Erdoğan: Ideological But Not Suicidal: Burak Bekdil, BESA, Dec. 7, 2018— Is Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan a devout ideologue or a pragmatist?

Erdogan is Deepening his Involvement in Sudan: Zvi Mazel, Jerusalem Post, Dec. 9, 2018 — Pursuing its strategic goals in Sudan, Turkey is turning to the economy.

US Senate Resolution on Saudi Arabia Could Change Middle East Dynamics: Dr. James M. Dorsey, BESA, Dec. 9, 2018— A six-page draft US Senate resolution does more than portray Saudi policy as detrimental to US interests, which is striking in and of itself.

Standing With Saudi Arabia: Tony Badran, Tablet, Dec. 2, 2018— This week the Senate will vote on and likely pass a resolution of disapproval calling for the United States to cease activities related to the Yemen war.

On Topic Links 

Turkey Sides with Hamas on U.N. Resolution Condemning Rocket Attacks: John Rossomando, IPT News, Dec 5, 2018

Anti-Semitism: The Fast Track in Turkey to a Government Career?: Uzay Bulut, Gatestone Institute, Dec. 4, 2018

Senate to Vote on Withdrawing U.S. Support to Saudis in Yemen War: Natalie Andrews, Wall Street Journal, Dec. 9, 2018

World Chess Contest Moved from Saudi Arabia After Two Israelis Complain of Ban: Stuart Winer, Times of Israel, Dec. 3, 2018



Burak Bekdil                                

BESA, Dec. 7, 2018

Is Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan a devout ideologue or a pragmatist? The answer is both. Perhaps a more relevant question is: When is he a devout ideologue and when a pragmatist? In late 2010, at the peak of the diplomatic crisis between Turkey and Israel after the Mavi Marmara flotilla incident, a senior Israeli diplomat asked this author: “Is there a way to push Erdoğan from blind (anti-Zionist) ideology to rationalism so that we can normalize our relations?” My answer was, “Costs… If a crisis costs him economically, then politically, he will switch from ideology to reason.” A comment on that conclusion made by a friend of the diplomat explains why Ankara and Jerusalem have had erratic but deeply hostile relations since 2009: “Israel is a powerful country but not big enough to make Turkey pay a price for its antagonism.” After a theoretical normalization of diplomatic ties in December 2016, Turkey and Israel once again downgraded their diplomatic missions in May 2018.

In 2009, then-PM Erdoğan (or his Islamist/ideologue self) boldly challenged Beijing when more than 100 Muslim Uighurs were killed in clashes with China’s security forces. This was at a time when Turkey’s economy was performing spectacularly and posting high growth rates year after year. Championing his “leader of the umma” persona, Erdoğan called the deaths of Uighur Muslims “a genocide.”

Today, with Turkey’s economy badly ailing over record-high inflation and interest rates and the national currency having lost a third of its value against major western currencies since the beginning of the year, a much different Erdoğan is on display: Not a word against Beijing from the “leader of the umma” in the face of a crackdown in which China has forcibly put hundreds of thousands of devout ethnic Uighurs in “rehabilitation camps.” Erdoğan has also rejected relocating Uighur militants fighting in northern Syria into camps on Turkish soil. Why Erdoğan’s reasonable self all of a sudden instead of his ideological self, which champions the Uighur cause? Simple: He needs loans, investment, and more trade with China.

In September and October 2015, Turkey started to complain of airspace violations by Russian military aircraft along its border with Syria. It announced that it had changed the rules of engagement with foreign aircraft violating Turkish airspace: Such (Russian) aircraft would be shot down. In November of that year, the Turkish military did indeed shoot down a Russian Su-24, claiming it had violated Turkish airspace. Then-PM Ahmet Davutoğlu announced that the same rules of engagement would be applied if there were further violations. Erdoğan boldly demanded of the Russians, “What business do you have in Syria? You don’t even have a border with Syria.”

An angry Vladimir Putin immediately installed Russian air defense systems in northern Syria in a not-so-subtle move to threaten Turkish military aircraft flying over Syrian skies. The Turkish military had to stop flights in Syrian airspace. Putin also announced scores of punishing economic sanctions on Turkey and Turkish companies doing multi-billion dollar businesses in Russia. The sanctions included bans on Turkish exports and a travel ban that quickly hurt Turkey’s tourist industry. More threateningly, Putin said the Russian sanctions could include “military retaliation,” reminding the Turks of their less-than-glorious military past with pre-Soviet Russia.

It took a mere six months for Erdoğan to move from demanding an apology from Moscow to personally apologizing to Putin. In June 2016, Turkey and Russia “normalized” their frozen diplomatic ties. Since then, Ankara has committed to acquiring the Russian-made S-400 air and anti-missile defense system despite warnings from its NATO allies, and will become the first NATO member state to deploy that system on its soil. Erdoğan has said Turkey would also consider buying the S-500 system now under development. Non-military trade normalized too, and flocks of Russian tourists have arrived at Turkey’s Mediterranean resorts.

More importantly, Turkey has radically moved from “what business do you have in Syria” to allying with Russia in Syria. The two countries, along with Iran, are partners in the Astana process. Moscow orchestrates every strategic move in northern Syria, and Ankara simply complies with its dictates.

Enter America. In the first half of 2018, Ankara and Washington went through their worst diplomatic crisis in decades over several major disputes. Turkey claimed that America was harboring its most wanted terrorist, Fethullah Gülen, a Muslim cleric in self-exile in Pennsylvania accused of being the mastermind behind a failed coup against Erdoğan in July 2016. Also, a senior Turkish government banker was in a US prison, with his bank a potential target of billions of dollars in US sanctions for violating the Iran sanctions. In addition, Ankara accused Washington of equipping what it calls “Kurdish terrorists” east of the Euphrates in northern Syria. America views them as allies in its fight against ISIS.

The US responded to Ankara’s purchase of the S-400 system by threatening to suspend delivery of the next generation F-35 fighter to Turkey. Washington also sanctioned two Turkish ministers and doubled its tariffs on imports of Turkish steel and aluminum. Ankara retaliated by sanctioning two US secretaries. At the heart of the matter was an American pastor, Andrew Brunson, held in a Turkish prison on charges of espionage and terrorism. “As long as I am in power,” Erdoğan once roared, “that spy (Brunson) will never be set free.”

Then came the reversal. The Turkish lira lost more than 40% of its value in eight months. In what traders called the Brunson effect, the markets went into a meltdown. Turkish bond yields rose to record highs and recession loomed, with huge conglomerates knocking on banks’ doors demanding debt restructuring. Several large-scale companies announced bankruptcy. In October, “the spy who would never be set free” was released, flew to America, and posed for the cameras with President Trump. Markets sighed with relief, and the lira is now trading at its highest point since August. On Nov. 2, Ankara and Washington bilaterally dropped sanctions against each other’s ministers.

Erdoğan can be offensive and confrontational, in keeping with his neo-Ottoman ideology. But he is not suicidal. He knows that an economic crisis can quickly turn into a political crisis that could cost him his closely guarded power, and he will change his tune accordingly.



ERDOGAN IS DEEPENING HIS INVOLVEMENT IN SUDAN                                        

Zvi Mazel                                                    

Jerusalem Post, Dec. 9, 2018

Pursuing its strategic goals in Sudan, Turkey is turning to the economy. On November 29, Turkish Agriculture and Forests Minister Bekir Pakdemirli told Sudanese daily Al Shuruk that his country and Sudan had established a joint agricultural and livestock company; its offices, he said, had opened in Khartoum a few days earlier.

TIGEM, the general directorate of agricultural enterprises of Turkey, holds 80% of its shares and Sudan 20%. According to the minister, as a pilot project the company will lease 12,500 hectares to Turkish companies in the private sector out of the 780,000 hectares Sudan agreed to lease to Turkey for a period of 99 years when president Erdogan visited the country in 2017. These vast tracts of land are spread across five districts. The purpose of the pilot project is to study culture and export feasibility. According to the minister, it is to help develop Sudanese agriculture while providing Turkey with agricultural produce that cannot be grown locally because of the climate. That produce will not be taxed. The company was established following the Turkish-Sudanese agricultural agreement signed in 2014, which aimed at developing Sudanese agricultural potential in order to produce foodstuffs.

This public and important development demonstrates the common and long-range determination of both countries to consolidate their relationship. During Erdogan’s December 2017 visit, Sudan had agreed to lease the Suakin Island to Turkey for an indeterminate period. Turkey is to build a port, develop agriculture and restore the citadel, which had been for centuries the seat of the Ottoman Governor. The island is situated in the Red Sea opposite the Saudi port of Jedda.

President Erdogan is using Sudan to establish a foothold on the Red Sea to further is grand design of making Turkey a regional power and perhaps giving it back the glory of the Ottoman Empire, a policy he started implementing as soon as he was in power. He first came to Khartoum in 2006, when he was head of government and relations between the two countries kept getting warmer. Ankara provided much-needed economic relief when the United Stated imposed sanctions on Khartoum and in the past decade Turkish companies have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in Sudan.

But it was during his December 2017 visit that the Turkish president set the seal on the special relationship between the two countries. Arriving with an impressive delegation of ministers and industrialists, he signed no fewer than 12 economic cooperation agreements for a total of $650 million. A high committee for strategic consultations was established. Another agreement dealt with security cooperation, but no details were published; what is known is that the commanders in chief of Turkey, Sudan and that of Qatar (who “happened” to come to Khartoum during the visit) met for unspecified meetings. A few days later the ministers of defense of those three countries arrived in Khartoum; they joined president Omar el Bashar for the inauguration of a textile factory that will manufacture uniforms for their armies as well as for neighboring African countries.

In March 2018, the Sudanese finance minister signed with Soma, a leading Turkish construction firm, a contract for the establishment of Khartoum’s new airport at a cost of $1.5 billion. In June of the same year, the joint Turkish-Sudanese businessmen committee met in Ankara with the participation of the finance and economic ministers of both countries, who signed a reciprocal agreement to promote trade with the ambitious goal of reaching exchanges of $2b. During the two preceding years, trade volume was barely $500m. a year, with Turkish exports making up 90% of the total.

There are important international aspects to their cooperation as well. Because of its closer ties to Turkey, Khartoum reduced significantly its participation in the Saudi-led Arab coalition against the Houthis in Yemen. At the same time, it developed its ties with Qatar, whose investments in Sudan reached $3.5b. in 2017.  But Turkey sees beyond Sudan. It set up a military base in Somalia. Inaugurated in October 2017, it is intended “to train the Somalian army.” The year before it had set up a similar base in Qatar and later dispatched reinforcements to bolster the small kingdom engaged in a confrontation with Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt, fearing an invasion by the latter.

What the three countries involved in the Turkish alliance – Sudan, Somalia and Qatar – have in common is that they are ruled by Islamic parties close to the Muslim Brotherhood. Turkey, itself a strong supporter of the Brotherhood, took advantage of that fact to enhance its the strategic importance in the Red Sea area. It has now a political basis through its allies and a military presence through its outposts in Somalia and the Sudani port city of Suakin and could therefore threaten freedom of navigation in the Red Sea. As things stand today, it has no reason to do so, but it has demonstrated that it should be taken into consideration even far from its own borders.

This is a state of affairs that Egypt and Saudi Arabia, fighting the Muslim Brotherhood, are unhappy with, but cannot tackle at this point because they are embroiled in other conflicts. Saudi Arabia is focused on the threat of Iran and on the long-drawn Yemen war against the Houthis; Egypt has not yet quelled the Sinai insurgency and is trying to implement much-needed economic reforms. They are not ready for a confrontation with Turkey. Nevertheless, Cairo fears a deterioration of its own relations with Sudan, since it needs the help of that country in its efforts to preserve its share of the Nile waters, threatened both by claims of other African countries and by the massive “Renaissance” dam being built by Ethiopia on one of the tributaries of the Blue Nile. Though Riyadh and Cairo are so far behaving with circumspection, there is a very real potential for a regional flare-up that would speedily expand to the whole Middle East.





Dr. James M. Dorsey                                 

BESA, Dec. 9, 2018

A six-page draft US Senate resolution does more than portray Saudi policy as detrimental to US interests, which is striking in and of itself. It also identifies Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman as “complicit” in the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, holds him accountable for the devastating war in Yemen that has sparked one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises, and blames him for the failure to end the 17-month-old Saudi-United Arab Emirates-led economic and diplomatic boycott of Qatar as well as the jailing and torture of Saudi dissidents and activists.

The resolution confronts not only Prince Muhammad’s policies but also, by implication, those of his closest ally, UAE Crown Prince Muhammad bin Zayed. The UAE was the first country that Saudi leader visited after the Khashoggi killing. By in effect challenging the position of king-in-waiting Prince Muhammad, the resolution raises the question whether some of his closest allies, including the UAE crown prince, will in future want to be identified that closely with him.

Moreover, by demanding the release of activist Raif bin Muhammad Badawi (better known as Raif Badawi) and women’s rights activists, the resolution further the challenges fundamentals of Prince Muhammad’s iron-fisted repression of his critics, the extent of his proposed social reforms as part of his drive to diversify and streamline the Saudi economy, and the kingdom’s human rights record.

Badawi, a 34-year-old blogger whose website is entitled Free Saudi Liberals, was barred from travel and had his assets frozen in 2009, was arrested in 2012, and was sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes for insulting Islam. His sister, Samar Badawi, a women’s rights activist, was detained earlier this year. His wife and children have been granted asylum and citizenship in Canada. A diplomatic row that stunned many erupted in August when Saudi Arabia expelled the Canadian ambassador after the foreign ministry in Ottawa tweeted a demand that Ms. Badawi and other activists be released.

Prince Muhammad and Saudi Arabia, even prior to introduction of the Senate resolution, are discovering that the Khashoggi killing weakened the kingdom internationally and made it more vulnerable to pressure. Talks in Sweden between the Saudi-backed Yemeni government and Houthi rebels to end the war are the most immediate consequence of the kingdom’s changing position. Another is the Senate resolution, which is unprecedented in the scope and harshness of its criticism of a long-standing ally. While the resolution is likely to spark initial anger among some of Prince’s Muhammad’s allies, it could, if adopted and/or implemented, persuade some – like UAE Crown Prince Muhammad – to rethink their fundamental strategies.

The relationship between the two Muhammads constituted a cornerstone of the UAE leader’s strategy to achieve his political, foreign policy, and defense goals. These include projecting the Emirates as a guiding light of cutting-edge Arab and Muslim modernity; ensuring that the Middle East fits the crown prince’s autocratic, anti-Islamist mold; and enabling the UAE, described by US defense secretary Jim Mattis as “Little Sparta,” to punch above its weight politically, diplomatically, and militarily. To compensate for the Emirates’ small size, Prince Muhammad opted to pursue his goals in part by working through the Saudi royal court. In leaked emails, UAE ambassador to Washington Yousef al-Otaiba, a close associate of Prince Muhammad, said of the Saudi crown prince that “I don’t think we’ll ever see a more pragmatic leader in that country.”…[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]




Tony Badran                                            

Tablet, Dec. 2, 2018

This week the Senate will vote on and likely pass a resolution of disapproval calling for the United States to cease activities related to the Yemen war. The resolution is essentially a call to cut off Saudi Arabia, which, in turn, would signal that the United States does not care if Iran, the other party in the conflict, were to emerge on top in Yemen—an outcome that carries direct consequences for the global economy. Some senators who supported moving the resolution forward have cited the killing of Saudi national Jamal Khashoggi, which suggests, as one senator who opposes the resolution put it, that the Yemen issue is being tied to the broader issue of the relationship with Saudi Arabia. All of this is a display of strategic recklessness. In contrast, President Donald Trump’s statement two weeks ago titled “Standing with Saudi Arabia” was an example of strategic clarity. It bears revisiting for a closer read.

The president’s statement was followed by a torrent of criticism and outrage. What struck the sourest note for the president’s critics was his injection of colloquial language into a formal statement on foreign policy. For critics of the U.S.-Saudi relationship, the style of Trump’s statement amplified the repulsive crudeness of its substance. It offended their sense not just of what American foreign policy ought to be, but also about how it ought to be presented to the public.

Unsurprisingly, the criticism of D.C. foreign policy experts misses the point entirely. What they found crude and distasteful is precisely what made the president’s statement so powerful. The furious objections to both the content and the style of Trump’s statement point up the ways in which the foreign policy establishment has often used high-flown language about morality and ethics to cloak a series of failures in logical reasoning about the American interest, to say nothing of the negative impact of their preferences on the far-away places where they’re applied.

The opening two lines—“America First!”; “The world is a very dangerous place!”—establish the document as indubitably the president’s own. This stamp of Trumpness is critical to establish the statement’s credibility with its intended audiences, which may or may not include America’s Trump-hating foreign policy elite. While the president may enjoy sticking his thumb in his enemies’ eye, his key audiences here are Americans who share his America-centered approach to foreign policy, who can be found on both the right and the left these days, as well as foreign leaders, who must calculate whether they can rely on the United States as an ally and what being America’s enemy might cost. To both groups, Trump’s opening language makes a clear point: What follows are the words and beliefs of the American president himself.

President Trump is selling his foreign policy directly to the American people, rather than talking over their heads. This is, to be sure, a different way of playing the foreign policy game, one that Harry Truman might recognize but more recent presidents, of both parties, might not. There is no hidden pitch, masked with supposedly sophisticated lingo or flowery rhetoric that can then be spun by an echo chamber of political and media operatives, who will use their highly credentialed expertise to assure Americans that the money we send to Iran actually belongs to Iran, so we aren’t actually sending them money, or that the Iranians have no intention of building nuclear weapons, which is why making a deal with them right now on Iran’s own terms is a matter of urgent national importance. Or, assuring Americans and the world that Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction and is planning to use them, which is why America needs to invade Iraq, where it will then use its occupation forces to attempt to turn the country into a democratic model for the entire Middle East…[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]



On Topic Links

Turkey Sides with Hamas on U.N. Resolution Condemning Rocket Attacks: John Rossomando, IPT News, Dec 5, 2018—NATO ally Turkey plans to oppose an American-sponsored draft resolution at the United Nations condemning Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and other Palestinian terror factions. A vote on the resolution is scheduled for Thursday.

Anti-Semitism: The Fast Track in Turkey to a Government Career?: Uzay Bulut, Gatestone Institute, Dec. 4, 2018—As the Islamist government of Turkey grows increasingly authoritarian, religious minorities in the country seem to be the most targeted and affected group. The concerns of Turkey’s Jewish community were addressed recently by Mois Gabay, a columnist for the country’s Jewish weekly, Şalom, in an article entitled, “What Kind of Turkey Are We Living In?”

Senate to Vote on Withdrawing U.S. Support to Saudis in Yemen War: Natalie Andrews, Wall Street Journal, Dec. 9, 2018—The U.S. Senate this week is set to vote on a resolution to withdraw U.S. support for the Saudi-led coalition at war in Yemen, an effort to punish Riyadh for the killing of a Saudi Arabian journalist.

World Chess Contest Moved from Saudi Arabia After Two Israelis Complain of Ban: Stuart Winer, Times of Israel, Dec. 3, 2018—The governing body for international chess confirmed Monday that an upcoming tournament that was to be held for the second year in Saudi Arabia has been relocated to Russia because of the kingdom’s policies, which exclude some eligible players.


Erdogan, Flush With Victory, Seizes New Powers in Turkey: Carlotta Gall, New York Times, July 19, 2018— Even before President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey was inaugurated last week, he began elbowing his way into the front ranks of the globe’s strongmen.

Why Turkey Will Not Be Another Iran: Amir Taheri, Gatestone Institute, July 2, 2018— Is Turkey going to be another Iran?

Post-Election Turkey: The Birth of an Islamist-Nationalist Alliance: Burak Bekdil, BESA, June 29, 2018— Turkey’s presidential and parliamentary elections on June 24 sent messages on many wavelengths.

NATO’s Real Crisis Is Turkey, Not Trump: Eli Lake, Bloomberg, July 11, 2018 — From the perspective of Europe, the crisis within the North Atlantic Treaty Organization has a name: Donald Trump.

On Topic Links

DEBATE: What’s Next for Turkey?: Dr. George N. Tzogopoulos, BESA, July 19, 2018

Is Turkey Playing a Double Game with NATO?: Debalina Ghoshal, Gatestone Institute, July 2, 2018

Time to Wake Up to Erdogan’s Turkey: Sarah N. Stern, Breaking Israel News, July 11, 2018

Is Turkey Safe for Israelis and Jews?: Kristina Jovanovski, The Media Line, June 16, 2018


ERDOGAN, FLUSH WITH VICTORY, SEIZES NEW POWERS IN TURKEY                             Carlotta Gall

New York Times, July 19, 2018

Even before President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey was inaugurated last week, he began elbowing his way into the front ranks of the globe’s strongmen. Hours before taking the oath of office — after 15 years already in power — Mr. Erdogan published a 143-page decree changing the way almost every government department and public body in the country operates. In the days since, he has issued several equally lengthy decrees and presidential decisions, centralizing power and giving him the ability to exert control in nearly all areas of life with almost unchecked authority.

At a moment when democratic systems around the world are under increasing pressure, Mr. Erdogan, who was re-elected in June, is among those leaders, like Vladimir V. Putin of Russia and Viktor Orban of Hungary, who are using the levers of democracy to vastly expand their authority. Among the changes Mr. Erdogan has put in place under the new presidential system are these:

The prime minister’s office has been abolished; The military has been brought under firmer civilian control; The president will draft the budget, choose judges and many top officials; The president can dismiss Parliament and call new elections at will; The president appoints the head of the National Intelligence Agency, the Religious Affairs Directorate and the Central Bank, as well as ambassadors, governors and university rectors, among other top bureaucrats; Virtually none of the president’s appointments require a confirmation process. None of the amendments Mr. Erdogan decreed were subject to public debate before becoming law. The vast accumulation of power fulfills Turkey’s shift from a parliamentary system to the presidential one that was narrowly approved by voters in a referendum last year.

The voluminous decrees, analysts say, promise months of administrative upheaval as agencies are abolished and government employees reassigned. Critics have voiced concern at the lack of checks on the president’s increased powers. “The state is being reorganized around Tayyip Erdogan,” the columnist Asli Aydintasbas wrote in the secular opposition newspaper Cumhuriyet last week. Many of the changes, analysts point out, merely formalize what was already the case: It is Mr. Erdogan who makes the decisions. But the consolidation of his power is far-reaching.

Mr. Erdogan has also amended the counterterrorism law in expectation of lifting the state of emergency, which expires on Thursday and was put in place two years ago after a failed military coup against him. The new measures bring the powerful Turkish military firmly under civilian control — a step that the president says is in line with changes required under the European Union’s accession process. The bloc has dangled admission before Turkey for years.

But Mr. Erdogan and his fellow Islamists have long called for a presidential system and for greater civilian control over the military. Turkey’s recent history has been filled with military coups, and the Islamists chafed more than others under military rule. Mr. Erdogan has placed the chief of staff of the armed forces under control of the Defense Ministry, and the Supreme Military Council, which decides senior appointments in the armed forces, has been reconfigured to include more civilian ministers than military commanders.

Mr. Erdogan appointed a loyalist, the former chief of staff, Gen. Hulusi Akar, as his first defense minister under the new system. General Akar opposed the 2016 coup — he was taken prisoner on the night of the failed coup by rogue officers — and has overseen a comprehensive purge of the armed forces in the two years since. “It seems Erdogan has planned the transition to be as smooth as possible by naming Akar, Turkey’s top soldier, as the defense minister,” the columnist Murat Yetkin wrote in The  Hurriyet Daily News.

