Archive for September, 2013

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The Middle East and your price at the pump

September 30, 2013

What to do about Syria?  One thing is to rid ourselves of the remaining vestiges of oil dependence on that part of the world.

In a recent op-ed in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Chris Faulkner points out that Syrian energy output is minimal, but the political volatility puts a Middle Eastern premium onto our gas bills.  If we pursue further steps toward energy self-reliance in North America, we could minimize the risks of price volatility and supply disruptions.

Policies being proposed by the energy sector are making more sense than the policies being pursued by our elected officials.  Read it all:

Energy independence is the best response to Syria crisis

When an American missile strike in Syria seemed inevitable, oil futures shot up to a two-year high. Just days later, as U.S. officials began considering a diplomatic response, prices fell.

Many analysts have blamed these fluctuations on investor overreaction — Syria provides less than 0.1 percent of the world’s oil. But such assessments are dangerously naïve.

Any intervention in Syria would have impacted America’s access to oil and no one can safely assume there won’t be another Middle East crisis on the horizon.

That’s why the United States must reduce its dependence on Middle Eastern oil.

Syria might not be a major oil producer or exporter, but one of President Bashar Assad’s chief supporters, Iran, holds the world’s fourth-largest proven conventional oil reserves.

More than that, Iran controls the Strait of Hormuz, a shipping lane that’s essential to the transport of roughly 35 percent of all seaborne oil.

There’s no telling what an Iranian response to a U.S. attack on Syria might look like, but if the mullahs even hint at shutting down the Strait, oil prices could jump dramatically.

The ripple effects of a U.S. military action wouldn’t stop there. A strike against Assad’s regime would inflame relations with other oil-rich nations.

The conflict has already worsened sectarian tensions in Iraq, OPEC’s second-largest producer of crude oil.

Even defusing the Syrian crisis won’t end the civil war there, nor diminish the prospect of future strife, rebellions, or war. Indeed, the Syrian civil war has stoked anew the centuries-old enmity between Islamic sects that threatens to engulf the entire region — a region that holds more than half of the world’s proven conventional oil reserves.

The situation in Syria has made clear why it’s so important for the United States to make certain our energy interests aren’t tied to the volatile politics of the Middle East.

In practice, this means embracing technologies like hydraulic fracturing, horizontal drilling and projects like the Keystone XL pipeline. These represent historic opportunities for America to gain greater control over our own energy security.

In the case of Keystone XL, a proposed pipeline that would deliver crude from western Canada’s vast oil sands to America’s Gulf Coast, the Obama Administration could dramatically increase the amount of oil we receive from our neighbor to the north.

The U.S. Department of Energy has estimated that, once completed, the pipeline would deliver as much as 830,000 barrels of oil a day, or roughly half of what we currently import from the Middle East…

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Canadian auditors: Game over for Islamic charity

September 29, 2013

It’s final.  ISNA’s tax-exempt status has been revoked by the Canada Revenue Agency after an efficient and pointed audit that revealed ISNA sent nearly $300,000 to a terrorist organization in Kashmir.  Language from auditors and tax professionals is normally guarded, nuanced, and measured.  Read with that understanding of their profession in mind, the public announcement by CRA of their findings is scathing.  An excerpt follows.  Thanks to the reliable Gisele for sending this in:

…Our analysis of the information obtained during the course of the audit has led the CRA to believe that the Organization had entered into a funding arrangement with the Kashmiri Canadian Council/Kashmiri Relief Fund of Canada (KCC/KRFC), non-qualified donees under the Act, with the ultimate goal of sending the raised funds to a Pakistan-based non-governmental organization named the Relief Organization for Kashmiri Muslims (ROKM) without maintaining direction and control. Under the arrangement, KCC/KRFC raised funds for “relief work” in Kashmir, and the Organization supplied official donation receipts to the donors and disbursed over $281,696 to ROKM, either directly, or via KCC/KRFC.

