Hillary’s VP, Kaine and the Muslim Brotherhood

Clinton VP Pick Tim Kaine’s Islamist Ties

Clarion: Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s newly-announced running mate, Virginia Senator Tim Kaine, has a history of embracing Islamists. He appointed a Hamas supporter to a state immigration commission; spoke at a dinner honoring a Muslim Brotherhood terror suspect and received donations from well-known Islamist groups.

Appointing a Muslim Brotherhood Front Leader Who Supports Hamas

In 2007, Kaine was the Governor of Virginia and, of all people chose Muslim American Society (MAS) President Esam Omeish to the state’s Immigration Commission. A Muslim organization against Islamism criticized the appointment and reckless lack of vetting.

Federal prosecutors said in a 2008 court filing that MAS was “founded as the overt arm of the Muslim Brotherhood in America.” A Chicago Tribune investigation in 2004 confirmed this, as well as MAS’ crafty use of deceptive semantics to appear moderate. Convicted terrorist and admitted U.S. Muslim Brotherhood member Abdurrahman Alamoudi testified in 2012, “Everyone knows that MAS is the Muslim Brotherhood.”

Read our fully-documented profile of MAS here.

According to Omeish’s website, he was also president of the National Muslim Students Association (click there to read our profile about its Muslim Brotherhood origins) and served for two years on the national board of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), which the Justice Department also labeled as a U.S. Muslim Brotherhood entity and unindicted co-conspirator in a Hamas-financing trial.

His website says he was the vice president of Dar al-Hijrah Islamic Center, a radical mosque known for its history of terror ties, including having future Al-Qaeda operative Anwar Al-Awlaki as its imam and being frequented by two of the 9/11 hijackers and Nidal Hasan, the perpetrator of the Fort Hood shooting. Omeish’s website says he remains a board member.

Omeish’s website also says he was chairman of the board of Islamic American University, which had Hamas financier and Muslim Brotherhood spiritual leader Yousef Al-Qaradawi chairman of its board until at least 2006.

Omeish was also chairman of the board for the Islamic Center of Passaic County, a New Jersey mosque with heavy terrorist ties and an imam that the Department of Homeland Security wants to deport for having links to Hamas.

Omeish directly expressed extremism before Kaine appointed him. He claimed the Brotherhood is “moderate” and admitted that he and MAS are influenced by the Islamist movement.

In 2004, Omeish praised the Hamas spiritual leader as “our beloved Sheikh Ahmed Yassin.” Videotape from 2000 also surfaced where Omeish pledged to help Palestinians who understand “the jihad way is the way to liberate your land” (he denied this was an endorsement of violence).

A holy war waged against non-Muslims on behalf of Islam considered to be a religious duty; also, a personal struggle in devotion to Islam.

  When a state delegate wrote a letter to then-Governor Kaine warning him that the MAS has “questionable origins,” a Kaine spokesperson said the charge was bigotry.

Kaine obviously failed to do any kind of basic background checking in Omeish.

Omeish resigned under heavy pressure, and Kaine acknowledged that his statements “concerned” him. But, apparently, they didn’t concern him enough to actually learn about the Muslim Brotherhood network in his state and to take greater precautions in the future.


Speaking at a Dinner Honoring Muslim Brotherhood Terror Suspect

In September 2011, Kaine spoke at a “Candidates Night” dinner organized by the New Dominion PAC that presented a Lifetime Achievement Award for Jamal Barzinji, who the Global Muslim Brotherhood Watch describes as a “founding father of the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood.”

He first came on to the FBI’s radar in 1987-1988 when an informant inside the Brotherhood identified Barzinji and his associated groups as being part of a network of Brotherhood fronts to “institute the Islamic Revolution in the United States.” The source said Barzinji and his colleagues were “organizing political support which involves influencing both public opinion in the United States as well as the United States Government” using “political action front groups with no traceable ties.”

