The Turkish Democracy Project linked to an anti-Iran and pro-Israel network

Turkish Democracy Project, a political advocacy group launched this summer with the stated aim of promoting democracy in Turkey, has the surprising characteristic of having no Turkish members on its leadership council. In a press release announcing its creation, the organization said it was “committed to encouraging Turkey to adopt more democratic policies.” The two Turkish peoples publicly involved in the project – former Turkish politician Aykan Erdemir and academic Suleyman Ozeren – were removed from the list of advisory board members on their website shortly after its launch.

The Turkish Democracy Project boasts a slate of former US officials and hawkish diplomats with close ties to Israel and the Arab Gulf states.

Although there are no actual Turks associated with the group, the Turkish Democracy Project boasts a roster full of former US officials and hawkish diplomats with close ties to Israel and the Arab Gulf states, including Frances Townsend, a former counterterrorism official in the Bush administration, and US Senator the previous. Joseph Lieberman, and famous National Security Adviser Donald Trump John Bolton. “It’s time to sound the alarm about Turkey,” Bolton, who is known for his support of the United States’ confrontation with Iran, said on Twitter at the time of the launch of the Turkey Project for Democracy.

Under the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), democracy in Turkey has faced serious setbacks in recent years, but what exactly the Turkish Democracy Project does to address this problem is unclear. However, the organization has links to a network of well-funded black money groups that promote US foreign policy positions in the Middle East that align with Saudi, Emirati and Israeli security interests.

At the heart of it all is Mark Wallace, the former ambassador to the George W. Bush administration to the United Nations. Wallace is currently the head of not only the Turkish Democracy Project, but also the anti-Iranian organization United Against Nuclear Iran, or UANI. counterterrorism advocacy group Counter Extremism Project, or CEP; And even an arts-based non-profit organization focusing on human rights in Iran is called PaykanArtCar. Eight out of the 11 members of the senior leadership and advisory board of the Turkish Democracy Project hold positions at UANI, CEP, or both.

It was UANI and CEP Questions lift about their goals and sources of funding, including whether they receive financial support from foreign governments and political figures. The Turkish Democracy Project did not respond to a request for comment on its funding and sources of support.

pressure group network

The Turkish Democracy Project has not yet provided public information about its funding. But the closely related organizations UANI and CEP both fall under the umbrella of an organization known as the United Counter Extremism Project. Although none of its funding sources 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 US foreign policy lobby networks operating today.

July 2021 Article – Commodity On the corporate and government news site, Intelligence Online, on the creation of the Turkish Democracy Project, he noted Wallace’s extensive ties with Thomas Kaplan, a billionaire investor known to be a financier and outspoken supporter of Wallace’s Iran-related advocacy groups.

Kaplan also hires Wallace as a senior advisor in his office Electrum Group, a company that invests in “public stocks in the metals and mining sector” – commodities owned by both Kaplan and Wallace Marketing it to investors As a retention or appreciation of value if there is political instability in the Middle East.

The article in Intelligence Online also referred to Kaplan’s extensive ties to members of the royal family in the Persian Gulf, something he referred to. Enthusiastically In past public appearances. In particular, Kaplan maintains extensive commercial and charitable relationships with the United Arab Emirates.

Efforts to examine the financial resources behind the network of foreign policy lobbyists linked to Kaplan found an unusual obstacle: the United States government, which crusher 2013 Lawsuit against Kaplan and UANI. The lawsuit alleged that Kaplan and UANI were funded by undisclosed foreign interests. The government, in unusual invocation of state secrets as a third-party intervener in a civil lawsuit, vaguely claimed that allowing the case to proceed would jeopardize the national security of the United States.

Although public filings are available that provide aggregate figures about the funding of this network of organizations that Wallace leads, specific information about the donors remains vague. However, there has been periodic evidence pointing to Kaplan’s generous role in financing these activities. Lists of donors for UANI published in 2015 on investigative news site LobeLog It revealed that Kaplan-controlled funds contributed $843,000 to UANI in 2013, which represented nearly half of the organization’s revenue that year.

