Turkish prosecution documents show that the regime of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was up to its eyeballs supporting ISIS, a new report by the London-based Investigative Journal has found.
Wiretaps show that Turkey's intelligence agency, known by its Turkish acronym MIT, actively conspired to bus ISIS and al-Qaida jihadists across Turkish territory to Syria. It wasn't simply a case of the MIT looking the other way. The jihadis were bused to Syria on buses owned by the MIT, former Today's Zaman editor Abdullah Bozkurt, who wrote the report, told the Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT). At least 15,000 ISIS fighters entered Syria this way, he wrote. Turkish authorities knew but did nothing to stop it.
Ankara ordered police not to intercept ISIS jihadists crossing Turkish territory, former Turkish National Police counterterrorism official Ahmet Yayla told the IPT. Yayla oversaw a sector in southern Turkey near the Syrian border until 2015.
Georgetown University adjunct professor Anne Speckhard has interviewed 118 ISIS prisoners and defectors during the past three years. Some told her that Turkish intelligence knew of their activities and did not try to stop them.
One ISIS jihadist claimed that Turkey provided ISIS with drones and munitions to be used against the Kurds. He also claimed that Turkish hospitals treated ISIS fighters during the 2014-15 battle for Kobane. Wiretaps show that the company responsible for helping ISIS fighters receive treatment were linked to the Turkish government, Bozkurt said.
Evidence also suggests that Turkey's ruling party used ISIS for cynical political reasons.
The European Union's official intelligence body, EU INTCEN, reportedly suggested that an October 2015 ISIS suicide bombing that killed 109 people at a peace rally in Ankara was ordered by Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). Victims were protesting against violence between the Turkish government and Kurdish rebels belonging to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).
Dozens of intelligence reports had warned of a possible ISIS attack in Turkey, including one by the Turkish National Police Anti-Terror Department. It said a special ISIS team was being trained in Syria and that there were plans to target a large meeting in Turkey for a suicide attack. This report was not transmitted to authorities who could have stopped the attack, Bozkurt reported. Instead, security around the protest area was drastically reduced.
The bloodshed strengthened Erdogan's hand politically, Bozkurt said, pointing to the AKP's securing a parliamentary majority in elections the next month. Two other ISIS bombings took place around that time, and in each case, "All operatives were known to security" but were not intercepted.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo revealed Wednesday that Iran and its terrorist proxy Hizballah will exploit the political and economic chaos in Venezuela to preserve their reach throughout South America.
"People don't recognize that Hizballah has active cells – the Iranians are impacting the people of Venezuela and throughout South America," Pompeo said in an interview with FOX Business, adding, "we have an obligation to take down that risk for America."
Instability continues to grow in Venezuela as competing factions vie for power in the socialist country. Following President Trump's lead, several major western countries last month recognized Venezuela's national assembly president Juan Guaido as the country's legitimate president.
Under the reign of former President Hugo Chavez, Iran exploited friendly ties with Venezuela to establish terrorist networks throughout region. Iranian and Hizballah operatives have cultivated and consolidated operating bases in South America, especially in the tri-border area (TBA) of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay. With a large Muslim population featuring significant numbers of Hizballah sympathizers, the terrorist organization uses this area for recruitment, arms smuggling and drug trafficking, and logistics planning for terrorist operations.
A year ago, the Trump administration levied sanctions against Venezuela's then-vice president Tareck El Aissami after an extensive Treasury Department investigation identified him as a key figure in the global narcotics trade with ties to Iran.
That month, CNN received a 2013 secret intelligence document from several Latin American countries highlighting serious links between El Aissami and 173 Venezuelan identification cards and passports issued to people from the Middle East, including Hizballah-affiliated personnel.
Hizballah also relies on legitimate businesses and front organizations in the region, diversifying its terrorist financing profile to generate a significant portion of its revenues from its Latin American operations. With Venezuelan help, the terrorist group continues to expand its presence and consolidate support in other Latin American countries. Hizballah even registered as a political party in a Peruvian region characterized as having that nation's largest Muslim population.
Yet Hizballah's regional operations are not confined to South America. In 2011, Virginia prosecutors said that a Lebanese man helped the Mexican Los Zetas drug cartel smuggle of more than 100 tons of Colombian cocaine. The U.S. Treasury Department claimed that Hizballah benefitted financially from the criminal network.
The nexus between Iranian-backed operatives – including Hizballah – and Mexican drug cartels allows terrorists to earn big money to fuel their violent operations. These ties also help Hizballah to make inroads into the United States through its porous border with Mexico.
