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Turkey’s internal equilibria and its foreign policy

Giancarlo Elia Valori

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Turkey’s President Erdogan has recently dismissed almost all the Turkish flag officers still in service, thus leaving only a small proportion of them, with a view to later favouring the quick career of subordinate officers with a nationalist or Islamist background and training.

President Erdogan’s regime also actively supports all the Egyptian members of the Muslim Brotherhood who fled Egypt after Mohammed Morsi’s fall and Al Sisi’s coup. Moreover, the origins of Erdogan’s AKP Party are certainly obscure, but also clearly shrouded in the networks of the Turkish Brotherhood and in the more or less “moderate” political Islamism – just to use a trivial classification of Western political science.

To some extents the political-military choice made by the Turkish Presidency is still favoured by the long-term effects of the attempted coup against President Erdogan of July 15, 2016, when the Turkish Armed Forces were greatly purged of all officers who had even a slight or hidden “secularist” inclination – just to use  again the trivial classification of political science.

Currently only 42 Turkish flag officers are still in active service, with equal or higher rank,of the 325 ones who served in the Turkish Armed Forces at the time of the military putsch.

 Moreover, authoritative sources maintain that it was precisely the Turkish military that temporarily stopped President Erdogan’s designs in Syria, who had invasion plans that would have been far more aggressive and long-term than the recent Turkish occupation of Northern Syria.

The military dismissed from active service had also opposed President Erdogan’s plan to establish an alliance with the Russian Federation.

45% of the officers no longer in active permanent service were harshly “purged”, while 33% retired either voluntarily or not and 6% simply handed in their resignation. There were also other options, which materialized only for 2% of them (transfer to other State administrations, consultancy contracts, etc.), but only 14% of the total officers active at the time of the 2016 putsch have remained in service.

President Erdogan thinks – not too secretly – that the putsch was organized with the consent, or the silent approval, of the United States and of some EU countries.

However, the Interforce Chief of Staff at the time of the coup, General Hulusi Akar, who also stopped any national military mobilization in the early stages of the coup, is currently President Erdogan’s Defence Minister.

Was it a “self-coup”? It may be possible.

General Hulusi Hakar knew about the military coup, as also disclosed by the then and current Head of the Turkish intelligence Services, Hakan Fidan.

In 2016 the Generals of the Turkish Armed Forces were 325, while they are currently 233.

 149 Generals were “purged” in the week immediately following the attempted coup. Later it became known that many high-ranking  military were either on vacation with their families or in cities other than their workplace or – and this should come as no surprise – they were countering the putschists’ actions.

 According to the official data released by the Turkish government, a total of 8,651 military participated in the attempted coup – approximately 1% of the whole Turkish Armed Forces.

 Too few to take them seriously.

 How one can think of organizing a coup with so few operatives –  and the whole operation was carried out by experienced officers of an Armed Force as good as the Turkish one – remains a mystery.  Or a suspicion.

1,781 of the 8,651 coup operatives were simple conscripts, while 1,214 were cadets from military academies.

 150 Generals were involved – in various ways – in the 2016 coup.

 Some of the “purged” officers were quickly sentenced to long imprisonment, while all of them were accused of having systematic ties and connections with the movement of Gűlen, who currently lives in the United States – a charge that, however, President Erdogan’s regime has never been able to prove in a barely convincing way.

It seems to me rather naïve that the US intelligence Services, which certainly keep Gűlen under control, could authorize such a severe destabilization operation in a country that is still the axis of NATO throughout the Middle East and Central Asia, despite the difficulties faced by the US intelligence Agencies.

Hizmet (Service), i.e. Fethullah Gűlen’s movement, is still very widespread in Turkey.

At the time of the 2016 coup, President Erdogan closed down 800 companies, as well as 1,100 schools of all levels, 850 dormitories and 1,400 volunteer associations, all linked to the “Gűlen movement”.

Immediately after the coup of July 2016, President Erdogan imprisoned as many as 38,000 people linked to the Hizmet movement and expelled over 100,000 civil servants and Stateofficials from the police, judiciary, education and health sectors, who – according to the Turkish police – “were at the service” of the Gűlen movement.

 In the public sector, Hizmet members – in various ways – range between 1.5% and even 11% of the total civil servants and State employees in each Administration.

 In the judiciary, the “Gulenists” are as many as 30% and even 50% of the police force, while the largest share of Hizmet members – in relation to the total population -is found in Eastern Anatolia and the Aegean area.

 The Gűlen movement was President Erdogan’s greatest support when herose to power in 2002. The Hizmet networks produced evidence – often false – to accuse the members of the Kemalist and secularist tradition – in all the State bodies in which they were active – while the open clash between the Gulenists and President Erdogan’ supporters did not begin until 2013.

Currently, however, the Muslim Brotherhood is the main organizational and ideological support of President Erdogan’s AKP and the Ikhwanis behind the Independent Industrialists and Businessmen Association, the powerful MUSIAD, as well as behind companies such as Turkish Airlines and many of the big real estate and construction companies.

President Erdogan’s relations with the Muslim Brotherhood date back to many years ago, at least to the early 1970s, when the current Turkish President was one of Necmettin Erbakan’s brightest aides.

