Archive for the ‘Turkey’s proxies’ category

NATO Ally Turkey Working with U.S. Muslim Brotherhood

April 4, 2017

NATO Ally Turkey Working with U.S. Muslim Brotherhood, Center for Security Policy, April 3, 2017

Osama Abu-Irshaid (National Director of American Muslims for Palestine, AMP, a founding member of the USCMO), USCMO Secretary General Oussama Jammal (center) and Naeem Baig (President of the Islamic Center of North America, ICNA, a founding member of the USCMO) outside AK Party Headquarters in Ankara, Turkey, during an August 2014 visit

While the Center for Security Policy has followed the activities of the USCMO, MLFA and AMJA, the realization of just how closely the Turkish government at the highest level is working in collusion with these Muslim Brotherhood-associated groups to thwart any legal measures that may be directed their way by the new Trump administration and Department of Justice led by Attorney General Jeff Sessions still comes as something of a shock. The U.S. Brotherhood and its international partners were way ahead of the Trump team in foreseeing a possible renewal of legal risk and liability under this new management and began taking steps to confront it. They bring significant financial and legal resources to the fight, plus, as we now see, state-level backing from NATO member Turkey whose pro-HAMAS stance has long been known.

But given that an official organization of the Ankara regime is now operating a large Center (with numerous associated centers and mosques) barely thirteen miles from the U.S. Capitol and working there in collaboration with the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood to thwart possible legal actions by the U.S. government is certainly noteworthy. As the international as well as U.S. Muslim Brotherhood gear up for coming confrontations, so must U.S. national security leadership as well.

************************

During the 2016 U.S presidential campaign, senior leadership figures of the United States Council of Muslim Organizations (USCMO) began strategic planning to ensure the advancement and protection of the group’s objectives, no matter who won the White House. USCMO Secretary General Oussama Jammal and HAMAS dba Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) Executive Director Nihad Awad set plans in motion to defend the Muslim Brotherhood’s Civilization Jihad inside the U.S. Those objectives were first exposed and described in the Center’s 2015 publication, in Star Spangled Shariah: The Rise of America’s First Muslim Brotherhood Party.

Joining directly in those efforts then and now is the pro-HAMAS Turkish government, under the leadership of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP). The groundwork for what is now a close working relationship began well before the March 2014 announcement of the USCMO’s formation, but it is known that on 15 May 2013, a visiting President Erdoğan placed a ceremonial stone on the 16-acre construction site that would become the Turkish Diyanet Center of America in Lanham, Maryland. The following year, in August 2014, a USCMO delegation led by Secretary General Oussama Jammal traveled to Ankara to meet with President Erdoğan and AK Party leaders. And then, on 29 December 2014, in a recorded video message, Dr. Mehmet Görmez, President of the Presidency of Religious Affairs (Diyanet), addressed the 13th Annual MAS-ICNA (Muslim American Society-Islamic Circle of North America) Conference in Chicago, Illinois and discussed a gift for all Muslims: the Turkish Diyanet Center of America. Of note for the future of the US Muslim Brotherhood-Turkish relationship, this conference was sponsored by the Turkish-backed American Zakat Foundation and included the first-ever attendance of a Turkish-American group at a MAS-ICNA conference.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan shaking hands with USCMO Secretary General Oussama Jammal during the USCMO delegation reception with Erdoğan in NYC in September 2016
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan addressing an assembly of US Muslim Brotherhood leadership during the week of the September 2016 UN General Assembly meeting. USCMO Secretary General Oussama Jammal is in the front row at the far right, Mazen Mokhtar, Executive Director of the Muslim American Society (MAS), can be seen in the middle, and Nihad Awad, CAIR Executive Director, is seated at the far left. Awad also welcomed the Turkish government delegation to CAIR’s WDC headquarters that same week.

It will be recalled that Erdoğan himself joined U.S. President Barack Obama on 2 April 2016 at the opening ceremonies for the Diyanet Center of America, located on a large 16-acre site in Lanham, Maryland. The Diyanet Center, also known as the Turkish American Cultural Center (TACC), is a wholly-owned facility of The Presidency of Religious Affairs, an official state institution of the Turkish government.

