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What will happen to the Central Asian jihadists in Idlib after the Sochi Memorandum?

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Putin and Erdogan at the time of signing the Turkish-Russian agreement to establish a demilitarized zone in Syria's northwestern Idlib province

It became obvious that, the persistent calls and strict warnings from the UN, the United States, the EU and Turkey about the inevitability of a catastrophe and mass casualties in the event of a military operation on the Idlib Province, the last major rebel holdout in western Syria and home to about four million people, has begun to bear fruit. A military operation in Idlib was cancelled and the world sighed with relief.

The Price of Peace in Idlib

On September 17, 2018, in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Ankara and Moscow signed a memorandum to create a demilitarized buffer zone in Syria’s Idlib region to separate government and rebel forces, in which acts of aggression are prohibited. The memorandum provides for a “withdrawal of all radical fighters” from Idlib including Hayat Tahrir al-Sham. Moscow and Ankara also agreed on the withdrawal of “heavy weaponry from this zone,” including tanks, multiple-launch rocket systems, and rocket launchers belonging to all armed opposition groups by October 10. The demilitarized buffer zone will extend between 15 to 20 kilometers (9-12 miles) deep into Idlib.Russia and Turkey will conduct joint patrols along the zone’s perimeter.

Ankara’s diplomatic victory is that the National Liberation Front (NLF) — a rebel coalition in Syria formed in May 2018 under Turkey’s auspices — will remain in Idlib as a “new owner”. The NLF includes Sunni groups Ahrar al-Sham, Nur al-Din al-Zenki as well as several factions battling under the banner of the Free Syrian Army, which Western countries consider “moderate armed opposition. According to The Sochi Memorandum, Moscow, Damascus and Tehran have practically recognized NLF as the only moderate armed opposition in Syria.

The Sochi Memorandum, which at the last minute stopped the bombing of Idlib, completely suits Ankara. De facto, Turkey is expanding its presence deep into Syria, and takes the political and economic management of Idlib into its own hands, as was done in Afrin.In the past Turkey conducted a military operation, code-named Olive Branch, against the Kurdish-led Democratic Union Party (PYD) in Syria for more than two months,in order to achieve the conquest of Afrin. However,in contrast, Ankara has now seized Idlib as a result of its diplomatic initiatives. It should be expected that in the near future Ankara will immediately begin to establish pro-Turkish self-government by Idlib province.

Residents of Idlib welcome the Sochi Memorandum

Today more than 60 percent of the Idlib province is controlled by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, former al Qaeda linked Al Nusrah Front. According to The Washington Institute, HTS has 30,000 combatants. It should be noted that in order to turn Al Nusrah Front into a serious political player in the intra-Syrian conflict and in order to avoid international sanctions, the group’s leader of Abu Muhammad al Julani in July 2016 announced that he would break off their ties from al Qaeda. HTS has managed to expand its political and governance efforts, coordinating them through a civilian-run “Salvation Government” in Idlib. The group has expanded and energized initiatives to provide core services, from education and healthcare to electricity and water.

Now Turkey will seek the transfer of the reins of political, military and economic government by the province from HTS to NLF. But a clear mechanism for the transfer of power has not yet been developed. It is not excluded that a new redistribution of spheres of influence in the province may be accompanied by armed conflicts between “new” and “old” owners. A significant share of the HTS budget came from customs and tax collections in the territory of “Salvation Government”, arms smuggling and human trafficking along the border with Turkey.

But the most difficult challenge for Turkey is cleaning radical jihadists out of Idlib, first of all, from HTS. Ankara has taken on an excessive responsibility for separating the moderate opposition from the Islamist extremists in Idlib which is not easy to implement. If Turkey manages to withdraw weapons from armed members of al Qaeda, HTS, Uyghur, Uzbek and Chechen Salafi-jihadi militants, and drive them all out of Idlib, then a new impulse will be given to the world struggle against Islamist radicalism. Then Erdogan, who positions himself as a defender of Sunni Islam in the world, would strike a tangible blow to the ideology of ISIS and al Qaeda.

On the other hand, if Ankara is able to include all foreign terrorists and jihadists from Central Asia and China in Idlib into the National Liberation Front and the NLF becomes for them a new “amir”, then the Sochi memorandum would become the next survival tool for these al Qaeda linked radical groups.

Foreign fighters from the former Soviet Union and China in Idlib

Syria’s northwest, long a hotbed of armed resistance and the heartland of al-Qaeda-linked operations, has become a real-life shelter for Uyghur, Uzbek, Tajik and Kyrgyz militants and their families from Central Asia. The militants from the former Soviet Union and Chinese Xinjiang are the largest foreign jihadists in Idlib Province.

Which Russian-Speaking Foreign Salafi- jihadi groups operating in Idlib were ready to defend the “Sham’s Liberated Lands” (Hayat Tahrir al-Sham calls these lands his possession) from attacks by the Assad army and pro-Iranian Shia militant formations?