Barzinji had his home searched as part of a terrorism investigation in 2003. U.S. Customs Service Senior Special Agent David Kane said in a sworn affidavit that Barzinji and the network of entities he led were investigated because he “is not only closed associated with PIJ [Palestinian Islamic Jihad]…but also with Hamas.”  Counter-terrorism reporter Patrick Poole broke the story that Barzinji was nearly prosecuted but the Obama Justice Department dropped plans for indictment.

Barzinji played a major role in nearly every Brotherhood front in the U.S. and was vice president of the International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT), which came under terrorism investigation also. Barzinji’s group was so close to Palestinian Islamic Jihad operative Sami Al-Arian that IIIT’s President considered his group and Al-Arian’s to be essentially one entity.

The indictment of Al-Arian and his colleagues says that they “would and did seek to obtain support from influential individuals, in the United States under the guise of promoting and protecting Arab rights (emphasis mine).”

The quotes about Brotherhood operative Barzinji’s aspirations to use civil rights advocacy as a means to influence politicians are especially relevant when you consider that video from the event honoring Barzinji shows Kaine saying that it was his fourth time at the annual dinner and thanked his “friends” that organized it for helping him in his campaign for lieutenant-governor and governor and asked them to help his Senate campaign.


Islamist Financial Support

Barzinji’s organization, IIIT, donated $10,000 in 2011 to the New Dominion PAC, the organization that held the event honoring Barzinji that Kaine spoke at. The Barzinji-tied New Dominion PAC donated $43,050 to Kaine’s gubernatorial campaign between 2003 and 2005. That figure doesn’t even include other political recipients that assisted Kaine’s campaign.

The PAC has very strong ties to the Democratic Party in Virginia, with the Virginia Public Access Project tallying almost $257,000 in donations. This likely explains why Barzinji’s grandson served in Governor McAuliffe’s administration and then became the Obama Administration’s liaison to the Muslim-American community.

The Middle East Forum’s Islamist Money in Politics database shows another $4,300 donated to Kaine’s Senate campaign in 2011-2012 by officials from U.S. Muslim Brotherhood entities Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) and the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). Another $3,500 came from Hisham Al-Talib, a leader from Barzinji’s IIIT organization.

It’s worth noting that Barzinji’s IIIT donated $3,500 to Esam Omeish’s 2009 campaign delegate campaign, tying together the cadre of Muslim Brotherhood-linked leaders who got into Kaine’s orbit.



Kaine has no excuse. If he has an Internet connection, then he and his staff should have known about their backgrounds. They were either extremely careless (something Kaine would have in common with the top of the ticket) or knew and looked the other way in the hopes of earning donations and votes.

Clinton’s choice of Kaine is widely seen as a way of strengthening her campaign’s national security credentials. Yet, Clinton is asking us to trust a candidate on national security who appoints a Hamas supporter to an immigration commission and speaks at a dinner honoring a Muslim Brotherhood terror suspect.


The Failed Coup in Turkey Still Matters


Turkey has been an important member of NATO since 1952. The United States maintains an estimated 60 nuclear weapons there. The big question is whether relations between Turkey and Russia will be fully restored and there are facts telling us that per a weekend telephone call, both Russian and Turkey are blaming the United States for the coup with different motivations.

At the NATO summit just two weeks ago, President Obama and other NATO leaders reiterated that “deterrence and defense, based on an appropriate mix of nuclear, conventional, and missile defense capabilities, remains a core element of our overall strategy.”

Only U.S. nuclear forces are shared within the alliance, and they remain under U.S. control but are matched with allied air crews from Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy and Turkey. Weapons are stationed in those countries to maximize the demonstration of alliance solidarity. If the weapons are in the U.S. and we have to choose to send them, enemies might think they could give us second thoughts (like Obama had about the Syria red line). That’s destabilizing. Even the perception that the United States would not honor its NATO pledge would dangerously erode Europe’s security.

The most effective nonproliferation policy has actually been security guarantees by the United States to its allies. Several countries — including Germany, Japan and South Korea — have the ability to build nuclear weapons but have chosen not to because they trust in our commitment to defend them. If the U.S. were to withdraw weapons from Turkey, it would be a further signal to already worried allies that the United States can no longer be relied on as a security partner. And that could easily lead countries like Turkey to develop nuclear weapons of their own. More here from NYT’s.