Mr. Erdogan outlined his own powers in one new decree after his inauguration. He will appoint the chief of staff of the armed forces — along with the commanders of the land, air and naval forces and the deputy chief of staff — by presidential decision, which needs no confirmation process. The president will also make promotions in the upper ranks of the security forces from colonel upward. Decree 703, issued just before Mr. Erdogan was sworn in to his new term, also removed many of the regulations in the selection process for appointments. For instance, the president will appoint the rectors of Turkey’s public and private universities, without the usual shortlisting procedure by the university and Higher Education Board.

“Yes, U.S. President Trump can appoint a replacement to a vacant seat in the Supreme Court, but he does not appoint a police chief in Massachusetts or a public theater director in Boston,” Ms. Aydintasbas commented in Cumhuriyet. “He cannot appoint a state governor or even a university rector,” she added. The decree also lowers the qualifications for judges appointed to the government’s administrative courts, which regulate government departments. Previously, judges had to hold law or political science degrees, but they can now be drawn from any degree program, as the Justice Ministry sees fit…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]






 Amir Taheri

Gatestone Institute, July 2, 2018

Is Turkey going to be another Iran? With President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s latest electoral victory the question is making the rounds in Western political circles. Despite the fact that Sunday’s election gives Erdogan immense new powers, my short answer to the question is a firm: no!

In analyzing the nature of political power in any form the first question to ask concerns the provenance of that power. For where does power comes from determines where it may go. In Iran in 1979 power was like a box of jewels thrown in the street, ready for anyone to pick up. The Shah had left the country and most members of the Council of Monarchy he had appointed were in the French Riviera, while the army Top Brass had declared “neutrality” which meant the military wouldn’t stop anyone from picking up the box of jewels in the street.

By a fluke of fate and a combination of bizarre circumstances, it was Ayatollah Khomeini who had the nerve and the imagination to pick up the box after the Shah’s last Prime Minister Shapour Bakhtiar had also gone into hiding waiting to be spirited out of Tehran to Paris.

However, Erdogan, unlike Khomeini has obtained his box of jewels in the form of 52 per cent of the votes cast in an election boasting one of the highest turnouts in Turkish history. Even if we make allowances for abstentions and real or alleged irregularities in the process, none could deny that Erdogan enjoys a solid support base from at least 32 per cent of the Turkish electorate.

In contrast, unlike Erdogan who has been on the Turkish political scene for almost three decades, including 15 years at the top, Khamenei, when he seized power, was a largely unknown figure to most Iranians. The best surveys we had at the time was that the exiled mullah would not collect more than five to 10 percent of the votes in any free and fair election.

Khomeini’s support came from Tehran and a few other big cities, notably Isfahan, while Erdogan’s support base is in rural areas and small and medium cities. The uprising that brought Khomeini to power was a largely urban middle class affair while Erdogan depends on the rural population, the working classes and the petty-bourgeoisie for support. Khomeini was solidly backed by all shades of leftist parties and ideologies from social democrats to Maoists to Islamic-Marxists. Erdogan, on the other hand, is the bête-noire of the Turkish Left.

While Khomeini and his entourage adopted a good chunk of the lexicon of the left, including such worn-out clichés as “the downtrodden (Mustazafin) and “Imperialism” (Istikbar), Erdogan’s political vocabulary owes more to populism than to proto-Marxism. Khomeini’s entourage featured numerous theologians and so-called Islamic scholars while a variety of violent Islamist groups, including the Fedayeen Islam, the Hezbollah (founded in 1975), the Islamic Coalition and the Hojjatieh Society.

In contrast there are hardly any theologians or religious scholars in Erdogan’s entourage. Despite his occasional penchant for Islamist shibboleths, Erdogan faces stiff opposition from a wide range of Islamist groups, starting with the Hizmet, khidmah in Arabic (Service) movement led by exiled preacher Fethullah Gulen, not to mention the 100 or so Sufi fraternities and the crypto-Shiite Alawite community. In fact, Turkey’s Islamic networks fear the take-over of their organizations and businesses by the state while Erdogan adopts a pious pose and makes occasional noises against Kemalist secularism.

To most Iranians, Khomeini was an unknown quantity and his seizure of power more like a lottery than a rational choice. Warts and all, Erdogan, however, is well-known to Turks who have had time to see him in action as party leader, Mayor of Istanbul, Prime Minister and President. Khomeini showed disdain for economic issues, once declaring that “economics is for donkeys” and boasting that his revolution was not meant to bring prosperity but a chance for martyrdom.

In contrast, Erdogan played the card of economic development from the start when he transformed Istanbul from a decrepit almost bankrupt urban sprawl into a bustling megapolis with global ambitions. Under the Khomeinist system, Iran today is at least 40 per cent poorer in real terms than it was under the Shah, according to surveys by the central Bank of Iran. Under Erdogan’s stewardship, in contrast, the Turkey has experienced a doubling of its annual Gross Domestic Product, a performance better than the so-called “Chinese miracle.”

Right from the start, Khomeini’s message met with thinly disguised hostility by Iran’s ethnic minorities. And for years after seizing power the ayatollah and his clan had to use the utmost violence to crush the minorities through mass executions, widespread arrests and even full-size military operations against Iranian-Arabs in Khuzestan, Iranian Kurds in three provinces, Iranian-Turcomen in Golestan province and Iranian Baluch in Sistan-and-Baluchistan.

In contrast, Erdogan owed his initial access to power to massive support among Turkey’s Kurdish minority. The subsequent wars he has waged against armed Kurdish groups, mostly linked to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), does not nullify the fact that even in the latest election and his AKP party did well in most Kurdish-majority areas of Anatolia…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]






Burak Bekdil

BESA, June 29, 2018

Turkey’s presidential and parliamentary elections on June 24 sent messages on many wavelengths. The voters asserted the unchallenged popularity of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who is the longest-serving Turkish leader since Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of modern Turkey. They welcomed an infant center-right party, IYI (“good” in Turkish); recognized the country’s Kurds as a legitimate political force; and gave a cautious nod to an emerging social democrat politician, Muharrem Ince, Erdoğan’s closest presidential rival.

More strategically, Election 2018 marked the official birth of an Islamist-nationalist alliance that will recalibrate Turkey’s foreign policy calculus in line with the strong wave of religious/nativist nationalism that brought this alliance to power. In power since November 2002, Erdoğan easily won the presidential race with 53.6% of the national vote in the first round (any number beyond the 50% mark would have sufficed). But his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) won only 42.5% of the parliamentary vote, down seven percentage points from its result in the elections of November 2015. The AKP won 293 seats in Turkey’s 600-seat house, falling short of a simple majority of 301.

Had this been just another parliamentary election, the AKP would be unable to form a single-party government. But legislative changes that followed the April 2017 referendum now allow political parties to enter the parliamentary race in alliance with other parties. Erdoğan chose as his ally the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), which has its ideological roots in the militantly ultranationalist, pan-Turkic ideology of the 1970s. On June 24 the MHP won 11.1% of the national vote and 50 seats, bringing up the “allied” (i.e., the governing) seats to 343 – which gives the AKP-MHP alliance a comfortable parliamentary majority.

Four decades after emerging as marginal parties in the 1970s, Turkey’s militant Islamists and militant ultranationalists won a combined 53.6% of the national vote and 57% of parliamentary seats. Erdoğan has said in the past that he would put foreign policy “in line with what my nation demands,” highlighting the Islamist sensitivities of his voter base. He will now be adding nationalist sensitivities to that foreign policy calculus. This is likely to mean confrontations, perhaps bold ones, with several nations both inside and outside Turkey’s region.

Turkey’s new ruling ideology will, first of all, make it practically impossible to return to the negotiating table for peace with the Kurds. That is an MHP red line that Erdoğan will prefer not to cross. MHP’s militaristic posture will also boost Ankara’s desire to show more muscle in Kurdish-related disputes in northern Syria and northern Iraq. (MHP’s only solution to the Kurdish dispute is military might.)

Turkey’s decades-long, obsessive foreign policy goals include making Jerusalem the capital of the Palestinian state, asserting an ideological kinship with Hamas, stoking sectarian hostilities against Syrian President Bashar Assad, and making threats about drilling off the shores of the divided island of Cyprus. To these will probably be added an “Uighur cause,” a subject about which the MHP is particularly sensitive.

The AKP’s election manifesto stated an intention to “overcome problems and improve bilateral relations with the United States.” But the manifesto also said Turkey would make an effort to “improve bilateral relations with Russia.” It said, “We will continue our close coordination with Russia on regional subjects, especially on Syria.”

In practice, Erdogan’s balancing act between Russia and the US resembles Brazilian dictator Getulio Vargas’s “pendulum policy” during WWII. Vargas offered support to Hitler and Mussolini at times, but ended up siding with the Allies. MHP’s involvement in government policy will be totally irrelevant when it comes to operating the modern-day Turkish pendulum.

Erdoğan’s relations with the US are ideologically hostile but de facto transactional. They will remain so. His relations with Russia are largely transactional and will probably gain further ground, politically as well as militarily, as the discrepancy between Turkish and western democratic cultures widens. Erdoğan ideologically belong to the strongmen’s club.

As Turkey’s gross democratic deficit, largely created under Erdoğan’s governance, is blended with MHP’s notoriously isolationist, xenophobic ideology, Turkey’s theoretical goal of accession into the European Union (EU) will gradually become null and void. Erdoğan will soon announce plans to shut down the ministry dealing with accession negotiations with the EU and turn it into “a department of the Foreign Ministry.” This should not surprise anyone.




Eli Lake

Bloomberg, July 11, 2018

From the perspective of Europe, the crisis within the North Atlantic Treaty Organization has a name: Donald Trump. It’s easy to understand why. The U.S. president calls the European NATO members freeloaders. He declined at last year’s summit to reiterate the entire point of the alliance, that an attack on one is an attack on all…

Yet while the rhetoric is dangerous, U.S. policy — so far — has not reflected Trump’s tantrums. U.S. forces remain in Poland (and Germany, for that matter). The sanctions on Russia for its annexation of Crimea, meddling in Eastern Ukraine and its interference in the 2016 U.S. election remain. The U.S. has supported the accession of Macedonia into NATO and sold Ukraine anti-tank missiles. The weak link in the alliance, in fact, is Turkey. Here is a country slipping into the sphere of influence of Russia — the very country that NATO was created to deter.

In December Turkey finalized a deal to purchase the S-400 air defense system from Moscow, and in April the Turks broke ground on a Russian-made nuclear power plant. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who last month won an unfree and unfair election, has recently held talks with Putin to discuss the future of Syria. Russia’s attempt to “flip” Turkey — the term used by U.S. NATO Ambassador Kay Bailey Hutchison — is extraordinary considering the two countries came close to war in 2015 when a Turkish jet shot down a Russian one that had flown into Turkish territory.

Ideally, this week’s NATO summit would be an opportunity for the U.S. president to cajole European allies into presenting a unified opposition to Erdogan’s conduct. There is no mechanism for kicking a member out of the alliance, but Turkey should at least begin to feel some pain and pressure for its drift toward Russia. Trump has not availed himself of that opportunity. Just look at his confrontational remarks on Wednesday about Germany or his tweet on Tuesday complaining that NATO allies are “delinquent” in their defense spending.

Past presidents, including Trump’s immediate predecessor, have lodged similar complaints about Europe not paying its fair share. But context matters. Trump doesn’t prod allies behind the scenes; he issues tweets and diktats aimed at maximizing humiliation. Any chance to shift the focus to Turkey is lost. “The president’s seeming inability to draw a distinction between democrats and authoritarians has meant that Erdogan is getting away with murder not only domestically but also within NATO by playing footsie with Russia and Putin,” says Gary Schmitt, a scholar and strategist at the American Enterprise Institute. The emphasis of this NATO summit, he says, should be as much on Turkey’s misbehavior as on members’ defense spending.

The irony is that, for all of his brashness, Trump can claim some success with his campaign to get the allies to pay more for defense. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said at the summit’s opening that member states are no longer cutting military spending. Eight allies are expected this year to spend 2 percent of GDP on defense, the longstanding benchmark for the alliance. Meanwhile, NATO has committed to have 30 air squadrons, 30 combat vessels and 30 mechanized battalions ready to deploy within 30 days to defend the Baltic States by 2020.

Any other American president, presented with this evidence of Europe’s renewed commitment to the 70-year-old trans-Atlantic alliance, would be happy to take yes for an answer. Trump is not, to state the obvious, like any other American president. As he treats the NATO summit as a stage for a play about Europeans ripping off America, Turkey is drifting ever closer to Russia.




On Topic Links

DEBATE: What’s Next for Turkey?: Dr. George N. Tzogopoulos, BESA, July 19, 2018—Q: Turkey’s fate has been associated with that of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan ever since 2002. After having won multiple elections and referenda and surviving an attempted coup d’état in July 2016, he is consolidating power in an unprecedented manner. The elections of June 24, 2018 were his most recent test, and he passed it successfully.

Is Turkey Playing a Double Game with NATO?: Debalina Ghoshal, Gatestone Institute, July 2, 2018—In January, 2018 Turkey reportedly awarded an 18-month contract for a study on the development and production of a long-range air- and missile-defense system to France and Italy, showing — ostensibly — Turkey’s ongoing commitment to NATO.

Time to Wake Up to Erdogan’s Turkey: Sarah N. Stern, Breaking Israel News, July 11, 2018—On June 25, we awoke to the somber news that Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had secured a victory in Turkey’s presidential elections. The reason this news is so grim is because he is a very dangerous man who wants to establish a Turkish Islamist caliphate, as he has simultaneously been eroding human rights inside Turkey and grabbing more power for himself.

Is Turkey Safe for Israelis and Jews?: Kristina Jovanovski, The Media Line, June 16, 2018—Amid the most recent diplomatic row between Turkey and Israel, journalist Ohad Hemo with Israel’s Channel 2 was preparing for a live broadcast in the center of Istanbul when he noticed a crowd gradually gathering around him and his cameraman.


Turkey’s Election: Stockholm Syndrome at Its Worst: Burak Bekdil, Gatestone Institute, June 26, 2018— Nothing could have better explained the Turks’ joy over their president’s election victory on June 24 than a cartoon that depicts a cheering crowd with three lines in speech balloons: “It was a near thing,” one says.

The Iran-Turkey Switcheroo: Sohrab Ahmari, Commentary, June 25, 2018— Bernard Lewis issued a startling prediction in 2010: Iran—the land of scowling ayatollahs and flag burnings—would abandon Islamism by the end of the decade…

Trump Arms an Adversary: Bret Stephens, New York Times, June 22, 2018 — The Turkish Air Force took delivery of its first F-35A stealth plane this week at an elaborate rollout ceremony in Texas…

Anti-Semitism is on the Rise, from Berlin’s Streets to Turkish Grocery Stores: Robert Fulford, National Post, June 15, 2018— In Germany, of all places, anti-Semitism has recently made a fresh and ominous appearance.

On Topic Links

After Erdogan’s Victory, What Should Israel Do?: Herb Keinon, Jerusalem Post, June 26, 2018

Turkey: Glorification of Murder, Martyrdom and Child Soldiers: Uzay Bulut, Gatestone Institute, June 19, 2018

U.S. Islamists Ignore Erdogan’s Authoritarianism, Celebrate Win: IPT News, June 26, 2018

Turkey Seeks Arrests of 138 for Links to US-Based Cleric: National Post, June 26, 2018



Burak Bekdil

Gatestone Institute, June 26, 2018


Nothing could have better explained the Turks’ joy over their president’s election victory on June 24 than a cartoon that depicts a cheering crowd with three lines in speech balloons: “It was a near thing,” one says. “We would almost become free.” And the last one says: “Down with freedoms!”

Turkey’s Islamist strongman, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, won 52.5% of the national vote in presidential elections on June 24. That marks a slight rise from 51.8% he won in presidential elections of August 2014. More than 25 million Turks voted for Erdoğan’s presidency. His closest rival, social democrat Muharrem Ince, an energetic former schoolteacher, won less than 16 million votes, or nearly 31% of the national vote. The opposition candidate admitted that the election was fair. There have been no reports of fraud from international observers, at least so far.

Despite the defeat, Ince was one of the many winners of Election 2018. For the first time since 1977 a social democrat politician won more than 30% of the vote in Turkey. Ince’s party, the Republican People’s Party (CHP) won only 22.6% of the vote in the parliamentary race.

Despite Erdoğan’s clear victory, his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) performed worse than expected: It won 42.4% of the vote in parliamentary elections, down eight percentage points from the 49.5% it won in the previous parliamentary race in November 2015. That decline deprived the AKP of winning parliamentary majority, with 295 seats in Turkey’s 300-member house. Instead, AKP’s right-wing partners, the National Movement Party (MHP) unexpectedly won 49 seats, bringing the total number of seats controlled by the governing bloc up to 344, a comfortable majority.

The AKP-MHP alliance marks the official birth of Turkey’s new ruling ideology: A bloc of Islamists and nationalists that traditionally represent Turkey’s lowest educated rural population. Erdoğan may not be too happy having to share power with a party that was last in a coalition alliance in 2002 but with his AKP lacking a parliamentary majority he will have to keep the nationalists in partnership. He may also have to give them high-profile seats like vice-president and/or ministerial positions.

After election results on June 24 Turkey will be further dragged into authoritarian politics with the blend of Islamism and nationalism emerging as the new state ideology. Deep polarization in the Turkish society will probably get deeper. There are already signs. In a victory speech in the evening hours of June 24 Erdoğan’s foreign minister, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, said that the losers of the election were the “terrorists”. In this politically-divisive, pathetic logic, 47.5% of Turks are terrorists: that makes about 38.5 million people.

The national joy over the re-election of a man known best to the rest of the world for his authoritarian, sometimes despotic rule, is not surprising in a country where average schooling is a mere 6.5 years. As recently as April 2017, the Turks had already given up the remaining pieces of their democracy when they voted in favor of constitutional amendments that made Erdoğan head of the state, head of government and head of the ruling party all at the same time. The amendments gave the president almost unchecked powers and the authority to rule by decree.

In its “Freedom in the World 2018” report, Freedom House categorizes Turkey as a “not free” country due to “due to a deeply flawed constitutional referendum that centralized power in the presidency, the mass replacement of elected mayors with government appointees, arbitrary prosecutions of rights activists and other perceived enemies of the state, and continued purges of state employees, all of which have left citizens hesitant to express their views on sensitive topics”. Turkey also tops Freedom house’s list of countries where democracy has been on decline for the past decade. Ironically, even civil war-torn Syria is at the bottom of the list (meaning its democracy has declined the least among the countries surveyed).

Erdoğan’s Turkey was galloping toward dictatorship even before the Turks gave him the powers he wanted in the April 2017 referendum. Millions of anti-Erdoğan Turks are now terrified of the prospect of further torment under an Islamist-nationalist coalition show run by a president with effectively no checks and balances. Ince, the opposition candidate against Erdoğan has vowed to fight back. Let us hope he does not have to fight back from where many Erdoğan opponents have been locked up.




THE IRAN-TURKEY SWITCHEROO                                                           

Sohrab Ahmari

Commentary, June 25, 2018

Bernard Lewis issued a startling prediction in 2010: Iran—the land of scowling ayatollahs and flag burnings—would abandon Islamism by the end of the decade, while Turkey—Washington’s stalwart Cold War ally—would turn away from the West and burrow deeper into its Muslim identity. Lewis is no longer with us, and there are still a few years left in his wager, but events in both countries are proving him remarkably prescient.

On Turkey, Lewis has already been vindicated. Witness the ballot-box triumph of Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party, or AKP. In the presidential contest over the weekend, Erdogan thumped his opponent, Muharrem Ince of the Republican People’s Party, 53% to 31%. A smattering of pro-Kurdish and secular candidates divided the remaining ballots. Erdogan’s AKP and its allies also locked a majority of seats in Parliament.

The elections were not exactly fair. As the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe observed, the state of emergency imposed following a 2016 coup attempt constricted “freedom of expression and assembly” for the opposition. Erdogan has used the emergency laws to dismiss more than 100,000 soldiers, teachers, police officers, and journalists. And some 50,000 people have been jailed and are awaiting trial, according to rights groups. With numerous opposition reporters languishing in prison, it came as no surprise that the ruling party dominated the media landscape, which led European Union officials to conclude that “conditions for campaigning were not equal.”

All this is par for the course with Erdogan, who first launched his power-grab in 2008. The opposition is right to complain of Erdogan’s efforts to hollow out Turkey’s independent institutions and remove checks on the AKP. Yet the fact remains that a substantial majority of Turks continue to elect Erdogan and the AKP in one plebiscite after another. In Erdogan these voters see, not a corrupt would-be dictator, but a visionary who has delivered jobs and growth and reasserted Turkey’s long-suppressed Islamic identity. A majority of Turks prefer a pious Turkey anchored in its Muslim neighborhood rather than in Europe. It is high time to recognize that, for now, Turkey is lost to the West.

That doesn’t mean the West should instantly sever all diplomatic, economic, and military ties to Turkey. But the old arrangements lack the sentimental and ideological glue that once held them together. Everything is fragile and tentative and subject to revision by the majoritarian strongman in Ankara—and the voters who form his durable base.

So far, the Bernard Lewis scenario has been borne out by events in Turkey. But what about Iran? There, too, events are tending in the direction foreseen by the great historian…(T)he Islamic Republic faces a profound legitimacy crisis at home, with not a day going by without some explosion of popular discontent. The ideological currents tossing the mullahs this way and that, I argue, are strongly nationalist. The slogans that daily ring out from the streets point to a growing revulsion with the regime’s Shiite-expansionist project, which has starved the national fisc, not to mention the population, and left the country sanctioned and isolated.

The latest slogan: “Death to Palestine!” You read that right. In a country that has become synonymous with Holocaust-denial cartoon contests and threats to wipe Israel off the map, people are chanting “Death to Palestine.” Iranians don’t have a beef with Palestinians, of course. But they have had it with their regime’s decades-long underwriting of Hezbollah, Hamas, and other Palestinian terror groups. Why is our national wealth going to Gaza, they ask, rather than to Tehran, Isfahan, and Shiraz? The regime has no good answer to such questions. It has to resort to the truncheon, and that may work for a time, perhaps for many more years. But not forever. Bernard Lewis is surely smiling somewhere.




Bret Stephens

New York Times, June 22, 2018

The Turkish Air Force took delivery of its first F-35A stealth plane this week at an elaborate rollout ceremony in Texas that featured, according to one report, “traditional music and song together with a dancer who performed … while wearing a pair of massive leather wings.” If the performance was bizarre, the underlying politics ranged from the incompetent to the perverse. In a word: Trumpian. In an era of American baby prisons and Melania meta-messaging, it can be difficult to pay attention to the things that used to matter. So here’s a quick primer on our former ally Turkey, which on Sunday goes to the polls for presidential and parliamentary elections.

Its economy is in crisis. The leader of a major opposition party is in prison. A state of emergency, in force since a failed 2016 military coup, has resulted in the estimated detention of nearly 140,000 people, the closure of 189 media outlets, and the arrest of more than 300 journalists.

The Turkish military nearly came to blows last year with U.S. forces fighting the Islamic State in Syria. It also intends to purchase advanced Russian antiaircraft missiles that are incompatible with NATO systems. An American pastor, Andrew Brunson, has been held in a Turkish prison for nearly two years — hostage to the Turkish government efforts to extradite dissident cleric Fethullah Gulen from his home in Pennsylvania.