Minnesota U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar dodged a question about her comments concerning Israel Tuesday morning during a discussion about religious freedom at the Center for American Progress (CAP).
Just last week, Omar said hearing Israel described as a democracy made her "almost chuckle," then comparing it to Iran's theocratic dictatorship.
She also compared Israel to the Jim Crow-era South, saying: "The American Jewish establishment claims Israel is a democracy for all its citizens. But the nation state law classifies 1.6 million Palestinian Israelis as second class."
Arabs comprise more than one-fifth of Israel's population of nearly 9 million people. They hold 18 seats in Israel's parliament, the Knesset. An Israeli-Arab has sat on the country's supreme court and a growing number serve in the nation's army.
CAP Executive Vice President Winnie Stachelberg tried to set the table for Omar, noting the new congresswoman had acknowledged that her some of her comments "had inadvertently echoed stereotypes against Jews." Omar rambled a bit in response, ultimately saying, "I, I think, am at a breaking point where we're starting to have a conversation about what it means to be of people that harbor hate and the kind of journey we can all be on in fighting against discrimination collectively while still having the freedom to debate foreign policy and not only think about how we engage our allies but also how we criticize and hold them accountable."
Omar did not take questions from reporters.
After criticizing the Boycott, Divestment Sanctions (BDS) movement as "not helpful in getting that two-state solution" during her campaign, Omar endorsed it after her election. BDS is seen as anti-Semitic because it singles out the world's only Jewish state and seeks to isolate Israel politically, economically and culturally.
She also attempted to deflect criticism by talking about attending at a service at a Minnesota synagogue after October's murder of 11 people inside a Pittsburgh synagogue.
"We cannot stand up to one kind of hate while inflaming hate against a religion or nationality," Omar said.
The Palestinian Authority (PA) transferred over $135 million to imprisoned terrorists in 2018, Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) reports.
Based on open-source information and the PA's own budget, PMW broke down PA terror payments into various categories. More than $62 million was sent to terrorists while they were in jail, while almost $48 million was paid to released prisoners. Roughly $26 million was used to pay for other terrorist-related salaries and additional benefits.
PA security personnel jailed for terrorism charges continue to receive higher salaries from a different budget than other prisoners, which underestimates the overall figure of payments transferred to jailed terrorists.
Payments are a function of the severity of the attack and prison sentence. The more brutal the attack or murder, the more money a Palestinian prisoner receives. Prisoners with previous arrests receive more money as well.
These figures do not include other forms of PA support to Palestinian terrorists, such as salaries to the families of "martyrs" of dead terrorists.
Israel's Knesset passed legislation last July to impose structured sanctions targeting the PA for on its financial incentives program, which promotes violence against Israelis. The PMW report was sent to Israel's Ministry of Defense to help the government with their annual assessment of the PA's terror payments.
Last year, senior Palestinian officials, including PA President Mahmoud Abbas, issued defiant assurances that they will not end payments to terrorists and their families.
Qadri Abu Bakr, who directs the Palestine Liberation Organization's Commission of Prisoners' Affairs "emphasized that the leadership ... will continue to support the resolve of the prisoners and their families and will not succumb to the Israeli and American pressures calling to stop the Martyrs' (Shahids) and prisoners' salaries (rawatib) and allowances (mukhassasat)."
"By Allah, even if we have only a penny left it will only be spent on the families of the Martyrs and the prisoners, and only afterwards will it be spent on the rest of the people," Abbas said on official PA TV last July, adding that "martyrs and prisoners" are "stars in the sky" and that these terrorists "have priority in everything."
These statements reaffirm that the PA places more emphasis on taking care of Palestinians convicted of attacking Israelis than other sectors of Palestinian society. In fact, terrorists and their families receive far higher payments than welfare recipients.
Despite international pressure to halt this practice, roughly half of the foreign aid that the PA receives is allocated for payments to terrorist inmates and the "families of martyrs."
The vast majority of Palestinians killed in response to weekly violent protests on the Israel-Gaza border are affiliated with Hamas and other terrorist groups, reports the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center.
Since the end of March, when the "return marches" started, 187 Palestinians were killed – including 150 (80%) members or affiliates of terrorist organizations. About half of those killed are either associated with Hamas or are full-blown members. Hamas military wing operatives represent almost a quarter of the total fatalities.
In May, Hamas senior official Salah Bardawil claimed that Hamas members represented half of the total deaths and boasted that of 62 people killed on May 14, 50 were Hamas members. Hamas political chief Yayha Sinwar claimed more than 60 Hamas deaths on that day.
