Archive for June, 2010

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Foundation for the “Oppressed and Disabled”

June 30, 2010

In the book Bazaar and State in Iran, Arang Keshavarzian gives us a closer look at the largest bonyad in Iran, the Bonyad-e Mostazafan, or the Foundation for the Oppressed and Disabled (often called the Foundation of the Oppressed and Disabled Veterans after the Iran-Iraq War).

Keshavarzian writes:

The Foundation of the Oppressed and Disabled, the principal holder of assets seized from the royal family, is the largest of these [bonyad] foundations and is sometimes referred to as the “government within the government.”  In 1982, the foundation owned 203 manufacturing and industrial factories, 472 large farms, 101 construction firms, and 238 trade and service companies.  In the past two decades it has used these already large assets to expand its activities into all areas of the economy, including manufacturing, commerce, banking, tourism, and telecommunications.

It is difficult to estimate their total assets because the foundations’ accounts are not public, but whatever the exact extent of these parastatal organs’ asset base, analysts agree that the scant supervision has encouraged inefficiencies, mismanagement, and embezzlement.  For instance, in 1995, a court found several key figures of the Foundation of the Oppressed and Disabled guilty of embezzlement, although the head of the foundation escaped conviction.

Over time the foundations’ economic prominence and prosperity have continued, if not expanded.  They have been able to circumvent the official trade system, while their political ties have given them access to subsidized foreign currency without performance criteria.  Therefore, the foundations can import, export, and sell goods below market prices and the production costs of local producers… Moreover, independent capitalists cannot compete with the state-affiliated establishments that are exempted from duties and time-consuming bureaucratic hurdles…”

According to IranWatch, Bonyad-e Mostazafan is “listed by the German government as a risky end-user in warnings supplied to its exporters; identified by the British government in February 1998 as having procured goods and/or technology for weapons of mass destruction program.”

Law professor Russell Powell recently wrote, “The largest bonyad, Bonyad-e Mostazafin, supports the family members of martyrs and has $12 billion in assets and employs 400,000.”

Suicide bombing pay-outs, palm-greasing, commercial rackets… remind me again which department at Bonyad-e Mostafazan serves the poor, the oppressed, and the disabled?

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Levey lauds Iran sanctions

June 29, 2010

Treasury Under Secretary Stuart Levey made a series of positive statements about the U.N.’s latest sanctions against Iran in testimony before Congress earlier this month including these direct quotes:

  • “The adoption of Resolution 1929 marks an inflection point in this strategy, as it broadens and deepens existing sanctions programs on Iran and creates an opportunity for us to further sharpen Iran’s choices.”
  • “Resolution 1929 enhances the international community’s obligation to impose measures on Iran’s financial sector, businesses owned or controlled by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), and on elements of Iran’s transportation sector that have been used to evade sanctions.”
  • “The adoption of UNSCR 1929 has enhanced a global effort to hold Iran accountable for its actions.”

But it wasn’t all open-ended praise.  Levey also characterized Resolution 1929 as a measure that the U.S. will have to reinforce through ongoing pressure of its own.

Levey and his team at Treasury are hard workers and straight shooters most of the time.  They believe what they’re saying.  Since sanctions are a large part of what these Treasury folks do for a living, they want to believe that sanctions truly matter.  Would you like to wake up in the morning believing that whatever you do at work that day would be pointless?

Of course not.  But even Levey himself acknowledges the limitations of sanctions by saying, “If the Iranian Government holds true to form, it will scramble to identify “work-arounds” – hiding behind front companies, doctoring wire transfers, falsifying shipping documents” in order to avoid sanctions.”

This gradual escalation of sanctions may help, but we must acknowledge that Iran will not sit by passively and let itself get taken to the cleaners by the U.N. and Stuart Levey.

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Missile freeze stagecraft

June 28, 2010

When the United Nations Security Council passed its latest economic sanctions against Iran (Resolution 1929), the U.S. State Department confessed that the resolution did not preclude Russia from selling S-300 missiles to Tehran.

Sen. Jon Kyl and national security analysts quickly condemned the glaring loophole.  However, Russia followed up by issuing statements of its own that the missile sales to Iran would be “frozen.”

A “freeze” means that the Russians could thaw it at any time as a future bargaining chip against the West.  The moment we try to do something that Putin doesn’t like, he can say, “I must look again at Resolution 1929, Comrade Wolf.”

