All posts by Gary H. Johnson, Jr.

Senior Advisor for International Security Affairs at the Victory Institute Level I Researcher at Wikistrat - www.wikistrat.com

Iran’s Shifting Posture on Syria

Stabilizing the Resistance Axis 

by Gary H. Johnson, Jr. and Caitlin Barthold

 

IRGC Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari
Jafari in the Spotlight

“A number of members of the Qods Force are present in Syria, but this does not constitute a military presence.” -Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari

Iranian military presence in Syria, even in an advisory and ‘intellectual’ role, has major implications for the region.

Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari, the commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, has announced that IRGC and Quds Force operatives are in Syria and in Lebanon in an advisory capacity.  Jafari has confirmed Iran is willing to take a more direct role in the Levant if Syria is attacked.

The full implications of Iran’s willingness to intervene in the case of Western-backed interference in Syria is at this point uncertain.  Jafari did not promise a military response should foreign action proceed or the likelihood of carrying out the security agreement that the two countries have in such an eventuality.   The “conditions” on the ground in Syria would determine whether Iran acted or not, he said, remaining aloof as to the full extent of the considerations at play.

To clarify the IRGC’s management of the developments thus far, Jafari volunteered that defending Syria is a “point of pride” for Iran.  The Major General delivered the baseline reading of the situation from the perspective of the regime in Tehran:

“In comparison with the scale of support the Arab countries have given to opposition groups in Syria and their military presence, we haven’t taken any action there”.

Iran’s involvement in the Syrian conflict and the tense situation in Lebanon, even in an advisory role is worrisome to Western officials.  The Quds Force division of the IRGC has been responsible for Iran’s foreign operations.  Initially designated a terrorist organization October 25, 2007, the IRGC, the Quds Force and its commander Mohammad Ali Jafari, are all listed on the U.S. Treasury Department’s July 2012 list of IRGC Affiliates.

Western officials have intelligence that Iran has been transferring weapons to Syria via Iraq, in violation of the terms of a UN arms embargo (part of international sanctions).  U.S. policymakers are particularly concerned about this development.  Lawmakers are promising to reconsider the aid sent to Iraq if the country continues to cooperate with the Islamic Establishment of Iran in the transfer of arms and personnel. Over the last five years, the Treasury Department has issued a number of sanctions on the IRGC, its Navy and Airforce and has blacklisted many of the aircraft used in the transit of the weapons in response to Iran’s actions.

Jafari’s announcement of the IRGC’s regional, extraterritorial activities, is particularly important because of the impact that the Iranian forces could have on the dynamics of conflict resolution in Syria.  Sources confirm that transferring knowledge and experience to the Syrian army is not the limit of their advisory role.  Iran has placed a physical presence in Syria to manage its interests, since the halls of Tehran’s political bureaus view Syria as a key in Tehran’s ‘axis of resistance’ against both the Sunnis, aligned in the GCC, Egypt and Turkey and against the Zionist entity housed in Israel.  Iran’s strategic presence in Syria widens the impact of the actions and posture of  Hezbollah in Lebanon.

The IRGC presence in Syria confirms that the conflict has evolved, the opposition resistance has matured into a capable fighting force, and that solutions for stablizing the 18-month conflict are not yet in sight.  Indeed, tensions are bound to rise.

With Iran’s involvement at the advisory level, Western officials cannot help but wonder if this overt move by the leadership in Tehran signifies that Iran, uncowed by U.S. and E.U. sanctions, is willing to extend its foreign presence through military means to defend its interests and increase the influence of its hand on the outcome of what can only be described as a Civil War in Syria.

Apparently the presence of Quds Force advisors in Lebanon was news to President Sleiman, who requested a formal explanation of what Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps members were doing inside Lebanon. The Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman, Ramin Mehmanparast, immediately denied the presence of the IRGC in Syria and Lebanon, claiming that Maj. General Jafari’s comments on the matter were twisted by Western and Arabic intelligentsia.

Iran and Egypt
Cairo: Iran FM Salehi with Egypt President Morsi

A scheduled meeting between Egypt, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Iran, went forward on Monday, September 17 without Saudi representation.  Egypt’s young President Morsi proposed the formation of a contact group of Islamic regional leaders for solving the Syrian problem. The initial stakeholder meeting of the concern provided the platform for Iran to announce a nine point plan to reconcile the opposition rebels with Bashar al Assad’s regime, indicating Iran’s belief that the solution for Syria “lies only with Syria and within the Syrian family, in partnership with international and regional organizations.” 

Foreign Minister salehi
FM Salehi Clarifies Iranian Intentions

After strenuously denying Iranian involvement in military aid to Syria, the Iranian Foreign Minister Salehi held talks with his Syrian FM counterpart, Walid Muallem on September 19.  This ministerial level meeting laid the groundwork for Salehi’s meeting with Bashar al Assad.

Bashar Al Assad laid out the primary reason the Baathist regime should be saved to Salehi with “The ongoing battle is targeting the whole of the resistance axis, not just Syria.”

Hezbollah Chief
Hezbollah Sec. Gen. Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah

 

It is only in this light – through the lens of the axis of power against Israel made up of Iran, Syria and Hezbollah – that the willingness of Assad to provide chemical weapons to Hezbollah becomes a serious concern.

The former head of Syria’s chemical arsenal, Major General Adnan Sillu, defected in June.  In talks with The Times in Britain, Sillu asserted his reason for leaving the regime on moral grounds. “We were in a serious discussion about the use of chemical weapons, including how we would use them and in what areas. We discussed this as a last resort — such as if the regime lost control of an important area such as Aleppo.”  

Adnan confirmed that the transfer of chemical weapons to Hezbollah was on the table, “They wanted to place warheads with the chemical weapons on missiles — to transfer them this way to Hezbollah. It was for use against Israel, of course.”

 

Gary H. Johnson, Jr. is the Senior Advisor for International Security Affairs at the Victory Institute and a Level II Researcher at Wikistrat.

Caitlin Barthold is a Researcher at Wikistrat.

Hat tip: Jennifer Jackson, Wikistrat Researcher

Modifying Pakistan’s Behavior

Secretary Clinton’s Haqqani Diplomacy

One of the main goals of statecraft and diplomacy is to affect behavior changes in state and non-state actors via the application of leverage. The timing of the decision to designate the Haqqani Network as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) at the State Department represents a case study in Secretary Clinton’s effective use of diplomacy to modify the behavior of Pakistan’s civilian government.

Presented in the media these past weeks as a symbolic, internal maneuver, the designation of the Haqqani Network was actually a step toward labeling the state of Pakistan, and its Inter-Services Intelligence Agency (ISI), as a state sponsor of terror.

The seeming hesitancy of the Obama Administration to move beyond the designation of a few key leaders of the Haqqani by the U.S. Treasury to a full form sanction of the group as a whole is only intelligible in terms of U.S.-Pakistan relations.

The American people, for years, have been following the bloody exploits of the Haqqani Network. Hundreds of terror operations and IED attacks that have killed NATO Coalition soldiers, Afghan security forces, and civilians have convinced both houses of the U.S. Congress that the Haqqani Network is not just a faction of the Taliban, but should be recognized and dealt with as a stand alone terror organization. The question at bar, this last month, has been whether or not the ISI is complicit in or influential in the Haqqani Network’s activities.

 

Salala Incident Frays US-Pak Relations

U.S.-Pakistani ties, long strained by the Bush and Obama usage of intelligence driven drone strike assassinations in Pakistan’s tribal belt, lay nearly severed after the unannounced kill or capture mission on a compound in Abottabad, Pakistan netted the mastermind of the 9/11 atrocity, Osama bin Laden, last May. The relationship, termed an essential “partnership” by a young Obama Administration, turned icy in November after NATO helicopters and fighter aircraft mistakenly attacked two check posts in the Salala region of Pakistan across the Afghan border, killing 24 and wounding 13 Pak security forces.

The immediate impact of the Salala incident was felt in the closure of the NATO supply lines by the Pakistani government. Five months later, on April 12, Pakistan’s Parliament passed a 14-point resolution demanding an apology and assurances from the United States.

By May 2012, the prospect of competition with Iran thawed the U.S.-Pakistan divide, when it became common knowledge that India, Pakistan’s avowed mortal enemy, was financing the second phase of the Iranian port’s development.

Sensing that the time was right to patch up relations, the Obama Administration moved to influence the posture of Pakistan’s three distinct nodes of power: the Pak Military, the ISI, and the civilian government.

Strangely, the diplomatic process began with a continuation of the criticism of Pakistan. U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, on June 7, claimed that the United States was “reaching the limit” of its patience with Pakistan’s inability to knock out cells of terrorists launching cross border strikes into Afghanistan.

On June 14, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar responded to Leon Panetta’s claim that the United States was losing patience with Pakistan for not doing more to disrupt terror cells, saying “Pakistan still wants an unconditional apology and reassurances that the Salala type of incident does not happen again.”

Notably, Khar’s call for an apology fell on the heels of a defense panel for the Senate Appropriations Committee on June 13, in which Senator Dianne Feinstein asked Leon Panetta if a U.S. apology which acknowledged mistakes made on both sides would be in order if the national security of the United States and the proper maintenance of NATO supply lines would indeed be best served by a “positive relationship” with Pakistan.

Within weeks an apology was decided upon. On July 2, Hillary Clinton dialed up Foreign Minister Khar and apologized for Pakistani losses suffered in the Salala incident and assured her that the United States was committed to working closely with both Pakistan and Afghanistan to make sure the mistakes were not repeated. The Obama Administration announced that it would release $1.2 billion to the Coalition Support Funds in conjunction with Secretary Clinton’s gesture. FM Khar, accepting the apology, waved the demand for fees along the supply line. NATO’s supply lines through Karachi were restored.

 

The Case Against the Haqqani Network

Secretary Clinton’s close working relationships with the late Special Envoy to the AfPak, Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, and with former Obama Advisor for the Central Region, Dennis Ross, in his stint at the State Department instilled her with a sharp awareness of the importance of wielding leverage to shape diplomatic negotiations. To successfully re-forge the strategic U.S.-Pakistani partnership, Hillary would have to sidestep the Pakistan Military leadership and the ISI to work directly with the civilian government.

What no one saw coming in the effort to mend U.S.-Pakistan relations, though, was the capacity of American scholars and researchers to provide Secretary Clinton the leverage she had been missing for years – proof of the Haqqani Network’s links to the ISI and overwhelming evidence of its symbiotic relationship with the culture of jihadi terror and criminal enterprise.

 

Rassler and Brown Reveal Haqqani-ISI Ties

In 2005, the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point launched the Harmony Program to release translated documents of the Al-Qaeda Network captured on the fields of Iraq and Afghanistan for scholarly research. The documents were gathered on the battlefield, so they often lack contextual markers. Little emphasis was placed on captured Urdu and Pashto documents, initially. However, by 2011, the Harmony Program had delved into thousands of letters by Haqqani leaders in the ’80s and ’90s, and over a thousand pages of propaganda magazines released by the group from 1989 to 1993.

After analyzing these captured documents from the Defense Department’s Harmony Database and mounting an investigative project complete with interviews of Pakistanis and Afghans that had conducted business with the Haqqani Network, Don Rassler and Vahid Brown released a startling report on July 14, 2011.

The Haqqani Nexus and the Evolution of al-Qaida drew the picture of an organization that operated for four decades on local, regional and global levels, “…the most under appreciated dimension of which is the global character of the Haqqani network and the central role it has played in the evolution of al-Qa’ida and the global jihadi movement.”

Rassler and Brown relate that Jalaluddin Haqqani called for jihad on the central government in Kabul a full six years before the Russian intervention in 1979 and collected funds from Gulf donors and facilitated fighters in Loya Paktiya long before Abdullah Azzam began recruiting Arabs for the internationalized jihad.

The focus on the Arab phenomenon led by Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan masked our understanding of the crucial space provided by the Haqqani for Taliban and Al-Qaeda jihadi activity. Indeed, Jalaluddin’s training camp at Zhawara would be retrofitted and fortified by bin Laden in the late ’80s and by the late ’90s it was the central training center for new al Qaeda recruits. As the war wound down in Afghanistan and Russian troops withdrew, Jalaluddin increased his jihadist rhetoric, pointing to America as the next enemy Islam would face. To drive the message home, Jalaluddin began releasing a propaganda magazine in Pashto entitled Manba’ al-Jihad, which translates to The Fountainhead of Jihad.

The Harmony Program report crystallized the connections between the ISI and the Haqqani into historical fact. During the mujahidin war against Russia, a third of the supplies directed to the Afghan front from the ISI went through the Haqqani base at Zhawara. Jalaluddin was one of the ISI’s favorite field commanders. The capture of Khost in 1991 was a joint ISI-Haqqani operation. Communications logs between Haqqani commanders and the ISI in this period, available in the Harmony Database, show a heavily involved intelligence agency, shaping the activities of the inter-linked Afghan mujahidin.

Jalaluddin Haqqani joined the Taliban in 1995. It is clear that the Haqqani Network’s leadership grew closer with Al-Qaeda following 9/11, due to its nexus capacity to provide training space, ideological recruits drawn from a pool of roughly 10,000 to 15,000 fighters, and protection for those devising terrorist attacks in Afghanistan against Coalition forces and beyond. The relationship has proved multi-generational with the hand-over of operational command by Jalaluddin to his son Sirajuddin in 2005.

The CTC Harmony Program Haqqani Nexus report shows the ISI’s three decades long connections to and strategic manipulation of the Haqqani Network. This relationship is at the heart of U.S-Pakistan tensions, today. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mullen, from 2008 through 2011 issued this double-gaming complaint to his Pakistani military counterparts on numerous occasions.

The July report hit home. By November 2011, a sixth Haqqani leader had been designated as a terrorist by the United States. And on December 7, 2011 Senator Richard Burr (R-NC) along with 15 co-sponsors introduced the legislation marked up as S.1959: The Haqqani Network Terrorist Designation Act of 2012 to blacklist the entire organization.