Over the last year, Hamas orchestrated several attacks at the border and encouraged Palestinians to infiltrate into Israel. Other rioters threw pipe bombs at the fence and deployed Molotov kites, sparking fires in Israeli fields near the border. Some terrorists engaged in shooting attacks and planted improvised explosive devices.
Any attempts to portray the riots as "peaceful protests" defy the evidence and Hamas's own leadership.
Senior Hamas official Mahmoud Al-Zahhar acknowledged that the Gaza demonstrations were "not peaceful resistance" and Hamas's efforts at the border are "bolstered by a military force and by security agencies."
"This is a clear terminological deception [i.e. "peaceful resistance"]. When you are in possession of weapons that were able to withstand the occupation in the wars of 2006, 2008, 2012, and 2014... This is not peaceful resistance... so when we talk about 'peaceful resistance,' we are deceiving the public," Al-Zahhar said in a May 13 interview.
The updated statistics reaffirm that violent demonstrations on Israel's southern border are not the product of spontaneous and popular uprising by Palestinian civilians. The protests are primarily planned and executed by Hamas, with assistance from other terror groups including Fatah and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
For example, six members of Fatah's military wing and 33 Fatah affiliates were killed since the protests began.
The data is largely collected from information released by Gaza's Health Ministry. The list of fatalities is then corroborated by several websites and social networks, primarily based in the Gaza Strip.
Click here to read the full Meir Amit report.
Correction: The NAACP was not listed among march sponsors when this was published. It since has returned.
But in recent weeks, a slew of prominent liberal groups has – mostly quietly – withdrawn their support for the national Women's March. The third march is scheduled for Saturday.
It apparently will take place without support from the Democratic National Committee (DNC), the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), Emily's List and the National Organization for Women (NOW).
March leaders have struggled to put accusations of anti-Semitism behind them since February, when Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan gave a speech calling Jews "powerful" and "Satanic" and saying they "are my enemy." March co-president Tamika Mallory, who has called Farrakhan the "greatest of all time," was present for the speech.
She has refused to condemn Farrakhan's anti-Semitism and homophobia, most recently during an appearance Monday on "The View." The most Mallory would say is she does not use the kind of rhetoric Farrakhan espouses, but "I called him the greatest of all time because of what he's done in black communities."
Activist Tali Goldsheft has been comparing this year's list of "partners" on the Women's March website to previous years, finding a decrease from more than 500 organizations to about 200 today. She noticed the DNC's name missing from the list Tuesday morning. The ACLU and Planned Parenthood are the most prominent sponsors still listed.
In addition to the Farrakhan connection, a Tablet investigation published Dec. 10 cited former March officials recounting anti-Semitic diatribes from Mallory and board member Carmen Perez arguing that "Jewish people bore a special collective responsibility as exploiters of black and brown people," including the slave trade. March co-President Bob Bland denied the accusation on "The View."
But former March spokeswoman Mercy Morganfield told the Tablet that the March was plagued with ideological and fiscal problems: "I told them over and over again: It's fine to be religious, but there is no place for religion in its radical forms inside of a national women's movement with so many types of women. It spoke to their inexperience and inability to hold this at a national stage. That is judgment, and you can't teach judgment."
The March's other board member, meanwhile, is Islamist activist Linda Sarsour. A strident foe of Israel, Sarsour embraces conservative and extreme Islamist clerics and in 2017 said she said she was "honored" to share a stage with Rasmieh Odeh, a terrorist whose 1969 Jerusalem grocery store bombing left two college students dead.
In September, Sarsour claimed a police training program in Israel organized by the Anti-Defamation League directly leads to police "killing unarmed black people across the country." Sarsour spoke at Farrakhan's 20th anniversary Million Man March in 2015, saying that black liberation and Palestinian liberation are "bound up."
A petition Goldsheft launched calling on the March leaders to step down has attracted more than 8,500 signatures.
German officials reportedly see the Muslim Brotherhood as an increasingly subversive force in their society. Attacks by ISIS, combined with Muslim migration to Germany, have fueled social tension.
The reach of the Islamic Community of Germany (ICG), which the German Domestic Intelligence Agency considers the German arm of the Brotherhood, is of particular concern. ICG leaders allegedly give lip service to moderation while privately supporting the transformation of Germany into an Islamic state "in the medium term," German journalist Axel Spilcker wrote last month in a widely circulated German magazine called The Focus.