In 1970 Erbakan, an academic and a politician, founded the Milli Nizam Partisi, the “National Order Party” which was also a member of Milli Gorus, Turkey’s largest Islamic association.

 Both Erbakan’s Party and Milli Gorus were banned in 1971, while in 1973 Erbakan founded the new Milli Selamet Partisi, the “National Salvation Party”, with which Erbakan even became Deputy Prime Minister from 1974 to 1978.

 Arrested after the military coup of 1980, he was forced not to carry out political activity any longer. Said ban ended in 1987.

 Political Islamism, the fight against Turkey’s Westernization and  a “new nationalism” not separating the State from the Islamic religion were the salient features of Erbakan’s doctrine in its various party connotations.

Erkaban was an anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic, as well as an anti-American and a strong supporter of a New Islamic Union – on the EU model – which would bring together all the Islamic countries of the Middle East.

 Those were Erbakan’s ideas, many of which – although with some differences – seemed to herald President Erdogan’s AKP.

That Party was founded in 2001 as a result of the merger of as many as five Islamist Parties that had not previously had the possibility of organizing themselves overtly and out in the open.

 All the Generals and the other officers who were “purged” by the Turkish Armed Forces by Erdogan’s motu proprio were later defined by the Turkish Secret Service, namely MIT, both as “Gulenists” and as pro-Western and “US friends”.

Currently, after the various “purges”, only 65% of the officer posts in the Turkish Armed Forces are covered.

Recently over 150,000 civil servants have been further sidelined and dismissed, due to their membership of Fethullah Gűlen’s network.

Approximately 30,000 of these civil servants linked to Gülen’sHizmet are still in prison, while there are currently 6,760 military still confined in Turkish jails either on charges of having being involved in the coup or for being members of the Gülen movement.

 5,960 of them are Colonels or lowerranking officers and 142 are Brigadiers-General or higher ranking officers.

 The issue of the 2016 coup and of the Islamist repression of the Turkish society’s traditional ruling classes reminds us of the Ergenekon trials.

Ergenekon is a powerful secret society – as there were many in Turkish history, and still many continue to flourish – organising some of the secular and pro-Western power groups in Turkey.

 Giuseppe Garibaldi had a sound relationship with the Association of Italian Workers in Turkey, a para-Masonic network, while the  Lodges of the Grand Orient of Italy organized much of the flourishing emigration of Italian businessmen and financiers to the Ottoman Empire. Indeed, Italy’s Lodges “covered up” and concealed the “Young Turks” movement in the Ottoman Empire.

Ergenekon is also the fundamental legend of the Turkish literary and symbolic tradition regarding a grey she-wolf called Asena which helped the Turkish tribal clans of the Altai Mountains to reach the luxuriant plain of Ergenekon, where they could thrive and reproduce. 

A further possibility is that the secret society called Ergenekon is named after Colonel Necabettin Ergenekon, an officer who, at the time of its establishment, was the second in command of the whole covert network of the secret association.

 Probably, the secret society we are talking about is one of the many organizations of Turkey’s “Deep-State”, which is one of the great political traditions of the Ottoman Empire, which later merged with NATO’s covert networks in a country, like Turkey, which bordered on the USSR and was close to “hot” war zones such as the Middle East, Iran and the Persian Gulf.

We also need to recall the specific political role played by the military after the 1908 revolution organized by the Turkish Armed Forces and the subsequent self-proclaimed function of the military as “protectors of secular democracy” after the foundation of the Turkish Republic in 1923.

In Turkey the “Deep-State” networks were organized to work under the cover of official organizations, such as the Armed Forces – just think about the Feday group born in 1905 –  to ultimately stage mass mobilizations and demonstrative actions – hence to “do politics” without showing themselves in public.

 The secret societies of the Turkish Armed Forces mainly carried out espionage and counter-espionage missions, but also organized rebellions throughout the Ottoman Empire – suffice to recall the Libyan insurgency against the Italians, or the one in the Balkans against Greece and Bulgaria, or in Egypt against Great Britain.

They were all Turkish nationalist operations, without direct ties to the Ottoman Empire, which often did not even know the nature of “Deep-State” actions.

 The “Deep-State” societies were largely dismantled after the defeat of the Ottoman Empire in the First World War, but some espionage and counter-espionage groups remained active, such as the Karakol, Yavuz and Hamza associations and Felah, which incorporates the above mentioned Feday group.

 Ataturk tried to place all these organizations within the Police and the intelligence Services, but he did not fully succeed to do so.

It should be noted that MIT, the current Secret Service, was founded in 1960, after the first legal Turkish military coup.

 In 1971 there was another constitutional coup and in 1980 there was the so-called “post-modern” coup. In 1998, a white coup outlawed the Welfare Party, an Islamist political group founded by Necmettin Erbakan, that was at the origin of President Erdogan’s AKP.

In the midst of the political changes occurred in the post-Cold War period, the EU universal geniuses demanded and obtained the stop of the Turkish Armed Forces’ constitutional operations, thus ensuring the rise to power of the AKP, disguised as a great coalition with other secular political forces.

Furthermore, in 1968 the MIT operated mainly through the pro-Western Turkish Parties to create the conditions for a military coup.