Under the Trump administration, the USCMO is especially concerned with legal issues, as calls were heard during the 2016 campaign urging that the 2008 Holy Land Foundation (HLF) HAMAS terror funding trial be re-opened to pursue possible cases against the more-than-200 unindicted co-conspirators named by the Department of Justice. Apparently concerned over possible vulnerability should the books of mosques, Islamic Centers and Muslim Brotherhood front groups come under renewed official scrutiny, CAIR and other members of the USCMO therefore engaged the services of the Muslim Legal Fund of America (MLFA), itself a founding member of the USCMO.

It should come as no surprise, then, that the first major event to be co-sponsored by the USCMO, TACC and the MLFA in the Trump era will be a 13 May 2017 Muslim Non-Profit Leadership Conference, to be held at the Diyanet Center of America. Among the program topics are Safeguarding 501(c)3 status; Board fiduciary responsibilities; record keeping and disclosure requirements; Fundraising regulations, state registrations, unrelated business income; and Banking regulations, FDIC, DOJ, Watchlists, international charitable giving.

One of the MLFA’s top legal representatives, now working openly with the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood, is U.S. Navy Lieutenant Commander (ret.) Charles Swift, formerly of the Judge Advocate General’s Corps. Swift, a 1984 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, who was recognized by the Muslim Brotherhood for his legal role advocating for client Salim Ahmed Hamdan in the U.S. Supreme Court case Hamdan v. Rumsfield 548 US 557 (2006). This role doubtless contributed to the choice of Swift as Director and Counsel for the Constitutional Law Center for Muslims in America (CLCMA), a project of the Muslim Legal Fund of America led by Executive Director Khahil Meek.

The MLFA’s CLCMA project presents itself as dedicated to two primary missions:

    • “Challenging governmental security measures affecting Muslim communities which encroach upon the constitutional liberties guaranteed to all.”
    • “Protecting the rights of Muslim individuals and organizations in the United States to exercise their constitutionally and statutorily protected rights to worship.”
Pictured left to right: “Jihadis in Suits” Nihad Awad, Khalil Meek, Oussama Jammal

In apparent pursuance of these missions, the MLFA continues actively to seek the release from federal prison of defendants in the HLF trial, which concluded in late 2008 with a unanimous guilty verdict on all 108 counts. The MLFA also engages in lawfare, using lawsuits as an offensive means of shutting down opposition to its civilization jihad operations. For example, as noted by the Thomas More Law Center in the 2009 case of Joe KAUFMAN, Appellant, v. ISLAMIC SOCIETY OF ARLINGTON, Texas, Islamic Center of Irving, DFW Islamic Educational Center, Inc., Dar Elsalam Islamic Center, Al Hedayah Islamic Center, Islamic Association of Tarrant County, and Muslim American Society of Dallas, Appellees, No. 2-09-023-CV: “The head of that organization [MLFA], Khalil Meek, admitted on a Muslim radio show that lawsuits were being filed against Kaufman and others to set an example. Indeed, for the last several years, Muslim groups in the U.S. have engaged in the tactic of filing meritless lawsuits to silence any public discussion of Islamic terrorist threats.”

More recently, in response to U.S. President Donald J. Trump’s early March 2017 revised executive order to restrict immigration from six Muslim-majority nations, the MLFA working in conjunction with the USCMO, is referring all Muslims to its “advisory prepared by Constitutional Law Center for Muslims in America.” The MLFA may cloak itself in the colors of Star Spangled Shariah as a “constitutional rights organization” but Executive Director Khalil Meek still whines that “We continue to be troubled by this administration’s ongoing attempts to single out Muslims for adverse actions. Such blatant discrimination is a violation of our nation’s constitutional freedoms of speech, expression and religion.”