The ICG's former head, Ibrahim El-Zayat, said in 2008 that it was "premature to strike against the Jews and infidels" in Germany counterterrorism analyst Sam Westrop, now with the Middle East Forum, noted in 2013.
"But sooner or later we will strike against the enemies of Allah and Islam. We have to wait," El-Zayat said.
ICG officials today are much more guarded today with their statements.
A brief about the Brotherhood posted on the website of the Interior Ministry of the German state of North Rhine Westphalia states: "The aim of the MB is the transformation of the countries with an Islamic majority population into states with Islamist government system based on Sharia as well as the Islamic legal and living order. Violence is not ruled out to enforce this goal. But it is not a priority. The MB rejects democratic state systems, or accepts them only as a temporary solution."
German officials believe this desire to create a governmental system based on Islamic shariah law violates the free democratic order. Gordian Meyer-Plath, head of Germany's domestic intelligence agency the Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz (BfV) in the State of Saxony, warned in 2017 about the Brotherhood's effort to establish shariah law in Germany and said it was working to subvert democracy.
Burkhart Frier, who heads the BfV in North Rhine Westphalia, told The Focus that the Muslim Brotherhood's subversive activities were a bigger long-term threat to German democracy than al-Qaida or ISIS.
Frier also noted that the ICG received considerable funding from the Gulf states.
The ICG slammed Frier in a column that appeared in the Islamische Zeitung.
"Apart from the fact that the public intelligence services still do not show the proof of why they conclude that [ICG] activities are a threat to the liberal-democratic constitution, this claim is frightening," the ICG said, claiming it has always been committed to democracy. "Comparing them with such inhumane organizations that commit terrorist acts, beheading and burning people in public, enslaving women and bringing suffering and warfare to hundreds of thousands of people is simply distasteful and absurd."
While it relies on money from Iran and Qatar to survive, a Hamas spokesperson recently claimed that Hamas' leadership is independent and will not be expected to return political favors to external patrons, reports the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center.
Iran will not pressure Hamas to normalize ties with the Assad regime, for example, Sami Abu Zuhri said. His comments signal the terrorist group's growing confidence, despite its increasing reliance on state patrons.
A Hamas delegation led by senior official Mahmoud al-Zahar, met with top Iranian regime figures Dec. 23 to discuss strengthened coordination.
During Hamas' visit, Iran's parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani railed against the "Zionist regime" and the Ayatollah's senior adviser, Ali-Akbar Velyati, said the only way to confront Israel is through "resistance."
According to the Meir Amit report, Velyati "called on the Palestinians to continue resisting until their final victory" – the destruction of the Jewish state.
Ties between Hamas and Iran have grown rapidly over the past couple of years. Hamas initially opposed the Assad regime following the onset of Syria's civil war, leading Iran to virtually sever ties to the terrorist organization.
Iran reduced financial assistance for Hamas, cutting aid by $23 million a month in 2013. But since Assad started to gain the upper hand in the conflict, Iran and Hamas – and even Hizballah – have restored close cooperation.
"Our [Hamas'] relations with Iran and Hizballah have returned to their natural path and we intend to develop these relations," Al-Zahar said early this year in an interview on Al-Quds TV, Israel Hayom reported.
A year ago, Hamas deputy political chief Salah Al-Arouri, a co-founder of the Hamas terrorist arm called the Izzadin al-Qassam Brigades, boasted about Hamas' ties with Iran and Hizballah, and formally credited the Islamic Republic for arming Palestinian terrorist groups.
"Who supports the resistance in Gaza and Palestine? Iran. It is Iran and Hizballah that confront that entity [Israel] along with us," said Al-Arouri in a December 2017 interview on Al-Quds TV and reported by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI).
Al-Arouri admitted that "the aid Iran provides to the resistance is not merely symbolic" and that "nobody but Iran gives us [Palestinian terrorist groups] any military support."
A lot has changed since the start of Syria's civil war – including a reinvigorated Iran-Hamas partnership that has emboldened the Palestinian terrorist organization.
Palestinian factions in the West Bank and Gaza can't make up their minds about Christmas. Some fabricate the holiday's origins in an attempt to make it fit with their cause while others coerce their populations to outlaw it.
The Al-Nasser Salah al-Deen Brigades, the Popular Resistance Committees' (PRC) military wing, disseminated flyers just before the holiday depicting a burning Christmas tree and threatening those celebrating Christmas. The PRC is an umbrella organization encompassing various Palestinian terrorist groups and represents the third largest Palestinian faction in Gaza after Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
A Quranic verse on the flyer warns Muslims "not to go the way of the Jews and the Christians, indeed God is not for the evil people." There are only about 1,000 Arab Christians living in Gaza who undoubtedly feel threatened by Islamist factions seeking to ban Christmas.