All this has been the doing of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, an Islamist and vitriolic anti-Semite (he once decried the “Jewish capital” allegedly financing The Times), who has steadily consolidated authoritarian power over 15 years in power. Erdogan was once genuinely popular, but his recent electoral victories have been increasingly marred by serious allegations of voter intimidation and electoral fraud.

Good news? Well, yes, there is some. Precisely because Erdogan has driven the economy off a cliff, there’s a modest chance he’ll have to face a runoff election next month, and a decent chance his A.K.P. party won’t get a majority in Parliament. Opposition candidates are more united against Erdogan than they’ve ever been, and they’ve drawn huge numbers at their rallies.

What’s an American administration to do? Turkey poses honest quandaries for U.S. policymakers. Are we better off, to use Lyndon Johnson’s line about J. Edgar Hoover, with Erdogan “inside the tent, pissing out, than outside pissing in”? Turkey dominates NATO’s southern flank, and the air base at Incirlik has served a useful role in the fight against the Islamic State. There have been calls to kick Turkey out of the Alliance — exactly how isn’t clear — which might be emotionally satisfying and morally justified. But it would do nothing to improve Ankara’s domestic or international behavior and would probably worsen it.

None of that means, however, that the U.S. should lift a finger on Erdogan’s behalf. Barack Obama tried to embrace him early on as a model for Muslim democracy, a policy that proved to be nearly as fruitless as the Russia Reset. Trump, who has yet to appoint an ambassador to Turkey, has gone further, fulsomely calling Erdogan “a friend of mine” who gets “very high marks” for his leadership.

That may not be surprising, since Trump seems never to have met a thug he doesn’t want to imitate and flatter. What’s inexplicable is why the administration, led by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, would go ahead with the F-35 deliveries after Republican and Democratic senators tried to block the delivery until Turkey releases Pastor Brunson, drops its bid to buy Russian missiles, and improves its overall behavior.

The F-35 was leverage. We just squandered it. Worse, we did it just days before the election, handing Erdogan a political prize that he can wield as evidence that the United States doesn’t dare to oppose him and that he can continue to behave as he pleases. In the meantime, a country now moving into Russia’s orbit will acquire one of the most sophisticated pieces of military hardware ever made.

If and when Erdogan goes fully anti-American — he’s already nine-tenths of the way there — what’s to keep him from allowing Russian technicians to take a closer look, so they might gain a better idea of how to shoot it down? Or from using it against American allies in the region, including Israel? If Obama were making this delivery today, Republicans would call it treason.

It will be a lucky thing for Turks if Erdogan fails to win another mandate for five more years of political, social and ethnic repression. Turkey is a beautiful country of remarkable people that could yet show that a Muslim state can also be prosperous, tolerant and democratic.

Should that happen, history will record that the United States did nothing to help, and much to hinder, the forces of freedom. As with so much that the Trump administration does, it’s not a surprise, but it’s still a shock.






Robert Fulford

National Post, June 15, 2018


In Germany, of all places, anti-Semitism has recently made a fresh and ominous appearance. It became clear when mobs in Berlin reacted to U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital by waving Palestinian flags while burning Israel’s flag beneath the Brandenburg Gate.

This is one of many countries where a revived anti-Semitism is apparent — Canada and the U.S. are others, where anti-Jewish vandalism is increasing. The German government considers it so disturbing that a commission has been created to deal specifically with prejudice against Jews. Polling in recent years indicates that old stereotypes still live on in the German imagination. For instance, about 10 per cent of the population apparently believes that Jews are now too powerful in Germany.

Sawsan Chebli, a deputy minister in the Berlin government, has argued that Germans should know more about the Holocaust, the central crime of their history. She thinks every student in Germany should make at least one visit to a death camp — a fairly sure way of grasping the emotional and moral impact of triumphant anti-Semitism.

Chebli is a 39-year-old German-born daughter of Palestinian asylum seekers. She’s said that, “My father is a pious Muslim, hardly speaks German, can neither read nor write, but he is more integrated than many functionaries of the AfD (the powerful, popular Allianz für Deutschland).” By “integrated” she means he grasps the meaning of German history.

The AfD, a right-wing party proud of its patriotism, holds that Germany is self-destructively obsessed with the Nazi past. While not anti-Semitic, it holds that Germany should be seen as a “normal” state, rather than a place known mainly for its shameful behaviour. But is it possible to kill six million people and be judged “normal” seven decades later? The AfD hopes to forget the past, not really a possibility.

But if Germany has a troubling amount of anti-Jewish bigotry, Turkey is experiencing a tidal wave. Attacks on synagogues are reported, and programming on the government-owned TV network is clearly anti-Jewish. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and other politicians from the ruling AKP use Jews and Israel as scapegoats in campaigning for the general election on June 24. The state-controlled media recently blamed the “Jewish lobby” for the sudden drop of the value in Turkish currency.

On social media the treatment of Jews is outrageous. “Hitler and Nazi Germany will be known and remembered with gratitude and respect” is one line that appears. Another is a quote attributed to Hitler: “One day you will curse me for every Jew I did not kill.”

In Turkey, Adolf Hitler has become a hero and a best-seller. Mein Kampf sells as many as 50,000 copies a year. Publishers feverishly pursue Hitler’s admirers. Thirty-five separate publishing houses have printed translations by at least 21 different translators. Eight new editions came out in 2016, nine in 2017. Hitler’s manic memoirs are now on sale not only in bookstores but also in supermarkets, including the 1,800 stores in the Migros chain.

After all these years, what can they find in Hitler, these Turkish readers? Perhaps they are simply looking for confirmation of what they have always believed. Prejudice teaches envy, which leads to malice. Jews are seen as too prosperous and too powerful. Reuven Brenner, a management professor writing last week in the Wall Street Journal, sees this as a result of Jewish history.

“Self-reliance has been a necessity,” he explains. The Jews were never numerous enough to achieve much in politics or through military power. They focused on scientific, commercial and financial success. “Jews’ success through ages and countries despite severe discrimination” encourages jealousy in those who blame others for their own lack of achievement. Anti-Semitism is in essence a narrative of vain ambitions and failed dreams. It is immune to rational argument but that’s part of its power: it appeals to those who would like to think but cannot.




On Topic Links

After Erdogan’s Victory, What Should Israel Do?: Herb Keinon, Jerusalem Post, June 26, 2018—Gazans might have shot off fireworks in celebration, and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas may have put in a congratulatory call, but there was obviously no joy in Jerusalem on Tuesday at Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s victory – and that of his party – in Sunday’s election.

Turkey: Glorification of Murder, Martyrdom and Child Soldiers: Uzay Bulut, Gatestone Institute, June 19, 2018—Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz recently announced that the government was shutting down a Turkish nationalist mosque in Vienna and dissolving a group called the Arab Religious Community that runs six mosques, according to the Associated Press. “Parallel societies, political Islam and tendencies toward radicalization have no place in our country,” Kurz told reporters.

U.S. Islamists Ignore Erdogan’s Authoritarianism, Celebrate Win: IPT News, June 26, 2018—A number of American-Islamists are hailing Turkish President Tayyip Recep Erdogan’s election Monday to a new five-year term as a win for democracy.

Turkey Seeks Arrests of 138 for Links to US-Based Cleric: National Post, June 26, 2018—Turkey’s state-run news agency says authorities have issued initial detention warrants for 138 people, including military personnel, for suspected links to a network led by a U.S.-based cleric who Turkey accuses of orchestrating a 2016 failed coup attempt.



Turkey and Israel: From Loveless to Fracas: Burak Bekdil, Gatestone Institute, May 29, 2018— When Turkey and Israel decided to normalize their badly strained ties in December 2016…

Erdogan: Anti-Semite and Regional Threat: Prof. Efraim Inbar, Israel Hayom, May 18, 2018 — Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Islamist party, the Justice and Development Party (AKP), have ruled Turkey since 2002.

Is It Time to Carve Turkey Out of NATO?: Doug Bandow, American Conservative, May 24, 2018— President Recep Tayyip Erdogan hopes to renew his hold on power in elections next month.

Turkey Turns On Its Christians: Anne-Christine Hoff, Middle East Quarterly, June 01, 2018— While Christians make up less than half a percent of Turkey’s population…

On Topic Links

10 Reasons to Tank the F-35 Jet Sale to Turkey: Prof. Efraim Inbar, Israel Hayom, May 24, 2018

Endgame for the U.S. -Turkey Relationship: Caroline Glick, Breaking Israel News, May 29, 2018

The Complex, and Often Toxic, Israel-Turkey Relationship: Seth J. Frantzman, Jerusalem Post, May 16, 2018

Erdoğan’s Turkey: A Caliphate in the Making?: Zvi Mazel, JNS, May 21, 2018



Burak Bekdil

Gatestone Institute, May 29, 2018

When Turkey and Israel decided to normalize their badly strained ties in December 2016, after more than six years of downgraded diplomatic relations, the first thing they did, as the protocol dictates, was to appoint ambassadors to each other’s capital. With a theoretical new chapter opening in troubled relations, Turkey and Israel appointed two prominent career diplomats, Kemal Ökem and Eitan Na’eh, respectively.

This author’s pessimistic guess at the time was: “The diplomats may be willing, but with (Turkish President Recep Tayyip) Erdoğan’s persistent Islamist ideological pursuits, they would seem to have only a slim chance of succeeding”. In essence, Erdoğan had pragmatically agreed to shake hands with Israel, but his ideological hostility to the Jewish state and his ideological love affair with Hamas had not disappeared. After less than a year and a half, the Turkish and Israeli embassies in Tel Aviv and Ankara are once again ambassador-less. The loveless date has turned into a tussle.

“A crime against humanity,” Turkish prime minister, Binali Yıldırım, shouted after clashes between Israeli security forces and Palestinian protesters caused the deaths of dozens of demonstrators. Erdoğan described the incidents as a “genocide” and Israel as a “terrorist state.” “No matter from what side, whether from the United States or Israel, I curse this humanitarian plight, this genocide,” he said. Then what would naturally happen happened.

Turkey recalled Ökem “for consultations” and told Na’eh to leave the country “for a while.” Na’eh was shown on Turkish television undergoing an airport security check in public view in an apparent plot that aimed to degrade him in the eyes of the public. In return, Israel asked the Turkish Consul General in Jerusalem to temporarily to leave the country.

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Twitter that Erdoğan was in no position to “preach morality to us.” Netanyahu tweeted: “There is no doubt he (Erdoğan) well understands terrorism and slaughter.” Erdoğan tweeted back that Netanyahu was the leader of “an apartheid state that has occupied a defenseless people’s lands for 60+ years in violation of U.N. resolutions.” He added: “Want a lesson in humanity? Read the 10 commandments”.

A member of the Knesset, Itzik Shmuli (Zionist Union), replied to Erdogan: “We will not accept lectures from the anti-Semitic Turkish butcher, who blows up daily thousands of Kurds living in northwestern Syria, and whose country is responsible for the massacre of the Armenian nation and the historical atrocities done to the Assyrians”. Anger in the Knesset led to various retaliatory proposals including cancelling joint meetings with senior Turkish officials, calls for Israelis to cancel vacations in Turkey and calls for Israel to recognize the rights of the Kurdish minority in Syria. More importantly, some members of the Knesset proposed passing a bill that recognized the early 20th century killing of hundreds of thousands of Armenians under Ottoman rule as genocide.

In Turkey, Erdoğan summoned an emergency meeting of the 57-member Organization of Islamic Cooperation. His government quickly put together a massive anti-Israeli meeting in Istanbul. There, Erdoğan falsely compared Israel’s actions in Gaza to the Nazi persecution of the Jews in the Holocaust during World War II. “There is no difference between the atrocity faced by the Jewish people in Europe 75 years ago and the brutality that our Gaza brothers are subjected to,” he said.

Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu called for Israel to be taken to the International Criminal Court (ICC). Yuval Steinitz, Israel’s minister for national infrastructure, energy and water, replied: “If Çavuşoğlu would look at what Turkey is doing to the Kurds both in Turkey and in Syria, he would understand that Turkey is ‘ripe’ to end up at the ICC long before Israel.”

Ironically, a helping hand to Erdoğan in the latest row with Israel came from Jews. Along the sidelines of his state visit to Britain, Erdoğan met in London on May 15 with members of the anti-Zionist Neturei Karta International organization, a group that is against the existence of the state of Israel. “We have to realize and understand that helping the state of Israel is not in the favor of Jewish people,” Elahanan Beck, the chief rabbi of Neturei Karta, said. “If you want to help the Jewish people, follow the example of what the Turkish president did: Withdraw your ambassador from there and come out in the clear”.

The only Jewish friends Erdoğan could make were the anti-Zionist Jews. The Turkish president has never hidden his anti-Zionist (and pro-Hamas) ideology. Speaking at a United Nations forum in 2013, Erdoğan said Zionism was a crime against humanity “like fascism and Islamophobia”. How could there ever be long-lasting peace between a Zionist state and another nation whose president persistently thinks Zionism is a crime against humanity?                               Contents


ERDOGAN: ANTI-SEMITE AND REGIONAL THREAT                                                                              Prof. Efraim Inbar

Israel Hayom, May 18, 2018

Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Islamist party, the Justice and Development Party (AKP), have ruled Turkey since 2002. Erdogan’s Turkey has gradually distanced itself from the Kemalist Republican tradition and the West, adopting domestic and foreign policies fueled by Ottoman and Islamist impulses.

His frequent outbursts in the last decade against Israel are a result of a foreign policy reorientation that no longer sees Israel as a strategic ally in a tough neighborhood, and Erdogan’s desire to have good relations with the Muslim world. Like other Muslim states, Turkey has a soft spot for the Palestinians. Moreover, Erdogan really dislikes Jews. He holds a rich record of anti-Semitic statements, which burst forth in Pavlovian fashion following any Israeli-Palestinian clash.

Erdogan’s upbringing and political trajectory indicates that he is a Turkish version of the Muslim Brotherhood. Under Erdogan, Turkey has gradually adopted policies that amount to a wholesale attempt to Islamize the country. This includes putting restrictions on the sale of alcohol, enhancing the status of religious schools, encouraging the establishment of Muslim-oriented institutions of learning, and nominating Islamists to sensitive positions in the public and private sectors.

Erdogan has put Turkey on the road to authoritarianism. Infringements on human rights have grown gradually. In truth, Turkey never has had a political system with checks and balances able to constrain attempts to consolidate power around one politician. In recent years, Erdogan has weakened further the few constitutional constraints against “Putinization” of the Turkish political system. Capitalizing on the failed coup of 2016, Erdogan pressed for a presidential political system, further centralizing power.

The longer Erdogan rules, the more power-hungry he seems to become. His authoritarian personality becomes clearer every day. The Turkish press is hardly free. Erdogan arrests even Islamist journalists that are critical of his policies. His party has infiltrated the judicial system and the police. Many foci of power, such as the bureaucracy, the banking system, industrial associations and trade unions have been mostly coopted by the AKP. Opposition political parties are largely discredited. The military, once active in politics as the defender of the Kemalist secular tradition, has been successfully sidelined.

Islamism has also colored Turkish foreign policy under Erdogan. Despite the fact that Turkey is a member of NATO, Erdogan is playing a double game with regards to the fight against the Islamic State organization. Turkey pretends to cooperate with the US in the attempt to contain radical Islam, but actually supports ISIS. It has allowed passage of volunteers through Turkish territory to join ISIS in Iraq. ISIS received logistical support via Turkey and sends its wounded militants for treatment in Turkey. Turkish military forces stood idly by the besieged city of Kobani, just across the Turkish border, while the Islamists killed Kurdish fighters. Turkey has denied the American air force access to Turkish bases, forcing the US to use distant bases when attacking ISIS targets. ISIS remnants in Syria have found refuge in Turkish-controlled Syrian territory, too.

Turkey is also openly supporting another radical Islamist organization – Hamas. Despite the Western designation of Hamas a terrorist organization, Ankara regularly hosts Hamas representatives that meet the highest Turkish dignitaries. Hamas, an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, holds rabid anti-American positions. Moreover, the Turkish branch of Hamas has been involved in a series of attempts to carry out terrorist attacks against Israel, and in strengthening Hamas cells in the Palestinian Authority.

Turkey, a historic rival of Persia, even has warm relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran. Erdogan has admitted feeling more at ease in the bazaars of Tehran than on the Champs-Élysées. In June 2010, Turkey voted at the U.N. Security Council against a U.S.-sponsored resolution meant to impose a new round of sanctions on Iran. It has helped Iran to circumvent sanctions.

Israel has always shown an interest in having cordial relations with Turkey, an important regional power. Following this week’s mutual expulsion of diplomats, Jerusalem has no desire for a further escalation in the bilateral relationship. It is advisable to adopt a policy clearly distinguishing between the Erdogan government and the people of Turkey. The struggle over the soul of Turkey is not over yet, and sensible Turks may yet be able to overcome the current dark days.

Erdogan deserves to be portrayed as he is: an anti-Semitic Islamist, a ruthless dictator and an impulsive bully. Yet, Israel should resist the temptation to “punish” Turkey by adopting a resolution in Knesset recognizing the “Armenian genocide” – an empty gesture that will only antagonize many Turks of many political hues. Israel should ring the alarm bells about Turkish adventurism. Under Erdogan, Turkey has become a dangerous country. It is challenging the agreed borders with Greece. It bullies Cyprus, a third of which is occupied by Turkish forces. It has a military presence in Iraq and Syria and bases in Qatar and Sudan. It dreams of establishing a front against Israel on the Golan Heights.

Therefore, it is imperative that the U.S. administration and Congress halt the sale of F-35 fighter jets to Turkey, as well as any other military equipment in the pipeline, in order to prevent strengthening the Turkish military. Erdogan’s Turkey is not a reliable Western ally. Strengthening the Turkish military might encourage Erdogan to engage in additional military adventures in the Middle East. Turkey is a serious problem for Israel, but also for the moderate Sunni states and for the West.

 [To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]




Doug Bandow

American Conservative, May 24, 2018

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan hopes to renew his hold on power in elections next month. His authority is not yet absolute: a judge recently ordered the release of several journalists convicted on dubious terrorism charges. Although they are now free on appeal, few observers believe they will ultimately prevail in a judicial system dominated by Erdogan.

Since the attempted coup in July 2016, the government has arrested around 160,000 people, imprisoned an estimated 50,000, and tossed another 152,000 public employees from their jobs. Many of the latter are effectively unemployable, denied government work while private employers are afraid to hire them. Substantial numbers of Turks have lost jobs at private companies responding to government pressure.

Among those arrested was Taner Kilic, the Turkey chair of Amnesty International. Journalists also have endured Erdogan’s wrath: 300 have been detained and 160 have been tried so far. Personal assets and entire businesses have been confiscated, and more than 1,500 non-governmental organizations have been shut down, mostly for alleged terrorist offenses.

Turkey’s tilt toward dictatorship does not make it unique among America’s allies. At least the Turkish government still holds elections that allow some genuine opposition. In fact, Erdogan advanced the presidential and parliamentary elections from 2019 to June 24 to improve his chances, though few imagine him losing.

However, Turkey’s political environment is still far from free. Human Rights Watch pointed out that last year’s constitutional referendum, which barely passed, was conducted “in an environment of heavy media censorship, with many journalists and parliamentarians from the pro-Kurdish opposition in jail.” Last month the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein urged the end of the state of emergency. He observed: “It is difficult to imagine how credible elections can be held in an environment where dissenting views and challenges to the ruling party are penalized so severely.”

More serious for Washington, Ankara no longer is a true U.S. ally. Turkey’s activities increasingly inhibit important American international objectives and are inconsistent with its membership in NATO. The Muslim state gained its reputation as a critical ally during the Cold War, guarding Europe’s southeastern flank. Yet after downing a Russian plane in 2015, Erdogan did more than mend relations with the Putin government: Turkey formed a working relationship with Moscow in Syria. Even though they disagree on the appropriate fate of the Assad government, both want the U.S. out of northern Syria.

Turkey’s incursion directly threatens U.S. policy. Kurdish forces were America’s most faithful ally against ISIS in Syria. They unsurprisingly felt betrayed by the U.S., and may be less than enthusiastic about backing other American objectives. Worse, the Turkish invasion has placed the United States in between the combatants, leading Turkish officials and American military officers to exchange threats as Ankara threatened to attack U.S. forces based near Kurdish militias. Ankara has always prioritized combatting Kurdish militias and preventing the emergence of an autonomous Kurdish state along its border over fighting the Islamic State. Indeed, in the early years of Syria’s civil war, Ankara cooperated with ISIS, tolerating the cross-border movement of men and materiel and sale of captured oil.

Turkey once earned brownie points in Washington for supporting Israel. However, Erdogan has since shifted in an Islamist direction and taken a distinctly hostile stance toward Israel. Cyprus also remains divided by Turkey’s 1974 invasion. In the name of its client, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, Ankara has actively interfered in Cyprus’s attempt to develop off-shore natural gas deposits.

Ankara also threatens Greece, another NATO ally. Turkey never accepted Greek sovereignty over nearby islands and the surrounding sea, and Turkish air and sea incursions have increased in recent months. The game turned deadly in April, when a Greek pilot died in a crash after intercepting two Turkish planes in Greek airspace. Greece just announced plans to spend $1.45 billion to upgrade its F-16 interceptors to better match Turkey’s. Ankara’s pending purchase of Russian S-400 missiles poses another challenge to the transatlantic alliance.

If Turkey acted like a real ally it would be easier to tolerate Ankara’s growing authoritarianism, including when Erdogan’s visiting bodyguards literally beat peaceful American protesters outside the Turkish embassy in May 2017. After all, Washington has rarely allowed a few human rights violations to get in the way of a beautiful geopolitical friendship. But the Erdogan government fails on both counts….

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]    



Anne-Christine Hoff

Middle East Quarterly, June 01, 2018

While Christians make up less than half a percent of Turkey’s population, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his ruling Justice and Reconciliation Party (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi, AKP) depict them as a grave threat to the stability of the nation. With Erdoğan’s jihadist rhetoric often stereotyping Christian Turkish citizens as not real Turks but rather as Western stooges and collaborators, many Turks seem to be tilting toward an “eliminationist anti-Christian mentality,” to use historian Daniel Goldhagen’s term. Small wonder that the recent launch of an official online genealogy service allowing Turks to trace their ancestry has kindled a tidal xenophobic wave on the social media welcoming the fresh possibility to expose “Crypto-Armenians, Greeks, and Jews” mascarading as true Turks.

Persecution of Turkey’s Christian minority has long predated Erdoğan and the AKP. As it stood on the verge of extinction, the Ottoman Empire engaged in mass deportations and massacres that culminated in the Armenian genocide. The end of World War I saw the expulsion of more than a million Greeks, and the position of the dwindling Christian community only somewhat improved in Mustafa Kemal Atatürk’s secularist republic. Yet while Kemalist Turkey paid lip service to the equality of its non-Muslim minorities, the AKP unabashedly excludes these groups from Turkey’s increasingly Islamist national ethos.

An ominous indication of what lay in store for the religious minorities was afforded as early as December 1998 when Erdoğan, then mayor of Istanbul and an opposition politician, announced that the “mosques are our barracks, the domes our helmets, the minarets our bayonets, and the faithful our soldiers,” quoting a line from a poem by the nineteenth-century nationalist poet Ziya Gökalp underscoring the Islamist foundation of Turkish identity. And while this recitation landed Erdoğan in prison for inciting religion-based hatred, once at the helm, he steadily realized this vision, systematically undoing Atatürk’s secularist legacy and Islamizing Turkey’s public space through such means as the government-operated Religious Affairs Directorate (Diyanet), which pays the salaries of the country’s 110,000 imams and controls the content of their Friday sermons.