Finally, it is worth taking note of the following guidance. The Assembly of Muslim Jurists of America (AMJA) provides the authoritative juridical backup on Islamic Law (shariah) for the American Muslim community and U.S. Islamic legal organizations such as the MLFA. Addressing the U.S. Muslim community on 28 November 2016, shortly after Donald Trump won the U.S. presidential election, AMJA issued the following bracing statement:

“No one could possibly be unaware of the political storm that has recently overtaken this country…For this reason, the Assembly of Muslim Jurists in America is addressing the Imams, Islamic workers and the entire Muslim community with permanent values that must be emphasized during this stage as well as a number of principles to be used in dealing with these events, what has happened as well as what is expected to happen…Islam, with respect to its belief and legal foundations, is unalterably fixed. It does not accept any replacement for change. (emphasis added)

While the Center for Security Policy has followed the activities of the USCMO, MLFA and AMJA, the realization of just how closely the Turkish government at the highest level is working in collusion with these Muslim Brotherhood-associated groups to thwart any legal measures that may be directed their way by the new Trump administration and Department of Justice led by Attorney General Jeff Sessions still comes as something of a shock. The U.S. Brotherhood and its international partners were way ahead of the Trump team in foreseeing a possible renewal of legal risk and liability under this new management and began taking steps to confront it. They bring significant financial and legal resources to the fight, plus, as we now see, state-level backing from NATO member Turkey whose pro-HAMAS stance has long been known.

But given that an official organization of the Ankara regime is now operating a large Center (with numerous associated centers and mosques) barely thirteen miles from the U.S. Capitol and working there in collaboration with the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood to thwart possible legal actions by the U.S. government is certainly noteworthy. As the international as well as U.S. Muslim Brotherhood gear up for coming confrontations, so must U.S. national security leadership as well.

Can US, Turkey keep up appearances in Syria?

May 30, 2016

Can US, Turkey keep up appearances in Syria? Al-Monitor, May 29, 2016

A terrorist group linked to the Islamic State (IS) claimed responsibility for suicide bombings in Tartus and Jableh in Syria on May 23 that killed more than 150 civilians and wounded more than 200 others. Maxim Suchkov points out that the attack in Tartus occurred deep inside government-controlled territory. Russia maintains a naval base in Tartus and an air base and reconnaissance center in Khmeimim in the Latakia region. The suicide attacks, Suchkov suggests, could be a catalyst for a Russian “first strike” strategy against terrorist and aligned Salafi groups.

Moscow had already signaled the prospect of escalation against Jabhat al-Nusra and allied groups prior to the May 23 attacks. The Russian Ministry of Defense has announced a pause in its air campaign to allow armed groups allied with Jabhat-al Nusra to distance themselves from the al-Qaeda affiliate. On May 26, Jabhat al-Nusra, Ahrar al-Sham and allied groups seized the town of Dirkhabiyah near Damascus. Ahrar al-Sham has coordinated more closely with Jabhat al-Nusra in response to increased US and Russian targeting of the al-Qaeda affiliate over the past few months.

This column last week suggested that the United States take up a Russian offer to coordinate attacks on Jabhat al-Nusra, which is not a party to the cessation of hostilities. For the record, we have no tolerance or empathy for groups or individuals who stand with al-Qaeda. We hope that this is at least part of the message the United States is conveying to its regional partners who have backed these groups.

With the Geneva talks suspended for several weeks, the prospect of a Russian campaign to deliver heavy and potentially fatal blows to Jabhat al-Nusra and its allies, especially in and around Aleppo and Idlib, could signal yet another turning point in the Syria conflict.

Turkey’s failed proxy war

The United States and Turkey are struggling to keep up appearances in Syria, despite even further signs of division and discord.

Gen. Joseph Votel, US CENTCOM commander, met last week with Syrian Kurdish forces during a “secret” visit to northern Syria as part of a regional diplomatic tour that also included a stop in Ankara. Votel told Washington Post columnist David Ignatius that he is seeking to “balance” Turkey’s role as a “fabulous” partner in the battle against IS with that of the People’s Protection Units (YPG), the backbone of the Syrian Defense Forces (SDF), which is a “very good partner on the ground.”

In contrast to the YPG, Turkey’s proxy forces, including a worrying mix of Salafists who are willing to run operations with Jabhat al-Nusra, have been a flop. Last week, IS seized at least seven villages in the northern Aleppo region.