According to a government source speaking to the Jerusalem Post, Israel granted special permits to more than half of Gaza's Christian population to ease their travel a week before Christmas.
Meanwhile, the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Fatah have continued their long tradition of spreading misinformation around the Christmas holiday and presenting Jesus as a Palestinian, according to Palestinian Media Watch (PMW).
"Christmas is one of the permanent Palestinian symbols, and the whole world follows Mass in Bethlehem...The children of Khan Al-Ahmar are happy about the lighting of this tree, as it is the symbol of the first Palestinian, Jesus, peace be upon him," PLO Executive Committee member and senior Fatah official Azzam Al-Ahmad said Monday.
PMW had documented numerous examples of Palestinians expropriating Jesus as a "Muslim Palestinian," despite being born Jewish 600 years before Islam. For example, the PA's Minister of Education shared a picture last year of Jesus wearing the Palestinian keffiyeh, with the English-language text: "Made in Palestine."
Palestinian factions were not the only organizations spreading misinformation about how some groups commemorate Christmas. The New York Times published an article on Tuesday framing Hizballah, a designated terrorist organization that has killed hundreds of Americans and Israelis, as a tolerant movement devoted to helping Lebanese celebrate Christmas.
The article failed to note that Hizballah battled Christians and other religious groups in Lebanon during its early years and is only accommodating Christian expression in Lebanon for pragmatic reasons to widen its support across the country.
Among critics chafing at the Times article, Hizballah expert Hanin Ghaddar, who "grew up in a Muslim community in Lebanon," tweeted about how Hizballah used to fight against Christmas and only promoted Shi'a religious holidays.
Whether trying to outlaw or expropriate Christmas, some Middle Eastern terrorist groups and factions continue to exploit Christmas for cynical political reasons.
First, two high-profile liberal actors broke from the national Women's March because of a pattern of anti-Semitism involving march leaders. Then a number of local Women's March organizers either broke with the group or made it clear that they operated independently after a Tablet investigation provided detailed accounts of the anti-Semitism repeatedly exhibited among March leaders Tamika Mallory, Linda Sarsour and Carmen Perez. The story also uncovered some questionable financial structures established after the leadership pushed other founders aside.
The National Organization for Women (NOW), perhaps the most prominent feminist organization in the country, announced Friday that it would no longer provide financial support to the Women's March "until the current questions regarding leadership are resolved."
A petition urging March leaders to step down has gathered more than 8,000 signatures.
NOW is not fully severing ties. It "will participate and organize members to attend the March" on Jan. 19, the statement said. But the announcement remains significant as the first major sponsor to cut financial support.
The controversy took off last spring when Mallory and Sarsour would not condemn an anti-Semitic sermon by Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, whom both have praised in the past. Sarsour followed that up by giving a speech saying the Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish advocacy group, was liable for police shootings of unarmed black people in America.
The Tablet investigation described an "organizational structure ... [involving] complicated financial arrangements, confusing even to experts."
In early meetings, Mallory and Perez denounced Jewish wealth, the Tablet reported. Its story said the two women argued that "Jewish people bore a special collective responsibility as exploiters of black and brown people." It also indicated that, in addition to supporting anti-Semitic, anti-gay Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, the Women's March has turned to the Nation to provide security. That means donor money from groups like NOW might have gone to the Nation of Islam.
The New York Times published an account similar to the Tablet investigation on Sunday. In trying to claim that she and her colleagues condemn anti-Semitism, however, Mallory told the paper "white Jews, as white people, uphold white supremacy" even if "ALL Jews are targeted by it."
There won't be a march next month in Chicago, which organizers canceled altogether. State marches in Washington and Rhode Island also broke from the national Women's March, the Chicago Tribune reported. In Houston, organizers changed their name to "Houston Women March On."
"We believe no universe exists in which it is acceptable to support anti-Semitism, racism, or discrimination against LGBT people," a statement explaining the name change said.
The national Women's March still enjoys support from dozens of sponsors and partners, including Planned Parenthood, Emily's List, the ACLU, the Human Rights Campaign, Moveon.org and some prominent unions. NOW's cutting of financial support may break the ice for others to follow, or they, like Planned Parenthood, might defiantly continue to align with the march's problematic leaders.