Activity Review Of ISIS-Affiliated Fighters In The Philippines, On Facebook

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January 15, 2020

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The Cyber & Jihad Lab

The Cyber & Jihad Lab monitors, tracks, translates, researches, and analyzes cyber jihad originating from the Middle East, Iran, South Asia, and North and West Africa. It innovates and experiments with possible solutions for stopping cyber jihad, advancing legislation and initiatives federally – including with Capitol Hill and attorneys-general – and on the state level, to draft and enforce measures that will serve as precedents for further action. It works with leaders in business, law enforcement, academia, and families of terror victims to craft and support efforts and solutions to combat cyber jihad, and recruits, and works with technology industry leaders to craft and support efforts and solutions.

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Article In Jihadi Magazine Urges Syrian Women To Play Auxiliary Role In Jihad

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January 15, 2020

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The Cyber & Jihad Lab

The Cyber & Jihad Lab monitors, tracks, translates, researches, and analyzes cyber jihad originating from the Middle East, Iran, South Asia, and North and West Africa. It innovates and experiments with possible solutions for stopping cyber jihad, advancing legislation and initiatives federally – including with Capitol Hill and attorneys-general – and on the state level, to draft and enforce measures that will serve as precedents for further action. It works with leaders in business, law enforcement, academia, and families of terror victims to craft and support efforts and solutions to combat cyber jihad, and recruits, and works with technology industry leaders to craft and support efforts and solutions.

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Jan 12, 2020
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Kuwaiti TV Host Fajer Alsaeed: I Used to Think Iran Was Strong Until I Saw How It Retaliated against U.S. for Soleimani’s Killing; Iran Is All Talk

#7731 | 01:48
Source: Scope TV (Kuwait)

Kuwaiti TV Host Fajer Alsaeed said in a January 12, 2020 show on Scope TV (Kuwait) that Zeinab Soleimani, the daughter of IRGC Qods Force commander General Qasem Soleimani who had been killed in a U.S. airstrike earlier in the week, had spoken in Arabic at a Friday sermon in which she held a weapon and said she wanted to pray in Jerusalem. Alsaeed said that Zeinab had spoken in Lebanese-accented Arabic, but that she should have spoken in English if she wanted to threaten the Americans or in Farsi in if she wanted to inspire Iranians. In addition, Alsaeed said that she used to think Iran was a strong country until she saw how it retaliated against the U.S. for the killing of Qasem Soleimani. She added that she has realized that Iran is "nothing but talk."

 

Fajer Alsaeed: "Zeinab, the daughter of Qasem Soleimani, held a weapon and spoke in Arabic during the Friday sermon.

 

[...]

 

"She said that she wanted to pray in Jerusalem. I have prayed in Jerusalem three times, without war or anything... By the way, Zeinab speaks Arabic with a Lebanese accent. She learned Arabic in Lebanon. I don't understand why she didn't speak in Farsi. She was supposedly addressing the Iranians, so why didn't she speak in her mother tongue? If she was addressing the Iranians, why did she speak in Arabic? She wasn't addressing us. She threatened America. She said that she would avenge her father, and that all the [Iranian] people will exact revenge. She should have spoken in English so the Americans could understand, and it would put the fear of death in them, or she should have spoken in Farsi, in order to incite and excite the Iranians, and so that they would say: 'Let's go and destroy America.' Why did she speak in Arabic? This means that the threat is directed at us. Why did you speak like that, Zeinab? It was America that slaughtered your father, not us. Speak English so that they understand.

 

[...]

 

"I am one of the people who thought that Iran was a strong country, but on the day that I saw how it retaliated for the killing of the second most powerful man in the country, who was the Leader's right hand man and whom they considered to be the greatest military commander, by a missile from a drone that killed him and his companions... That's when I realized that Iran is nothing but talk."

 

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Jan 05, 2020
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Yemeni Journalist Ahmed Al-Musaibily: Israel Is Our Number One Enemy but at Least It Does Not Try to Convert Muslims to Judaism the Same Way That Iran Converts Sunnis to Shia Islam

#7730 | 02:34
Source: Suhail TV (Yemen)

Yemeni journalist Ahmed Al-Musaibily, an advisor in the Yemeni Ministry of Information, said in a January 5, 2020 interview on Suhail TV (Yemen) that even though Israel is the Arab world's number one enemy, it at least doesn't aim to convert people to Judaism in the same way that Iran tries to convert people to Shia Islam. He said that Iran is destroying the Arab world, but not for the sake of Sunni Arabs, and he claimed that it is doing so in agreement with Israel. He argued that there is no enmity between Iran and Israel and that no Iranian has ever carried out any attacks against Israel. He also said that the Houthis and Hizbullah, which are backed by Iran, haven't carried out operations against ISIS or Al-Qaeda because terrorism and Israel are "two sides of the same coin." Al-Musaibily also claimed that there are economic connections between Israel and Iran that might even include joint gas and oil projects.

 

 

Interviewer: "No one can lecture the Arabs and the Muslims. Their real battle is with the Zionist entity that occupies the Palestinian lands. They pass this resistance down from one generation to the other, from father to son. So the number one enemy of the Arab and Islamic peoples in the region is the Zionist entity. Having said that, what services has Iran provided to that [Zionist] entity, under the pretext of fighting it?"

 

Ahmed Al-Musaibily: "This question is repeated everywhere. Brother, Israel is our number one enemy, but even Israel doesn't try to Judaize others. It doesn't want Jews. It doesn't want anyone to convert. It has enough Jews and doesn't want any more. Iran wants to convert people to Shi'a Islam. [They say:] 'You must become a Shi'ite.' You must curse [Muhammad's wife] 'Aisha and Muhammad's companions, and you must believe in pleasure marriages and in everything that is wrong.

 

[…]

 

"The Israeli enemy is number one, of course. No one disputes this. But brother, what has Iran done? Everything. For whose sake is Iran killing people? For whose sake is it killing Sunni Arabs? For whose sake is it killing the Islamic countries? For whose sake is it destroying the Arab world? It does this in agreement with the Israelis. One may say: 'No brother, they are our enemies.' Show me the enmity between Israel and Iran. Show me a single operation against Israel that was carried out by an Iranian.

 

[…]

 

"Show me a single martyrdom-seeking operation, or a defensive attack operation, or a so-called patriotic attack, carried out by the Houthis or by the pagan Hizbullah against Al-Qaeda or ISIS. There are none. These are two sides of the same coin – the coin of terrorism and Israel. The economic balance between Iran and Tel Aviv is higher than 60 billion, man. The economic balance between them is great. Only God knows whether they have joint underground oil and gas projects."

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January 14, 2020 Special Dispatch No. 8496

After Meeting In Iran, Shi'ite Militia Leaders And Cleric Muqtada Al-Sadr Call For One Million Man March To End U.S. Military Presence

January 14, 2020
Iraq | Special Dispatch No. 8496
On January 14, 2020, Iraqi Shi'ite cleric Muqtada Al-Sadr posted a statement[1] to his Twitter account calling for a mass demonstration to end the U.S. military presence in Iraq. The statement comes one day after his meeting with leaders of armed factions in the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) in Qom, Iran, where those present agreed on a unified position regarding their new roles following the deaths of Qassem Soleimani and Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis.[2] In his statement, Al-Sadr says that "the sky, land and soverignity of Iraq is being violated by the invading forces, so let us rise with an Iraqi revolution, not eastern nor western [not associated with Iran nor the U.S.], that will bring victory and blessings to Iraq, and its people." Al-Sadr further says that Iraqis should join his call and peacefully march in a "one-million man" march that condemns the U.S. presence in Iraq and defends their country and the highest authority of the Shi'a, referring to Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani. "Soldiers of Allah, soldiers of Iraq, let us have a peaceful demonstration (of one million man) that denounces the U.S. presence and its violations. Make up your mind and do not spare any efforts, Iraq and Marjayia [Highest Authority of the Shi'a] are calling upon you, so do not fall short." He reiterates that Iraqis "will not kneel to the power of the international arrogance [the U.S. and its western allies], we shall only kneel to Allah." He closes by noting that there will be further parliamentary and political steps taken to ensure and maintain the dignity of the Iraqi people and the sovereignty of their country. Hadi Al-Amiri, the new deputy commander of the PMU, and commander of the Badr Organization, was the first one to issue a statement[3] endorsing Al-Sadr's call, telling Iraqis "to reject the U.S. and foreign occupation and maintain Iraq's sovereignty over its land and skies." Akram Al-Kaabi, Secretary-General of the Al-Nujaba Movement in Iraq, also voiced his support in a statement[4] that he tweeted, in which he calls upon "our proud people to refuse the humiliation and submission, and to forcefully rise to the slogan 'No to the U.S. presence.'" The Secretary-General of the Imam Ali Brigades, Shibl Al-Zaidi, commented on Al-Sadr's call in a statement,[5] saying that the U.S. is to blame for all the hardships in Iraq: "The occupation brought a blockade, the occupation divided the country and laid the foundations for quotas, the occupation brought destruction and death squads, bombing, and displacement, the occupation dissolved the Iraqi state and ended its ministries and local industrial institutions, the occupation slayed the national identity by planting sectarian and ethnic representation in all the branches of the state, the occupation targeted and marginalized our competencies, the occupation is the cause of all woes and tragedies, the occupation does not want good for us." Within the same context, the leader of the Asa'ib Ahl Al-Haq, Qais Khazali, called for rejecting the U.S. presence in Iraq, further calling for a "national" stance that sends a message to the whole world: "The people of Iraq refuse to be humiliated, they refuse occupation and aggression."[6] Abu Dua'a Al-Issawi, the military advisor to the Sadrist Movement, commented on Al-Sadr call by saying: "Stay tuned for an epic written by the brave sons of Iraq, all of their sects, to denounce the violation of their country's sovereignty, and to demand the dismissal of the vicious occupying forces from the land of sacredness."[7]   [1] Twitter.com/Mu_AlSadr/status/1217083534432768001,January 14, 2020. [2] See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 8491 Commanders Of Shi'ite Militias In Iraq Continue To Threaten U.S. Forces While Seeking To Mend Internal Rifts, January 13, 2020. [3] Nasnews.com, January 14, 2020. [4] Twitter.com/Akram_Alkabee/status/1217103332470378496, January 14, 2020. [5] Twitter.com/alzaidyshibl/status/1217120171107717122, January 14, 2020. [6] Nasnews.com, January 14, 2020. [7] Twitter.com/AleysawiD/status/1217108799447883777, January 14, 2020.

