Uncovering the secrets of a Saudi lobby to destabilize and incite Turkey

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An American website revealed the secrets of a Saudi lobby to destabilize Turkey by inciting against its ruling regime, describing it as tyrannical.

The American Responsible Statecraft website said that an American pressure group attacking Turkish policy called the “Turkish Democracy Project Group” has a vague connection to Saudi Arabia and the UAE, hinting that the nature of this relationship may indicate that the group receives funding from the two countries, but the US government is obstructing revealing the truth of the matter.

This group is an advocacy group that was launched last summer with the aim of strengthening democracy in Turkey , but the irony is that the group does not include Turkish members in its leadership council.

The site sheds light on the group’s shadowy network of ties to Saudi Arabia, as well as members of the group who belong to the hard-right Republican Party.

It should be noted that even before the official normalization with Israel, there was a rapprochement between the lobbies supporting Tel Aviv in the United States, and the lobbies supporting the Arab Gulf states, especially the Emirates, Israel’s new friend, and one of the reasons for the emergence of the UAE as a regional actor in the last decade was the active Emirati lobby in Washington and other European capitals.

In general, regional political alliances have prompted many senior leaders in the Middle East, especially Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, and Israel, to favor the leadership of the Republican Party in the United States.

In a press release announcing its formation, the group said it was “committed to encouraging Turkey to adopt more democratic policies.”

The two Turkish members involved in the former Turkish political project Aykan Erdemir and the academic Suleyman Ozerin were removed from the list of members of the group’s advisory council, which is published on its website, not long after the group’s inauguration.

The Turkish Project for Democracy’s membership list is filled with former US officials and hard-line diplomats with close ties to Israel and the Gulf states, according to the US website.

These include Frances Townsend, the former Bush administration counterterrorism official, pro-Israel Senator Joseph Lieberman, and Donald Trump’s former national security adviser, John Bolton, who is known for his aggressiveness.

“It’s time to sound the alarm about Turkey,” Bolton, also known for his support of the US confrontation with Iran, said on Twitter at the time of the launch of the Turkish Democracy Project.

However, the organization has links to a network of generously funded dark money groups that promote hard-line US foreign policy positions in the Middle East, policies that align with Saudi, Emirati and Israeli security interests, according to the US website.

And at the heart of it all is Mark Wallace, the former ambassador to the George W. Bush administration at the United Nations. Currently, Wallace is head of the Turkish Democracy Project, but he is also head of the anti-Iranian organization United Against Nuclear Iran.

He is also the head of another advocacy group, the Anti-Extremism Project, and even an arts-based non-profit organization focusing on human rights in Iran called PaykanArtCar.

Eight out of the 11 members of the senior leadership and advisory board of the Turkish Democracy Project hold positions in United Against Nuclear Iran, the Counter-Extremism Project, or both.

Both organizations faced questions about their goals and funding sources, including whether they receive financial support from foreign governments and political figures.

The Turkish Democracy Project has yet to provide public information about its funding. But the two closely related organizations, United Against Nuclear Iran and the Counter Extremism Project, both fall under the umbrella of an organization known as the United Counter Extremism Project.

Although no sources of funding have been disclosed, this network of organizations brought in more than $101 million between 2009 and 2019, according to a review of tax returns, making it one of the largest dark-money political pressure networks for US foreign policy operating today.

An article published in Intelligence Online last July on the creation of the Turkish Democracy Project noted Wallace’s extensive ties with Thomas Kaplan, a billionaire investor known to be a financier and outspoken supporter of Wallace’s Iran-focused groups.

It is worth noting that Kaplan hires Wallace as a senior advisor in his Electrum Group, a company that invests in “public stocks in the metals and mining sector,” stocks that Wallace and Kaplan market to investors as they retain value in the event that political stability in the Middle East is affected.

The article on Intelligence Online also referred to Kaplan’s extensive ties to members of the Gulf’s royal families, something Kaplan has publicly noted before. In particular, Kaplan maintains extensive commercial and charitable relationships with the UAE.

Efforts to examine the financial resources behind Kaplan’s network of foreign policy lobbyists hit an unusual snag: the US government dropped a 2013 lawsuit against Kaplan and United Against Nuclear Iran.

The lawsuit alleged that Kaplan and this organization were funded by undisclosed foreign parties. The government claimed that allowing the case to proceed would jeopardize the national security of the United States.

The US website comments, “This is an unusual invocation of state secrets as a third-party interfering in a civil lawsuit.”

Although public filings provide aggregate figures on funding for this network of organizations led by Wallace, specific information about donors remains vague.

However, there was periodic evidence of Kaplan’s generous role in financing these activities. Lists of United Against Nuclear Iran donors, published in 2015 on investigative website LobeLog, revealed that Kaplan-controlled funds contributed $843,000 to United Against Nuclear Iran in 2013, which represents roughly half of the organization’s revenue. in that year.

In 2015, Wallace gave a disclosure to the House Foreign Affairs Committee before he appeared as a witness as chair of the Countering Extremism Project.

“So far we have received individual and private contributions,” Wallace wrote. “The Counter Extremism Project has not received any money from foreign governments, but he said, “We have discussed CED funding with both the United States government and many foreign governments.”

A batch of leaked emails released several years ago – believed to be from the account of the UAE’s ambassador to the United States, Yousef al-Otaiba – appears to show the network is seeking foreign funding, particularly from the UAE and Saudi Arabia.

An email from Wallace to Otaiba dated September 3, 2014, referred to “cost estimates” for an upcoming “forum,” although it was not clear that the forum in question was United Against Nuclear Iran or was ever an organization The Counter Extremism Project, which took place later that month.

Another leaked email, from January 2015, spoke of UAE support for the Counter Extremism Project, with Frances Townsend asking for Al Otaiba’s help arranging meetings with Mohammed bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi. Townsend concluded her letter by thanking Otaiba for his “support of the Counter Extremism Project’s efforts.”

And again in August 2016, former Republican Senator Norm Coleman, who is now a Saudi lobbyist, wrote to Otaiba, at the direction of Saudi Foreign Minister Adel bin Ahmed al-Jubeir, to present the tax status of the Counter-Extremism Project. Coleman wrote to the Emirati ambassador: “The Saudi foreign minister recommended that I follow up with you on this matter.”

If the Counter Extremism Project or United Against Nuclear Iran receive foreign funding, their activities may require registration under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, a law that requires registration for entities that engage in “political activities” within the United States.

Neither group is registered under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, and no conclusive evidence of foreign funding has emerged.

The US government’s refusal to reveal the financial resources behind Kaplan’s network of foreign policy lobbyists with an unusual obstacle, particularly the dismissal of the lawsuit against him and United Against Nuclear Iran, suggests that there may be a similar difficulty in exposing any potential outside funding sources for the Turkish Project for Democracy.

“These groups are all engaged in activities that would be eligible under the Counter Extremism Project, United Against Nuclear Iran, and the Turkish Democracy Project,” said Ben Freeman, director of the Foreign Influence Transparency Initiative at the Center for International Policy. Definition of the Foreign Agents Registration Law for Political Activities.

“They have very clear objectives related to US foreign policy, and they are actively trying to influence sections of the public — and in some cases, policymakers themselves — toward these policy goals,” he added.

“You can do all of these types of work if you are a US citizen and funded by US citizens, but FARA has a role if you receive funding or take action at the request of a government or foreign entity,” Freeman added.

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