Connect with us

Americas

Iran and Venezuela: One story of two Revolutions

Irina Tsukerman

Published

on

Authors: Irina Tsukerman & Hos Loftus*

The presence of Islamist militant groups in Latin America has a long and dark history. The brutal terrorist attacks on the Israeli embassy in Argentina in 1992, and the bombing of the Asociación Mutual Israelita Argentina (AMIA) in 1994, collectively left hundreds dead and injured. Argentina, as a country, is still dealing with the aftermath. The AMIA incident was the deadliest attack against a Jewish community anywhere in the world since WWII.

The Twin Revolutions: “Islamic” and “Bolivarian”

In the 1990s Islamist militants in Latin America lacked a base of operations. That began to change when democracy in Venezuela was replaced, first, by a strong man-led system, and subsequently, all-out dictatorship. That was the gift of the former socialist president Hugo Chavez for the country, one that he sold as his “Bolivarian Revolution”. In order to see how this played into the hands of unlikely beneficiaries—Islamic radicals from half a world away—we have to trace the story to its earliest preludes.

The sad story of the closing chapters of the democratic era in Venezuela’s history was chronicled shortly after Chavez came to power by Mario Vargas Llosa, the Peruvian author and future Nobel Laureate in literature. In a scathing piece, published in Spain’s El País in August 1998, Vargas Llosa used harsh, but prescient words to warn of dark days ahead. The title, “the Suicide of a Nation”, in itself, spoke volumes.

Vargas Llosa offered a perspective of what was a repeating pattern in much of Latin America: as democracy fails to live up to expectations and often leads to a decline in living standards, public opinion shifts in favor of “strong men”, who would then take advantage of their popularity to cement authoritarianism. (It has to be emphasized, though, that the new authoritarian need not have come to power through elections; leading a revolution against a despised tyrant would work just as well.) This had been tried successfully before Chavez by such luminaries as Alberto Fujimori in Peru, Juan Perón in Argentina, Rafael Trujillo in the Dominican Republic, and, not least, Chavez’s own mentor, Fidel Castro in Cuba. Chavez came as a populist response to democratic claims, not as a violent usurper—at least, once he had learned his lesson.

In this sordid tale, the roots of dictatorship in Venezuela went back to the 1970s and 80s.

The early days of skyrocketing oil prices came during and after the Arab-Israeli Yom Kippur War of 1973. An unheard of influx of petrol-dollars inevitably led to massive corruption. “Inevitably”, according to Vargas Llosa, due to the economic policies that ruled Venezuela, long before Chavez. In Vargas Llosa’s view: the Venezuelan state was gigantic and interventionist. Economic success passed not through the market and winning over consumers, but nepotism, privileges, and monopolies handed out by the biggest player in the nation’s economic life: the politician in power. In other words, Venezuela was always a socialist-style, government-run command and control economy, never dynamic, property rights-based and free-market oriented.

What was left in the public coffers was spent on subsidizing everything, down to air and water. Gas was subsidized to the point that its cost didn’t even cover its transport to fueling stations! Few nations in the world epitomize the phrase “nanny state” so literally.

In this environment, an attempted coup in 1992 by a little-known Lieutenant Colonel named Hugo Chavez generated little enthusiasm, and was put down without much drama, its leader put in jail. Less than 2 years later, however, he was pardoned by the government. While this was supposed to be a conciliatory gesture, it was dismissed by Vargas Llosa in that piece as not only “suicidally irresponsible”, but also a betrayal to the nation, at that time still supportive of democracy (not to mention the majority of the military, who refused to side with the coup plotters, some losing their lives in the process). But the oil market collapse of the late 1990s lead to just as much anguish as the euphoria the price rallies had brought, and that ultimately paved the way for Chavez to successfully grab the power in the end—this time, at the ballot box. Not just that, but it gave him sufficient majorities in elected bodies to introduce and ratify a new constitution—all in the name of rooting out corruption—that conveniently also guaranteed his own permanence in power.

Which brings us to the events on the other side of the globe: Iran’s Islamist Revolution lead by Ayatollah Khomeini nearly two decades earlier. Iran and Venezuela are distant nations geographically with different languages and cultures. Still, there are important similarities between the two: oil exporting nations relying on petroleum almost exclusively as the source of hard currency. To be sure, revolutions in Iran and Venezuela were not exact replicas. Iran’s Islamist Revolution came with a violent uprising, unlike Venezuela. Nonetheless, there were numerous similarities. Both were explicitly ideological (“Islamic” in Iran and “Bolivarian” in Venezuela), rather than simply intending to establish democratic rule. They both prioritized short-sighted economic gains for the masses: the Ayatollah claimed explicitly that there would be free water and electricity for Iranians, while at the same time also promising, like Chavez, to root out the corruption that had been allowed to grow out of control in the system he wanted to overthrow. The inherent contradiction between these two goals, just discussed, apparently was missed on everyone.

As time would prove, there were yet more similarities to surface between the two revolutions. Enmity against US “imperialism” was among the founding principles of both. And they would go on trying to bolster governments and non-government players in neighboring countries that would help them put this hostility into action. As Iran founded Hezbollah in 1980s Lebanon and sought to colonize the country, Venezuela in the 2000s openly backed politicians it considered ideological allies in Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, and elsewhere to create a socialist bloc. Somehow the irony of such empire-building in the name of anti-“imperialism” was missed.

In time the shared goals and shared rhetoric would bring the two revolutionary governments closer together, which might seem counterintuitive. At first glance, the Shia-based Islamist revolutionary ideology had little in common with the Soviet-backed atheist revolution that had settled in Cuba and made its way through Latin America. In reality, the “red” left has made a comfortable alliance with the “green” revolutionaries on a number of political, security, and ideological levels.  Khomeini, for instance, popularized Sunni Muslim Brotherhood texts, which themselves borrowed heavily from the Bolshevik ouevre from the 1920s and their historic predecessors, the Jacobins. The zenith of ties between the two regimes, without a doubt, came during the “presidency” of the Holocaust denier Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Iran, who found a brother in Chavez.

When They Failed to Deliver…

Of course none of the Ayatollah’s economic promises ever materialized. Mass arrests and summary executions that followed the establishment of the Islamist regime, the compulsory dress codes, and anti-Western xenophobia that culminated in “conquering” (to use the official language) the American embassy and hostage taking of US diplomats scared foreign and domestic investors, to say nothing of destroying diplomatic relations. Flight of capital, combined with a ruinous war with Iraq, transformed what was once one of the richest countries into a pauper nation. Undaunted, the Ayatollah shrugged off any mention of his forgotten promises in later years: “ask not what the revolution has done for you, ask what you have done for the revolution”. That this, too, was a paraphrase from an assassinated leader of the country he condemned as “the Great Satan” also passed with no sense of irony, and neither was he ever called out for his plagiarism.

Economic realities were no kinder to the revolutionary leaders in Venezuela than their counterparts in Iran. Venezuela has more crude oil than any other country in the world and it heavily depends on the commodity to power its economy. Crude oil makes up about 95% of Venezuela’s exports. Yet the government-owned oil company, PDVSA, has pumped less and less oil for the last few years because of corruption, crumbling infrastructure, and a massive debt crisis. According to its report to OPEC, Venezuela’s production was 1.62 million barrels per day (b/d) in December 2017, a decline of 649 thousand b/d (or 29%) in just one year, and more than 1.1 million b/d in five years. The current troubles of the oil industry are rooted in the oil policies implemented by Hugo Chavez (deceased in 2013, only to be replaced by the even more thuggish Nicolas Maduro). He fired about half of the workforce of the PDVSA during an oil strike in 2003, including the vast majority of top executives and technical staff, as retaliation for their participation in industrial action against him.