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January 14, 2020 Special Dispatch No. 8495

Shi'ite Militias Crack Down On Reporters, Activists Covering Anti-Iran Protests In Iraq

January 14, 2020
Iraq | Special Dispatch No. 8495
Over the past three months, Iraqi journalists covering the anti-government demonstrations appear to be facing growing pressure from pro-Iran militias according to local media. The assassination of two reporters in Basra on January 10, 2020, is the latest example of an escalating threat to silence media coverage supportive of the protests. Ahmad Abdel-Samad, a 39-year-old correspondent for the local television station Dijla, and his cameraman Safaa Ghali, 37, were killed near a police station late on Friday in Basra when a group of armed men in a 4x4 vehicle approached their car and opened fire, according to witnesses. Ahmad Abdel Samad, a 39-year-old correspondent for local television station Dijla, and his cameraman Safaa Ghali, 37, were killed near a police station late on Friday in Basra. (Source Radio Al-Mirbad) Their killing comes only a few days after correspondents from the U.S.-funded Al-Hurra TV in Najaf and Baghdad announced on their social media accounts that they had submitted their resignations without providing reasons. Reports in Iraqi media have raised questions about the timing of these resignations, pointing out that the correspondents had been in their roles for over ten years and would therefore be unlikely to announce their resignations without giving an explanation.[1] On December 17, 2019, several Iraqis on social media reported that the Iran-backed Shi'ite militia Asa'ib Ahl Al-Haq (AAH) in Iraq had issued a hit list that includes the names of Iraqi journalists and activists, including Iraqi nationals living abroad, who use social media to show support for the ongoing protests. While local and pan-Arab media outlets reported that the list includes 700 names, the leaked photos show only 18 names, all of whom live outside Iraq, including those in countries such as the U.S., U.K., France, and Canada. It is worth noting that the U.S. Treasury Department announced on December 6, 2019, that it sanctioned four Iraqi officials, two of whom are leaders of AAH: Qais Al-Khazali, and his brother Laith Al-Khazali, for their roles in killing protestors. This report will review the reports on the hit list, and the reactions to it: On December 17, Noora Qaissi,[2] shared on her Facebook account two photos showing two pages of the AAH hit list. Qaissi, an Iraqi blogger who is based in Sweden, whose name is on the list, explained in her post that the list includes names of bloggers who promote content on social media in support the protesters as well as those who support them financially, warning that those who want to visit Iraq should think twice before doing so. Qaissi said in her post that she can not confirm the authenticity of the photos, adding that she only received a list of 18 names. Qaissi also did not reveal the identity of her source. One photo shows the official letter, dated December 8, 2019. The letter is signed by the head of the AAH organizational office. The letter was sent from the AAH organizational office to AAH's media and military offices. The letter opens with a Quranic verse, that reads: "Let there arise out of you a band of people inviting to all that is good, enjoining what is right, and forbidding what is wrong: They are the ones to attain felicity". Surah Ali 'Imran [3:104]. The letter further states: "Because Asa'ib Ahl Al-Haq is facing an aggressive assault conducted by foreign agendas, we confirm that the names listed below are among those who support the protests financially or promote them in the media. They are from different provinces and others are based outside Iraq, and their places of residency is included. They are contributing to the escalation inside the country and therefore they should be pursued even if they live abroad." The second photo shows 18 names of popular Iraqi activists along with their locations, including those who live in the United States, Sweden, Canada, the UK, Germany, France, Cyprus, Turkey, India, and Jordan. Al-Anwar2, a pro-Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) satellite channel, posted recently a video[3] on its Twitter account identifying some of the names mentioned in the list and accusing them of working as agents for the U.S. and German intelligence. In the video, the channel accuses Ahamd Al-Bashir, an Iraqi comedian, who presents a weekly political satire show on the Arabic Deutsche Welle TV channel, saying that he is inciting violence in Iraq on behalf of the "German BND intelligence." Another video,[4] released by the channel on its twitter account, identifies U.S. national Steven Nabil, who was mentioned in the AAH hit list, as the one behind the American "sabotage scheme."  AAH Denies Accusation On December 19, 2019, AHH issued a statement[5] saying that the photos of the documents that are circulating on social media are fake and are aimed at distorting the image of the organization for political reasons. "We would like to make it clear that the documents that have been circulating on social media, that were supposedly leaked from the organizational office of the Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq Movement, under the title (Prosecuting Activists), are fake. The organizational office's role, as in any political organization is restricted to an administrative role, the purpose of which is to manage the organization and the members, and and has nothing to do with anyone outside the movement." The statement described the leaked documents as "desperate and cheap attempts to distort the reputation of the movement, and a clear indication of the political and social bankruptcy of the enemies [the organization]." It concludes by urging social media activists to seek verification when reporting news, and "not to help the enemies of the Iraqi people in their evil goals." Tech 4 Peace,[6] the Facebook page of an Iraqi fact-checking organization, confirmed that the documents were fake, saying the logo used in the letters is the old AAH logo, and the signatures on the two pages, which are supposed to belong to the same official, do not match. It further says that the format of the paper used by the Secretary-General of AAH is not the one used in the circulated photos.  "Could Be Fake, Still Intimidating" Basim Mardan,[7] another activist whose name was on the "fake" list, shared the Tech 4 Peace post while claiming that it was leaked purposely by AAH to "intimidate those who support the protesters." He explains that these kinds of "fabricated" lists are used as a "scare tactic" against Iraqis in Iraq, by saying that they can even get to their critics who live abroad. "They want to say to the Iraqis inside the country that we can get to those living abroad and silence them, so imagine what can we do to you." A video[8] of Qais Al-Khazali, the leader of AHH, denying the accusation was posted by Noora Qaissi's Facebook account on December 19, 2019. The 36-second video shows Iraqi journalist Haroon Rashid asking Al-Khazali if the hit lists are real. Al-Khazali responds that the lists are fake, saying that he will not provide immunity to any group that will commit practices such as assassinations or abductions against activists. He concludes by asking the activists jokingly "not to curse him." In her post, Qaissi mocks Al-Khazali saying his performance was "comical."   [1] See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 8486 Iraqi Media Hints Pro-Iran Militias Intimidating Staff Of U.S.-Funded Al-Hurra TV Following Soleimani Assassination; Misinformation Campaign Spreads False Statement Of Secretary Pompeo, January 10, 2020. [2] Facebook.com, December 17, 2019. [3] Twitter.com/alanwartv2, December 31, 2019. [4] Twitter.com/alanwartv2, December 16, 2019. [5] Nas News, December 18, 2019. [6] Facebook.com, December 18, 2019. [7] Facebook.com, December 18, 2019. [8] Facebook.com, December 18, 2019.

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January 14, 2020 Special Dispatch No. 8494

The Iranian People's Loss Of Faith In The Iranian Regime And Its Leader: 'Liar, Step Down!'