 The political link between MIT and the Parties in the Turkish Parliament was the “Counter-Guerrilla Office”, a body of the intelligence Services having considerable autonomy from the central Command.

 The counter-guerrilla networks were all connected by a NATO Command for “non-orthodox war”, which was easily penetrated by an East-German secret agent. Much of the Western “Gladio” structure was well known to the Warsaw Pact and, sometimes, to the Communist Parties of Western Europe to which NATO belonged.

 This is one of the most rational interpretation of the “Moro affair” and of its effects in Italian political history following the assassination of the Christian Democrat leader.

Nevertheless the Networks – to which probably also Ergenekon belonged – were manifold: Absalon in Denmark; Aginter in Portugal, with many branches also in Italy; the Auxiliary Units in the UK; the Bund Deutscher Jugend and the Technischer Dienst operating in West Germany; the well-known Gladio-Stay Behind in Italy and Central Europe, including Switzerland; the Grupo Antiterorista de Liberacion, operating in Spain; Informationsbyran in Sweden and also Intelligence & Operations in the Netherlands; the Mountain Riders in Greece; Nihtilä Haathti in Finland and the Österreichischer Wander-Sport und Geselligkeitsverein in Austria; Plan Bleu and Rose de Vents (with interconnections also in Italy), as well as Arc en Ciel in France, which had two “Gladio” structures, one in the South and another in the North, whose Head of the Southern network was Mitterrand’s “presidential hunter”; Projekt 26in Switzerland; Rocambole in Norway and finally SDRA-8 and STC/Mob in Belgium.

The official Turkish network of NATO Stay Behind, however, was not Ergenekon but the Tactical Mobilisation Committee, which was at the base of the pogrom against the Greek Orthodox people of September 6-7,1955.

 The Ergenekon trialsbegan in June 2007 with a raid by the Turkish police while, coincidentally, the Constitutional Court put the AKP on trial on charges of “being the core of anti-secularist activities”.

 The charges against Ergenekon concerned 86 suspects, in the first phase of police activities, and later further 56 ones.

 The trials against the secret society ended in early August 2013.

 In the end, there were 275 defendants, 17 of whom were sentenced to life imprisonment. Only 12 of them were found innocent.

As stated above, the operation against Ergenekon started with the search of Oktay Ildirim’s house, where several grenades were found, and Ildirim was a simple retired sergeant.

 The usual EU universal geniuses positively viewed the trial against the pro-Western secret society, which was a clear sign to the military by the AKP in power.

Clearly the current crisis of the Turkish military world and hence the subsequent replacement of “secularist” officers with Islamist or neo-nationalist military – in line with President Erdogan’s project of New Turkish Ottomanism towards the East – is a strong sign of the persistence of “secret societies” in the Turkish Deep-State and of President Erdogan’s willingness to have an Armed Force completely free of the “coupist” and secularist temptations typical of the Kemalist world which is still deeply rooted in the tradition of the Turkish Armed Forces.

 This will create many problems to NATO and still many more to the EU.

Advisory Board Co-chair Honoris Causa Professor Giancarlo Elia Valori is an eminent Italian economist and businessman. He holds prestigious academic distinctions and national orders. Mr. Valori has lectured on international affairs and economics at the world’s leading universities such as Peking University, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Yeshiva University in New York. He currently chairs “International World Group”, he is also the honorary president of Huawei Italy, economic adviser to the Chinese giant HNA Group. In 1992 he was appointed Officier de la Légion d’Honneur de la République Francaise, with this motivation: “A man who can see across borders to understand the world” and in 2002 he received the title “Honorable” of the Académie des Sciences de l’Institut de France. “

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Burning Planet: Climate Fires and Political Flame Wars Rage

MD Staff

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Economic and political polarization will rise this year, as collaboration between world leaders, businesses and policy-makers is needed more than ever to stop severe threats to our climate, environment, public health and technology systems. This points to a clear need for a multistakeholder approach to mitigating risk at a time when the world cannot wait for the fog of geopolitical disorder to lift. These are the findings of the World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report 2020, published today.

The report forecasts a year of increased domestic and international divisions and economic slowdown. Geopolitical turbulence is propelling us towards an “unsettled” unilateral world of great power rivalries at a time when business and government leaders must focus urgently on working together to tackle shared risks.

Over 750 global experts and decision-makers were asked to rank their biggest concerns in terms of likelihood and impact and 78% said they expect “economic confrontations” and “domestic political polarization” to rise in 2020.

This would prove catastrophic, particularly for addressing urgent challenges like the climate crisis, biodiversity loss and record species decline. The report, produced in partnership with Marsh & McLennan and Zurich Insurance Group, points to a need for policy-makers to match targets for protecting the Earth with ones for boosting economies – and for companies to avoid the risks of potentially disastrous future losses by adjusting to science-based targets.

For the first time in the survey’s 10-year outlook, the top five global risks in terms of likelihood are all environmental. The report sounds the alarm on:

  • Extreme weather events with major damage to property, infrastructure and loss of human life
  • Failure of climate-change mitigation and adaptation by governments and businesses.
  • Human-made environmental damage and disasters, including environmental crime, such as oil spills, and radioactive contamination.
  • Major biodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse (terrestrial or marine) with irreversible consequences for the environment, resulting in severely depleted resources for humankind as well as industries.
  • Major natural disasters such as earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, and geomagnetic storms.

