Turkey’s aggressive Islamist- oriented foreign policy has led to a loss of influence in the region, as its opponents keep it in check.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. (photo credit:AFP PHOTO)
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan appears to be on the cusp of reaping the benefits of an abrupt change of course, moving toward a formal peace with Israel and Russia in exchange for a number of benefits, some of them not yet tangible.
Turkey’s aggressive Islamist- oriented foreign policy has led to a loss of influence in the region, as its opponents keep it in check.
After opposing Israel so strongly in the past, Erdogan is in an uncomfortable situation.
But because of the wars raging in Syria, Iraq, and the domestic Kurdish insurgency, as well as its terrible relations with Russia and many of its Middle Eastern neighbors, he felt something had to give.
In the rapprochement deal with Israel, Erdogan slickly inserted Turkey more deeply into the Palestinian issue, using aid and the rebuilding of Gaza for propaganda and ideological purposes, which will strengthen Hamas’s hold on the Strip at the expense of the PA.
The Turkish president also was able to get something for his conservative supporters: a multi-million-dollar cash payment from Israel for families of Turks killed or injured on the Mavi Marmara flotilla, despite the fact that they attacked Israeli soldiers.
Ali Sahin, the Turkish deputy minister for EU Affairs, told The Jerusalem Post on Monday that “the Middle East region needs peace and stability more than ever and I am sure that the deal between Israel and Turkey will contribute to regional peace.”
While the deal is being questioned in both Turkey and Israel, “from a humanitarian point of view I am happy with the deal,” he said, referring to the part in the agreement allowing Ankara to send aid and other products to Gaza.
While the Turkish leader did have to settle for less than he sought with Israel maintaining the Gaza blockade, Turkey could use its increased influence there to compete with Iran for influence with Hamas.
Ege Seckin, senior analyst at IHS Jane’s Country Risk, told the Post that “by allowing Turkey to invest in Gaza, Israel probably intends to increase Turkey’s influence over Hamas – and over the Gaza Strip in general – at the expense of Iran, which Israel sees as a bigger threat to its national security.”
“Turkey, which already enjoys a close relationship with Hamas, is likely to use its infrastructural investments in Gaza to consolidate its influence over the group,” added Seckin.
Turkey would likely use its political weight over Hamas “to discourage activities that would risk an escalation,” argued Seckin, adding that this is because of “the pragmatic imperatives underlying the reconciliation deal.”
Turkey and Israel do not wish for another Gaza war now and so the reconciliation deal “raises the stakes of another Gaza war,” he asserted.
Turkey had been largely dependent on Russian gas before it shot down a Russian fighter jet in November and now if its effort to fix relations succeeds, it will also receive an economic boost.
With Israel, the gas situation is not a done deal. Questioned about a prospective gas deal between Israel and Turkey, an industry source told the Post that such a transaction is much more complicated than much of the media let on.
“To send gas to Turkey you have to go through Cyprus waters and the country could torpedo a deal as along as Turkey occupies Northern Cyprus,” said the source, adding that some kind of agreement such as a fee could be worked out, but that is yet to be agreed upon.
However, “having all our ‘export eggs’ from Leviathan in one Turkish basket is risky to say the least,” added the source.
Meanwhile, the Turkish government and its supporters trumpet the Israel deal as a victory.
Dr. Aykan Erdemir, a member of the Turkish parliament from 2011 to 2015 and a senior fellow at the Washington- based Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told the Post that Turkey’s pro-government media have covered the Israeli deal widely, presenting it as a victory for Turkey.
“The deal with Israel is only the first step of the reset in Turkish foreign policy.
Pro-government commentators have been highlighting the deal’s positive spillover effects into relations with Egpyt, Russia, and the US,” he said.
“The few remaining opposition outlets, meanwhile, portrayed the deal as Erdogan caving in and backing from his full list of demands,” he noted.
“Erdogan, however, is confident that his overwhelming control of the Turkish media will allow him to spin this deal as an unequivocal win for Turkey,” he added.
Ironically, argued Erdemir, the relative absence of independent media in Turkey allowed Ankara to finalize the deal unhindered.
Besides Hamas not being able to carry out military activity from Turkish soil, everything else stays the same.
Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (R) and Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh seen in Ankara on January 3, 2012 . (photo credit:REUTERS)
Hamas and Turkey come out as the winners in the upcoming deal if reports in the Israeli media are correct.
Israel apparently has agreed to the presence of Hamas in Turkey as long as it does not involve itself directly in terrorist attacks against Israel, but limits itself to political and other supposedly nonviolent activity.
However, the sanction of the presence and “political” activity of Hamas in a country with diplomatic ties with Israel undermines years of Israeli public relations against the terrorist group, which sought to identify Hamas with other Sunni groups such as al-Qaida and Islamic State.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu equated Islamic State to Hamas in a speech to the UN in September 2014, saying some countries “evidently don’t understand that ISIS and Hamas are branches of the same poisonous tree.”
“ISIS and Hamas share a fanatical creed, which they both seek to impose well beyond the territory under their control,” he said, going on to note that both groups call for the creation of a caliphate with global ambitions.
But, if Hamas is Islamic State, why is Israel sanctioning its activity, even though not directly terrorism related, in a country with which it wants to normalize relations? Turkish media reported that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met with Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal in Istanbul on Friday to discuss the negotiations with Israel.
Would Israel or any other Western country allow the leader of a friendly state with which it has diplomatic relations meet with Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and allow the organization to operate within its territory? Jonathan Schanzer, vice president for research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies in Washington, told The Jerusalem Post the upcoming deal is “a win for the status quo as nothing really changes.”
Besides Hamas not being able to carry out military activity from Turkish soil, everything else stays the same: Hamas maintains its Turkish headquarters; Turkey continues assisting Hamas-ruled Gaza; and Israel facilitates this.
Israel does gain the removal and blockage of lawsuits against its soldiers in return for a multi-million dollar settlement for families of Turks killed or injured on the Mavi Marmara flotilla, but other than that “it is a victory for Erdogan.”
Furthermore, Israel and some analysts have taken great pains to point out that terrorist organizations such as Hamas and Hezbollah cannot be separated into political and military entities since they feed off and support one another as part of the same organization.
When the EU decided to ban Hezbollah’s military wing but not its political one in 2013, Israeli supporters criticized it for not going far enough.
Netanyahu said at the time that he hoped the decision would lead to real steps in Europe against the group, and stated that, in Israel’s view, Hezbollah was one indivisible organization.
Hence, allowing Hamas to continue to function anywhere undermines Israel’s security.
Meanwhile, the Turkish Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH), the same organization that was behind the Mavi Marmara flotilla that sought to break Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip in May 2010, objects to any rapprochement with Israel, the Hurriyet Daily News reported.
Selin Nasi, a columnist for the Hurriyet Daily News and the Turkish- Jewish weekly Salom, told the Post that if the report of the upcoming deal is true and Turkey agreed to the easing of the blockade but not lifting it, then “it could have a political cost with his conservative political constituency here in Turkey.”
After opposing Israel so strongly in the past, Erdogan is in an uncomfortable situation. But because of the wars raging in Syria, Iraq, and the domestic Kurdish insurgency, as well as its terrible relations with Russia and many of its Middle Eastern neighbors, he felt something had to give. To read the entire article click here.
A deal on rapprochement with Ankara, expected to be announced next week, would be one based solely on perceived interests, lacking in affinity and ideological likeness and subject to both external and Turkish domestic pressures.
Turkey is coming into the deal, which according to reports in the Turkish press will be announced on Sunday, in the wake of its disastrous foreign policy, which insists on supporting Islamist forces, and a growing destabilization at home due to the war with the Kurds and the influx of refugees from Syria.
Turkey has terrible relations with many of its Middle Eastern neighbors and is part of the ongoing sectarian wars, with particular attentiveness to and involvement in Syria and Iraq in support of rebel groups.
Because of its backing for Sunni rebels and the Muslim Brotherhood in the region, it has strained ties with the Shi’ite axis of Iran, Hezbollah, Iraq and Syria. Furthermore, relations with the status quo Sunni powers of Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states, with the exception of Islamist-supporting Qatar, are cool.
Ankara’s ties with Europe are also strained because of the massive migration of Middle Easterners and Asians to the European Union via Turkey and the fact that the country is unlikely to gain EU membership any time soon. In addition, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s increasing authoritarianism and crackdown on the domestic media and critics are further eroding support for his government in the West.