January 14, 2020
Iran | Special Dispatch No. 8494
After three days of denial, the Iranian regime finally, on January 11, 2020, acknowledged that it was responsible for the January 8 downing of Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 shortly after its takeoff from Tehran. Most of the 176 passengers who were killed were young, promising Iranian students from the country's elite. That day, IRGC Aerospace Force commander Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh tearfully took responsibility for the downing of the plane. Also that day, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei called for an investigation into the "regrettable incident" that, he said, was the result of human error. On January 13, government spokesman Ali Rabiei said that "[President Rohani's] government had not lied" about the circumstances of the plane crash because it had neither known the facts nor been informed of them.[1] Beginning on January 11, public anti-regime and anti-Khamenei demonstrations spread in cities across Iran, primarily at the universities. The protestors expressed their rage at the regime's and the leadership's lies and subterfuge about the plane crash, particularly at Khamenei, who had been busy with the campaign of the mourning for Qods Force commander Qassem Soleimani, and in presenting the January 8 IRGC missile attack on two military bases in Iraq housing U.S. military personnel as having caused the widescale loss of life and property to the U.S. that the leadership had promised in the days preceding the attacks.   Protests Reflect The Iranian Public's Loss Of Faith In The Regime And The Supreme Leader – January 2020 While previous public protests, in December 2017 and in the "fuel revolt" of November 2019, had erupted against a backdrop of the economic situation in the country and of regime decisions that negatively impacted the public, the current protest is the result of a severe crisis of confidence among the Iranian people vis-à-vis the Khamenei regime – a protest against its culture of lies and denial of responsibility for the consequences of its actions that typifies it. This time, intellectuals and other figures identified with the reformist camp joined the people filling the public squares to protest against the regime and its leader over the lies and the refusal to take responsibility for the downing of the plane and the killing of some of the best of Iran's young people. Many young people are taking to the streets and city squares with calls of "Death to the Leader [Khamenei]," "Death to the Dictator," "The Islamic Republic [of Iran] Should Be Annihilated," and "Death to the Religious Scholars who Killed the Youth of the Homeland!"   To view this clip on MEMRI TV, click here or below: Another manifestation of the anti-regime protests was university students' demonstrative rejection of the regime's enmity towards the U.S., as expressed by their refusal to walk on the flags of the U.S. and Israel painted on the ground on the campus – even though the U.S. had killed Qods Force commander Soleimani, beloved of the regime, mere days before. In these incidents, crowds of students booed the few who stepped on the American flag, chanting at them "You have no honor!" – expressing their moral high ground over the regime and its members.   To view this clip on MEMRI TV, click here or below:   On January 12, the front pages of the newspapers close to reformist and moderate circles called on the country's political leaders to step down, calling their conduct in the airplane downing was "unbelievable" and "inexcusable," and publishing the names of all those who had died in it.[2] Against the backdrop of the public's loss of confidence, three news presenters for the state broadcasting network announced their resignation, expressing their regret for collaborating with the regime by reporting lies to the people for years. A number of former top politicians from reformist circles – among them former Majlis speaker and Green Movement leader Mehdi Karroubi and his advisor Abbas Abdi[3] – also called on Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei to step down because of his responsibility for the airplane disaster, and for lying about and whitewashing it to the public. Karroubi and Abdi, along with exiled journalist Akbar Ganji, protested against the regime-led culture of lying in Iranian society and argued that the crisis of loss of public confidence in the regime and in Khamenei were irreparable. The following are highlights of statements by Karroubi, Abdi, Ganji, and reformist Ayatollah Mahmoud Amjad:   Former Majlis Speaker Karroubi To Khamenei: "You Have None Of the Resourcefulness, Courage, Administrative [Ability], Or Strength Required of A Leader" Former Majlis speaker Mehdi Karroubi, a leader of the Green Movement who has been under house arrest since 2011 for his part in protesting against the brutal suppression of Iranian citizens demonstrating against fraud in the 2009 presidential elections, published an open letter to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei on January 11. In it, he recalled Khamenei's direct responsibility for the downing of the passenger plane, as commander-in-chief of the armed forces, and argued that Khamenei was unfit to lead Iran, enumerating his responsibility for the repression and murder of his people in this and earlier incidents. Karroubi listed among these incidents the series of 1998 assassinations of Iranian intellectuals and writers who had dared criticize the regime, the 2009 election fraud and the brutal suppression of the Green Movement protests in its aftermath; and the repression of public protests in 2017 and 2019. He added that he did not believe that Khamenei had not known the truth of the Ukrainian airliner affair from day one, as was hinted in the media, and that Khamenei was responsible for concealing the truth from the people for days. He wrote: "... I am writing to you in connection with the catastrophic situation prevailing in the country as a result of your failed leadership and your wrongheaded intervention in all affairs in the country. Today, after three days of brazen denial and deceit [by the regime], comes the news of our forces' downing of the passenger plane with a missile – only after the West exposed the truth of this disgrace – that left bereft the families whose dear ones were on that flight. [Today], I decided to remind you of an important point, in this brief letter. "As the commander in chief of the armed forces, you bear on your shoulders direct responsibility for this affair. Tell me, on the morning of Wednesday, January 8, 2020, did you know about the disaster? Or, as the media claim, did your associates inform you of it only on Friday, January 10, 2020? If on Wednesday you already knew [the truth] and nevertheless allowed the military, security, and propaganda authorities to deceive the public, woe betide you. Because you certainly have none of the qualifications and attributes required by the constitution for the position of leader of Iran. "But this disgrace is not the only disgrace for which you are directly responsible. [Others include] the failure to accurately deal with the series of murders [of intellectuals] in 1998, the election fraud and the subsequent bloody suppression of the protests in 2009, the suppression of demonstrators in 2017, and, recently, the suppression of the exhausted public in the fuel price hike of November 2019. "And if, as [the media] claim, you knew nothing of this disaster and did not follow the exposure of the truth, please tell me: What kind of supreme leader are you, who is being played for a fool, as is the country? Even if this is the case, it is clear that you have none of the resourcefulness, courage, administrative [ability], or strength required of a leader."[4]   Abbas Abdi: "There Was No Lie Here – There Was Organized Concealment, Which is Worse Than A Lie" In an open letter to Khamenei dated January 12, 2020, reformist leader Abbas Abdi protested to Khamenei against the regime's systemic culture of lies and against its regular false reports to its citizens. The problem, he wrote, is not the lie itself, but the organized concealment of it, to the point where the top regime echelons claimed days after the airliner had been downed that they knew nothing of the actual events. Abdi maintained that this claim of ignorance was worse than the order to fire the missile that downed the plane. He also protested against the lack of a free media in the country, and against the establishment media's inability to criticize the regime and its actions. He wrote: "... In this affair, from the outset, it seemed as if lying about it would be idiotic... Therefore, [I thought] that the authorities were telling the truth [that the plane crash was the result of a technical glitch]. Not because the regime does not lie, but because I thought that it had the sense not to lie about this... "On the evening of Thursday, January 9, 2020, I met a senior government official at a certain gathering... He spoke about the airplane and said vehemently and in one word that the reason [for the crash] was a technical glitch. His words were so firm that I was convinced that he himself really believed them! That same night, I phoned someone I knew who was one of those in charge of [Iran's] national aviation organization. At first he didn't answer, but then he called me back and it turned out that he had participated, together with the organization's president, [in an interview aired by] the [national] broadcasting authority to explain why 'it wasn't a missile that downed the airplane!'  "Although some of the excuses were understandable to simple folk... there were points that went unmentioned. For example, what about the [shell] fragments in the airplane... why was there no recording [of the communications] between the pilot and [flight] control, and how could they make excuses for what is [clearly] visible in the video of the incident? My acquaintance in the national aviation organization said that the organization's president had vehemently denied that there had been a missile strike... but he had to tell me the truth, or at least express doubt, because the national aviation organization and the Transportation Ministry surely knew the truth... "[Time] passed... and on Friday, January 10, 2020, the government spokesman Ali Rabiei phoned me... He told me that 'this whole story [about a technical glitch] was a lie, and my blood is being spilled [because now they are saying I lied].' It is interesting that Rabiei too thought first of all of his honor! Indeed, he was right, because in a system that has no mercy for itself there is no reason for its members to think of its honor. Rabiei explained that [President] Rohani had explained to him that the last part of his [Rabiei] statements [at the press conference at which Rabiei had stated that crash was due to a technical glitch] was not true... "At the same time, I attempted [to obtain information] via another channel – and the outcome was terrible. That channel attempted to obtain information from his closest connections, and [also] they categorically denied that there had been any missile involved in downing the plane. "I am absolutely amazed that this is a system in which even the closest to it know nothing [about what really happens]. Later, it became clear that the problem is more than just a lie. There was no lie here – there was organized concealment [of the truth], which is many times worse than a lie... The problem, as I see it, goes beyond lies. We are dealing with a flawed and inefficient [regime] structure... "The main problem in this story is not the principle of lying. It is whether such an incident could happen and [still] not be known to the country's top political and military echelons three days later [hinting at Khamenei and Rohani]. Is it conceivable that a certain level of the operational arm [of the IRGC] made this mistake [of firing the missile] but did not allow anyone outside of its own circle to know about it? ... "Systematic concealment is the root of this crisis, and it is worse than lies. I will say clearly that I have said the same about the murders of writers in 1998: The authorities' ignorance in the matter of these murders was even worse than if they had been ordered by the authorities. Today too, the ignorance about what happened – on all levels that should have known about it – is much worse than the affair itself. "This disastrous affair reminds us of several points. The first of these is the lack of a free media, which is the mother of all the troubles in Iranian society. A media that cannot examine anything is better off not existing. This is the media that should have proven that the missile downed the airplane... The concealment and the lying to the public, not to mention under such circumstances, is unacceptable. There is no mistake here – there is only a plan and a method that were chosen as a modus operandi... "[5]   Exiled Journalist Ganji: "In The Dictatorship Of The Islamic Republic, The Media And The Majlis Cannot Question Khamenei – Because In The Absence Of Democracy And Freedom... Those In Power Are Not Responsible [For A Thing] – But This Does Not Relieve Khamenei Of Responsibility" In a January 12 article posted on Mehdi Karroubi's Telegram channel, exiled Iranian journalist Akbar Ganji called on Khamenei, in an open letter,  to account for his actions and to step down from his post. Also in the letter, he underlined a comparison between "the two commanders in chief, Trump and Khamenei," noting that Khamenei is responsible for downing a passenger plane and for the deaths of sons of Iran. He added that the crisis of confidence following the regime's conduct is so severe that it cannot be repaired. The clerics who control the country have achieved a culture of lies in the country and the crisis in the public's confidence in the regime, he said, and he called on the regime leaders not to drag the people into war and to relinquish power so that a secular democratic republic committed to citizens' freedom can arise in the regime's stead. Ganji was arrested in 2001 after publishing a series of articles about the 1988-98 murders and disappearances of oppositionist writers and intellectuals in which he hinted that senior Iranian officials were involved. He was imprisoned from 2001 to 2006, during which time he called for boycotting presidential elections in the country on the grounds that they perpetuate the Khamenei regime's totalitarian order. He wrote in his letter: "What should Khamenei do, as the one responsible for downing the plane and for the death of dozens of people? Ayatollah Khamenei is [Iran's] leader and he has absolute control. He is the commander in chief of the armed forces. Therefore, he bears all the responsibility for the launching of the missile at the passenger plane, which took the lives of Iranians and non-Iranians. "In America, Trump, as commander in chief of the armed forces, is under attack from all corners... The criticism of Trump for his decisions as commander in chief is completely reasonable, since as commander in chief  he is accountable. America's democratic society enables, via freedom of speech – which is part of its essence – attacks against Trump every so often, and there are demonstrations against him. He also responds to his critics... Besides the media, the Congress [sic] and the Senate harass him, and his election rivals criticize his foreign policy... "Khamenei too is commander in chief of the armed forces. He gave the order for 'severe retaliation' against America following Soleimani's assassination. A few hours after the declaration of 'severe retaliation' in a situation in which [IRGC] officials claimed they were on the alert [after they fired on the bases in Iraq], the passenger plane was downed by a missile, and the best of Iran's sons lost their lives. This is one of the consequences of that order. Khamenei is the one responsible for the entire operation, and he must be held accountable for its consequences.   "In the dictatorship of the Islamic republic, the media and the Majlis cannot question Khamenei. This is because in the absence of democracy and freedom, the reality is that those in power are not responsible [for a thing]. But this does not relieve Khamenei of responsibility. The responsibility for the blood of those killed falls on him, because he is the commander in chief of the armed forces. "Notice that the crash of the passenger plane that was caused by a missile took place during an operation that was conducted on Khamenei's orders, and this is because Operation Severe Retaliation was carried out on his orders, and because afterwards he said that this [operation of missiles fired at bases in Iraq housing U.S. soldiers] was just a slap in the face [for Trump] but that the [true] retaliation was still pending. The mistake and the error of firing [the missile at the airplane] does not relieve Khamenei of responsibility. He is the commander in chief of all the armed forces, and he commanded this operation,. "This incident came as a mighty shock. The [Islamic] Revolution and the violence [of the regime] that came after it caused confidence [in the regime] to atrophy over the past four decades. The main thing is that the public's lack of faith [in the regime of the] Islamic Republic has impacted the regime so severely that it cannot be rehabilitated. It has also spread to society. When it is so useful to lie, lying becomes the lot of everyone. Who believes anyone now? "The crisis of confidence has been gradually spreading for decades. Now we have arrived at a situation in which we have no national figures that anyone can trust. When we point out a particular figure, everyone attacks him [as a liar]... "This is one of the achievements of the jurisprudent. The jurisprudent has left behind the worst possible report card. The death of Iran's beloved [sons caused by] launching a missile in the warlike atmosphere that prevailed following [Iran's] missile attack [on bases in Iraq] is one of their achievements. "With all this, Iran yet exists. You have done everything possible, but do not do this to the Iranians; do not drag Iran into war, and do not bring about the dismantling and destruction of Iran. If war breaks out, tens of millions of Iranians will be killed, wounded, and uprooted. Even if you do not value human life, at least do not allow such an event to be carried out in the name of the clerics. "Iran needs a nonviolent transition to a secular and democratic republic committed to freedom, human rights, and justice, and rejecting all ethnic, religious, gender, and status discrimination. [The clerics must] abandon power – for the sake of Iran and the Iranians – and prepare a nonviolent move to shift the power from the Islamic Republic to a secular republic. This [should be] Khamenei's response to this disaster. This response will be for the good of all."[6]   Ayatollah Mahmoud Amjad: The Regime "Must Not Play With The Iranian People" Seminary instructor Ayatollah Mahmoud Amjad said on January 11: "The absence of integrity and capability in the senior Iranian officials in the matter of addressing the passenger plane crash is the great catastrophe. Now there is a need to return to God and to the truth. "These officials need to ask the people for forgiveness. Why not declare a period of public mourning? The Iranian officials must give the people an opportunity to attend the funerals of those martyred in the plane crash catastrophe and an opportunity to convey their message. The officials must not repeat the mistakes that they made in the November 2019 unrest. They must not play with the Iranian people."[7]   [1] IRNA.ir, January 13, 2020. [2] Etemad, Arman-e-Meli, and Iran, respectively. [3] Abdi was one of the students who took over the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in 1979, but later became a reformist. He has been accused by ideologues in recent years of involvement in spying for the U.S., after he publicly expressed support for a renewal of Iran-U.S. relations and was even sent to prison for this. [4] Sahamnews.org, January 11, 2020. [5] Etemadnewspaper.ir, January 12, 2020. [6] Sahamnews.org, January 12, 2020. [7] Kaleme.com, January 11, 2020.