Ahmadinejad has made a big show of his anger at Russia for voting for sanctions, but that’s mostly for public consumption.  Iran will continue to use its oil wealth, its extensive sharia banking network, and its bonyad system to circumvent the latest sanctions regime and get back in bed with Putin.

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Bonyads and Iranian sanctions evasion

June 27, 2010

During a 2006 hearing in Congress on energy and the Iranian economy, Dr. Kenneth Katzman, a specialist on the Middle East, summed up a major problem with the bonyads, the Iranian charitable foundations we described in the last post:

The most controversial allegation about the bonyads has been whether or not their funds have been used to procure weapons of mass destruction (WMD) technology.  This allegation has long surrounded the largest bonyad, the Foundation for the Oppressed and Disabled, primarily because this bonyad has been run by hardliners and former officials of the Revolutionary Guard (example, Mohsen Rafiq-Dust, a former Minister of the Revolutionary Guard).  The theory underlying the allegation is that the bonyads, because they are not formally part of Iran’s government, can operate outside official scrutiny of foreign governments, and could therefore illicitly procure equipment that might not be approved for export to Iran.  During an official visit to Dubai in 1995, observers at the US consulate there told me that Foundation employees were present in significant numbers in Dubai, holding large quantities of cash which they were using to procure technology from Russia and other arms and technology brokers in the emirate…

Did somebody mention Iranian “technology” procurement from Russia?  More on that tomorrow.

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Equality for Saudi women: they can fund jihad just like the fellas

June 26, 2010

Oh, that wonderful Saudi Arabia that’s fully on our side against terrorist finance–right?  Er, uh.  Didn’t this lady get the word from Cool al-Sheikh?  Hat tip to Puneet Madaan for sending this in:

Terrorist network funded by ‘first lady of al-Qaida’

By Richard Spencer, The Daily Telegraph June 25, 2010

Saudi Arabia is reviewing its terrorism strategy after the detection of a female-run network that was fund raising for al-Qaida.

Heila al-Qusayyer, the middle-class mother described as al-Qaida’s “first lady”, was running a cell of 60 alleged militants. She is believed to have been the Arabian peninsula’s main fund-raiser for al-Qaida.

Qusayyer holds a degree in geography and was married to a former executive from Aramco, the state oil company, who gave up his material possessions to become a radical preacher.

Counter terrorism officials previously assumed that young men and boys were the principal agents of radical Islam. Saudi security chiefs have since set up a specialist all-female unit at King Saud University, the country’s oldest, to study the appeal of Islamist militancy to women and how best to tackle it.

“The story of this woman, who was involved in collecting money – with that money finding its way to al-Qaida – has been like an alarm call to us,” said General Mansur al-Turki of the interior ministry.

Female terrorists have been arrested in the past, including some involved in bomb preparation, but such is the sensitivity towards the role of women that they were released.

The country’s approach to suspects has become tougher across the board after Saeed al-Shehri emerged as deputy leader of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula.

Before then the country, Osama bin Laden’s birthplace, put alleged terrorists through a controversial rehabilitation program with an emphasis on education and psychology.

Shehri, a former Guantanamo Bay inmate who returned to Saudi Arabia and then fled to Yemen, specifically demanded the release of Qusayyer, who was arrested in February.

Based on confessions she is said to have made in custody, the authorities claim she used the cover of Islamic charities to obtain donations of cash and jewellery which she passed on to al-Qaida. One payment was for 650,000 Saudi riyals ($187,000 Cdn).

Read the rest of this entry ?

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Weekly word: bonyad

June 25, 2010

Bonyads are “charitable” Islamic foundations in Iran.

Wikipedia offers this introduction to the concept:

Bonyads are controversial charitable trusts in Iran that dominate Iran’s non-petroleum economy, controlling an estimated 20% of Iran’s GDP.  Exempt from taxes and government control, they have been called “bloated”, and “a major weakness of Iran’s economy”, and criticized for reaping “huge subsidies from government”, while siphoning off production to the lucrative black market and providing limited and inadequate charity to the poor.