The Turkestan Islamic Party is one such group, mainly consisting of Uyghur Islamic fighters from the Chinese province of Xinjiang. The Islamic Movement of Eastern Turkestan established in the 80s of last century in Chinese Xingjian was later renamed into the Turkestan Islamic Party and since 1997 it has been known to be based in Afghanistan. Since then, TIP is actively cooperating with the terrorist groups al Qaeda and Taliban. The amir of TIP is Abd al-Haqq al Turkistani. In February 2012 Uyghur militants moved to Idlib province and together with Al Nusrah Front are fighting against government forces of Bashar al-Assad. The al Qaeda’s jihadi doctrine is the basis of the TIP’s ideological platform. From 8 to 10 thousand Uyghur militants with their families are concentrated in Jisr al-Shughur.

Katibat al Tawhid wal Jihad is affiliated with the Al Nusrah Front and its ancestor al Qaeda. The Salafi-jihadi group includes citizens of Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Abu Saloh (Sirojiddin Mukhtarov) is the amir of the group whowas born in the Osh region of Kyrgyzstan. He speaks emotionally, confidently and often quotes the Quran. Abu Saloh is a faithful and aggressive propagandist of the al Qaeda’s ideology. He organized jointly with the Uyghur terrorists from the Turkestan Islamic Party the explosion in the Bishkek-based Chinese embassy in August 2016 in Kyrgyzstan. Also, the Federal Security Service of Russia has accused him of organizing an explosion in the metro of St. Petersburg on April 3, 2017. The approximate number of the KTJ militants is about 400 people, mostly Uzbek jihadists.

The Katibat Imam al-Bukhari detachment was created in Afghanistan on the basis of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and pledged loyalty to the Taliban. After the outbreak of the civil war in Syria in 2012 KIB moved to Syrian Idlib Province and distinguished itself as one of the major rebel groups fighting against the regime of Bashar Assad. Today one group of the KIB’s jihadists is based in Afghanistan and fighting together with the Taliban. Abu Yusuf Muhojir, the Uzbek militant from Tajikistan, is the amir of the group. About 300-350 militants are known to fight in the KIB. The US State Department designated KIB as global terrorist organizations on March 22, 2018. KIB takes a close position by its military and ideological views to the al Qaeda linked Al Nusrah Front and Ahrar al-Sham. Later both groups formally announced the break in their relations with al Qaeda, although their ideological jihadi platforms did not change. Despite the fact that KIB claims to be an “independent” faction, al Qaeda’s radical Salafism and militant Takfirism are the fundamental basis of the jihadi ideology of the KIB. During the bloody conflict between Hayat Tahrir al-Sham led by Al Nusrah Front and the Syrian Liberation Front headed by Ahrar al-Sham in February 2018, KIB took a neutral stance and tried to play an intermediary role in their reconciliation.

4.The so-calledChechen groups“, which have been formed from the inhabitants of the North Caucasus of Russia and Georgiaare also involved in this conflict.Today in Idlib there are groups from the North Caucasus calling themselves “independent” factions Ajnad al Kavkaz (lider – RustamAzhiev), Junud al-Sham (lider – Murad Margoshvili), Jaish al-Usrah (lider – Peizulla Margoshvili), Jamaat Katibat Ibadar-Rahman (lider – Tarkhan Gaziyev) and Liwa al Muhajireen wal Ansar, which are part of the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham. The number of militants in these Russian-speaking groups from the North Caucasus are much less than the Turkic-speaking Salafi-jihadi groups from Central Asia. Unlike the Uzbek and Uygur jihadist groups, there is no singular identical ideological doctrine among the “Chechen groups”. As a result, they did not always enter into a coalition with Syrian opposition groups of local Arabs and did not accept the ideology of the global players of the world jihad.

After analyzing ideological platforms, it can be concluded that all these foreign Salafi-jihadi groups from Central Asia, Western China and the North Caucasus, which are stationed today in Idlib, have two factors in common.

First, they all have close cooperation with Al Qaeda and consider his leader Ayman al-Zawahiri their ideological leader.

Secondly, they coordinate all their military operations in Syria and conduct them under the leadership of the HTS. Practically Uzbek and Uighur militants became an integral part of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham. The jihadists of Central Asia became the link between Al Qaeda and HTS after their quarrels.

So far, neither the HTS, nor the Central Asian jihadists, nor the militants from the North Caucasus have expressed their opinion on the Sochi Memorandum

Where will the Central Asian jihadists go, if they leave Idlib?

After the signing of the Sochi Memorandum, the fate of the foreign jihadist groups in Idlib became dependent on Turkey. Now, the Turkish armed forces will apply pressure on foreign radical groups to leave the territory of Idlib for the creation of a 15-20 kilometer demilitarized belt by October 15, 2018, in order to fulfill the provisions of the memorandum.North Caucasus and Central Asian jihadist groups will react to Turkish pressure based on the positions of HTS. That is, they will follow the example of the HTS, the largest and well-armed group in Idlib.