The airbase named Incirlik in Turkey was built by the United States and it is a coalition airbase. So far as reported by the Department of Defense, Erdogan turned off the power source to Incirlik in defiance of the failed coup and closed the airspace stopping all sorties by coalition nations. John Kerry worked the phone diligently to restore airspace permission but Incirlik now is operating under generated power until Erdogan has completed his purge of the military and restores confidence in his loyal forces.

Meanwhile, there are some interesting facts still emerging regarding the coup. The government of Turkey provided electronically upon request by John Kerry the evidence that Fethullah Gulen was behind the coup.

MEE/ ISTANBUL, Turkey A list reportedly found in the pocket of a colonel suggests highly detailed planning was involved in the failed coup attempt launched in Turkey on Friday night.

The lengthy list, seen by Middle East Eye, designates military officers who were set to take over the running of critical posts once the coup was successful.

Positions mentioned on the list include those of treasury undersecretary, Turkish Airlines general manager, managers for Istanbul’s two airports, managers for the state-run broadcaster TRT and news agency Anadolu, the Ankara mayor’s post, head of police and interior minister among many others.

The majority of the names chosen for appointments are drawn from the country’s air force and the gendarmerie. Factions from within these two forces were the ones most heavily involved in the coup attempt.

The list also included changes to positions within the military establishment.

Government officials say that followers of Fethullah Gulen, a Muslim cleric living in self-imposed exile in the United States, are behind this attempted coup.

Gulen, a former ally turned foe of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP), became the government’s public enemy number one they tried to implicate Erdogan and his close circle in corruption allegations.

One of the names on the list, Mikail Gullu, a military attache at the Turkish embassy in Kuwait, was arrested at Damman airport in Saudi Arabia on Sunday following a request from Ankara and is expected to be deported shortly.

Gullu appears on the list as the designated general manager of the state-owned armament development and production factory.

Among other high-profile names on the list is Sercan Gurcan, and colonel and commander of the gendarmerie in Istanbul province. More here from MiddleEastEye.

More details on how the Turkish military operated and the planned actions during the coup.

The Coup: An Air Force Led Assault with a Limited Ground Component

(Inpart): The planning for the coup appears to have begun months ago, but was implemented hastily, after MIT learned of the plot at 4:00 PM on Friday. Despite this, the putschists were able to marshal air and armor units to carry out a near synchronized attack on pre-designated points in Istanbul, Ankara, and the Mediterranean resort of Marmaris, where Erdogan was on holiday. The leader, according to Sabah, was Muharrem Kose, a retired colonel. General Mehmet Disli, a retired two star general in the land forces and the brother of an AKP member of parliament reportedly ordered the start of the military operation, setting in motion a complicated operation that involved air and ground units and a number of current and retired senior officers. To date, 103 admirals and generals have been arrested (out of a total of 358), which corresponds to 28 percent of the total in the Turkish Armed Forces.

The military aspect of the coup began around 10:00 PM, first with the closing of the two Istanbul bridges connecting the European continent with Asia. Simultaneously, up to six  F-16s from Akinci, an airbase some 12 miles north of Ankara, began a series of supersonic passes over Turkey’s capital city, refueling from four tankers flown from Incirlik Air Base, near the city of Adana. There are reports that F-16s from Diyarbakir air base also joined, perhaps providing two of the six F-16s. Incirlik has been a home to U.S. Air Force units since the 1950s. Lately, it has served as the hub for the U.S.-led air war against the ISIL. The base, since 1980, is under the command of a Turkish officer.

The F16s were soon joined by at least two Cobra attack helicopters and an additional Sikorsky SU-70 tasked — it appears — with strafing TURKSAT, Turkey’s main satellite television provider, as well as Golbasi, the headquarters for Turkey’s elite, special police forces. The putschists also sent eight cargo aircraft from Kayseri to Malatya airbase with weapons for the plotters, according to the military blog, The Aviationist — a detail since confirmed in  Murat Yetkin’s column in Hurriyet Daily News.