Founded as royal foundations by Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the original bonyads were criticized for providing a “smokescreen of charity” to patronage, economic control, for-profit wheeling and dealing done with the goal of “keep[ing] the Shah in Power.”  Resembling more a secretive conglomerate than a charitable trust, these bonyads invested heavily in property development – such as the Kish Island resort – but the developments’ housing and retail was oriented to the middle and upper classes, rather than the poor and needy.

After the 1979 Iranian revolution, the Bonyads were nationalized and renamed with the declared intention of redistributing income to the poor and families of martyrs, i.e. those killed in the service of the country. The assets of many Iranians whose ideas or social positions ran contrary to the new Islamic government were also confiscated and given to the Bonyads without any consequence.

Today, there are over 100 Bonyads, and they are criticized for many of the same reasons as their predecessors. They form tax-exempt, government subsidized, consortiums receiving religious donations and answerable directly (and only) to the Supreme Leader of Iran.  (Internal citations omitted)

Putting it more succinctly, Middle East expert Ray Takeyh describes bonyads as “massive semi-government foundations with vast religious and philanthropic missions [which] have metamorphosed into huge holding companies that dominate the trade and manufacturing sectors while evading competition, taxes and state regulations.”

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Funny business in Chicago. Who’d have thunk?

June 24, 2010

According to Warner Todd Huston in ChicagoNow’s Publius Forum on June 18:

While Mayor Richard “King” Daley goes about his important work of destroying Chicagoan’s 2nd Amendment Rights, a terror supporting Islamist organization is again coming to the Windy City to spread its message of jihad and raise money for the cause.

Hizb ut-Tahrir America, a group committed to a world-wide caliphate by which to oppress the world and destroy freedom and liberty, is bringing its newest outrage to Chicago for the second year in a row. The terror supporting group’s second conference, titled “Emerging World Order: How the Khilafah Will Shape the World,” is scheduled to be held on July 11 at the Chicago Marriott Oak Brook.

While Daley might be happy that terror supporters are setting up shop in the city he is attempting to disarm, not everyone thinks this jihadi conference is a good idea.

Former Hizb ut-Tahrir member Ishtiaq Hussain is warning of the group’s dangerous intentions.

“The bottom line here,” he said, “is that we are witnessing the emergence and the expansion of a jihadist recruitment factory in our midst, openly calling for jihad and for the establishment of a caliphate instead of many governments… and in its last stage to what they call jihadism against America and its allies, that is, technically speaking, terrorism and massacre.”

For those that might have forgotten, Hizb ut-Tahrir’s 2009 conference was titled, “Fall of Capitalism & Rise of Islam…”

Read the rest of Huston’s piece here.

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Breyer, Ginsburg, & Sotomayor: the “right” to provide material support to terrorists

June 23, 2010

We have the right, through our representatives in Congress, to establish limits on the types of support our citizens can provide to our sworn terrorist enemies.

But Justices Breyer, Ginsburg, and Sotomayor are a little more concerned with the free speech rights of terrorist supporters.  Thankfully, these three were outnumbered by six justices who take a more practical approach.  A follow-up to our earlier post on material support:

Supreme Court upholds terrorism support law

(Reuters) – The Supreme Court on Monday upheld a law that bars Americans from providing support to foreign terrorist groups, rejecting arguments that it violated constitutional rights of free speech and association.

The decision came in the first test to reach the Supreme Court after the September 11, 2001, attacks of a case pitting the right of U.S. citizens to speak and associate freely against the government’s efforts to fight terrorism.

In a victory for the Obama administration, the justices voted, 6-3, to reverse a ruling by a U.S. appeals court that declared parts of the law unconstitutionally vague.

The law barring material support was first adopted in 1996 and strengthened by the USA Patriot Act adopted by Congress right after the September 11 attacks. It was amended again in 2004.

The law bars knowingly providing any service, training, expert advice or assistance to any foreign organization designated by the U.S. State Department as terrorist.

The law, which carries a penalty of up to 15 years in prison, does not require any proof the defendant intended to further any act of terrorism or violence by the foreign group.

MORE DIFFICULT CASES COULD BE AHEAD

Writing for the majority, Chief Justice John Roberts said the law was constitutional and rejected the specific challenge before it. He said the court did not address the “more difficult cases” that may arise under the law in the future.

The legal challenge had been brought by groups and individuals who wanted to help the Kurdistan Workers Party in Turkey and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in Sri Lanka. The State Department designated both as foreign terrorist groups.