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January 14, 2020 Special Dispatch No. 8493

Erdoğan's Chief Advisor And Former General Tanrıverdi Presents Vision – Reflected In Turkey's Policy – Of A United Islamic Superpower Based On Shari'a Comprising 61 Countries And With Istanbul As Capital

January 14, 2020
Turkey | Special Dispatch No. 8493
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's chief advisor, retired Turkish general Adnan Tanrıverdi, has been articulating a vision of a unified Islamic superpower through conferences and documents published by his organizations. This vision is reflected in President Erdoğan's foreign policy. The Justice Defenders Strategic Studies Center (ASSAM), of which Tanrıverdi is chairman of the board, has scheduled seven annual "congresses," of which three have taken place, to work through the technical problems in the formation and governance of an "Islamic union."[1] At a recent ASSAM Congress, Tanrıverdi called for the coordination of the joint manufacturing of weapons and military equipment among Islamic countries, saying: "States cannot stand tall against the countries whose weapons they use." ASSAM has also published a 69-page draft of a constituion for a planned shari'a-based confederation of 61 Islamic countries. This constituion declares that "sovereignty belongs to shariah," that Istanbul is to be the capital of the confederation, that the Arabic language would be taught in all of its schools, and that its name will be "Asrica," which is formed from a combination of Asia and Africa. Tanrıverdi, second from right, in a meeting of the most senior Turkish officials ahead of a major military operation in January 2018. Tanrıverdi is also chairman of the board of Turkish defense contracting firm SADAT Inc., on whose website Tanrıverdi has posted statements. One recent statement reads: "The welfare of Turkish and Muslim nations and the establishment of peace and justice in the world hinges upon appearance of the Islamic countries as a superpower on the global political scene."[2] He has also said that "the Islamic world should prepare an army for Palestine from outside Palestine" while SADAT Inc. has published material outlining the logistics of a hypothetical joint attack on Israel by 57 Islamic countries.[3] A page on SADAT Inc.'s website states that "SADAT A.S. was in Libya to determine the needs of New Libyan Armed Forces and search for possibilities for Consultancy, Training, Ordnance service delivery for Libya" and shows a photo of Tanrıverdi shaking hands with a Libyan military officer as the two hold a plaque of the Ottoman Coat of Arms. Tanrıverdi, on a visit to Libya, shakes hands with a Libyan military officer as the two hold a plaque bearing the Ottoman Coat of Arms. Tanrıverdi listed, in an undated video, some of the military policies that he had put forward that Turkey's ruling AKP government later enacted.[4] Indeed, much of President Erdoğan's foreign policy can be viewed as an implementation in stages of Tanrıverdi's vision. This would explain President Erdoğan's: deployment of Turkish troops to Libya, which began in early January 2020, and which one pro-government daily celebrated in historical terms, saying: "100 years later the troops returned to the region;"[5] policy of arming and training the forces of the pro-Islamist Government of National Accord (GNA) in Libya;[6] efforts to create a coalition between his government and those of Tunisia, Algeria, and the GNA;[7] deployment of armed drones to northern Cyprus;[8] three invasions of northern Syria, most recently beginning in October 2019;[9] establishment of a military base housing Turkish soldiers in Qatar;[10] establishment of Turkey's largest foreign military base in Somalia;[11] and possible covert weapons shipments to Nigeria.[12] One Turkish writer connected Tanrıverdi's influence to Erdoğan's statement at the recent opening of the new building of Turkey's national intelligence service, the Milli İstihbarat Teşkilatı (MİT) in which Erdoğan said: "We will continue to increase MİT's operational capability abroad while decreasing its duties inside the country."[13] An intention to put Tanrıverdi's vision into practice would also explain President Erdoğan's: political maneuvering for leadership within the Islamic world, such as through the December 2019 summit in Kuala Lumpur between President Erdoğan, Iranian President Hassan Rohani, Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad Aal Thani, and Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad;[14] military cooperation with Pakistan, including joint drills, military grants and supply of parts for military equipment to Pakistan, and the Pakistani purchase of 30 Turkish-made ATAK helicopters and four Turkish-made corvette-type MILGEM warships;[15] expansion of Turkey's domestic arms industry and arms exports; activities using the Turkish diaspora in Europe and elsewhere, including Turkish government-employed imams accused of spying, and the construction of over 100 mosques abroad;[16] and efforts through diplomacy, NGOs, conferences, slogans, media outlets, and, in the case of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Azerbaijan, military cooperation to create strong relations with and among countries that speak Turkic languages. These efforts have included the establishment of a Turkic Council.[17] Following public debate and backlash about comments that Tanrıverdi made at the third ASSAM Congress, which took place on December 19-21, 2019, relatıng to the coming of the Mahdi, he resigned from his position as Erdoğan's chief advisor on January 8, 2020.[18] He said at the third ASSAM Congress, discussing the need to form an Islamic confederation: "When will the Mahdi come? Allah, the Exalted, knows. Do we not have work [to do]? Do we not need to prepare the setting?" Many opposition newspapers responded to these statements and Tanrıverdi's other publications. Leading opposition daily Cumhuriyet published an article titled: "They Really Wanted An 'Islamic State'!"[19] This report will review some of Tanrıverdi's recent and past statements, including those from before and during the third ASSAM Congress, and a statement posted on the website of SADAT Inc. The report will also review a draft constitution, which ASSAM published on its website, for a planned shari'a-based confederation of 61 Islamic countries. Tanrıverdi In Interview Ahead Of ASSAM Congress: "The Total Defense Industry Spending Of The Islamic World... Ranks Third In The World After America And China... When You Combine Them, It Has The Potential To Be A Superpower" In a clip uploaded to YouTube on December 20, 2019, Tanrıverdi said: "It is not correct to claim that countries that are not independent in their defense and in their defense industry are independent... For this reason, our defense industry, in the Islamic world, must be produced jointly. When we look at the total number of tanks, artillery, and ships today in the Islamic world, they are in the first order in the world. If [the Islamic world] produces these themselves, it will become powerful... Is there going to be an Islamic union? There will be. How will it happen, when will it happen? When the Mahdi comes, we trust Allah.[20] When will the Mahdi come? Allah, the Exalted, knows. Do we not have work [to do]? Do we not need to prepare the setting? This is what ASSAM is doing. After this setting is prepared, inshallah, there will be an Islamic union."[21] Adnan Tanrıverdi speaking at the third ASSAM Congress in December 2019. In an interview uploaded to YouTube on December 14 and accompanied by Arabic and English subtitles, apparently to promote the third Assam Congress internationally, Tanrıverdi described how the theme of the second ASSAM Congress had been creating economic cooperation throughout the Islamic world, including with a shared currency. He further said: "The main theme of the [third] congress is to explore the capabilities and possibilities in manufacturing the joint defense industrial products and to find out how to jointly produce a defense industry." He said: "If the countries are not independent in their defense industries, then it is pointless for them to claim that they are independent, because you cannot open a campaign against someone or stand up to them using their weapons, you have to produce your weapons yourselves..." "The Islamic world is capable of this," he continued. "The world's annual defense industry spending is about one trillion 800 billion dollars. About 716 billion dollars of this belongs to the United States. About 220 billion belongs to China. The total defense industry spending of the Islamic world is 196 billion dollars. It ranks third in the world after America and China. These are of course individual expenses. When you combine them, it has the potential to be a superpower. This power can emerge if [the Islamic countries] produce it themselves through cooperation and joint action."[22] "By Unifying The Administration Of A Modern State With Islamic Fiqh [Jurisprudence], What Would A Union Of Islamic Countries Look Like?" In a video uploaded to YouTube on December 13, which featured another section of the same interview with Tanrıverdi shown in the video uploaded December 14 and which did not have Arabic and English subtitles, Tanrıverdi discussed the coming of the Mahdi and the forming of a union of Islamic countries. He said: "When we ask: 'Will there be an Islamic union?' [We can say:] There will be. When we say: 'When will it be, how will it be?' [We can say:] When the Mahdi comes. When will the Mahdi come? Allah, the Exalted, knows. When you say: 'So, do we not have something that we need to do by then?' There is no answer. For a union, for an Islamic union, under today's conditions, by unifying the administration of a modern state with Islamic fiqh [jurisprudence] what would a union of Islamic countries look like? We are working on this..." (Source: Ssdergilik.com). "We planned seven conferences," Tanrıverdi continued. "We have carried out two of them, we will carry out one of them now... How may there be a joint-defense system of Islamic countries? This is a subject of a conference. Also, how may the justice system of Islamic countries be? This is a subject of a conference. That's two. The third is: How may there be joint internal security? And the fourth is: How may the foreign relations be? After this is completed, it will be the year 2022. When our seven congresses are completed, a model of the Islamic union, with four main areas of activity administered from the center, will come out."