President Trump needs to answer questions about the Trump Organization’s ties to terrorist organizations and his support for their state-funders.
On May 10, President Donald Trump invited Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and then-ambassador Sergey Kislyak into the Oval Office. During that meeting, he revealed to his guests key information which compromised an Israeli spy who had infiltrated ISIS.
“Trump revealed the city in the Islamic State’s territory where the U.S. intelligence partner detected the threat,” Greg Miller and Greg Jaffe wrote in the Washington Post. “The identification of the location was seen as particularly problematic, officials said, because Russia could use that detail to help identify the US ally or intelligence capability involved.”
Russia has supported ISIS extensively both directly and indirectly for some time.
ISIS supplies oil to Syria’s Bashar al-Assad. Russian-made weapons from Assad’s arsenal regularly find their way into the hands of ISIS. A former FSB counter-terrorism specialist has revealed that Russian security forces helped recruit thousands of Russian-speaking Jihadis for ISIS, and that Russia deployed air defense capabilities to prevent U.S. air attacks on ISIS. To be clear, ISIS is secretly funded and armed by Russia even as Moscow declares the terror group an ‘enemy’ in public. It’s convenient for Putin to control both sides of the war. So much easier to win.
If all of this sounds outlandish, consider how Putin came to power and its historical echo of Hitler’s Reichstag fire. In September 1999, as the Yeltsin era was coming to an end in Russia, four apartment buildings were blown up in Moscow, Buinaksk, and Volgodonsk. Putin’s response was resolute: “We will pursue the terrorists everywhere. If they are in an airport, then in an airport, and, forgive me, if we catch them in the toilet, then we’ll rub them out (mochit) in the toilet…. The question is closed once and for all.”
That was then. What we know now, is that Russia’s FSB was behind blowing up those apartment buildings. According to Boris Berezovskiy, a Yeltsin-era businessman, the explosions were “intended to unite Russians in fear and in a desperate desire for a new, decisive, even aggressive leader who would spare no enemy.” Putin is quite adept at acting tough in the face of a threat he has created, even terrorism against his own people.
Trump hands Syria, Russia, Turkey and Iran a major victory.
Russia’s main mid-east ally in the war for Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria is Turkey, which has the world’s 6th largest military. On July 19th, Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency leaked the positions of 10 U.S. military posts in northern Syria, drawing swift criticism from the Pentagon. “The release of sensitive military information exposes Coalition forces to unnecessary risk and has the potential to disrupt ongoing operations to defeat ISIS,” Pentagon spokesman Maj. Adrian Rankine-Galloway said.
Why would Turkey, a NATO ally, compromise the U.S. and help ISIS? Under President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Turkey has been folded into the Kremlin’s sphere of influence. With Putin’s guidance, Erdoğan has quashed democracy in Turkey and openly supports the murderous regime of Bashar al-Assad. Erdoğan also enjoys the support of President Trump who, In May, praised Erdogan’s efforts to bring stability to Syria.
Now, Trump has handed Turkey and Russia a significant victory by ending a CIA program to arm Syrian rebels fighting Assad and working alongside the U.S. to defeat ISIS. “Officials said the phasing out of the secret program reflects Trump’s interest in finding ways to work with Russia, which saw the anti-Assad program as an assault on its interests,” according to the Washington Post.
The U.S. is also conspiring with Russia in a cease-fire in parts of Syria which analysts believe protects and emboldens a re-emerging al-Qaeda. “Current US strategy empowers al-Qaeda, which has an army in Syria, is preparing to replace ISIS . . . [and] is more dangerous than ISIS,” says a recent report from the Institute for the Study of War (ISW). It’s a play right out of Putin’s playbook and helps Russia more than any other nation state.
It’s worth recalling Trump’s former national Security Adviser Michael Flynn was on the Turkish payroll to the tune of $500,000, and also compromised by the Kremlin. Facts he failed to disclose before taking office.
Trump Organization linked to Iran, terror funding.
Azerbaijan is a former Soviet Republic which is a vital conduit between Russia and Iran. Along with Georgia and Armenia, the countries form the South Caucasus, and Vladimir Putin considers the area as a major goal for Russian expansionism.
Baku in Azerbaijan is not the type of place you’d find an ultra-luxury Trump Hotel, but there is one, although it never opened. A brilliant and exhaustive article by Adam Davidson in The New Yorker details the ties between the Trump organization and Zika Mammadov, a corrupt Azerbaijani with deep ties to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. While the Trumps don’t own the hotel, they did receive licensing and other fees for their role in building it. Ivanka Trump was involved in every design detail and even showed off her work on Instagram.
Davidson posits that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard (which funds Hezbollah and other terrorist organizations) laundered drug and nuclear arms material trafficking money through the Trump Hotel.
“Investigators of financial fraud like to say that government corruption, money laundering, and other illicit behavior often form a “nexus” with even more troubling activity, such as financing terrorism and developing weapons of mass destruction,” wrote Davidson. “This appears to be true in the Baku deal.”
Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) believes the Trump Azerbaijan project needs to be investigated as a possible violation of The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. “The Trump Organization’s Baku project shows the lack of ‘extreme vetting’ Mr. Trump applied to his own business dealings in corruption-plagued regimes around the globe. . . . Congress—and the Trump Administration itself—has a duty to examine whether the President or his family is exposed to terrorist financing, sanctions, money laundering, and other imprudent associations through their business holdings and connections.”
Warm-water ports, by any means necessary.
This week, Russia, Iran and Azerbaijan will begin joint military exercises in the Caspian Sea. This should be viewed as a pivotal turning point in Kremlin’s expansion into the South Caucasus. If Putin continues his march into Georgia and consolidates power in Azerbaijan, the new “Russian Empire” will have direct access to the Mediterranean Sea through Turkey and Syria, and to Asia through Iran. Russia’s has long sought access to warm-water ports, in an attempt to gain dominance over liberal-leaning democracies like the U.S. and its allies.
The military exercises and geo-political realignment also underline a growing partnership between Russia and Iran – two countries actively supporting and funding terror organizations like ISIS and Hezbollah.
Russia, Turkey, Azerbaijan and Iran’s involvement in terrorism and state funding of terrorism are also war crimes and warrant investigation by domestic prosecutors and the International Criminal Court in the Hague (although Russia, Iran the U.S. are not currently party to the ICC). It would be an astounding turn of events if a sitting U.S. President is openly aiding and abetting Russia and Iran and if his businesses have profited from dealings with these states.