 

Dressler Maps the Haqqani Strategic Threat

By March of 2012, Jeffrey Dressler of the Institute for the Study of War released an in-depth analysis of the strategic threat that the Haqqani Network represents to Afghan and U.S. interests. According to Dressler, all indications as of March 2012 were that the relations between the ISI and the Haqqani network would likely “deepen and expand” as the Haqqani proved their resilience and capacity to take up where the Afghan Taliban force, fighting Coalition forces in the south, diminished in presence and effectiveness.

As of September 1, 2012, the United States had launched 313 drone strikes in Pakistan, 95% of which were in North and South Waziristan. One of the major targets is Miramshah. According to the Dressler report, “The Haqqanis run a shadow government administration in Miramshah and its neighboring villages, which includes courts, recruiting centers, tax offices, and training centers for recruits and suicide bombers…[and] continue to use North Waziristan as their command and supply hub for the fight across the border in Afghanistan, despite U.S. attacks targeting senior al-Qaeda and affiliated terrorists under the protection of the Haqqanis…”

Complete with infiltration routes, base and safe house locations, network leadership and “spectacular attack” maps, the ISW report, The Haqqani Network: A Strategic Threat, identifies nine northern Afghan power brokers assassinated by the Haqqani in 2010 and 2011, which includes one provincial Governor, a member of Afghanistan’s Parliament and two District Governors.

Notably, Dressler’s assessment of the growing Haqqani threat and its capacity to destabilize Kabul leads him to conclude that it will take at least two full fighting seasons to quell the Haqqani advance. In this, he calls for a halt to any further troop withdrawals after the September 2012 draw down to 68,000 and notes that only an aggressive offensive in Loya Paktia could degrade the insurgent threat.

 

Peters Isolates the Haqqani Finance Network

Counter terror finance expert, Gretchen Peters, who awakened the world to the realities of the Afghan poppy culture in the 2009 release Seeds of Terror: How Heroin is Bankrolling the Taliban and Al Qaeda, joined forces with the Harmony Program at West Point’s Counter Terrorism Center in October of 2010. The result was the July 2012 report Haqqani Network Financing: The Evolution of an Industry that argues the case that “…over three decades of war, the Haqqanis have evolved into an efficient, transnational jihadi industry…” For the first time, extensive proof drawn from the Harmony Database combined with subcontractor interviews with local sources close to the group presents the Haqqani Network as a Mafia-styled group in both structure and operations, whose financial activities are centered around extortion, kidnapping for ransom, smuggling, taxing other smuggling rings and money laundering. The Haqqanis are involved in real estate, have shadow ownership stakes in construction outfits as well as logistics companies and import-export firms. The network is naturally at the head of a madrassa network, and draws on donations from patrons and partners in the Gulf, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The Haqqani Network’s primary vulnerabilities appear to be its family-centric command structure and occasional cash flow and resupply interruptions. The Peters report is instructive on how to tackle the group: “Although the group is now under considerable military pressure, the Haqqanis have never had to deal with a sustained and systematic campaign against their financial infrastructure. In partnership with the ongoing tactical campaign, a stepped-up effort to identify and disrupt Haqqani business activities could degrade the network’s capacity to project power and conduct violence.”

What becomes apparent through the evolution of the Haqqani Network’s financial history is that in 2005, with the hand over of operational power from Jalaluddin to his son, Sirajuddin, the group embarked on a diversification campaign that ensured complete autonomy from Pakistani governmental control: “Some analysts credit Sirajuddin with the vision to muscle into illicit enterprises such as timber and chromite smuggling, and say the network has become flush with money under his direction and has achieved greater independence from the ISI.”

Perhaps the most lucrative niche in the endeavor to consolidate power in Waziristan and Loya Paktia is the collection of protection money from contractors working with the NATO Coalition, USAID and other NGOs during road and project construction, since “…the Haqqanis extort between 10 and 25 percent of the value of each construction project in their control zones…” Thus, the United States, in its effort to fund development efforts, may be paying for the guns and explosives that will eventually kill those that would benefit by the public works, not to mention American soldiers.

The limits of uncovering the licit and illicit trails of Haqqani Network finance are, at present, limited to the upper rungs of the organization. Information on mid to low-level Haqqani fund handlers is scarce. Some in Loya Paktiya claim that “…the network uses trusted Hawaladars and traders in the bazaars to help save money, and U.S. military intelligence is aware that trusted cash couriers help to transport money to and from network commanders inside Afghanistan.” Apparently, trusted hawaladars often hale from the Zadran tribe.

In the concluding solutions offered in her book Seeds of Terror, Gretchen Peters speaks to the problem of illegal money transfers: “Donor nations should support, even subsidize, efforts to help Afghanistan and Pakistan establish cost-free reporting mechanisms for the hawala network and use the vast data bank of information the hawaladars have to help fight crime, rather than move criminal money.”

Had officials in Washington moved on this suggestion and pushed Kabul to regulate the hawala culture in Afghanistan three years ago, would the Haqqani Network be as robust, today? It is hard to tell. In fact, perhaps one of the most disturbing elements of the Peters report was the fact that investigators following threads of Haqqani corruptions often followed the source to Kabul. One former investigator of the Afghan Threat Finance Cell, remarked “Every time we pulled back the cover on an illegal business connected to the Haqqanis, it led back to someone senior in the Karzai government.”

 

Pakistan’s Modified Behavior

The power of American scholarship and the Harmony Program’s effectiveness in modifying state and non-state actors should not be dismissed. That modification capacity was apparent, first, here in America.

Following the release of Rassler and Brown’s July 2011 report The Haqqani Nexus and the Evolution of al-Qaida, elements of the U.S. Senate mobilized to blacklist the Haqqani Network.

Recognizing the new dynamic of anti-Haqqani sentiment in U.S. political circles, Ayman al-Zawahiri, the new leader of Al-Qaeda, perhaps too impulsively, sought to consolidate the Haqqani Network into the Afghan war effort and moved to capitalize on the closure of the NATO supply routes after the Salala incident.

Bill Roggio of the Long War Journal, on January 3, 2012 announced that Al-Qaeda had brokered a deal over the course of three meetings in late 2011 to unify the major elements of the Taliban into an anti-US alliance called Shura-e-Murakeba. The alliance included the Tehreek-e-Taliban of Pakistan (TTP), the Haqqani Network, the Afghan Taliban, and two groups of fighters loyal to Hafiz Gul Bahadar and Mullah Nazir. By declaring a ceasefire against Pakistan targets and redirecting all energies against NATO Coalition forces, the alliance sought to remove any immediate cause for reciprocal legislative actions by Pakistan’s civilian government by removing the TTP thorn from the side of the Pak Military leadership.

 

Reconciliation with Haqqani not a Factor in Designation

Many reports in recent weeks characterized the Obama Administration’s hesitancy to blacklist the Haqqani Network as a blow to negotiations and an obstacle to peace talks with the Taliban.

Jeffrey Dressler’s September 5, 2012 background report, The Haqqani Network: A Foreign Terrorist Organization, acknowledges that preliminary efforts in August of 2011 to reach out to the Haqqani Network for talks were pursued by the State Department, but notes the engagement effort did not amount to a negotiation: “Instead, the Haqqanis responded with two massive attacks on the tenth anniversary of 9/11…. Furthermore, in March 2012, the Taliban abruptly ended all outreach efforts and have since been adamant that they are no longer interested in talks.”

Concerns that the designation of the Haqqani Network as a Foreign Terrorist Organization at the State Department could upend peace negotiations with the Haqqani Network or the Taliban are unfounded. As to the Haqqani, all evidence points to an intractable, irreconcilable, profiteering and extraordinarily lethal jihadist entity aiming to destabilize Kabul and kill Coalition soldiers.

 

The ISI Chief Travels to DC

The case against the Haqqani Network built by Rassler and Brown, Dressler, and Peters over the course of the last year amounted to the proof and evidence Hillary Clinton required to link the ISI to Haqqani activities. It was no longer the agitation of a frustrated Joint Chiefs Chairman.

On July 27, 2012, both the House and the Senate of the U.S. Congress, voted unanimously to blacklist the Haqqani Network. Less than a week later, the ISI chief, Lieutenant General Zaheer ul-Islam arrived in Washington for a scheduled sit down with his counterpart, CIA Director General David Petraeus and the AfPak Special Envoy Marc Grossman at Langley and a policy meeting at the State Department with Lt. General Douglas E. Lute, President Obama’s Afghanistan and Pakistan coordinator.

The night before the official meetings, Lt. General Zaheer ul-Islam would have dinner with the Pakistani Ambassador Sherry Rehman on his visit. Senator Dianne Feinstein, Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Senator John Kerry, Chair of the Senate Foreign Relation Committee, and Congressman Mike Rogers, the Ranking Member of the House Intelligence Committee and the CIA Deputy Director Mike Morrell dined with the ISI chief.

Details of the meeting have not yet leaked to the press, but what is certain is that the ISI Chief left Washington fully cognizant of the capacity of the scholar and expert community in the United States to track any future ISI involvement in the supply of weapons and munitions to the Haqqani network.

 

Pakistan’s Parliament Moves on Anti-Terror Proposal

On August 10, President Obama signed into law the bill passed by the U.S. Congress to push Secretary Clinton to designate the Haqqani Network as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) at the State Department or to provide her reasons for not designating the group in a written report to Congress within 30 days.

It was hard to determine, why Clinton would not immediately add the Haqqani Network to the list. On a trip to Asia at the end of August, Clinton shook off attempts by journalists to get a yes or no on the question of designation, saying “I’d like to underscore that we are putting steady pressure on the Haqqanis.”

A week later, on Wednesday, September 6, the Pakistani Parliament approved the proposal for a new bill known as The Fair Trial Act of 2012. The bill revamped Pakistan’s internal efforts at fighting terrorism by providing law enforcement with the capacity to utilize modern techniques to collect evidence and increased the civilian regulatory control over the powers of the intelligence and law enforcement agencies. More importantly, the Cabinet approved the Anti-Terrorism Amendment to the 1997 Act, which strengthens Pakistan’s capacity to freeze and seize assets and force the forfeiture of assets and properties of those responsible for financing terrorism. The amendment, which was initially drafted two years ago, was now in play.

The following day, on September 7, after news of this Pakistani Anti-Terror Amendment was approved, Secretary Clinton announced her decision to designate the Haqqani Network as an FTO at the State Department in a press briefing in Vladivostok, Russia. Notably, the blacklisting of the group criminalizes “providing material support or resources to, or engaging in other transactions with the Haqqani Network” and freezes all interests in property under U.S. jurisdiction.

 

Conclusion: Hillary Clinton’s Haqqani Diplomacy

Pakistan’s Washington Embassy spokesman responded to the news of the Haqqani Designation, saying “This is an internal matter for the United States.”  Hauntingly, the spokesman added “The Haqqanis are not Pakistani nationals.”

Armed with the ability to sanction individuals in the Gulf and Afghanistan that sponsor the Haqqani Network, the State Department now holds the fresh prospect of the Pakistani civilian government sanctioning those financing the Haqqani terrorists in Pakistan.

The possibility of designating Pakistan as a state sponsor of terror was averted through Hillary Clinton’s nimble usage of leverage to modify the behavior of the ISI and civilian government. Thanks to this diligent statecraft of the Secretary, aided by the American academic community’s case against the Haqqani Network, the U.S.-Pakistan strategic partnership was mended.

U.S. officials responding to the designation assured the concerned journalists in attendance, “We are making absolutely no effort to begin a process to designate Pakistan as a state sponsor of terrorism.”

 

Gary H. Johnson, Jr. is the Senior Advisor for International Security Affairs at the Victory Institute and a Level I Researcher at Wikistrat

 

 

 

The Boko Haram Phenomenon

Islamists Lay Siege To West Africa

Defining America’s core national interests in Afghanistan has dogged Western analysts and policy makers for over a decade. Scanning the horizon, Al Qaeda’s new leadership has expanded its recruiting and training facilities by franchising its brand to Takfiris in the Saudi Peninsula, Al Shabaab in Somalia and Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb based in Algeria. America’s focus on piracy and terrorist activity on the Yemeni and Somali coasts, combined with recent Islamist agitations in the Sinai and Al Qaeda cells on the front lines in the Syria uprising generates a threat matrix centered in the Greater Middle East. Scant attention is given to West Africa’s growing jihadist elements.

From Libya to the Atlantic, well-armed Salafi extremists are implementing Sharia by intimidating and terrorizing Christians, Animists and Sufi Muslims. The Mali crisis has reached a critical point. After secular Tuareg separatists captured northern Mali, a military junta took over the government and then handed power back to a new civilian leadership. Unfortunately, in the interim, al-Qaeda linked Salafi jihadists of Ansar Dine and MUJWA (Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa) overran the NMLA Tuaregs in the major cities in the north: Timbuktu, Kidal and Gao. The Islamists immediately set about smashing Sufi shrines, implementing Sharia in schools and raising child conscripts for their militias.

As of September 1, MUJWA militants had taken the central town of Douentza and chose to execute an Algerian Diplomat after holding him and six other consular figures captive for months. Fearing an assault on the capital, Bamako, the Mali security forces have established a military staging area near the town of Mopti and are rapidly training 300 youth militia to help hold off the Islamist advance.

To provide a sense of scope, the Syrian civil war has seen over 200,000 displaced while nearly 500,000 Malians have been driven from their homes. Al-Qaeda in the Maghreb have been active in Mali. An unconfirmed drone strike hit a convoy of AQIM fighters in June. In May, Pakistani jihadists and Boko Haram radicals were reportedly operating in Mali’s northern cities alongside Ansar Dine. It is evident that weapons from the revolution which overthrew Gaddafi in Libya are now in the hands of Salafi radicals throughout West Africa.

Mali was once considered one of West Africa’s most stable democracies. The rapid conquest of north Mali by Islamists may further devolve into the collapse of the state in Bamako. The stunning capacity of well-armed religious militants to destabilize the Mali democracy has placed new urgency on Western powers to guarantee the survival of Nigeria’s democracy – the tenth largest oil producer in the world.