He forcefully renegotiated joint-ventures and operational contracts with foreign companies and partially nationalized them in 2007; on his watch, ExxonMobil and ConocoPhillips withdrew from the country as a result. Investment in oil development and production declined, even during the oil price boom. The nationalization backfired on Venezuela even more in April 2018 when the World Bank’s International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes ruled in a lawsuit filed by ConocoPhillips that this company was owed over $2 billion by Venezuela’s state-run PDVSA because of the 2007 nationalization. ConocoPhillips then moved to seize PDVSA’s assets in the Caribbean, considered logistically key to Venezuela’s ability to export oil, further disrupting the country’s oil sales.

This ruling set the stage for similar suits not just against PDVSA, but also its American subsidiary, CITGO. The future of these claims is not known as of this writing, but they could not have come at a worse time for Venezuela’s already devastated economy.  The regime blames this all on US sanctions, but the timeline of events clearly shows that the decline in Venezuela’s oil production preceded US sanctions on the country’s oil sector by many years. Iran’s economy would similarly be a basket-case without sanctions due to the regime’s decades of prioritizing revolution over its people. As Ayatollah Khomeini said, the neaver-ending revolution’s death and destruction was not for “cheap melons.” Venezuela also followed the Islamic Republic’s lead in political hostage taking, by abducting Texas and Louisiana CITGO employees, who remain in Maduro’s custody after fourteen months.

The once wealthiest economy in South America, after decades of socialist rule, is now dominating the headlines as a paragon of tyranny, rampant crime, chaos, misery, and starvation. Millions of Venezuelans have fled to Colombia, Panama, and elsewhere in South America, threatening to destabilize the continent. But opening its doors to Islamic militancy means that Venezuela could be a destabilizing threat in more ways than one.

They Collaborated in the Use of Violence

Faced with mass popular discontent, the twin revolutions turned to violence against their people as the only way to guarantee their survival. In Iran, the Revolutionary Guard was established  as a counterweight to the official army, which in the beginning was seen as still having elements loyal to the last regime. This military body subsequently gave birth to branches, one of which was Quds (Arabic for Jerusalem) Force, an expeditionary force acting beyond the country’s borders. The other was the Basij, or volunteer army, which played an important part during the Iran-Iraq War, and later turned against dissidents and protesters, showing its highest level of cruelty following the fraudulent presidential elections of 2009, when street protests followed the confirmation of Ahmadinejad.

Crackdowns on public discontent in Venezuela have followed a similar pattern. Cuba helped establish the loyalist groups called “colectivos” that act similar to the Basij militias in Iran, intimidating protesters and journalists, and at times acting no different than street gangs. Iran has also pitched-in. The Quds Force has worked with the Cuban intelligence (which had previously trained Chavez) to help Maduro consolidate power; and Hezbollah enjoys a comfortable presence in Venezuela at the highest levels.

Human rights violations in both states have made them largely unwelcome on the world stage; however, dependency on cheap, if poorly processed or poor quality, oil retained clientele for both states. Later, other autocratic states, such as China and Russia, took advantage of their outcast status to expand their own base of influence, strengthen economic partnerships, make cheap investments, and to create local problems for the United States.

These ties actually go back more than a decade. They include joint training between Iranian and Venezuelan operatives. Finding safe haven in Venezuela, Hezbollah’s presence across Latin America has increased. Both Iran and Hezbollah are known to have provided the Chavez and Maduro regimes with “strategic advice”. The person in Venezuela’s Bolivarian ruling class with the most personal ties to terror groups is Tareck El Aissami, a Venezuelan of Syrian/Lebanese ancestry, who was indicted in the US earlier this year.  A 2015 report by the Obama Administration’s United States Department of State stated “[t]here were credible reports that Venezuela maintained a permissive environment that allowed for support of activities that benefited known terrorist groups”. New York County District Attorney Robert M. Morgenthau stated that while El Aissami was head of ONIDEX, Venezuela’s passport and naturalization agency, he provided official documents to Hamas and Hezbollah members. He also stated that it was possible that El Aissami was recruiting Arab Venezuelans to train under Hezbollah in southern Lebanon. In February 2017, CNN reported (“Venezuelan Passports, in the Wrong Hands?”) on the sale of Venezuelan passports to individuals in the Middle East, specifically Syrians, Palestinians, Iraqis, and Pakistanis.

According to Misael López Soto, a former employee at the Venezuelan embassy in Iraq who was also a lawyer and CICPC officer, the Bolivarian government would sell authentic passports to individuals from the Middle East, with the Venezuelan passport (at the time) able to access 130 countries throughout the world without a visa requirement. López provided CNN documents showing how his superiors attempted to cover up the sale of passports, which were being sold for from $5,000 to $15,000 per passport. A confidential intelligence report obtained by CNN linked El Aissami to 173 passports and ID’s given between 2008 and 2015 to individuals from the Middle East, some of whom were purportedly associated with Hezbollah. The Venezuelan government did not investigate the allegations made by López and instead initiated an investigation against him for his act of leaking confidential documents and stated that he had abandoned his duty. Following the release of the CNN report, President Maduro demanded that CNN leave Venezuela, stating that the network had sought to “manipulate” Venezuelans.

AMIA: The Venezuelan connection

Argentina has had no closure as the actual plotters behind the AMIA bombing have never been brought to justice. Worse, the investigation itself has been plagued by accusations of incompetence, corruption, and nepotism. And that has been, in no small part, due to family relations and geopolitical interests of Argentinian presidents.

A Brazilian publication, Veja, first broke the story, in 2015, of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad sending a  message to Argentinian President Nestor Kirchner via a shared friend, Chavez of Venezuela. According to the publication, in 2007, Ahmadinejad proposed to Kirchner that in exchange for funding the presidential campaign of his wife, Cristina Frenandez de Kirchner, Kirchner’s Argentina would (among other things) drop its arrest warrant through the Interpol against Iranians implicated in the AMIA attack. This came about the time that arrest warrants were issued against 6 Iranian citizens for their involvement in the attack.

Kirchner would not, in the beginning,  concede to the demands made through Chavez. Nonetheless, there was a debt to pay: since 2003, a lot of Argentinian sovereign debt had been underwritten by Venezuela, and by the end of 2008, Venezuela was in possession of 6 billion dollars of Argentinian bonds. Back in those days, the free flow of Venezuelan oil and prices of above $100 per barrel afforded Venezuela such extravagances. On top of this, for both Nestor Kirchner and his wife Cristina, who succeeded him as president, being among Chavez’s inner circle of friends was a high priority. To them, it would mean membership in the Leftist heads of state club chaired by none other than Fidel Castro. Which came with perks: they would be  shielded against accusations of corruption, which would be dismissed,  by club members in unison, as “slander by American imperialism and their local lackeys”. Other club members included Bolivia, Nicaragua, Ecuador, and even Brazil as it was led by president Lula da Silva (who would later be convicted of corruption). Chavez operated as a middleman between Ahmadinejad and much of Latin America.