The F-16s also attacked the Turkish parliament and Erdogan’s palace while ground forces advanced on the prime minister’s residence. All three buildings sustained some damage, but the Parliament building was the most heavily damaged. Meanwhile, in Istanbul, land forces, most probably based somewhere nearby, did fire on protesters on one of the two bridges spanning the Bosphorus in the opening hours of the coup. Some of those who had come out to demonstrate against the unfolding operation were killed.

These events moved in parallel to three commando teams in three additional helicopters, based at Cigli air base near Izmir, flying to the hotel where Erdogan was presumed to be staying. The soldiers in one helicopter either fast roped into the building or landed nearby (depending on the source), but Erdogan’s security team had moved him to hotel nearby, missing the assault teams, according to Karim Shaheen, by some 25 minutes to an hour. Many more details here from WotR.

More Hidden News/Facts on Iran

Here’s Hezbollah’s game-changing secret drone base

For years, the Lebanese Shi’ite militant organization Hezbollah has incorporated unmanned aerial vehicles into their arsenal, developing perhaps the most sophisticated aerial capabilities of any non-state armed group on earth.

IHS Jane’s has now used Google Maps to locate their airbase in northern Lebanon, according to an analysis published on April 23rd.

Hezbollah is arguably the Arab world’s most capable military force. The group is a direct proxy of the revolutionary regime in Iran, which sends the group perhaps as much as $350 million in aid a year, according to Matthew Levitt’s Hezbollah: The Global Footprint of Lebanon’s Party of God.

Hezbollah has an estimated 100,000 rockets — an arsenal that likely includes Russian-made precision-guided missiles. Its infusion of fighters is largely responsible for the survival of Syria’s Assad regime after four years of war against ISIS, Al Qaeda, and secular armed groups. Hezbollah has operated cells and smuggling networks on every continent, and it’s the only Arab military force that can plausibly claim a battlefield victory against Israel.

The airbase is alarming evidence of the group’s vaunted operational capabilities — as well as the depth of its relationship with Tehran.

The airstrip includes a 2200-foot unpaved runway, several outbuildings, and an antenna that “could potentially be used to extend the range of a UAV ground control station.” (It can be found at 34.3109624, 36.3492857 on Google Maps).

Hezbollah airfield Business Insider via Google Maps

It’s located a few miles south of the town of Hermel in northern Lebanon, and about 10 miles to the west of the border wt ih Syria.

As the Jane’s report notes, the airstrip is too short to accommodate most manned aircraft, while its unpaved surface and mountainous surrounding terrain make it largely off-limits to planes that technically capable of landing on a runway of its length. That means there’s a strong possibility it was “built for Iranian-made UAVs, including the Ababil-3, which has been employed over Syria by forces allied to the Syrian regime, and possibly the newer and larger Shahed-129.”

The Ababil-3 is a small reconnaissance drone with limited range and flight endurance; it’s also been deployed by the Sudanese armed forces in the former Iranian ally’s various civil conflicts. But as The Aviationist notes, the Shahed-129 is superficially similar in design to the US’s Reaper and Predator platforms, and Iranian military officials claim that the drone can carry as many as 8 Sadid missiles.’  Read more here from BusinessInsider

Hezbollah airstrip Google Maps

Yes there is more to know about Iran, that country which is designated by the United States as the largest state sponsor of terror, and the one that the Obama White House normalized relations with and a country forced upon the global stage for economic development. This is the country that can build, is building a nuclear program that is the precursor to nuclear weapons.

Iran Deploys Hezbollah-Trained Afghan Sniper Brigade in Syria

DefenseNews: TEL AVIV — An Israeli intelligence source confirmed Monday that a new unit of Afghan snipers trained by Lebanese-based Hezbollah and financed by Iran is now operating beyond its northern border on behalf of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

In a July 18 interview, the source said the sniper unit – part of the Afghan Fatemiyoun Brigade – is one of several additional groups of special forces that are being deployed in the fight against the Islamic State organization, also known by its Arabic acronym Da’esh.