It adds that unless stakeholders adapt to “today’s epochal power-shift” and geopolitical turbulence – while still preparing for the future – time will run out to address some of the most pressing economic, environmental and technological challenges. This signals where action by business and policy-makers is most needed.

“The political landscape is polarized, sea levels are rising and climate fires are burning. This is the year when world leaders must work with all sectors of society to repair and reinvigorate our systems of cooperation, not just for short-term benefit but for tackling our deep-rooted risks,” said Borge Brende, President of the World Economic Forum.

The Global Risks Report is part of the Global Risks Initiative which brings stakeholders together to develop sustainable, integrated solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges.

Systems-level thinking is required to confront looming geopolitical and environmental risks, and threats that may otherwise fall under the radar. This year’s report focuses explicitly on impacts from rising inequality, gaps in technology governance, and health systems under pressure.

John Drzik, Chairman of Marsh & McLennan Insights, said: “There is mounting pressure on companies from investors, regulators, customers, and employees to demonstrate their resilience to rising climate volatility. Scientific advances mean that climate risks can now be modeled with greater accuracy and incorporated into risk management and business plans. High profile events, like recent wildfires in Australia and California, are adding pressure on companies to take action on climate risk at a time when they also face greater geopolitical and cyber risk challenges.”

To younger generations, the state of the planet is even more alarming. The report highlights how risks are seen by those born after 1980. They ranked environmental risks higher than other respondents, in the short- and long- terms. Almost 90% of these respondents believe “extreme heat waves”, “destruction of ecosystems” and “health impacted by pollution” will be aggravated in 2020; compared to 77%, 76% and 67% respectively for other generations. They also believe that the impact from environmental risks by 2030 will be more catastrophic and more likely.

Human activity has already caused the loss of 83% of all wild mammals and half of plants – which underpin our food and health systems. Peter Giger, Group Chief Risk Officer, Zurich Insurance Group warned of the urgent need to adapt faster to avoid the worst and irreversible impacts of climate change and to do more to protect the planet’s biodiversity:

“Biologically diverse ecosystems capture vast amounts of carbon and provide massive economic benefits that are estimated at $33 trillion per year – the equivalent to the GDP of the US and China combined. It’s critical that companies and policy-makers move faster to transition to a low carbon economy and more sustainable business models. We are already seeing companies destroyed by failing to align their strategies to shifts in policy and customer preferences. Transitionary risks are real, and everyone must play their part to mitigate them. It’s not just an economic imperative, it is simply the right thing to do,” he said.

The Global Risks Report 2020 has been developed with the invaluable support of the World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Advisory Board. It also benefits from ongoing collaboration with its Strategic Partners Marsh & McLennan and Zurich Insurance Group and its academic advisers at the Oxford Martin School (University of Oxford), the National University of Singapore and the Wharton Risk Management and Decision Processes Center (University of Pennsylvania).

Annex

Respondents were asked to assess: (1) the likelihood of a global risk occurring over the course of the next 10 years, and (2) the severity of its impact at a global level if it were to occur.

These are the top 5 risks by likelihood over the next 10 years:

  • Extreme weather events (e.g. floods, storms, etc.)
  • Failure of climate change mitigation and adaptation
  • Major natural disasters (e.g. earthquake, tsunami, volcanic eruption, geomagnetic storms)
  • Major biodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse
  • Human-made environmental damage and disasters

These are the top 5 risks by severity of impact over the next 10 years:

  • Failure of climate change mitigation and adaptation
  • Weapons of mass destruction
  • Major iodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse
  • Extreme weather events (e.g. floods, storms, etc.)
  • Water crises

Global risks are not isolated, and so respondents were asked to assess the interconnections between pairs of global risks.

These are the top most strongly connected global risks:

  • Extreme weather events + failure of climate change mitigation and adaptation
  • Large-scale cyberattacks + breakdown of critical information infrastructure and networks
  • High structural unemployment or underemployment + adverse consequences of technological advances
  • Major biodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse + failure of climate change mitigation and adaptation
  • Food crises + extreme weather events

Short-term risks: percentage of respondents who think a risk will increase in 2020:

  • Economic confrontations = 78.5%
  • Domestic political polarization = 78.4%
  • Extreme heat waves = 77.1%
  • Destruction of natural resource ecosystems = 76.2%
  • Cyberattacks: infrastructure = 76.1%

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Anti-Russian Ideology of Central Asian Salafi-Jihadi Groups: Causes and Consequences

Uran Botobekov

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Uzbek jihadists in Syria

Russia and Muhajireen are both interventionists in Syria

The Russian military intervention in the Syrian civil war has strengthened the anti-Russian ideological wave of the al-Qaeda-aligned Central Asian and North Caucasian Salafi-Jihadi groups fighting alongside the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) against the Bashar al-Assad regime. After the outbreak of the Syrian civil war in 2011, fueled by the Arab Spring protests, several hundred Central Asian Islamic radicals, calling themselves Muhajireen (Migrants, i.e. Sunni foreign fighters), performed a Hijrah (the migration of Muslims for Jihad) in response to the call of al-Qaeda to Syria.