Like in Afghanistan, defining America’s core national interests in Nigeria will prove a challenging task for the next administration. Nigeria is experiencing a crisis of American-inspired Federalism. Boko Haram is but a symptom of that crisis.

Islam has laid siege Nigeria’s federal system. The Central Bank of Nigeria is set to adopt Islamic Finance. Out of Nigeria’s 36 states, 12 have opted to institute Sharia Law. Should Nigeria be destabilized by Boko Haram militancy or fractured along religious or political lines, faltering oil production in the Niger delta would naturally follow.

The Boko Haram phenomenon is not, at present, a direct threat to America; however, the August 2011 attack on the UN facility in Nigeria’s capital and the fact that the 2009 underwear bomber, who hailed from Nigeria, was set to task by the AQAP charismatic, Anwar al Awlaki, has led the U.S. Congress to undertake studies of the group to determine the best policy in managing the terror threat.

It is difficult to pin down the inspiration or define the goals of Boko Haram. However, it is possible to construct a time line of their attacks, which seem to have begun in earnest with the assassination of Sheikh Ja’afar Mahmoud Adam as the 2007 presidential elections approached. Sheikh Adam was critical of the militant bent of the group’s leader Mohamed Yusuf.

The name of the original mosque established by Yusuf in Maiduguri was the “Ibn Taimiyyah Masjid.”  The teachings of the 13th Century scholar, Ibn Taymiyya, figure prominently in the Salafi ideology of al-Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood, via ibn Wahhab, Sayyed Qutb and Mawdudi. In the 1980s, Taymiyya’s powerful treatise Public Duties In Islam: The Institution of the Hisba was released in translated form by The Islamic Foundation in Leicester, England which has a dawa office in Kano, Nigeria. Throughout northern Nigeria, parallel Islamic courts and policing methods were established in the states which adopted Sharia after the nation’s 1999 move from military rule to a federalist democracy.

Notably, the federal government of Nigeria allowed each state to determine its own path; however, Sharia, if adopted, was only to be applicable to the Islamic citizens of the individual states. The implementation of Sharia was left to the morality police in the north, known as The Hisba. These groups have outlawed drinking alcohol and homosexuality and other haram practices. The lack of oversight and intelligence on these morality patrols and their indoctrination activities, by Nigeria’s Federal Government and the West, makes it difficult to determine if Boko Haram’s leaders or members are drawn from or have links to the local Hisba ranks in northern Nigeria.

Boko Haram is derived from the native Hausa term “boko” which means “book” but refers to western education in general. Haram, of course, means forbidden. In this, the make up of the group, primarily well-educated and unemployed young men, provides a window into a key grievance of Boko Haram. Namely, the advance of western businesses into Nigeria, while providing job opportunities for locals often requires knowledge of English, French and German to attain employment.

Beyond this economic surface tension, the political divide between northern and southern Nigeria and the corrupt leadership in the federal and state governments, as a whole, provides fuel to the Boko Haram’s uprising as well as religious justification for its tactical usage of violence against what its members perceive as an oppressive regime. The fact that the group’s leader was murdered by police without trial by jury warrants a review of the corruptions within the Nigerian police units and furthers the Islamic rationale for developing a parallel security and justice apparatus in the north.

Throughout the oil rich Niger delta, numerous groups have launched rebellions and have been offered both amnesty and subsidies by the Nigerian government. Continual shortfalls in funds to administer the oil industry, which represents 95% of Nigeria’s export income, due to subsidies and corruptions are now leading elements within the Federal Government and the Central Bank of Nigeria to seek outside financing, such as the issuance of Eurobonds. These developments along with Nigeria’s membership in OPEC and its official moves toward Islamic Finance indicate that the issuance of a Nigerian Energy Sukuk is not a far off eventuality.

Nigeria is a brew of crises, corruption and violence. The Boko Haram threat has yielded almost weekly bombings, sectarian violence and political assassinations over the last two years. Boko Haram funds its operations with a combination of donations from wealthy patrons, extortion payments from northern Governors seeking a calm business environment, bank robberies and gun running. Yet, while this terrorist group seems to be growing in sophistication, in a country of 170 million people, the small contingent of its members, topping out at no more than 3,000, combined with its meager operational base of less than $20 million per year does not place Boko Haram in the top tier of global terror threats or criminal networks.

The real threat to Western interests in Nigeria is a destabilized Federal Government.

While it does not have the financial means to expand in a dramatic way, the low-level insurgency of Boko Haram does hold the capacity, along with the empowered Hisba groups and influential Islamist radicals, to transform local political agitations for transparent government uncorrupted by Western interests into a populist uprising.

U.S. policy makers, then, should focus less on solving the Boko Haram phenomenon and more on solving the country’s crisis of federalism, which has allowed the establishment of parallel police forces, court systems and welfare distribution schemes by Islamic institutions to such an extent that local leaders no longer harbor a national identity.

South Africa, Egypt and Nigeria are the keys to African commerce. China and the OIC have mercantile designs on these three ports. Around 8% of America’s annual oil imports are drawn from Nigeria. The competition for Nigeria’s oil resources and the natural commerce that surrounds its import-export businesses centers the country’s wealth in its southern states. This singular economic factor will likely insure that the north will not seek to break away in a separatist state. Unfortunately, that factor may also foretell of a coming civil war in which the north sets out to subjugate the south.

Al-Qaeda’s leaders are monitoring the effectiveness of Boko Haram’s internal dispute and providing occasional technical support for terror attacks that will highlight the inadequacy of the Nigerian Federal Government’s security capacity. The democracies of Mali and Nigeria are under siege by Islamists. The West Africa region is set to become the next safe haven for al Qaeda styled jihadists.

It will be up to the next administration in Washington to accurately read the terrain in Nigeria. The American ideals of representative democracy and religious freedom are on collision course in Nigeria. The destabilizing effects of Islamic parallel institutions of law and order set to rock Nigeria in the next round of democratic elections in 2015 will provide western observers a dire lesson on precisely why the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution is absolutely vital for sustained peace in a federalist system.

Gary H. Johnson, Jr. is the Senior Advisor for International Security Affairs at the Victory Institute and a Level I Researcher at Wikistrat

Egypt: Money Makes the Muslim Brotherhood Go ‘Round

Source: CS MonitorHistorians and economists will mark August 2012 as the month in which President Morsi consolidated the power of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. The Arab Spring left the Egyptian economy in ruins. With $35 billion in debt and under $15 billion in reserve currency in the Central Bank of Egypt in July 2012, the newly elected President inherited a bleak financial portfolio on his assumption of power. However, what most Western observers have missed in the analysis of Mohamed Morsi’s rise to power is how the financial woes of Egypt shaped the political scene.

 

On February 15, 2011 – four days after the Arab Spring’s peak in Tahrir Square – the Muslim Brotherhood formed the Freedom and Justice Party and co-opted the overthrow of a dictator that had banned the Islamist organization from politics in Egypt. By 2012, as predicted, the organized power base of the Freedom and Justice Party took the lion’s share of votes in the democratic elections that formed the Parliament. To avert the debt crisis threatening Egypt, a loan of $3.2 Billion was sought from the International Monetary Fund.

 

By April 2012, the message was clear: gaining a loan from the IMF to overcome the immediate short term challenges of paying civil servants would require a consensus of all parties involved in the Egyptian government. The front-runner for the presidential slate of the Freedom and Justice Party, at the time, Khairat al Shater, noted that the terms of the loan needed to be changed before the interim government could accept the financial arrangement. These were the first cracks in the IMF loan bid and eventually guaranteed that a consensus would not be reached. The following month, to bolster investor confidence in the viability of the Egyptian economy and boost the interim government’s chances of receiving the IMF loan, Saudi Arabia deposited $1 billion into the Central Bank of Egypt. Two days after Saudi Arabia deposited the funds, the debt swap mechanism proposed by the United States to forgive $1 billion in Egyptian debt fell through.

 

The requirement of a consensus in Parliament on the acceptability of the terms of the IMF loan ultimately served as the catalyst for the dissolution of the parliament in mid-June. The democratic process in Egypt, with a dozen political parties provided too many avenues for dissent to upend the efforts at achieving a united voice on the matter. It was upon this stage that the Chairman of the Freedom and Justice Party, Mohamed Morsi, was elected President of Egypt.

 

Recognizing that the FJP had won over half the seats in Parliament, the newly elected President Morsi, in defiance of Egypt’s highest court and the military, convened the elected leaders of Parliament on July 10 to advance the notion that the military did not hold the constitutional authority to remove Parliament from power. Brotherhood supporters in Tahrir Square, chanted “Down, down with military rule.” The generals did not respond. The question of the validity of the elections, raised by the court, evaporated in the triumph of civilian power.

 

The August 5 attack by Salafi terrorists on Egyptian border guards, which left 16 soldiers dead, provided President Morsi with the justification for mobilizing military forces into the Sinai and pressing the envelope on the terms of the Egyptian-Israeli Peace Accord in what is now known as Operation Nisr (Operation Eagle). The terms of the agreement stipulated that Egypt would notify Israel of any move to militarize the Sinai peninsula. Three days after the Salafi strike, Morsi launched helicopter gunship assaults on Salafi jihadi positions in the desert, killing 20. Within days, the leader of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmud Abbas, called for Cairo to shut down the tunnel network into Gaza and provided Morsi with names of radical Salafists known to work in the Sinai. Hamas, the Palestinian arm of the Muslim Brotherhood, submitted to Morsi’s request to round up Salafi jihadists in Gaza for questioning as the President set about destroying the tunnel entrances on the Egyptian side of the Rafah crossing.

 

The August 5 attack on the Kerem Shalom crossing provided the Muslim Brotherhood leader with the opportunity to defeat any erstwhile Sunni rivals that would challenge the authority of the Egyptian Presidency, militarily. The militant strike also provided President Morsi with the opportunity to strip the security establishment leaders of their power base. Within 10 days, six members of Egypt’s military council had resigned or were sacked. The defense minister Field Marshall Hussein Tantawi, who earlier delivered the dissolution decree to the Parliament and assumed power through the presidential election, was dismissed. The armed forces chief of staff General Anan was also relieved of command. The intelligence chief General Murad Muafi was dismissed as were two security officials in the Sinai and the Military Police Chief.

 

Almost unnoticed in the flurry of dismissals, resignations and replacements, was President Morsi’s appointment of the former judge Mahmoud Mohamed Mekki as the Vice President of Egypt.

 

The consolidation of military and political power by the new Egyptian President was a master stroke of crisis management. Amid these rapid developments, Qatar made good on a 2011 pledge to invest $10 billion in the Egyptian economy by depositing $500 million in the Central Bank of Egypt, with the acknowledgment that the dispersal was the first tranche of a $2 billion allocation.

 

The combined financial support of Saudi Arabia and Qatar allowed the Egyptian government to weather the transition period of the interim government. The consolidation of power by the Morsi Administration, the economic support of Egypt’s Sunni benefactors and the unified voice of the FJP-dominated Egyptian Parliament have now paved the way for the IMF loan to commence. The terms sought will likely include a VAT-tax and the United States may place pressure on the organization to adjust the currency exchange rates of the Egyptian pound; however, the Morsi Administration is now in negotiations for a $4.8 billion bridge loan from the IMF and have received the support of the FJP leadership to strike a deal by mid September.

 

The IMF loan will likely stave off the looming currency crisis that is causing foreign investors to shy away from Egyptian commercial options. One official at the Central Bank of Egypt predicted that Egypt’s foreign reserves would jump from $14.4 to $21.2 billion following Qatar’s deposit of the remainder of its initial $2 billion offering and would climb higher if the IMF agreed to the $4.8 billion loan.

 

Morsi’s consolidation of power in August 2012 will be analyzed for decades to come. Perhaps more impressive than the local consolidation efforts were the advances made toward the Muslim Brotherhood’s regional consolidation of power by the Morsi Administration. His decision to call for Assad to resign in Syria and push for a “Committee of Four” made up of Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Egypt and Iran effectively changed the dynamics of the peace effort. Rather than an international focus, Morsi offers a regional solution and is seeding that mission with official visits to China and Russia.  In an official address, discussing the developments in Syria, President Morsi brushed aside Israeli concerns over his insertion of tanks and other armor into the Sinai (without consulting Israel) as an internal security matter with no malice of intent, and claimed the precedent did not challenge the terms of the Egyptian-Israeli Peace Accord.

 

One thing is certain, Morsi has arrived. Whether the young President can drive a wedge in the Shia Crescent over Syria or not in his first regional effort to realign the balance of power is immaterial – world leaders are fast recognizing that a new force of nature is at play in Egypt.

 

Gary H. Johnson, Jr. is the Senior Advisor for International Security Affairs at the Victory Institute and a Level I Researcher at Wikistrat

Poker, Drug-Running and Illicit Deals at the Kabul Bank: The Double Life of Sherkhan Farnood

Sherkhan Farnood was placed under arrest by Afghanistan authorities on June 30, 2011 for his connection with over $900 million in fraudulent lending activities. These activities took place at the Kabul Bank, an institution founded and formerly co-chaired by Farnood. He was arrested along with the bank’s former CEO Khalilullah Fruzi for what Afghanistan Attorney General Mohammed Ishaq Aloko referred to as clear evidence of “corruption, fraud and misusing people’s money.” Farnood and Fruzi are now undergoing a month-long interrogation at the prosecutor’s headquarters in Kabul.

For those backing Afghan President Hamid Karzai against the Taliban insurgency, the near-collapse of the Kabul Bank exposes some uncomfortable truths. Sherkhan M. Farnood, the Founder and former chairman of the Kabul Bank, is none other than the wanted fugitive, Sherkhan Mohammad Morad. This individual is the chief architect of a Russian hawala syndicate that has served the unique needs of the opium smugglers and heroin warlords of Afghanistan and Pakistan for decades.