Our research indicates that ROKM is the charitable arm of Jamaat-e-Islami, a political organization that actively contests the legitimacy of India’s governance over the state of Jammu and Kashmir, including reportedly through the activities of its armed wing Hizbul Mujahideen. Hizbul Mujahideen is listed as a terrorist entity by the Council of the European Union and is declared a banned terrorist organization by the Government of India, Ministry of Home Affairs, under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act of 1967.

Given the commonalities in directorship between ROKM and Jamaat-e-Islami, concerns exist that the Organization’s resources may have been used to support the political efforts of Jamaat-e-Islami and/or its armed wing, Hizbul Mujahideen.”

The Government of Canada has made it clear that it will not tolerate the abuse of the registration system for charities to provide any means of support to terrorism. Canada’s public policy recognizes that the tax advantages of charitable registration should not be extended to organizations whose resources may have been made available, knowingly or unknowingly, to a terrorist entity, whether such financing is direct or indirect through organizations that claim to have nominally “charitable,” social, or cultural aims…

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Taliban nets 650 million rupees from ransoms

September 27, 2013

In the last 18 months, the Taliban has received at least Rs 650 million (over 6 million USD), in ransoms for kidnapping businessmen in Islamabad and Rawalpindi, Pakistan.  The International News speculates that the real figure is higher than official reports—probably billions of Pakistan rupees.  Some of the captives’ families are able to pay the ransoms; some are not.  Those who don’t are killed:

Over Rs650m paid to Taliban as ransom

Billions of rupees paid but not reported; police, agencies totally flopped

Usman Manzoor

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

ISLAMABAD: Despite the payment of hundreds of millions from taxpayers’ money, not only the police but all the intelligence and law enforcement agencies have failed to trace extortion and kidnapping for ransom cases in the federal capital and Rawalpindi, being carried out by the Taliban.

Latest official documents show that some Rs650 million have been paid to the Taliban by the businessmen of the twin cities during the last 18 months alone. The billions of rupees paid have not been reported to the police and agencies, and the businessmen have dealt secretly with the Taliban to save their lives.

Documents available with The News reveal that in Rawalpindi and Islamabad alone, a list of 45 cases of kidnapping for ransom and extortion has been prepared in which Rs653 million have been paid to Taliban while billions have remained undiscovered…

The report submitted to the high-ups of the police, accompanied by the list of 45 cases since January 2012, states that at least four traders have been killed by the Taliban for not obeying their command to pay ransom and extortion money…

The Taliban is biding their time until U.S. troops leave Afghanistan.  They’ve got plenty of money in the bank from schemes like this to coopt, bribe, or conquer Karzai.  While asset freezes and sanctions against Al Qaeda have been somewhat useful, Western financial pressure on the Taliban has been ineffective for a decade.

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Financial mischief: recommended reading

September 26, 2013
  • “We should bleed America economically,” says Zawahiri…  more>>
  • It was a lot of fun laundering $1.4 million for terrorist guerrillas, until he got caughtmore>>
  • The Muslim Brotherhood created international sharia-compliant finance, and still controls it… under Saudi supervision.  More>>
  • If Muhammad Atta II waltzed into SunTrust today, would he qualify for a bank account?  More>>
  • Uzi Shaya could prove to be a crucial witness in the terror finance trial against the Bank of China—if Israel lets him testify… more>>
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Al-Shabaab steals British foreign aid

September 25, 2013

As if we needed another reason to discontinue aid to such countries, al-Shabaab has given us another demonstration.  It is almost impossible to ensure that aid such as this gets to the right people who actually need it.

There are enough supply chain risks in war-torn countries like Somalia that most private sector companies wouldn’t invest in them or touch them with a ten-foot pole.  But Western governments swoop in without regard to the regulatory risks. The standards of compliance that apply to banks and multinational corporations, who are routinely excoriated for the slightest export control or anti-money laundering program deficiencies, don’t seem to apply to our governmental aid agencies.