Iran entered commercial agreements with many of these countries. For a country facing international isolation due to its human rights record,  its denial of the Holocaust, and its nuclear weapons development activities, this was nothing short of a coup. Chavez traveled 9 times to Iran while Ahmadinejad traveled 5 times to Venezuela. When Chavez died, Ahmadinejad caused a mini-scandal among his country’s fundamentalist hardliners by stating Chavez would rise from the dead together with the divine prophet—which would be heretical according to Islamic orthodoxy—and by hugging his mother (those same hardliners would consider any physical contact between two unrelated individuals of opposite sex forbidden). None of this, of course, spoke of Ahmadinejad’s presumed “moderation”, but of deep, personal grief that came to dominate his own beliefs. There was no greater reward for Ahmadinejad in this friendship than getting Argentina to abandon the pursuit of justice for AMIA.

In January 2013, on the watch of Presidents Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, respectively, Argentina and Iran signed a Memorandum of Understanding. Rather than extradition of AMIA suspects, the Memorandum would arrange for joint hearings in which the suspects would give evidence-facing no penalty regardless of what they said. Argentina’s Jewish community condemned the Memorandum and sued to stop it.

In May of that year, Argentine prosecutor Alberto Nisman accused the regime of Iran of plotting the AMIA attack. In January 2015, Nisman accused President Fernandez de Kirchner of “organizing impunity” for the suspects with the goal of whitewashing the Islamic Republic’s involvement in the attack. One day before Nisman was to officially present his findings to parliament, he died, having been shot by a handgun. The mystery of his death was never solved, further complicating Argentina’s unhealed 30 year old wound. Before his death, Nisman had put together an arrest warrant against President Fernandez de Kirchner. Despite lack of proof, Fernandez de Kirchner was never able to clear suspicions that she was behind Nisman’s death, given that, obviously, no one had a stronger motive to see Nisman dead. And all of this is part of Chavez’s legacy for Argentina.  Fernandez de Kirchner was eventually put on trial for her attempted cover-up of the bombing.

While these charges against her were dismissed, she was later retried for treason. In her defense, Fernandez de Kirchner claimed that a former Obama officialhad asked her to supply Iran with nuclear fuel. Gary Samone visited Argentina in his capacity as White House Coordinator for Arms Control and Weapons of Mass destruction. Argentina had provided Iran with fuel for its “Teheran” reactor in 1987. However, this collaboration was over by the time the nuclear negotiations that would lead to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action began between Iran, the United States, and others.  The Iranian nuclear negotiators would not move forward without getting fuel for the reactor.

The United States then turned to Argentina for help. Fernandez de Kirchner asked Samone to put his request in writing, but he was not heard from again. But by implicating the Obama administration in this scenario, de Kirchner was sending a message that the Obama administration was fully aware of historical ties between Argentina and Iran, and would not press Argentina on the cover-up of the bombing to ensure the smooth transition of the nuclear deal. The same pattern of letting bad actors off the hook was later admitted by Ben Rhodes with regards to the lack of follow through on the “Red Line in Syria”, and Obama’s tacit support for the Morsi regime in Egypt despite its open ties with the Iranian regime. The Obama administration needed Argentina’s help for the nuclear fuel issue, and thus stayed mum. Iranian terrorists also tried to assassinate the Saudi Ambassador to the United States at the time, while backing an attempted coup in Bahrain the same year, and likewise benefiting from the turmoil of the Arab Spring all over the Sunni Muslim world. Iran’s role in all of these calamities was ignored by the Obama administration in favor of proceeding with the deal.

But the Kirchners were not the only Argentinian presidents to be accused of sabotaging the investigation. The sitting president at the time of the attack, Carlos Menem, who was of Syrian descent, was accused of covering-up involvement by regime of Syria (the ayatollahs’ partner in sponsoring Hezbollah) in the attack, for the purpose of protecting his family connections. Allegedly, Menem’s family friend and fellow Syrian-Argentinian, Alberto Kanoore Edul, had been in contact before the attack with the person who lent the truck used in the AMIA attack to the Hezbollah-related suicide bomber, Ibrahim Hussein Berro (named by Nisman in 2005).

Iran and terrorism in Latin America

Edul was also a suspect because he owned an address book that included the phone number of Moshen Rabbani, at the time the cultural attaché at the Iranian Embassy in Buenos Aires; Rabbani was the accused mastermind of the attack and one of the indicted Iranians.  This would not be the first nor the last time Iran would use diplomatic cover for planning terrorist attacks. In 2018, Morocco severed diplomatic relations with Iran over its use of its Algiers embassy to facilitate Hezbullah supply of the formerly Soviet-backed and Cuban-trained Polisario separatists with weapons and additional training. The same year, Iranian dissidents uncovered that the Vienna embassy was the center for pollting terrorist activity, which included a planned attack on the Iranian opposition in Paris. Other prospective attacks involving Iranian intelligence resulted in a foiled assassination against Ahwazi Arab opposition leaders in Denmark. Other “diplomats”, who were later expelled,  planned attacks against the PMOI leaders in Albania. In 2019, a German intelligence report noted that the Berlin embassy was at the heart of a planned attack against the PMOI/MEK in Germany.

But the investigation of Edul had been halted on the orders of Menem due to their family ties, according to the charges. Carlos Menem would stand trial for the cover-up over 30 years after his alleged crime  and ultimately be cleared of the charge, much to the dismay of victims’ families. By this time, of course, Edul was long dead. Would the outcome be different if there had not been so much delay in putting him to trial, before the main witness died? We likely will never know.

The attacker Hussein Berro slipped into Argentina through the “triple border” area between Argentina,  Paraguay and Brazil, where Hezbollah sympathies are heavy among the Lebanese immigrant community. The main city in the area, Ciudad del Este (Paraguay’s second largest city after the capital Asunción), has long been (allegedly) a financing center for Hezbollah. While Ciudad del Este is home to criminals specializing in all the branches of the “profession” (from drug and human trafficking to money laundering and bootlegging of copyright material), the only activity in the area that has been disputed, unsurprisingly by Aljazeera, is funding Islamic terrorism, which it calls “hysteria against Muslims”. But there have been convictions for channeling of proceeds from illegal activities to Hezbollah.

And according to the US Drug Enforcement Administration, Hezbollah smuggles hundreds of tons of cocaine from the Andean Region of South America into Venezuela and from there onto ships destined for European markets via West and North Africa. The DEA had long planned a crackdown on this activity, code named Operation Cassandra, which was ultimately scuttled by the Obama Administration as part of the effort to keep nuclear negotiations with Iran on track. Aljazeera might point to the absence of Hezbollah training camps in Ciudad del Este, but it is hard to imagine such vast criminal activity in South  America without having a local network of sympathizers.

Hence to say that the crime infested Ciudad del Este, also having the largest Lebanese population anywhere in South America, does not play an important part in Hezbollah’s illicit financing, is quite a stretch. The area was used as a base by Hezbollah to smuggle the AMIA attacker Hussein Berro into Argentina-what this act took was having a network of sympathizers in a lawless area. Absence of Hezbollah training camps or their paramilitary parades did nothing to hinder the plan. Belatedly in July 2019, Argentina would recognize Hezbollah as a terrorist organization. But the damage may have already been done. Realistically it is quite unlikely that victims families, or Argentina as a whole, will ever see justice served, and the wound will never heal.