[23] Of the seven annual congresses that ASSAM has scheduled, three have taken place. The November 2017 ASSAM Congress focused on "the Legislation on Management Figures And Organs for the Islamic Union." The November 2018 Assam Congress focused on the "Principles And Procedures of Economic Cooperation for the Islamic Union." The December 2019 Assam Congress focused on the "Principles And Procedures of Defense Industry Cooperation for the Islamic Union." Congresses scheduled for 2020-2023 will address the issues of: "Common Defense," "Joint Foreign Policy," "Joint Justice System," and "Common Assistance And Security." The November 2017 congress was held in cooperation with the International Union of Muslim Scholars (IUMS), among other groups.[24] The final congress is scheduled to take place in 2023, which is the 100th anniversary of the founding the republic of Turkey. President Erdoğan has made 2023 an important symbolic milestone in various ways, including through setting national goals as part of the Strategic Vision 2023 Project.[25] Tanrıverdi Presents ASSAM's Influence On AKP Government, Listing Policies That It Recommended That Were Later Implemented Tanrıverdi said in a speech at the third Assam Congress: "One of the requirements for a country to be an independent and sovereign power is for the weapons they use to belong to them. National interests cannot be protected with the weapons of others. States cannot guarantee the security, peace, and prosperity of their countries with the weapons of others. They cannot be counted as sovereign in their countries with the weapons of others. States cannot stand tall against the countries whose weapons they use."[26] Tanrıverdi is chairman of the board of ASSAM. The countries marked in green in the ASSAM and SADAT Inc. logos roughly correspond with the 61 countries counted as part of the planned Islamic confederation. In another video that shows Tanrıverdi's weight within Turkey's ruling AKP government, Tanrıverdi described his influence on the restructuring of the military following the July 15, 2016 attempted coup in Turkey. He said in the undated video: "We said that all of the Warfare Schools and Military Schools should be connected to the Defense Ministry, and then they were connected. We said that the General Staff of the Gendarmerie General Command should be connected to the Interior Ministry, and [then] they were connected. We said that the Supreme Military Council should be changed, we said that the High Military Judiciary be abolished; those were done too. We said the presidential system should come, and it came. Almost all of these proposals of ours came in the restructuring after July 15, [2016]."[27] Statement On SADAT Inc. Website: "The Unity Of The Islamic Countries Depends On The Leadership Of Turkey," Which, In Turn, "Depends On The Ability To Render The National Will Dominant Over All The Institutions Of The State" In addition to being Erdoğan's chief advisor, Tanrıverdi is chairman of the Board of Directors of Turkish defense contracting firm SADAT Inc. In a statement titled "The Future Of The World Of Islam And SADAT INC." posted on SADAT's website, Tanrıverdi gave his view of the events of the 20th century as well as Turkey's role in them and described the need to establish a union of Islamic countries.   Tanrıverdi is chairman of the board of SADAT Inc. Regarding the United Nations, Tanrıverdi wrote that the UN was in fact a way for the West to maintain a "system of exploitation" and that "Israel has been supported as the watchman of the Christian World and protected by all organizations including the UN under the control of the West." Tanrıverdi made the case for a union of Islamic countries, saying that these countries have been unable to create " an alliance and gaining the power they deserve" nor "save themselves from the control of the West." Openly opposing the secular principles on which the modern Republic of Turkey was founded, Tanrıverdi wrote that following the establishment of the Republic of Turkey, the government "considered the Islamic religion, Islamic values and the civilization they represent as a threat on the assumption that it is impossible to reach up to the level of developed states without changing the society with socio-cultural revolutions. Turning face towards the west by presenting the image of Western civilization as the ultimate goal to be achieved, our country turned its back on the Islamic States and the Muslim nations and was estranged from the Islamic world. Acting under the control of the West for a century, our country has been skeptical of Islamic States, seeing them as a threat." Laying out the prerequisites for an Islamic union, which he also described in his interviews around the time of the third Assam Congress, Tanrıverdi wrote: "The unity of the Islamic countries depends on the leadership of Turkey; and the leadership of Turkey on the Islamic countries depends on the ability to render the National Will dominant over all the institutions of the State. Describing Muslim-majority countries and the difficulties they face, Tanrıverdi said: "They need solidarity and fair guides. They need economic cooperation and support, guidance in foreign policy, cooperation in defense against exploiters, and alternative systems of justice against violation of rights arising from their own countries and third countries. The welfare of Turk and Muslim Nations and restoration of peace and justice in the world hinge upon the appearance of Islamic Countries as a super power on the global political scene."[28] "Constitution Of The Confederation Of Islamic Countries" Published On ASSAM Website: "Sovereignty Belongs To Shariah" The website of the ASSAM Congress published a 69-page document titled "Constitution Of The Confederation Of Islamic Countries." The page on which the document was published was last modified on October 23, 2018. The document drafts, in 182 articles, the constitution for the planned confederation of 61 Islamic countries.[29] Fundamental Aim Of "Asrica Islamic Countries Union," Which Comprises 61 Countries And Whose Capital Is Istanbul, Is "Ensuring The Islamic World To Be Seen On The Scene Of History Again As A Supreme Power" The planned confederation of Islamic countries would include: 12 countries in the Middle East, namely Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Palestine, Iraq, Qatar, Kuwait, Lebanon, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Jordan, and Yemen; eight in "Middle Asia," namely Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkey, and Turkmenistan; four in the "Near East," namely Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Iran, and Pakistan; three in Southeast Asia, namely Brunei, Indonesia, and Malaysia; six in North Africa, namely Algeria, Chad, Morocco, Libya, Egypt, and Tunisia; six in "East Afrika (Red Sea Basin)," namely Djibouti, Eritrea, "Comor [likely Comoros]," Mozambique, Somalia, and Sudan; ten in northwest Africa and South America, namely the Western Sahara, Gambia, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Mali, Mauritania, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Guyana, and Suriname; eight in "Southwest Africa (Ocean Basin)," namely Benin, Burkina Faso, Elephant Coast, Gabon, Cameroon, Niger, Nigeria, and Togo; and four in Europe, namely Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, and Macedonia. Article 1 of the constitution gives the name of the state as "Asrica Islamic Countries Union." Asrica is a name formed by the combination of Asia and Africa, continents on which many of the countries in the planned confederation are found. Article 6 indicates that the capital of the state is Istanbul, Turkey. Article 7 reads: "The fundamental aim of ASRICA Islamic Countries Union is to safeguard the independence and integrity of the Muslim Nations, the indivisibility of the National and Islamic States... while also ensuring the Islamic World to be seen on the scene of history again as a supreme power." At the end of the document are listed the following names: Adnan Tanrıverdi, Mehmet Zelka, Gürcan Onat, Ali Coşar, Ersan Ergür, M. Naci Efe, Reşat Fidan, A.K. Melih Tanrıverdi, Sabri Balaman, and Ali Fuat Gökçe. Constitution Repeatedly Emphasizes Primacy Of Shari'a, Quran, And Sayings And Deeds Of Muhammad: "Sovereignty Belongs To Shariah" The preamble of the constitution declares in the first sentence that the constitution is based on shari'a. It reads: "Affirming the eternal existence of the Islamic Countries existence and the indivisible unity of the Sublime Confederal Republic State, this Constitution, in line with the concept of ummah introduced by Qur'an and Our Prophet sunnas [i.e., the sayings and deeds of Muhammad]..." The preamble puts "liberal democracy" alongside a second mention of the "Qur'an and Our Prophet sunnas," saying: "The absolute supremacy of the will of the nation, the fact that sovereignty is vested fully and unconditionally in the Islamic Countries in line with the Qur'an and Our Prophet sunnas and that no individual or body empowered to exercise this sovereignty in the name of the nation shall deviate from the liberal democracy indicated in the Constitution and the legal system instituted according to its requirements." Article 8 reads: "Sovereignty belongs to Shariah. It shall be exercised through the authorized organs, as prescribed by the principles set forth in the Constitution. Sovereignty shall not be constituted without the Shariah provisions." Article 9 describes "Legislative power that is in line with the Shariah provisions." Article 11 reads: "The Judicial power shall be exercised independent and impartial courts in accordance with the Shariah provisions." Article 12 reads: "Muslim and non-muslim citizens of ASRICA Islamic Countries Union, Regional Federations and National States shall benefit from Shariah Law. Non-muslim citizens shall exercise their religios activities and prays to the extent as permitted by the shariah provisions, while for their foods, clothes, marriage and divorce matters, the provisions of their own religions shall apply." Article 13 reads: "The provisions of the Constitution, stipulated in accordance with Shariah Provisions, are fundamental legal