Since then, Syria’s northwest Idlib province, long a hotbed of armed resistance and the heartland of al-Qaeda-linked operations has become a real-life shelter for Muhajireen from the former Soviet Union and Chinese Xinjiang. Among them, the Uzbek groups Katibat al-Tawhid wal Jihad (KTJ) and Katibat Imam al-Bukhari (KTB), Uighur fighters of Turkestan Islamic Party (TIP), as well as Chechen’s Jaish al-Muhajireen wal-Ansar (JMA) and Ajnad al Kavkaz (AK) are affiliated with al Qaeda. They share al Qaeda’s ideological doctrine and consider its leader Ayman al-Zawahiri their ideological mastermind. The activities of TIP and KTJ jihadists, which have remained loyal to al Qaeda but simultaneously subordinate to HTS, indicate that they have become a link between al Qaeda and HTS after their formal detachment of ties. That is, today they coordinate all their military operations in Syria and conduct them under the leadership of the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, the largest Sunni jihadist group, controlling most of Idlib province which is the last major opposition stronghold.

At the beginning of the Syrian jihad, the ideology of the Central Asian Salafi groups was not particularly distinguished by anti-Russian hostility but after the Russian invasion of Syria in support of the Bashar al-Assad regime in 2015, Central Asian jihadists and the Russian military found themselves on opposite sides of the front line and became sworn enemies. This was also facilitated by the fact that many Uzbek and Tajik Muhajireen came from Russia, where they worked as labor migrants and were often discriminated against by Russian nationalists. They also experienced moral and psychological humiliation by the corrupt Russian police, local officials and employers. Some Mujahideen admitted on the social networks Telegram and Odnoklassniki that the unfair Russian reality inflicted unbearable humiliation which contributed to their migration to Syria and joining jihadist groups.That is, the anti-Russian ideology of the Central Asian Salafi-Jihadi groups appeared not only because of the radicalization of their religious views but also as a response to discrimination by Russian nationalists and the invasion of Russian troops in Syria.Thus, over the past five years, al Qaeda’s Takfiri ideology of conducting global jihad against the infidel regimes of the West has been supplemented by the anti-Russian ideology of the Central Asian Muhajireen.

Abu Saloh, former leader of Katibat al-Tawhid wal Jihad, a famous ideologist of anti-Russian jihadism. His fighters swore allegiance to al Qaeda

In order to better understand the roots and causes of the anti-Russian ideology of the Central Asian Sunni extremist movements, it is necessary to analyze the Khutbah preaching (Sermons) of their leaders and famous ideologists during Jumma Namaz (Muslim Friday Prayer Service), which they actively disseminate on the Internet in Uzbek, Russian, Tajik, Kyrgyz, and Arabic.

Characteristic features of the Muhajireen’s anti-Russian ideology

Over the past five years, Idlib has become not only the real-life shelter for Russian-Speaking foreign fighters but also the place of fueling the aggressive anti-Russian ideology of the Central Asian Salafi-Jihadi groups. It’s interesting to note that they are actively using the Russian entrepreneur Durov’s social networking Telegram channel to widely disseminate anti-Russian ideology. Central Asian Muhajireen have the radio station “Voice of Sham” which also has the website “www.muhajeer.com” and provides daily updates over ten channels on Telegram through which they praise holy Jihad and spread anti-Russian propaganda.

Leaders and ideologues of the Central Asian Salafi-Jihadi groups advance the idea that al-Qaeda’s global network needs more support from like-minded Muslims around the world, who are willing to help its jihad. Therefore, in order to catalyze support, mobilize the base, and expand awareness of the Syrian jihad, they are waging an active “anti-Russian ideological war” on the Internet. Jihadist websites are designed to entice, inform, and rally Russian-speaking Muslims to join in the fight to safeguard Islam in Syria.

The ideologues and propagandists of al Qaeda-linked Central Asian movements seek to use Moscow’s heavy hand to recruit new fighters and accumulate financial resources.Each time after the Russian aviation’s scorched-earth tactics and indiscriminate bombing of civilian areas in the province of Idlib, the anti-Russian ideology of Central Asian jihadists intensifies on the Internet.

KTJ former leader Abu Saloh (his real name Sirojiddin Mukhtarov), who possesses excellent oratory skills and deep knowledge of the Quran, is the fiery voice of the anti-Russian ideology. He urges his listeners to establish religiously pure communities governed by a strict Salafi reading of Sharia or Islamic law.He regards modern post-Soviet countries in Central Asia to be illegitimate and desires not only the overthrow of these states but the creation of a new theocratic state in their place that unites all Muslims and, ultimately, a global Islamic Caliphate.In his opinion, the ideal conditions for conducting jihad today arose precisely in Syria and the Muslim Ummah should achieve an inevitable victory over the enemies of Islam by which he means not only the West but also the Bashar al-Assad’s regime, its military and political patrons, Russia and Iran. Abu Saloh believes that the victory of the Ahlus Sunnah (Sunni Islam) begins precisely with the holy land of Sham, where the Prophet Muhammad and his Sahaba (companions) shed their blood to raise the banner of jihad.