Moreover, Iran-backed Hezbollah remains active in Venezuela, backing the Maduro regime and enriching itself through illegal gold mining. US Secretary of State Pompeo pointed to intelligence reports concerning the presence of active Hezbollah cells within Venezuela as additional evidence substantiating the allegations of the close links of the Maduro regime with the terrorist organization. There are concerns that with the help from Iran, Russia, and Cuba, Venezuela is not only a tacit supporter for Iranian terrorism, but is itself turning into a hub of international terrorism.  Many of the terrorists benefited from the frozen funds released in cash pallets to Tehran by the Obama administration as part of the JCPOA. The gold mining is but a tip of the iceberg. Other evidence traces the roots of illegal gold smuggling from Venezuela through Morocco to Russia and Iran. Hezbollah’s gold smuggling activities in Africa are also well established; close collaboration between various corrupt regimes and Venezuela, on drug as well as gold trafficking should attract greater scrutiny.

Is the Opposition Any Better?

Meanwhile, back in Venezuela, the only opposition to Maduro’s brutal socialist autocracy has been another socialist, Juan Guiado, who has thus far failed to recruit away enough support from the military to provide a viable alternative to the regime. Guiado is being lauded as a savior of Venezuela, simply because he is not Maduro and is promising to respect the popular will and the democratic process. But would he be able to withstand scrutiny on his own merits?

The Venezuelan opposition to the Chavez and Maduro regimes and the country’s striking economic downturn after accelerating its progress on the socialist path has been leftist. In other words, oppositionists complain about personalities and policy, not necessarily ideology. Guiado’s promise lay largely in a return to the rule of law, a break with Iran, Russia, and Cuba, and restoration of positive relations with the United States as well as European Union and Organization of American States members. By backing somewhat more moderate leftist opposition to the current regime, Venezuelans are signaling that they have lost their trust in dictators, but not in the system that breeds them. Will the economic situation in Venezuela improve if a less corrupt and autocratic version of Maduro comes to power?

It remains to be seen, but as we saw, long before Chavez, Venezuela’s economy had been constrained by the trappings of socialism—and this ironically helped Chavez come to power.  In the meantime, ordinary Venezuelans are living through a nightmare of starvation, corruption, and violent crime, which is forcing them to flee in their millions—the largest population displacement not related to war in decades. Inflation has reached the point that even criminal gangs do not see their activities as profitable due to high price of firearms on the black market (!). Maduro, of course, blames everything on the US, and now, he has allies inside the US government parroting his talking points.

Anti-Americanism Inside the American Government

That is because the Venezuelan calamity has become a golden opportunity for politicians and pundits to make political hay. The best example is Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (D-Minnesota), who, echoing Maduro, claimed: “A lot of the policies that we have put in place has kind of helped lead the devastation in Venezuela, and we’ve sort of set the stage for where we’re arriving today”. When dismissed as “not knowing what she is talking about” by Vice President Pence, Omar responded:  “Women of color have heard this before.”

But those following the crisis in Venezuela for some time remember clearly that it did not start as a racial issue; in fact,  some of the earliest and most clear-headed warnings about where Venezuela was headed came from the so called “people of color,” such as world-renowned author Mario Vargas Llosa.

Omar in fact “doesn’t know what she is talking about” (charitably speaking), and hiding behind her gender and ethnicity doesn’t change that.

The so-called democratic socialist presidential candidate Bernie Sanders recently tried to distance himself from an editorial on his senatorial website praising the “American dream” in Chaez’s Venezuela. However, he still opposes all efforts to help liberate Venezuela from the Maduro regime, and more recently claimed that Soviet Union and Venezuela don’t count as examples of “failed socialism”.

Many of the same members of Congress and former Obama administration officials, who have now joined the foreign policy commentators for various publications, who have opposed intervention in Venezuela also prepared or delivered talking points that the only way to avoid war with Iran was to go forward with the deal. The reasons for not pressuring any of Iran’s proxies, fellow travelers, and allies in the Middle East and Latin America were couched  in similar language.  Iranian and Venezuelan propaganda machines have managed to create the impression that the regimes in these countries, despite rampant fraud and intimidation of the opposition, are legitimate and democratically elected, and therefore interventionism would be illegal and contrary to the popular will of their citizens.

Policy Recommendations

U.S. policy towards Iran and Venezuela has been polarized and uneven, which sends mixed messages to allies and adversaries alike. Seeing the largely partisan split on whether to pressure the Iran regimes and whether to follow the Monroe Doctrine, which allows forceful intervention against foreign forces in Latin America, tells both Tehran and Caracas that these vulnerabilities can be exploited ad infinitum. While the President and Congress, or Republicans and Democrats, are fighting over what to do and how to do it, the regimes can continue implementing their agenda with the single-minded focus only authoritarian governments can enjoy.

Furthermore, the vacillations over policy within the same administration signals weakness. US allies, on the other hand, are getting the message that the US is not a stalwart or reliable “friend in need” and may in the future lean further on Russia and China—the two states looking to edge US influence out of the Middle East and Latin America—for partnership and assistance. The US has failed to follow through on many promises regarding “maximum pressure” against Iran,  nor has it fully supported Guiado, leaving him out in the cold when he appeared to be on the verge of securing military support for the overthrow of Maduro. The resolve of the US in conducting effective foreign policy and securing its own interest, much less standing guard against exportation of revolutions and instability around the world, is currently very much in question.

Whether the Trump administration can redirect its energy to a focused effort or whether it will continue to be torn between keeping isolationist election promises and having to respond to real-time needs with serious long-term consequences remains to be seen. However, there are several commonsense ideas and principles they should adopt as a guide for figuring out the next steps to prevent further deterioration of the security situation that ultimately threatens US borders and the security of its bases and allies:

Acting from a Position of Strength

-Maduro’s regime is ultimately weak and hinges on the willingness of the military apparatus to support his claims. The military will hold out for its own interest in access to mines and so forth. Guiado, in negotiations, may need to cut temporary deals with the military to get their backing. It is up to the United States to ensure that if he does ultimately succeed in this endeavor, these deals do not become so entrenched as to lead to another crisis.

-Maduro is heavily dependent on foreign actors. Without infusions of bailout cash, credit, military, and intelligence support from Iran, Russia, Cuba, and China, he would hardly be expected to last. Interrupting the flow of this support should be the top priority for the administration, especially if it is reluctant to engage in direct military intervention. That also means cracking down on illegal schemes, but most importantly going after—and very personally—the individual actors within each state’s government involved in overseeing these infusions and schemes.  Sanctions should be imposed against these individuals preventing them from traveling to the US and freezing their assets. Interpol “red notices” should be used to advance the possibility of arresting these officials, undoubtedly profiteering from the support for these actions. Avoiding sanctions and intervening with Venezuela or other countries should be made costly and unpleasant for the apparatchiks of the patron regimes.

-Hezbollah assets have been frozen in Argentina, but money is fungible and they can ultimately shift their activity to more friendly states, such as Bolivia. If Colombia is sufficiently destabilized by the flow of refugees from Venezuela, it can crack and end-up adopting a socialist system of governance. The exporters of revolution can take advantage of the refugee crisis to destabilize existing pro-American governments. Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, all corrupt states, with varying degrees of weakness, are ripe for exploitation. Cartel activity in Mexico makes it an ideal counterpart for Iran’s Hezbollah in particular. The US should take measures to prevent proliferation of terrorists and ideological outreach in these and other states. Iran has established numerous “cultural centers” to mask Hezbollah activity and indoctrination all over Latin America. How soon until the trainees there are responsible for more than just enrichment schemes and plot more terrorist attacks, perhaps eventually reaching the US or making travel and business in Latin America undesirable for anyone except Iranians, Russians, and Chinese?