Turkey has been supporting extremist rebel factions in Syria, including some reports of helping Islamic State. Its fierce opposition to Kurdish forces there, fearing growing Kurdish independence that could affect its own Kurdish problem in the southeast, is another headache for Ankara.
And to top it off, relations with Moscow have plummeted after the Turkish military shot down a Russian fighter jet in November. More than half of Turkey’s gas and 10 percent of its oil come from Russia.
Daniel Pipes, a historian and the president of the Middle East Forum think tank, told The Jerusalem Post that Erdogan’s aggressive policies “have led to bad relations with nearly every important government in the neighborhood and beyond.
“In the effort to dig himself out of this hole, Erdogan has sought selectively to improve ties, including with Israel,” he said. “But this is a purely tactical step that in no way undoes his regime’s anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism; it merely tones these down temporarily – until circumstances change again and they can be amped up.
“In my view, governments favored by this cynical smile treatment, including Israel’s, should no less cynically take advantage of it without the slightest illusion that it indicates a deep or long-term shift,” continued Pipes.
“For Jerusalem, this emphatically means not investing in a gas pipeline to Turkey that would hold it hostage into the distant future,” he argued.
Pipes stressed that as long as Israel does not give up something too big, such as the proposed gas pipeline, if Ankara makes some key, one-time concessions to Israel, such as allowing Israel better representation at NATO, “then I can see it worthwhile for Jerusalem to smile back.”
But Erdogan’s Islamist ideology and coziness with radical groups such as Hamas are likely to get in the way of the relationship with Israel, sooner or later.
In fact, it is still possible that the deal with Israel will fall through because of Turkey’s reluctance to break off relations with Hamas. Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Wednesday that Turkey will continue to meet with the Palestinian terrorist group. All it would take is another Israeli war in Gaza against Hamas or any other incident to blow the hood off the agreement and for the anger-prone Erdogan to start making inflammatory statements or rash decisions.
Muhammed Ammash, a researcher and project officer at the Istanbul-based Global Political Trends Center, told the Post that even after a deal, “relations would remain fragile mainly because of the Palestinian question, and there will be a need for some time to rebuild mutual confidence and trust.
“One of the issues Turkey wants to resolve is the blockade of Gaza,” he said, adding that the Palestinians understand that a rapprochement would be beneficial for them as well, since Turkey can act in their arena only after normalizing relations with Israel.
“Turkey could contribute to solving the conflict and help with domestic issues in Palestine,” said Ammash.
Asked if relations would be too fragile to immediately push for building a gas pipeline to Turkey from Israel to export natural gas to Europe, he responded that a pipeline is a possibility since Turkey has a strong interest.
Some in Turkey doubt that a deal is going to be reached.
Karel Valansi, a Turkish Middle East expert who writes for the Jewish Turkish weekly Salom and the T24 news outlet, told the Post that the sense from Turks on a prospective deal is not to jump ahead of themselves, since there have been many false alarms before, but this time it does appear to be for real.
It remains to be seen how Israel and Turkey will come to an agreement on the main obstacle of Hamas and Gaza, she said, adding that if Turkey should drop its previous condition of lifting trade restrictions on Gaza, it would raise the question of what Turkey gained by waiting since 2010 until today to move forward. To read the entire article click here.
Syria jihadi expert: The project of Islamic State building a state structure is a failure, which could lead to members going back to al-Qaida
The BESA Center Prof. Joshua Teitelbaum speaking at international conference at Bar-Ilan University. (photo credit:YONI REIF)
“Gulf states are gradually going nuclear” and Saudi Arabia is likely to develop its nuclear program to Iran’s level, said on Tuesday Yoel Guzansky, a former Israeli official at the National Security Council in the Prime Minister’s Office and research fellow at the INSS.
Guzansky was one of many international top experts on Saudi Arabia and the Gulf who spoke during the first day of a two-day conference on at Bar-Ilan University’s Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies (the BESA Center).
He argued that the Iranian nuclear deal sets a precedent where the US would deal with each country on a case by case basis. Guzansky also said that, mainly because of the Iranian threat, Saudi Arabia is probably going to accelerate its program as part of a hedging strategy.