First option. HTS surrenders its heavy weapons, dissolves itself and integrates into the Turkish backed National Liberation Front. In this case, Chechen, Uzbek, Tajik and Kyrgyz jihadists will look for ways to stay in Idlib and join the NLF. But Russia and China will be opposed to this path and will likely present an ultimatum to Ankara for their detention and transfer.

The second option. If the HTS does not agree to disarm, then the intervention of the Turkish Armed Forces in Idlib will become inevitable. If conflict flares up between the HTS and the Turkish military, the North Caucasus and Central Asian jihadists will likely not interfere in it and will try, as far as possible, to leave Syria and move to Afghanistan to join the Taliban.It is unlikely that the kinship of Uzbeks and Uyghurs to the Turks will prevail over their religious-political jihadi ideology and cause them to disarm.

The third option. After the establishment of the pro-Turkish government in Idlib, led by the moderate opposition of the NLF, Russia and Turkey would jointly conduct military operations to eliminate Chechen and Central Asian Islamists.

In conclusion, it is likely that a decision about the future of the foreign Salafi-jihadi groups in Syria is drawing closer to a resolution each passing day.

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Under False Pretenses: Who Directed the Assassin to Kill the Russian Ambassador in Turkey in 2016?

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Motivation for the assassination of Andrei Karlov, the Russian ambassador to Ankara, remains shrouded in mystery five years after off-duty Turkish police officer Mevlut Mert Altintas committed the crime during the opening of an art exhibition in Ankara on December 19, 2016. Chaos ensued when Altintas (circled in the photo below) calmly pulled out his duty gun and fired at least eight rounds, shouting in Arabic and Turkish, “Allahu Akbar! Don’t forget Aleppo. Don’t forget Syria. Unless our towns are secure, you won’t enjoy security. Only death can take me from here. Everyone who is involved in this suffering will pay the price.”

Speculation about why Altintas acted as he did have run the gamut, but three theories have come to the forefront. First, Turkish government officials blame the Gulen movement, which they designated as a terrorist organization right after the suspicious July 15, 2016, coup attempt. Second, Altintas, who was opposed to increasing economic ties between Turkey and Russia and opposed to Russia’s support for the Assad regime in Syria, operated as a lone actor. Third, suspicion has been cast on the Kurds who are fighting against ISIS. The leaders of both Turkey and Russia were prudent in their statements after the assassination. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said,“I describe this attack on Russia’s embassy as an attack to Turkey, Turkey’s state and nation,” while President Vladimir Putin said that “the crime was a “provocation designed to spoil” relations between Russia and Turkey and “derail the peace process in Syria.”

As might have been expected, the Second Heavy Penal Court of Ankara, which announced its verdict in the assassination case on March 9, 2021, said that the Gulen movement was complicit in Karlov’s death. Russia and experts of the Western world, however, do not support the Turkish government’s theory. This article attempts to shed light on the indictmentsTurkey issued in the Karlov case and delves into questions related to the Gulen theory and the lone-actor theory that need to be reinvestigated. The Kurdish theory is not addressed here because no evidence exists to even suggest that such a scenario is plausible.

Turkey’s Accusations in the Indictment

Like it had done with other investigations of notable attacks in Turkey since the anti-corruption scandals came to light in late 2013, the court accused Fethullah Gulen and his movement of plotting the assassination of Karlov and persuading Altintas to commit the crime. Before examining the details of Karlov’s indictment, however, it is necessary to explain how the Turkish justice system works and why the investigation and prosecution of notable attacks always have the same scapegoats: former police officers, former military personnel, and Gulenists. The December 2013 anti-corruption investigations, which used solid evidence to implicate Erdogan, his family members, and Erdogan’s cabinet, is a prime example. Erdogan accused allegedly Gulenist police officers to plot a scheme to overthrow the government and oust Erdogan from power. Furious about such an unconvincing plan, Erdogan responded by launching a retaliatory crackdown against the Gulenists and subjecting all members of the movement to relentless oppression.

Erdogan’s implacable grudge against Gulen has harmed the credibility of Turkey’s justice system because, now, every investigation is directed to conclude that Gulenists were somehow the perpetrators. This hijacking of the Turkish justice system helps to explain why Turkey was ranked near the bottom of the constraints on government powers category in the 2020Rule of Law Index. The World Justice Project compiles the index each year and reflects how the influential nonprofit civil society organization perceives 128 countries’ adherence to the rule of law. Turkey ranked 124th on the list.

The government’s disregard for the rule of law in Turkey has meant the demise of bottom-up investigations that aimed to collect evidence and then identify the suspect and the rise of top-down investigations that name the suspect first and then fabricate evidence against the predetermined suspect. Prosecutors now routinely use copy-and-paste indictments filled with fabricated evidence presented by intelligence officials. Prosecutors who were opposed to the directives promulgated by Erdogan and his government were accused of being members of a terrorist organization and then put in jail. The indictments prepared after the 2013anti-corruption scandals were no different and include many contradictions that Western countries consider to be suspicious.

