The Turkish Factor
Vol: 93 Issue: 29 Monday, June 29, 2009
“We consider the Muslims in Turkey our brothers,” said Mustafa Abu Yazid, the network’s operations chief. Lauding Turkish suicide bombers killed in recent attacks near the Afghan-Pakistani border, he declared, “This is a pride and honor to the nation of Islam in Turkey, and we ask Allah to accept them amongst the martyrs.”
The message is the latest sign of the changing composition of Islamic extremism, anti-terrorism officials and experts say. The number of Turks in Al Qaeda, long dominated by Arabs, has increased notably, officials say.
And militant groups dominated by Turks and Central Asians, many of whom share Turkic culture and speak a Turkic language, have emerged as allies of and alternatives to Al Qaeda in northwestern Pakistan.
“We are aware of an increasing number of Turks going to train in Pakistan,” said a senior European anti-terrorism official whom the LA Times said had asked to remain anonymous because the subject is sensitive. “This increase has taken place in the past couple of years.”
Turkey’s secular tradition and official monitoring of religious practice for years helped restrain extremism at home and in the diaspora. But the newer movements churn out Internet propaganda in Turkish as well as German, an effort to recruit among a Turkish immigrant population in Germany that numbers close to 3 million.
“We are seeing almost as much propaganda material from these Turkic groups as we are from Al Qaeda,” said Evan Kohlmann, a U.S. private consultant who works with anti-terrorism agencies around the world.
“Turks were perceived as moderate with few connections to Al Qaeda central. Now Germany is dealing with this threat in a community that could be a sleeping giant.”
Germany is especially vulnerable because it has troops in Afghanistan. The threat could also intensify in other countries with Turkish populations, such as France, Belgium and the Netherlands, whose anti-terrorism agencies focus on entrenched extremism in large North African communities.
Turkey is a Muslim ally of the West and a longtime gateway to battlegrounds in the Middle East and Asia. But in the 90’s Turks trained in Afghanistan with al-Qaeda and fought in Bosnia-Herzegovina and the Russian republic of Chechnya.
In 2003, Turkish al Qaeda suicide bombers killed 70 people in attacks on synagogues and British targets in Istanbul, Turkey’s largest city. The Islamic Jihad Union, an Uzbek-led group, has alternately competed and worked with Al Qaeda.
The organization trained and directed two Turks and two German converts who have agreed to plead guilty in a 2007 bomb plot against U.S. targets in Germany.
Last year, the group announced that another recruit, a 28-year-old Turk born in Bavaria, killed two U.S. soldiers in a suicide bombing in Afghanistan.
Until defeated by the Allies in 1917, the Turkish Ottoman Empire was a vast Islamic caliphate that had controlled the entire Middle East since the 14th century.
At the height of its power, the Ottoman Empire spanned three continents, controlling much of Southeastern Europe, Western Asia and North Africa. Modern Turkey was established as a distinctly secular and Western-leaning state in 1923 under Mustafa Ataturk.
Modern Turkey is the only majority-Muslim member of NATO and is an applicant to join the European Union. But the Bible says that Turkey’s future points, not to the West, but to the East.
According to the Prophet Ezekiel, Turkey is a major player in the Gog-Magog invasion. Interestingly, Ezekiel slices the Turkey before serving it up in his identification of the alliance members.
“Behold, I am against thee, O Gog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal . . . Persia, Ethiopia, and Libya with them . . . Gomer, and all his bands; the house of Togarmah of the north quarters, and all his bands: and many people with thee.” (Ezekiel 38:3-6)
There are four distinct theories concerning the identity of the nations listed by Ezekiel.
1. Hashemite Kingdom Theory: The Islamic Nations will come against Israel either by an Iraqi-led, Jordanian led, or Turkish led coalition. The enemy from the north refers to the areas of Syria, Turkey, and Iraq. These Islamic nations make up the lands occupied by Magog, Gomer, Togarmah, Meshech and Tubal.
2. Caucus Theory: Gog and Magog are the Arab nations in an alliance with the Muslim republics of the former Soviet Union. This theory leaves out most of Russia, and includes only the southern part.
3. Russian Theory: The Hebrew word ‘rosh’ in verse 3 is identified with Russia, ‘Tubal’ with Tiblisi or Tobolsk and ‘Meshech’ with Moscow, therefore Gog and Magog refers to Russia.
This is one of the most commonly held views and is based on a different interpretation of the Hebrew word Rosh (used as a noun rather than adjective), similarities in the pronunciation of words, and the Greek translation of Rosh referring to a tribe of people found in what is now Russia.
5. Indo-European Theory: Gog and Magog include the nations descending from Japheth: Russia, the Caucasus (Turkey), Iraq, and the Islamic republics of Central Asia. The coalition is an alliance of Arab nations, Muslim republics, Georgia, southern Russia and the Black sea area.
I tend to favor the Indo-European Theory. Gog, Meshech, Tubal, Gomer and Magog were the sons and grandsons of Noah who settled the areas from Turkey to the Caucasus Mountains and into the steppes of Russia.
Dr. Edwin Yamauchi identifies Meshech and Tubal as Mushku and Tabal in central and eastern Turkey.
Traditional scholarship has always linked Gomer to either eastern Europe or Turkey. Togarmah is linked to either southeastern Europe or Turkey.
The Gog-Magog Alliance as identified in Ezekiel therefore includes all or part of the following countries: Russia, Ethiopia, Libya, Iran, Afghanistan, Armenia, Georgia Uzebekistan and in particular, Turkey.
Note that Gog (Russia) is drawn into the conflict by its alliances, rather than being the main instigator. “And I will turn thee back, and put hooks into thy jaws, and I will bring thee forth. . .” (Ezekiel 38:4)
Think about this. Only forty years ago, Ezekiel’s prophecy read precisely the same way. Except that Russia was the Soviet Union and one of two undisputed superpowers.
The terms of the Cold War would have prevented Russia and other Soviet bloc countries from conducting any kind of invasion of Israel without either making a deal with Richard Nixon or risking certain nuclear war.
The revived Roman Empire did not exist, except in the minds of its planners. Our closest ally in the Middle East (after Israel) was Iran, followed closely by Turkey.
In January, 1969, LBJ was still president. The Vietnam War was still white-hot. Our only worries were the Soviets and Castro. How could anyone have foreseen the fall of the Shah, the rise of radical Islam, the collapse of the Soviet Union and the reunification of Europe in 1969?
Just forty years ago, Ezekiel’s prophecy — penned two thousand, five hundred years before — was impossible, as it had been for most of the past twenty-six centuries, for one reason or another. Today — right now — absolutely every element is either in place or rapidly moving into place.
Therefore, Turkey’s shift from West to East is right on schedule.
“Thus will I magnify myself, and sanctify myself; and I will be known in the eyes of many nations, and they shall know that I am the LORD.” (Ezekiel 38:23)