The nuclear deal between Iran and world powers “buys the Saudis a decade to rearm without breaking non-proliferation commitments,” he said, noting that there are plans in the works for 16 plants as part of a civilian program. However, the drop in oil prices probably affects the pace of these plans, he added.
Nuclear energy is attractive for the Saudis since it would provide cheaper energy in the long term, but in reality it is being used “as an excuse for a nuclear program,” said Guzansky.
There has been an erosion of trust with some regional players as the “Gulf fears a US pivot to Asia,” but “the greatest fear is a pivot towards Iran,” he said.
There are Saudi ideological and strategic motives to go nuclear, continued Guzansky.
“The nuclear deal may set a worrisome standard in the region and a cascade of threshold nuclear states,” he warned, adding that it is difficult to discourage countries to pursue what Iran received in its nuclear deal.
“The Saudis are panicking” and as Iran strengthens itself, it is “preparing contingency plans,” he asserted, calling it a “slow motion nuclear arms race.”
Asked if the Saudis have the technical ability for a nuclear program, he responded that the Saudis have a small group of scientists, some of whom study in the US, but they also have agreements with Egypt, which has a number of good scientists. The Pakistanis are another option for acquiring know-how. He noted that the UAE also do not have scientists but the South Koreans are building a nuclear plant there.
Prof. Joshua Teitelbaum, an expert on Saudi Arabia and the modern Middle East at the BESA Center, described how the minority Shi’ite community in Saudi Arabia “went all out” in persistent protests following the breakout of the “Arab Spring” uprisings.
These protests were largely in solidarity with their Shi’ite brethren in neighboring Bahrain, where Saudi Arabia and UAE sent forces in 2011 to help deal with protests.
“The Saudis look at Bahrain like the US Puerto Rico,” Teitelbaum noted, saying that Bahrain’s annexation by the Saudis could be fathomed in the future if a security crisis developed.
“The Saudis feel threatened by Iran and the local Shi’ites are feeling the brunt of that,” he said, noting that the country’s execution of Shi’ite cleric Nimr al-Nimr in January “is a signal to Iran.”
As long as the Saudis feel threatened internally and externally, continued Teitelbaum, “Shi’ites continue to pay the price of being the ultimate other.”
Aymenn Jawad al-Tamimi, a fellow at the Middle East Forum who closely follows Islamist opposition groups in Syria and Iraq, told The Jerusalem Post that the project of Islamic State building a state structure is a failure, which could lead to members going back to al-Qaida.
Balad central committee vote seen as a blow to controversial Joint List lawmakers
KNESSET MEMBER Haneen Zoabi speaking with the press last year. Her party colleague Basel Ghattas has decided to join the Gaza flotilla. (photo credit:MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
The results of Balad’s recent internal election for members of its central committee could bode poorly for the futures of MKs Haneen Zoabi and Basel Ghattas.
The Israeli-Arab nationalist party’s seventh conference, held in Shfaram in the Western Galilee, revealed that the party’s voters are sending a strong message against the faction led by former party head and member of Knesset Azmi Bishara, who fled to Qatar in 2007 after being accused of spying for Hezbollah, reported exclusively by Israel Radio’s Eran Singer on Thursday.
Zoabi and Ghattas and their supporters suffered losses in the central committee election.
Singer told The Jerusalem Post that Balad voters “are fed up with the activity and conduct of some of its leaders, particularly Zoabi and Ghattas, which are part of the ‘Bishara faction.’ “In other words, the message to Bishara is that we can no longer tolerate your interference with Balad work inside of Israel when you are outside,” he said.
However, beyond the Jewish- Arab angle, the real conflict being played out in the party, which Singer sees as the major catalyst, is between those supporting Syrian President Bashar Assad and those supporting the rebels.
“The Syrian war is majorly affecting Israeli-Arab politics,” he said, noting that Bishara had been a great supporter of Assad, but today he is sitting in Qatar, which is Assad’s No. 1 enemy.
Later on Thursday, the Israeli- Arab website Kul al-Arab reported that Bishara said he is cutting ties with Balad because of the results of the central committee vote.
The Balad voters are “not committed to the old faces and know well how to punish their leaders,” said Singer, adding that the party has a democratic mechanism in which voters can express themselves.
The Syrian war has divided opinion among Israeli Arabs.