Suspicious Investigations by Turkey’s Judicial System

An examination of how the prosecution and conviction systems work in Turkey suggests a pattern of subterfuge that undermines the credibility of the government’s indictment of Altintas for the assassination of Karlov. That pattern involves the use of fabricated and dubious evidence and the statements of secret so-called witnesses provided by intelligence officials and the police for the sole purpose of indicting a perceived enemy of the government. Prosecutors are complicit in the charade, signing the bogus indictments and referring them to the court without question.

The police investigation that targeted members of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) is a case in point. During this investigation, the police collected solid evidence about the spying activities of IRGC members in Turkey and how they had targeted the U.S. Consulate in Turkey. The government, however, ignored the evidence and shut down the investigation. In another case, the government shutdown a police investigation that targeted the Tahsiye Group, an al Qaeda-affiliated organization led by Mehmet Dogan. Dogan had become a target of the law enforcement when, during a speech, he praised Osama Bin Laden and told his followers that they have a binding duty (fardh) to join Osama Bin Laden’s army in Afghanistan. In a third case, the government relentlessly punished the police investigators who examined several trucks that belonged to Turkey’s Intelligence Office. The investigators found that the trucks contained arms and explosives destined for jihadist groups in Syria. Despite solid evidence and video footage showing arms hidden inside the trucks, the government shut down the case. In yet another case, the government shut down the December 17 and 25, 2013 anti-corruption investigations that implicated Erdogan, his family, and members of his cabinet. Reza Zarrab, the money launderer for the corrupt government officials, transported$20 billion to Iran on a route through Turkey at a time when the European Union and the United States had imposed embargoes on Iran for its ambition to possess nuclear weapons. The police had proved that Zarrab was giving bribes worth millions of euros and dollars to Turkey’s bureaucrats and ministers, but the government disregarded the evidence and released Zarrab and his accomplices. Zarrab, however, was arrested in the United States on March 19, 2016. At Zarrab’s trial, the U.S. prosecutors were able to use all of the evidence—including wiretappings—that the Turkish police had collected within the scope of their corruption investigations from three years ago and which the Turkish government alleged that they had been fabricated by the Turkish police investigators. A fifth case involves the conviction of police officers who allegedly had ignored the killing of Armenian journalist Hrant Dink in Istanbul in 2007. The court announced its verdict on March 2021; however, Dink’s family and the family’s lawyers believed that the investigation had overlooked critical elements and were not satisfied with the court’s decision. The common thread that ties these five cases together is the government’s adamant contention—despite clear evidence to the contrary—that all the defendants were Gulenists who deserved lengthy, and even lifelong, prison sentences. 

The outcome of the government’s investigation of the July 15, 2016, coup attempt differed slightly from its usual strategy. This time, the government accused not only Gulenists but also Americans of plotting the failed coup. Evidence uncovered since then, however, indicates the July 15 coup attempt was one of the most suspicious events of Turkey’s history. Some high level politicians in Turkey have said that Erdogan knew about the coup in advance and did not try to stop it because he believed the fallout from a coup would be to his benefit. The coup, therefore, was not a failed coup but rather a fake coup. The author’s previous articles about the coup emphasizes the idea that a small group of military personnel who were provoked into staging a badly orchestrated coup and paid a colossal cost for doing so, as Erdogan used the event to undermine Turkey’s democracy and turn a democracy into an authoritarian regime.

Details and Questions from the Altintas Indictment

The prosecutor accused 28 suspects in a 600-page indictment and concluded that Gulen was the number one suspect. According to the indictment, the prosecutor made the following accusations:

  • Altintas joined religious meetings of Gulenists before the December 17 and 25, 2013, corruption scandals.
  • An SD card (provided by an anonymous witness) contained encrypted content identified Altintas as a Gulenist and noted that Altintas broke his ties with Gulenists after the December 17 and 25, 2013, corruption scandals.
  • Gulenists directed Altintas to infiltrate and join the radical Islamist group Sosyal DokuVakfi (SDV-Social Fabric Association). The prosecutor based this accusation on the radical slogans Altintas uttered when he assassinated Karlov, believing that Altintas wanted to draw attention away from Gulenists and create the perception that ISIS and al Qaeda were to blame for the assassination.
  • Gulenists created a plan to kill the Russian ambassador (i.e., Karlov) in 2016. The prosecutor based this accusation on an inference he made from one episode in a movie series broadcast in 2014 on a Gulenist media outlet. It was in that episode that a fictitious ambassador was killed.
  • Some Gulenists, using a virtual private network, tapped into the social media accounts of Altintas in Northern Cyprus and then deleted some information and made alterations to those accounts.
  • Altintas met with several Gulenist suspects and was directed to kill Karlov. The prosecutor based this accusation on the results from Historical Traffic Search (HTS) data.