 

The evidence of Sherkhan Farnood’s alternate identity as crime lord Sherkhan Mohammad Morad is overwhelming. Sherkhan Farnood is a licensed owner of a Dubai-based hawala, known as the Shaheen Exchange. Farnood is also a prominent poker player. In 2008, though a wanted fugitive, he won a European World Series of Poker bracelet in the HORSE competition.

Hawalas have operated in the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia for over a millennium. According to the U.S. Treasury, “Hawala works by transferring money without actually moving it.” The hawala “underground” system of informal banking is considered illegal in countries like Russia and America due, primarily, to its association with money laundering.

Andrew Higgins identified Sherkhan Farnood’s ties to “illegal banking” in Russia in his February 22, 2010 article “In Afghanistan, signs of crony capitalism.” Higgins wrote:

The roots of Kabul Bank stretch back to the Soviet Union. Both Fruzi and Farnood got their education and their start in business there after Moscow invaded Afghanistan in 1979.

While in Moscow, Farnood set up a successful hawala money-transfer outfit to move funds between Russia and Kabul. Russian court documents show that 10 of Farnood’s employees were arrested in 1998 and later convicted of illegal banking activity. Fearful of arrest in Russia and also in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan, Farnood shifted his focus to Dubai.

Western journalists and academics have so far failed to investigate the Shaheen Currency Exchange’s relations with the Central Bank of the United Arab Emirates. To date, investigations by multiple auditing committees of the Central Bank of Afghanistan show that the Kabul Bank- housed branch office of Shaheen Currency Exchange provided Sherkhan Farnood over $500 million in “irregular” loans. The money likely passed through the Dubai-based business Shaheen Money Exchange, LLC(pdf link), one of 73 licensed money changers in Dubai.

Following the purge of Farnood Sherkhan from his post at Kabul Bank in 2009, the Central Bank of the United Arab Emirates published a list of moneychangers operating in the UAE as of December 2009. Shaheen Money Exchange, LLC is listed as money changer #66. The “founders” of Shaheen Money Exchange, LLC are listed as “Rashid Moh’d Sultan Al Suwaidi” with a 60% stake and “Sherkhan Farnood s/o Moh’d Morad” with a 40% share.

On November 29, 1992 the UAE’s Central Bank issued Resolution No. 123/7/1992, which set new regulations for money changers. According to the resolution, licensing for the money changing industry in the United Arab Emirates is only granted to institutions and companies that are established under commercial companies’ law.   According to the Emirates Free Zone website, two key citizenship clauses in the 1992 Resolution regulate who can attain and retain a money changer license in the UAE:

The resolution also requires that the natural person be a UAE national of not less than 21 years of age. In case of companies, the national shareholding should not be less than 60% of the total paid-up capital. The regulation set the minimum capital at AED once [sic] million or AED two million depending on the scope of activities the applicant wishes to undertake.

Andrew Higgins’ assertion that Sherkhan Farnood’s Russian associates were arrested in 1998 by Russian authorities and “later convicted of illegal banking activities” infers that Farnood fled to Dubai in or around 1998. The biography of Dr. Fraidoon Noorzad, Chairman-elect and Managing Director of Maiwand Bank in Afghanistan confirms that the Shaheen Exchange in Dubai was already established by 1998:

After a successful professional career in the field of medical, he shifted himself into business of money exchange in the year 1997 and in 1998 he became a partner in Shaheen Exchange, Dubai. With the beginning of the new Government in Afghanistan, he started concentrating in the business opportunities and began his association with Kabul Exchange and later on joined as Dy. CEO with Kabul Bank, one of the leading and fastest growing private bank in Kabul. During this tenure with Kabul Bank, he acquainted himself with banking laws and regulations and proved as dynamic leader. He then was picked up by the management of Azizi bank and offered with the position of Dy. CEO. He also got [sic] a long association with the Afghanistan International Chamber of Commerce

By 1998, then, Sherkhan Farnood’s operations in the Dubai-based Shaheen Money Exchange LLP had a new player. This man was UAE national named Rashid Mohammad Sultan Al Suwaidi, who held a 60% share in the exchange. Farnood also had at least one partner, Dr. Noorzad (who now holds a 50% stake in the Maiwand Bank of Afghanistan).

The opaque nature of hawala exchanges renders it unclear whether or not Dr. Noorzad’s partnership with the Shaheen Exchange was ever officially dissolved. The nature of Rashid Al Suwaidi’s role in the affair is also unclear at present.

Virtually every report on the Kabul Bank crisis indicates that Sherkhan Farnood’s interests in the United Arab Emirates extend beyond the Shaheen Exchange and into the luxury Real Estate Market on the man-made beaches of Dubai. On September 5, 2010 France24’s Leela Jacinto released the news that Farnood would relinquish control of his properties at Palm Jumeirah (the palm-shaped development at Dubai):

Farnood has pledged to hand over to Kabul Bank the titles of prime Dubai real estate purchased with bank money but registered until now in his and his wife’s name. He has estimated that the properties are worth about $160 million.

Whether or not Farnood is planning to arrange the transfer of interest in Farida Farnood’s Business Bay investments is unclear. In an article from June 16, 2011, Jon Boone recounted some Farnood-led corruptions. He also shed a touch of light on the wreckage of the once promising Dubai development:

Less well known is Business Bay, perhaps Dubai’s most catastrophic property development, where property developers and speculators flipped off-plan properties during the Emirate’s real estate bubble. What was meant to be home to 240 towers is now a ghostly wasteland of half-finished buildings. On the edge of this empty quarter are two massive holes in the ground – the planned sites for 20-storey apartment complexes. Victims of the real estate crash…

The former Kabul Bank CEO, Khalilullah Fruzi, informed Boone that each of these pits swallowed $20 million of Bank Kabul money.

These massive money holes have names according to the Dutch Foundation: Dolphin Tower and Waves Tower. The registry of the two projects lists the Dubai-based Arab Experts Engg. Consultants (AREX) as the “Consultant” for the jobs. The clients for both projects are listed as “Farida Farnood/Sherkhan Farnood General Trading Co.” The true nature of the Sherkhan Farnood General Trading LLC is difficult to ascertain, though the UAE yellow pages provides a number of contact options for the company’s Dubai Head Office.

The Saudi Foundations & Concrete Processing Company, partly owned by the Dutch Foundation, has released a PDF file with its completed and ongoing projects. The Dolphin Tower entry lists the project as “…for M/s. Farida Farnood,” while the Waves Tower is listed as “…for M/s. Sherkhan Farnood S/o Mohammad Murad/Farida Farnood.”

The reference to Mohammad Murad by Saudi Foundations is a slight alteration from the Shaheen Exchange version of the same “Moh’d Morad.”

Tracking New Ansari’s Hawalas

Leela Jacinto of France24, in the first week of the Kabul Bank panic last September, following up on Andrew Higgins’ revelations of Sherkhan Farnood’s association with a Russian hawala, reported that Farnood’s business tentacles stretch to “the New Ansari Exchange.”

It may be premature to assert with complete certainty that Sherkhan Farnood is a player in the New Ansari Exchange. Investigations are ongoing. Leela Jacinto’s estimate is likely derived from Dexter Filkins’ New York Times piece from August 31, 2010 which revealed an unnamed shareholder’s view of Kabul Bank’s New Ansari connections:

Investigators and bank regulators say Kabul Bank is also tied to the inquiry into New Ansari, the money-transfer firm, or hawala, that is suspected of moving billions of dollars out of the country for Afghan politicians, drug traffickers and insurgents. Kabul Bank used the firm, whose dealings are nearly impossible to track, to transfer at least $60 million out of the country, a bank shareholder said.

On February 18, 2011, nearly a year after Andrew Higgins discovered “signs of crony capitalism” in Afghanistan, the U.S. Treasury Department designated the New Ansari Exchange and 15 other individuals and entities under the Kingpin Act. The Treasury press release named two Dubai-based Hawalas as subsidiaries:

The New Ansari Money Exchange is at the center of an unofficial network of individuals, money exchange houses and other businesses operating throughout Afghanistan and in the United Arab Emirates. Between 2007 and 2010, the New Ansari Money Exchange used the billions of dollars it transferred in and out of Afghanistan to conceal illicit narcotics proceeds. The New Ansari Money Exchange transfers money to its Dubai subsidiaries, Green Leaf General Trading LLC and Al Adal Exchange, also designated today, which then transfer money through the U.S. and international financial systems.

A U.S. Treasury chart of the New Ansari Network reveals a third Dubai-based Hawala link: Connect Telecom General Trading LLC.

The “General Trading LLC” in both Green Leaf and Connect Telecom lend weight to the notion that the Business Bay dealings of Sherkhan Farnood General Trading LLC represent the tracks of a low-key Farnood Hawala operation.

Notably, the December 2009 Money Changer registry of the Central Bank of the United Arab Emirates does not include the three hawalas linked by the U.S. Treasury Department to the New Ansari Network. The Central Bank’s 2010 Annual Report (p. 24) records 270 branches of the 73 licensed Hawala Exchanges operating in Dubai.   Four new money changers in Abu Dhabi were given licenses in 2010 by the UAE’s Central Bank, but none of the names fully correspond to the new New Ansari affiliates.

A Federal Register (vol.6, no.38) of the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), dated Friday, February 25, 2011, settles the confusing issue of licensing relatively well. The Al Adal Exchange operates under Trade License No. 172133, an Afghanistan license. Connect Telecom General Trading LLC operates as the bearer of Dubai Chamber of Commerce Membership No. 123076. Green Leaf General Trading LLC, too, holds a DCC Membership – No. 42988.

The two Afghanistan-based hawala associate groups designated by the U.S. Treasury Department in the New Ansari Exchange include: (1) Ahmad Shah Money Exchange, which holds Afghanistan Trade License No. 101016; and, (2) Mushtaq Shaheen Construction and Roadmaking, which is listed in Afghanistan as Commercial Registry No. 31225.

The New Ansari Money Exchange operates an exchange in Dubai, but does not hold a license to practice Hawala in Dubai. The fact that New Ansari holds a Tax ID Number (004800015) begs the question, which Afghanistan institution issued a license to the criminal racket? To follow this teaser, OFAC does not list any distinguishing codes to isolate and disrupt the activities of New Ansari LTD.

A Lucky Break

The reason Andrew Higgins was so far ahead of the pack was likely due his awareness of the decision by the United States Drug Enforcement Agency to cultivate and strengthen ties with its Russian counterparts at the Federal Drug Control Service of the Russian Federation in February of 2010.

The ties were solidified following a February 5, 2010 meeting between three U.S. DEA heads, including DEA Chief of Operations Thomas Harrigan and DEA Regional Director Mark Destito, and seven members of a Russian delegation led by the Deputy Director of the Russian Federal Drug Control Service (FSKN), Nikolay Aulov.

Evidence of this meeting exists in a publicly released Wikileaks document dated February 10, 2010.

On June 30, 2011, the day the Attorney General of Afghanistan arrested and detained Sherkhan Farnood and Khalilullah Fruzi, the Wikileaks document was reclassified as a “DEA Sensitive SIPDIS” file. SIPDIS stands for “Security Information Publicly Disseminated.”

The lengthy, 34 point rendering detailed that on February 4, 2010 the DEA Operations Chief Harrigan and Regional Director Destito met with Gil Kerlikowske, Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), and FSKN Director Viktor Ivanov in a “U.S.-Russia Bilateral Presidential Commission, Drug Trafficking Working Group.”

A February 4, 2010 ONDCP press release qualified the meeting as the second bi-lateral Working Group meeting. The first meeting of the U.S.-Russia Bilateral Presidential Commission was held on September 24, 2009. The Drug Trafficking Working Group was chartered during the July 2009 summit between President Obama and President Medvedev. The release announced the signing of the Presidential Commission’s Member Rules and Committee architecture:

We have signed the framework documents including the Rules, Membership, and Topics and Sub-Groups. The Russian Federation and the United States share the belief that solving this problem requires the efforts of the Governments of both countries. The joint work must extend beyond just law enforcement to include prevention, treatment, financial controls, international best practices, and information and personnel exchanges. As such, today’s meeting included several government agencies from throughout the Russian and American governments.

In a display of unity in purpose and mutual trust, information about sensitive clandestine operations and investigations was shared between the U.S. and Russian drug enforcement ministries.

As part of this cooperative atmosphere, the Drug Enforcement Administration shared a list of potential joint investigation targets with the FSKN. The FSKN has provided information on drug shipments seized in Russia that can be used to improve interdiction efforts in Afghanistan and Central Asia.

The Wikileaks breakdown of the February 5th follow-on round of bi-lateral talks broaches the Russian officials’ desires for the United States to seek “full-fledged” member status in the Central Asian Region Information and Coordination Center (CARICC). Russo-American strategic interests in combating the illicit drug trade, include two primary aims: (1) coordinating a crackdown on the cocaine smuggling corridor from South America to Russia; and (2) shutting down the opium ratlines running from Afghanistan through Iran to Azerbaijan and Russia.

An “Agent’s Note” within the minutes of the Working Group delivered a strong indication that tracking the movements of money would figure prominently in the effort to disrupt the drug traffickers:

“Agent’s Note: A new trend that FSKN in [sic] seeing is that drug proceeds are now being sent directly to Afghanistan instead of being sent to third countries (i.e. UAE, Europe, and Central Asia).  During the US-Russia bilateral Presidential Commission, Drug Trafficking Working Group meeting, Deputy Director Aulov presented a PowerPoint presentation XXXXXXXXXXXX.

Deputy Director Aulov supplied a hard copy of his PowerPoint Presentation to OC Harrigan. This hard copy is written in the Russian language. The Moscow CO will translate the hard copy into the English language.”

The puzzling redaction of a portion of the discussion led me to believe that the PowerPoint presentation might yield the Russian perspective of the Hawala networks running from the Afghanistan-Pakistan region into Russia. The Agent’s Note led me to believe that the house arrest of Sherkhan Farnood may have led to a reversal of money flows from their normal patterns. It seemed plausible that this “new trend” could be the result of Farnood’s expulsion from his Shaheen Money Exchange office of Kabul Bank. To that end, I made a fortuitous mistake in my research along the Sherkhan Farnood hawala trail.