-Bankrupting Iran, forcing out Russia, and providing a suitable and practical alternative to China’s self-serving and corrupt projects in Latin America should be the pillars of US policy. Iran, even with all its illicit activities, nor Russia afford costly technical development races and the type of investments that US can. Russia cannot afford systematic investment in anything but defense agreements. For this reason, most of Russia’s foreign policy is focused on destabilization at the expense of someone else.

-China’s economy, too, is weakening; even with its Confusius Institutes, the mission of which is to whitewash China’s image, it is coming to a reckoning with the fact that it has simply failed to deliver on many of its promises and investments, and that most of its projects benefit Beijing to the exclusion of client countries, their local labor forces, and general populations. This is where the US has an opportunity to reengage in building people to people relationships, and optimizing business, educational, and humanitarian opportunity in line with its own policies and interests, and as a contrast to China’s corrupt deals with local officials.

-The US, for its part, should not make promises it does not have the political will to keep.  Its allies would rather see consistent, limited support than grandiose statements backed up by nothing at the moment they become dependent on expectations stemming from those promises. That said, if threats to bad actors are issued in public, there should be an immediate and well thought out follow through even if it is unpopular. That will ultimately do more to deter these actors than weeks of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

II. Beware of Limitations of Pragmatic “Reformism”

A faction of the “reformists” in Iran gained popularity as a political decoy by the regime to create an impression of a struggle between “hard-liners” and “moderates”. Iran used politicians who appeared willing to engage in diplomatic discussions with the West (always on their terms) in order to secure concessions, and ultimately, to push through the financially and politically beneficial nuclear deal with Western countries. Ultimately, the number of political arrests and executions soared under the “reformist” President Rouhani, showing that he was just as much of a puppet of the ayatollahs in charge as the tough-talking former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

These dichotomies—that if the West does not back the “moderates”, the scary “hard-liners’ will triumph—were ultimately a propaganda fiction dispersed by the regime itself. Elections in Iran are effectually meaningless given the supreme rule of the Ayatollah. Not to take any chances with the powerless parliament, all major elections in Iraq are fraught with fraud to ensure that no real reformist could ever be elected. The “reformist” narrative is deployed merely to fool willfully naïve Westerners or provide the less credulous with a public excuse for their lucrative political or business deal with Tehran. The “reformist” narrative may well have largely outlived itself, but similar such moves are likely to try to secure a new nuclear deal or other political concessions in the future. No doubt the regime will use this stick-and-carrot tactic of its own invention to push back against new sanctions, waiting to drag the US and Europeans back to the negotiating table until such time as the administrations change and those willing to go along with Iran’s agenda come to power.

Iran’s success in that regard may very well have carried over elsewhere. If Guiado is nothing more than a Venezuelan version of a “Reformist” who says just enough of the right things to the Western ear to manipulate the politicians and the public, he may be no less dangerous than the Maduro regime. If the Venezuelan government is a puppet of foreign powers, likely so is the opposition, at least one that is well known and has an open following.  In Russia, opposition leaders who openly ran against Vladimir Putin, such as Boris Nemtsov, met an untimely end, or like Alexey Navalny, spend half their time behind bars in “temporary” custody.

The fact that Guiado is so openly out and about and was even able to engage with the military in power negotiations shows that the Maduro regime is fairly secure in itself and can afford to use one known opposition leader as propaganda for its alleged limitations or willingness to cater to the popular will and provide the appearance of democracy on some limited level. The West should not look on Guiado as a savior, but rather as a tool serving a particular purpose at the moment while working to educate the population about the fallacies of following anything even remotely associated with the current system, as well as seeking to build up future leaders who have not been produced by the same circumstances as Maduro. Tempting as it may seem to consider Guiado as a “pragmatic choice” at the moment, because he is the lesser of two evils, it is not in fact clear that because he is willing to pander to Western democracies today, he will not become an equal or even greater evil when in power.

III. Don’t let Iran, Cuba, Russia, China, and Venezuela get away with political hostage taking

All of these countries have engaged in taking Americans and other Westerns, as well as dual nationals, as hostages for the purpose of gaining political legitimacy through negotiations over their release, securing concessions, or in some case, as during the nuclear deal with Iran, receiving financial ransoms in a hidden form. The US has been able to secure the release of some but not all through high costs to its own credibility; many others remain imprisoned, charged with espionage, treason, and other national security crimes as a way to pressure the US and other Western governments.

So far, all of these countries have been able to get away with these actions with impunity, and have even been rewarded with attention, money, and other benefits. They should be severely punished instead. In 2018, Senators Rubio, then-Senator Nelson, Menendez, and Cornyn introduced a bill that would hold Iran accountable for hostage taking and other human rights abuses. Similar measure passed in the House in 2018, with the idea of criminal and civil penalties for foreign officials, not just sanctions. The penalties would include denying access to American education to their families, confiscation of assets, and possible imprisonment for those responsible traveling to the United States. The bill never reached the vote in the Senate, but should be reconsidered in light of recent developments and Iran’s rising aggression and persistent continuation of this policy.

Similar versions of the bill should be individually crafted to apply to other countries that have engaged in these unlawful practices. Without feeling the pain for engaging in such abuses, there is no reason for these policies to stop.

IV. Responding to Gold Smuggling and Money Laundering

Senator Ted Cruz recently reintroduced a measure designed to stop Iranian and Venezuelan smuggling of gold and other precious metals. This is but one of a host of illegal activities which keep both regimes financially afloat. Congress should bring this measure to a vote as soon as possible; there is no reason to let two illegitimate regimes unjustly enrich themselves while stealing natural resources. The VERDAD actresponding to Venezuelan money laundering and gold passed the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in May 2018. It is important to expedite the passage for this bill into law, and to work on securing consistent implementation afterwards. The same applies for similar measures against the Iranian regime.

V. Accountability for the AMIA bombing

US senators are pushing for a resolution that would assist Argentina in its probe to uncover the full truth behind the 1994 Jewish Center bombing. The resolution should receive not only full support from Congress, but also the backing of the White House. Furthermore, the Venezuelan angle should be explored and exposed, and the role the Obama administration played in any assistance or silence in the cover-up by the Kirchners should likewise be aired. The White House can play an important role in directing its intelligence agencies to release and share any relevant information, and perhaps to be further involved in an investigative capacity. However, that role should not be relegated to the security apparatus: any investigative journalists or other experts who have leads or information that could be of assistance to this issue should likewise be involved.

VI. Securing US borders

The history of Hezbollah drug smuggling and presence in the United States shows that further measures need to be taken to secure borders from infiltration by criminals, contrabandists, terrorists, and spies.  The security involved is a complex combination of border fencing or walls, better human security implementation, satellite overwatch of human movements, immigration reform, and electronic measures of control. At the end of the day, however, spies and saboteurs can also enter legally under various covers, so better training and close cooperation with other intelligence agencies is paramount to preventing fraudulent entries into the US. 

The spread of destabilizing activity in the US can also spread through existing Iranian communities, mosques, “cultural centers”, existing regime propagandists imbedded in universities and think tanks, as well as assorted businessmen and women who travel back and forth. Being vigilant and training community members and institutions to be aware of common activities that can be harmful to US security should play an important role in the national defense.

