Dr. Herb London of the London Center for Policy Research, co-author of The Encyclopedia of Militant Islam, discussed the terrorist assassination of the Russian ambassador to Turkey with SiriusXM host Alex Marlow on Tuesday’s Breitbart News Daily.
“What you have is an individual obviously very intent on trying to find some sort of revenge for the Russian bombing that has occurred in Aleppo,” said London. “The Russians have had it both ways. They keep talking about humanitarian actions that are necessary, and at the same time, the bombs are falling from their planes.”
“That doesn’t justify what happened, of course,” he continued. “What happened is clearly, once again, the violence that we’ve seen very, very evident in this community, in this Muslim community.”
“I don’t know what will happen because the Turks and the Russians have engaged in a demarche. They’ve tried very hard to bring about some sort of understanding about what they both want in the Middle East. And it’s the Turks who have said that the Russians represent the strong horse and the nation that we must deal with. This, by the way, after knocking down a Russian aircraft from the skies,” he noted with some amusement. “So they are trying very hard to reach out to the Russians, and this will obviously set them back. What Putin will do is very difficult to say, and just exactly what Putin wants to do is very difficult to say because he’s constrained if, in fact, he pursues this goal of trying to work out some sort of arrangement with the Turks.”
London noted that Moscow and Ankara were united largely by what they don’t really care about.
“The Turks, by the way, are very much interested in not necessarily the defeat of ISIS, and not necessarily the support of Assad,” he explained. “They are interested in killing Kurds – Kurds who might very well represent a state on the border with Turkey. And then, of course, what you have in the case of the Russians, they’re not necessarily interested in the Turks. They are interested primarily in the support of Assad and the maintenance of Russian control of Syria.”
“So it is very, very obvious that they can work out some sort of modus vivendi, or at least an understanding, and that understanding will be: well, you take care of yours, we’ll take care of ours, and we can clearly work together in some fashion in this part of the world,” he predicted.
Marlow asked if anything “positive” might come from Turkey and Russia’s meetings after the Ankara assassination, or if “further escalation” was more likely.
“Well, I think there’s nothing positive that would come out of it,” London replied. “Again, I think both nations have a stake in the demarche, so what they’ll say is, this is an unfortunate event. There will be some penalties that are imposed, maybe the freezing of some Turkish assets in Russia. But by and large, this is not going to mean an awful lot to jeopardize the relationship that has just emerged.”
“Keep in mind that the hostility between the two nations, the demarche, is a relatively recent phenomenon,” he advised. “Again, I think that the Russians have a stake in trying to maintain it. My feeling about it is that it’s one reason why the United States is irrelevant, because we no longer have any ties to Russia and Syria, and we no longer have any ties to the Turks, either – once the nation described by President Obama as his closest ally on the globe.”
“Well, again, the United States has lost it, really does not have any relationship after the potential coup that occurred in Turkey, and, of course, our unwillingness to send Gulen, who many in Turkey believe was responsible for the coup, back to his homeland,” he said, referring to cleric Fethullah Gulen and Turkey’s demands for his extradition.
London added that “it would have been a mistake on the part of the State Department” to hand Gulen over to Turkey because no “hard evidence” of his involvement in the July coup was presented.
“He’s a rather peculiar fellow living in the United States, in Pennsylvania, but whether, in fact, he was responsible? I don’t know. Everyone I’ve talked to in Turkey – and I’ve done a little work in Turkey – seems to suggest that he really wasn’t directly involved,” London said. “Now, he may have known some of the military leaders. Knowing the military leaders and organizing a plot are a very different matter.”
Another theory Marlow brought up is that the Ankara attack could pave the way for the new U.S. president, Donald Trump, to work more closely with Russian President Vladimir Putin on eliminating the Islamic State.
“Well, look, there are conspiracy theories that are swirling around everything, and the one thing that’s generally true about Russia is that if you have a conspiracy theory, the likelihood is that it’s true,” London observed wryly. “You may remember that Putin came to power with a great conspiracy theory about these houses that were being bombed, and he made the claim that it was due to the Chechen revolutionaries that were responsible. It turned out it was the KGB that actually organized the bombing, and it was one way for Putin’s ascendancy to be achieved.”
“So again in Russia, there’s all kinds of conspiracies, generally conspiracies within conspiracies. I don’t really believe for a moment that this is a way of cementing a relationship between Putin and Trump,” he said. “I think that if they have other interests, those interests will emerge. The difficulty, however, is when those interests converge, there are just as many interests that diverge and move in very different directions.”
