WASHINGTON – When Turkey’s semi-official newspaper Yeni Safak called for urgent action in forming a 57-nation “Army of Islam” to besiege and attack Israel, a suggestion undoubtedly approved with at least a wink and nod by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, it would signal the possible intent to create the largest military force on the planet – one nearly as large as the total population of the Jewish state.
The report came just ahead of the summit of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and was published under the headline, “What if an Army of Islam was formed against Israel?” It was translated by the Middle East Media Research Institute.
But it wasn’t a rhetorical question. It was actually a suggestion to combine the military forces of all Islamic countries to overwhelm the Israeli army in manpower, budget and equipment – even boasting with statistics.
On December 12, 2017, ahead of the summit of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Istanbul, the Turkish daily Yeni Şafak, which is close to Erdoğan and his ruling AKP party, published an article titled “A Call for Urgent Action,” which also appeared on the paper’s website under the title “What If an Army of Islam Was Formed against Israel?” The article called on the 57 member states of the OIC to form a joint “Army of Islam” to besiege and attack the state of Israel. It notes that such a joint army will greatly exceed the Israeli army in manpower, equipment and budget, and presents statistics to prove this. It also advocates establishing joint bases for the army’s ground, air and naval forces that will arrive from all over the Muslim world to besiege Israel, while noting that Pakistan, as the only nuclear country, has “a special status” among the OIC countries. An interactive map provides information on military forces stationed in various locations and the role they can play in the potential joint Muslim attack on Israel.
Much of the information in the article was provided by Turkey’s SADAT International Defense and Consulting Company, which provides consultancy on defense and warfare, both conventional and unconventional, and on military organization, training and gear. The company promotes pan-Islamic military cooperation. According to its mission statement, it seeks “to establish defense collaboration and defense industry cooperation among Islamic countries, to help the Islamic world take its rightful place among the superpowers by providing … strategic consultancy and training services to the militaries and homeland security forces of Islamic countries.”
The SADAT company was founded by Erdoğan’s senior adviser on military affairs, retired General Adnan Tanrıverdi, and is chaired by his son, Melih Tanrıverdi. Adnan Tanrıverdi served in the Turkish army’s artillery corps and is an expert on asymmetric warfare. He was dismissed from the Turkish military in 1996 for his Islamist leanings.
In the report, Israel is described as “the outpost of the new Crusade and a dagger in the heart of Islam,” and “the eyes, ears and fist of the Christian World.”
“If the OIC member states unite and form a joint military force, it will be the largest army in the world,” the newspaper report said. “These countries’ total population is 1,674,526,931. The number of soldiers in active service in these countries is at least 5,206,100. Their [overall] military defense budget, of $174.7 billion, is also worthy of emphasis.”
It continues by contrasting the size of this potential Islamic force with Israel’s military capabilities.
“As for Israel, it is significantly inferior,” the report said. “The population of this country, which attempted to occupy Jerusalem while surrounded by Muslim states, is 8,049,314. Note that the population of Istanbul alone exceeds 14 million. The number of soldiers in active service in the [Israeli] occupation forces is 160,000, and [Israel’s] defense budget is approximately $15.6 billion.
The report suggested the formation of a “Jerusalem Task Group” to take steps to form an Islamic army that would besiege Israel.
“In a possible military operation, the first step is expected to involve 250,000 soldiers, and the establishment of joint land, air and naval bases for use in the short term,” explained the report. It would include the mobilization of 500 tanks and armored vehicles, 100 war planes, 500 attack helicopters and 50 warships and submarines.
Interactive maps provided information on specific bases and operations against Israel.
“Turkey will serve as an important headquarters during the operation, due to its land, air and naval infrastructures,” the report continued. “The Turkish army, which carried out ‘Operation Euphrates Shield’ [in Syria in 2017] with great success, is now ranked the world’s seventh strongest army, and the second largest army among the NATO powers. Turkey has approximately 4,000 tanks and 1,000 war planes and other aircraft. Its navy made significant progress during the last years, with 194 vessels at its disposal.”
The report also noted Pakistan, with its nuclear arsenal, “has important status among the 57 Muslim countries.”
In a statement, Malaysian Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein described President Donald Trump’s Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital as a blow to Muslims, and added: “The Malaysian armed forces are ready to fulfill their duty regarding Jerusalem.”