Balad, established in 1995, has a pan-Arab nationalist ideology similar to that of Assad’s Ba’ath Party. Religious identity is much less emphasized than the Arab one, which historically has allowed minorities such as Christians and Alawites to take part so as to downplay their religious differences.
Bishara’s support for Qatar’s agenda has created internal conflict within the party.
For now, though, they do not face any immediate risk because Balad MKs are chosen by Balad voters, not the central committee.
A knowledgeable source from the Arab sector confirmed the report to the Post, saying the election result “was a big blow to the Bishara-Zoabi- Ghattas faction.”
The Post contacted the offices of Zoabi and Ghattas, and Zoabi’s office responded that “this is a non-story” since the voting for the central committee “has nothing to do with the Knesset list.”
“People vote for the central committee based on various reasons.”
Heba Yazbak, who was placed fourth in the Balad central committee election told the Post that there was not an extraordinary internal struggle within the party but “a natural struggle like in any party.”
Former Turkish lawmaker tells Post the perpetrators seem to have employed a dual strategy: attacking security forces while also damaging Turkey's tourism sector.
A destroyed van is pictured near a Turkish police bus which was targeted in a bomb attack in a central Istanbul district, Turkey, June 7, 2016. . (photo credit:REUTERS)
The war raging in neighboring Syria and Iraq continues to destabilize Turkey as spillover violence and increased fighting with the Kurds risks plunging the country into deeper instability.
“Turkey is the new target of the proxy wars, especially when the latest developments in north Syria and southeastern Anatolia are taken into consideration,” Prof. Mehmet Seyfettin Erol, head of the Center for International Strategy and Security Studies at Ankara’s Gazi University told The Jerusalem Post, on Tuesday.
“The PKK terrorist organization appears to be responsible for this terrorist attack in Istanbul,” he asserted, referring to the Kurdish group active in Turkey and bordering Iraq. He added that some actors are using terrorism to try to influence Turkey’s domestic and foreign policies.
Asked if the latest bombing would push the government to increase military operations in the southeastern Kurdish area, Erol responded, “All these developments’ main aim is to force Turkey into a military intervention in north Syria.”
“Turkey is aware of this dangerous game. So, Ankara is taking steps carefully,” he added.
Dr. Aykan Erdemir, a member of the Turkish parliament from 2011 to 2015, and a senior fellow at the Washington-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told the Post that this is the third large-scale bomb attack in Istanbul’s tourist districts within the last six months.
“Although the earlier two attacks solely targeted tourists, today’s bomb was aimed at a police bus traveling through the historical district.
The perpetrators seem to have employed a dual strategy: attacking security forces while also damaging Turkey’s tourism sector,” he said.
The car bomb attack Tuesday took place near the city’s historic Beyazit Square neighborhood, a major tourist attraction, and an Istanbul university building. Seven police and four civilians were killed.
Since January, the number of tourists visiting Istanbul has plummeted by 20 percent, he noted, adding that the city’s hotel occupancy rate is down 50%. “Today’s attack will further hurt Istanbul’s and Turkey’s struggling tourism sector.”
The former Turkish lawmaker went on to say the attack “once again showed that Turkey’s fight against terror, whether it’s against the PKK or the Islamic State, cannot be limited to the country’s southeastern region.”
He predicts that terrorist activity will continue to spill over to his country’s western provinces of the country, and serve as a grim reminder of the ongoing clashes in Turkey’s border area with Syria and Iraq.The war raging in neighboring Syria and Iraq continues to destabilize Turkey as spillover violence and increased fighting with the Kurds risks plunging the country into deeper instability. “Turkey is the new target of the proxy wars, especially when the latest developments in North Syria and Southeastern Anatolia are taken into consideration,” Prof. Mehmet Seyfettin Erol, head of the Center for International Strategy and Security Studies at Gazi University in Ankara told The Jerusalem Post, on Tuesday. “The PKK terror organization appears to be responsible for this terrorist attack in Istanbul,” he asserted, referring to the Kurdish group active in Turkey and bordering Iraq. He added that some actors are using terrorism to try to influence Turkey’s domestic and foreign policies. Asked if the latest bombing would push the government increase military operations in the southeastern Kurdish area, Erol responded, “All these developments' main aim is to force Turkey into a military intervention in North Syria.” “Turkey is aware of this dangerous game. So, Ankara is taking steps carefully,” he added. Dr. Aykan Erdemir, a member of the Turkish parliament from 2011 to 2015 and a senior fellow at the Washington-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told the Post that this is the third large-scale bomb attack in Istanbul's tourist districts within the last six months. “Although the earlier two attacks solely targeted tourists, today's bomb was aimed at a police bus travelling through the historical district. The perpetrators seem to have employed a dual strategy: attacking security forces while also damaging Turkey's tourism sector,” he said. Since January, the number of tourists visiting Istanbul has declined by 20 percent, he noted, adding that the city's hotel occupancy rate is down 50%. “Today's attack will further hurt Istanbul's and Turkey's struggling tourism sector.”