Things came to a head during the July 15, 2016 abortive coup when the regime ordered the imams to go to their mosques and urge the faithful to take to the streets to quash the attempted revolt. Not surprisingly, this Islamist-nationalist reassertion was accompanied by numerous Christophobic manifestations (in Ayyan Hirsi Ali’s words), notably attacks on churches throughout the country. In Malatya, for example, a gang chanting “Allahu Akbar” broke the glass panels of the front door of a Protestant church while, in the Black Sea city of Trabzon, rioters smashed the windows of the Santa Maria Catholic church. Witnesses said the attackers used hammers to break down the door of the church before Muslim neighbors drove them away. As Istanbul pastor Yüce Kabakçı lamented: “The reality is that Turkey is neither a democracy nor a secular republic. There is no division between government affairs and religious affairs. There’s no doubt that the government uses the mosques to get its message across to its grassroots supporters. There is an atmosphere in Turkey right now that anyone who isn’t Sunni is a threat to the stability of the nation. Even the educated classes here don’t associate personally with Jews or Christians. It’s more than suspicion. It’s a case of let’s get rid of anyone who isn’t Sunni.”

Anti-Christian incitement continued apace after the coup. In February 2017, Turkey’s Association of Protestant Churches released its annual “Rights Violation Report,” which claimed that anti-Christian hate speech had increased in Turkey in both social and conventional media, reaching extreme levels during the 2016 Christmas season. Churches in particular faced serious terror threats with the government doing little to stop these open Christophobic displays…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]



On Topic Links

10 Reasons to Tank the F-35 Jet Sale to Turkey: Prof. Efraim Inbar, Israel Hayom, May 24, 2018 —The F-35 is a U.S.-manufactured fifth-generation combat platform with stealth capabilities, probably the best fighter jet in the world. (Israel just received its first F-35 jets, and has used them operationally over Syria.)

Endgame for the U.S. -Turkey Relationship: Caroline Glick, Breaking Israel News, May 29, 2018—On Monday, NATO ally Turkey withdrew its ambassador from Washington. The severe step is meant to punish the U.S. for opening an embassy in Jerusalem on Monday. Also Monday, Turkey expelled Israel’s ambassador to Turkey. It had already withdrawn its ambassador from Tel Aviv.

The Complex, and Often Toxic, Israel-Turkey Relationship: Seth J. Frantzman, Jerusalem Post, May 16, 2018—“Shame on you!” tweeted Ibrahim Kalin, adviser to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, on Monday. Kalin condemned the killing of Palestinians in Gaza and contrasted it with the “singing and celebrating” as the US moved its embassy to Jerusalem. “The world shares this shame in its silence.”

Erdoğan’s Turkey: A Caliphate in the Making?: Zvi Mazel, JNS, May 21, 2018—The new crisis with Israel initiated by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan following U.S. President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and the Gaza so called “March of Return” demonstrations, taken together with his decision to advance the presidential election, should be regarded as an integral part of his bid for regional hegemony.





Emerging Islamist Political Clout Accelerates Europe’s Self-Islamization: Abigail R. Esman, IPT News, Apr. 17, 2018— Forget the beheading videos, the ISIS propaganda on social media, even the terrorist attacks themselves.

Belgium: First Islamic State in Europe?: Giulio Meotti, Gatestone Institute, Apr. 22, 2018— The French acronym of Belgium’s ISLAM Party stands for “Integrity, Solidarity, Liberty, Authenticity, Morality”.

The Islamization of Turkey: Rauf Baker, BESA, Apr. 22, 2018— Victor Orbán’s landslide electoral victory on Sunday, gaining 134 seats out of 199 in Hungary’s parliament…

Hard Truths About an Ancient Doctrine: Machla Abramovitz, Michpacha, Mar. 14, 2018 — Last December‚ about two hours after President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, the media was in a tizzy.

On Topic Links

Struggling to Prevent Terrorist Attacks, France Wants to ‘Reform’ Islam: James McAuley, Washington Post, Apr. 18, 2018

A Month of Islam and Multiculturalism in Germany: March 2018: Soeren Kern, Gatestone Institute, Apr. 21, 2018

90 Years In, The Muslim Brotherhood Faces An Uncharted Future: Hany Ghoraba, IPT News, Apr. 19, 2018

Honor Killing Is Not Just a Muslim Problem: Phyllis Chesler, Tablet, Apr. 15, 2018





Abigail R. Esman

IPT News, Apr. 17, 2018

Forget the beheading videos, the ISIS propaganda on social media, even the terrorist attacks themselves. Europe, says counterterrorism expert Afshin Ellian, is Islamizing itself, and in the process, the Western values on which its democracies are built are increasingly put at risk.

Take, for instance, Belgium’s ISLAM Party, which now hopes to participate in the country’s October local elections in 28 regions. (Its name serves as an acronym for “Integrité, Solidarité, Liberté, Authenticité, Moralité.) Its ultimate aim: transforming Belgium into an Islamic state. Items high on its agenda include separating men and women on public transportation, and the incorporation of sharia law – as long as this does not conflict with current laws –according to the party’s founder, Redouane Ahrouch. His own behavior, however, suggests that his respect for “current laws” and mores has its bounds: He reportedly refuses to shake hands with women, and in 2003, he received a six-month sentence for beating and threatening his wife. Currently, the Islam Party has two elected representatives in office – one in Anderlecht, the other in Molenbeek – both regions that happen to be known as hotbeds of extremism.

Or consider DENK, Holland’s pro-Islam party founded in 2015 by Turkish-Dutch politicians Selçuk Ozturk and Tunahan Kuzu. The party platform, which supports boycotts and sanctions against Israel, also discourages assimilation, calling instead for “mutual acceptance” of multiple cultures. Non-Muslims, for instance, would apparently be required to “accept” the Muslim extremist father who beats his daughter for refusing an arranged marriage, or for becoming too “Westernized” for his taste. It’s his culture, after all. DENK also calls for a “racism police force” to monitor allegedly racist comments and actions. Those found guilty would be placed in a government “racism register,” and banned from government jobs and other employment.

So far, such pro-Islamist views have served the party well. In local Dutch elections last month, DENK (which means “think” in Dutch) gained three seats in Rotterdam, totaling four seats among 45 total and edging out Geert Wilders’ far-right Partij voor de Vrijheid (PVV), which fell from three seats to one. In Amsterdam, which also has 45 seats, a full 50 percent of Dutch-Moroccans and about two-thirds of Dutch-Turks gave the party a three-seat win in its first election there, as well. Many of these voters, according to post-election analyses, moved to DENK from the center-left Labor Party (PvdA), clearly feeling more at home with a more overtly pro-Muslim politic.

Similarly, France’s Union of Muslim Democrats (UDMF) has taken a number of voters from the Green Party by promising to defend Muslims. UDMF’s online program statement condemns burqa and headscarf bans. What’s more, in its pretense of supporting what it calls the “sweet dream of Democracy, Union and Human Rights,” the party loudly (though rightly) condemns “anti-Muslim speeches” that “lead the most psychologically fragile people to commit acts of unprecedented violence.” Examples of such “unprecedented violence” follow: a German white supremacist, who killed an Egyptian woman wearing a veil in 2009, and the stabbing of a French Muslim in Vaucluse. “Heavy weapons attacks have exploded in Europe since the beginning of the year against Muslim places of worship,” the statement reads.

What the party statement does not mention anywhere are the attacks by Muslims in Paris and Nice that together killed 240 people between January 2015 and July 2016; the attack by a Muslim extremist on a Jewish school in Toulouse in 2012; and the kidnapping and heinous torture of Ilan Halimi, a 23-year-old Jew, in 2006. These are among other acts of “unprecedented violence” by Islamists.

UDMF also calls for protection of the family and its “essential role in the education of children,” while citing Article 14 of the International Convention on the Rights of the Child which calls for respecting “the right of the child to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion.” From here, the party demands the “right and duty of parents….to guide the child in the exercise of the above-mentioned right.” Implied here is the demand that parents be allowed to treat their children as they see fit according to their religious beliefs – including to beat daughters who refuse an arranged marriage, becoming “too Westernized,” and so on.

Most disturbing are the large numbers of Muslims who have all flocked to parties like DENK and UDMF throughout Europe. Rather than moving towards more secular, traditionally democratic political movements, Europe’s Muslims are apparently increasingly distancing themselves from the “European” side of their identity and identifying more with Islam and the Muslim community. And this, too, is part of Europe’s “self-Islamizing,” the result of taking too unsure a hand, too ambivalent a position, on the issue of assimilation.

Indeed, as Ellian points out, European institutions have enabled this cultural separation. Photographs taken last November during a meeting of the Muslim student union at Amsterdam’s Vrije Universiteit revealed that men and women sat on opposite sides of the auditorium aisle. Such events are common, according to journalist Carel Brendel, who first reported on the incident. “Yet the administrations [of these schools] do little or nothing about it, despite the fact that their own rules forbid” such gender separation,” he told the Investigative Project. Brendel has also exposed links between the Amsterdam police and Abdelilah el-Amrani, a Muslim Brotherhood-connected imam invited by the police department to lead last year’s annual Iftar dinner marking the end of a day’s fast during Ramadan. El-Amrani, Brendel said, also oversees a group of interconnected organizations, including an Islamic school that came under investigation last year for having separate entrances for boys and girls.

Worth noting about the event, according to Brendel, is that no other government body sponsors a religious ceremony. Nor does any Dutch government agency, let alone the police, host a Passover Seder or observe any other religious event with the public. In addition, and perhaps more alarming, a spokesperson for the Rotterdam police posted to Twitter that day that “police will be difficult to reach tonight, due to various Iftar meals.” City security and the safety of citizens, in other words, was being compromised in the name of a religious celebration.

Elsewhere, other signs of self-Islamization can be found in the rise of other Muslim parties in Austria as well as a failed effort in Sweden; a proposed ban on the British press against identifying terrorists as Muslim; the proliferation of sharia courts in the UK; and the repeated efforts by some Canadian officials to legalize sharia – a debate that recently has been revived. While all of this involves political movements, it stands as a reminder of what the ideology behind the “war on terrorism” is really all about: an attack against our culture. We need to do better at protecting it.



Giulio Meotti

Gatestone Institute, Apr. 22, 2018

The French acronym of Belgium’s ISLAM Party stands for “Integrity, Solidarity, Liberty, Authenticity, Morality”. The leaders of the ISLAM Party apparently want to turn Belgium into an Islamic State. They call it “Islamist democracy” and have set a target date: 2030.

According to the French magazine Causeur, “the program is confusingly simple: replace all the civil and penal codes with sharia law. Period”. Created on the eve of the 2012 municipal ballot, the ISLAM Party immediately received impressive results. Its numbers are alarming. The effect of this new party, according to Michaël Privot, an expert on Islam, and Sebastien Boussois, a political scientist, could be the “implosion of the social body”. Some Belgian politicians, such as Richard Miller, are now advocating banning the ISLAM Party.

The French weekly magazine Le Point details the plans of the ISLAM Party: It would like to “prevent vice by banning gaming establishments (casinos, gaming halls and betting agencies) and the lottery”. Along with authorizing the wearing the Muslim headscarf at school and an agreement about the Islamic religious holidays, the party wants all schools in Belgium to offer halal meat on their school menus. Redouane Ahrouch, one of the party’s three founders, also proposed segregating men and women on public transport. Ahrouch belonged in the 1990s to the Belgian Islamic Center, a nest of Islamic fundamentalism where candidates for jihad in Afghanistan and Iraq were recruited.

The ISLAM Party knows that demography is on its side. Ahrouch has said, “in 12 years, Brussels will principally be composed of Muslims”. In the upcoming Belgian elections, the ISLAM Party is now set to run candidates in 28 municipalities. On first glance, that looks like a derisory proportion compared to 589 Belgian municipalities, but it demonstrates the progress and ambitions of this new party. In Brussels, the party will be represented on 14 lists out of a possible 19. That is most likely why the Socialist Party now fears the rise of the ISLAM Party. In 2012, the party succeeded, when running in just three Brussels districts, in obtaining an elected representative in two of them (Molenbeek and Anderlecht), and failing only narrowly in Brussels-City.

Two years later, during the 2014 parliamentary elections, the ISLAM Party tried to expand its base in two constituencies, Brussels-City and Liège. Once again, the results were impressive for a party that favors the introduction of sharia, Islamic law, into Belgium. In Brussels, they won 9,421 votes (almost 2%). This political movement apparently started in Molenbeek, “the Belgian radicals’ den”, a “hotbed of recruiters for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant”. Jihadists there were apparently plotting terror attacks all over Europe and even in Afghanistan. The French author Éric Zemmour, facetiously suggested that instead of bombing Raqqa, Syria, France should “bomb Molenbeek”. At the moment in Molenbeek, 21 municipal officials out of 46 are Muslim. “The European capital,” wrote Le Figaro, “will be Muslim in twenty years”.

“Nearly a third of the population of Brussels already is Muslim, indicated Olivier Servais, a sociologist at the Catholic University of Louvain. “The practitioners of Islam, due to their high birth rate, should be the majority ‘in fifteen or twenty years’. Since 2001… Mohamed is the most common name given to boys born in Brussels”.

The ISLAM Party is working in a favorable environment. According to the mayor of Brussels, Yvan Mayeur, all the mosques in the European capital are now “in the hands of the Salafists”. A few weeks ago, the Belgian government terminated the long-term lease of the country’s largest and oldest mosque, the Grand Mosque of Brussels, to the Saudi royal family, “as part of what officials say is an effort to combat radicalization”. Officials said that the mosque, was a “hotbed for extremism”. A confidential report last year revealed that the police had uncovered 51 organizations in Molenbeek with suspected ties to jihadism. Perhaps it is time for sleepy Belgium to begin to wake up?




                                      THE ISLAMIZATION OF TURKEY

          Rauf Baker                            

                BESA, Apr. 22, 2018

The Turkish regime is gradually transforming into a developed, complicated, and more dangerous version of the al-Qaeda organization. The rhetoric and approach seem convergent or even identical. The difference is that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is leading a country of significant geopolitical importance, not a militant group scattered across Afghanistan’s mountains.

If al-Qaeda succeeded in spreading fear across the globe through its terrorist operations, one can only imagine the extreme damage Erdoğan can cause to the MENA region and even the world, particularly in view of his increasing political paranoia and totalitarianism. As he seeks to stay in power indefinitely following a referendum that granted him sweeping powers to run the country largely uncontested, Erdoğan is trying to leave a legacy that will last for decades. To that end, he is using the education system as a repository in which to sow seeds to be harvested later.

The Islamization of the state has been going on systematically, quietly, and slowly for many years, but its pace has increased since the coup attempt in July 2016, with a focus on the education system. Last year, the ruling Muslim Brotherhood-inspired Justice and Development Party (AKP) led by Erdoğan made substantial changes to school curricula, amending more than 170 topics. The Ministry of Education eliminated evolutionary concepts such as “natural selection” and added subjects related to “jihad”. Erdoğan’s government fired more than 33,000 teachers and closed scores of schools over claims that they had ties with those involved in the coup attempt. At the same time, it increased the number of religious schools (“imam hatip”).

The ministry described the changes as “an emphasis on a values-based education” that promotes Erdoğan’s goal of raising a “pious generation”. AKP MP Ahmet Hamdi Çamlı stated last year that “it is useless to teach math to students who do not know jihad”. Prior to the overhaul, the number of students in 537 religious secondary schools reached 270,000 in 2012. In 2017, there were 1,408 and 635,000 students. When we add the 122,000 students attending religious schools in the open education system, the number of students in all religious schools in Turkey reaches 757,000.

Erdoğan has noticeably increased the number of Islamic references in his speeches. He made “jihad” the fountainhead of the war on the Kurdish city of Afrin in Syria, using verses from the “Al-Fath”chapter of the Koran. That chapter uses the Prophet Muhammad’s victory over his enemies to justify military operations. Friday prayer sermons called for “jihad” against the Kurds. When the Turkish army captured Afrin, Erdoğan did not hesitate to call his troops “Islam’s last army”.

Two months ago, during a televised congress of his party, Erdoğan invited a little girl in military uniform onto the stage and told her she would be “martyred” if she were killed while fighting. Several weeks ago, Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ described Erdoğan as a leader “who exerts himself for the sake of God”. Last year, Şevki Yılmaz, a columnist for the government mouthpiece “Yeni Akit” and a close confidante of Erdoğan’s, described al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden as a “national hero”. Yılmaz also said voting “yes” to the constitutional referendum to replace the parliamentary system with a presidential one would be to act as the “Ababeel” did. In the Koran, the Ababeel were heavenly birds sent by God to throw rocks on an army that marched upon Mecca intending to demolish the Kaaba.

All the above comes in parallel with a growing number of public attacks on women under the pretext of that they are wearing “inappropriate clothes”. A video circulated on December 31, 2016 showed two bearded young men handing out leaflets to passersby in the city of Izmir on the prohibition of New Year’s celebrations in Islam. The issue does not only affect Turks. Around half a million Syrian students in Turkey are influenced by Erdoğan’s education policy. Authorities ignore, and sometimes encourage, practices of Syrian school administrations in Turkish cities that focus on religious topics, employ veiled women only, prohibit teachers from wearing nail polish, and enforce a strict Islamic dress code for female students…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]




Machla Abramovitz

Michpacha, Mar. 14, 2018

Last December‚ about two hours after President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, the media was in a tizzy. Pundits were breathlessly prognosticating that the White House move would ignite an explosion of pent-up rage on the Arab street.

Meanwhile, Dr. Harold Rhode went on the radio in Washington, D.C., to explain to a local audience that despite dire warnings to the contrary, he didn’t anticipate any violent outbursts from the Muslim world. Time proved the historian and Islamic affairs expert correct: Except for some staged skirmishes in the West Bank and boilerplate criticism out of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey, the Middle East remained shockingly quiet.

“Jerusalem is only important to Muslims when non-Muslims control it,” Rhode says now, in conversation with Mishpacha. “Had that not been the case, Jordan would have proclaimed it their capital when it was under their control. For Sunni Muslims, the issue of Jerusalem is less religious than political, and for Shiites, it’s all political. Right now, the Muslim street, for the most part, is fed up with its leadership and is sick and tired of being taken advantage of by them for political purposes.”

If anyone could have predicted this outcome, it’s Harold Rhode. His decades of study and living among Muslims in the Middle East has attuned him to how the Muslim world thinks. Rhode received his PhD in Islamic history from Columbia University, specializing in the history of the Turks, Arabs, and Iranians. He studied overseas for years in universities in Iran, Egypt, and Israel. In the 1980s, he went to work as an advisor on the Islamic world for the US Department of Defense.

The Jerusalem issue has exposed deep divisions between the Muslim street and its leadership, but other internal struggles being played out within the Islamic world are of even greater significance to the West. Rhode points out that Jerusalem has always been a focus for other nations, and today, the Palestinians are only part of the crowd. Turkey’s leader, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, issues harsh rhetoric about Jerusalem as a way of reasserting his country’s historic leadership of the Sunni world. And of course, the Iranian regime is obsessed with the Holy City. Harold says a prominent mullah admitted to him personally that according to Shiite tradition, Jerusalem belongs to the Jews. Why then this obsession? He says the ayatollahs hope to exploit the issue to gain dominance in the centuries-old conflict between Shiites and Sunnis.

“Iran, a Shiite country, is using Jerusalem as a tool against the Sunnis,” he explains. “Because the Sunnis, who cannot tolerate Jews running Jerusalem, have not been able to wrest Jerusalem from the Jews, the Shiites say they will do the job for them. For that purpose, the Iranians established Hezbollah and are empowering Hamas. Tehran believes that Israel’s inability to destroy Hezbollah during the 2006 Lebanon War showed the Sunnis that Shiism is the way.”

The entire geopolitical landscape shifted, however, with President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. That announcement, Rhode says, dealt a severe blow to Tehran’s ability to assert itself within the Arab world, exposing it as weak. That, together with the president’s refusal to certify the Iran Deal, has terrified the Iranian government; they don’t know what’s coming next. “For the last five months, Iran hasn’t attacked any US ship in the Gulf,” Rhode points out. “They haven’t attacked anyone. They are petrified, which is good.”



On Topic Links

Struggling to Prevent Terrorist Attacks, France Wants to ‘Reform’ Islam: James McAuley, Washington Post, Apr. 18, 2018—Speaking alongside the flag-draped coffin of a police officer killed in a terrorist attack in southern France, President Emmanuel Macron last month lay blame on “underground Islamism” and those who “indoctrinate on our soil and corrupt daily.”

A Month of Islam and Multiculturalism in Germany: March 2018: Soeren Kern, Gatestone Institute, Apr. 21, 2018—March 1. The Spreewald Elementary School in Berlin’s Schöneberg district hired security guards to protect teachers and students from unruly students. Around 99% of the pupils at the school have a migration background. “Within the past year, the violence has increased so much that we now had to take this measure,” said headmaster Doris Unzeit.

90 Years In, The Muslim Brotherhood Faces An Uncharted Future: Hany Ghoraba, IPT News, Apr. 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.

Honor Killing Is Not Just a Muslim Problem: Phyllis Chesler, Tablet, Apr. 15, 2018—I co-pioneered the study of violence against women in the late 1960s. I focused on women living in North America and Europe who had been psychiatrically diagnosed and hospitalized; were the victims of rape, sexual harassment, incest, intimate partner battering, pornography and prostitution.


The Real Cost of Afrin: Amir Taheri, Gatestone Institute, Mar. 25, 2018— With the Turkish flag hoisted on top of the municipal building in Afrin the other day, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his supporters are in triumphal mood.

Turkey’s Syrian Battleground: Burak Bekdil, BESA, Mar. 21, 2018— In a rather theatrical show, the fall of the city of Afrin – a Kurdish enclave in northwestern Syria…

Navigating the US Collision Course with Turkey: Gregg Roman, The Hill, Mar. 5, 2018— In a rare public policy speech in mid-December, National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster singled out Turkey as one of the two leading state sponsors (alongside Qatar) of “radical Islamist ideology.”

Erdogan’s Ban on Wikipedia Another Example of his Campaign Against Free Speech: Editorial, Globe & Mail, Mar. 7, 2018 — Wikipedia has entries for every Ottoman sultan.

On Topic Links

Turkey Vows to Widen Offensive to Eastern Syria, Iraq: Suzan Fraser & Sarah El Deeb, Globe & Mail, Mar. 19, 2018

Turkey’s Syrian Battleground: Burak Bekdil, BESA, Mar. 21, 2018

“Army Of Islam”: Erdogan’s Plot Against Israel: Dr. Alon Ben-Meir, Jerusalem Post, Mar. 21, 2018

Turkish Leader Claims Muslim Victory Over Europe, Cites Trump’s ‘Alliance’ With Jews as Obstacle: Adam Eliyahu Berkowitz, Breaking Israel News, Mar. 21, 2018



Amir Taheri

Gatestone Institute, Mar. 25, 2018

With the Turkish flag hoisted on top of the municipal building in Afrin the other day, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his supporters are in triumphal mood. In a sense they have the right to be, as this is the first time in almost 100 years that Turkey has scored a military victory against an adversary ready to fight. (Turkey’s occupation of part of Cyprus in 1974 was achieved without major fighting.)

However, the euphoria inspired by what Erdogan terms “an historic victory” would have to be tempered by reality. That NATO’s largest army in Europe should win a war against a ragtag band of lightly armed Kurds is no surprise. This is neither Alp Arsalan, after Malazegrd, nor Sultan Muhammad Fatih after capturing Byzantium.