“These Afghan Shias are battle-hardened and focused at the moment on fighting Da’esh. But we’re obviously following with interest any introduction of new forces and capabilities in that theater that may turn their attention to us when the time is right for them,” said the Israeli analyst, who insisted on anonymity because the interview did not take place through normal authorization channels.

The Israeli source validated reports earlier this month from Iran’s Tasnim, a news agency affiliated with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRCG), that a new group of snipers specializing in camouflage and concealment tactics was now operational in Syria.

According to a July 9 report, Tasnim acknowledged that the unit was part of the Afghan Fatemiyoun Brigade trained by Hezbollah, which operates in Syria under the command of the IRGC.

Another Tasnim report from July 12, translated by Amir Toumaj, a research analyst at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies in an account published by the online Long War Journal, noted that “Hundreds of special Fatemiyoun snipers have been deployed to defend sacred shrines across Syria and have joined Fatemiyoun combat units.”

According to Toumaj’s translation, “additional groups of special Afghan forces with advanced training in combat, commando capabilities, guerilla warfare, anti-armor missiles, shoulder-launched missiles, etc. are expected to join” Fatemiyoun ranks.

“The notable point is that the special Fatemiyoun forces have been trained under skilled Afghan instructors who themselves have completed training in special courses under the supervision of skilled Hezbollah forces,” noted the Tasnim report.

According to Toumaj’s research of Iranian media, the IRGC expanded the ranks of Fatemiyoun forces from a brigade to a full division last year; and some 380 have been killed thus far in Syria.

A recent study by Israel’s Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center noted that one year after signing of the nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, Tehran has no intention of reducing its ties to Hezbollah, a designated terror organization.

In its report “Spotlight on Iran” for the week of July 4-17, the Center cited a July 12 interview on state-run Fars TV with Abbas Araghchi, Iranian deputy foreign minister, in which the official characterized the Iran-Hezbollah axis as “a priority… that could not be changed.”

“Araghchi’s remarks reinforce our assessment that no significant change can be expected in the quality and quantity of Iran’s support for Hezbollah, despite its effort to lift the international economic restrictions imposed on the country in recent years,” the Center noted.

It added, “Iran will be prepared to continue paying the diplomatic, media and even financial price in its relations with the United States and the West for continued fostering of Hezbollah as a military-political force and an Iranian proxy.”


Hey Obama, Kerry, Rhodes, Explain this Secret on Iran Deal

Related reading: Flying Above the Radar, Sanctions Evasion in the Iranian Aviation Sector

Related reading: Banking & Money Laundering Risk

Iranian financial institutions remain locked out of the U.S. financial system, and therefore cut off from much of the global financial system. International banks have been hit with $14 billion in fines since 2009 for violating U.S. sanctions on Iran. The U.S. continues to designate the entire Iranian financial sector as a jurisdiction of primary money laundering concern under Section 311 of the USA PATRIOT Act and the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act.


Iran urged to avoid further ballistic missile launches, to preserve deal July 18, 2016

Iran has been urged not to carry out further ballistic missile tests, which might be deemed inconsistent with the “constructive spirit” of the nuclear deal struck with world powers a year ago.

The call came from UN Under Secretary-General Jeffrey Feltman, briefing the Security Council on the implementation of the resolution which endorsed the so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

AP Exclusive: Confidential text eases Iran nuke constraints

VIENNA (AP) — Key restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program imposed under an internationally negotiated deal will start to ease years before the 15-year accord expires, advancing Tehran’s ability to build a bomb even before the end the pact, according to a document obtained Monday by The Associated Press.

The document is the only text linked to last year’s deal between Iran and six foreign powers that hasn’t been made public, although U.S. officials say members of Congress have been able to see it. It was given to the AP by a diplomat whose work has focused on Iran’s nuclear program for more than a decade, and its authenticity was confirmed by another diplomat who possesses the same document.