While attempting to trace the new alias of Farnood, Mohammad Morad, in an inadvertent missed key stroke I omitted the letter “k” in my efforts. As a result, my searches of “Sherhan Mohammad Morad” led me to an Interpol wanted list and a February 4, 2010 Power Point Presentation by Nikolay Aulov of FSKN, (Russia’s Federal Drug Control Service or FDCS). If the link is not available, a slideshow of the document can be downloaded here.

Sherhan Mohammad Morad aka Farnood. On the left he is shown in a Russian FDCS document, and on the right from a poker website.

To my disappointment the Interpol wanted list’s Sherhan vitals did not provide a photo of the fugitive; however, the Nikolay Aulov presentation provided photographic proof that Sherkhan Farnood and Sherkhan Mohammad Morad were indeed the same man. By the fourth slide I was hooked, by the fifth my research into the Shaheen Exchange came to a new starting point.

By 1996, Russian investigations into the underground hawala smuggling and laundering rackets of drug-dealing groups established that “…the [hawala] system had been created by Afghans by order for the purpose of quick anonymous money transferring between different countries.” The slide show identified the “creator” of the hawala corridor from Afghanistan through Tajikistan to Russia as “Sherhan Mohammad Morad.”

The fifth slide revealed that Russian law enforcement suppressed the activities of “Sherkhan Bank” and successfully prosecuted the ring for “illegal banking and currency operations.” Unfortunately, the complete unraveling of the Sherkhan Bank’s drug smuggling connections did not come to pass, limiting the scope of the prosecutions; and, the hawala’s “…main leader Sherkhan Mohammad Morad wasn’t arrested.” Also, the international announcement of Sherkhan Mohammad Morad’s fugitive status and a global manhunt have not yet led to his capture.

The following caption sat next to the photo of a young Sherkhan Farnood:

Sherkhan Mohammad Morad, wanted by Russian law enforcement agencies for crimes commitment including illegal banking activities, money laundering, organization of criminal society. This person can currently use an ID with the name of Sherkhan Mohammad Farnood.

In light of this overwhelming evidence, it may be time for Interpol to update its records on the wanted fugitive Mohammad Morad Sherhan with a photo or two. Mohammad Morad Sherhan, Interpol’s wanted fugitive, is Sherkhan Mohammad Morad, the Russian federal authorities’ fugitive. This same fugitive from justice is currently sitting in a Kabul detention center. The western world knows him as Sherkhan Mohammad Farnood.

[Originally published at Family Security Matters]

The American Spring: Frank Gaffney’s Stand

“Has there been a movement in the last hundred years where in many cities across the country people just spontaneously show up for a protest? This happened on April 15, 2009 in about ten cities in Kentucky but probably over a thousand cities nationwide.”

-Rand Paul, The Tea Party Goes to Washington

On April 15, 2009 I dropped everything and jumped in my car. I drove two hours to Atlanta for a party with my kind of people. Newscasts that evening were saying that a few thousand people hit the street for the Tea Party rally; but, those who were there will tell you that at least 25,000 people were on hand to say “NO” to the bailouts and higher taxes that the establishment politicians in Washington were attempting to shove down our throats. Pajamas Media and a number of radio and television sponsors were on hand to document the event. Volunteers were handing out free copies of the Constitution; you could grab a “Live Free or Die” flag for a few bucks. Ayn Rand posters waved. Retired businessmen sat on steps talking to their children about the law. Bikers shook hands with bankers.

An awakening had hit Georgia, I was sure of that much. Pen in hand, I surveyed the scene:

They began arriving in droves from the Mitchell Street side as work let out for the day. Red, White and Blue was everywhere, the Fair Tax Crowd was out in force. The crowd streamed in from the MARTA and Georgia State College Side of Washington Street, and for blocks and blocks huge crowds were massing on the sidewalks and marching up the hill from the Underground. By 7:00pm there were probably 10,000 people easily…there was standing room only as the show began and people slid past people by the inch instead of by the step.

The Crowd became more and more animated as the temperature dropped and the stage fired up with speaker after speaker. Speakers were pushing through the crowd to get to the main stage and when News of Sean Hannity, Neal Boortz, Dick Army and Newt Gingrich were to speak, the crowd energized. By 8:00pm, the crowd engulfed the stage at the front of the Capitol Building, bled out a block On Mitchell Street and flooded into side parking lots, and began pushing the 15,000 to 20,000 mark. By 9:00pm 20,000 to 25,000 people were packed into the tiny area and you could hardly breathe much less cheer and chant and wave signs.

Atlanta was pissed off and didn’t have any problems letting Washington Street, Washington DC, the State Capitol and the Nation’s Capitol know exactly how Tea’ed off they truly were about the Bailouts and the Stimulus.

People are talking about the Arab Spring today. But the American Spring of 2009 witnessed the birth of a movement that shows no sign of flagging. We have come a long way as a nation since those fateful days at the dawn of the Tea Party’s revival. We watched our president extend an open hand to Iran’s leadership only to murmur “Oh my God” to ourselves as a young lady known only as “Neda” bled out before our eyes on an Iranian street. Most of us didn’t know what the Green Movement in Iran meant as we prepared for our July 4th gatherings. CNN, MSNBC, the NAACP and a number of bloggers were determined to belittle our peaceful demonstrations. The Tea Party movement was dismissed as a phenomenon that would lose steam and fade. November 2nd, 2010 delivered a different verdict altogether. Political pundits had no idea that the unconstitutional nature of the 2,000 page healthcare bill, known as Obamacare, would re-ignite the initial outrage sparked by the bailouts. We were united, disjointed, unorganized, and unpolished. Together, we rejected the homelessness that the unsustainable policies guaranteed.

As the Arab Spring unfolded, Wisconsin exploded into controversy. A mandate from the voters was filibustered by a Union blitz. No longer content with kicking the can down the road, Governor Walker requested an extremely modest compromise to move toward solvency. The Union leaders united and we, the tax payers of America, witnessed a runaway sense of entitlement take the stage as deluded children held up signs that compared Governor Walker to the Egyptian dictator, Mubarak. The thugs were willing to bankrupt a U.S. state.

Something is rank in the state of America. The establishment leaders in Washington bailed out car companies under the maxim that they were too big to fail. But the reality is that for years the U.S. taxpayer was forced to underwrite the pension funds of unions that promised the moon to their members. Every new American-made car has between $3,000 and $5,000 built in to the price to cover the benefit promises of union leaders. That means everyone who finances an American-made vehicle will pay around $100 per month over the life of their loan (or be forced to extend payments out a year or two) to pay for the benefits of men and women who are earning far beyond the average wage in the private sector. Is it any wonder GM couldn’t compete with foreign automakers and needed a bailout?

The Curious Case of RMSP

It is easy to vilify the wealthy – class warfare is older than Marx. It is infinitely harder to expose the nature of the establishment machinery of Washington, D.C. in constructive terms.

To illustrate this point, I recently had a chance to ask former Virginia Congressman Tom Davis (R) a question on the C-SPAN program, Washington Journal. Tom Davis is the President and CEO of Republican Main Street Partnership.

The value of social media has been lauded by the American media in its coverage of the Arab Spring. So, it is fitting that in this, our American Spring, a twitter could lay open the nature of influence and coalition building in the run-up to the 2012 election.

According to the Republican Main Street Partnership’s home page:

The Republican Main Street Partnership (RMSP) is dedicated to promoting and building a pragmatic, thoughtful, fiscally conservative, and inclusive “Governing Majority,” where political debate is encouraged to promote solutions to improve the lives of all Americans. Embracing the full spectrum of center-right ideologies and values in order to build coalitions, RMSP is the largest organization of elected leaders who are in the mold of Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, and Ronald Reagan.

That sounds good. But what does that mean? Are they a PR firm? Do they manage campaigns? What do they do? The RMSP website is high on talking points, but it is difficult to cypher the nature of their activity around the country.

At 8:19am EST on May 19th, my softball of a tweet reached the national stage for Tom Davis:

@cspanwj Tom, how does your organization square the values of the Tea Party movement and the unpopular establishment policies of the GOP?

In his response, Davis stumbled for a moment and then hit his well-trained talking point stride:

Well, you know, we’re a…we’re a group…I don’t know, we’re, we’re not Tea Partiers. I think they have…but, I think the thrust of what the Tea Party is looking at, and that’s the national debt – I think we all share that.

What we have to do is sit down and try to address that issue.

The Tea Party movement has actually done a service to this country by identifying the national debt as an issue. Traditionally, this is, people are about the here and now, they’re not looking at the future. So, I think they have done us a huge service in addressing this issue, focusing on this issue at this point.

But our group is a pretty eclectic group of people who just are outside the box in the Republican Party. We recognize that it needs to be a coalition, not a private club with an admissions test to be a Republican.

We have pro-life, we have pro-choice, we’ve got some very strong conservatives, and we have some who have links to unions. We are Main Street, though. We are not Wall Street.

So, what is the Republican Main Street Partnership? It is the front of a Political Action Committee called RMSP PAC. Is anyone else in the Tea Party tired of the votes by Senators John McCain, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins? We call them RINOs…but what does that mean? Would it be shocking to you to find out that the three primary Senate members of the RMSP PAC are these establishment Republicans? You may want to head over to the PAC about us page to see for yourself. Is it surprising that Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is a member? The page actually states “We are an incumbent protection PAC…” One can only wonder how many Democrat incumbent protection PACs it takes to keep Harry Reid in power.

So, basically, Tom Davis hit the Washington Journal program to kick off his 2012 campaign donation drive to protect the seats of his “coalition”. Back in 2005, Michelle Malkin was contacted by the firm Caplin & Drysdale to refute claims that George Soros was funding RMSP. The letter was cc’d to Rush Limbaugh, Pat Toomey, GrasstopsUSA.com and Sean Hannity. Michelle Malkin later clarified her research activities along the Soros trail, identifying the Main Street Individual Fund as a separate tentacle from the Main Street Fund.

The two Main Street funds and the Partnership’s board of directors use the same staff and have the same lawyer, former FEC chairman Trevor Potter.

Whether or not George Soros was funding any branch of RMSP is a question of influence. Michelle Malkin and other conservative thinkers were trying to sort out exactly why the “RINOs” tacked left when the country overwhelmingly expected them to steer to the right.

The bio of Tom Davis, President & CEO of RMSP may provide a clearer picture of the influence at play.

Prior to his election to Congress, Tom was the chief elected official in Fairfax County, the eleventh most populous municipality with the second largest county budget in the United States….

Formerly the Vice President and General Counsel of PRC, Inc., a high technology and professional services firm headquartered in McLean, Virginia, Tom moved to the position of Corporate Counsel upon his election as Chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors….

In addition to serving as President and Chief Executive Officer of the Republican Main Street Partnership, Congressman Davis has also accepted a position as director with Deloitte’s Federal Government Services….

Now, it should be noted that I have cropped these three sections from a distinguished career of public service including service in the U.S. Military. But to skewer reality, it should be stated that Fairfax County Virginia represents one of the top three demographic centers in which Muslim-Americans live. After all, Congressman Gerry Connolly finds his roots in the same Board of Supervisors. Moreover, back in 1999, Tom Davis actually fathered legislation which would present a Muslim stamp to be printed by the U.S. Postal Service. Rather unfortunately, if memory serves, the stamp was released in September 2001. Many defense contractors and technology companies are housed in McLean, Virginia. That is not unusual. What seems out of joint is Tom Davis’s decision to join up with Deloitte. What purpose would such a directorship hold? Indeed, Deloitte is the largest accounting firm in the world with thousands of attorneys and accountants on staff. But perhaps more disturbingly, this accounting firm also plays host to Shariah Compliant Finance. It is no secret that Islamic Finance plays a special role in the Deloitte brand:

At Deloitte, we are unique amongst professional services firms in offering our clients access to Sharia’a advice, embedded within our team. Our Sharia’a Scholar, Mufti Hassaan Kaleem, works alongside our Islamic Finance practitioners, together creating an unrivalled ability to provide innovative market leading advice.

Notice how the company spells “Sharia’a” to guarantee that search engines won’t weigh Deloitte with prominence in searches on the topic of Islamic Finance and Shariah Law. American Tea Party movement activists can sleep well at night knowing that the U.S. Government is utilizing Shariah-compliant Deloitte services at the State Department and Defense Department levels.

Influence is a strange animal. Peddling the beast is an industry. The spearhead of that industry in America is the Political Action Committee, the source of campaign financing, the smoke in the back rooms of policy and compromise.

The Norquist Question: Gaffney’s Concern

On February 12, 2011 David Horowitz hit the podium at the Conservative Political Action Conference and outed “a pillar of the conservative movement.” Horowitz blasted Grover Norquist for his association with Suhail Khan. In essence, Horowitz claimed that Norquist facilitated Khan’s infiltration into the inner sanctum of the George Bush White House and ultimately into a position as the Undersecretary of Transportation, where he is now privy to classified information about sensitive soft targets in American land, sea and air travel.

Suhail Khan’s father, Mahboob Khan, was a pioneer of Muslim Brotherhood activism in America in the sixties and seventies. Khan’s work was pivotal in the development of a number of Islamist front groups in America, including the Muslim Student Association and the North American Islamic Trust – the financing arm of Muslim Brotherhood activism in the United States and a now blacklisted co-conspirator in the Holy Land Foundation conspiracy to fund Hamas by utilizing Islamic charitable institutions as cover. Additionally, Mahboob Khan also helped to establish mosques in America that supported Wahhabist causes and hosted infamous terrorists such as al Qaeda ideologue Ayman Al-Zawahiri.

Suhail Khan’s past association with Islamists and his documented personal statements on jihad in America are problematic. The fact that Suhail Khan was recently made a member of the American Conservative Union’s board of directors placed the Conservative Political Action Conference at the heart of the Norquist Question.