The curricula convey a message rejecting negotiations with Israel and promote a strategy combining violence and international pressure against Israel.
Impact-SE study finds problematic image that still appears in the National Education textbook. (photo credit:IMPACT-SE)
Palestinian Authority school books continue to promote violence and demonization of Israel and Jews.
The study, carried out by Impact-SE, found encouraging signs relating to gender issues, civil society, the environment, respect for the “other” Muslim or Arab, and respect for people with disabilities and the elderly.
However, the curricula convey a message rejecting negotiations with Israel and promote a strategy combining violence and international pressure against Israel.
It also promotes the “demonization of Israel and Jews, including the characterization of Israel as an evil entity that should be annihilated,” the report found.
“We hope to be able to discuss with those who influence the curriculum of the Palestinian Authority that education is both the most efficient method of promulgating extremist narrative and influences, and by far the most powerful tool to puncture them,” Marcus Sheff, CEO of Impact-SE, told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday. “We would very much want them to choose the latter and educate for peace and tolerance.”
“There was a moment after Arafat died [in 2004] and before Hamas won the parliamentary elections in 2006 that the curriculum improved. Change then is clearly possible,” he added.
“In curricula it is, of course, important to refrain from inciting to hatred and to promote standards for peace, tolerance and mutual respect.
This is also necessary for the well-being of children in the Palestinian Authority,” he said.
Impact-SE, founded in 1998 and based in Jerusalem, is a research center that monitors and analyzes education around the world and determines compliance according to UNESCO standards for tolerance.
The report compares the current situation with a 2011 survey of PA school curricula.
The study was carried out by Dr. Eldad Pardo of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and focuses on 78 textbooks in a variety of subjects for grades 1 to 12.
Examples in the report of positive developments include a picture of a boy and a girl sitting together on a bench and studying. The picture, in a sixth-grade science textbook, is notable because while the girl is dressed modestly, she is not wearing a hijab hair covering.
While the textbooks do promote protecting the environment, they ignore cooperation with Israel in this area and even blame the Jewish state for environmental damage.
One improvement in the curriculum from 2001 to 2009 was the removal of images such as that of a shahid, or “martyr,” on his way to burial and covered by a Palestinian flag.
Another was the removal of an inciting sentence from a 2013 edition of an Arabic language textbook for grade 12: “The Messenger of God [The Prophet Muhammad] instructed Zayd ibn Thabit to learn the language of the Jews so that he would be safe from their deception.”
However, problematic sentences remain, such as this from a sixth-grade textbook, History of the Arabs and Muslims: “The brave warrior prefers death to humiliation and capitulation.”
Sheff commented, “In recent years we have seen a tendency on the part of Palestinian leaders and the international community to declare that they are promoting a two-state solution, in addition, of course, to the Oslo Accords. Yet the same Palestinian government’s Ministry of Education appears to be promoting exactly the opposite.”
Israel still does not appear on textbook maps (with one exception), and the entire area from the Jordan Valley to the Mediterranean Sea is marked as Palestine. In addition, the Israeli “occupation” is mentioned in reference to the area inside the Green Line, i.e. all of Israel.
ISIS is turning its focus away from building a caliphate and gaining more territory, and instead looking to carry out terrorist attacks against its enemies on the battlefield and abroad.
A member of a militia kneels as he celebrates victory next to a wall painted with the black flag commonly used by ISIS militants. (photo credit:REUTERS)
An attack this week that killed 148 people and wounded at least 200 in the Alawite stronghold of Syrian President Bashar Assad is a result of various transformations going on in the dynamics of the ongoing war.