Fehim Tastekin reports that SDF-led military operations to liberate Jarablus, which is an essential gateway along with al-Rai to the outside world via Turkey, were postponed “because of Turkey’s red line against the Kurds.” The offensive against Raqqa has also been slowed, writes Tastekin, because “the SDF’s operational capacity still leaves much to be desired. It is not an option for the Kurdish YPG-YPJ to control Raqqa, because they will encounter local resistance. They also worry that scattering their forces in Arab regions could weaken the defensive lines of Rojava (Syrian Kurdistan). Therefore, Arab forces would have to get in shape to control the situation in the post-IS period.” Laura Rozen reports from Washington that the United States is seeking to boost the numbers of Arab Sunni forces among the SDF in anticipation of an advance on Raqqa.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon found itself in a public relations fiasco after Turkey complained that US special forces in Syria were wearing badges with the logo of the YPG, which Turkey considers the Syrian partner of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and therefore also a terrorist organization. This might be compared with what in the sports world is known as an unforced error, and made Votel’s already daunting diplomacy that much more complicated.

Air Force Col. Sean McCarthy also told Ignatius that US air operations against IS out of Incirlik Air Base were mostly “autonomous” of Turkish missions, saying that “we don’t discuss with them where we’re going.”

Adding it all up, the US-Turkish “partnership” against IS may be more fable than fabulous. The open secret is that Turkey is preoccupied first with thwarting advances by Syria’s Kurds, and second with shutting down the remaining lifelines for IS in northern Syria. These priorities are of a piece. No doubt Turkey is taking up the fight against IS, but first things first. Tastekin, who previously broke the back story on Turkey’s disastrous proxy efforts to retake al-Rai from IS in April, now concludes that “there is no room for optimism that Ankara will erase its red lines vis-a-vis the Kurds. Instead, Turkey is now trying to put together an even more formidable force with Jabhat al-Nusra, which it is trying to steer away from al-Qaeda.”

The catch might just be that many of the Syrian armed groups backed by Washington’s regional partners are proxies for a sectarian agenda that is mostly about toppling Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, however unlikely that now appears, and, by extension, keeping the heat on Iran. The when and where of taking the fight to IS or Jabhat al-Nusra is more or less negotiable, depending on trade-offs and pressure. We do not feel we are out on a limb in suggesting that efforts by Ankara or others to wean Jabhat al-Nusra from al-Qaeda will come to no good. This column has repeatedly documented the fluidity of foreign-backed Salafi groups such as Ahrar al-Sham and Jaish al-Islam shifting in and out of tactical alliances with Jabhat al-Nusra, all the while preaching an ideology almost indistinguishable from al-Qaeda and IS.

The losers, of course, are the people of Syria, including those who suffer under IS’ tyranny that much longer because of Turkey’s concerns about the Kurds, and as Washington’s policymakers and pundits begin another maddening deep dive into how to rejigger ethnic and sectarian fault lines. Syrians fleeing IS terror in Aleppo, meanwhile, told Mohammed al-Khatieb that living under IS is “like hell … unbearable.” While we acknowledge the complexities and challenges of the raw ethnic and sectarian politics of Syria, as well as the potential for vendettas and mass killings, there is, in our score, an urgency and priority to focus on the destruction of IS and al-Qaeda above all else.

Sur’s aftermath

Diyarbakir’s historic district of Sur has witnessed some of the most brutal fighting between Turkish military and PKK forces over the past year. Mahmut Bozarslan reports from Diyarbakir that “historical landmarks in Sur, which was last year added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List, also suffered their share of destruction. The walls of the Armenian Catholic church are partially destroyed, while the nearby Haci Hamit Mosque is missing its minaret, with a dome riddled with bullets. Another Armenian church, Surp Giragos, had its windows shattered and interior damaged.”

“Still, those ancient monuments were lucky compared with more ordinary structures in the area,” writes Bozarslan. “A building with an intact door was almost impossible to find. The warring parties had used some buildings as fighting bases, others as places to rest. Stairways were littered with empty tins; one was also stained with blood. At the bloodied spot, a piece of paper reading “body #1” was left behind, suggesting that the security forces had been there for a crime scene report. A couple seemed relieved that they had escaped with relatively little damage, but grumbled that their apartment had been broken into, with the bedroom and closets rummaged. They claimed it was the security forces who had entered, while their neighbor showed Al-Monitor binoculars that had been left behind.”