The following questions still need to be answered:

  • Was Altintas really a Gulenist police officer? For example, one of the police reports concluded that Altintas and his family had no relations with the Gulen movement during the time when Altintas killed Karlov. In addition, the Gulenists firmly rejected the idea that Altintas was a member of the movement when he killed Karlov and said that no evidence exists that members of the movement has used violence even though they have been harshly oppressed and all their assets confiscated.
  • Why did the prosecutor not investigate Altintas’ radicalization and his association with suspects linked to al Qaeda?
  • Why did the prosecutor ignore Altintas’ relationships with SDV, a Salafi radical association?
  • Why did the prosecutor fail to identify any suspects after allegedly uncovering some suspicious IP addresses in Northern Cyprus?
  • After examining 30 minutes of HTS  data captured from 500 meters (1,640 feet) away and used for signals intelligence, how did the prosecutor come to a specific conclusion about several individual suspects when the duration of the captured data was short and hundreds of thousands of people were in the area from which the data were obtained?
  • Why did the prosecutor not investigate the person who called Karlov’s wife, Marina, before the assassination? In her statement to the prosecutor, Marina Karlov said that she received a mysterious phone call on December 14 or 15, 2016,from Moscow, in which the caller wanted to know whether her husband had bodyguards to protect him.
  • Why did the prosecutor not question one of the witnesses, Abdulkadir Sen, who was affiliated with al Qaeda and whose brother, Ibrahim Sen, was being held in the Guantanamo Bay prison because of his linkages with al Qaeda? U.S. authorities had accused the Sen brothers of transferring $600,000 to al Shabaab in 2012 and, in 2014, British and French investigators asked Turkish authorities for information about the Sen brothers. When investigators first questioned Enes Asim Silin, one of the witnesses to the assassination of Karlov, Silin said that Altintas and Abdulkadir Sen met on October 8, 2016. Sometime later, Silin suspiciously changed his statement, saying that the two men did not meet on October 8, 2016.
  • Why did the prosecutor not question the weak security at the art museum where Karlov was killed? According to Marina Karlov, her husband went to the exhibition with nobody guard and weapon, and only one security officer (unarmed) was inside the building.
  • Why did Turkish officials fail to provide enhanced security inside the museum when they knew that demonstrations against Russia’s involvement in the Syrian conflict occurred just a few days before the assassination?
  • Why did not the prosecutor question the possibility of arresting Altintas alive? According to the prosecutor, Altintas entered the art museum at 6:31 p.m., followed by Karlov at 6:45 p.m. Altintas shot Karlov to death at 7:05 p.m., and the police arrived 20 minutes later, at 7:25 p.m. Altintas did not take his own life and instead waited for the police to come to the scene of the crime. Also according to the prosecutor, clashes between Altintas and the police ensued, and Altintas was killed by the police at 7:42 p.m. However, according to the statement of a police officer who took part in the clashes, Altintas fell to the ground, after which another police officer kicked the murder weapon away from the wounded Altintas, and then the police shot Altintasin his head several times. Altintas did not attempt to escape, nor did he attempt to hold anyone hostage. The police, however, chose to kill Altintasrather than capture him alive. The outcome raises the possibility that Altintas wanted to be silenced.

Now the Second Theory: Was Altintas a Lone Actor Inspired by al Qaeda Ideology?

The second theory contends that, in his effort to punish Russia for of its involvement in the Syrian conflict, Altintas acted on his own volition when he assassinated Karlov. Such lone-actor terrorism has been a threat to the world since the early 2010s. Individuals who engage in lone-actor terrorism operate according to their own timetable, are not directed by any terrorist leader or terrorist organization, and may be inspired by one or more radical ideologies. Most lone actors, however, have been inspired by ideologies of either al Qaeda or ISIS. Given that Altintas was a self-radicalized individual with close ties to SDV and given that the Syrian branch of al Qaeda, al Nusra Front,has claimed responsibility for Karlov’s assassination, proponents of the second theory believe that their interpretation of assassin’s motivation has more credibility than any other proposed theory.

Altintas’ Radicalization

Details in the prosecutor’s indictment of Altintas provides clues about how Altintas was self-radicalized. Various models explain how individuals are radicalized, and, according to one of them, radicalization is a four-step process: (1) pre-radicalization, (2) conversion and identification, (3) conviction and indoctrination, and (4) action. At the pre-radicalization step, according to the details of the indictment, Altintas’ introvert personality made him susceptible to being affected by the teachings of the Turkish radical Islamist Nurettin Yildiz. The indictment also noted that Atintas had complained about his family, telling friends that his family was not practicing Islam. According to Altintas family, he drank alcohol and was not a religious person until he attended the Turkish National Police Academy in 2012. In his second year in the academy, family members said, Altintas began to sympathize with radical religious groups and joined the religious programs offered by Yildiz.

At the conversion and identification step, the indictment indicates that in 2013, Altintas began to question his job and Turkey’s approach to Islam. For example, Altintas began to complain about his position as a police officer, telling his friends that it is not appropriate to work in a state until it is ruled by Islamic law, that he was planning to resign from his position as a police officer, and that he was against the democratic elections.