Islamic State claimed responsibility for the multiple suicide bombs and devices planted in cars that struck Jableh and Tartous on Syria’s coast and the heartland of the Assad regime on Monday, an area that until now has survived relatively unscathed from the Syrian civil war.
One of the reasons for Islamic State’s shift away from attacking regime-allied Shi’ite Hezbollah, Iranian, or militia forces and other rebel groups is that the group likely wanted to start to make Russia feel pressure for its ongoing military operations in the country.
Russia was forced to withdraw from its war in Afghanistan during the 1980s after suffering heavy military and economic losses as a result of jihadist guerrilla tactics.
Perhaps Islamic State wants to replicate history.
Assad’s stronghold contains Russian military bases from which Russia launches its attacks on rebel forces, including Islamic State.
The Jihad and Terrorism Threat Monitor of MEMRI (the Middle East Media Research Institute) shared with The Jerusalem Post various documents it found related to recent Islamic State activity, including a statement of responsibility for the major attack.
The statement issued on a leading Islamic State-affiliated jihadi online forum, Shumoukh Al-Islam, blamed Russian air strikes on Muslims for its attack.
The statement concluded by promising “much greater and bitterer” attacks in the future, saying: “[Muslims] will bomb and burn, as they have been shelled and killed.”
Other evidence showed that Islamic State may be undergoing a transformation from focusing on building its “state” or caliphate and gaining more territory to carrying out terrorist attacks against its enemies on the battlefield and abroad, which is more similar to al-Qaida attacks.
For example, Islamic State threatened Israel and Jews worldwide in an article in its weekly newsletter, Al-Naba, this week, saying that unlike Hamas, its “war on Israel will not be limited by geographical boundaries or by international norms.”
And resembling al-Qaida’s past, more global jihad focus, the article said the organization “rejects this ‘international order,’” and its war against its enemies “has no boundaries other than those which Allah prescribed on the Muslims in their jihad to make the polytheists submit to Islam’s rule – the entire world is an arena for its jihad; all the Muslims are potential soldiers in its army; and all polytheist combatants on earth, and the Jews among them, are legitimate targets for it.”
In another example, Islamic State spokesman Abu Muhammad al-Adnani released an audio statement on the group’s Al-Furqan outlet urging “caliphate soldiers” and supporters to target civilians in the US and Europe.
“And here [the month of] Ramadan has come. The month of jihad, fighting, and conquests. Get ready and be prepared and let each of you make sure to spend it as a conqueror for the sake of Allah and seek what Allah has preserved for you, and make it a month of wrath against the kuffar [infidels] everywhere,” said Adnani.
Interestingly, Adnani also mentioned the growing difficulty the group is having in getting foreign fighters to reach its territory and suggested instead that they attack in their home countries. This goes against previous calls by Islamic State for Muslims to immigrate to its territory.
“Oh servants of Allah, Oh monotheists, if the tyrants have shut the doors of hijra [immigration to ISIS territories] in your face, then open the gate of jihad in their faces and make them regret their action,” said the Islamic State spokesman.
“The smallest bit of work that you can carry out in their countries is far better and beloved to us than any major work [i.e., operations] here. [These operations] would be of much success and more harmful to them.”
Steven Stalinsky, the executive director of MEMRI, told the Post, “I was struck with Adnani essentially copying al-Qaida and its former media personality, Adam Gadahn.”
Gadahn was killed by a US drone strike in Pakistan last year.
Years ago, Gadahn had made a similar statement, telling Western supporters that if they are unable to reach us, stay home and attack, noted Stalinsky.
Asked why the shift in Islamic State strategy, he responded that it has to do with Turkey shutting its border, resulting in the blocking of prospective fighters.
“Islamic State is busy fighting on the ground, yet they have been forced to shift their strategy,” added Stalinsky.
He stressed that Islamic State is still focused on building its state, but it’s under severe strain from Western air attacks and efforts by the Iraqi government to retake Fallujah, and in the future its headquarters in Raqqa, Syria, could be lost.
This is part of the reason for its support for plots like in France and Belgium, or lone-wolf style attacks by its supporters, as in San Bernardino.
“Adnani’s September 2014 address laid this out when he warned the West – since you attack us, we will come to you,” Stalinsky said.