The CPAC speech by Horowitz was the most recent episode in a public feud between Grover Norquist and Frank Gaffney. Steven Emerson and Patrick Poole have long been uncovering the ties of American Muslim organizations with Al Qaeda and Hamas terrorism. Recent books like The Muslim Mafia have revealed the seedy nature of organizations like the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR). The Holy Land Foundation (HLF) trials in Texas proved that a number of U.S.-based Islamists were funding Hamas-styled terrorism and cast a long string of Muslim organizations and individuals as unindicted co-conspirators. In turn, American Muslim groups and apologists have resorted to accusations of racism and bigotry. Frank Gaffney, the President of Center for Security Policy (CSP) and a member of the Committee on the Present Danger (CPD), has been tracking the corrupting influences introduced into Republican and Conservative circles by Grover Norquist for over a decade.

In 2003, the Horowitz on-line e-zine frontpagemag.com posted an article by Frank Gaffney entitled “A Troubling Influence.” Horowitz placed a foreword to the lengthy piece, saying that it was being posted with “a heavy heart.” For twenty years, David Horowitz had known Grover Norquist as a staunch defender of American values. Gaffney’s first-hand accounts, however, were damning:

On the basis of the evidence assembled here, it seems beyond dispute that Grover Norquist has formed alliances with prominent Islamic radicals who have ties to the Saudis and to Libya and to Palestine Islamic Jihad, and who are now under indictment by U.S. authorities. Equally troubling is that the arrests of these individuals and their exposure as agents of terrorism have not resulted in noticeable second thoughts on Grover’s part or any meaningful effort to dissociate himself from his unsavory friends.

Unraveling the feud between Grover Norquist and Frank Gaffney is critical for the Tea Party movement. Frank Gaffney’s account paints Grover Norquist as a knowing pawn of the Muslim Brotherhood. Suhail Khan, as outed by Horowitz, is just one part of the equation. Frank Gaffney’s 2003 article lists Khaled Saffuri as the “Point Man” for planting the seeds of stealth jihad in the conservative circles of America.

The record is plain – Grover Norquist accepted $20,000 from the now convicted terrorist Abdulrahman Alamoudi. With that money, Norquist established the Islamic Free Enterprise Institute, known today as the Islamic Institute. Khaled Saffuri was placed at the head of the organization. His title was Founding Director. Today, Khaled Saffuri is an Advisory Partner at the MITA Group, where he works alongside the likes of John McCain’s 2008 National Convention Director, William D. Harris, and Cap Gemini Technologies President James Hunt.

The MITA Group works in tandem with the influential defense consulting firm Burdeshaw Associates, Ltd. through a proposal management firm known as Alansa International, LLC to help foreign businesses earn a shot at U.S. taxpayer funding for their projects. If McCain had won the presidency in 2008, Khaled Saffuri would have been strategically primed to take on the Shariah Compliant Finance activities currently fulfilled through Deloitte in the Obama presidency. He would have been positioned to privatize the corruption. As it stands, the MITA Group remains a relatively obscure company with a wide-ranging capacity to affect legislation on the allocation of U.S. taxpayer dollars.

Interestingly, upon Obama’s ascension to power, MITA Group client BearingPoint, a mega lobby firm working numerous contracts for USAID, filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy on roughly one billion dollars in debts after not disclosing records of its activities from December 2004 through March of 2007. PricewaterhouseCooper (PwC) and Deloitte snapped up significant shares of BearingPoint’s McLean, Va.-based business in the restructuring. Notably, the international consulting arm of BearingPoint is known as KPMG. KPMG takes great pride in its skillful mainlining of Shariah Compliant Finance into Great Britain’s economic picture via passage of the Finance Act of 2005. KPMG consultants sat on HM Treasury and HM Revenue & Customs working groups to craft and develop U.K. tax legislation that would “enable Islamic financial institutions to compete on a level playing field with non-Sharia’a compliant institutions.”

The Tea Party activists of the American Spring would do well to recognize that consulting firms and mega lobby groups in Washington D.C. like McKinsey & Co., Ernst & Young, and PricewaterhouseCooper hold vested interests in the advancement of Islamic Finance. Saudi Arabia and a number of wealthy sheikhs have advanced Shariah Compliant Finance through the universities of the Ivy League. By 2008, Harvard’s Islamic Finance program brought “Islamic Finance 101” to Capitol Hill. Larry Summers of the Obama administration and Elena Kagan, the Obama appointee to the Supreme Court, set the stage for this attempt to indoctrinate the Congress of the United States.

On November 6th, 2008, Frank Gaffney led the American Spring’s first intellectual charge against the attempt to introduce Shariah Compliant Finance as an ethical alternative to conventional banking. The U.S. Treasury Department chose to promote Shariah Compliant Finance by holding a “seminar for the policy community” in its headquarters that day. Recognizing that the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution was under attack, Frank Gaffney put together a Coalition to Stop Shariah and on November 6th mounted the podium at the National Press Club and issued a statement declaring independence from the tyrannies of Allah:

We are Americans opposed to the “stealth jihad” being waged in this country by those who promote Shariah – authoritative Islam’s theo-political-religious program for establishing a global theocracy. As such, Shariah and its espousal of violent and stealthy jihad constitute sedition. We are determined to resist efforts now underway to create “parallel” Muslim societies and otherwise to insinuate Shariah into this country via its mosques, prisons, campuses, media, government and financial institutions.

Of particular concern is the progress being made to establish Shariah-Compliant Finance (SCF) within Western, and most recently, U.S. banks and other institutions that trade securities. Islamic finance’s leading Shariah authorities have made plain that they consider SCF to be “jihad with money,” “financial jihad” and a means of promoting their objective of destroying the West’s economic system and replacing it with an Islamic one.

The notion that Shariah Compliant Finance holds principles in common with American Free Market Capitalism is, in a word, absurd.

The economic history of Islam has not yet been chronicled in detail. However, the philosophical tenets of Islam’s marketplace gave birth to four failings of mankind: (1) slavery as an institution ordained by the source of supreme law, the “new knowledge” as laid down per the Pen of Allah in al Qur’an, (2) dhimmitude as a mercantile force of dynastic design, (3) piracy as an imperial policy of conquest and colonialism, and (4) jihadi terrorism as the completion of the Hisba code of Islamic supremacy. Only a romantic view of Islam can dismiss the forced nature of bribery inherent in the “Articles of Capitulation” signed by Western diplomats of the Ottoman period. The submission demanded by these unconscionable articles forced America’s Founding Fathers to launch the Barbary Wars to guarantee free trade.

Today, nearly ten years after 9/11, we are awakening to the reality that a difference exists between jihadist financing and Islamic economic warfare. In this, Frank Gaffney is the iconoclast, who launched the American Spring four days after Obama’s election to the White House. Grover Norquist’s dalliance with forces at war with the United States has left him marked with a scarlet letter.

The Tea Party activists of the American Spring have arisen to set our economic house in order. Shariah Compliant Finance and its Takaful insurance offerings represent a threat to the solvency of the United States. The subversive activities of the Muslim Brotherhood linked organizations in the United States, in both the financing of terrorism and the pursuit of economic warfare, are pronounced.

Frank Gaffney has arisen as the first champion of the American Spring.

[Originally published at the Tea Party Tribune]

Iran: The Purge of the Hojatieh Society

“A nation from the East will rise and prepare the way for the coming of the Mahdi”
-Prophet Muhammad, Hadith tradition

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s defiance of Ayatollah Khameini, Iran’s Supreme Leader, is no laughing matter. An 11-day strike by President Ahmadinejad has ended with the arrest of 25 of his associates on the charge of sorcery – a charge which carries the penalty of death.

Ahmadinejad’s Chief of Staff, Esfandiar Rahim Masheia, lies at the heart of the controversy. Rumor has it that “Mashaei allegedly occasionally enters a trance-like state to communicate with the Twelfth Imam or will sometimes randomly say ‘hello’ to no one at all and then explain that the Twelfth Imam just passed by.”

Ayandeh, an Iranian news website, described one of the arrested men, Abbas Ghaffari, as “a man with special skills in metaphysics and connections with the unknown worlds”.

Following the 2009 elections, Ayatollah Khameini rejected Ahmadinejad’s decision to raise Mashaei to the position of First Vice President. Ahmadinejad eventually relented and made him Chief of Staff.

The rift between President Ahmadinejad and Ayatollah Khameini came to a head in late April. President Ahmadinejad asked the Minister of Intelligence, Heidar Moslehi, to resign due to concerns that Moslehi was stoking criticism of his Chief of Staff.

President Ahmadinejad accepted the resignation of Minister Moslehi on April 17th. However,  Ayatollah Khameini refused to accept the resignation. The Iranian news website Azad Negar noted that the Intelligence Minister’s resignation followed Moslehi’s decision to replace the chief of the Intelligence Ministry’s Bureau of Planning and Budget. Notably, the chief of the bureau was a political ally of Ahmadinejad’s Chief of Staff, Mashaei.

The Ayatollah ordered Moslehi to remain in his position. President Ahmadinejad then staged a strike for 11 days that placed the future of his administration in question. Ahmadinejad refused to return to the Presidential Palace to reside over his cabinet meetings with Moslehi present. A sulking Ahmadinejad also canceled an official visit to Qom, a place often described as Iran’s holiest city. These two moves caused 12 Ministers of Iran’s Parliament to call for President Ahmadinejad’s impeachment.

President Ahmadinejad’s political gyrations in support of his Chief of Staff were read as a breach of the traditional power-sharing agreement in Iran. In response Ayatollah Khameini, as the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Establishment of Iran, has apparently chosen to purge the propaganda arm of a millennial cult known as the Hojatieh Society. The Hojatieh’s influence in Ahmadinejad’s inner circle is well documented.

Dore Gold captures the essence of the Hojatieh Society’s political drive for power in his recent release The Rise of Nuclear Iran:

Founded in 1954, its twofold mission was to fight the Bahai faith and pave the way for the reappearance of the Mahdi. It did not accept Khomeini’s doctrine of velayat-e faqih, the rule of the jurisprudent, since the arrival of the Mahdi make a cleric to represent him in the interim unnecessary.

Mubarak’s fall from power in Egypt on February 11th, 2011 prompted the Iranian President Ahmadinejad to remark on the Arab Spring,

“This is a global revolution, managed by the imam of the ages.”

Ahmadinejad’s speech in Tehran’s Azadi Square sent alarm bells through the Qom Establishment. If the Mahdi, the Hidden Imam, had indeed returned from his occultation as Ahmadinejad was suggesting, than the institution of the vilayet-e faqih, the beating heart of the Khomeini Revolution, was no longer the source of authority in Iran. The release of an Ahmadinejad-sponsored documentary in mid-March advanced the notion that the Mahdi was orchestrating the Arab Spring.

Conservative clerics in Iran were critical of President Ahmadinejad’s disobedience of the Ayatollah in the wake of Moslehi’s reinstatement.

Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi, a hardline cleric close to Khamenei, warned that disobeying the supreme leader – who has the ultimate power in Iran – is equivalent to “apostasy from Allah“.

Reports indicate that the Ayatollah has told Ahmadinejad to either accept Minister Moslehi’s reinstatement or resign from the presidency. The stand-off has placed Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei at the center of the storm.

“Currently Mashaei is the real president,” said Hojjat ol-Eslam Mojtaba Zolnur, the Supreme Leader’s representative in the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC).

Further Zolnur remarked, “Mr. Ahmadinejad has held on to a decaying rope by relying on Mashaei.”

The row over Minister Moslehi’s reinstatement is further complicated by the release of the March documentary about the Hidden Imam’s return. Conservative clerics have accused Ahmadinejad’s inner circle, including Mashaei, of releasing the video. The return of the twelfth Imam is a sacred event in Shia Islam that velayat loyalists believe cannot be predicted. The fact that the documentary claims to predict the coming of the Mahdi is seen by Khomeinist clerics as proof of a “deviant current” within the ranks of Ahmadinejad’s power brokers.

Ahmadinejad returned to the Presidential Palace on May 1st to contemplate the path forward. By May 5th, the Guardian revealed the Ayatollah Khameini’s moves to place pressure on Ahmadinejad to support the velayat-e faqih:

Since Ahmadinejad’s return this week, at least 25 people, who are believed to be close to Mashaei, have been arrested. Among them is Abbas Amirifar, head of the government’s cultural committee and some journalists of Mashaei’s recently launched newspaper, Haft-e-Sobh.

President Ahmadinejad is not eligible for re-election in 2013. It is believed that President Ahmadinejad is grooming Esfandiar Rahim Masheia to take the keys to the Presidential Palace.

Tradition holds that the Mahdi will return to the earth in a time of great chaos. The Hojatieh Society believes this chaos can be engineered. In that strain, the forced resignation of Larijani on the nuclear negotiation front in October 2007 as well as the firing of Foreign Minister Mottaki in December 2010 foreshadowed the attempt to kick Minister Moslehi to the curb in April 2011.

According to Dore Gold, the belief that the Mahdi’s return was imminent rather than an end-times construct amounted to “an enormous irrational factor” in the Iranian Nuclear question.

The recent death of Osama bin Laden has introduced an unexpected wrinkle in the activities of Islamists in the Arab Spring; however, the ouster of Ahmadinejad would dramatically alter the geopolitical picture of the Greater Middle East.

The U.S. Special Representative of the Central Region, Dennis Ross, has led the way to a U.S.-Muslim Engagement which began in a June 2009 Cairo address which witnessed an open hand of American negotiations slapped aside by Ahmadinejad’s crack down on the Iranian Green Movement. The foundation of the Ross statecraft of engagement was defining Iran as a “rational” actor. After over a year of diplomatic overtures and sanctions activities, in an October 2010 address to AIPAC, Dennis Ross noted:

Iran’s own behavior over the past two years…has demonstrated that it prefers defiance and secrecy to transparency and peace.

In addition to unilateral sanctions from the United States, Ross highlighted the international community’s push to isolate the Iranian Regime:

UNSCR 1929 bans a wide range of Iranian activities including ballistic missile activity, Iranian investment in nuclear industries abroad, and the export of certain heavy weapons to Iran, which the Russians in particular have used as the basis for canceling the sale of an advanced air defense system to Iran.