The capture of Afrin represents a 19th century solution for a 21st century problem that Turkey faces. Judging by official statements from Ankara, Erdogan is trying to create what 19th century strategists termed a cordon sanitaire or a glacis, supposedly to protect Turkey against incursions by Kurdish “terrorists”. However, military history, at least since the debacle of the Maginot Line enterprise in 1939, shows that such concepts as cordon sanitaire and glacis are no longer relevant to modern warfare, especially of the asymmetric kind to which Turkey remains vulnerable. The classical concepts of glacis and cordon sanitaire triggered a process that would lead either to further expansion and empire-building or ultimate irrelevance. To protect a glacis you have to create another glacis next to it, and so on, ad infinitum.

Thus, Erdogan’s glacis in Syrian-Kurdish territory would need protection from neighboring areas in the rest of Syria as well as Kurdish provinces in Iraq, not to mention Iran which could, as it has done for decades, offer the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) safe haven or even operational bases against Turkey. On a more mundane level, the Kurdish “terrorists” that pose a threat to Turkey could always cross the border with little difficulty, a practice that terrorists of all ilk excel in across the globe.

Paradoxically, sole reliance on force and a determined attempt at humiliating the adversary could help rekindle the PKK’s narrative of victimhood as a justification for violence and terror. That is especially regrettable because Turkey’s Kurdish minority has done rather well under Erdogan. Those familiar with the situation on the ground in Turkey know that during Erdogan’s stewardship of the state, the country’s Kurdish-majority areas have come out of abject poverty and enjoy a measure of prosperity they had never known before.

Empirical and anecdotal evidence indicate that the PKK’s Marxist-Leninist ideology and its chimera of a proletarian state replacing the Turkish Republic have limited appeal among Turkey’s Kurds. What sympathy the PKK attracts is rooted in the cluster of so-called “identity issues”, the “them against us” that feeds secessionism even in Scotland or Catalonia. By removing many of those “identity issues”, Erdogan in the first phases of his leadership succeeded in depriving the PKK of much of its ideological fodder. That great achievement was dramatically illustrated by the public change of tone and course by a significant segment of the PKK leadership, notably its founding father the imprisoned Abdullah Ocalan.

The capture of Afrin, even supposing it will be permanent, will not solve Turkey’s Kurdish problem. But, with the law of unintended consequences being triggered, it could lead Turkey into a whole new maze of problems. Already a good part of Turk’s elite troops are bogged down in Cyprus with no end in sight. The glacis that Erdogan wants to build in Syria could end up pinning down even more of Turkey’s elite troops, provoking a strategic imbalance in the nation’s overall defense doctrine and the means needed to sustain it. And that is without mentioning economic cost of such involvements.

The Syrian glacis would also implicate Turkey in any project for recreating a new Syria out of the bits and pieces of a broken state. Other nations currently involved in the Syrian quagmire, including Russia, Iran and the United States, could easily walk away, as their presence does not have a territorial expression. Even if it decided to hang on to a base in Syria, Russia would be able to defend the enclave on the Mediterranean without seeing is own territory threatened by enemy infiltration. Iran could also withdraw its Lebanese and other mercenaries without exposing its own territory to perennial terrorist threats. Turkey, however, could get locked in the Syrian fate as Rwanda is in Congo-Kinshasa’s interminable turmoil…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]     Contents



Burak Bekdil

BESA, Mar. 21, 2018

In a rather theatrical show, the fall of the city of Afrin – a Kurdish enclave in northwestern Syria – after two months of battle between Turkish and Turkey-backed troops and Kurdish militia coincided with the 103rd anniversary of the Turkish victory in Gallipoli. Victory speeches were delivered one after another. Turks cheered in collective euphoria. Front pages were splashed with nationalistic headlines and stories of “our heroic soldiers.”

Among the scenes was footage, posted by the military, of a soldier holding a Turkish flag over a local government building. Another image showed a soldier raising and saluting a Turkish flag over the city.  Even footballers who scored on the pitch, both Turkish and foreign, gave audiences a “soldier’s salute.” The opposition rushed to congratulate the “heroic Turkish army.” Some of that sentiment is real and some fake, especially considering the certainty of arrest if one expresses the slightest objection to Operation Olive Branch.

Erdoğan made contradictory speeches during the campaign. One day he promised that “conquest was near”; on another he said Turkish troops would come to Afrin to clear the city of its terrorist population and return it to its rightful owners. But he has been the main beneficiary of a newfound feeling of glory among Turkey’s increasingly nationalistic masses.

There is already speculation in political circles in Ankara that the Syrian offensive has boosted Erdoğan’s popularity by eight to nine percentage points. According to the BBC’s Mark Lowen, “President Erdoğan has achieved his twin objectives: to remove a key area under (the Kurdish People’s Protection Units) YPG control and to rally the vast majority of Turks behind their commander-in-chief. The jingoism here has been breathtaking. Targeting Turkey’s age-old enemy of the Kurdish militants is a rare uniting force in a polarized country.”

The Syrian war theater has also provided the Turkish military with the opportunity to test some of the indigenous weapons systems local defense companies have developed in recent years. In addition, the “real” military exercises in the Afrin enclave allowed Turkish commanders and defense procurement authorities to better spot technological and operational weaknesses and supremacy. For instance, Turkish drones, armed and unarmed, were intensively used and proved to be very successful assets. But Turkey’s aging US-made and German-made tanks were vulnerable to enemy fire, even when that fire did not come from a modern, regular army.

During the two-month military campaign, Turkey tested some of its new weaponry, and not only in Syria. State-controlled missile maker Roketsan tested a ballistic missile over the Black Sea. Military electronics specialist Aselsan, another state-controlled entity and Turkey’s biggest defense firm, tested its Akkor Pulat active protection system, which will be added to Turkish tanks with priority for the fleet used in Syria. Turkey also wants to add other additional defensive measures to its tanks including explosive reactive armor. Also tested recently and probably heading soon for Syria is Alkar, a 360-degree 120-mm gun system developed by Aselsan.

But then there is the political side of the military campaign in Syria. No doubt, the fall of Afrin dealt a blow to Kurdish aspirations for self-rule in northern Syria and further boosted Turkey’s growing military/political clout in the country. The main loser is the YGP, which has sought to consolidate control over Kurdish areas of Syria in the hopes of forging an autonomous state. (The YPG, which Turkey views as a terrorist organization and an affiliate of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, had controlled Afrin since 2012 in addition to other swaths of territory in northern and eastern Syria.)

Alliances in the area are fragile and complex. Some Syrian Kurds welcomed the Turkish army; some fled to wage guerrilla warfare south and east of Afrin. The Kurds are not monolithic: some feel sympathy for PKK/YPG, but some campaign to break free of the two militant entities. Some Syrian fighters originally took up arms to fight President Bashar al-Assad’s regime but are now fighting the Syrian Kurds. One such fighter complained that Turkey has shifted its focus from regime change in Syria to preventing the emergence of a Kurdish belt in northern Syria. Another says the revolution had gone off course.

Erdoğan, meanwhile, has vowed that the army will not leave Afrin “before the job is done.” He says Turkey will broaden the offensive into northeastern Syria and go to Manbij, where Kurdish forces remain allied with US troops, then go east of the Euphrates and all the way up to the Syrian-Iraqi border. According to the Turkish game plan, the military offensive will not end there. Erdoğan has vowed to fight the PKK in its northern Iraqi stronghold. Press reports said on March 19 that Turkish troops, backed by air cover, had been deployed in northern Iraq amid violent clashes with PKK fighters. Kurdish local officials said Turkish forces were now stationed in the sub-district of Sidakan and had already set up fixed barracks in the border triangle between Iraq, Syria, and Turkey.

All the same, there seems to be a missing link between the military operation and its political goal. In its official language, Turkey says its army is fighting in Syria and Iraq to quash terrorists. It is, however, an open secret that the operation aims to quash Kurdish aspirations for self-rule, which Turkey fears could inspire its own Kurdish minority to demand greater autonomy.

The PKK officially launched its violent campaign in 1984. Since then, more than 40,000 people have been killed in the armed dispute, despite the arrest in 1999 of Abdullah Ocalan, PKK’s jailed leader. Some of Turkey’s Kurds aspired to take up arms long before the Iraqi Kurds consolidated power and set up an autonomous region in the country’s north after the US invasion in 2003, and before the Syrian Kurds built their own enclaves in northern Syria after the Syrian civil war in 2011. Experience shows there might not be a strong linkage between the emergence of Kurdish entities in neighboring countries and Turkish Kurds’ aspirations for self-determination…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]





Gregg Roman

The Hill, Mar. 5, 2018

In a rare public policy speech in mid-December, National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster singled out Turkey as one of the two leading state sponsors (alongside Qatar) of “radical Islamist ideology.” The Turkish government protested the statement as “astonishing, baseless and unacceptable,” which means it was a pretty good start. McMaster’s speech highlighted the emergence of the pernicious threat in Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Turkey.

Since McMaster’s speech, Erdoğan invaded Afrin (controlled by a U.S. ally) in Syria, resulting in the massacre of women, children and the elderly; promoted the use of child soldiers in his fight against the Kurds; and was found to have undermined U.S. sanctions against Iran. Largely missing from this discussion is why the United States continues to allow Erdoğan’s malign behavior in the region, and more important, what policymakers should do about it.

A Manhattan Federal District Court guilty verdict against a Turkish banker accused of helping Iran evade sanctions speaks volumes about the growing threat posed by Erdoğan’s Turkey. Although Erdoğan was not charged in the case, “testimony suggested he had approved the [defendant’s] sanctions-busting scheme” to launder billions of dollars for Iran beginning in 2012, according to the New York Times.

That Erdoğan was secretly weakening U.S. sanctions right when Iran was feeling the pinch should come as no surprise. He has been repositioning Turkey as an adversary of the United States for years — covertly aiding ISIS in Syria (before switching sides on a dime to align with Russian forces), overtly embracing Hamas terrorists, flooding Europe with migrants, and hosting an international summit condemning U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, to name just a few of the lowlights.

While wishful thinkers still hold out hope that U.S.-Turkish relations are strained by short-term concerns and eventually will rebound, a growing chorus of voices led by Daniel Pipes believes that “Erdoğan’s hostile dictatorship” has passed the point of no return and cannot be reconciled with American interests and values. Erdoğan’s increasingly brutal methods of governance, particularly since a July 2016 failed coup attempt against his regime, is wholly unbecoming of a NATO ally. In late December, he issued an emergency decree that effectively legalizes politically-motivated lynching. For Washington, it is time to both up the ante in seeking a course correction by Erdoğan and to prepare for the worst. This path forward should be guided by the following basic principles.

No more silence: Since Erdoğan goes out of his way to lambaste the United States at every turn, Washington should make a practice of not holding back when it disapproves of his behavior. The United States should speak out against Erdoğan’s continuing oppression of minority Kurds, in Turkey and in neighboring Syria and Iraq. In particular, it should call for the release of Kurdish political leaders jailed by Erdoğan, such as Selahattin Demirtaş, co-chair of the Kurdish-dominated Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP). It should invite Kurdish representatives to visit Washington for high-profile meetings at the White House, the State Department and the Pentagon.

No more favors: Last June, the United States International Trade Commission issued a report finding that Turkey has been subsidizing the sale of steel reinforcing bars (rebars) in the United States, a judgment that ordinarily leads to the imposition of anti-dumping tariffs. As of yet this hasn’t happened, but it must. More serious penalties await Turkey for purchasing the S-400 missile system from Russia last year, which clearly ran afoul of new U.S. sanctions on Russia (the manufacturer has been explicitly blacklisted by the State Department). The White House should immediately put to rest speculation that it intends to waive these penalties.

No more trust: Whichever direction Erdoğan’s ambitions take Turkey, one thing is certain — his regime cannot be trusted with sensitive military technology and intelligence. The United States should expel Turkey from the nine-nation consortium producing the next-generation F-35 fighter jet. The risk that the plane’s technological secrets will find their way from Turkey to Russia or Iran is too great. The United States should remove dozens of nuclear weapons presently stored at Incirlik air base in southern Turkey. Although adequate safeguards are in place, these weapons serve no practical purpose (aircraft stationed at the base cannot load them) and their continued presence might be misconstrued as a U.S. endorsement of Erdoğan’s reliability as an ally.

No more second chances: Erdoğan’s government arrested more than a dozen American citizens of Turkish descent (along with tens of thousands of its own subjects) in the wake of the July 2016 coup attempt — including a NASA scientist who happened to be visiting family — on unspecified suspicion of involvement. Most were denied consular access until recently and at least seven are still being held — as hostages, more or less, with Erdoğan offering to trade them for the extradition of a political rival living in the United States.

While on a May 2017 visit to Washington, Erdoğan ordered his security detail to viciously attack peaceful protesters outside the Turkish ambassador’s residence. A similar, equally appalling episode happened when he visited in 2016. Washington must make it crystal clear to Erdoğan that egregiously violating the laws of the United States, the sanctity of its soil, or the rights of its citizens one more time will result in immediate sanctions banning him and his lieutenants from stepping foot in this country (or inside one of its embassies) ever again. In conclusion, while Turkey’s relative political stability, economic strength and military power make it a desirable ally, they also make it a formidable enemy. Now is the time to make it clear to Erdoğan and his subjects that America no longer plays nice with its enemies.







Globe & Mail, Mar. 7, 2018

Wikipedia has entries for every Ottoman sultan. There is Mehmed the Conqueror, Suleiman the Magnificent, and even lesser known grandees such as Selim the Blond. To this list, the site may soon have to add Erdogan the Censor. Not that anyone in Turkey would notice.

Since last April, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s increasingly autocratic regime has blocked the digital encyclopedia in his country for being part of a “smear campaign” against Turkey. The government said it objected to content on Wikipedia presenting Turkey as a terror supporter, but the particular offence hardly matters: Mr. Erdogan has been such a consistent and egregious foe of free expression that it would surprising if he had failed to interfere with the site. Wikipedia recently launched a public campaign to get the site back online, with the slogan We Miss Turkey.

They’ll be lucky to get anywhere. Mr. Erdogan has become shameless about blocking access to websites and needling their administrators to remove controversial content, according to the website Turkey Blocks. That crackdown is part of a much larger and nastier campaign against critics of the government launched in the wake of a failed coup in 2016. According to Human Rights Watch, Turkey has jailed more than 150 media workers in recent years. Just last month, a Turkish court sentenced three prominent journalists to life in prison for alleged involvement in the coup attempt. Mr. Erdogan’s turn to autocracy, crystallized by his victory in a referendum last year that consolidated his power, has been tragic for a country that just over a decade ago was en route to joining the European Union.

Where does Wikipedia fit into all of this? It is easy to mock, full of errors large and small. But at its best, what a miracle the site is. As a repository of the world’s knowledge, it makes the Library of Alexandria (which has a solid Wikipedia page of its own) look like a curbside book bin. Among the more than 300,000 Turkish-language Wikipedia entries, you can read about Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey. Unless, that is, you live in Turkey. Mr. Erdogan is deliberately undoing Ataturk’s vision of a progressive, secular and open state. It’s clear he would prefer that no one in his country discuss that subject.


On Topic Links

Turkey Vows to Widen Offensive to Eastern Syria, Iraq: Suzan Fraser & Sarah El Deeb, Globe & Mail, Mar. 19, 2018—Turkey’s president vowed Monday to keep up the pressure against a U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish militia after his troops captured the Syrian town of Afrin, threatening to expand the military offensive into other Kurdish-held areas across northern Syria and even into neighbouring Iraq.

Turkey’s Syrian Battleground: Burak Bekdil, BESA, Mar. 21, 2018—In a rather theatrical show, the fall of the city of Afrin – a Kurdish enclave in northwestern Syria – after two months of battle between Turkish and Turkey-backed troops and Kurdish militia coincided with the 103rd anniversary of the Turkish victory in Gallipoli. Victory speeches were delivered one after another. Turks cheered in collective euphoria. Front pages were splashed with nationalistic headlines and stories of “our heroic soldiers.”

“Army Of Islam”: Erdogan’s Plot Against Israel: Dr. Alon Ben-Meir, Jerusalem Post, Mar. 21, 2018—Less than a month ago, in advance of the summit of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Istanbul, the Turkish daily Yeni Şafak, which is considered one of the mouthpieces of Erdogan and his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), published an article entitled “A Call for Urgent Action.”

Turkish Leader Claims Muslim Victory Over Europe, Cites Trump’s ‘Alliance’ With Jews as Obstacle: Adam Eliyahu Berkowitz, Breaking Israel News, Mar. 21, 2018—A prominent Turkish official has claimed that as a result of demographic trends in Europe, “Europe will be Muslim.” An expert on Islam says this “Islamization” is intentional, a form of silent Jihad explicitly described in the Quran as a way of conquering nations demographically.




As Syria Sees One of the Bloodiest Periods of its War, UN Calls for Immediate Cease-Fire: 'The War is Far From Over': Liz Sly, Washington Post, Feb. 7, 2018— The United Nations appealed for an immediate cease-fire in Syria on Tuesday as spiraling violence pushed the country to the brink of one of the worst humanitarian crises in the seven-year war.

As Russia Carves up Syria, US May be Drawn into War: Benny Avni, New York Post, Feb. 6, 2018— It turns out trying to stay on the sidelines of the Syrian civil war may be the very thing that drags us into it with both feet.

Trump’s Obligation to Syria’s Gas Attack Victims: Noah Rothman, Commentary, Feb. 6, 2018— In the space of a single month, the Syrian regime has reportedly deployed chlorine gas in civilian neighborhoods on six separate occasions.

Welcome to Syria 2.0: Jonathan Spyer, Foreign Policy, Jan. 25, 2018— The idea that Syria's civil war is winding down has been repeated so often in recent months as to become a cliché. It has never been entirely true.


On Topic Links


U.S.-Led Forces Kill an Estimated 100 Syrian Regime Troops: Jacqueline Klimas, Politico, Feb. 7, 2018

Syrian State Media: Air Defenses Intercept Israeli Missiles: Anna Ahronheim, Jerusalem Post, Feb. 7, 2018

On Northern Syria Front Line, U.S. and Turkey Head Into Tense Face-off: Rod Nordland, New York Times, Feb. 7, 2018

Haunted by Memories of Syrian Torture, Saved by Art: Aida Alami, New York Times, Feb. 2, 2018





Liz Sly

Washington Post, Feb. 7, 2018


The United Nations appealed for an immediate cease-fire in Syria on Tuesday as spiraling violence pushed the country to the brink of one of the worst humanitarian crises in the seven-year war. A halt to the fighting for at least a month is vital to allow urgently needed aid to reach 2.9 million stricken people living around the front lines of the latest fighting, the UN mission in Damascus said, warning of “dire consequences” if the current levels of violence are sustained.


The appeal coincides with the collapse in recent weeks of a year-old Russian effort to tamp down the violence through “de-escalation zones,” which had helped contribute to a perception that the war in Syria finally was winding down. Instead, the first weeks of 2018 have turned into one of the bloodiest periods of the conflict yet, with hundreds killed in airstrikes, nearly 300,000 displaced in northwestern Syria and 400,000 at risk of starvation in a besieged area east of Damascus that has not received food since November.


“The war is far from over,” Panos Moumtzis, the United Nations’ humanitarian coordinator in Damascus, said at a briefing for journalists in Beirut. “This is a really critical stage. The humanitarian situation has dramatically deteriorated, and that’s why we are ringing alarm bells.” There has also been a spike in the number of reports of attacks by the government using chlorine as a chemical weapon, prompting warnings from the United States to the Syrian government to desist and to Russia to pressure its ally to halt the attacks. There have been six reported attacks using bombs laden with chlorine in the past month, the State Department said, adding that Washington is “gravely alarmed” by the continued allegations of the use of chlorine gas.


The latest surge in violence began in late December and coincides with the winding down of the fight against the Islamic State in eastern Syrian, which freed up thousands of Syrian government forces to take on rebels and al-Qaida-allied fighters in their last few enclaves elsewhere in the country. Since then, nearly 300,000 civilians have fled a new government offensive to recapture territory in the northwestern province of Idlib. They have taken refuge in the north of the province in one of the biggest displacements of the war so far, Moumtzis said. Aid workers are struggling to find space to accommodate them, and as many as 750,000 more could flee if the violence continues, he said.


A separate crisis is developing east of Damascus, in the rebel-held enclave of Ghouta, where over 400,000 people surrounded by government forces have been reliant on UN aid for the past four years. The Syrian government has prevented all deliveries of food to the area since November, putting the population at risk of starvation, and has refused to allow the evacuation of about 600 people injured in the fighting to hospitals in nearby Damascus, Moumtzis said.


Syrian warplanes pounded the area Tuesday, conducting over 40 strikes and killing at least 37 people, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors violence in Syria. Activists in the area later said more than 70 people had died in the raids. Later in the day, five civilians died when rebels fired shells into government-controlled neighbourhoods in Damascus, including three in the historic Bab Touma district of the Old City, according to the official Syrian news agency SANA.


Those strikes followed an onslaught of airstrikes by both Russian and Syrian warplanes against rebel-held towns and villages in Idlib on Sunday and Monday, in apparent retaliation for the downing of a Russian warplane in the province Saturday. At least three hospitals or health facilities were hit in the strikes, which recall some of the worst periods of the war. The Syrian Network for Human Rights said that at least 260 civilians had died in airstrikes in Syria since December, including 88 children and 71 women. The Observatory said that more than 500 people had died in the recent upsurge of violence.


“We’re in emergency mode,” Moumtzis said as he described the numbers of people who are hungry, displaced or in need of immediate medical treatment. “There’s a dramatic deterioration . . . and the situation is desperate for the people on the ground.” The incursion by the Turkish army into the Kurdish-controlled enclave of Afrin has further complicated the war, displacing more than 15,000 people and adding new obstacles to efforts to resolve the war.          





Benny Avni

New York Post, Feb. 6, 2018


It turns out trying to stay on the sidelines of the Syrian civil war may be the very thing that drags us into it with both feet. For three weeks now Turkish jets have bombarded America’s Kurdish allies in northern Syria. Kurdish fighters, known as YPG, have battled hard on our behalf for years. More than anyone they’re responsible for chasing ISIS out of its Syrian strongholds.


And US Special Forces are still stationed alongside YPG Kurds near that area. Washington has warned Ankara, but how long before an American is, God forbid, hit in a Turkish air attack? Yes, Ankara is increasingly at odds with Washington on a host of issues, but Turkey’s still a NATO member. A deadly incident is bound not only to further sour relations, but also create a rift within the wider alliance.


Meanwhile, Iran has condemned Ankara’s airstrikes even while it’s been just as aggressive in its zone of influence, establishing a military foothold in southwest Syria, just across from Israeli positions on the Golan Heights. Last week, Russia hosted Turkey and Iran at Sochi, where the three allies continued their attempts to carve up postwar Syria. At the same time, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu popped up in Moscow to deliver a warning to President Vladimir Putin: Israel, he made clear, will prevent Iran from establishing a beachhead near its border — by force, if necessary.


But Staffan de Mistura, UN Secretary General António Guterres’ Syria envoy, told me Israel’s concerns weren’t even discussed at Sochi, and aren’t being considered in the Geneva-based peace process established by the UN Security Council. Fact is, Russia, Turkey and Iran increasingly dominate the endgame of the long Syria war, taking over the diplomatic effort to shape the country’s future the same way Moscow stepped in on the battlefield to help create the conditions ripe for its diplomatic and geopolitical coup.