“One can’t lose sight of what Russia is as a nation – the fact that internally, it is a dying nation with an epidemic of alcoholism and with nothing but extractive industries in order to provide for its economy. It’s an economy that’s dying. It’s a nation that’s dying internally. What Putin has done, as many nations in the past have done, is to try and rely on the glories of foreign policy to offset the damage and the inconsistencies and the failure that is occurring at home,” London argued.
The conversation turned to the Berlin attack, where Marlow noted the suspect is apparently a 23-year-old Pakistani refugee, who chose his targets for their Christian faith.
“All of the evidence is not yet available,” London acknowledged, “but it seems as though this is yet another terrorist attack. My feeling about this is, think of this metaphorically as a tree of terror, the way in which Chairman Mao used to talk about terrorism in the 1940s. You have a tree of terror. From that tree, branches fall off. Splinters fall off. These become independent terrorist activists. These are the terrorist actors. They work on behalf of the tree, although they’re not necessarily attached to the tree any more. But they are given instructions by the tree – I’m speaking metaphorically, of course – they are given these instructions by the tree, and they are all on their own.”
“Even though the Obamas of the world take great credit for the fact that there hasn’t been another 9/11 incident in the United States, they overlook the fact that what we’ve had is a different kind of attack. The attacks have occurred. We are vulnerable,” he said. “Whether it’s San Bernardino or Orlando, or whether it’s in Berlin or in Molenbeek, the area in Belgium, whether it’s in Paris, we’ve seen this across the West. This hasn’t stopped, and it’s not likely to stop.”
“What we as a nation, what the CIA is obliged to do at this moment, is to not only vet those who are coming into the country, but become a lot more clever about recognizing those who are potentially terrorists,” he urged. “It’s not an easy task. It’s a very difficult task. The kind of algorithms that are necessary to make this happen are quite complicated. However, we have no choice. We are going to have many incidents of this kind. Christians, Jews will be targeted because they are apostates. There is no doubt we’re going to be facing these kinds of incidents, but we’ve got to do everything in our power, using logistics and using the intelligence agencies that we have, to make sure that this is not a regular occurrence.”
London agreed with Marlow’s reservations about the ability of Western governments to conduct the kind of screening necessary to keep out radical elements or deal with those who become radicalized after immigrating, as unconfirmed reports say might have been the case with the Berlin jihadi.
“The problem is, I don’t know what the alternatives are,” London said. “But if you look at the governments, Belgian government, for example, the Secret Service is appalling. It doesn’t have a very good record. The French may be the best in Europe, the British somewhere behind the French, the United States obviously the best in the world, but even the United states has its problems. You also see the extent to which the CIA has been politicized, to some degree.”
He also cited the danger of immigrants coming from “war-torn regions,” which cannot reliably produce the kind of documentation needed for meaningful vetting.
“We know very little about these people,” he said. “Most of them are obviously peace-loving, but if there are one, or two, or ten who fall into the category of terrorist, they can kill a lot of people. That is the great danger. Trump was not wrong to suggest that we’ve got to vet these people. We need intense vetting. He is absolutely correct. But again, even with intense vetting, there is so much that will fall into the interstices. There is so much that we’ll not be able to discover, largely because these are people that come with no background. We know nothing about them.”
“So there’s a problem. There’s a very significant problem here. And the problem all started, of course, with a policy of inadvertence by the President of the United States,” London charged. “In 2011, when the civil war in Syria began, and the United States had the opportunity to provide support for the Free Syrian Army, it chose not to do so. The consequence of that is what we’ve seen: this enormous migration from Syria and North Africa into Europe.”
“The consequences of that are profound,” he said. “Merkel is obviously going to lose the general election. She’s lost in the local elections. We see the rise of Norbert Hofer. He didn’t win, but nonetheless, came very close to victory. We see the rise of the Five Star movement in Italy. We see Brexit.”
“What has happened is that the international movement, of a kind that led to relative equilibrium in Europe and the United States, is now over. This period of liberal internationalism is over. That’s gone. The notion of free trade, the notion of understandings, of alliances – all of that is over. We are entering a very different age. If Marine Le Pen actually gets elected in Paris, and I think she’s got a good shot, then it seems to me Brexit will be seen as the foreshadowing of a complete breakdown,” London predicted.
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