Eric: So, what does all this mean? Mark Dubowitz joins us, CEO of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and an advisor to the Trump administration on Iran issues. So Mark, before we get to Iran which you know so well, do you think countries are really going to take their citizens back to join ISIS? I mean you got France and Germany, Iraq, the Palestinian Authority. I mean, do they have any choice?
Mark: Well, Eric, I think they’re very reluctant obviously, to take back these ISIS fighters because many of them are hardened terrorists who ultimately could find themselves released back into European society and become terrorists once again. And it’s also very difficult to separate who are the hardened terrorists from those who can be rehabilitated separate the incorrigible from the corrigible. But ultimately, this is Turkey’s responsibility. It was Erdogan who opened his border to foreign fighters, to jihadists that were coming in and crossing that border into Syria, and he’s also created havoc now by invading Syria and forcing the Kurds who are guarding these prisons to fight against his military rather than keeping these terrorists under lock and key.
Eric: So basically, Erdogan has made his bed, now it’s time for him to stay in it.
Mark: Yeah, I think that’s right. I mean, I think the responsibility is also with the Europeans. I mean, they’re either going to have to take these prisoners back into European territory, or they’re going to have to help the Kurds build the appropriate facilities and provide them with the financing to keep these prisoners where they are. But ultimately, the Europeans are also going to have to pull their weight.
Eric: There are about 10,000 or so ISIS prisoners that we believe at 2,500 from the European countries. I mean, let’s say you’re in France and there was a bulk of them from France, they’re now being held by Turkey, what does France do with them? I mean let’s say you bring them back; do you keep them in prison? Do they get due process if they’re considered terrorists? What kind of legal system is there, or do they get really basically a gitmo situation? And can they be rehabilitated?
Mark: France doesn’t have gitmo. I mean I think the Bush administration made a wise decision in creating gitmo so that we could deal with these hardened prisoners. It’s very difficult to deal with them through the normal legal processes and that’s why the French don’t want them back because they understand that through the normal judicial system, some of these terrorists may end up getting released and becoming terrorists again. So the French I think really want to stay where they are. And if they do, they’re going to have to help the Kurds. They’re also going to have to work with our administration in stopping Erdogan from invading this territory and fighting the Kurds who are otherwise our last line of defense against these ISIS terrorists.
Eric: Well then why doesn’t Erdogan step up? I mean as you say, he caused this crisis, so why doesn’t he step up and have Turkey build these prisons. I mean, he’s responsible for it now, he’s pushing on that 20-mile safety zone. The Kurds are the victims in this, so why doesn’t Erdogan and his country step up, you know, and take responsibility?
Mark: You’re exactly right. Erdogan should be stepping up. Unfortunately, Erdogan right now is using these ISIS prisoners as well as all refugees as a threat against Europe. He keeps threatening to basically unleash these refugees, send them all home, send them to Europe. Europe, as you know, has faced a massive refugee crisis over the years which has only intensified their national security crisis, and as Americans, you know, we should also be careful because the European security services in some respects, are our last line o defense against a terrorist jumping on a plane in Paris or Frankfurt or London and flying to Washington or Chicago or New York. So these overburdened European security services are again, our last line of defense, and the last thing we want is another refugee crisis engulfing Europe.
Eric: That is so important. Erdogan is basically, in your view, weaponizing these terrorists against us and our Western allies.
Eric: you just mentioned the threat of terrorism, let me read you that state department report that has come out yesterday about all this: “homegrown terrorists, inspired by ISIS ideology, planned and executed attacks against soft targets, including hotels, restaurants, stadiums, and other public spaces.” Yet it says, “Iran remains the world’s worst sponsor of terrorism. The regime has spent nearly one billion dollars per year to support terrorist groups that serve as its proxies and expand its malign influence across the globe.” And Mark you yourself, personally and your group the foundation for defense of democracies have been targeted by Tehran for the good work that you’re doing for freedom and liberty across the globe. Do you think Iran with ever get the message? Do you think Iran can ever change their behavior? Do you think the mullahs and the theocracy in Tehran will ever pull back from this radical jihadist philosophy that they have that has spread terrorism across the world?
Mark: Well Eric, I don’t. I mean, and I think it’s always really important to draw a real clear distinction between clerical military dictatorship that occupies Iran and Iran itself. I mean, the Iranian people, the majority of whom despise this dictatorship and want to have a normal life, a free and prosperous life and have been living for 40 years under this kind of repression at home and having to deal with the regime that practices aggression abroad. And as you quite rightly said, I mean they spend billions of dollars supporting terrorism, supporting Bashar Assad’s brutality in Syria. They are the leading state sponsor of terrorism this year, but they have been for many years and they have the resources as a state, as an oil-rich state, to fund this kind of malign activity. And as well as you noted, thank you for noting this, they threatened me, they threatened my organization, and they’re a regime that really threatens all Americans because they are trying to build nuclear weapons and the intercontinental ballistic missiles to deliver them. That’s a significant threat to the homeland above and beyond terrorist threat they represent.
Eric: Nuclear weapons as well as plots that they’ve been busted on both in Europe against citizens and against Americans and plots here right on US soil convicted, allegedly they say by Tehran. Mark Dubowitz, the foundation for defense of democracies. Mark, thank you.