Once America made clear it was all but disinterested in Syria, Russia took over, leading a military effort to save the hide of the Damascus butcher, Bashar al-Assad. Even as Assad, with Russia’s help, mops up the remaining Sunni rebel holdouts, the war’s horrors are as vivid as they’ve been throughout its seven-year duration. Just this past Sunday, Assad attacked in the Idlib region with what looks, smells and kills like chemical weapons. Syrian civilians, displaying the now-too-familiar symptoms of gas poisoning, including foaming mouths, crowded local hospitals — at least the ones that weren’t recently bombed by the Syrian army and its Russian allies.


We can’t say for sure whether chlorine, sarin or another substance was used, or who used it, because Russia recently vetoed several attempts to renew the mandate of a United Nations team charged with investigating such things. (Moscow was angry the team previously concluded Assad was responsible for earlier chemical attacks.) UN Ambassador Nikki Haley denounced Russia Monday during an emergency Security Council meeting, but so what? After initially Tomahawking a Syrian chemical-manufacturing base early on in the Trump presidency, America is reverting to doing little beyond expressing outrage.


And we lag behind on the diplomatic front as well. Initially, Guterres and de Mistura were supposed to lead the Geneva process. That process is stuck now, and even de Mistura takes his cues from Moscow, bowing to the facts on the ground. And anyway, has Sochi, where Russia dominates, replaced Geneva, where all powers, including America, were supposed to shape Syria’s future collectively? “I hope so,” Russian UN Ambassador Vasilly Nebenzia told me Monday. (Since Russia is ostensibly committed to the Geneva process, he then quickly corrected himself, saying the Sochi sessions just give a “major boost” to the Geneva process.)


So unless America flexes some diplomatic muscle, Russia, Turkey and Iran will settle Syria’s future, and carve it up according to their interests. They’re already doing so on the ground. Yes, the eventual division of Syria is all but inevitable. That’s why those with even a minimal stake in the future of the country must try to assure their interests are maintained. And us? For years, America mostly sat out the Syrian war, allowing Russia & Co. to dominate it. We’re playing catch-up now, but will that suffice to stop them from dictating the “peace” in the same bloody manner they’ve led the war?





Noah Rothman

Commentary, Feb. 6, 2018


In the space of a single month, the Syrian regime has reportedly deployed chlorine gas in civilian neighborhoods on six separate occasions. The Trump administration admirably declined to look away. The State Department demanded that the world “speak with one voice” in condemning these attacks, and was particularly hard on Syria’s benefactors in Moscow. “Russia ultimately bears responsibility for the victims in East Ghouta and countless other Syrians targeted with chemical weapons since Russia became involved in Syria,” said Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Let’s suppose, though, that the world does not speak with one voice on Syria. What then? The Trump administration cannot now fall back on perfunctory statements of disapproval amid mass murder using chemical weapons. That is, unless this White House is prepared to abandon the laudable precedent it has set in defense of the defenseless.


Donald Trump did not waste time censuring Damascus in April of 2017, following reports that 80 civilians were subsequently killed and another 400 injured in a chemical attack on the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhoun. The president acted. “Tonight, I ordered a targeted military stroke on the air base in Syria from where the chemical attack was launched,” Trump said. “Years of previous attempts at changing Assad’s behavior have all failed.” Trump proceeded to connect the global instability that has resulted from the metastatic Syrian civil war to the crimes against humanity executed by Assad and defended by the regime’s allies. “It is in this vital national security interest of the United States to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons,” Trump concluded. He was correct; it would be a tragic shame if this administration proved they never meant a word of it.


The 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles that targeted aircraft, shelters, radar and air defense, ammunition bunkers, and fuel stores at the Al Shayrat airfield were dismissed as inconsequential by the Trump administration’s critics. They alleged that the strike was too small to have any lasting effect on Assad regime behavior, particularly since the administration informed Russia ahead of the strikes, which allowed for the evacuation of Syrian military personnel from the strike zone. But the targeted missile strikes did have the effect of deterring the Assad regime from using chemical weapons against civilians, and not just the Sarin that was used on Khan Sheikhoun; chlorine, too.


Amid reports that Syria was preparing another chemical attack on civilian populations, the White House confronted the threat early. “[If] Mr. Assad conducts another mass-murder attack using chemical weapons,” former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer warned in June, “he and his military will pay a heavy price.” These threats worked. At least, for a time.


That time has passed. Today, surface-to-surface missiles containing chlorine gas are raining down on populous towns like Saraqeb in Idlib Province and the Damascus suburb of Eastern Ghouta. The United Nations is still investigating these attacks, but it has blamed Damascus for similar chlorine strikes on civilians in the recent past. Despite disappearing from the headlines in the West, the situation in Syria is growing worse by the day. The fighting is flaring up again, and civilians are suffering. “Humanitarian diplomacy seems to be totally impotent, we’re getting nowhere,” United Nations humanitarian adviser Jan Egeland said last week. He added that Assad’s forces had prevented UN humanitarian relief missions from accessing certain besieged areas, and aid convoys have not reached some parts of Syria in two months.


The Trump administration now faces a moment of truth. It could preserve the moral authority it purchased after declining to merely scold the Syrian regime for deploying weapons of mass destruction against civilians, or it could retreat into a defensive crouch and act like the Syrian regime’s de facto defense counsel. That, to their everlasting shame, was the Obama administration’s approach to the use of chlorine munitions in Syria.


At a May 2015 press conference in which he defended his administration’s efforts to secure a deal to stall Iran’s nuclear weapons development, Barack Obama was asked about reports of over 30 chlorine bombings in Syria in the space of just two months. His response was devoid of moral clarity. “We have seen reports about the use of chlorine in bombs that have the effect of chemical weapons,” Obama told reporters. “Chlorine itself is not listed as a chemical weapon, but when it is used in this fashion, can be considered a prohibited use of that particular chemical.” He went on to say that addressing the potential use of chemical weapons was a job for the international community and Russia, and added that the deal he made with Moscow that supposedly neutralized Assad’s chemical weapons stockpile was a wild success. “Those have been eliminated,” Obama insisted.


Chlorine is a dual-use chemical that has industrial applications and, as such, is not subject to the same global prohibition that nerve agents like Sarin and VX are. But the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons lists chlorine as a choking agent with potentially lethal battlefield applications. This revelation should surprise no one who has a cursory familiarity with the events of World War I. The last administration’s efforts to downplay the severity of chlorine attacks in Syria were grotesque. Obama’s appeal to Russia as a source of relief for the people of Syria—a nation that now actively blocks the international community’s efforts to extend the mandate of chemical weapons inspectors in Syria—was craven.


The last administration wanted to avoid the demands that history made on it, and it was a disgrace. Will the Trump administration abandon the course correction it embarked upon last April? Will it retreat to the same obtuse legalisms to which Obama appealed, even as the worst humanitarian and military crisis of this century intensifies? Will this president shirk his duty to humanity and to history, too?        





Jonathan Spyer

Foreign Policy, Jan. 25, 2018


The idea that Syria's civil war is winding down has been repeated so often in recent months as to become a cliché. It has never been entirely true. U.S. officials recently confirmed Washington's intention to indefinitely retain effective ownership of around 28 percent of Syrian territory, in partnership with the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces. But those plans are increasingly in conflict with the other major international players in the war-torn country. That includes America's erstwhile ally, Turkey, which recently launched "Operation Olive Branch," an incursion into the Kurdish-held Afrin canton in Syria's northwest. Meanwhile, President Bashar al-Assad's regime is assaulting mainly Sunni Arab rebels to the south, and completing its conquest of the Abu Duhur airbase in the northern Idlib Province.


All this bloodshed doesn't just spoil Washington's plans — it also calls into question whether the participants in the Syrian war are anywhere close, to quote another cliché, to "bleeding themselves out." Even if the dynamics driving the overlapping conflicts of Syria's war are drawing to a close, they aren't generating a peaceful and orderly future for long-suffering Syrians. Rather, new conflicts are emerging fully formed from the wombs of the old.


Since mid-2014, there have been two parallel wars taking place on Syrian soil. The "original" war is the fight between the Sunni Arab rebels and the Bashar al-Assad regime, which is centered on the more densely populated area of western Syria. The second war is the contest between the Islamic State and the U.S.-led global coalition assembled against it. Both these wars are indeed close to conclusion. The former war was decided in Assad's favor on Sept. 30, 2015 — the day that Russian aircraft appeared over the skies of Syria. The rebellion, lacking any but the most rudimentary anti-aircraft capacity, has found itself helpless against the combination of Russian air power and Iran-supported and supplied manpower.


The regime's survival, therefore, is no longer in doubt. But it is a different entity to the one that launched the war against anti-Assad protesters in the summer of 2011. Seven years later, the regime in Damascus is no longer about to dictate events in Syria as it once did, and instead it must defer to the wishes of those powers that ensured its survival.


The events of recent days in Afrin offer an instructive example. Assad himself expressed his adamant opposition to the Turkish incursion, saying that "[t]he brutal Turkish aggression on the Syrian town of Afrin cannot be separated from the Turkish regime's policy from the first day of Syria's crisis, which was essentially built on supporting terrorism and terrorist organizations." Faisal Mekdad, the regime's deputy foreign minister, told reporters in Damascus that Syria's forces were "ready to destroy Turkish air targets in the skies of the Syrian Arab Republic."


But Assad's Russian patrons evidently took a different view of the Turkish operation. Russian military personnel in the Kurdish enclave were withdrawn prior to the commencement of the Turkish operation. Turkish aircraft currently being used to bomb Kurdish positions in the Afrin region could not have crossed the border without Russian permission, given the presence of two Russian S-400 air defense batteries guaranteeing that Moscow can rid Syria's skies of any unwanted presence. Assad's government was required by the actual decision-makers to tolerate this situation — and true to form, it has not followed through on its threat to shoot down Turkish jets.


Similarly, recent events demonstrate the extent to which the rebellion is no longer essentially a Syrian phenomenon. The rebels taking part in the Afrin operation against Kurdish forces are effectively military contractors working on behalf of Turkish interests. These northern rebel groups — such as Faylaq al-Sham, Nour al-Din al-Zenki, and the Levant Front — have played this essentially subaltern, proxy role since the summer of 2016, when it became clear there was no longer any possibility of a strategic rebel victory over Assad.


Rebel factions are mainly now fighting for survival. Those based in Turkey or close to the border have no option but to serve as proxies for Ankara's ambitions. (Even the al Qaeda-associated Hayat Tahrir al-Sham group, which now dominates Idlib province, has a curious relationship of "soft coordination" with Turkey made necessary by the group's desire not to face Russian airpower.) The rebels farther south play a similar role for their Jordanian, American, or Israeli patrons…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]




On Topic Links


U.S.-Led Forces Kill an Estimated 100 Syrian Regime Troops: Jacqueline Klimas, Politico, Feb. 7, 2018—In a major clash the U.S.-led military coalition in Syria has killed more than 100 troops allied with the regime of Bashar Assad — after some 500 soldiers backed by tanks launched what appeared to be a "coordinated attack" on a headquarters of rebel fighters being trained by American advisers, military officials revealed late Wednesday.

Syrian State Media: Air Defenses Intercept Israeli Missiles: Anna Ahronheim, Jerusalem Post, Feb. 7, 2018—Syrian air defenses intercepted several Israeli missiles targeting an Iranian base west of the capital of Damascus, Syrian state media claimed on Wednesday. Describing it as “a new Israeli aggression,” Syria’s official news agency SANA said Israeli fighter jets flying in Lebanese airspace fired a number of missiles toward the area of the Jamraya research center, targeting an Iranian base.

On Northern Syria Front Line, U.S. and Turkey Head Into Tense Face-off: Rod Nordland, New York Times, Feb. 7, 2018 Two senior American generals came to the front line outside the Syrian city of Manbij on Wednesday flying outsized American flags on their vehicles, in case pro-Turkish forces just the other side of the no man’s land, 20 yards away, did not realize who they were.

Haunted by Memories of Syrian Torture, Saved by Art: Aida Alami, New York Times, Feb. 2, 2018—Najah al-Bukai cannot forget. As an accomplished artist in Syria before the war, Mr. Bukai had long thought his photographic memory was his greatest asset, allowing him to recreate scenes on his sketch pads and canvases days, months and even years after he witnessed them. But now, after he has survived two stretches in the Syrian government’s notorious detention centers, his sharp memories only serve to haunt him.






Will the US Betray the Syrian Kurds?: Gwynne Dyer, Jerusalem Post, Jan. 20, 2018— Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is an angry man at the best of times, but on Monday he outdid himself…

Breaking the Syrian Stalemate: Irina Tsukerman, BESA, Jan. 11, 2018— The US is currently at a great disadvantage in Syria.

Hezbollah's Reign of Terror: From Beirut and Beyond: Charles Bybelezer, The Media Line, Jan. 21, 2018— The trial of two Hezbollah operatives accused of blowing up an Israeli tour bus in 2012, killing five Israelis and the Bulgarian driver, kicked off this week in Sofia.

The Fiction that Destabilizes the Middle East: Evelyn Gordon, Jewish Press, Jan. 16, 2018— If I were compiling a foreign policy wish list for 2018, high on the list would be ending the fiction that Lebanon is an independent country rather than an Iranian satrapy governed by Iran’s foreign legion, Hezbollah.


On Topic Links


Pence Addresses Israeli Parliament (Video): Washington Post, Jan. 22, 2018

DEBATE: What Are the Implications of the Russian-Turkish Rapprochement?: Dr. George N. Tzogopoulos, BESA, Jan. 21, 2018

Is Hezbollah Eating the Iranian People's Bread?: Yves Mamou, Gatestone Institute, Jan. 4, 2018

Israeli Experts Weigh in on Obama-Hezbollah Revelation: Michael Friedson, Jerusalem Post, Dec. 24, 2017




Gwynne Dyer

Jerusalem Post, Jan. 20, 2018


Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is an angry man at the best of times, but on Monday he outdid himself: “This is what we have to say to all our allies: Don’t get in between us and terrorist organizations or we will not be responsible for the unwanted consequences.” That was a barely veiled threat that he will use force against American troops if they try to stop him from attacking the Syrian Kurds. The iron law of international politics in the Middle East is that everybody betrays the Kurds. It was on display again in Iraq last October when the Baghdad government seized almost half the territory ruled by the Kurdistan Regional Government.


In obedience to that unwritten law, nobody else objected – including the United States, even though it had armed the Iraqi Kurds to fight ISIS. But now the US government has effectively told the Syrian Kurds that they can keep the huge chunk of Syria they control for the indefinite future. And the Turkish government, predictably, has gone ballistic. In President Erdogan’s book, any Kurd with a gun in his hand is a “terrorist,” and the Syrian Kurds are a “terror army.” In fact, they played the main role, under US air cover, in destroying the Syrian base of the real terrorists: Islamic State. As a result, the army the Kurds dominate, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), now controls almost half of Syria’s territory.


It’s the northeastern, relatively empty part of Syria, with less than one-fifth of the country’s population, but it includes all of Syria’s border with Iraq and almost all its border with Turkey. On Sunday, Washington confirmed it will help the SDF create a new 30,000-member “border security force” over the next several years to police those borders – and also the “internal” border between Kurdish-controlled Syria and the rest of the country. The “rest of the country” is now mostly back under the control of Bashar Assad’s regime after six years of civil war, thanks largely to the intervention of the Russian Air Force and Iranian militias. Both Moscow and Tehran immediately accused the United States of planning to partition Syria, and there is some substance in the accusation.


Washington is indeed creating a Kurdish-ruled protectorate in northeast Syria, and has declared that 2,000 US troops will stay there indefinitely – or to be more precise: until progress has been made in the UN-led peace talks in Geneva and it is certain that Islamic State has been permanently defeated – which is another way of saying indefinitely.


The main purpose of this sudden escalation in the US commitment in Syria is presumably to stop the Russians from winning a total victory in the country. The Syrian regime, of course, has denounced the plan as a “blatant attack” on its sovereignty – but Turkey is the only country threatening to kill Americans over it. The Kurds always get betrayed because what they really want is an independent Kurdistan that includes all 20 million Kurds. But to create that, the four most powerful countries in the region – Turkey, Iran, Syria and Iraq – would all have to be partially dismantled. Those powers will do whatever it takes to prevent that.


Erdogan restarted the war with Turkey’s own Kurdish separatists two years ago, mainly for electoral advantage. But he really is fanatical on the subject. He is convinced that the Syrian Kurdish organization, the YFP – which he is determined to destroy – is really just a branch of Turkey’s own PKK (which does have a terrorist past).


The declaration of a de facto American protectorate over the Kurdish-dominated parts of Syria only makes the matter more urgent in Erdogan’s eyes. “A country we call an ally [the US] is insisting on forming a terror army on our border,” Erdogan said in a speech in Ankara on Monday. “What can that terror army target but Turkey? Our mission is to strangle it before it’s even born.” That’s nonsense. The Syrian Kurds are not terrorists, they are American allies. And when the Turkish Army first attacked Kurdish-controlled areas of northern Syria last spring, US troops – flying very large American flags – drove in front of the Kurdish lines to protect their allies from Turkish fire.


What Erdogan meant in our first quotation was: Next time, if American soldiers and flags obstruct Turkish operations, they will be blown away. Does he mean it? He may not know himself, but his army is going to move into several parts of Syrian Kurdish territory this week or next. Turkish artillery is already softening up the targets. But the likelihood of a shooting war between Turks and Americans remains very low. Like Obama before him, Trump is pursuing a policy in Syria that is not backed up by enough force to make it credible. Everybody assumes he is bluffing and will betray the Syrian Kurds in the end. For the peace of the world, it’s probably better that he does.




Irina Tsukerman

BESA, Jan. 11, 2018


The US is currently at a great disadvantage in Syria. Despite blaming its increasing irrelevancy in the region on the Obama administration’s inaction in pursuit of the nuclear deal with Iran, the Trump White House chose to box itself into a corner by disregarding sage advice that would have significantly shifted the calculus of power. Rather than supporting the Kurds in Iraq and Syria, preventing Iran from building a land corridor connecting it to the Mediterranean, and thereby making it more difficult for Lebanon’s Hezbollah to smuggle weapons and people in and out, the Trump administration chose a strategy that empowered Tehran’s proxy, Baghdad; allowed Moscow to emerge as the great dealmaker; and served Turkey’s interests with respect to the Kurdish issue in Syria.


Without the land corridor, Iran would have been geographically poorly positioned to expand in the direction of Central Asia, or indeed anywhere else. Instead, it is now in the best possible position to do so. Furthermore, Bashar Assad has called US-backed groups traitors, and, echoing President Putin, asked American and Turkish troops to leave.


The Pentagon says a US presence will remain in Syria indefinitely, but should Iran and Russia-backed Assad turn serious, US troops might find themselves having to fight enemies on several fronts. It is unclear why the US, which has essentially accepted the premises that ISIS is finished and other terrorist groups are either subdued or subordinate to state actors, chooses to remain in the area without a clear plan to remove Iranian proxies. Washington seems to have no action plan to deal with Iran, though it is certainly a threat.


Assad is a pawn of Iran and Russia. Tehran is looking to get rid of him; Moscow is amenable to his staying – at least for now. Assad is content with his remaining fiefdom so long as the various groups that have subdivided Syria pay their dues, recognize Syrian sovereignty, and don’t create additional problems. Iran is getting exactly what it wanted: a land corridor to suit its expansionist plans, and a naval base that will give it access to strategic waterways. Once its navy becomes fully operational, it can then fight to deny access to everyone else. Resource-poor Syria was likely never the end unto itself for Tehran, but rather a means towards outward expansion.


The mullahs do not care how many countries are brought to ruin so long as their path is smooth and their access to the outside world guaranteed. That Tehran does not have complete control over Syria at the moment is irrelevant. Its object is not to lord it over Sunni Arabs, Kurds, and assorted others, but to assert Iranian hegemony and break through the sanctions and obstacles by finding new routes and creating new alliances. Iran’s Iraqi militias are spoiling for a fight. They are a battle-hardened, increasingly serious force against largely untrained Gulf troops who also lack proper intelligence training. Iran feels so much in control of the situation that it is looking to completely coopt the KRG in exchange for peace.


Russia is unquestionably the biggest winner of all. It has established itself as a credible power broker; has outsmarted and manipulated both the Obama and the Trump administrations; and is building a naval base, despite Russia’s poor internal economy, sanctions, and increasing loss of legitimacy in the West. It has returned to its former sphere of influence and is setting the rules of the game.


Moscow is also is very good at taking advantage of strategic errors made by others. Ankara, for example, which managed to ruin its relations with Assad early on in the civil war, will now have a great deal of trouble imposing its will inside the country. Russia is successfully building a relationship with the Syrian Kurds and assuming a protectorate over them even as Turkey seeks to isolate the YPG and deny the Kurds legitimacy in their struggle for autonomy. Russia is succeeding at bringing the Kurds to the table in peace process negotiations, something Turkey sought to deny…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]    





Charles Bybelezer

The Media Line, Jan. 21, 2018


The trial of two Hezbollah operatives accused of blowing up an Israeli tour bus in 2012, killing five Israelis and the Bulgarian driver, kicked off this week in Sofia. The suspects, Meliad Farah and Hassan El Hajj Hassan, are being tried in absentia after fleeing to Lebanon, which refuses to extradite them despite Interpol warrants for their arrest.


This comes against the backdrop of US Attorney General Jeff Sessions' announcement last week of the formation of a new task force to combat Hezbollah’s vast drug trafficking and money laundering empire, worth an estimated $1 billion annually. That decision followed a Politico report claiming that the Obama administration interfered with a Drug Enforcement Agency initiative—code-named Project Cassandra—to crack down on the Iranian-sponsored Shi'ite organization's illicit activities for fear of jeopardizing the nuclear deal with Iran.


Concurrently, the British House of Commons is slated on January 25 to discuss fully blacklisting Hezbollah, whose so-called "political arm" has until now been allowed to fundraise and recruit in major European capitals in a successful attempt to bifurcate the terrorist organization into legitimate civic and martial elements. While Israel, the US and, most recently, the Arab League have listed Hezbollah, in its entirety, as a terror group, the European Union, like the UK, banned only the organization's "military wing" in the wake of the Burgas attack. "While European governments have outlawed Hezbollah's armed body, this has no distinction because, as Hezbollah itself says, it is a monolithic organization," Benjamin Weinthal, a Fellow at the Washington-based Foundation For Defense of Democracies, explained to The Media Line. "In this respect, the Europeans have engaged in a sort of savvy appeasement of Hezbollah because they are afraid of it."


Hezbollah was created by the Iranian regime in the early 1980s, foremost to counter Israel’s presence at the time in southern Lebanon. However, its hatred for the West quickly manifested in the 1983 attack on American military barracks in Beirut which killed 241 US Marines and 58 French peacekeepers. In the ensuing decades Hezbollah has effectively taken control of the Lebanese government while developing into one of the Middle East’s most powerful military forces, currently engaged in the wars in Syria, Iraq and Yemen.


According to Professor Efraim Inbar, President of the Jerusalem Institute for Strategic Studies, "Hezbollah uses Arab communities abroad to make inroads not only in the Middle East, but also in Europe, South America and even Asia. They are there to establish cells that will eventually attack Jewish and Israeli targets," he told The Media Line, while noting that "Hezbollah's Islamic ideological underpinnings also motivate its expansion." Inbar further explained that while Hezbollah's overarching policies are coordinated by Iran, its local branches maintain freedom of action.