rules binding upon legislative, executive and judicial organs, and administrative authorities and other institutions and individuals for ASRICA Islamic Countries Union, Regional Federations and National States. Laws shall not be contrary to the Shariah Provisions and Constitution." Article 14 reads: "The individual rights and duties, social and economic rights and duties, political rights and duties shall be regulated by ASRICA Islamic Countries Union, Regional Federations and national states in accordance with Qur'an, Our Prophet's sunnas and universal codes of law. No regulation shall be applied as contrary to these rules." Article 16 reads: "None of the rights and freedoms embodied in the Constitution shall be exercised in the form of activities aiming to violate the indivisible integrity of the ASRICA Islamic Countries Union State with its territory and nation, and the Shariah provisions." Article 69 reads: "The statutes and programs, as well as the activities of political parties shall not be contrary to the shariah provisions, independence of the State, indivisible integrity of the state and the ummah with its territory and nation, human rights, the principles of equality and rule of law, equality and Islamic country principles." Several articles in the constitution require government officials to take oaths that invoke the Quran as well as the sayings and deeds of Muhammad. Article 82 reads: "State Presidents and Council Members, on assuming office, shall take the following oath 'I swear upon my honour and integrity before the great Qur'an to safeguard the Islamic Unity, to remain loyal to Qur'an and Sunnas, to ensure divine justice and its continuation in Islamic Geography at the cost of my life, to remain loyal to State President and the respective law.'" Article 110 reads: "On assuming office, the President of the Confederal Republic shall take the following oath before the Confederal Assembly: 'I swear upon my honour and integrity before the great Qur'an to safeguard the Islamic Unity, to remain loyal to Qur'an and Sunnas, to ensure divine justice and its continuation in Islamic Geography at the cost of my life, to remain loyal to State President and the respective law, to abide by the Constitution, the rule of law with loyalty, not to deviate from the ideal according to which everyone is entitled to enjoy human rights and fundamental freedoms under conditions of national peace and prosperity of ummah and in a spirit of national solidarity and justice, and do my utmost to preserve and exalt the glory and honour of the Confederal Republic and perform without bias the functions that I have assumed.'" Article 120 requires the President of the Regional Federal Republic to take the same oath upon assuming office before the Federal Assembly. Several articles describe a "Council of Religious Affairs." Article 105 reads: "The Confederal Republic shall establish a 'Council of Religious Affairs in Religious Federal Republics and National States', each." Article 108 reads: "High Council of Religious Affairs and Council of Religious Affairs shall assess the conformity of bills of laws, the laws introduced by the Plenary of Assembly, the decisions of Republic and State Presidents with the principles of Shariah Evidences, and shall notify the Republic and State Presidencies, Speakership with regards to their assessments." Article 26 describes the teaching of religion and "morals" in the schools of the confederation: "Religious and moral education and instruction shall be conducted under state supervision and control. Instruction in religious culture and morals shall be one of the compulsory lessons in the curricula of primary and secondary schools." Article 44, which describes the "right and duty of education" reads: "The native language shall be taught as a mother tongue to Confederal Republic citizens at any institution of education. Arabic shall be taught as the second language." Constitution Lays Foundation For Powerful State That Can Punish Writers Over News Articles, Seize And Suspend Publications, Dissolve Associations, Restrict Demonstrations, And Nationalize Private Enterprises Regarding the freedom of the press in the planned confederation, Article 30 reads: "Anyone who writes any news or articles which threaten the internal or external security of the State or the indivisible integrity of the State with its territory and nation, which tend to incite offence, riot or insurrection... shall be held responsible under the law relevant to these offences... Periodical and non-periodical publications may be seized by a decision of a judge in cases of ongoing investigation or prosecution of crimes specified by law... Periodicals published may be temporarily suspended by court ruling if found to contain material which contravenes the indivisible integrity of the State with its territory and nation, the fundamental principles of the Republic, national security and public morals." On protesting, Article 35 reads: "Associations may be dissolved or suspended from activity by the decision of a judge in cases prescribed by law." Article 36 reads: "The right to hold meetings and demonstration marches shall be restricted only by law on the grounds of national security, public order, prevention of commission of crime, protection of public health and public morals or the rights and freedoms of others." Article 37 reads: "Everyone has the right to own and inherit property. These rights may be limited by law only in view of public interest." Article 49 reads: "Private enterprises performing services of public nature may be nationalized in exigencies of public interest." The constitution gives the planned state influence on the families of its citizens in Article 43, which reads: "Family is the foundation of the Islamic society and based on the equality between the spouses. The State shall take the necessary measures and establish the necessary organization to protect peace and welfare of the family, especially mother and children, and to ensure the instruction of family planning and its practice." APPENDIX Opposition MP Questions Vice President On Tanrıverdi And His Institutions On January 9, after Tanrıverdi's resignation, Yasin Öztürk, an MP from the opposition İYİ Parti, presented in parliament a resolution of questions about Tanrıverdi and the ASSAM Congresses to Vice President Fuat Oktay. Öztürk said that the congress was organized with the support of many government offices, including the Greater Bursa Municipality and the mayorial offices of the districts of Bahçelievler, Beyoğlu, Esenler, Sancaktepe and Sultangazi. He said the congress was also organized with the support of:  Turkish Airlines; Makina ve Kimya Endüstrisi Kurumu ("Mechanical and Chemical Industry Corporation," MKEK), which is a group of government-controlled factories that produce weapons, ammuniation, explosive materials, machines, and equipment for civilian and defense purposes for the government;[30] ASELSAN, a large Turkish defense electronics company, 74.2% of whose shares are owned by the Turkish Armed Forces Foundation, which was established by Law No. 3388 in June 1987;[31] Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI), 54.49% of whose shares are owned by the Turkish Armed Forces Foundation;[32] and HAVELSAN, a defense software company that is a subsidiary of the Turkish Armed Forces Foundation.[33] Dumlupınar University, which the state owns, also participated in the organization of the conference. Öztürk's questions addressed to Vice President Oktay included: "Did ASSAM get permission from the Ministry of the Interior to hold its congresses, of which the third was held?... Has any investigation or examination been started concerning the rhetoric at the conference, which was openly against the constitution [of the Republic of Turkey] and the Law of Associations?... Why was permission given for the third conference, which was a continuation of the activities concerning the formation the Asrica Countries Confederation and Constitutional Model, which is in accordance with shari'a rulings and was declared as a result of the first congress of the aforementioned association?... What form did the contributions of Turkish Airlines, MKEK, ASELSAN, TAI, HAVELSAN, SADAT, the Savunma Sanayii Dergilik, Greater Bursa, and the mayorial offices of the districts of Bahçelievler, Beyoğlu, Esenler, Sancaktepe, and Sultangazi take in congress that ASSAM organized?... What is the approach of the honorable President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of his chief security advisor's view of the 'Islamic Countries Confederation State'? Did that approach play a role in the giving of permission to hold a third conference, despite its open goal, to an association whose activities should have been ended after its first conference?... Did the minister of religious affairs attend this meeting? Is the religious affairs minister's participation in this type of meeting, which predicts a constutional model separate from that of the Republic of Turkey, routine?"[34] Religious Affairs Minister Ali Erbaş both attended and spoke at the December 2019 conference.[35] Brig.-Gen. Asgar Ahmet Zail, a Yemeni defense attache, gave the opening speach at the congress. Other speakers at the event came from Turkey, Pakistan, Burkina Faso, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Iraq, Egypt, Ukraine, and Sudan.