VII. Chaos and instability help export revolutions

The Arab Spring movements did not bring real liberalism nor create Jeffersonian democracies. Instead, they created a chaotic cycle of upheavals, crackdowns, and the formation of unstable and unsecured democracies in such places as Tunisia. The biggest beneficiary was Iran, who exploited the power vacuums or friendly regimes (as in Morsi’s Egypt) to further its influence and subversion campaigns.

Western states were openly backing these movements even as Iran exploited them aggressively on the ground. The best way to guard against Iran’s exportation of revolutionary, violent, and anti-Western ideas to the Arab world and elsewhere is by working with governments across the region to implement reforms needed to educate and empower the young people to build and strengthen local communities to address local needs rather than turning to meddling foreign powers for ideological engagement and the kind of “help” that has brought nothing but misery for all involved.

The same principle applies to Latin America, where Cuba, Nicaragua, Venezuela, and Bolivia are seeking to spread their repressive revolutions and socialist systems by various means to more prosperous and stable countries.  The outcome of the “resistance” culture, of those who use populism to create upheavals to real or imaginary grievances, is societal wreckage of Iran, Cuba, and Venezuela. America and the West needs to assert its leadership based on principles and proactive policies that promote peace and prosperity.

*Hos Loftus, MD, formerly Seyed Hossein Lotfizadeh, was born in Iran. He lived through the Islamic Revolution at a young age. He is a neurologist living on Long Island with his family. He offers an Iranian-American’s perspective on Middle East politics

Irina Tsukerman is a human rights and national security attorney and analyst based in New York. She has written extensively about geopolitics, foreign policy, and security issues for a variety of domestic and international issues and her writing has been translated into Arabic, Farsi, Spanish, French, Portuguese, German, and Indonesian.

Continue Reading
Comments

Americas

The coup in Bolivia shines yet more dark light on America

Published

on

Just when one might have thought things geopolitical might be about to turn for the better, which means the worldwide geopolitical nightmare engineered by the U.S. and Trump and all the rest of the mob in Washington might fade a bit, it just gets worse.

Bolivia’s recently re-elected and then self-resigned President Evo Morales because he is graciously trying to avoid more upset and possible carnage in Bolivia, was on the chopping block of the U.S., and chopped he was although he is not dead yet and apparently hiding out among his indigenous supporters somewhere in Bolivia but has accepted asylum in Mexico.

Yes, Morales may have tried to overstay his presidential term by extending the term limits and maybe, just maybe, there were some very minor “irregularities” in the voting process in his country, but that’s immaterial. He still won a huge plurality of the votes against his challenger.  The U.S.’s government changing machine has been out for his head for over a decade, and he had the guts at the U.N. not long ago with Trump and Pompeo nearby to point out to the world just what the U.S. has been about for far too long: criminal meddling all over the globe.

It’s weird, though. Evo did a good job for over a decade. You cannot argue about his economic record in Bolivia. He created, surprisingly, what might be termed a “prosperous socialism” wherein ALL boats were lifted, and especially the prospects for the poor majority. One would think the oligarchs and the “rich” in Bolivia might see some benefit in a society where most everyone got at least something better than they had. But the “rich” and particularly the obscene rich, and imperialists, they can never get enough. Any diminution in their wealth, or more importantly any restrictions on how wealthy they might become because some sharing with the poor is mandated by good government, has now been forbidden. Do they not realize that social calm for all, relatively, is better than total societal discord? Apparently not. Whatever new government is formed in Bolivia, the country is going to regress violently and the poor set back forcefully, with extreme prejudice. People who are by nature cruel and lacking compassion, feeling themselves exceptional, like oligarchs, never learn…until they are strung up on lamp posts and finally destroyed, as has happening time and again in history in various locations.

It may be hard to believe, but the U.S., which is largely controlled by multi-billionaire oligarchs (and this is a phenomenon that has been building for 30 or 40 years) under an increasing “neoliberal” regime (and not just in the U.S.), may see a day when even they will see their fortunes vanish both materially and socially. Lamp posts likely await them, too, when things become unbearable for the 95 percent of the citizenry. For the privileged, greed really is bottomless for most of this class of people. They live in a fantasy world. But of course there are exceptions. Yet the U.S. aims for resources overseas that it does not control – like Venezuela’s oil, like Bolivia’s as yet mostly untapped lithium, like Afghanistan’s riches, and much more.

Which begs the question whether it was a good idea that President Rouhani told the world this week that Iran has discovered an additional 53 billion barrels of oil. Even if only 25 percent of this can be eventually extracted, it’s fabulous. Iran IS wealthy, fabulously so in every respect, especially in its people, except that for now it can’t market its petroleum wealth. Maybe that is a good thing temporarily, for Iran appears to be growing other industry, including the growth and export of saffron to name just one item.

Meanwhile, as risky as it may be, Iran has allegedly “blown past” uranium enrichment levels mandated by the JCPOA. This is absurd. Iran is allegedly enriching uranium up to levels of 4.5 percent. That nowhere close to bomb material at over 90 percent. The JCPOA permits 3.6 percent, allegedly.  The IAEA and the European signatories to the JCPOA are concerned and want Iran to go back to the limits of the deal. This includes limits on the size of the stockpile of enriched material, too, which is currently, according to reports, less than 100 kilos above that limit.

However, Iran is doing just what it said it would and no more — inching away from the JCPOA because the signatories of the JCPOA, the Europeans, have done virtually nothing, cowards that they are, to stand up to the Trump mobsters and realize that their long-term interests reside east of the Bosporus. At least Nordstream 2 is soon going to be a delivering fact. Europe did not back down to U.S opposition to that, and should have stood by Iran when Trump, caving to Netanyahu, abandoned the JCPOA. As far as many observers are concerned, particularly after the U.S.- coup in Bolivia, Iran is doing just the right things and the world, literally, prays that pariah America falls on its own swords.

From our partner Tehran Times

Continue Reading

Americas

Floods, Fires, Coups and Impeachment Make a Busy Week

Dr. Arshad M. Khan

Published

on

Venice is flooded.  The water is hip high in St. Mark’s Square threatening the church and the expensive shops and restaurants on its perimeter.  The mayor blames climate change.

In Australia, the bush fire season is underway.  One in New South Wales is scorchingly close to nearby homes having already destroyed two buildings on a country property owned by the actor Russell Crowe.

Floods, too, in the north of England, while Boris the chameleon has a comfortable 10-point lead in the polls over his labor opposite number, Corbyn the plonker.  No matter how outrageous or inept, Boris might be, the plonker makes nary a dent on that voluminous target.  So much for the left in Britain as it awaits another drubbing at the polls.

Then in Bolivia, Evo Morales has fled to Mexico claiming his life was at risk.  If he clearly looks Bolivian Indian, his successor, the leader of the senate, Jeanine Anez is just as clearly white.  As in South America elsewhere, the white Spanish elite are at the top of the food chain, followed by the mixed mestizos and at the bottom the indigenous people.  The exceptions are Argentina where the original inhabitants were massacred out of existence, and Chile which is German immigrants from long ago.

Trump welcomed the coup in Bolivia — was there covert support?  If Morales won plaudits for fighting poverty and as the country’s first indigenous leader, he also overstayed his welcome, at least internationally.  He defied constitutional limits by running for a fourth term in a close election which the Organization of American States faulted for “clear manipulation”.  Mr. Morales promised fresh elections.  But the elite-run military and police clearly saw an opportunity.  Morales supporters are organizing demonstrations. 