The resolution provides mechanisms for inspecting Iranian cargo and seizing contraband, and requires member states to exercise vigilance when conducting business with any Iranian entity, including the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps and Iran’s shipping firm IRISL.

The combination of international pressure and a challenge to the supremacy of the Khomeinist doctrine of the velayat-e faqih has led to the Ayatollah Khameini’s recent push to purge the “irrational” Hojatieh elements from the Tehran regime.

Ironically, in order to establish a presence as a “rational” actor in a bid to claim the title of Superpower of the Middle East, Ayatollah Khameini has chosen to embark on a literal witch hunt.

Ahmadinejad may survive the purge. Indeed, the purge may be nothing more than a dramatic hoax to satisfy Western criticism of Iran’s colorful past in the industry of state-sponsored terrorism. Only a revisionist history of Iran can dismiss the Islamic Establishment of Iran’s support of organizations ranging from Hezbollah to Hamas to Al Qaeda.

At present, the only certainty is that any and all aspirations of Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei to win the Iranian Presidency have been sacrificed to the geopolitics of regional hegemony.

The Western world is now witness to the spectacle of the Islamic Establishment of Iran achieving the status of “rational” actor by charging upstarts within its administration of sorcery.

Gary H. Johnson, Jr. is the Senior Advisor for International Security Affairs at the Victory Institute and is host of The Elemental Struggle on the Radio Jihad Network at 6pm every Wednesday.

Syria: The Libya Precedent

“Over the course of two months since protests in Syria began, the United States has repeatedly encouraged President Assad and the Syrian Government to implement meaningful reforms, but they refuse to respect the rights of the Syrian people or be responsive to their aspirations.”

President Barack Obama, April 22, 2011

The Arab Spring is over. Libya’s stalemate has proven one thing – the UN Security Council is a pencil without lead.

The Obama administration’s policy of generating political space for the international community to prosecute Muammar Gaddafi for his regime’s crimes against humanity has officially backfired. Dictators like Bashar al Assad in Syria paid close attention as UNSCR 1970 and UNSCR 1973 were implemented.

President Obama sought to make sure his diplomatic corps mobilize the United Nations, the International Criminal Court (ICC), the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and regional organizations in a transparent process to guarantee the speedy isolation of the rogue Gaddafi regime.

In the Libya Crisis, a UN Human Rights condemnation was followed by U.S. unilateral sanctions. An international sanctions regime and arms embargo came days later. The arms embargo was followed by a diplomatic press to create unity of purpose in the UN Security Council. At the same time, special attention was paid to cajoling the Arab League, the Gulf Cooperation Council, the Organization of the Islamic Conference, and the African Union with the proposition of establishing a no-fly zone and ceasefire to achieve protection for civilians. Regime change was not the aim. This process was capped by the establishment of a coalition of the willing. The no-fly zone game plan called for handing off the costly civilian protection endeavor to NATO to maximize stakeholder unity. The aim of this bureaucratic maze was to isolate the Gaddafi regime and impose the necessary conditions for the ICC to gather enough evidence to mount a solid case against Muammar Gaddafi, himself. Throughout the process, the leaders of the coalition continually reiterated that Gaddafi had lost all legitimacy.

The U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, engineered Russia and China’s abstention on the vote for UNSCR 1973. Unfortunately, the use of military firepower to ensure civilian protection has been criticized by the BRICS community (a group of countries with developing economies, namely Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa). In this, it is unlikely that the UN Security Council will pass an expanded UNSCR 1973 which includes a mechanism to trigger regime change in Libya; Russia and China will likely veto any such measure. Interestingly, throughout the process, the threat of unilateral action by the United States against the Gaddafi regime remained hollow – Resolution 1973 expressly forbade the use of ground forces to secure the ceasefire.

Upwards of 10,000 Libyans have died in what is now a protracted civil war.

Syria’s President Bashar al Assad has learned the lessons of North Africa. For five weeks, thousands of protestors have been demanding government reform in a dozen Syrian cities. The demonstrations, in recent weeks, have been met with live ammunition. Over 500 Syrian civilians have been taken to prison and over 300 Syrian civilians have been killed in al Assad’s crackdowns. On the surface, Assad’s Baathist regime appears to be following the Gaddafi pattern of repression. The Syrian military has turned inward. Syria’s media has been blacked out. Yet the UN Security Council remains silent in the wake of the emerging humanitarian crisis.

The Question of Legitimacy

Ultimately, the Arab Spring has revealed the importance of an organized opposition. The revolts of Tunisia and Egypt showed that grassroots movements for change can topple unprepared autocrats from power. However, Libya has shown that peaceful marches do not sway totalitarian rulers who claim the mantle of legitimacy. Moreover, the fact that France, Italy, and Qatar remain the only nations that recognize the Libyan opposition rebels as a legitimate transition government has emboldened repressive regimes in the face of international pressures.

The question of who the Libyan rebels are yields a mixed bag: disenchanted youth, common laborers, democracy activists, Muslim Brotherhood radicals, Libyan Islamic Fighting Group loyalists formerly allied to al Qaeda, engineers, shop keepers, quietist clerics, and liberal professors. This mixed bag guarantees propaganda’s effectiveness. Muammar Gaddafi instantly painted Libya’s protestors as drug-addled al Qaeda gangs.

Americans, awakening to the reality of an Ikhwan-stacked deck in Egypt, are concerned that the push for democracy in the Greater Middle East will deliver the liberalized Arab street from the clutches of dictators into the tyrannical embrace of Islamism and jihad.

In short, for villains like Bashar al Assad, the formula for retaining power in the face of the Arab Spring boils down to questioning the legitimacy of the protestors and knocking out all organized opposition elements. The question of legitimacy is the litmus test.

Since the Americans and British have not recognized Libya’s rebels as a legitimate voice of the Libyan people, the option of providing heavy weaponry is sidelined by concerns over whether the weapons will end up in the arsenals of al Qaeda, Hamas, or Hezbollah.

In this light, the UN Security Council has learned that mandating a ceasefire and imposing a ceasefire are not one in the same. Mandating a ceasefire might mean implementing a no-fly zone. Imposing a ceasefire requires boots on the ground. The besieged civilians of Misrata can attest to this truth.

The Road Map for Repression in Syria

In the Gaddafi mold, Bashar al Assad has painted the Syrian revolutionaries as Islamist gangs.  For Assad, the key to delegitimizing the protest movement in Syria was to demonstrate that the aim of the movement was to undermine the stability of the Assad regime. To complete the maneuver, Assad assented to the protestor demands and lifted the 48-year old Emergency Law to institute a number of reforms in the Syrian government. The protests continued.

Whether or not these reforms were adequate or decreed in good faith was secondary to winning allies in the Arab League.

Without the support of the Arab League, the implementation of the no-fly zone and ceasefire in Libya via UNSCR 1973 would have failed to arrest Gaddafi’s drive into the heart of Benghazi.

Indeed, President Obama on April 22nd issued a press release which condemned the “outrageous” attacks on protestors and questioned the sincerity of the repeal:

The Syrian Government’s moves yesterday to repeal Syria’s decades-old Emergency Law and allow for peaceful demonstrations were not serious given the continued violent repression against protesters today.

However, after a weekend which saw over 100 protestors butchered on the streets of Syrian cities, SANA, the Syrian Arab News Agency, revealed that the President of the United Arab Emirates met with Assad on Sunday and gave him a letter of support:

President Bashar al-Assad received a letter from President of the United Arab Emirates Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al-Nahyan on the latest developments in the region, voicing the United Arab Emirate’s standing by the people and leadership of Syria to get past the current stage.

The letter was delivered by UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al-Nahyan during his meeting with President Bashar al-Assad on Sunday.

The meeting dealt with the latest developments in Syria and the comprehensive reforms led by the Syrian leadership, as well as the situation in the Gulf, especially in Bahrain and Yemen.

Without Arab League and GCC support, any call for a ceasefire will come from Doha or Cairo. The diplomats of Geneva and New York are now completely disarmed.

Further, the notion of a coalition of willing partners establishing a no-fly zone over Damascus and other Syrian cities is not an option. In the eyes of Assad, Gaddafi’s only mistake was to utilize air power to terrorize the rebels. This miscalculation gave the UN Security Council ammunition in the establishment of a no-fly zone as a reasonable course of action to protect civilians. Recognizing the fatal flaw of the Gaddafi regime’s attempt to maintain power, al Assad has grounded his air assault squads in favor of good old-fashion secret police night-raids, tank shelling, and sniper fire.

The fact that the African Union’s road map for peace in Libya was rejected by the Libyan Transition Council demonstrated that a political solution which did not include regime change was not an option. Syrian President Assad has weighed this reality with the relative strength of his regime’s geopolitical situation. Neutralizing the U.S. State Department represents the core of Assad’s strategy to retain legitimacy in the eyes of the international community.

The U.S. State Department’s website depicts Syria as a stabilizing force rather than a state sponsor of terror:

Ensuring regime survival, increasing influence among its Arab neighbors, and achieving a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace settlement, which includes the return of the Golan Heights, are the primary goals of President Assad’s foreign policy.

The reality that Syria is a vassal of Iran and supplies weapons to Hezbollah is absent from the foreign policy of Assad listed by the State Department. Damascus, the Syrian capital, plays host to numerous exiled Islamist and jihadist leaders. Chemical weapons from Saddam Hussein’s arsenal were likely hidden by Assad’s regime. Al Qaeda has been granted safe haven to operate its Iraqi strikes against American troops from Syrian territory. Attempts to develop nuclear weapons have figured prominently in the activities of the rogue regime.  For decades, Syria’s military forces occupied Lebanon. To this day, Syria wrinkles the political picture in Beirut. Yet, for all these shortcomings, America’s diplomatic corps is determined to believe Syria to be aimed at achieving a “comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace settlement.” These documented facts coupled with the Obama Administration’s reinstatement of an Ambassador to Syria highlights the geopolitical strength of the Assad regime.

Like Iran, the Obama administration considers Syria a “rational” player. As a rational actor, Syrian President Assad, then, represents a “stabilizing” force in the Greater Middle East. In full, any attempt by the United States, France or Britain to invade Syria, unilaterally, would result in a World War. Israel would likely be invaded from multiple directions in such a scenario. The level of Iran’s response would be unpredictable.  Jihadists and Islamists would mount a propaganda and terror campaign of uncertain proportions in response. Assad recognizes these strengths. So, while European powers draft UN condemnations, Assad recognizes that no ceasefire can be imposed on his regime from a Western-led coalition.

The most pressure that can fall upon Syria from the West is a sanctions regime equivalent to UNSCR 1970, which includes an arms embargo. However, the likelihood of the UN effectively curbing arms shipments to and from Lebanon and Iran is nil. Unilateral sanctions can be imposed on Syria’s leaders to little effect.

The International Criminal Court is not a threat to Assad. The reforms demanded on the Syrian Street were made, yet protests continued. No international court will prosecute a leader for attempting to maintain internal and regional stability. While the brutality of the Baathist crackdown may generate outrage, an investigation by the ICC can easily be steered. For instance, officials can be bribed with promises of cooperation on alternative agendas such as the Arab-Israeli peace front.

Internally, the threat of a legitimate opposition force has already been quashed. So long as a media blackout remains in effect, the international community will not recognize any rebel alliance as legitimate transition brokers.

Syria has sealed its southern border with Jordan. This move indicates a desire to close off external entry of weapons and support by elements of the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan. Interestingly, the border with Lebanon remains open for business. In this, Lebanon’s Future Movement and Cedar Revolutionary forces remain the only organizing agents open to the Syrian dissidents.

According to Hezbollah’s al Manar:

At the beginning of April, former Lebanese MP Nasser Qandil revealed serious information about Syrian opposition figures arriving to Lebanon to manage the “sabotage” operation in Syria.

The Hezbollah report indicates that Israel’s Ambassador to the U.S., Dan Shapiro, and U.S. Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, Jeffrey Feltman, met with Saad Hariri’s consultant, Hani Hammoud, in Paris on January 18, 2011 to appoint Lebanon’s Future Newspaper journalist Fares Khasan as the coordinator for Syrian opposition elements. The report identifies a Tripoli hotel as an operations hub. The American-Israeli-Cedars “plot” includes the passage of satellite telephones to key opposition leaders within Syria.

On Monday, April 18th, the U.S. State Department rejected the charge that the United States was attempting to undermine the Syrian regime. More than $7 million has gone to civil-society building programs in Syria since 2005. Mark Toner, spokesman for the State department noted that the Assad regime “sees this kind of assistance as a threat to its existence.”

The legitimacy of Syria’s protestors has been questioned. The ability for the dissidents to organize as a legitimate alternative to Assad has been thrown into disarray. Outside influence has been minimized. The Arab League has been neutralized. The diplomatic capital of the Obama administration has been spent. The Obama administration is now on the defensive. The assassination of journalists in Lebanon is on the horizon. The dictators of the Greater Middle East can now breathe a sigh of relief. Assad has killed the Arab Spring in Syria. The Libya precedent has served to strengthen the iron curtain of Islamic Supremacy.

[Originally published at Family Security Matters]

Victory Sheet: Libya’s “Days of Rage”

EDITOR’S NOTE: Every week, the Victory Institute’s Victory Sheet will monitor events in the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia – a region known as the MENASA or the Greater Middle East. An iron curtain of Islamic supremacy has gripped this region for decades. This week’s edition will lend an eye toward Libya.

Source: CIA World Factbook

On February 17th, less than a week after the fall of the Mubarak regime in Egypt, a revolutionary wave of youth-led peaceful protests, aimed at unseating the 42-year totalitarian rule of Muammar Gaddafi, were met with live ammunition. Within three days, the peaceful protests escalated into armed rebellion. By February 20th, where this Victory Sheet picks up, the Qaddafi regime had lost its hold on the eastern city of Benghazi.