At the conviction and indoctrination step, Altintas seemed to have become an ardent believer in jihadist ideology. For example, Altintas shared extremist messages on a WhatsApp group about Syria and ISIS. He also used hate rhetoric against the United States and said that the United States was inflicting cruelty on the people in Islamic countries. Altintas also was followed the news in Syria and criticized Russian atrocities in Syria.

At the action step, Altintas sought to engage in deeds that would serve his ideology. For example, he wanted to travel to Syria, join a jihadist group, and become a martyr. He also became involved in donation programs that send money to Syria. When investigators examined Altitas’ computer, they discovered that he had downloaded a video in February 2016 titled “Al Qaeda: You Only Are Responsible Yourself,” which began with a speech by Osama bin Laden. Altintas’ computer also contained a draft email to mrtltns@gmail.com, dated July 27, 2015, that Altintas was preparing to be a martyr.

SDV and Salafism in Turkey

Turkey has been one of the top 10 countries with the most jihadists joining al Qaeda or ISIS groups in Syria. In 2015, more than 2,000 Turkish jihadists joined one of these terrorist organizations. Turkey’s government has been criticized for ignoring the activities of jihadist groups in Syria and for allowing the militants to use its borders freely not only to transfer militants but also money and logistics. In 2015, Russian authorities published satellite images purportedly showing Turkish trucks transporting oil from ISIS-controlled areas in Syria. 

Nurettin Yildiz, a retired imam and director of SDV, played an essential role in the radicalization of many individuals, including Altintas. Yildiz is known for his anti-Semitic and jihadist speeches. In one of those speeches, he said, “Jews are the symbols of brutality and enjoy killing of women and children.”Yildiz also is an advocate of Salafism in Turkey and regularly holds meetings and gives sermons on topics such as Salafi-interpreted jihadism and support for jihadists in Syria. He also is a fervent supporter of Erdogan and the AKP. As an example, a page on the SDV website and a google search on Yildiz bring photos of Yildiz with previously-investigated suspects for their roles in transferring arms and explosives to Syria.

After the assassination of Karlov, the al Qaeda-affiliated group in Syria known as Fatah al-Sham Front (formerly al-Nusra Front) claimed responsibility for the assassination of Karlov in a letter the group published online. The letter talks about the “Revenge of Aleppo” and claims that Altintas was not only a riot police officer but also a member of the al-Nusra Front. Erdogan, however, said in a 2016 speech that al-Nusra Front is not a terrorist organization, only to reverse his stance two years later and designated the group as a terrorist organization.

To conclude, Turkey’s Second Heavy Penal Court of Ankara announced its verdict in the Karlov assassination casein March 2021, concluding that the Gulen movement was responsible for the crime. The court ignored an investigation report that said Altintas committed the crime as a radicalized lone actor with link to al Qaeda-affiliated individuals. The court’s decision appears to have been based on a government-directed investigation that declared an alleged perpetrator and then tried to find or fabricate evidence to fit its contrived scenario. In Russia and the Western world, the verdict has been deemed unsatisfactory. It is not realistic, of course, to expect reliable investigations and prosecutions under the current authoritarian regime in Turkey. Further investigation of the Karlov assassination is needed to determine who directed Altintas to kill the Russian ambassador, who was behind the government-directed investigations, who ignored potential evidence that could have led to the identification of the real culprits, who chose not to provide adequate protection for Karlov inside the exhibition, and who directed officers to kill Altintas at the crime scene even though it would have been possible to capture him alive.

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Covid 19 and Human Security in Anthropocene era

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Since the end of second World  the focus on international security has grown, not only state threats but also threats from non-state groups such as terrorism groups, cyber attacks, climate change and the environment and what we are living right now is the threat from Covid19 caused by the SARS virus -Cov2, up to the time this article was written has 136.609.182 cases, with the number of deaths 2948567, have killed more victims from the Vietnam War, the Gulf of Persia, the Afghanistan War. Although the optimistic hopes of finding  vaccine for Covid19 provide room for movement and bright light of hope in the future, it has almost entered the two-year mark since its initial presence in Wuhan, China last December 2019, Covid19 is still major concern and scourge for human survival in currently, many people in the world are tired of waiting for when this epidemic will end. Covid19 has become an invisible but real enemy felt by humankind in the early 21st century, more cunning than previous security threats such as physical warfare, trade wars, terrorism and air pollution. There is no difference in price between the rich and the poor, developed or developing countries, women or men, good or bad people. Not only that, the effects of the Covid19 virus pandemic are also greater, such as inflation, scarcity of goods, uneventful mobility, a decline in the tourism sector, changes in human social behavior patterns, bilateral and multilateral relations between countries, as well as causing conflict and new attention to certain institutions. What is still a question in our minds right now is why Covid 19 still exists in the world, when will this pandemic be over and what will the conditions be after.

So far, the Covid19 outbreak is still seen as a global disease so that international security means providing efficient health care and the answer is how to prevent and find anti-viruses. But in essence, the presence of Covid19 explains more than that. Covid19 is also an impact of an environmental crisis that humans are rarely aware of, because basically Covid19 is a zoonotic disease (disease originating from animals) that can pass to humans through vectors (carriers) in the form of animals or humans, which humans are the last result of a series of cycles. viral life. Its presence identifies the irregular relationship between humans and their environment.

