Posts Tagged ‘Oman’

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2011: France may have paid AQAP $12m ransom

January 13, 2015

In March 2011, three French citizens working for the Lyon-based charity Triangle Génération Humanitaire traveled to Hadramawt, Yemen. Agricultural engineer Pierre Perrault, age 29 at the time; fellow engineer and wife Leah Romary, age 25; and water treatment specialist Amelie Morgaut, age 32, intended to assist local authorities with infrastructure improvement projects, which they did until late May of that year until they were abducted by terrorist-affiliated tribesmen.

Perrault, Romary and Morgaut remained in captivity for six months in the typical fashion of kidnappers in that region of the world, which involves transferring hostages among different groups and locations.  But the strings were ultimately being pulled by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). In July, AQAP demanded $12 million from France for the aid workers’ release. French officials didn’t immediately comply, but began third party negotiations with AQAP through interlocutors of the sultan of Oman.

In November, the negotiations concluded. A “senior Yemeni tribal mediator” confirmed to the Associated Press that a ransom had been paid for the hostages’ release. The formal payment was made jointly by a Yemeni businessman living in Oman, Ahmed Ben Férid al-Souraimeh, and by the government of Oman, but Oman was most likely reimbursed by French intelligence behind the scenes.

Officially, France says it does not pay ransoms and did not pay a ransom in this case.  But diplomats, security experts, and terrorist groups themselves know that France does in fact pay ransoms quietly through third parties. France has paid $58 million to terrorist groups for the release of French hostages worldwide since 2008 according to the New York Times.

The Triangle Génération Humanitaire aid workers’ captivity overlapped the July to August 2011 time period in which French-Algerian brothers Said and Cherif Kouachi traveled to Yemen (via Oman) for weapons training and to meet with terrorist imam Anwar al-Awlaki.

The payment of a ransom in Yemen within a few months of the Kouachi brothers’ Yemen tour would have been useful to AQAP to fund the continued purchase of weapons for use in Yemen, to maintain training camps in Yemen, to pay wages of militants and marksmanship trainers Yemen, to cover the air travel and border crossing expenses for prospective recruits, to fund the possible remote purchase of AK-47s and RPGs on the black market in France, and to fund planning and communications for future attacks.

After slaying 12 people at the offices of Charlie Hebdo in Paris last Wednesday but shortly before his death on Friday, Cherif Kouachi said that he had been financed by AQAP.

In order to have an honest discussion about whether it is proper to pay ransoms to terrorist groups, we must—as grateful as we are all for the release of the Triangle Génération Humanitaire aid workers—acknowledge the distinct probability that the ransom paid in that case may have been more detrimental than helpful to the long-term security interests of France.

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Jihad funding news: recommended reading

December 24, 2014
  • A Pakistani jihadist group’s front charity is now operating in Gazamore>>
  • How Sokolow v. Palestinian Liberation Organization could help bankrupt the PLOmore>>
  • Several countries have funded terrorists by paying ransoms to Al Qaeda; 6 those countries have been named… more>>
  • When it comes to financing terrorism, Qatar runs with the hare and hunts with the houndsmore>>
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Sanction-busting smugglers flock to Oman

July 16, 2013

Barack Obama has said, “We’ve imposed the toughest sanctions in history.”  But with respect to Iran, the sanctions regime looks more like a game of whac-a-mole where, as one sanctions loophole pops up and is beaten down, another loophole or workaround pops up somewhere else.  In the latest illustration of this, the UAE has been pressured to clamp down on smuggling to Iran, and an island off the coast of Oman has begun picking up the slack.

From France 24 on Jul. 11 (h/t latlongpacific):

Iranian smugglers set up shop in coastal Oman

Iranian sanctions evasion via Oman

Due to the ramping up of international sanctions, many Iranian merchants who were working legally in Dubai are leaving and heading to Khasab, a small coastal town in Oman, where smuggling is rife.