-Gary H. Johnson, Jr., Senior Advisor for International Security Affairs

February 20, 2011

By Sunday the 20th, the Gaddafi regime had established a communications blackout throughout Libya to slow the mobilization of anti-government demonstrators through social media networks. Al Jazeera was blocked. Hospital staffers in Benghazi, the second largest city in Libya, reported the deaths of at least 200 in the city, while independent reports indicated that an unspecified number of Libyan security personnel in the city had defected from the Gaddafi regime and joined the protestors. The Libyan permanent representative to the Arab League, Ambassador Abdel Moneim el-Huny, resigned his post to express solidarity with the protestors. By Sunday, Human Rights Watch had placed the three day death toll in Libya at 233. Also, in a dramatic turn on Sunday, a representative of the highly influential Warfallah tribe announced it was throwing in its lot with the anti-government protestors.

February 21, 2011

On Monday the 21st, as protests escalated and hit the streets of Libya’s capital, Tripoli, the son of Muammar Qaddafi, Saif-al Islam Qaddafi, warned of civil war in which “rivers of blood” would flow if the protestors did not stand down, offering conciliatory terms for changing the Libyan constitution through dialog. Libya’s ambassador to India, Ali al-Essawi, resigned in protest as the Arab League’s Secretary General, Amr Moussa, called for an end to violence, giving a nod to the legitimacy of the protestor’s cause. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton joined British and French counterparts in denouncing the violence taking place throughout Libya. Also, an international coalition of human rights organizations called for Libya’s removal from the UN Human Rights Committee; and two Libyan pilots defected to the island of Malta after being given orders to fire on the protestors. By Monday, buildings at the gates of a Benghazi security compound were on fire; while in Tripoli’s Green Square, the parliament building and two state media outlets were set ablaze by opposition forces. Several key officials, including the Minister of Justice stepped down from their posts, while at the UN, Libya’s deputy ambassador, Ibrahim Dabbashi, broke with Gaddafi, accusing his regime of committing “genocide against the Libyan people.” Abdul Fattah Younis al Abidi, the Interior Minister, resigned his post following reports of Benghazi mass killings; the Gaddafi regime reported falsely on Monday that the minister was kidnapped by protestors. Eyewitnesses reported African mercenaries off-loading from cargo planes near Tripoli and immediately attacking unarmed protestors; reports also indicated helicopter gunships and warplanes were firing on protestors. In reaction, oil prices shot up to $100 per barrel and gold jumped to $1400 an ounce.

February 22, 2011

By Tuesday the 22nd, Libya’s ambassador to the United States, Ali Aujali, called for Gaddafi to step down. The Libyan ambassadors to Indonesia and China resigned in protest, and the Libyan embassies in Malaysia and Australia claimed to no longer represent Gaddafi’s regime. U.S. Senator John Kerry and Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen called for Libya’s removal from the UN Human Rights Council. Lehtinen called for an asset freeze and travel ban for Libya’s leading regime, and Kerry called on international partners to place Libyan military commanders on notice that they could be brought up on international war crimes charges. Hillary Clinton refined her message on Tuesday, saying “We will take appropriate steps in line with our policies, our values and our laws, but we are going to have to work in concert with the international community.” The 15-person UN Security Council issued a statement, calling for an end to violence in Libya, underlining the need for the Libyan government to meet the basic rights of its people. The UN Security Council met with Libya’s UN Ambassador Abd-al Rahman Shalgham and UN Political Chief Lynn Pascoe for a closed door briefing, Tuesday. Calling the protestors “gangs” and “terrorists”, Muammar Gaddafi made a Libyan state television in an address threatening with the death penalty all those who take up arms or join in espionage against the Gaddafi regime.

February 23, 2011

On Wednesday the 23rd, the Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini confirmed that Cyrenaica, the eastern half of Libya, was no longer in Gaddafi’s control, and expressed concern over credible reports that the death toll had reached 1,000 in Libya’s uprising. Mass evacuations of foreign nationals caught headlines – 25,000 Turks, 33,000 Chinese, 60,000 Bangladeshis, 18,000 Indians, 26,000 Filipinos, as well as thousands of European, American, and African nationals sought refuge from the violence. Thousands poured out through the Egyptian and Tunisian borders, and Egyptian planes were flown into Tripoli since the airport in Benghazi was in ruins; the U.S. State Department chartered a ferry and began closing its embassy, while the British sent two Royal Navy warships to help with evacuations. Misrata, the third largest city in Lybia, fell to the opposition advance, while heavy fighting between government forces and rebellious opposition elements was heard in Sabratha, 80 kilometers from Tripoli. Though the streets in Tripoli were silent as pro-Gaddafi forces solidified their defensive positions, the Eastern city of Tobruk, on the Egyptian border, erupted in mass demonstrations. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon expressed grave concern over the severity of human rights violations at the hands of the Libyan regime. Secretary General Ibrahim Abdulaziz Sahad of the National Front for the Salvation of Libya (NFSL), a leading opposition group in Libya, expressed concern over the slow reaction of the United States to the mass violence, noting that the Air Force Academy in Misrata and some units in Zawiya had joined the protestors. Reports have surfaced of Libyan pilots ejecting from their warplane and letting it crash in the desert rather than firing on the Libyan protestors of Benghazi. Police stations, intelligence buildings and other Gaddafi installations in the eastern city of Bayda lay in ruins as celebrations broke out under the pre-Gaddafi-era flag. Residents of Benghazi vowed to liberate Tripoli in a mass rally. Joining condemnation from the EU, OIC, AU, and Arab League, President Obama, speaking from the White House, strongly condemned the Libyan government-sanctioned violence against demonstrators, pushing forward a vigorous international response by dispatching U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs William Burns to multiple venues in Europe for consultations and Secretary of State Clinton to Geneva for a meeting with the UN Human Rights Council. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad also expressed concern over the “bad behavior” of Gaddafi’s regime, slanting the demonstrations that have hit the entire Greater Middle East as an “Islamic awakening.”

February 24, 2011

On Thursday, Muammar Gaddafi called for parents to control their children, blaming the uprising on Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda. Gaddafi’s son, Saif al-Islam, dismissed high casualty figures, inviting international journalists to tour Libya on Friday, challenging them to find evidence of brutality or bombings. Ahmed Gaddaf al-Dam, a close aid of Gaddafi, defected over the crackdowns on protestors. Anti-government forces moved into Zawiya on Thursday. Gaddafi loyalists clashed with protestors pinned down near a Zawiya mosque, destroying its minaret with anti-aircraft missiles. In east Libya, checkpoints and rudimentary government committees were established to maintain order.

February 25, 2011

By Friday, the entire Libyan delegation to the UN announced they were defecting from the Gaddafi regime, choosing to serve instead as representatives of the Libyan people and their free will. With discussions of international military intervention on the table, Ambassador Abdel Rahman Shalgham told Al-Arabiya TV that “It is time for courageous decisions to be made.” Questions of whether NATO would enforce a no-fly zone over Libya loomed large; and NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen noted he is working on a plan “involving the EU and NATO sharing resources” to help purchase military equipment, underscoring previous plans by European defense ministers to increase cooperation with NATO. After two days of delay due to bad weather, a U.S.-chartered ferry carrying 167 U.S. citizens and 118 foreign nationals left Tripoli for Malta. The U.S. also suspended embassy operations in Tripoli, evacuating the last 19 U.S. diplomats.

February 26, 2011

On Saturday, Germany’s Ambassador to the UN, Peter Wittig, noted that the international community owed the people of Libya “swift and quick action,” saying “We heard the call yesterday of the Ambassador. I think it is important that this council decides strong and clear measures,” guaranteeing accountability for the perpetrators of the Libyan violence. Also on Saturday, as sanctions and travel bans were decided upon on the international stage, Mustafa Abdel-Jalil, the former Gaddafi justice minister, formed a transitional government based out of Benghazi with 13 committees to serve for three months until elections could be conducted. His countrymen advanced on Tripoli.

The Victory Sheet is a production of the Victory Institute

The Taliban Threat Matrix

The following is from the Nov. 16th edition of Liberty & Security Journal. Download the digital version

By Gary H. Johnson, Jr.

On October 25, 2010, the Afghan Coordinating Body for Afghan Relief (ACBAR) and the Afghan NGO Safety Office (ANSO) issued a joint press release regarding the banning of Private Security Contractors in Afghanistan by President Hamid Karzai. The joint statement sought to clarify the difference between private development companies and aid agencies operating in the Afghan state, noting unequivocally that “The ban on Private Security Companies will have no negative impact on aid delivery by humanitarian NGOs [non-governmental organizations].”

According to the joint statement, 2,000 local and 360 international NGOs provide relief operations to conflict-ridden Afghan communities. In May of 2010, the Karzai administration shut down 20 foreign NGOs and over 100 local NGOs in a drive to end corruption in the humanitarian side of the Afghan equation. In keeping with this campaign to end corruption in the ranks of the NGO agencies, the Karzai administration, in November of 2010, shut down the operations of four more international relief organizations and over 150 more local Afghan humanitarian outfits. Combined, the NGOs currently employ around 50,000 relief workers in Afghanistan.

In 1988, ACBAR was created to provide an umbrella organization for relief agency operations in Afghanistan. According to the joint ACBAR/ANSO release by Laurent Saillard, Director of ACBAR, ACBAR was developed “as a response to the demand from the many civilian independent aid agencies for a coordinated approach to humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan and for Afghan refugees in Pakistan.” More confusingly, the primary mandate of ACBAR, according to Saillard’s release is to “serve and facilitate the work of its 106 national and international NGO members in order to address efficiently the development of humanitarian assistance.”

ANSO was created in 2002, and since 2006 has operated through the legal hosting abilities of one of the largest NGOs in Germany, the decades-old relief agency Welthungerhilfe, which receives its funding through private donations and public grants. According to the ANSO website, the purpose of the independent project is to support delivery of humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan by ensuring that NGOs “have access to high quality, independent information about the areas they operate in.” The activities of ANSO, which can be tracked at www.afgnso.org, are directed exclusively to the NGO community rather than intelligence, military, or media outlets. Overseen by an NGO Advisory Board, ANSO is co-funded by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (www.sdc.admin.ch), and the European Commission on Humanitarian Aid & Civil Protection (ECHO). Interestingly, these co-sponsors of ANSO, and ANSO itself, have their charters and aims directed toward tracking the Millennium Development Goals established through the UN.

Judging the activities of relief organizations in conflict zones is tricky business. Whether the private security company ban affects the flow of humanitarian aid, however, is determined by the insurgency in Afghanistan – the Taliban. The fact is, numbers do not lie, and every quarter ANSO releases a report on the conflict in Afghanistan.

According to the ANSO Quarterly Data Report for the third quarter of 2010, country-wide attacks have increased in Afghanistan by 59% while Taliban recruitment in the north of the country has led to security deterioration in areas where U.S. troops do not operate with full force.

In ANSO’s trend analysis, a map is provided which details how 12 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces have experienced over a 50% increase in attacks from opposition elements. In the North, these provinces include Badghis, Faryab, Balkh, Baghlan, and Takhar. In the South, increased kinetics shows Nangahar, Paktiya, Khost, Paktika, Ghazni, Uruzgan and Helmand as suffering a similar increase in small arms and IED incidents. However, while the map is important for identifying hotspots in the conflict, ANSO’s 2010 Q3 report figure 2.3 on page 12 must be recognized as a fountain of the reality that Western Media has successfully hidden from American eyes for the most part. The chart lists the actual number of attacks on civilians and government installations led by the multi-headed hydra of the Taliban between 2008 and 2010.

For instance: By the fall of 2008, Sar-e Pul province, which for some reason was not highlighted on ANSO’s map, had experienced 2 insurgent attacks; but, by fall of 2009, 17 attacks had hit the province. And in the first three quarters of 2010, Sar-e Pul had been rocked by 48 attacks, displaying a trend that shows a semi-annual anomaly mutating into a weekly phenomenon. In Badghis province, the first three quarters of 2008 yielded 51 attacks by insurgent forces; in 2009, the number had over tripled to 178, and in 2010 the same time period witnessed 270 attacks. Are the communities of Sar-e Pul doomed to the fate of Badghis over the next two years?

Takhar experienced 19 attacks in 2008, and 111 in 2010. Not even listed among the 50% increases is Kunar, which experienced 451 attacks in the first three quarters of 2008, 992 attacks in 2009, and 1167 in the same period of 2010. Herat province inhabitants experienced 200 attacks in the first three quarters of both 2009 and 2010. Ghazni province has experienced an explosion from just under 400 attacks in 2008 to over a thousand in 2010; Paktika has gone from 183 to 322 to now 610 attacks. In two years, Kandahar activity has jumped from 560 to 724 to 956 attacks, yet it does not make the list of 50% increase.

When seen in this light, the deterioration of security activity in Afghanistan, and the inability of an American and NATO ISAF presence to slow the momentum of Taliban tactical activity is striking. Moreover, it becomes obvious that the small slivers of intelligence Americans receive about the dangers their men and women in uniform are experiencing in Afghanistan are drastically underestimated and chronically underreported.

The reality is that the Taliban and its network of affiliates working against the Karzai administration in order to implement a strict form of Shariah Law in Afghanistan, by the end of the third quarter of 2010, had mounted almost 10,000 attacks throughout the nation. In this, while America may hear details of a Taliban led attack in Afghanistan every four or five days on the mainstream news media, the fact is the Taliban is mounting over 35 attacks per day across the country.

The Liberty & Security Journal staff urges all Americans and Western observers to consider the Taliban Threat Matrix as a matter of growing concern. In hopes that LSJ might prove a fertile ground for expert discussion and interviews, we look forward to bringing you a wide array of intelligence and commentary on the AfPak warzone. Freelancers are urged to contact the Victory Institute if interested in contributing to the Taliban Threat Matrix research columns.

Gary H. Johnson, Jr. is the Senior Advisor for International Security Affairs at the Victory Institute and a Contributing Editor at Family Security Matters. His freelance writing and research as a consultant on jihad, counterterrorism and homeland security can also be found at the American Thinker, Canada Free Press, and The US Report.