters to this much-needed book. So did the Center’s Vice President for Research and Analysis, Clare M. Lopez, who also served as Ally No More’s editor.

This extensively footnoted collection of essay features insightful treatments of: Turkey’s own demographic and economic situation; Erdogan’s increasingly autocratic disregard for Turkey’s constitution and escalating record of human rights abuses; and the apparently not-quite-final divorce from Erdogan’s longtime jihadist collaborator, Fethullah Gulen.

Dr. Rhode’s chapter as well as two others focus on a strategic look at how Turkey is not only alienating itself from its own Ataturk legacy by pursuing a frankly jihadist agenda, but from the U.S. directly, through Erdogan’s brazen alliance with the Muslim Brotherhood on U.S. territory. Dr. Pipes offered suggestions for necessarily tough, but effective, measures for Turkey’s NATO allies to take in response to Erdogan’s overtly hostile policies.

Overall, this is a most timely and scholarly contribution to our understanding of shifting realities that must be dealt with in a clear-eyed and expeditious manner if U.S. national security priorities are to be preserved.

Upon the release of Ally No More: Erdoğan’s New Turkish Caliphate and the Rising Jihadist Threat to the West, Frank Gaffney Jr. President of the Center for Security Policy observed:

Few recent geostrategic developments are as fraught as the transformation of Turkey from a reliable, secular and democratic allied nation to one ruled by a hostile, Sharia-supremacist and increasingly despotic regime.  This book maps out that trajectory and its implications – and offers astute and timely suggestions for how America must respond.

Ally No More: Erdogan’s New Turkish Caliphate and the Rising Jihadist Threat to the West is available for purchase in Kindle and paperback.

It can also be viewed and downloaded for free in PDF format

Also see:

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.

***

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

Hayward: Free Syrian Army, Once the Great ‘Moderate’ Hope, Joins Turkey to Attack Kurds

Huseyin Nasir/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Breitbart, by John Hayward, Feb. 6, 2018:

Turkey has conducted its “Operation Olive Branch” military incursion into Syria in concert with the Free Syrian Army, which has helped Turkish forces take control of several villages in the Afrin region.

This is an uncomfortable development for U.S. policymakers because both the Kurds and Free Syrian Army were considered battlefield allies of the United States in the war against the Islamic State, and the FSA was seen as the model white-hat rebel group when the Obama administration and intervention-minded Republicans were desperately seeing “moderate” forces in the Syrian rebellion to support.

In fact, as recently as last spring, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R-AZ) strongly urged increased support for the Free Syrian Army as part of the U.S. strategy for stabilizing Syria while holding the regime of dictator Bashar Assad at bay.

McCain has long been prominent among those convinced the Free Syrian Army was America’s best bet for a terrorist-free moderate rebel group to arm and support, a step he felt the Obama administration was much too reluctant to take while Russia was busy shipping arms to the Syrian regime.

He made a surprise visit to the Turkey-Syria border in 2013 to meet with FSA leaders who wanted American heavy weapons, up to and including anti-aircraft weapons, and American air support against FSA adversaries such as Hezbollah. At the time, the FSA claimed to be running perilously low on munitions, which does not seem to be a problem now that they are fighting on Turkey’s behalf against the Kurds.

McCain has not responded well to contrary arguments about the FSA, as when he reportedly stormed out of the room during a 2014 presentation by Syrian Christians who said there were Islamist fighters among the FSA’s ranks.

There was a good deal of confusion surrounding support for the Free Syrian Army in the Obama administration, which occasionally seemed uncertain about what kind of support it was sending them. Critics complained effective support for moderate rebel groups was announced too late, after too much dithering, and was delivered too long after it was finally announced. The aid program that eventually materialized was an unserious disaster.

Whether reluctantly as with Obama, or eagerly as with McCain, plans for zero-footprint Syrian intervention kept circling back around to the Free Syrian Army, despite persistent warnings it contained some unlovely people and outright terrorists. One reason for this default support is that many of the other options for American support were Kurdish groups or members of Kurdish-dominated umbrella organizations, which was problematic because U.S. policymakers wanted to avoid conflict with the Turkish and Iraqi governments. Going all-in on the Kurds would inevitably bring accusations that America was supporting Kurdish nationalists, separatists, or terrorists (as Turkey would have it).