Abu Yusuf Muhojir, leader of Katibat Imam al-Bukhari, is an ardent foe of Russia. His group swore allegiance to Taliban

In the last video published on December 26, 2019, on Telegram, entitled “Appeal from the Blessed Sham to the Muslim Ummah” he calls on Muslims of Central Asia and Russia to make financial donations for jihad. He argues that jihad can be done in the path of Allah against the infidels in three ways: by one’s life, wealth, and speech. If Central Asian migrant workers in Russia make financial donations to support jihad in Syria, then Allah will consider them as participants in holy jihad who have fulfilled their mission to the Almighty. Participation in the wealth jihad will atone for their sins before Allah on Judgment Day. Therefore, migrant workers are required to participate in the wealth jihad, even while in Russia, he said. He calls on Central Asian Muslims not to become slaves of Russian kafirs (infidel) and warns that jihad is an obligation of every Muslim and that any Muslim who denies its sanctity should be considered as a kufr (unbeliever in Allah).

It should be noted that Russia accused Abu Saloh of the terror attack on St. Petersburg’s metro in April 2017 and the Kyrgyz authorities blamed him for the attack on the Chinese Embassy in Bishkek on August 30, 2016.He and his Uzbek-speaking fighters from the Fergana Valley of Central Asia swore allegiance to al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri.

Another well-known ideologist of Central Asian jihadism and a vocal critic of Russian occupation of Sham is the KIB’s leader Abu Yusuf Muhojir. On January 3, 2020, he posted his video message on the KIB’s webpage on Telegram entitled “Appeal from the mountain range Jebel al-Turkman of Latakia.”He claims that only jihad can to protect the Islam Ummah from Russia’s and Iran’s oppressors and free our occupied land of the blessed Sham from the terrorists of the Nusayri regime (Alawites).Following the concepts of the militant Salafi ideology, Abu Yusuf Muhojir regards violent jihad as an obligation for all Muslims and seeks to engage in jihad in both Khorasan and Sham, where opportunities have arisen.Then he quotes the Quran’s Surah of Al-Ankabut (The Spider) in Arabic and says that Allah is testing Muslims in Sham, and that only jihad will help us to pass this test with dignity. In conclusion, he said neither America nor Russia can close the path of holy jihad since jihad is the path to Allah. If the Mujahideen get killed in the jihad, he affirms that Allah himself will guide them and admit them to Paradise. Furthermore, Uzbek militants ofKIB have sworn allegiance to the Taliban and are conducting jihad in both Syria and Afghanistan.On March 22, 2018, the US State Department designated KIB a global terrorist organizations.

The root of the Jihadists’ anti-Russian ideology

The so-called “media activists” (Faruk Shami, Muhammad Jazira, Gulyam Muhammad,Saad Muhtor, Abdul Aziz Kazanly) who live and work among the Central Asian jihadists in Syria play a significant role in increasing anti-Russian ideology. They organize live broadcasts, interviews with leaders of Central Asian and Caucasian Salafi-Jihadi groups on YouTube and Instagram, and translate theological works of al Qaeda’s ideologues from Arabic into Russian, Uzbek, Tajik, Kyrgyz and Uighur.

One of the channels called “Mujahideen of Sham” in Kyrgyz on the Telegram, for instance, published short information: “Russian kafirs, who were the enemies of our ancestors, bombed the city of Sarakib on December 21, 2019, as a result of which they were killed more 120 innocent Muslims of Sham.” Further, this channel posted an audio message from a Kyrgyz Muhajir to the Russian military: “Oh, Russian infidels, keep your eyes peeled, we are attacking to shed your blood. As you love vodka, Zina (illicit sexual relations), so we are in a hurry to die in the name of Allah to stop the kafirs’ invasion on Islamic lands.”

Al Qaeda-linked Central Asian jihadists sometimes use some historical events of the Russian colonial policy of the 18-19 centuries in Central Asia to rally support for the Islamist agenda and radicalize those sympathetic to the plight of Muslims in Syria. The same channel “Mujahideen of Sham” writes: “Russian Tsarist forces, which killed tens of thousands of Kyrgyz during the Genocide of 1916, today are massacring innocent Muslims of the blessed Sham. The colonial policy of the Russian Empire continues. Make dua (prayer) for Muslims of Sham.” It is probably about the ‘Urkun’ (“Exodus”) tragedy 1916, when 150 thousand Kyrgyz died during the uprising against Russian Tsarist forces and a mass exodus to China. Such information is aimed at winning the hearts and minds of Central Asian jihadists who are familiar with historical events.

Translation of books, essays and videos of medieval and modern jihadi thinkers from Arabic into Russian and local languages and its distribution on the Telegram channel is an important part of the work of Central Asian jihadists. Spreading classic works of Salafi-Takfiri thinkers help legitimize anti-Russian Jihadi ideology and stoke the fire of jihad. Crucial spiritual nourishment for Central Asian Muhajireen are the essays of Ibn Taymiyyah, Abd al-Wahhab, Sayyid Qutb, Abdullah Azzam, Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi, Sulayman al-ʿAlwān, Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri, Abu Qatada al-Filistini and other scholars of Salafism. This clearly indicates the ideological affinity of Central Asian Muhajireen with transnational Islamic fundamentalist groups that utilize sacred violence in their war against Russia and the West. Moreover, KTJ, KIB, and TIP explicitly try to define its ideological and operational agenda as being intimately tied to an integrated effort of al Qaeda aimed at asserting the global dominance of Islam through armed jihad.