The diplomat who shared the document with the AP described it as an add-on agreement to the nuclear deal. But while formally separate from that accord, he said that it was in effect an integral part of the deal and had been approved both by Iran and the U.S., Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany, the six powers that negotiated the deal with Tehran.

Details published earlier outline most restraints on Iran’s nuclear program meant to reduce the threat that Tehran will turn nuclear activities it says are peaceful to making weapons.

But while some of the constraints extend for 15 years, documents in the public domain are short on details of what happens with Iran’s most proliferation-prone nuclear activity – its uranium enrichment – beyond the first 10 years of the agreement.

The document obtained by the AP fills in the gap. It says that as of January 2027 – 11 years after the deal was implemented – Iran can start replacing its mainstay centrifuges with thousands of advanced machines.

Centrifuges churn out uranium to levels that can range from use as reactor fuel and for medical and research purposes to much higher levels for the core of a nuclear warhead. From year 11 to 13, says the document, Iran can install centrifuges up to five times as efficient as the 5,060 machines it is now restricted to using.

Those new models will number less than those being used now, ranging between 2,500 and 3,500, depending on their efficiency, according to the document. But because they are more effective, they will allow Iran to enrich at more than twice the rate it is doing now.

The U.S. says the Iran nuclear agreement is tailored to ensure that Iran would need at least 12 months to “break out” and make enough weapons grade uranium for at least one weapon.

But based on a comparison of outputs between the old and newer machines, if the enrichment rate doubles, that breakout time would be reduced to six months, or even less if the efficiency is more than double, a possibility the document allows for.

The document also allows Iran to greatly expand its work with centrifuges that are even more advanced, including large-scale testing in preparation for the deal’s expiry 15 years after its implementation on Jan. 18.

A U.S. official noted, however, that the limit on the amount of enriched uranium Iran will be allowed to store will remain at 300 kilograms (660 pounds) for the full 15 years, significantly below the amount needed for a bomb. As well, it will remain restricted to a level used for reactor fuel that is well below weapons grade. Like the diplomats, the official demanded anonymity in exchange for discussing the document.

“We have ensured that Iran’s breakout time comes down gradually after year 10 in large part because of restrictions on its uranium stockpile until year 15,” the official said. “As for breakout times after the initial 10 years of the deal, the breakout time does not go off a cliff nor do we believe that it would be immediately cut in half, to six months.”

Still the easing of restrictions on the number and kind of centrifuges means that once the deal expires, Tehran will be positioned to quickly make enough highly enriched uranium to bring up its stockpile to a level that would allow it to make a bomb in half a year, should it choose to do so.

The document doesn’t say what happens with enrichment past year 13. That indicates a possible end to all restrictions on the number and kind of centrifuges even while constraints on other, less-proliferation prone nuclear activities remain until year 15.

Iran insists it is not interested in nuclear weapons, and the pact is being closely monitored by the International Atomic Energy Agency. The IAEA says Tehran has essentially kept to its commitments since the agreement was implemented, a little more than six months after Iran and the six powers finalized it on July 14, 2015.

Marking the agreement’s anniversary Thursday, President Barack Obama said it has succeeded in rolling back Iran’s nuclear program, “avoiding further conflict and making us safer.” But opposition from U.S. Republicans could increase with the revelation that Iran’s potential breakout time would be more than halved over the last few years of the pact.

Also opposed is Israel, which in the past has threatened to strike Iran if it deems that Tehran is close to making a nuclear weapon. Alluding to that possibility, David Albright, whose Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security is a U.S. government go-to resource on Iran’s nuclear program, said the plan outlined in the document “will create a great deal of instability and possibly even lead to war, if regional tensions have not subsided.”

The deal provides Iran with sanctions relief in exchange for its nuclear constraints. But before going into recess, U.S. Congress last week approved a bill to impose new sanctions for Tehran’s continuing development and testing of ballistic missiles, a program the White House says is meant to carry atomic warheads even if it is not part of the nuclear agreement.