To this very day, Turkey denounces American support for the Kurds as direct support for terrorists, no different in principle from shipping arms to the Islamic State, which is something the Turks also charge America with doing when they are especially upset. It may come as some small consolation to know that everyone involved in the Syrian quagmire accuses everyone else of supporting terrorism, and they quite frequently have a point, since even the better rebel groups have been known to cooperate with powerful terrorist forces like al-Qaeda’s Nusra Front from time to time. It is difficult for outside powers to be certain that a weapon given to a white-hat moderate rebel today will not be handed over, voluntarily or involuntarily, to a terrorist or war criminal tomorrow.

In a 2013 profile of the Free Syrian Army, the BBC noted it was a “loose network of brigades rather than a unified fighting force,” with very little operational control exercised by appealing and high-minded spokesmen like Brigadier General Salim Idris.

Brigades aligned with the Free Syrian Army and its spinoff organizations retained “separate identities, agendas and commands.” The BBC noted that some of them “work with hardline Islamist groups that alarm the West, such as Ahrar al-Sham, and al-Qaeda-linked jihadists.”

Deutsche Welle recalls that, a few weeks ago, a delegation from the Free Syrian Army came to Washington and argued that if the CIA did not resume military aid frozen by the Trump administration, its “moderate” forces would have no choice but to look elsewhere for support. Virtually overnight, the FSA signed up with Turkey to work as mercenaries in its war against the Syrian Kurds, which DW notes is difficult to square with the FSA’s nominal mission of battling the tyranny of Bashar Assad on behalf of the Syrian people. It also argues against viewing the FSA as the kind of staunch moderate ally who can be entrusted with American weapons as they fight a noble battle to liberate Syria from cruel dictatorship.

“The Free Syrian Army practically doesn’t exist,” DW quotes Mideast expert Kamal Sido telling a German broadcaster. “The Free Syrian Army is a smokescreen hiding various names, and if you look at the names, at these groups’ videos, you’ll find they are radical Islamist, Jihadist groups.”

Charles Lister of the Brookings Institution contributed the observation that nearly 80 distinct factions now identify themselves with the FSA brand, and while some are moderate in outlook, others are hardline Islamist radicals. The group as a whole is moving inexorably into the orbit of radicals, and Islamist patrons like Turkey’s Erdogan, simply because they tend to be better-armed and more ruthlessly effective on the battlefield.

If such groups ever succeeded in overthrowing Assad, they would likely either replace him with an Islamist tyranny or turn their guns against their erstwhile moderate allies – which is essentially what the FSA is doing to the Syrian Kurds right now. At this point, with Russian and Iranian support firmly behind Assad, his ouster seems unlikely, so the “rebels” are largely fighting for concessions at the negotiating table and perhaps a degree of autonomy to run their own little fiefdoms within postwar Syria. Every proposal to arm Syrian groups must carefully consider what those groups actually intend to fight for.

It should also consider how they fight. Syrian Kurds are protesting the brutality of the Turkey-FSA invasion of Afrin, which threatens to push even further into Syria, as President Erdogan has openly called for American troops to get out of his way.

Over the weekend, video footage surfaced that appears to show Free Syrian Army fighters fondling and abusing the corpse of a female Kurdish fighter killed in the Afrin operation. One of them described the woman’s body as “the spoils of war from the female pigs of the PKK,” which is the violent Kurdish separatist organization in Turkey. The Turks insist that all Syrian Kurdish militia forces are allied with the PKK, including those directly supported by the United States.

The Free Syrian Army high command promised to investigate the incident and hold those involved accountable, “if it is verified in accordance with Sharia law and our principles.” The use of Islamic law to decide whether clearly heinous activity constitutes a war crime is not what the Western world should be looking for in a “moderate” ally.

Conversely, the Turks and their allies accuse the Kurds of fighting dirty and allying themselves with the brutal Assad regime, and Kurdish forces have been blamed for civilian deaths from a rocket barrage that struck a refugee camp near the Turkish border on Monday.

Syria is a bloody mess, and white hats are hard to find, but the hellish conundrum is that failure to intervene unleashed a refugee wave that threatens to drown Europe, not to mention a humanitarian disaster within Syria that should be utterly intolerable to the civilized world. The Free Syrian Army clearly is not the easy answer that so many people have so desperately wanted it to be for the past five years. They proved it by joining a Turkish operation that may soon put the lives of American troops at risk and threaten the future of NATO.