Despite the fact that the Central Asian jihadists are seen as a small cog in the transnational Sunni-Jihadi network, they are actually drawing up and spreading anti-Russian ideology in the post-Soviet space and the Middle East alongside Chechen and Uighur jihadists. They are using pejorative terms in reference to Russia such as “Russian terrorists,” “Russian bandits,” “Russian pig executioners,” as well as pejoratives directed toward Vladimir Putin such as “Putin is a killer,” “Putin is a war criminal,” and “Slaves of Putin’s Chef Prigozhin,” as well a variety of generalized pejoratives comparing Russians to Fascists, swine and vermin. 

The anti-Russian ideology of the Central Asian jihadists in Syria has gone far beyond the national and geographical framework and they are trying to create the image of Putin’s Russia as an enemy of the entire Muslim Ummah.The Russian military operation in support of the Bashar al-Assad regime, the destruction of hospitals, schools, and other social facilities in Idbil by Russian aircraft, the flow of refugees towards the Turkish borders, the deaths of hundreds of civilians, children and women from the bombing create a favorable background for strengthening the trend of anti-Russian ideology among the Muhajireen in Syria.

Muhajireen’s propagandists also skillfully manipulate the historical rivalry between Sunnis and Shia. The analysis showed that they consider the enemies of Ahl al-Sunna of all Nuseyrites, Rafidites and their ally Russian Crusaders. The Jihadi ideologists claim that Russia is a leading player in the global conspiracy to destroy Ahl al-Sunna in Sham, and therefore helps Nuseyrites. The call to defend the last stronghold of Ahl al-Sunna gives them the opportunity to recruit new militants from the Sunni population of Central Asia and Russia.

At the same time, some facts of atrocities and heinous crimes perpetrated by Russian mercenaries of the Wagner group and Iranian proxy militias in Syria, which became public knowledge, create spaces for promoting Central Asian Jihadi ideas. Recently, after a video appeared on the Internet in November 2019 in which four Russian mercenaries tortured, stabbed and beheaded a Syrian man, Russian President Putin has become the main target of criticism of Salafi-Jihadi agitators from the former Soviet countries. This gave Central Asian jihadists a reason to accuse Putin’s Russia of using terror policy against Islam and the Muslims of Sham.

In order to foment jihadist sentiments in the Russian speaking Eurasian region, Salafi-Jihadi ideologists are manipulating the strongman Putin’sphrase that “Syria has become a field for testing the latest Russian weapons systems.” They regularly publish victims’ photographs of Russian air bombing, which are intended to rally support for the Islamist agenda and radicalize those sympathetic to the plight of Sunni Muslims in northwest Syria. They wonder “how much longer will Putin’s terrorists be testing their weapons in Syria and using civilian Muslims as living targets?”

Conclusion

The Central Asian Muhajireen’s anti-Russian ideology and the aggressive imposition of global Jihadi ideas on the internet undoubtedly pose a threat to Russia’s national security but, at the same time, the major actors of the Syrian conflict, primarily Russia, Iran and the Syrian government must understand that further tightening the screws of the Syrian war, exacerbating the humanitarian catastrophe and a new mass influx of refugees, will lead to further strengthening of anti-Russian and anti-Shiite ideology. Because of this, Central Asian Jihadi groups, following the strategy of al Qaeda, are trying to infiltrate local Sunni communities of Syria, build influence there by expressing the interests of the Ansar (natives).

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Intelligence

U.S. vs Iran, a Cybersecurity Update

Dr.Luciano Magaldi

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The relationship between the United States and Iran has perhaps reached a very low levein in recent weeks, following the 1979 Khomenist Revolution and the occupation of the US Embassy in Tehran by Iranian students.

According to American sources, on 20th June the United States launched offensive cyber-operations against Iranian intelligence computer systems, the same day that the US President, Donald J. Trump, had before ordered a military attack and then revoked the order before it actually left.

The United States Cyber Command – a department recently promoted by Trump as a unified combat command under the direction of the Department of Defense – allegedly attacked the computer systems used to control missile and rocket launches.

Such a cyberattack would have been the White House‘s response to the actions of the Iranian authorities who, the day before, had shot down an American spy drone – a Global Hawk produced by Northrop Grumman – as it was guilty of violating the airspace of the Islamic Republic.

After accusations and threats to each other, the US President decided to impose new sanctions on Iran and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. That was not welcomed by the Government of Tehran, which spoke, earlier, of “end of diplomatic path with the United States” and announced that it had exceeded the uranium enrichment limit imposed by the JCPOA – Joint Comprehensive Plan of Iran Nuclear Deal – from which the United States unilaterally exited in May 2018.

It remains to be seen, therefore, after the escalation of the last few weeks, whether the United States will try to make more and more use of cyber-attacks to solve the delicate international issues, primarily the Iranian one.

After the cyber-space was recognized as a strategic domain by NATO in 2016, on par with land, water, sky and space, it has been increasingly seen that countries use this domain to plead their own interests and also to carry out operations – this new type of military activity should not come as a surprise, because you only have to look at the National Cyber Strategy, published in September 2019 by the US, which shows that there has been a paradigm shift from what was the protection of American interests in the cyber space, moving from a more classical deterrence to the purpose of defence to a more offensive deterrence.