"Unit 133, for example, primarily focuses on the West Bank where it recruits local Palestinians, transfers them funds and then provides online training [on how to conduct attacks]," Yaakov Lappin, an Associate Researcher at Israel's Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, told The Media Line. "It also has links to Sinai and Jordan and, [more broadly], has cells across the Middle East which promote terrorism against Israeli targets. The unit is a major concern of the Israeli intelligence community," he expounded, "and also is reportedly involved in drug trafficking, [which is] a source of financing."


In Germany, there are an estimated 1,000 Hezbollah members currently operating, with reports suggesting that additional combatants have been infiltrating the country by posing as Mideast refugees. This is part and parcel of Iran's attempt to further penetrate the continent, with German police this week having conducted wide-scale raids targeting members of the Revolutionary Guard Corps' elite Quds [Jerusalem] Force, who were reportedly conducting surveillance on Israeli and Jewish targets. Weinthal traces these developments to 1992, when Iranian and Hezbollah agents killed four Kurdish dissidents in a Berlin restaurant. While German authorities accused the highest levels of the Iranian government of complicity in the attack, the two countries reportedly reached a quid pro quo deal in which Tehran and Hezbollah would cease perpetrating violent attacks on German soil in exchange for being permitted to freely operate in the country.


Another contributing factor, Weinthal noted, is that "Europeans are so invested in the Iran nuclear deal that they do not want to act against its wholly owned subsidiary, Hezbollah. This is similar to why the Obama administration turned a blind eye to Hezbollah's illicit activities." To this end, (the) terror group is actively engaged in drug trafficking throughout the Americas, from the Tri-Border Area where Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay converge, to Mexico, where it cooperates with local drug cartels. Using these funds along with those generated from sophisticated money laundering schemes, Hezbollah and, as a corollary, its patron Tehran, have been able to buy political influence throughout the region.


This was made evident by the previous Argentine government's attempted cover-up of the 1994 bombing of the Jewish AMIA community center in Buenos Aires, which followed the bombing of the Israeli Embassy two years earlier. An investigation into the attacks, which together killed over 100 people, was stymied for decades until, in 2015, federal prosecutor Alberto Nisman was slated to testify before a congressional panel that then-president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner had concealed facts about Iran's and Hezbollah's involvement. Hours before Nisman was set to reveal his findings—including that in exchange for Kirchner's compliance, the Islamic Republic would supply her government with a steady stream of cheap oil—he was found shot to death in his apartment in what was first ruled a suicide but eventually reclassified as a murder.


The apparent assassination garnered global headlines and "caused a growing awareness in the West of Hezbollah's negative actions," Inbar stated, before qualifying to The Media Line that "there remains a big gap between existing legal frameworks, which place an emphasis on upholding human rights, and the [steps required] to crack down on terrorist groups." For his part, US President Donald Trump appears committed to bridging this gap by pressing Congress to pass stronger sanctions on Hezbollah. The American administration also directed the Treasury Department to place multi-million-dollar bounties on senior Hezbollah leaders, in a bid to hamper its illegal infrastructure…

 [To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]   





Evelyn Gordon

Jewish Press, Jan. 16, 2018


If I were compiling a foreign policy wish list for 2018, high on the list would be ending the fiction that Lebanon is an independent country rather than an Iranian satrapy governed by Iran’s foreign legion, Hezbollah. The Western foreign policy establishment maintains this fiction out of good intentions; it wants to protect innocent Lebanese from suffering the consequences of Hezbollah’s military provocations against its neighbors. But this policy has enabled Hezbollah to devastate several neighboring countries with impunity, and it’s paving the way to a war that will devastate Lebanon itself.


Sheltering Lebanon from the consequences of Hezbollah’s behavior is both a bipartisan and a transatlantic consensus. This was evident from the West’s wall-to-wall outrage in November, when Saudi Arabia abortively tried to end the pretense that Hezbollah doesn’t rule Lebanon by pressuring the organization’s fig leaf, Prime Minister Saad Hariri, to resign. The International Support Group for Lebanon, which includes the U.S., UN, European Union, Arab League, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, China, and Russia, issued a statement demanding that Lebanon be “shielded from tensions in the region.” The State Department’s acting assistant secretary for Near Eastern Affairs, David Satterfield, demanded that Saudi Arabia “explain why Riyadh was destabilizing Lebanon.” French President Emmanuel Macron proclaimed it vital that Lebanon remains “disassociated” from regional crises. And the list goes on.


Yet the West has shown no similar concern for shielding the many Mideast countries which Lebanon’s de facto ruling party has destabilized for years. Thousands of Hezbollah troops have fought in Syria’s civil war, helping the Assad regime to slaughter hundreds of thousands of its own citizens. Hezbollah also has troops in Yemen to support the Houthi rebels in that country’s civil war, and it may have been involved in firing missiles from Yemen at Saudi Arabia. It has trained Shi’ite militias in Iraq and fought alongside them. And, of course, it has built an arsenal of some 150,000 missiles–bigger than that of most conventional armies–for eventual use against Israel.


Granted, Hezbollah isn’t Lebanon’s official ruling party; it’s part of a coalition government led by Hariri, who actually belongs to a rival party. But not only does Hezbollah have official veto power over all government decisions, it’s also the country’s dominant military force. Hariri has no power to stop Hezbollah from sending its troops all over the region; he can’t even stop it from doing as it pleases within Lebanon itself. One small example perfectly illustrates his impotence. In early December, Qais al-Khazali, the head of an Iraqi Shi’ite militia, was videotaped accompanying Hezbollah operatives to the Lebanese-Israeli border and proclaiming his militia’s willingness to help Hezbollah fight Israel. Hariri termed the visit a “flagrant violation” of Lebanese law and ordered the Lebanese army to make sure no such incident recurred. A few weeks later, as if to underscore Hariri’s powerlessness, Hezbollah took another senior commander from a Syrian Shi’ite militia to the border for a similar videotaped pledge.


Yet despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary, the West has insisted on maintaining the fiction that Lebanon is somehow independent of Hezbollah rather than ruled by it. And in so doing, Western countries have actually enabled Hezbollah’s aggression. Thanks to this fiction, the West gives hundreds of millions of dollars in both civilian and military aid to Lebanon. Civilian aid, of which the EU has provided over $1 billion in recent years, frees Hezbollah of the need to pay for the consequences of its actions, like caring for the 1.1 million Syrian refugees its own aggression helped drive from Syria into Lebanon. American military aid, of which Lebanon is the world’s sixth-largest recipient, has given Hezbollah access to training, intelligence, equipment and other military capabilities, since the Lebanese army shares everything it receives with the organization, whether willingly or under compulsion from Hezbollah’s greater strength…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]



On Topic Links


Pence Addresses Israeli Parliament (Video): Washington Post, Jan. 22, 2018—Vice President Pence delivers a speech to the Israeli parliament.

DEBATE: What Are the Implications of the Russian-Turkish Rapprochement?: Dr. George N. Tzogopoulos, BESA, Jan. 21, 2018—Q: In the aftermath of the failed coup d’état of July 2016, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is embarking on an attempt to improve Ankara’s relations with non-Western countries to avoid international isolation. The Russian-Turkish rapprochement is a characteristic example.

Is Hezbollah Eating the Iranian People's Bread?: Yves Mamou, Gatestone Institute, Jan. 4, 2018—In the holy city of Qom in Iran, on December 30, 2017, anti-regime demonstrators shouted "Death to Hezbollah", "Aren't you ashamed Khamenei? Get out of Syria and take care of us", and "Not Gaza, or Lebanon".

Israeli Experts Weigh in on Obama-Hezbollah Revelation: Michael Friedson, Jerusalem Post, Dec. 24, 2017—US Attorney General Jeff Sessions is launching a review of a US Drug Enforcement Administration investigation code-named Project Cassandra, after Politico reported that the Obama administration covertly derailed the inquiry into Hezbollah's illicit global activities in order to ink the 2015 nuclear accord with Iran.







Tension over Kurdistan: Dr. Mordechai Kedar, Arutz Sheva, Oct. 1, 2017 — This past Monday close to 7 million Kurdish citizens of Iraq, cast their votes in a referendum consisting of one question only: Do you support a declaration of independence on the part of the Kurds in Iraq? 

The Case for Kurdish Independence: Alan Dershowitz, Algemeiner, Oct. 2, 2017 — Over 90% of Iraq’s Kurdish population have now voted for independence from Iraq.

Iran and the Kurdish Challenge: Dr. Doron Itzchakov, BESA, Sept. 30, 2017— The Kurdish referendum on independence poses multiple dilemmas for the Iranian regime’s domestic and foreign policy.

Canada Quietly Opposes Kurd Independence, Notwithstanding History of Oppression: Terry Glavin, National Post, Sept. 27, 2017 — Here’s something that doesn’t happen very often.


On Topic Links


Interview of LTC Sargis Sangari on Bill Martinez Live: Near East Center, Sept. 22, 2017

The U.S. Must Tell Its Allies to Back Off the Kurds: Eli Lake, Bloomberg, Sept. 29, 2017

Post-Referendum: Kurds in Iran Demand Rights as Regime Cracks Down: Seth J. Frantzman, Jerusalem Post, Sept. 30, 2017

Kurdish Referendum: What is the Lowdown?: Amir Taheri, Gatestone Institute, Oct. 1, 2017




Dr. Mordechai Kedar

Arutz Sheva, Oct. 1, 2017


This past Monday close to 7 million Kurdish citizens of Iraq, cast their votes in a referendum consisting of one question only: Do you support a declaration of independence on the part of the Kurds in Iraq?  The voting was widespread, with 80% of eligible voters going to the polls. It is clear that the question is seen as vital to a large majority of Kurds, leading them to go out to vote.


From a practical point of view, the Kurds have been trying to advance their independence for 25 years, ever since the world forbade Saddam Hussein's air force from flying over their territory. They have developed a legitimate, democratic, organized and fair government over the past two and a half decades, as well as a disciplined top level army that proved its mettle against ISIS in Mosul. They have responsible media which portray both sides of the controversy and in general are a tranquil society with  no internal violence, a  successful economy based on oil and related products.


The referendum is highly important for both sides, those for and those against.  Supporters want to live in a Kurdish national home with all their hearts, like the French, Dutch, Egyptians, Israelis and the rest of the nations of the world do. They intend to create independence de jure from de facto independence, including international recognition. Their main motivation is national pride and pride in their achievements during these last 25 years, but the memory of the wars waged against them by Iraq in the 20th century plays a part. Lurking in the background is the historic hostility between Kurds and Arabs.


Those opposed to a declaration of independence worry mainly about the price Iraqi Kurdistan may be forced to pay for doing so, because its neighbors – Iran to the east, Turkey to the north, Syria to the west and Iraq to the south – have declared their total opposition to the holding of a referendum, let alone a declaration of independence.  Turkey threatens war and has concentrated forces on its border with Kurdish territory, despite years of economic cooperation with the Kurds. The Kurds export their oil by way of Turkey, paying enormous sums for that service. Declaring war against the Kurds may well end that cooperation, affecting the "wayward" Kurds' economy for the worse.


Another painful price that might have to be paid is an air and sea blockade. Iraqi Kurdistan has no access to the sea, and all its relations with the outside world – people and goods – must take place by way of the air and sea space of Iran, Turkey or Syria. If those countries decide on a blockade and continue to stand by that decision for any length of time, it is hard to see how the Kurds could run a proper national life, certainly not economically. The reason these countries oppose Kurdish independence is the fact that each one of them, especially Iran, harbors a Kurdish minority as well as other ethnic groups.  If the Iraqi Kurds succeed in creating a viable state, other minorities will demand independence and the Kurds among them might even try to form a large Kurdish federation or a state that unites with the Iraqi Kurdistan.


The Turks see this demand as a strategic danger to their existence, as there are Kurds in every city in Turkey, living mostly in their own neighborhoods, in addition to the Kurdish region of southwestern Turkey. An internal war between the Turkish majority and the Kurdish minority has been going on for a century. It is sometimes extremely violent, with terror attacks in urban areas, and sometimes simmers on a low burner.  Erdogan tried to put an end to the warring several years ago, but his efforts only angered the nationalist Turks who endanger his throne, so he went back to limiting himself to negative rhetoric aimed at the Turkish Kurds


Erdogan fears that a declaration of war on his part against the Iraqi Kurds will lead to an outbreak of Turkish terror against his regime, while a non-declaration will lead the Turkish Kurds to demand independence. If he does – or doesn't – give in to their demands they may start a new wave of terror against the Turkish regime.  Erdogan feels he is trapped and this drives him crazy, so that he keeps coming out with pronouncements, some of them over the top, against the referendum.


The Kurds in Iran demand their country recognize a Kurdish state in Iraq after the referendum. They certainly know that Iran will never do that, because recognizing a Kurdish state will awaken, in addition to the Kurds in Iran, all the other minorities to the possibility. This includes the Balouchi, Azari, Arabs, and many more and might bring the artificial Iranian state to an end because only half the people in Iran are Persian. Unsurprisingly, this week Iran declared that its airspace is closed to (plains) to and from the Kurdish area of Iraq. It may be followed by others.


Syria, embroiled for a long while in unending struggles and  war to keep its country unified under Assad's illegitimate regime, is also opposed to a Kurdish state, viewing it as a negative move for Syria. Arab Iraq is opposed to independence for the Kurds in the country because most of the rich oil deposits are in that region.


The regional opposition and threats to wage war against Kurdish Iraq have led European nations, the USA and Russia to be concerned that an needless war may break out, while the entire world is trying to put an end to what is left of ISIS's state and everyone wants the benefit of Pesh Merga's military prowess and the experience it gained during the battle for Mosul.


Israel, in contrast to all the nations in the world, seems to be the only country which supports a Kurdish state in Iraq and on the ruins of Iran. Israel will assuredly not be against adding the Kurds in Syria and possibly those in Turkey to a new Kurdish state. The establishment of a Kurdish state is an act of historic justice to a  people divided into three by the European powers in order to serve their interests and not for the benefit of the indigenous people in each region where those powers established a state to run the affairs of its citizens…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]




THE CASE FOR KURDISH INDEPENDENCE                                             

Alan Dershowitz

Algemeiner, Oct. 2, 2017


Over 90% of Iraq’s Kurdish population have now voted for independence from Iraq. While the referendum is not binding, it reflects the will of a minority group that has a long history of persecution and statelessness. The independence referendum is an important step toward remedying a historic injustice inflicted on the Kurdish population in the aftermath of World War I. Yet while millions took to the streets to celebrate, it is clear that the challenges of moving forward towards establishing an independent Kurdistan are only just beginning. Already, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, has said: “We will impose the rule of Iraq in all of the areas of the KRG, with the strength of the constitution.” Meanwhile, other Iraqi lawmakers have called for the prosecution of Kurdish representatives who organized the referendum — singling out Kurdish Regional Government President (KRG), Masoud Barzani, specifically. 


While Israel immediately supported the Kurdish bid for independence, Turkish leader, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, tried to extort Israel to withdraw its support, threatening to end the process of normalization unless it does so. It is worth noting that Turkey strongly supports statehood for the Palestinians but not for their own Kurdish population. The Palestinian leadership, which is seeking statehood for its people, also opposes statehood for the Kurds. Hypocrisy abounds in the international community, but that should surprise no one.


The case for Palestinian statehood is at least as compelling as the case for Kurdish statehood, but you wouldn’t know that by the way so many countries support the former but not the latter. The reason for this disparity has little to do with the merits of their respective cases and much to do with the countries from which they seek independence. The reason then for this double standard is that few countries want to oppose Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Syria; many of these same countries are perfectly willing to demonize the nation-state of the Jewish people. Here is the comparative case for the Kurds and the Palestinians.


First, some historical context. In the aftermath of WWI, the allied forces signed a treaty to reshape the Middle East from the remnants of the fallen Ottoman Empire. The 1920 Treaty of Sevres set out parameters for a unified Kurdish state, albeit under British control. However, the Kurdish state was never implemented owing to Turkish opposition and its victory in the Turkish War of Independence, whereby swaths of land intended for the Kurds became part of the modern Turkish state. As a result, the Kurdish region was split between Turkey, Syria and Iran and the Kurds became dispersed around northern Iraq, southeast Turkey and parts of Iran and Syria. Though today no one knows its exact population size, it is estimated that there are around 30 million Kurds living in these areas.


In contrast to the Palestinian people who adhere to the same traditions and practices as their Arab neighbours, and speak the same language, Kurds have their own language (although different groups speak different dialects) and subscribe to their own culture, dress code and holidays. While the history and genealogy of Palestinians is intertwined with that of their Arab neighbours (Jordan’s population is approximately 50% Palestinian), the Kurds have largely kept separate from their host-states, constantly aspiring for political and national autonomy.


Over the years there have been countless protests and uprisings by Kurdish populations against their host states. Some Arab rulers have used brutal force to crackdown on dissent. Consider Turkey, for example, where the “Kurdish issue” influences domestic and foreign policy more than any other matter. Suffering from what some historians refer to as “the Sevres Syndrome” — paranoia stemming from the allies’ attempt to carve up parts of the former Ottoman Empire for a Kurdish state — President Erdogan has subjected the country’s Kurdish population to terror and tyranny, and arrested Kurds who are caught speaking their native language.


But perhaps no group has had it worse than the Kurds of Iraq, who now total 5 million — approximately 10-15% of Iraq’s total population. Under the Baathist regime in the 1970s, the Kurds were subject to “ethnic cleansing.” Under the rule of Saddam Hussein they were sent to concentration camps, exposed to chemical weapons and many were summarily executed. It is estimated that approximately 100,000 Kurds were killed at the hands of the Baath regime. So “restitution” is an entirely appropriate factor to consider — though certainly not the only one –in supporting the establishment of an independent Kurdistan in northern Iraq. In contrast, the Palestinians have suffered far fewer deaths at the hands of Israel (and Jordan) yet many within the international community cite Palestinian deaths as a justification for Palestinian statehood. Why the double standard?


There are many other compelling reasons for why the Kurds should have their own state. Firstly, the Iraqi Kurds have their own identity, practices, language and culture. They are a coherent nation with profound historical ties to their territory. They have their own national institutions that separate them from their neighbors, their own army (the Peshmerga) and their own oil and energy strategy. Moreover, international law stipulated in Article 1 of the Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of States, lays the foundation for the recognition of state sovereignty. The edict states: “The state as a person of international law should possess the following qualifications: (a) a permanent population; (b) a defined territory; (c) government; and (d) capacity to enter into relations with the other states.” The KRG meets these criteria, as least as well as do the Palestinians.


Moreover, the autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq — the closest it has come to having its own state — has thrived and maintained relative peace and order against the backdrop of a weak, ineffectual Iraqi government and a brutal civil war. As such, it represents a semblance of stability in a region comprised of bloody violence, destruction and failed states. Why then did the United States — along with Russia, the EU, China and the UN — come out against independence for one of the largest ethnic groups without a state, when they push so hard for Palestinian statehood? The US State Department said it was “deeply disappointed” with the action taken, while the White House issued a statement calling it “provocative and destabilizing.” Essentially, the international community cites the following two factors for its broad rejectionism: 1. That it will cause a destabilizing effect in an already fragile Iraq that may reverberate in neighbouring states with Kurdish populations; 2. That the bid for independence will distract from the broader effort to defeat ISIS — which is being fought largely by Kurdish Peshmerga forces…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]    



IRAN AND THE KURDISH CHALLENGE                                                       

Dr. Doron Itzchakov

BESA, Sept. 30, 2017


The Kurdish referendum on independence poses multiple dilemmas for the Iranian regime’s domestic and foreign policy. The most obvious issue is that the success of the Iraqi Kurds in realizing their national identity could catalyze separatist trends among their Iranian counterparts. Although this concern has a degree of validity, Iranian Kurds have their own unique characteristics – one of which is a set of far less pronounced national aspirations than those of their counterparts elsewhere. That point raises the question whether Tehran’s opposition does in fact stem from fear of separatism among the Iranian Kurds. The regime’s considerations may well include other aspects that have largely been pushed to the margins.


The relationship between the Kurdish minority in Iran and the central government had ups and downs throughout the monarchic and post-revolutionary periods. The uprising of the Kurdish minority led by Qazi Muhammad, which brought about the establishment of the “Republic of Mahabad” (January 1946) under Soviet patronage, is still engraved on the historical consciousness of the Islamic Republic. The Kurdish uprising was a chain reaction following the uprising of the national movement of Azerbaijan led by Jaffar Pishevari, which had begun two months earlier. Clashes continued into the 1960s, undermining Iranian national identity and morale.


The Iranian Kurdish minority’s aspiration for autonomy did not end with the establishment of the Islamic Republic in February 1979. Hope soon receded, however, because of internal rifts and the regime’s uncompromising policy. From 1989 to 1996, a string of assassinations of leaders of the Iranian Kurdish movement left a leadership vacuum that remains to this day.


Moreover, the Iranian Kurdish minority – estimated, without official data, at about 7.5 million people – is marked by a lack of structural unity stemming from religious factors. There are also party, ideological, and tribal differences. Unlike in other countries where the Kurdish minority is mostly Sunni, in Iran, a considerable proportion of Kurds – particularly those who live in the Kermanshah province – are Shiite and receive preferential treatment from government institutions. This population voted against holding the referendum, unlike the Kurds belonging to the Sunni branch, who voted in favor. Furthermore, the policy of “divide and conquer,” in combination with the Iranian regime’s tight control and harsh repression of the Kurdish population, has affected this minority’s cohesion.


Tehran’s opposition to the nationalist tendencies of the Iraqi Kurds stems from other motives as well, both geopolitical and geostrategic. Iran fears that Kurdish autonomy in northeastern Iraq will weaken its influence in that divided country. That Iran has penetrated Iraq’s political, diplomatic, and security spheres and influences its decision-makers is well known. Tehran uses powerful levers of influence in Iraq, such as the Shiite militias active in the framework of the al-Hashd al-Shabi (the Popular Mobilization Forces). Though these militias operate according to a November 2014 resolution of the Iraqi parliament that subordinated them to the country’s security-political establishment, the first loyalty of some of them is to the Revolutionary Guard and the policymakers of the Islamic Republic of Iran.


These militias are subject to Iranian guidance, funding, training, and sometimes even command, and are meant to promote Tehran’s interests. The ongoing fighting in Iraq and Syria and the collapse of governmental rule there has given Iran a window of opportunity to achieve its regional aspirations, which include promoting the “resistance axis” – a tactical and ideological basis for expanding Tehran’s influence across the Middle East…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]





Terry Glavin

National Post, Sept. 27, 2017


Here’s something that doesn’t happen very often. On one of the deepest tectonic stresses underlying the blood-soaked ground of the Greater Middle East, an orderly referendum carried out this week in the most exemplary democratic fashion in Northern Iraq has pitted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, European radical leftists and one of the most persecuted minorities on the face of the Earth against U.S. President Donald Trump, Syrian mass murderer Bashar Assad, Turkish strongman Recep Erdogan and the Khomeinist regime in Iran. And Canada.


After several postponements and fits and starts going back several years, and against an array of sternly-worded warnings and outright threats of violence, the already semi-sovereign Kurdish Regional Government of Masoud Barzani went ahead with the contentious referendum on Monday. What Barzani sought was a modest non-binding mandate to spend the next two years sitting down with Baghdad to peacefully negotiate a transition out of more than a quarter-century of de facto Kurdish autonomy in Iraq to full de jure autonomy. That’s it.