Also see:

Civilians in Northern Syria Flee to Caves as Turkish Invasion Barrels On

Russian-Turkish axis in Syria faces meltdown

Syrian Kurds: Russia Pressured Us to Give Afrin to Assad ‘One Day’ Before Turkish Attack

Turks celebrate 1964 napalm bombing of Cyprus

Cyprus is Turkish, after all. Turks can do whatever they want there. They can even celebrate dropping napalm on Greeks and slaughtering them. 

Israel National News, by Uzay Bulut, Aug. 15, 2017:

On August 8, Muslim Turkish Cypriots and illegal settlers from Turkey celebrated the 53rd anniversary of Turkey’s napalm bombing of Greek Cypriot civilians in the Turkish-occupied enclave of Kokkina in Cyprus. Mustafa Akıncı, the president of the self-styled “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus” (TRNC), which is recognized only by Turkey, also participated in the celebrations.

In August 1964, Turkish warplanes dropped napalm bombs on Kokkina in the Tillyria peninsula, hitting residential areas and a hospital, and killing more than 50 people, including 19 civilians. Ten years later, in 1974, Turkey invaded Cyprus and has occupied almost 40 percent of the island ever since.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Greece issued a note of condemnation regarding the celebrations:

“We are dismayed to note the celebrations of the Turkish Cypriot leadership, including Mr. Akinci himself, of the 53rd anniversary of the use of chemical weapons and dropping of napalm bombs by the Turkish air force on the Tillyria peninsula. This was the first use of banned chemical weapons in the history of our planet.

“Today, when the whole planet bows to the victims of wars and such hostile acts, the holding of and participation in such celebrations is an affront to international law, to the memory of the fallen, and to the whole of humanity.”

The Republic of Cyprus declared independence in 1960. Afterwards, Turkey escalated its preparations to invade the island, which included but were not limited to establishing a bridgehead at Kokkina in 1964 and smuggling arms and fighters from Turkey into the area in order to strengthen Turkish positions there.

According to the High Commission of the Republic of Cyprus in London,
“When in August 1964 the [Cypriot] Government attempted to contain the Kokkina bridgehead, Turkey’s air force bombed the National Guard and neighboring Greek villages with napalm and threatened to invade. The other major purpose served by the enclaves was the political and physical separation of the two communities.”

Another preparation for the occupation by Turkey was its disguised violent attacks against Turkish Cypriots to further escalate inter-communal conflicts and alienate Turkish-speaking Cypriots from Greek Cypriots.

General Sabri Yirmibeşoğlu, a Turkish army officer, for example, said in televised comments in 2010 that Turkey burned a ‎mosque during the Cyprus conflict “in order to foster civil resistance” against Greeks on the islandand that “The Turkish special warfare department has a rule to engage in acts of sabotage against respected values [of Turks] made to look as if they ‎were carried out by the enemy.”

The deadly military assault against Kokkina in 1964 is celebrated by many Turkish Cypriots and settlers from Turkey as the “8 August Erenköy Resistance Day.” Turks now call Kokkina “Erenköy,” Turkish for “the village of the [Islamic] saints.”

In 2014, for example, the community leader of Kato Pyrgos, Costas Michaelides, condemned the formal Turkish celebrations in Kokkina, describing them as a “disgrace.” “The memories are alive because the victims, those who survived, are here. The crosses [on the graves] are here. However, many years pass, 50 or 150, we will see this in our daily lives, because they remind us of this cowardly attack against the unarmed people of Tylliria,” he said.

The Turkish narrative does not deny the smuggling of arms and fighters to Cyprus in 1964; the problem is Turks do not view these acts as illegal activities or crimes against the Republic of Cyprus. They see them as “heroism.”

During the celebrations on August 8, Mehmet Kadı, the mayor of Yeni Erenköy (Yialousa), said:
“53 days ago, today, in August 1964, the villagers, students and our mujahedeen [jihadists] struggled together, fought for this land and did not allow the enemy to enter here.”

The enemy that Kadı referred to is the Republic of Cyprus and Greek Cypriots, the natives of the island who still comprised the majority in the northern part of Cyprus back then.

The Turkish Cypriot Minister of Economy and Energy, Sunat Atun, also issued a statement regarding “the Erenkoy resistance” and referred to it as “an act of heroism.”