[36]   [1] Assam.org.tr/index.php/haberler/haberler/simit-bile-satamayacaksiniz.html, February 25, 2016. [2] Sadat.com.tr/tr/hakkimizda/haberler/148-islam-dunyasinin-gelecegi-ve-sadat-a-s.html, February 11, 2012. [3] See MEMRI Special Dispatch No 8389 Chief Advisor To Turkish President Erdoğan: 'The Islamic World Should Prepare An Army For Palestine From Outside Palestine', December 2, 2019; See MEMRI Special Dispatch No 7371 Turkish Newspaper Close To President Erdogan Calls To Form Joint Islamic Army To Fight Israel, March 7, 2018. [4] Hurriyet.com.tr/gundem/sadatin-kurucusu-cumhurbaskanligi-basdanismani-oldu-40197846, August 17, 2016. [5] Yeniakit.com.tr/haber/ve-100-yil-sonra-turk-askeri-libyada-997580.html, July 1, 2020. [6] See MEMRI Special Dispatch No 8395 Violating UN Arms Embargo, Turkey's AKP Government Ships Armed Drones, Armored Vehicles, 'Laser Weapons,' Other Arms And Ammunition To Pro-Islamist Government In Libya, Trains Libyan Military And Police Personnel, December 6, 2019. [7] Hurriyet.com.tr/dunya/son-dakika-libyadan-turkiye-aciklamasi-41406529, December 26, 2019. [8] See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 8432 Turkey Deploys Armed Drones To Northern Cyprus, December 23, 2019. [9] Turkey's Operation Euphrates Shield took place from August 2016 to March 2017, Operation Olive Branch took place in January-March 2018, and the main combat of Operation Peace Fountain took place in October-November 2019. Turkish soldiers remain in northern Syria as of this writing. [10] See MEMRI Inquiry And Analysis No. 1482 Turkey-Qatar Relations: From Bilateral Ties To A Comprehensive Strategic Partnership, November 12, 2019. [11] Bbc.com/turkce/haberler-turkiye-41453052, September 30, 2017. [12] See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 8421 March 2014 Audio Reportedly Features Phone Call Between Turkish Airlines Executive, Erdoğan Advisor About Turkish Arms Shipments To Nigeria: 'Are They Going To Kill Muslims Or Are They Going To Kill Christians? We Are In Sin Right Now', December 18, 2019. [13] Tenicaggazetesi.com.tr/mitin-yeni-yapisi-ve-sehir-guvenligi-54533yy.htm, January 13, 2020. [14] See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 8431 Kuala Lumpur Summit 2019: A Bid By Qatar, Turkey, Malaysia, Iran To Challenge Saudi Arabia's Standing In Muslim World, December 23, 2019. [15] Ulusal.com.tr/gundem/pakistan-ve-turkiye-ortak-tatbikat-yapti-h234315.html; Parstoday.com/tr/news/turkey-i70806-t%C3%BCrkiye_ile_pakistan_askeri_i%C5%9Fbirli%C4%9Finin_artmas%C4%B1, May 15, 2017; Yeniasya.com.tr/dunya/turkiye-ve-pakistan-arasinda-stratejik-ortaklik-buyuyor_475905, October 17, 2018; Aa.com.tr/tr/dunya/uzak-cografyalarda-kardes-iki-ulke-turkiye-pakistan/1354703, January 3, 2019; Aa.com.tr/tr/dunya/turk-savunma-sanayi-fuari-pakistanda-acildi/1624931, October 24, 2019; Ntv.com.tr/turkiye/turkiyeden-pakistana-120-milyon-tllik-askeri-hibe,q3xXeJ9zT0iExBry1nhd9w, May 13, 2017; Hurriyet.com.tr/gundem/1-5-milyar-dolarlik-satis-icin-ataka-motor-seferberligi-41035869, November 29, 2018; Yenisafak.com/gundem/pakistana-4-korvet-3382391, July 6, 2018. [16] Amerikaninsesi.com/a/almanyada-turk-imamlar-casusluk-yapti-iddiasi/3693153.html, January 26, 2017; Dw.com/tr/t%C3%BCrk-imamlar-casusluk-mu-yapt%C4%B1/a-37114196, December 1, 2017; Odatv.com/imamlar-geri-cekiliyor-1002171200.html, February 10, 2017; Odatv.com/imamlardan-olusan-casus-ordusu-2803171200.html, March 28, 2017; Dw.com/en/the-lobby-behind-turkeys-prime-minister/a-17652516, May 21, 2014; Uetd.org/page/11/?page=19400, accessed January 8, 2020, aksam.com.tr/kultur-sanat/turkiye-yurt-disinda-kac-camii-insa-etti-bu-camiler-hangi-ulkede/haber-972157, May 17, 2019. [17] Qha.com.tr/haberler/ankara-da-turk-devletleri-birligine-giden-yolda-nazarbayev-paneli-yapildi/123969, November 30, 2019; Aa.com.tr/tr/dunya/ozbekistan-turkiye-pakistan-ortak-tatbikati-sona-erdi/1463668, April 26, 2019; Trtavaz.com.tr/haber/tur/avrasyadan/ozbekistanda-modern-catismalarda-turk-silahli-kuvvetlerinin-saha-tecrubesi-ko/5de2465f01a30a20e0c70303, November 30, 2019; Trtavaz.com.tr/haber/tur/avrasyadan/turk-uzmanlardan-ozbek-askerlere-terorle-mucadele-egitimi/5dbe76ca01a30a0c1482e2ff, November 3, 2019; Qha.com.tr/haberler/kazakistan-dan-turkiye-askeri-alanda-ortagimiz-aciklamasi/117859, November 20, 2019; Hurriyet.com.tr/dunya/kazakistan-savunma-bakan-yardimcisi-dandibayev-ana-ortaklarimizdan-biri-turkiye-41377680, November 19, 2019; Hurriyet.com.tr/dunya/turkiye-ve-azerbaycan-nahcivanda-ortak-askeri-tatbikat-baslatti-41238029, June 8, 2019; Yeniasya.com.tr/dunya/turkiye-ve-azerbaycan-askeri-tatbikat-yapiyor_492535, May 3, 2019; Trtworld.com/opinion/the-turkic-world-is-on-the-edge-of-a-historic-revival-30327, October 3, 2019; Qha.com.tr/haberler/erdogan-turk-kenesi-ne-katilmak-uzere-azerbaycan-a-gidiyor/98401, October 14, 2019; Turkkon.org, accessed January 8, 2020; Turksoy.org/en, accessed January 8, 2020; Star.com.tr/ekonomi/alti-devlet-tek-milletiz-haber-1487015, October 15, 2019; Iha.com.tr/haber-cumhurbaskani-erdogan-basladigimiz-isi-muhakkak-bitirecegiz-806627, October 14, 2019; Cnnturk.com/turkiye/turk-dunyasinin-stratejik-cati-kurulusu-turk-kenesi, July 30, 2019; Tr.euronews.com/2018/09/03/-turk-konseyi-6-devlet-baskanlari-zirvesi-kirgizistan-da-basladi, September 3, 2018; Aa.com.tr/tr/dunya/turk-konseyi-ulkelerine-daha-yakin-olmak-istiyoruz/1313890, May 24, 2019; Kibrispostasi.com/c36-TURKIYE/n285730-erdogan-kktcnin-turk-konseyine-gozlemci-uye-olmasi-icin-dest, May 21, 2019. [18] Cumhuriyet.com.tr/haber/turkiye/1713181/mehdi-gelecek-diyen-saray-danismani-adnan-tanriverdi-istifa-etti.html, January 8, 2020. [19] Cumhuriyet.com.tr/haber/turkiye/1713422/resmen-islam-devleti-istediler.html, January 9, 2020. [20] The Mahdi is a figure in Islamic eschatology who, many Muslims believe, will appear before the Day of Judgment, rid the world of evil, and rule for a period. [21] Youtube.com/watch?v=oKoWYGYok4o, December 20, 2019. [22] Youtube.com/watch?v=8AqGzes4gRA, December 14, 2019. [23] Youtube.com/watch?v=YPfj3I-crog, December 13, 2019. [24] For more information on the International Union of Muslim Scholars see the following MEMRI reports: Special Dispatch No. 8295 IUMS Head Dr. Ahmed Al-Raissouni, Who Promotes Extremist, Antisemitic, Anti-Western Discourse, Joins Faculty Of Qatar University, September 26, 2019; Special Dispatch No. 8158 International Union Of Muslim Scholars Head: The True Victims Of Antisemitism Today Are Islam And The Muslims, July 8, 2019; Special Dispatch No. 8135 International Union Of Muslim Scholars, Supported By Qatar, Calls To Boycott Bahrain Conference On Deal Of The Century, Support Palestinians' Jihad, June 24, 2019; Special Dispatch No. 8000 International Union of Muslim Scholars, Which For Years Has Encouraged Jihad, Calls On The West To Prohibit The Discourse Of Hate, May 15, 2019; Special Dispatch No. 7984 International Union Of Muslim Scholars Urges Imams To Preach Armed Jihad Against Israel To Save Al-Aqsa, August 4, 2019; Special Dispatch No. 7308 Senior Saudi Journalist Al-Rashed: Al-Qaradawi's International Union Of Muslim Scholars Encourages Jihadi Discourse, Supports Terrorists, Fights Moderate Islam, January 31, 2019; Special Dispatch No. 7264 Sheikh Yousuf Al-Qaradawi Calls For Resistance, Jihad And Martyrdom Following Trump's Recognition Of Jerusalem As Israel's Capital, January 4, 2018; Special Dispatch No. 6059 Senior Sunni Cleric: Both ISIS And The Fight Against It Serve The Interests Of The West And The Shi'ite Regimes, May 28, 2015; Special Dispatch No. 5316 Al-Qaradhawi's Support For Jihad And Martyrdom During Gaza Visit And In Biography Of Hamas Bomb Maker Yahya 'Ayyash, May 28, 2013; Special Dispatch No. 5298 Saudi Professor And IUMS Member Tareq Hawwas In Antisemitic Diatribe: 'If Only Hitler Had Finished Them Off', May 10, 2013; Special Dispatch No. 5227 International Union of Muslim Scholars (IUMS)Attacks UN For Promoting Resolutions Banning Polygamy, Underage Marriage, Marital Rape, Promotion Of Gender Equality, March 8, 2013; Special Dispatch No. 4975 International Union Of Muslim Scholars: The Pope Must Apologize To The Muslims, September 25, 2012; Special Dispatch No. 3823 Article on Muslim Brotherhood Website: U.S. Terrorism Worse than Bin Laden's, May 9, 2011; Special Dispatch No. 3600 Sheikh Yousuf Al-Qaradhawi in Friday Sermon at Cairo's Tahrir Square: Pray for the Conquest of Al-Aqsa, February 18, 2011; Special Dispatch No. 3436 IUMS Head Sheikh Al-Qaradhawi on FIFA's Choice of Qatar to Host 2022 World Cup: A Triumph for Muslims Over the U.S.; 'America Wants a Monopoly on Everything', December 9, 2010; Special Dispatch No. 3093 Sheikh Yousef Al-Qaradhawi Calls for Jihad of Self-Sacrifice and for Rejecting the Political Process, July 13, 2010; Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 597 Palestinian Authority Attacks Sheikh Yousuf Al-Qaradhawi for Calling to Stone President 'Abbas, March 18, 2010; Special Dispatch No. 2843 Sheikh Yousuf Al-Qaradhawi Gives Broad-Ranging Interview to BBC Arabic on His Support of Mayrtdom Attacks, His Condemnation of the U.S. Military Base in Qatar, His Position on Shi'ites, His Relations with the Egyptian Government, and More, March 4, 2010; Special Dispatch No. 2709 Sheikh Al-Qaradhawi on Christmas Celebrations in Muslim Countries: 'I Wanted To Warn My People That This Is Prohibited, Shameful, And Inappropriate... Ignorance Of What Islam Obliges Us To Do...;' '[Can] Muslims in Europe and America... Celebrate Ramadan... in the City Centers[?]', December 21, 2009; Special Dispatch No. 2662 Sheikh Al-Qaradhawi Explains His Objections to Muslim-Christian Interfaith Dialogue, November 30, 2009; Special Dispatch No. 2554 Fatwa by Sheikh Al-Qaradhawi: Iraqis Must Not Become U.S. Citizens, October 6, 2009; Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 481 Recent Rise in Sunni–Shi'ite Tension (Part II): Anti-Shi'ite Statements by Sheikh Al-Qaradhawi February 25, 2009. [25] Tsv2023.org/index.php/en, accessed January 6, 2020. [26] Ssdergilik.com/tr/HaberDergilik/Baskasinin-silahi-ile-milli-menfaatler-korunamaz, December 19, 2019; Youtube.com/watch?v=O06z8KGuGTE, December 30, 2019. [27] T24.com.tr/video/sadat-baskani-tanriverdi-mehdi-aciklamasindan-once-tsk-yi-yeniden-yapilandirdiklarini-soylemis,25450, December 30, 2019. [28] Sadat.com.tr/about-us/news/147-the-future-of-the-world-of-islam-and-sadat-inc.html, January 6, 2020. [29] Assamcongress.com/congresses/past-to-future-government-forms/confederation-constitution.html, accessed January 7, 2020;  Assamcongress.com/congresses/past-to-future-government-forms/confederation-constitution/item/download/32_c8bcdd803f2d20f756c76c99a4c250dc.html, accessed January 7, 2020. [30] Mkek.gov.tr/tr/page.aspx?id=8, accessed January 9, 2020. [31] Aselsan.com.tr/en/about-us/who-we-are, accessed January 9, 2020; Tskgv.org.tr/en/about-us/history, accessed January 9, 2020 [32] Tusas.com/en/corporate/about-us, accessed January 9, 2020. [33] Havelsan.com.tr/en, accessed January 9, 2020. [34] Odatv.com/meclisin-gundeminde-yine-o-var-09012042.html, January 9, 2020. [35] Twitter.com/DIBAliErbas/status/1207670830366384129, December 19, 2019. [36] Assamcongress.com/tr/kongre/assam-kongre-2019/kongre-19-video/item/481-yemen-askeri-atasesi-tuggeneral-asgar-ahmet-zail-tarafindan-yapilan-acis-konusmasi.html, January 8, 2020; Assamcongress.com/tr/kongre/assam-kongre-2019/kongre-19-oturumlar.html, December 19, 2019.