The fact that this document was only published last September suggests that the field of cybersecurity is fundamentally new and still to be explored.

On the one hand, cybernetic space is a totally man-made space and where you can have very high levels of ambiguity, through non-identification strategies from where attacks start, on the other hand, it is one of the most unregulated space at the level of behaviour that all countries shoud adopt with the specifice the responsibilities in cyber-operations.

This is a field in which the international law must be adapted as it is vital to understand how international law applies to the cyber-space and to see how it can be applied in practice: there is a long-time discussion between experts in the United Nations about cyber-space and, moreover, you can conduct operations that may fall into the category of attacks that are below the threshold of the use of force. So, it is still unclear whether a cyber-attack can be responded to with a classic attack byusing any classic military tools.

That is why American cybersecurity policy has changed in recent years, starting with the different pillars on which the National Cyber Strategy is based:

1) defending the homeland by protecting networks, systems, functions and data;promote American prosperity by fostering a secure digital economy and promoting strong domestic innovation;

2) preserving peace and security by strengthening the ability of the United States – along with allies and partners – to deter and, if necessary, punish those who use cyber-tools for malicious purposes;

3) expansion of American influence abroad to extend the key principles of an open, reliable and secure Internet.

Within the cyber-space, the United States have adopted a so-called “continuous engagement” – an ongoing commitment to counter possible threats even before they can materialize through targeted attacks, with the transition from a defensive to an offensive approach, with the American presence in the cyber-space that will more and more increas in order to actively dissuade potential enemies.

Historically, the United States are not new to carrying out cyber-attacks on Iran, in fact, as early as 2010, the United States and Israel are believed to have spread a virus, created by the US Government, to slow down the process of enriching uranium in Iran’s nuclear power plants.

That cyber-attack of the United States against the Iranian intelligence unit is part of a context that has seen Washington’s intensifying cyber-operations also against Russia and Iran – it is important to be aware of the cybersecurity space for their own interests and that they have had a particularly aggressive posture in this area.

The United States and Iran are two of the world’s most advanced, active and capable hacking powers at a time when governments regularly use cyber-attacks to achieve important goals and shape geopolitics.

Tensions between the two countries and their allies have produced a long history of extraordinary cyber-attacks in addition to traditional kinetic warfare – for these reasons, Iran’s revenge for the killing of General Qassim Suleimani could also be served on the ground of cyber-war.

Christopher Krebs, director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency – CISA – of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, warned the entire community to re-investigate Tehran’s tactics, procedures and techniques in detail in cyberspace, after reporting the increase in the activity of malicious cyber-attacks directed against the American companies and government agencies.

The hackers of the Iranian regime have increasingly used destructive windshield wipers in order to spear phishing, email scam to gain unauthorized access to sensitive data – it is a hackerial attempt to decode a common user password across multiple accounts before switching to a second password that allows you to circumvent account lockouts.

This is an attack that leverages the likelihood that people can use the same username and password to access multiple applications, sites, and services – in fact, cyber-criminals are able to get the details of stolen accounts from a platform and implement the bots needed to log into many other accounts with the same credentials.

Once they have found a way to log in, the criminals will break the account by making fraudulent purchases or stealing confidential information – before the 2015 nuclear deal was negotiated between the United States, Iran, Europe, Russia and China, Iranian hackers regularly targeted American financial companies and critical infrastructure.

Over the past year, Iran and the United States have repeatedly targeted each other in hacking operations – Iranian government hackers have attempted to breach President Trump’s re-election campaign: in fact the U.S. Cyber Command reportedly warned against Iran’s paramilitary force attacks during a period of high tensions, earlier this year.

More than 150 American sites have already been victims of defacement by Iranian hackers also because of the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, had promised “a strong vengeance” for Suleimani’s killing – this is a modern conflict, to date not only threatened but it is a long-time a cyber war – in recent days, hackers of Tehran have hacked the website of the Federal Depository Library Program – FDLP – with a defacement operation, leaving a message stating that “this is only a small part of Iran’s cyber-capabilities.”

The attack targeted a “weak” target, but it is a sign that the Islamic Republic’s cyber-army has been activated to strike US-linked targets, any critical infrastructure in particular..

The U.S. cyber-army believe, in fact, that the attacks could take place in five ways:

– DDoS attacks, in which you flood a site with access requests and crash it.

– data deletion (or wiper attack), actions to delete data in infected databases.

– attacks on industrial control systems, information-related operations and as well as cyber espionage.

The latter two to steal data for use then in physical, military actions – for example, by committing targeted murders or attacks on infrastructure.

But the Islamic Republic could suffer from the American reaction far more damage than it could cause: it has already happened in the past, as confirmed by the head of the “cyber police” in Tehran, General Kamal Hadianfar, who admitted that Iran in 2017 suffered 296 serious cyber-attacks against paramount infrastructures and on several occasions some experts in the field were mysteriously dead.

In conclusion, after sanctions and threats on both sides, could we really lead to an escalation of cyber-attacks and, because of that, does it seem to be a new Cold War ?

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