Khasab, in the southern part of the Hormuz Strait, is conveniently located just 45 kilometres from the Iranian island of Qeshm. Many Iranian merchants who previously worked in the UAE are now establishing themselves in Khasab, where they rely on “shooties” – a local term for smugglers – to take their goods to Qeshm and from there to the rest of Iran.

According to our Observers, as well as other reports, both Omani and Iranian police appear to turn a blind eye to this practice. A photographer who recently travelled to the region told FRANCE 24 that the Omani authorities try to prevent this from making the news. He said that after taking photos of the smugglers, he was repeatedly interrogated, made to erase almost all his photos, and warned to stay away from Iranians working in Khasab.

Many Iranian businessmen have quit Dubai in the past couple of years because UAE authorities — under pressure from the United States — have made it increasingly difficult for them to work there. Many Iranian businessmen’s bank accounts have been frozen; they no longer enjoy banking facilities such as loans; and work permits are increasingly difficult to obtain. According to one veteran Iranian businessman FRANCE 24 spoke to, such measures have pushed Iranians who were previously working in the UAE legally to go to Oman, and smuggle their goods to Iran via Khasab: “They simply could no longer compete with non-Iranian merchants and were incurring loses. Doing business here in Dubai has now become almost impossible for Iranians”…

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How the Arab League roped 7 U.S. companies into their Israel boycott in 2012

November 17, 2012

The Arab League has imposed a formal economic boycott against Israel since 1948 to the present.  In 1977, Congress passed legislation prohibiting U.S. businesses from becoming instruments of foreign-led, non-U.S. boycotts such as the Arab League boycott of Israel.

Under the law, if an entity asks an American firm for assurance that it does no business with Israel, the U.S. company is supposed to report that request to the federal government.  The business is not supposed to comply with the request or furnish information to the requestor that would help the Arab League enforce its boycott.

The Bureau of Industry and Security’s Office of Antiboycott Compliance has settled with seven U.S. companies in 2012 for 44 alleged violations of antiboycott regulations this year:

  • Parfums de Ceour, a Connecticut-based discount perfume seller, furnished information three times to the United Arab Emirates, and failed to report six requests it received from the UAE, to assist with the boycott.
  • The Miami branch of Banco Sabadell provided boycott-related information twice to Syria.
  • Samuel Shapiro & Co., a trade logistics company in Maryland, made five failures to report requests from the UAE for boycott guarantees.
  • SteelSummit International, a New York steel producers, gave information four times to Saudi Arabia about whether it had business relationships with Israel.
  • Polk Audio, a speaker manufacturer in Maryland, failed to report a request from Oman and provided information to Oman.
  • Dover Energy’s Texas valve and switch maker, Norriseal, failed six times to report requests from Pakistan and four instances of cooperating with Pakistan’s requests for boycott assurances.
  • Grainger, the Illinois-based industrial supplier, failed to report 12 requests it received from Kuwait for boycott information.

The companies were required to pay over $100,000 total in civil penalties for the above violations this year.

A possible defense of the businesses is that requests from importers or banks from the Arab League states are deceptively designed to elicit the information they want without directly inquiring about business dealings with Israel.  Instead, they’ll request a signed statement confirming that a company’s ship can enter an Arab port, which is designed to weed out companies and shippers that have done business with Israel.

Nevertheless, U.S. antiboycott regulations have been on the books for over 40 years, and companies—particularly those doing business in the Middle East—should know that by now.

Hat tip and thanks to Twitter pal RushetteNY for suggesting coverage of antiboycott compliance.

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Oman—oh my!

December 16, 2009

It’s time again for another post comparing U.S. military spending to that of an Islamic country.  Google has a nifty tool (which it didn’t seem to have a month ago when we looked at Yemen) that allows users to generate graphs of military spending as a portion of GDP for whichever countries one selects.  Google uses World Bank data.

Today, we look at Oman, which outstrips even Saudi Arabia as a bigtime military spender:

That’s a whopping 11.3 percent of Oman’s GDP toward their military in 2006.  As always, I must repeat that I’m not equating military spending to terrorist financing…