The US does not have coups; it has impeachment.  Bill Clinton notable for his expression, “It depends on what the meaning of ‘is’ is” … and for a new low in disgusting personal behavior, was impeached.  The procedure requires the House to determine articles of impeachment and then send a team to prosecute in the senate.  The individual being impeached has the right to his own lawyers to mount a defense.  The senate eventually retires to consider and deliver a verdict.  A two-thirds majority is required for conviction.  Bill Clinton survived despite his impeachment being based on facts unearthed by Special Prosecutor Kenneth Starr.  Can anyone then imagine a Republican senate convicting Donald Trump over a sentence in a phone call?

So what is the purpose of this futile exercise in the House of Representatives?  Perhaps Democrats hope to sling enough mud to sway the independent note in the forthcoming election.  Perhaps they want a few moments in the limelight, and TV interviews before, during and after.

A fraught world with real climate issues the legislators prefer to ignore — after all they are well-funded by fossil fuel interests.  Forget the actual storms, our elected representatives prefer storms in a tea cup.  The House Intelligence Committee, which is holding the hearings, will probably forward the matter to the full house as the political games continue. 

Meanwhile, record numbers of homeless sleep under bridges as temperatures plunge to -15C (5 F)  in the midwest and the east of this wealthy country.  Do the politicians care?

Continue Reading

Americas

Another Sign of Turkey Turning Away from U.S.

Eric Zuesse

Published

on

On November 6th, Ibrahim Karagül, who is an extremely influential Turkish media baron and newspaper columnist, and is considered to be a mouthpiece for Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan’s boldest positions in international relations, virtually declared war against the U.S. and its main allies in the Middle East, and called them promoters of terrorism.

In 2014, Karagul was himself described in the Al-Monitor online newspaper that’s published in Washington DC, as being the “editor-in-chief of the daily Yeni Safak, which is considered one of the most dedicated mouthpieces of the government.” That’s the view, at least, of America’s allies, Saudi Arabia and UAE, two countries that have been working with the U.S. to conquer Yemen, and that are intimately connected to the U.S. Government in the formulation of all U.S. policies regarding the Middle East. The leaders of both of those two countries were described in Karagul’s November 6th article as being masterminds of terrorism. And Karagul, as his newspaper’s Editor-in-Chief, actually is Yeni Safak. His opinions in the columns he writes for the newspaper are, in effect, the newspaper’s editorials. Those opinions can fairly be taken to represent the opinions that Erdogan wants to become the opinions of the Turkish population, even if (for reasons of international diplomacy) he won’t overtly express these views himself. (After all, Yeni Safak expresses them; he doesn’t.)

Karagul said there: “The global black market for terrorism: Who requests these tenders? The EU establishes a terrorist organization, but the US and Israel are its true masters. UAE’s MBZ and Saudi Arabia’s MBS, the two crown princes who are ‘brokers of terror’.” Basically, Karagul’s allegation in this article is that Washington and its closest allies (Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed of UAE, and Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman of Saudi Arabia) are behind terrorism — especially behind Islamic terrorism.

However, Karagul went even farther, to implicate most especially Hamas leader, Mohammed Dahlan. Karagul’s article opened: “A warning to Turkey: Hostility towards our country has a new home. There is now a fourth terrorist organization after FETÖ, PKK and Daesh. Two princes. Two ‘terror barons.’ Two relentless enemies of Turkey… The first intervention in our country will be conducted through this gang. Mohammed Dahlan should be declared as a ringleader of a terrorist group; there should be a bounty on his head.”

He went on:

Turkey, which has been battling the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETÖ) and Daesh on the field, and their bosses at the diplomacy table, is going to be propelled into a zealous and urgent fight against a new and much more lethal terrorist organization.

The PKK, FETÖ and Daesh were the U.S., Israel and Europe’s project. But this new structuring is the terror group of Egyptian intelligence, the UAE’s Mohammed bin Zayed and Saudi Arabia’s Mohammed bin Salman.

New terrorist organization is under Mohammed Dahlan’s control

This new terrorist organization is under the control of Mohammed Dahlan, the man of dirty business, the hitman of the Middle East, who was involved in almost all the terror activities in our region. Despite having been able to project the façade that they are “fighting Iran,” their sole target is Turkey.

Turkey must include this terrorist organization among the PKK, FETÖ and Daesh. This is an organization involved in every operation against Turkey, ranging from internal policy and coup attempts to money laundering, to supporting FETÖ and the PKK – and even cooperating with them – from financing Daesh, to the terror corridor and chaos in Libya and the East Mediterranean.

Erdogan had clearly gone all-out in exposing the role of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman behind the murder and alleged chopping-up of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, but the animus seems now to run more broadly than that. And Karagul is going after U.S. President Donald Trump’s biggest supporters in the Middle East, other than Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu.

On 24 April 2003, CNN headlined “Palestinian Security Ace: Muhammad Yusuf Dahlan” and opened: 

During seven years as a security chief in the Gaza Strip, Muhammad Yusuf Dahlan arrested, and also released, many leading Palestinian militants. Along this tricky path, he skillfully cultivated influential supporters who urged his promotion.

Today, despite fierce opposition by the Palestinian leader, Yasir Arafat, Mr. Dahlan, 41, was named to an even more influential security post, with the blessing of the United States, Israel, Egypt and other countries, as well as the incoming Palestinian prime minister, Mahmoud Abbas.

Clearly, that slant was favorable toward Dahlan, and fit into Karagul’s allegation that Dahlan is a secret U.S.-and-allied agent. CNN is just as much a mouthpiece for the U.S. Government as Yeni Safak is for the Turkish Government. For any of America’s mainstream ‘news’-media, and even for the vast majority of its ‘alternative news’ media, everything that is published is acceptable either to the Democratic Party or to the Republican Party, or to both — it’s acceptable, in other words, to the U.S. Government. This is the case in the United States, just as it is in Turkey. The range of acceptable expression might be a bit narrower in one country than it is in the other, but what CNN said in that article was just as mainstream as is this article by Karagul. 

Here is more of what Karagul said about Dahlan:

If open war has been declared against the anti-Turkey terrorist organizations founded by the U.S., Israel and Europe, it should also be the case for this organization and its activities.

Mohammed Dahlan, who is leading the organization and intelligence network, should be declared as ringleader and, as is the case with the PKK and other terrorist organizations, a bounty should be put on his head if necessary, and the region and world should be warned against this threat.

Dahlan should be held responsible for his covert and dirty actions, including involvement in coups and an assassination attempt on President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

A terror group hiding in UAE, Saudi palaces

This man and his gang — controlled by UAE Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman — who [Dahlan] is, as a matter of fact, working for Israeli intelligence, should be identified as the most effective terrorist organization whose influence transcends the region.

Because he is protected in the palaces of some of the region’s countries, hiding within the system, using all the opportunities provided by these states and carrying out terrorist activities.

He was also involved in the July 15 [2016] coup attempt in Turkey. He established a partnership with FETÖ, held coup meetings with this organization in Dubai, and provided them with financial support. Of course, he did all this under the protection of his bosses: Israel, bin Zayed and bin Salman.

They were also the ones who killed Arafat

Dahlan’s murders extend all the way to Yasser Arafat’s poisoning. This assassination was organized in cooperation with Israeli and Egyptian intelligence, and Dahlan is at the center. Israeli intelligence and Dahlan’s men had managed to infiltrate the home of Arafat, whose personal bodyguards were shot in the head execution style.