It also approved a measure that calls for prohibiting the Obama administration from buying more of Iran’s heavy water, a key component in certain nuclear reactors.

The White House has said removing the country’s surplus heavy water denies Tehran access to a material that may be stored for potential nuclear weapons production. But critics note that the purchase was made only after Iran exceeded heavy water limits proscribed by the nuclear deal and assert it rewarded Tehran for violating the agreement.

Post Coup Attempt, Erdogan is Punishing USA

Recep Erdogan said he would punish the United States for giving sanctuary to Fethullah Gulen and refusing to extradict him back to Turkey. Gulen, once an ally of Erdogan fled to the United States in 1999 and lives in Pennsylvania.

An angry dictator, Erdogan is now punishing the United States military, when the U.S. is the lead nation of NATO, of which Turkey is also a member. In general back and forth phone calls, Erdogan is making key demands beyond that of Gulen including deeper retribution to those in the West that helped coordinate the coup against him. By all appearances and a deeper examination, this coup has all the signals of a staged operation by Erdogan himself. He is a master manipulator and has kept the borders between Turkey and Syria wide open where Islamic fighters for al Qaeda, al Nusra and Islamic State for the most part travel freely even with major pressure from the West to stop.


Turkey closes air space over Incirlik, grounding US aircraft at base

Stripes/STUTTGART, Germany — U.S. military operations against the Islamic State group out of Turkey’s Incirlik Air Base came to a halt Saturday afternoon as the Turkish military closed the airspace around the base following an attempted coup, a Pentagon spokesman said.

Power also was cut to the base and the U.S. was restricting movements of its personnel as base security was raised to the highest level.

“The Turkish government has closed its airspace to military aircraft, and as a result, air operations at Incirlik Air Base have been halted at this time,” Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook said in a statement. “U.S. officials are working with the Turks to resume air operations there as soon as possible.”

Hours earlier, a U.S. defense official said U.S. air operations from the base had not been affected and were continuing against Islamic State targets in Iraq and Syria.

Turkish authorities told the U.S. they were closing the air space until they could be sure all Turkish air force assets were under government control, CNN reported, citing a U.S. defense official.

U.S. planes that had already flown out on missions were allowed to land, CNN reported.

The power cuts to the base had not affected base operations, Cook said: “U.S. facilities at Incirlik are operating on internal power sources.”

The U.S. Embassy said in a post on its website that local authorities were denying movement on and off the Turkish owned and operated base. But a spokesman for U.S. European command said that did not apply to U.S. personnel.

“There was not chaos at this base,” said EUCOM spokesman Navy Capt. Danny Hernandez, describing conditions at Incirlik. “All our assets in Turkey are fully under control and there was no attempt to challenge that status.”

Given that the base has moved to DELTA — the highest level of security, all U.S. personnel are restricted to Incirlik by U.S. order, Hernandez said.

While there have been reports that Incirlik has been surrounded by authorities, limiting the movement of U.S. personnel, Hernandez said that is not the case.

“We are already at DELTA, which makes security thicker,” said Hernandez, who added base officials were working to restore commercial power on base.

Measures were being taken to ensure the safety of personnel operating out of Turkey, Cook said. “We continue our efforts to fully account for all Department of Defense personnel in Turkey. All indications at this time are that everyone is safe and secure,” Cook said. “We will continue to take the necessary steps to ensure the safety and security of our servicemembers, our civilians, their families and our facilities.”

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg tweeted earlier in the day that he had confirmed in a Saturday phone call with NATO Supreme Allied Commander Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti, who also heads U.S. European Command, that all U.S. and NATO personnel in Turkey were safe and accounted for.

“Turkey is a strong NATO ally and an important partner in the international coalition against ISIL,” Scaparrotti said in a statement, using an acronym for the Islamic State group. His statement did not address the current state of operations at Incirlik. “I am intently monitoring and assessing the security situation and will continue working closely with the U.S. Department of State and our allies to ensure every possible effort is taken to safeguard our servicemembers, civilians and their families — plus continue to focus on our operations against ISIL.”