Concerns about the emergence of zoonotic diseases have existed for several years. In the 2016 UNEP Frontier Report, it was stated that one of the concerns that arose from international agencies dealing with the environment was zoonotic diseases. Since the 20th century, 75% there has been a drastic increase in infectious diseases which are zoonotic diseases of animal origin. On average, an animal-to-human infectious disease appears every four months. This is closely related to environmental changes or ecological disturbances such as defortation, climate change, decreased biodiversity, and the destruction of animal habitats.

In an interview with VoA Indonesia with one of the virologists at Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) Indonesia (Sugyono) stated that the “Covid19 virus that is currently endemic in the world is due to interactions with humans and animals such as poaching and environmental damage. Some of the infectious diseases that hit the world are caused by pathogens of disease-carrying microorganisms that originate or spread through animals. Bats, mice, monkeys and other animals often become carriers of viruses to humans without the animals experiencing illness, the process of interaction between animals and humans such as poaching causes disease transmission. mutates due to climate change and weather ”. Viruses are small infectious agents with a simple composition that can only reproduce in host cells. Its survival is influenced by temperature and environment, changes in temperature and the environment can accelerate its spread.

Humans are the only creatures that can manage the earth, their presence since ancient times has greatly influenced the state of the earth both on land and in the oceans. In one of their journals Paul Crutzen stated that we (humans) are no longer in the Holocene but have entered the Anthroposcene era. The term Anthroposcene itself implies a transition from the Holocene which is an interglacial condition, influenced by the magnitude of human activity, further this intention is explained by Steffen that the Anthroposcene shows where human activities have become so numerous and intensive that they (humans) rival the great power of nature. The Anthroposcene shows that a crisis originates from human accident and this crisis is not an easy thing to mitigate.

Covid 19 is not a disaster or natural selection that can be understood to occur naturally but identifies more deeply than that, the presence of Covid19 demands that international security policies and practices must evolve beyond what they have understood so far. Although the threat of a pandemic is not new, the current pandemic is popularly referred to as “unprecedented.” It is currently uncertain when Covi 19 will end or at least be brought under control. Almost all diseases and disasters caused by environmental damage such as nuclear, severe pollution in several countries such as America, in Tokyo, Beijing, Jakarta, and other big cities cannot return to the way it was before the damage occurred, can only reduce the impact. If  revisit history further back, the earlier nations that had high civilization such as Central America, the people of the Easter islands, the Maya, the Anasazi, the Greek Mikene and many other civilizations also became extinct. What is modern society doing today is similar to what previous civilization nations did, accidental “ecological suicide” resulting in  drastic reduction in the size of the human population and political, economic, social complexity in over large area. Nature actually did a selection at its time and it (nature) was also able to regenerate itself within a certain period of time, but  if humans interfere in the process too deep  will change and disrupt the normal working system of nature which will have a bad effect back on humans.

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Intelligence

COVID-19 As an Agent of Change in World Order

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Image: Alexandra Nicolae/Unsplash

The Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has claimed millions of lives. It has severely damaged the economy of the world. The consequences of the pandemic are expected to go much further. The virus has threatened the functioning of national and international politics. It has disrupted the international system through which events are controlled in the world. In one way or the other, all the fundamental constituents of the World Order have been reshaped. Henry Kissinger, former US Secretary of State, forewarned, “The coronavirus epidemic will forever alter the world order.”

COVID-19 could potentially vary the following aspects of the existing World Order.

Cooperation

COVID-19 easily crossed international borders. It has been observed that states cooperated with each other on the strategy of containing the virus. The World Health Organization (WHO) played an important part in integrating the states on the issue of contemporary health emergency. The WHO remained an ineffectual organization when the United States, under the presidency of Donald Trump, withdrew from it. Bringing the US back in the WHO was among the first presidential orders given by President Joe Biden.

Some scholars, on the other hand, view this warm cooperation by the US in the international arena as a facade for uniting to oppose the rise of China. The ‘America first’ approach of Donald Trump meant American protectionism. Joe Biden is said to have used the opportunity created by the COVID-19 pandemic to walk in step with allies in Asia.

Security

Power-practicing states have rarely downright inclined towards the standards of human security defined by the United Nations in its 1994 United Nations Development Program (UNDP) Human Development report. The report lays down the basic tenets of human security. Food, economic and health security are among important entities of human security. The pandemic has facilitated in proving the momentous nature of international institutions and cooperation. Security, therefore, has been redefined. The priorities have been shifted to health security.