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 24: Environmental activist, philanthropist and investor Dr. Thomas S. Kaplan speaks on stage during the annual Concordia Summit 2018 - Day One at the Grand Hyatt New York on September 24, 2018 in New York City.  (Photo by Riccardo Savi/Getty Images for the Concordia Summit)

Billionaire investor Thomas Kaplan speaks on stage during the 2018 annual Concordia Summit on September 24, 2018 in New York City.

Photo: Riccardo Savi/Getty Images for the Concordia Summit

Funding from abroad

In 2015, Wallace presented a disclosure of “Truth in Testimony” to the House Foreign Affairs Committee before serving as a witness in his capacity as chair of the Counter Extremism Project. Wallace wrote: “So far we have received individual and private contributions. The CEP has not received any money from foreign governments. We have discussed CEP funding with both the US government (the State Department) and various foreign governments in the future.”

A set of leaked emails released several years ago – believed to be from the account of the United Arab Emirates’ ambassador to the United States, Yousef Al-Otaiba – seems to appear The network’s pursuit of foreign funding, particularly from the UAE and Saudi Arabia. An email from Wallace to Otaiba from September 3, 2014 indicated “cost estimates” for an upcoming “forum”, although it was not clear that the event referred to was an event for UANI or the launch of CEP, which took place later than that. the month.

Another leaked email from January 2015 mentioned UAE support for CEP, with Townsend asking for Otaiba’s help arranging meetings with Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi. Townsend concluded her email by thanking Otaiba for his “support of the Permanent Electoral Council’s efforts!”

Back in August 2016, former Republican Senator Norm Coleman, now a member of a Saudi lobby group, wrote to Otaiba at the direction of Saudi Foreign Minister Adel bin Ahmed al-Jubeir to submit the tax status for CEP. Coleman also wrote to the UAE ambassador: “Foreign Minister al-Jubeir has recommended following up with you on the matter. The Counter Extremism Project is 501c4. Let me know if you have any questions.”

“You can do all of these types of work if you are a US citizen and funded by US citizens, but the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) comes into play if you are funded or take action at the request of a foreign government or entity.

If CEP and UANI receive foreign funding, their activities may require registration under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, or FARA, which is a law requiring registration for entities within the United States participating in “political activities.

None of the groups registered under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, although despite the suggestions, no conclusive evidence of foreign funding has emerged.

“These groups are all engaged in activities that would qualify under the FARA definition of political activities,” Ben Freeman, director of the Foreign Influence Transparency Initiative at the Center for International Policy, said of UANI, CEP and the Turkish Democracy Project. “They have very clear objectives relating to the foreign policy of the United States, and they are actively trying to influence sections of the public – and in some cases policy makers themselves – towards these policy goals.”

“You can do all of these types of work if you are a US citizen and funded by US citizens, but the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) comes into play if you are funded or take action at the request of a foreign government or entity,” Freeman added.

compatible interests

The launch of the Turkish Democracy Project this summer has sparked predictable outrage Pro-government media In Turkey, which described the organization as part of a conspiracy by a sect of the country’s enemies to undermine its stability.

Over the past decade, Turkey has been locked in an internal conflict between supporters of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the Gülen movement, a banned political network that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accuses of orchestrating the 2016 coup attempt. Turkey has also built hostile relations in recent years with Gulf Arab states such as the UAE and Saudi Arabia. , as well as Israel.

For their part, Wallace and Kaplan remain at the center of a growing network of well-funded organizations whose foreign policy objectives align with the stated security interests of governments in Abu Dhabi and Tel Aviv. Despite the lofty words in the mission statements, observers said the launch of the Turkish Democracy Project appears to be aimed more at promoting the interests of Turkey’s regional opponents than defending liberal democracy.

Sarah Leah Whitson, executive director of the Organization for Democracy in the Arab World Now, also known as DAWN, a Washington-based think tank focused on the Middle East and set up in the wake of Jamal Khashoggi’s murder, said the background of those behind the organization suggests a political purpose rather than one. humanely.

Sarah Leah Whitson said: “To target a flawed democracy in the Middle East, while its board members advocate and promote absolute monarchies in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, the apartheid state in Israel, and dictatorship in Egypt, this suggests that this group is a political focus rather than a political focus group. based on values.

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