The Humanitarian Law Project in Los Angeles had previously provided human rights advocacy training to the Kurdistan Workers Party, known as the PKK, and the main Kurdish political party in Turkey.

The Humanitarian Law group and others sued in an effort to renew support for what they described as lawful, nonviolent activities overseas.

“The Supreme Court has ruled that human rights advocates, providing training and assistance in the nonviolent resolution of disputes, can be prosecuted as terrorists,” said Georgetown University law professor David Cole, who argued the case.

“In the name of fighting terrorism, the court has said that the First Amendment permits Congress to make it a crime to work for peace and human rights. That is wrong,” Cole said.

Obama administration lawyers defended the law and called it a vital weapon in the government’s effort to fight terrorism.

Since 2001, the United States has charged about 150 defendants with the material support of terrorism and about half have been convicted, the Justice Department said.

Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor dissented with Breyer saying the court majority ultimately “deprives the individuals before us of the protection that the First Amendment demands”…

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Muslim Brits elect ex-leader of pro-Hamas charity

June 22, 2010

The Union of Good, a network of organizations that funnel zakat to Hamas to kill Jews in Israel, has blessed Britain with a gift of its own:  Farooq Murad.

Murad was the former chairman of one of the Union of Good’s charities.   Now Murad has been elected as the leader of the largest Muslim organization in Britain.

From the Global MB Daily Report:

Global media is reporting that the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), a UK umbrella group dominated by the UK Muslim Brotherhood, has elected Farooq Murad as the new Secretary-General of the organization. According to an AP report:

LONDON, June 21 (APP)-The UK’s largest Muslim organisation-The Muslim Council of Britain-has elected a new leadership comprising Secretary-General Farooq Murad, Deputy Secretary-General Dr.Shuja Shafi and Treasurer Haroon Rashid Khan. The new officials were elected at the 13th Annual General Meeting held here on Sunday evening and pledged to make the organisation more vibrant, promote the participation of women and the wider range of Britain’s Muslim communities. The opening session of the AGM, at which the outgoing Secretary-General Dr Muhammad Abdul Bari presented his valedictory report, was chaired by Prof. Waqar Ahmad, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Middlesex University. The session also provided a forum for delegates and community leaders to share their aspirations for the MCB with efforts to increase the membership base. The MCB’s Election Commissioner, Judge Khurshid Drabu , supervised the national and zonal elections to the MCB’s Central Working Committee and also the election of the new office bearers. Over 200 delegates participated in the process, including representatives from Wales and Scotland. The new secretary-general Farooq Murad , a training consultant by profession, pledged to tirelessly champion great challenges facing the community. “The MCB is an evolving organisation and our voice will always be based on justice, equality and fairness,” he said. He paid tributes to the outgoing Secretary-General and noted that Dr.Bari had been “a truly remarkable ambassador for our community and our country. He served the MCB during turbulent times and consolidated the MCB as an organisation with renewed vigour and a sense of purpose.”

In addition to his role at the MCB, Mr. Murad is a current trustee and former chairman of Muslim Aid, a UK charity originally founded by Yusuf Islam (fka Cat Stevens) and identified in a NEFA Foundation report as a member of the Union of Good, described in the report as follows:

The Union of Good is a coalition of Islamic charities that provides financial support to both the Hamas “social” infrastructure, as well as its terrorist activities. It is headed by global Muslim Brotherhood leader Youssef Qaradawi, and most of the trustees and member organizations are associated with the global Muslim Brotherhood.

Read it all here.

A final note:  the man who was elected as treasurer, Haroon Rashid Khan, has been involved with the annual Eid event in Trafalgar Square.

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Pay my bribe or I’ll quit

June 21, 2010

If you don’t keep coughing up billions of dollars for us, says Pakistan to the United States, we’ll stop supporting your war on terror, we’ll stop securing the Afghan border, and we’ll move our troops back to our eastern border to threaten infidel Hindu India.  Can we please call their bluff?  Why do we keep paying them when they never really deliver the goods anyhow?  From the Express Tribune on June 18:

‘Give us our money or we’ll withdraw’

ISLAMABAD: A top defence official on Thursday revealed that he had warned the US Secretary of State for Defence that Islamabad would wind up its operations in tribal regions if Washington did not release money owed to Pakistan under the Coalition Support Fund.