Balance of Power

One may assume that in these trying times of the pandemic the states have come closer to fight the disease. However, this claim is not validated by hard-boiled political thinkers. Disruptions in the global economy tend to destabilize international politics, therefore, conflicts are likely to increase in the post-Covid world. For instance, the ongoing economic competition between the US and China is likely to continue to soar as the two states begin to engage in the ‘New Cold War’. The US has put blame on China for the spread of the coronavirus. Trump had repeatedly termed the coronavirus as the ‘China virus’. To neutralize the blame, China is active in the research and development of the COVID-19 vaccine. The crisis has facilitated China in showing the world its capability. In the long run, this could sway the balance of power.

However, neither China nor the United States is in a state in which it could emerge as a ‘winner’ in a way that would dramatically shift the balance of world power in favour of either state.

Vaccine Race

The production of mass-scale COVID-19 vaccine is no less than a race of the order of space race or arms race. Manufacturing COVID-19 vaccine is not only a matter of saving lives, but also a matter of saving face for some world leaders. Russia, US, UK, Germany, India and China are among the top competitors in the vaccine race. Vladimir Putin, Russian President, is eager to debut the vaccine to the world. It would be a sign of prestige in the international society and help Russia impose the new world order it vies for. Similarly, China has its own ambitions to lead the world, and inoculating the world is one way to do it.

The redistribution of power in post-Covid world will be dependent on states’ accomplishment in curbing the virus.

Financial World Order                                                        

The World Bank has estimated a 5.2% shrinkage in the global economy due to COVID-19 pandemic. Both the United States and China are eager to restore their Covid-hit economies in a way that one’s is greater than the other. In a substantial way, the United States is leading the world economy. It is one-fourth of the world economy. 80% of world trade is in USD. China aims to alter this mode of payment in international trade. It is giving competition to the US in terms of global trade exchange by building banks of its own. The pace of economic recovery adopted by the two competitors shall decide the post-Covid financial world order.

Dependency

Both the United States and China need allies to compete in the ‘New Cold War’. The COVID-19 pandemic has given them the opportunity to make allies via health assistance. The COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) facilities plan to distribute a major share of the vaccination to low and middle income countries. In July, 2020, China promised a $1 billion loan to Latin American and Caribbean countries. The US is also keen on this practice as Joe Biden is a strong advocate of global institutionalism.

COVAX could be a novel form of a bailout package. If this is so, the dependence of the Third World on the First World is likely to be increased.

Technology

As an agent of latent function, Covid has helped boost innovation. The states who have better technology are odds-on to impose their World Order. During the COVID-19 crisis, there has been an exponential growth in technology adoption. This implies that the military will have better strategic equipment than pre-Covid era. In modern international relations, military strength is the core determinant of state power.

Health as element of national power

Before the coronavirus pandemic, the elements of state power were either military strength or economy. The pandemic has shown that health can also be an indirect element of national power. The states with better healthcare have better chances of containing the virus. Their economy has better prospects of getting restored. Resultantly, the ‘healthy’ states have advantage over others in carrying on with their power politics.

Climate Change                                           

Due to closure of industrial sectors in the lockdown period, the global economy has collapsed. In the initial stage, it was expected that the lockdown will be a blessing in disguise for the cause of climate change. To restore the economy, however, governments of both developed and developing countries have no option but to reopen their industries. This means more emissions of carbon. The climate agreements are likely to be postponed until the economy is put back on track. The oil price decrease due to the pandemic will facilitate the poorer states in restoring their industries. This is another impediment in the way of a carbon-free global economy. Thus, the post-Covid world will have adverse effects on climate.

Threat to the political Right

The pandemic has proved to be unfortunate for the rising Right. Populism, nationalism and demagoguery do not seem to be working for the right wing leaders. The COVID-19 pandemic requires performance and output rather than speeches and slogans. This is so evident from the 2020 US Presidential elections. Donald Trump had been highly criticized for being a populist leader. His handling of the pandemic is one of the main factors that cost him the election. Similarly, in other parts of the world, people are demanding good governance rather than falling for rabble-rousers.

End of Globalization?

Globalization has severely been affected due to the pandemic. However, the process of globalization was slowing long before the pandemic, even before the election of anti-internationalist former US President Donald Trump. Some scholars are predicting the end of globalization due to the pandemic. Others argue that the pandemic shows how interconnected the world is. They see a potential growth in globalization and cooperation among the states, especially regarding the COVAX. Historical data show that crises tend to reinforce globalization. Globalization also helps to boost the fallen economy. Employment is an important part of globalization. There has been a significant surge in unemployment rate due to the lockdown imposed to cease the spread of the virus. To rectify the damages, people will tend to cross international borders. Therefore, immigration and, consequently, globalization is likely to increase in the post-Covid world.

COVID-19 pandemic alone may not change the World Order altogether. The transitions brought by the pandemic in the international system are likely to decide the leader of global political order. The post-Covid World Order depends on how and how fast the world emerges out of the pandemic. Vaccinating the world is the need of the hour. The contenders of the vaccine race need to be all-inclusive in the process of inoculation. If the United States or China succumbs to vaccine nationalism—the practice to limit the dosage of COVID-19 vaccine to domestic use— it will be difficult for them to ally other states in their vision of the new World Order.

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