From Channel 4 last month:

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Muslim Brotherhood associates broker €2 million deal from Kuwait for Dutch mosque

September 24, 2013
Mr. Al Qado

Nooh al-Kaddo

Nooh al-Kaddo, who plays a leadership role in several European affiliates of the international Muslim Brotherhood, has positioned himself as a central dealmaker in obtaining financing from Kuwait for the controversial Blue Mosque in Amsterdam.

A special report from the Investigative Project on Terrorism has revealed that al-Kaddo secured €2 million from Kuwait to be funneled through the Europe Trust Netherlands (ETN), a leading Dutch-Muslim group.  In exchange the Kuwaitis largesse, Kuwait’s minister of religious affairs is being designated as the new the chairman of ETN.  Kuwait will also essentially retain control over mosque.

According to IPT, al-Kaddo runs the Islamic Cultural Center of Ireland (an entity tied to Muslim Brotherhood spiritual leader Youssef Qaradawi), serves as a trustee of the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated charity Human Appeal International, and worked on the Kuwait/Blue Mosque deal with three other Muslim Brotherhood-linked Islamic leaders—Ahmed Al-Rawi, Yahia Bouyafa, and Yassin Elforkani.

Read it all at ITP here.  Hat tip to Arun and TCJR.

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EU court further limits blacklisting authority

September 23, 2013

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) set a high bar this summer for justifying individual sanctions against terrorist financiers by tossing an appeal of the court’s earlier decision on sanctions against Yasin al-Qadi, the Saudi multimillionaire creator of the Muwafaq Foundation.

In 2008, the ECJ ruled that the authorities levying such sanctions had to provide a summary to the sanctioned individual of the information that led to the sanctions.  The European Commission complied by providing a summary to al-Qadi and his lawyers.

But ECJ and al-Qadi still weren’t satisfied.  An even higher standard has been promulgated:  the allegations in the summary must be “well founded.”  Surely, the litigants in the case which included the U.K., the European Commission, and the EU’s Council of Ministers, believed the evidence was well-founded enough to impose the sanctions, but not well-founded enough to meet the ever shifting standards of the ECJ.

The law firm of Brick Court Chambers notes that the judgment “is of considerable general significance in relation to the standard of review to be applied in sanctions cases, and the treatment of national security-sensitive material, in the European courts.”

Indeed.  The judgment essentially forces European governments to divulge sensitive intelligence to terrorists to explain why the terrorists are being sanctioned by those governments.

European Voice has a good article explaining the background and the ruling:

Top EU court clears Saudi terror suspect

By Toby Vogel  –  18.07.2013

European Court of Justice rules that the UK and the European Commission failed to provide evidence of Al-Qaeda links.

In a final judgment delivered today, the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg has sided with Yassin Abdullah Kadi, a Saudi national who had fought his blacklisting by the United Nations and the European Union for over a decade.

Kadi was blacklisted by the United Nations Security Council in October 2001, in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, over alleged links to al-Qaeda, with the European Union following suit days later. He launched a legal challenge against the freeze of his considerable assets in the EU. In 2008, the ECJ ruled that his rights had been violated because he had not been given the reasons for his blacklisting. The United Kingdom, the European Commission and the EU’s Council of Ministers appealed against that ruling.

Following the 2008 ruling, the Commission provided Kadi with a summary of the reasons for his blacklisting and re-imposed sanctions against him.

The ECJ has now dismissed the appeal by the UK, the Council and the Commission, ruling that “no information or evidence has been produced to substantiate the allegations, roundly refuted by Mr Kadi, of his being involved in activities linked to international terrorism”, according to a summary of the judgment.

The Court also found while the summary the Commission gave to Kadi of the reasons for the sanctions was sufficiently detailed and specific, there was insufficient evidence for his alleged terrorist links.

While the court procedure was underway, and following a decade of litigation in the EU, the US and Switzerland, the UN last year removed Kadi’s name from its sanctions list, following a recommendation from the UN’s ombudsman. Once again, the EU simply implemented the UN’s decision and removed Kadi from its own list as well.