Cook said that while air operations at the Turkish-owned and operated base were halted, the U.S. was “adjusting flight operations in the counter-ISIL campaign to minimize any effects on the campaign.”

The U.S. has been launching strikes against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria from other staging areas, including aircraft carriers in the Persian Gulf and the Mediterranean.

The reported shutdown illustrates how the attempted coup against the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatens to complicate how the U.S. and its NATO allies work with a country on the front lines of the fight against the Islamic State group.

Turkey, by virtue of geography, is a crucial player in the U.S.-led campaign to target Islamic State militants in neighboring Iraq and Syria.

Secretary of State John Kerry, in remarks in Luxembourg Saturday said that hadn’t changed.

“As of this moment, Turkey’s cooperation with us in our counterterrorism efforts, in our NATO obligations, and in our regional efforts with respect to Syria and ISIS have not been affected negatively,” Kerry said, using another acronym for the Islamic State group. “All of that has continued as before.”

However, Turkey has frustrated the West with its failure to aggressively confront the back and forth flow of extremists across Turkey’s southern border. Turkey has long been the key point of transit for Islamic State fighters and others moving in and out of Syria. Critics have accused the Erdogan government of turning a blind eye to such militants, who have fought against Turkey’s nemesis Bashar Assad in Syria.

Turkey also regards Kurdish forces — a key U.S. ally in the fight against the Islamic State — as its primary enemy, thereby complicating U.S. efforts to build a coherent alliance.

In recent months, Turkey also has increasingly become a target for terrorists, who have conducted major strikes in Istanbul and Ankara, exposing Turkey’s own vulnerability to attacks from militants.

In March, such concerns led EUCOM to order military family members based at Incirlik and other smaller facilities to depart the country, ending the longtime presence of military dependents in Turkey.

Currently, the U.S. has about 2,500 troops in Turkey mostly based at Incirlik and deployed in the fight against the Islamic State group.

The U.S. also operates out of Diyarbakir Air Base near Turkey’s border with Syria as well as a NATO facility in Izmir and Aksaz Naval Base along the Aegean Sea. There was no word on whether flights out of Diyarbakir were also halted.

Turkey has long been a complicated, sometimes unreliable partner in the fight against the Islamic State. After the U.S.-led air campaign against the Islamic State began in 2014, Turkey at first resisted U.S. requests to launch strikes form Turkish territory, which would shrink flight times for U.S. fighters and drones targeting militants.

After a wave of terrorist attacks, Ankara reversed course in the summer of 2015 and allowed strike operations out of Incirlik, where A-10s, F-15s and drones have routinely taken part in missions. NATO surveillance aircraft also have operated form Turkish facilities.

Stoltenberg, calling Turkey a “valued NATO ally,” appealed for calm and restraint “and full respect for Turkey’s democratic institutions and its constitution.”

For the U.S., how the crisis unfolds could determine whether military operations can continue in Turkey. In past coups or coup attempts since 1960, U.S. and NATO bases and troops were never affected. But if the government fails to maintain the upper hand it claimed on saturday to have, the U.S. could be bound by laws that prohibit partnering with countries where military forces overthrow a democratically elected government.

It is not always cut and dry. In Egypt, the U.S. temporarily cut off aid in 2012 when a democratically elected government was overthrown, but financial support resumed after coup leader Abdel Fattah al-Sisi was elected president, amid concerns about Islamic extremists in the country.

Given Turkey’s status as a NATO ally and a front-line state in the fight against the Islamic State group, Washington could look for a legal workaround even if a coup were to succeed.

For now, the U.S. is backing the government and urging calm.

After talking with President Obama late Friday, Kerry said, “we agreed directly at that time … that the United States, without any hesitation, squarely and unequivocally stands for democratic leadership, for the respect for a democratically elected leader, and for a constitutional process in that regard, and we stand by the government of Turkey.”