“Turkish Cypriot people engaged in powerful and honorable resistance in the face of the inhumane attacks by the dual of the Rum [ethnic Greeks] and Greece. About 500 students from Anatolia and a group of Turkish Cypriots from Britain started landing in Cyprus to defend their homeland when attacks against Turkish Cypriots escalated in 1964.”

Mustafa Arıkan, the head of the Erenköy Mujahedeen [Jihadists] Association, also announced that during the commemoration, “for the first time, family members of 28 martyrs were given plaques.”

On July 20, 1974, Turkey mounted a bloody invasion of the island. The second Turkish offensive, codenamed Attila 2, took place between August 14-18. The invasion was accompanied by the mass murder of Greek Cypriot civilians, including women, and infants, unlawful arrests and torture of Greek Cypriots, and rapes of Greek Cypriot children and women, among other atrocities.

Zenon Rossides, the then-Cyprus representative to the United Nations, sent a letter on 6 December 1974 to the UN Secretary General, which said in part that Turkey “launched a full scale aggressive attack against Cyprus, a small non-aligned and virtually defenseless country, possessing no air force, no navy and no army except for a small national guard. Thus, Turkey’s overwhelming military machine embarked upon an armed attack including napalm bombing of open towns and villages, wreaking destruction, setting forests on fire and spreading indiscriminate death and human suffering to the civilian population of the island.”

The greatest consequence of the invasion was that Turkey changed the demographic structure of the northern part of the island, terrorizing around 200,000 indigenous Greek Cypriot majority population (more than one-third of the population) into fleeing to the southern part of the island.  It is estimated that more than 100,000 Turkish settlers have been implanted in northern Cyprus since then. Lands and houses belonging to Greek Cypriots were then distributed to Turkish Cypriots and to Turks brought from Turkey to settle in those areas.

Turkish supremacists act so blatantly in Cyprus because they claim Cyprus is a Turkish island. Thus, bringing in Turkish fighters to Cyprus to kill Greek Cypriots, importing tens of thousands of settlers from Turkey, deploying around 40,000 Turkish soldiers there, forcibly changing the demographics of the island, seizing the homes and other property of Greek Cypriots, and wiping out the island’s historic Hellenic and Christian identity through the destruction of its cultural heritage are all legitimate acts according to the Turkish narrative.

Cyprus is Turkish, after all. Turks can do whatever they want there. They can even celebrate dropping napalm on and slaughtering Greeks.
Employing Orwellian rhetoric, Turkey calls the military invasion of Cyprus “a peace operation.” In 1974, Kemalists and Islamists of all political parties supported the invasion of Cyprus. Moreover, Turkey does not recognize Cyprus as a Greek island or even as “a nation.”

According to the official website of the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “Cyprus has never been a Greek Island. It is both useful and important to keep in mind that there has never been in Cyprus a ‘Cypriot nation’ due to the distinct national, religious and cultural characteristics of each ethnic people who, in addition, speak different languages.”

The Turkish ministry cannot be more wrong. Never until the Turkish invasion in 1974 did the northern part of the island have a Turkish majority. Both the north and south of the island were majority-Greek and majority-Christian until 1974. “Cyprus has been a part of the Greek world as far back as can be attested by recorded history,” writes the author Constantine Tzanos.

“After the collapse of the Byzantine Empire and the defeat of the Venetians, it fell to Ottoman rule from 1571 to 1878. In 1878 it was placed under British administration, was annexed by Britain in 1914, and in 1925 became a British colony.”

However, the Cyprus question has been one of the key aspects of the Turkish foreign policy for a very long time. Actually, Cyprus has never ceased to be a “national cause” for Turks ever since the Ottomans first invaded it in 1571. A Muslim sovereign is not allowed to relinquish land once it has been conquered. And they can even celebrate their war crimes and murders.

Showing no regard for the sufferings of Greek Cypriots, many Turkish Cypriots and their leaders – including Mustafa Akıncı – have celebrated the deadly assaults on their Greek neighbors. But a community leader who genuinely aims for a peaceful resolution and coexistence in Cyprus would condemn the use of napalm bombs on unarmed civilians and the destruction of that part of the island, and would commemorate the Greek Cypriot victims as well.

Sadly, Turkish Cypriots’ celebrations of the brutal warfare against Greek Cypriot civilians have discredited all of their erstwhile statements that they support a peaceful resolution of the conflict in the island and justice for all its inhabitants.