When Hamas took over administration in Gaza, Dahlan’s intelligence center was raided, and the horrifying truth were revealed. Israel’s intense attacks on Gaza back then were conducted with support from Dahlan and Egyptian intelligence.

What is the most important thing here isn’t whether Karagul’s account is accurate or true, but the very fact that it is being published by him. 

NATO is being pulled at the seams, and might not be able to hold together.

Further of significance is that Karagul equally boldly expresses a position about U.S. domestic politics, and he sides strongly with Trump against the Democratic Party, whose President Barak Obama is viewed by Erdogan as having been behind the 15 July 2016 coup-attempt to overthrow Erdogan.

When interpreting the reliability of Karagul’s statements, it is especially important to recognize that Erdogan has, until now, supported both Al Qaeda and ISIS, as has been extensively documented in the few alternative news-media that are not controlled by America’s Deep State. In fact, on 18 March 2019, Homeland Security Today, which was founded in 2004 by corporate suppliers to the homeland-security industries, headlined “The ISIS Ambassador to Turkey”, and interviewed in Baghdad a key ISIS official who described how he had helped bring tens of thousands of jihadists from around the world to join the war in Syria in order to overthrow Bashar al-Assad, and how he had set up the system to approve each one coming in there, through Turkey. According to his account, Turkish intelligence was fully cooperative. Here’s an excerpt:

“My job was to direct operatives to receive the foreign fighters in Turkey,” Abu Mansour explains, referring to the network of ISIS-paid people who facilitated foreign fighter travel from Istanbul to the Turkish border towns of Gaziantep, Antakya, Sanliurfa, etc. “Most of them were paid by Dawlah [ISIS],” Abu Mansour explains, but differentiates them from ISIS members, due to their non-ideological motivations. “Most of those working on the Turkish side, their goal is money,” he said. Although when asked about ISIS networks inside Turkey, he also admits, “Many in Turkey believe and give their bayat [oath of allegiance] to Dawlah. There are ISIS guys living in Turkey, individuals and groups, but no armed groups inside Turkey.”

In addressing the foreign fighters, Abu Mansour explains: “[They came from] different places, from North Africa mostly. The numbers of Europeans was not a big number, 4,000 total.”

“Tunis 13,000, 4,000 from Morocco. There were less fighters from Libya because they had a front there [in Libya], fighting less than 1,000. I’m just talking about up to 2015,” he adds. Not surprisingly, his figures confirm data collected on the origins and numbers of foreign fighters who joined ISIS – that the most came from Tunisia. It was interesting how he can rattle off the numbers.

“So, you were more than a simple clerk working in the ISIS reception center registering new recruits?” I ask, suspecting he was much more important than that, given his grip on ISIS statistics.

“[My job was] guarding the borders between Syria and Turkey and to receive the fighters,” Abu Mansour explains, smiling at being recognized as more powerful than he was originally conveying. “I oversaw reception at Tal Abyad, Aleppo, Idlib, all their borders,” he answers.

It’s clear he was in charge, so I ask him, “So, you were an ISIS emir?”

“Yes,” he admits, seemingly happy to be “caught out” and recognized for who he really was. “At the beginning I was registering people, then I became the supervisor. I was the emir.”

It is acceptable for that magazine, which is addressing American security professionals, to publish this after the 15 July 2016 coup-attempt, because Turkey now is drifting away from the American orbit; but, prior to that time, such an article would have been difficult if not impossible to publish in any ‘respectable’ American ‘news’ medium.

Erdogan definitely is against Kurdish separatists who threaten (with CIA support) to break off a chunk of Turkey and form a Kurdish nation (perhaps to include chunks also from Syria, Iraq, and Iran). However, there seems to be little, if any, evidence that he opposes jihadists. This is what everyone currently is wondering about: will he turn decisively against the jihadists, now that he is distancing Turkey from the U.S. group. But that’s not really the main question here, regarding Karagul’s article. The main question is whether NATO will continue to support jihadists when the jihadists are fighting to overthrown a head-of-state, such as the secular Assad, whom they want to overthrow and replace. Erdogan is no longer fully on the U.S. side about regime-change in Syria. However, the American public continue, just as before, to support these regime-change invasions. Tulsi Gabbard refers to these invasions as “regime-change wars,” and she opposes it, but only 2% of polled Democrats, thus far, support her candidacy in the Democratic Party’s Presidential primaries, and none of the other candidates is campaigning on this “bring-the-troops-home” theme — it separates her from all the others, and Democratic Party voters apparently oppose her strongly on it. One may then reasonably infer that at least in the Democratic Party, a continuation of those wars (which started in 2003 with Iraq, but then went to Libya, and then to Syria) is being demanded by almost all of the voters. So: if Turkey will split from NATO, then it won’t be due to Turkey’s support for jihadists (if it still does). It would likelier be mainly because Erdogan is striking back against Barack Obama, who had tried to overthrow him. That failed coup-attempt seems to have drastically changed Erdogan’s view. He fears the American political Party that continues to honor Obama: the Democrats. He fears that they could back yet another coup-attempt against him.

In line with that interpretation, Karagul headlined a strongly pro-Trump commentary, on November 9th, “The tables have turned! Trump says: ‘Stop the coup.’ The opposition declares: ‘Coup has started.’ Powerful leaders locked in showdown with the establishment. There’s now an ‘Erdoğan model.’ Impeachment process will fail, Trump will be reelected. Will there be an American Perestroika?” This time, he’s attacking the Democrats’ attempts to replace Donald Trump by Mike Pence to lead the United States, and not their attempts to replace Tayyip Erdogan to lead Turkey. 

This support for Trump is despite Trump’s recently having tweeted, “As I have stated strongly before, and just to reiterate, if Turkey does anything that I, in my great and unmatched wisdom, consider to be off limits, I will totally destroy and obliterate the Economy of Turkey (I’ve done before!).” Of course, the public don’t know what Trump has communicated privately to Erdogan. It might be nothing like his bellicose public pronouncements.

Trump is widely despised by the Turkish public, but Obama was despised there only 2% less than Trump is; so, whereas Erdogan might considerably prefer Trump, his public seem not to. In this matter, he is leading them, not really following them. Furthermore, by 58% to 23%, far more (more than twice as many) Turks disapprove of NATO than approve of it — and no NATO country among the 12 that were surveyed except Greece comes anywhere near that preponderance of disapproval for NATO. This marketing organization for the weapons that are made in the U.S. and its allied nations is overwhelmingly approved of in the other 10, especially in the two most anti-Russian among those 12: Poland and Netherlands.

Because of that overwhelming disapproval of NATO by the Turkish population, Erdogan would probably not need to do much convincing of them if he were to decide to kick NATO out of Turkey’s Incirlik Air Base (which contains “up to 50” huge nuclear bombs for potential use against Russia). He has bargaining chips. But if what Karagul is publishing is at all like Erdogan’s view, then Erdogan is already in the process of abandoning NATO, and switching Turkey’s alliances to Russia, China, and Iran. This, however, would also require him to reduce if not end his former support to ISIS, Al Qaeda, and other fundamentalist-Sunni groups — jihadist groups, which have always been financed overwhelmingly by the royals of Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Qatar — America’s main Arab allies. Karagul’s articles seem to indicate Erdogan is moving in that direction, too — separating Turkey from those Arab fundamentalist Sunni regimes. If so, it would be an enormous change.

Continue Reading

Latest

Trending

Copyright © 2019 Modern Diplomacy