Kurdish election officials report a massive turnout of 78 per cent among more than five million eligible voters and a “yes” vote in the vicinity of 93 per cent. The result was greeted with jubilation among the stateless Kurds, wherever they live. There are at least 30 million Kurds in their mountainous homelands, divided a century ago between Iraq, Turkey, Syria and Iran. In the Middle East’s various presidential compounds and emirs’ palaces, however, you’d think Barzani had issued a unilateral declaration of independence, proclaimed an outright republic and declared war on his neighbours.


In Ankara, Erdogan threatened to cut off landlocked Iraqi Kurdistan from food shipments through Turkey, warning the Iraqi Kurds to “give up or go hungry.” Erdogan also threatened to close the spigots on a pipeline carrying Kurdish oil through Turkey to the Mediterranean Sea. “We have the tap,” he said. “The moment we close the tap, then it’s done.” Two years ago, Erdogan resumed a brutal war in Turkey’s Kurdish regions following the collapse of peace talks with the leadership of Turkey’s 14 million Kurds…


Netanyahu’s backing of the Kurdish referendum — and Kurdish independence — should come as no surprise. The Israelis and the Kurds have forged strong bonds of affection going back decades — it is not uncommon to see Israeli flags being waved at pro-independence rallies in Iraqi Kurdistan — and Israelis count the Kurds foremost among their few friends in the Middle East. Canada’s opposition to Barzani’s referendum is just as unsurprising. For all Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s “world stage” declarations of solidarity with the marginalized, the voiceless and the dispossessed, the Trudeau government has declared its interest in going along with the Iraqi status quo.


The presence of Canadian Special Forces working alongside Iraqi and Kurdish forces in the fight against the Islamic State in Operation Impact is irrelevant to the matter of the aging Barazani’s legacy referendum project. Trudeau has made much of not taking sides in the Kurdish referendum controversy, on the grounds that he’s “very sensitive” to matters related to separatism. Staying out of the arguments about Kurdish independence in Iraq sensibly follows from Canada’s experience with two referendum campaigns in Quebec, Trudeau says, when there was a danger of “foreign interlocutors” weighing in…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]




On Topic Links


Interview of LTC Sargis Sangari on Bill Martinez Live: Near East Center, Sept. 22, 2017—On 19 SEP 17, LTC Sargis Sangari was Interviewed on Bill Martinez Live in reference to the 25 SEP 17 KRG referendum, the three state “solution” for Iraq, and the security situation of the Assyria Nineveh Plain and Kirkuk under the current and future conflicts between the Sunni Muslim Kurds and the Iraqi Arabs.

The U.S. Must Tell Its Allies to Back Off the Kurds: Eli Lake, Bloomberg, Sept. 29, 2017— No one expected the neighbors to be happy when Iraq's Kurds voted for independence this week. After all, even though the Kurds say the Iraqi constitution does not forbid a referendum on statehood, there is still a regional war going on against the Islamic State. It's a chaotic moment to be talking about redrawing national borders.

Post-Referendum: Kurds in Iran Demand Rights as Regime Cracks Down: Seth J. Frantzman, Jerusalem Post, Sept. 30, 2017— Last Sunday, on the eve of the independence referendum by the Kurdistan Regional Government in northern Iraq, Iranian Kurds began celebrating. The next day, as people went to the polls across the border in Sulaimaniya, Erbil and other cities, Kurds in Iran celebrated en masse. In Baneh, Mahabad and Sanandaj, Iran, videos showed thousands in the streets, many of them with Kurdish flags.

Kurdish Referendum: What is the Lowdown?: Amir Taheri, Gatestone Institute, Oct. 1, 2017— Despite many efforts to stop or postpone it, the Iraqi Kurdistan referendum has become a fait accompli and must be taken into account in shaping future developments, and Iraqi Kurdistan Region President Masoud Barzani (also known as "Kak Masoud" — "Brother Masoud" in Kurdish), the man who orchestrated the exercise, must be as pleased as Punch.







ISIS and the US Warning to Turkey Against Attacking Syrian Kurds: Seth J. Frantzman, Jerusalem Post, May 3, 2017 — An Islamic State attack at dawn on Tuesday killed some two-dozen people in a Syrian town on the Iraqi border.

Israelis Learn to Live With a New Neighbor: Islamic State: Yaroslav Trofimov, Wall Street Journal, Apr. 27, 2017— On one side of a fence that snakes through eucalyptus-covered ridges is a swath of Syrian villages held by Islamic State.

Syria’s Chemical Weapons Show the Limits of Arms Control: Rebeccah Heinrichs, National Review, May 4, 2017 — Arms control failed to prevent Bashar al-Assad from using weapons of mass destruction against noncombatants, and this should serve as another hard lesson in its limitations.

A Strike in Syria Restores Our Credibility in the World: Tom Cotton, New York Times, Apr. 8, 2017— After President Bashar al-Assad of Syria once again attacked his own citizens with poison gas, the civilized world recoiled in horror at images of children writhing in pain and suffocating to death.


On Topic Links


Iran's Ambitions in the Levant: Ehud Yaari, Foreign Affairs, May 1, 2017

How Iran Enables Syria’s Chemical Warfare Against Civilians: Benjamin Weinthal, Jerusalem Post, Apr. 17, 2017

The Syrian Sarin Attacks of August 2013 and April 2017: Lt. Col. (res.) Dr. Dany Shoham, BESA, Apr. 26, 2017

Will Jordan Confront IS in Southern Syria?: Osama Al Sharif, Al-Monitor, Apr. 18, 2017






Seth J. Frantzman                                     

Jerusalem Post, May 3, 2017


An Islamic State attack at dawn on Tuesday killed some two-dozen people in a Syrian town on the Iraqi border. Many of the victims were refugees who were fleeing ISIS-held territory in Iraq and Syria on their way to Kurdish-held Hasakah, Kurdish fighters from the Syrian Democratic Forces told reporters. The SDF and US soldiers who support them are in the midst of an offensive to take Raqqa, ISIS’s Syrian capital, and have recently made significant gains against the extremists in Tabqah. However, recent attacks by Turkey against Kurdish areas in Syria have threatened to distract attention from the offensive against ISIS.


On April 25, Turkey launched air strikes against Kurdish positions at Sinjar Mountain in northern Iraq and at Karachok Mountain in northeastern Syria. Turkey claimed it targeted the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, which it views as a terrorist group and has repeatedly asserted is working with the People’s Protection Units, or YPG, in Syria, against which Turkey appeared to threaten further action.


For the US this is a red line. The YPG is part of the SDF, with which the US has partnered in the war against ISIS. US forces on the ground have cultivated a close relationship with the Kurds in Syria over the last two years. Department of State spokesman Mark Toner said on April 25 that the US was “deeply concerned” about the Turkish air strikes, which he said were made “without proper coordination either with the US or the broader global coalition to defeat ISIS.” Toner said the strikes caused a “loss of life of our partner forces” and that the safety of coalition personnel must be ensured.


On April 30, after visiting the site of Turkish air strikes in Syria, the US sent its forces to patrol alongside the YPG – flying US flags – on the border with Turkey. The decision to display the colors and patrol along the border was intended by its visible show of force to deter further Turkish attacks. The US did the same thing in early March, around the northern Syrian town of Manbij. The SDF took Manbij from ISIS in 2016, but Turkey threatened to attack the town in March alongside its Syrian-rebel allies. The US flag-waving patrols deterred Turkey in Manbij and the tactic appears to have deterred Turkish forces again.


The deeper meaning of the patrols is, the US is warning off its older ally in favor of its Kurdish relationship. Turkey and the US have 70 years of close relations, formed during the Cold War. But the war on ISIS has led the US defense establishment to conclude that the best bet to defeat ISIS lies with Kurdish forces and the SDF. The Turks have a different agenda which focuses on the PKK and its affiliates. Turkey has often accused the YPG of being in the same terrorist category as is ISIS. The Turkish view sees every step toward Raqqa by the SDF and the Americans as empowering the YPG, .


While career diplomats in the State Department and CIA may prefer their traditional relationship with Turkey, the US Defense Department – and those who listen to it in the White House – have settled on defeating ISIS the fastest way possible. That means defending the Kurdish region from air strikes so its forces and allies can focus on Raqqa. Nothing would be more disastrous for the US than a war between Turkey and the YPG while ISIS gets breathing space to carry out attacks as it did on Tuesday.


Turkey will continue to challenge US policy in Syria in the coming months and try to find allies in Washington who will listen to its point of view. Turkey views a permanent US presence in northeastern Syria as highly problematic and a provocation against its sphere of influence. At the same time, the US must decide if its relationship with the Kurds in Syria is merely one of convenience – until ISIS is defeated – or if it will build on it in the coming years.







Yaroslav Trofimov

Wall Street Journal, Apr. 27, 2017


On one side of a fence that snakes through eucalyptus-covered ridges is a swath of Syrian villages held by Islamic State. On the other, Yitzhak Ribak grows his Merlots, Cabernet Sauvignons and Syrahs. “My grapes are just 10 meters from the border fence. Sometimes I hear the booms on the other side. Sometimes I see people on the other side. They look like shepherds, but who knows,” said the Israeli winemaker. “It’s crazy.” So far, Islamic State hasn’t bothered his vineyard. “I am here all alone on my tractor at night and I am not afraid.”


While most attention has focused on Islamic State’s shrinking but still vast territory in eastern Syria and northwestern Iraq, the extremist group has also proved surprisingly resilient in the pocket of land it controls just outside Mr. Ribak’s vineyard. The area sits at the confluence of Syria, Jordan and the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights. Known as the Khalid bin Walid Army, the local Islamic State affiliate has rebuffed repeated offensives by the Western-backed Free Syrian Army and other moderate rebels. The porous nature of Syria’s front lines and corruption within FSA ranks have allowed Islamic State personnel and weapons to infiltrate the area known as the Yarmouk Basin, said Aymenn Jawad al-Tamimi, a security analyst who follows the group.


The presence of Islamic State so close to Israeli-populated towns and villages along the demarcation line in the Golan Heights poses an obvious threat—albeit one that so far hasn’t materialized into cross-border attacks. “The Golan is still the quietest place in the whole country,” said Yoni Hirsch, chairman of the municipal council of Nov, an Israeli community of some 800 people about 2 miles from Islamic State-held areas. “But we know what is happening across the border, and we are getting ready for what may happen,” he added. “We know that in one day with the decision of one person on the other side, our lives can change.”


The Israeli government is taking no chances. Over the past three years, it has replaced the old security fence in the Golan Heights, a plateau seized from Syria in the 1967 Middle East war, with a new structure some 20 feet high and equipped with modern sensors. It is also erecting a new fence further south along the border with Jordan. “As the dangers go up, so does the fence,” Mr. Hirsch said.


Islamic State, like other jihadist groups, has repeatedly pledged to eliminate Israel as part of its plan to build a world-wide Islamic caliphate. “We don’t have any doubt about their ideology and their dedication to destroying Israel,” said retired Israeli Brig Gen. Effie Eitam, a former cabinet minister and a resident of Nov. But Islamic State also has priorities and in southern Syria, the militants have focused on fighting more moderate rebels. “They are cleverer than attacking Israel. They know Israel has an army and can launch airstrikes and they don’t want to open another front line,” said Free Syrian Army Maj. Issam al-Reis, a spokesman for the coalition of rebel groups known as the Southern Front. “They are not interested in killing Israelis. What they are interested in is killing us.”


Such an unexpectedly peaceful coexistence with Islamic State next door helps explain Israeli perceptions of the Syrian conflict. The U.S. and its European allies view Islamic State, which has carried out terrorist attacks in the West, as the principal threat. Israeli officials, by contrast, are far more alarmed by Iran and the Lebanese Hezbollah militia. Preventing Iranian proxies from getting close to the Golan has emerged as a key Israeli priority in the Syrian conflict.


Islamic State, also known by its Arabic acronym Daesh, “is not powerful enough to make us fear,” said Ayoob Kara, the only Arab minister in the Israeli government who says he is in regular contact with various Syrian factions. “Daesh is going to lose,” he added. “There is no way it is going to be successful and by the end of the year, we won’t see it in any state around here. The problem of the Middle East is the capital of extremism that is Iran.”


On Thursday, Syria said Israel had launched a strike near the international airport in Damascus, where nearby buildings are believed to hold Iranian-supplied weapons bound for the Lebanese Hezbollah militia. Israel neither confirmed nor denied it was behind the blast. Later Thursday, Israel’s military said its Patriot missile defense system struck a drone over the Golan Heights that entered Israeli airspace.


For Mr. Ribak, who moved to Eliad in 1973 a few months before Syrian tanks attempting to recapture the Golan were stopped outside the village, the growth of Islamic State across the fence carries a clear message. Israel was lucky, he said, that its lengthy attempts at peace talks with Syria, based on trading the Golan Heights for a peace treaty, finally collapsed in 2010. “If we had given the Golan to Syria then, it would have all become ISIS-land,” Mr. Ribak said on a drive along the border fence, the minarets of a Syrian village across the valley glistening in the sun.


Like many people in the region, Mr. Ribak, who markets his wine under the Chateau Golan brand, said he has developed his own answer to the Middle East’s intractable problems. “I know how to solve it,” he said, proffering his peace plan. “Very simple. If all the people here start to drink wine, they will become happy and then there is no problem.”






Rebeccah Heinrichs

                                                National Review, May 4, 2017


Arms control failed to prevent Bashar al-Assad from using weapons of mass destruction against noncombatants, and this should serve as another hard lesson in its limitations. Civilized nations have sought to abolish the use of chemical weapons (CWs) for nearly a century, as evidenced by the 1919 Versailles Treaty, the Geneva Protocol, and the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), which prohibited not only the use of chemical weapons but the production and stockpiling of them as well.


The CWC was negotiated by Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush, who signed the multinational treaty in 1993. The U.S. Senate ratified the treaty during the Clinton administration in 1997, but the objections to it then have proven prescient. One such objection to it was the inability to truly verify compliance, a necessary condition for any useful agreement, lest the “agreement” serve as a restraint only to the states that are already self-restraining.


Assad’s chemical weapons attacks certainly underscore this problem. After President Obama drew his infamous red line regarding Assad’s use of chemical weapons and then failed to persuade the Senate he had planned a prudent military response, Putin and Obama set out to strike a deal with Assad. This deal would entail Assad ratifying the CWC, something Syria had previously refused to do.


But believing that Assad would fully cooperate with inspectors and comply with the CWC was obscenely, willfully naïve. Assad clearly believed that it was in his country’s interest to possess and use chemical weapons, and he had just witnessed Obama’s unwillingness to quickly and decisively retaliate with force in response to several CW attacks. And, undoubtedly, he had noted how utterly unable the American president was to persuade senators who were inclined to support using force that he had a clear military plan in response. In other words, Assad knew threats of force were empty, and he did not fear them. Thus, it was foolish for Obama-administration diplomats to have any measure of confidence that Assad would comply with the treaty when they had provided no credible incentive for him to do so.


Sure, he declared enough of his chemical weapons to please his patron, Putin, who was exploiting the international crisis for Russia’s gain. But it never made sense that Assad had suddenly changed his calculus and concluded it was in his interest to forgo all CWs. This didn’t stop Obama officials from asserting that he did, and then they took credit for it.


On July 20, 2014, in a Meet the Press interview, Secretary John Kerry said of Syria, “We struck a deal where we got 100 percent of the chemical weapons out.” On August 18, 2014, President Obama said, “Today we mark an important achievement in our ongoing effort to counter the spread of weapons of mass destruction by eliminating Syria’s declared chemical-weapons stockpile.” Then, remarkably, after subsequent chemical-weapons attacks by the Assad regime, President Obama’s national-security adviser, Susan Rice, said on January 16, 2017: “We were able to find a solution that didn’t necessitate the use of force that actually removed the chemical weapons that were known from Syria, in a way that the use of force would never have accomplished. . . . We were able to get the Syrian government to voluntarily and verifiably give up its chemical weapons stockpile.”


The audacity of these statements became all the more apparent when Tony Blinken, a former deputy secretary of state and former deputy national-security adviser under Barack Obama, told the New York Times, “We always knew we had not gotten everything, that the Syrians had not been fully forthcoming in their declaration.” Raising the obvious question: Why would so many in the administration and those in the arms-control community who advocated for the administration’s “diplomatic accomplishment” continue to be enthusiastic about a deal that was only partially followed by the other side? Their support stems from a belief that arms control is a worthy end in itself, rather than a potential means to achieve peace or mitigate the effects of an enemy’s aggression. And it reveals an unrealistic devotion to diplomacy absent the credible threat of military force.


But, as history shows, this kind of dogged devotion to the “give peace a chance” slogan often leads to war and human suffering. Assad’s willingness to flout the Obama-Putin deal certainly demonstrates this in our day. To be sure: Restraining the employment of chemical weapons is a worthy endeavor. Chemical weapons, like nuclear weapons, are strategic in nature. Chemical warfare in the First World War led to renewed, immediate efforts to restrain their use even though they killed far fewer people than conventional arms, as is the case in the contemporary Syrian war. But there is more to war than body counts. There is a psychological side to war — a moral side to war, and chemical weapons fall outside the norms of what the most battle-hardened soldiers from civilized nations are willing to accept.


Chemical weapons cause long, agonizing deaths and, for those who survive them, a life of suffering. Chemical clouds, sometimes a ghoulish color, although often invisible, sweep silently, secretly, and indiscriminately across enemy lines . . . and across homes and schoolyards and hospitals filled with hapless noncombatants: the elderly, women, and children. Death for the victim is often preceded by seizures, foaming at mouth, and other disturbing effects that traumatize the witnessing loved ones. They are, by their very nature, weapons of terror. The United States should not — cannot — permit their use, lest they become a normalized and conventional weapon of war. And to the Trump administration’s great credit, the United States demonstrated what we can and should do if they are used. Just as verification is a necessary condition to a useful arms-control deal, so is enforcement. For just as President Obama said in his famous 2009 disarmament speech in Prague: “Rules must be binding. Violations must be punished. Words must mean something.” Obama proved unwilling to enforce this sentiment, but his successor certainly seems willing.


The U.S. military strike against Syria’s Shayrat Airfield in response to Assad’s most recent chemical-weapons attack was carefully planned, limited in its military objective, and brilliantly executed. It seems to have achieved its desired tactical and strategic outcomes. According to a Pentagon spokesman, Captain Jeff Davis, the attack “severely damaged or destroyed Syrian aircraft and support infrastructure and equipment at Shayrat Airfield, reducing the Syrian government’s ability to deliver chemical weapons.” It also communicated to Syria and every other nation in possession of chemical weapons that the United States has the ability and the will to make it known that any use of chemical weapons is not worth the cost.


Assad and those like him certainly don’t care about “international norms” let alone notions of what civilized nations deem inherently immoral. But they do care that the world not see them as weak, and they care about their own survival. They do care if we embarrass them by showcasing their weakness, and if we threaten their survival by using force. And the more credible the U.S. threat of force is, the less we will have to use it.                                                            




A STRIKE IN SYRIA RESTORES OUR CREDIBILITY IN THE WORLD                                                                  

Tom Cotton                                                                                                                    

New York Times, Apr. 8, 2017


After President Bashar al-Assad of Syria once again attacked his own citizens with poison gas, the civilized world recoiled in horror at images of children writhing in pain and suffocating to death. President Trump voiced this justified outrage at a news conference on Wednesday, and the next day he took swift, decisive action against the outlaw Assad regime. But these strikes did more than simply punish Mr. Assad and deter future attacks; they have gone a long way to restoring our badly damaged credibility in the world.


It’s hard to overstate just how low the standing of the United States had fallen because of President Barack Obama’s failure to enforce his own “red line” against Mr. Assad’s use of chemical weapons in 2013. I was one of the few Republican members of Congress who supported strikes against Syria then. Because of that, I’ve heard from dozens of world leaders expressing their doubts about the security commitments of the United States. These doubts originated from surprising places. Of course our longtime Arab allies expressed their misgivings. Yet European and even Asian leaders have privately wondered to me whether the red-line fiasco called into question America’s security alliances in their regions. While far removed from the Middle East, they still depend on the United States and the threat of force to defend our mutual interests.


It wasn’t only Mr. Obama’s refusal to act in the moment that undermined our credibility. The fig leaf to justify inaction was an agreement with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia to remove Syria’s chemical weapons, which Russia and Syria plainly violated from the outset. Yet Obama administration officials continued to celebrate it as a triumph. It’s also worth remembering that Mr. Obama backed down partly because he so badly wanted a nuclear deal with Mr. Assad’s patron, Iran. But his weakness in Syria only emboldened Iran, ultimately producing a worse deal while encouraging Iran’s campaign of imperial aggression in the region, support for terrorism and human rights abuses.


In one night, President Trump turned the tables. He showed the world that when the United States issues a warning, it will back up its words with action. There was no hand-wringing, no straw-man choice between doing nothing and launching a massive ground invasion, no dithering for consultations with others who do not have the power to act. The American president voiced his disapproval, conducted an orderly and secret process at the National Security Council, and then delivered a retaliatory strike many years overdue.


The world now sees that President Trump does not share his predecessor’s reluctance to use force. And that’s why nations across the world have rallied to our side, while Russia and Iran are among the few to have condemned the attack. The threat of the use of force — and its actual use when necessary — is an essential foundation for effective diplomacy. Mr. Obama’s lack of credibility is one reason the United States watched in isolation as Russia and Iran took the lead at recent Syrian peace conferences. It’s also why Iran got the better of us in the nuclear negotiations and North Korea has defied us for years.


With our credibility restored, the United States can get back on offense around the world. In Syria, Mr. Assad knows that we have many more Tomahawk missiles than he has airfields. So do his supporters in Moscow and Tehran. Further, leaders in Iran must now question the risks of being put “on notice” earlier this year by President Trump. After all, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and C.I.A. Director Mike Pompeo are noted Iran hawks. If they recommended decisive action in Syria, the ayatollahs have to wonder if they may be next…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]





On Topic Links


Iran's Ambitions in the Levant: Ehud Yaari, Foreign Affairs, May 1, 2017 —In the words of U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, the administration of President Donald Trump is currently “reviewing ways to confront challenges posed by Iran.” This most likely means looking for ways in which to curb Iran’s expansionism in the Middle East.

How Iran Enables Syria’s Chemical Warfare Against Civilians: Benjamin Weinthal, Jerusalem Post, Apr. 17, 2017—The 59 Tomahawk missiles the US fired at the Shayrat Air Base served to punish dictator Bashar Assad for his use of chemical weapons against civilians. The strikes on April 6 also helped shine a spotlight on Iran’s role in Assad’s repeated use of nerve agents, because the mullahs’ Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps were at Shayrat.

The Syrian Sarin Attacks of August 2013 and April 2017: Lt. Col. (res.) Dr. Dany Shoham, BESA, Apr. 26, 2017—Although the accumulating evidence is not yet formally conclusive, it appears that chemical weapons (CW) containing the sarin nerve agent were employed by the Syrian regime’s air force against Khan Shaykhun during the massacre of April 4.

Will Jordan Confront IS in Southern Syria?: Osama Al Sharif, Al-Monitor, Apr. 18, 2017—Jordan could be preparing for joint military operations with US and British special forces against Islamic State (IS) militants in southern Syria following King Abdullah’s meeting with President Donald Trump at the White House on April 5. The talks dealt with a number of issues but centered on the US-led fight against the terrorist group, the creation of safe zones in Syria and Jordan’s role in both. In his interview with The Washington Post the same day, the king alluded to Jordan’s readiness to deal with threats to the kingdom’s northern borders, saying that “non-state actors from outside coming toward our border are not going to be tolerated.”