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January 14, 2020 Special Dispatch No. 8492

Russian Ambassador To Lebanon: The Assassination Of 'Our Comrade' Soleimani Is Condemnable; The U.S. Should Leave Syria, Iraq

January 14, 2020
Iran, Russia | Special Dispatch No. 8492
In a January 10, 2020 report in the Lebanese daily Al-Jumhouriyya, journalist 'Imad Marmel presented statements by Russian Ambassador to Lebanon Alexander Zasypkin, who harshly criticized the U.S. policy in Syria and Iraq, including the assassination of IRGC Qods Force commander Qassem Soleimani. Zasypkin described the assassination of Soleimani, who he said cooperated with Russia in fighting terror and was greatly esteemed by the Russians, as a "crime" and a disproportional response to the attack on the U.S. embassy in Iraq. He added that the Iranian response to the assassination, on the other hand, was prudent and that Iran therefore couldn't be blamed for escalating the tension, especially since the U.S. is the one that withdrew from the nuclear deal in the first place. The U.S. plays a negative role in the region and should pull its forces from Syria and Iraq, he concluded. The ambassador also noted that Russian President Vladimir Putin recently visited Damascus and discussed the Iran-U.S. tension with Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad, and that the visit was meant to convey that the alliance between Russia and Syria is solid and that the two countries will continue their joint fight against terror. Alexander Zasypkin (Source: Al-Jumhouriyya) The following are excerpts from the Al-Jumhouriyya report:  The Attack On The Embassy Did Not Justify A Response Of This Magnitude "Amid the growing pressure on the U.S. presence and interests in the region, in the wake of the assassination of General Qassem Soleimani and Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis, it seems that Russia is the main beneficiary in the current situation, which may cause its 'rivals' in the region to face difficult trials. "Regardless of the results on the ground of Iran's military response to the attack on the IRGC Qods Force commander, the important point, as far as Iran and its allies are concerned, is the strategic significance of this response, which launched a war of attrition against the U.S. forces. [This war] will probably last until the [U.S.] presidential elections, so that Donald Trump will arrive at the elections weary and exhausted and will have difficulty winning them. "It is at this complex juncture in the region that Russian President Vladimir Putin met with Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad in Damascus, for a meeting that received several [different] interpretations in terms of [its significance for] the Russian moves in the region at this [particular] political timing. "Russian Ambassador to Lebanon Alexander Zasypkin told Al-Jumhouriyya that Putin's recent visit to Damascus was very important in light of the unusual circumstances in the region, whether this refers to the assassination of Qassem Soleimani or to the situation in Syria. He noted further that the visit also 'reflected the relations between Russia and Syria and between Presidents Putin and Assad, and conveyed a message to all that their alliance was solid and forms a point of strength.' He added that during the meeting between Putin and Assad, 'emphasis was placed on the continued struggle against terror and on improving the economic and humanitarian situation in Syria. There was also an assessment of the latest developments in the region and especially the criminal assassination of Qassem Soleimani and his companions.' "The Russian ambassador stressed the gravity of the American actions: 'It is important to note the outrageous [nature of] the assassination itself and not to try to justify it or link it to anything else. There is need to focus on the crime of targeting Soleimani and his companions, and not to seek mitigating reasons by inflating the scope of the attack on the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, as was done in the West. The attack on the embassy clearly does not justify a response of this magnitude, [that is,] killing Soleimani and the others.'" "Soleimani Was Our Comrade And Friend, A Unique Man Whom We Greatly Esteemed" "Stressing that the criminal assassination was utterly condemnable, Zasypkin said, 'America's considerations do not interest us, for they are the ones responsible.' He noted [further]: 'Soleimani was our comrade and friend, a unique man whom we greatly esteemed. We cooperated with him in the war against terror, and his assassination caused us great sorrow.' "According to Zasypkin, Iran's response to the American aggression was prudent. [He added:] 'In principle, we are against the outbreak of wars, and we hope that we prevented the outbreak of a war today, although we know who is responsible for the escalation of the danger and know that the ones who withdrew from the nuclear deal and initiated the assassination of Soleimani and the others are responsible for the increase in tension.'" The U.S. Plays A Negative Role In The Region, Must Withdraw From Iraq, Syria "[The ambassador] said further that some positions in the West try to point [the  finger] at Iran alone and to accuse it of starting the escalation, 'when [in fact] it was America that initiated the moves that escalated the tension, whether it did so by political means, [i.e., by] evading the nuclear deal, or through actions on the ground, such as the recent escapade [of killing Soleimani].' "Zasypkin believes that the U.S. presence in the region faces greater difficulties today, after the assassination of Soleimani and Al-Muhandis. [He said]': '...The U.S. presence in Syria is completely illegal and they must leave. As for Iraq, they entered it as occupiers to begin with, and the position taken recently by the Iraqi parliament [demanding a U.S. withdrawal from the country] is very significant.' "The Russian ambassador noted that one of the main factors that has caused the demand for a U.S. withdrawal from the region to be explicitly expressed today is the negative role that the U.S. has consistently played in the Middle East. 'While we strive to find solutions to the crises, they take the path of obstruction and delay'..."

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