Secretary Defence Lieutenant General (Retired) Syed Athar Ali told the Public Accounts Committee that the US government had withheld billions of dollars disbursements of the CSF from Pakistan for two years. He said he had had to warn US Defense Secretary Robert Gates that: “The time that we have to rethink our security priorities about external threats is approaching. We will stop operations and will go back to the (eastern) borders.”

Ali said that the military was losing its stamina and the US government was not releasing “our money”.

“Before 2001 Pakistan was relatively a peaceful country. Those who are responsible for the violence in Pakistan are now ordering us to do more,” said PAC Chairman Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan.

The US government had  been disbursing CSF money to Pakistan since 2002 when Islamabad became a partner in fighting the war on terror.

However, it halted the disbursement process in 2007. The US began giving Pakistan the funds again in the second half of this fiscal year and eventually released $1.3billion. However the US still has to give Pakistan over $1billion.

Senior Assistant to the US President David Lipton refused to comment on the Defence Secretary’s statement. He said that President Barack Obama’s Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke, was coming to Islamabad on soon and he would address the issue.

During the meeting Ali also said that the government had not provided the armed forces with a sufficient defence budget. Against our defence needs of Rs488 billion, the government has allocated Rs442 billion to us, which is less than the actual requirement, he said.

“The armed services continue to strive for more funds”, said the general.

The Public Accounts Committee also regularized over Rs10 billion in excess expenditures of the Ministry of Defence, incurred during the financial year 2007-08. Compared to the allocated budget of Rs274 billion the ministry spent Rs287 billion.

“It’s a phenomenal excess and it is very rare that the PAC is asked to settle such a huge amount in any given year,” said the chairman. He said the Indian and the British armies are also in the state of war but their budgets never exceeded from their allocations because they respected the sanctity of their budget.

The defence secretary said that Rs4.9 billion over the allocated budget were spent because the government increased salaries but did not provide a supplementary grant. He said that Rs423 million had to be given as compensation to families of deceased soldiers. “Due to the increased movement of troops, as many as 147,000 personnel, an amount of Rs575 million was utilised only on account of transport and miscellaneous charges,” said Ali.

It’s like Hamid Karzai threatening to join the Taliban.  How about we cut off the money spigot and leave you to your own devices?

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9/11 families seek replacement of Berkeley-educated, Clinton-appointed judge

June 20, 2010
federal judge

Judge George Daniels

Judge George B. Daniels, who got his law degree from U.C. Berkeley and his federal judicial appointment from Bill Clinton, has let motions related to terrorist finance lawsuits linger in New York for three years.  The families of the victims of 9/11 have had enough.  They want the case assigned to another judge who can unwind the motions more quickly.

From the New York Times on Jun. 14:

Lawyers for families of 9/11 victims have taken the unusual legal step of asking a federal appeals court in Manhattan to replace a judge overseeing a group of terrorism-financing lawsuits, saying he is moving too slowly in resolving key motions.

The judge, George B. Daniels of Federal District Court in Manhattan, has yet to rule on almost 100 motions by defendants to dismiss the case, the lawyers said in a petition to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

The judge’s inaction is “effectively suspending the litigation,” the lawyers wrote, “and immunizing those alleged to have sponsored the attacks from having to answer for their conduct in this nation’s courts.”

Judge Daniels has allowed motions to linger in the past. In 2003, he was found to have 289 motions in civil cases pending for more than six months, easily the highest total of any federal judge at that time. But he has since cleared the backlog, leaving fewer than two dozen such motions pending.

The petition is not related to 9/11 wrongful death and injury claims by families and rescue and cleanup workers that are before another judge, Alvin K. Hellerstein, and appear close to resolution.

The lawsuits before Judge Daniels seek to hold charities, financial institutions and other defendants responsible for providing money and other support to Al Qaeda and for the 9/11 attacks. The suits were originally consolidated before another judge, Richard Conway Casey; after Judge Casey’s death in 2007, the case was transferred to Judge Daniels.

“The simple fact is we put into Judge Daniels’s hands our most important and urgent life issue,” said a plaintiff…

And little has happened since.  The judge’s office has some explanations about details that have delayed the processing of motions, but those excuses are cold comfort to the families.

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