Posts Tagged ‘Stuart Levey’


Obama names fool to lead on terror finance, sanctions

January 28, 2011
Democrat lawyer and Obama mouthpiece

"These books make me look smart"

The White House has announced that Stuart Levey, the Treasury Department’s Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, will resign.  His replacement will be Democrat lawyer David S. Cohen, the current Assistant Secretary for Terrorist Financing.  Cohen doesn’t deserve his current job, much less a promotion.  The Republicans in the Senate need to resist and grill Cohen during confirmation hearings.  Here’s why:

  1. Cohen has praised Treasury’s efforts at containing terrorist financing to Al Qaeda while failing to recognize the contribution of the U.S. military in the war against terrorism.  It is largely the military pursuit and elimination of insurgent and terrorist financiers and cell leaders that has pushed Al Qaeda closer to insolvency.  It has not been the men in navy blue suits inside the beltway. 
  2. Cohen “is pleased with the contribution that Saudi Arabia” has made in combating the financing of terrorismPleased?  Cohen’s statements on Saudi Arabia are for public show and border on outright lies.  His statements to more than one media outlet have been made to highlight a spirit of cooperation with the Muslim world and to paint a picture of Pres. Obama’s effectiveness at using “soft” power.  The reality is that Saudi cooperation in the financial war on terror is limited to public statements, meager proof, and multiple examples of Saudi duplicity.  Relatedly, Cohen has downplayed the role of the Middle East in international terrorist financing.  At a speech to the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Cohen addressed terrorist financing problems in Mexico, North Korea, Africa, and getting slightly closer, Afghanistan and Pakistan.  He spoke some about Iran and Hezbollah, ignored Yemen, and left out Saudi Arabia’s role in funding Al Qaeda and the Taliban entirely.
  3. Cohen supports Carl Levin’s dreadful incorporation transparency bill which would deepen the federalization of what has historically been a state role—the incorporation of businesses.  The bill would require additional disclosures by companies, additional paperwork by the state incorporation agencies, and would subject the states to turn over records on their businesses to Washington, D.C., and even to foreign countries upon request.  Contrary to what supporters say, the bill would not help expose the Iranian or terrorist shell companies of tomorrow—it is a bill designed to discourage foreign companies to offshore their revenues in the U.S. in the vein hope that foreign countries will reciprocate by helping the U.S. crackdown on its own tax deadbeats.  Cohen’s support for the bill was a deviation from the Treasury policy stated by another assistant secretary who testified under oath before Congress that no new laws are necessary to fight terrorist financing.  Cohen’s position also put him at odds with current FinCEN director Jim Freis, who has a less rigid approach toward beneficial ownership.  That makes Cohen the odd man out among the assistant secretaries he will be supervising if confirmed. 
  4. More broadly speaking, sanctions are the last bow in Pres. Obama’s quiver against a nuclearizing Iran.  Either the Obama administration is or is not serious about enforcing those sanctions, about bringing more nations on board with those sanctions (particularly Europe and Russia), and about keeping the sanctions tight.  Letting the well-respected Levey go and selecting a lightweight like David Cohen suggests that Pres. Obama is no longer serious in this approach.  More menacingly, that suggests that the Obama administration no longer has a genuine plan for containing Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

Reuters reports that the announcement of Levey’s replacement “comes as the United States and its allies appear likely to make a push for stiffer sanctions on Iran… U.S. officials emphasized they did not think the staff change would stem the momentum for the drive to put the financial squeeze on Iran or to choke off access by militant groups to international sources of money.  ‘It will have no effect on policy, or on our ability to execute the president’s policy,’ U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said.”

Really, Tim?  But is it not informative that the question is being asked?


Thirty-seven designations and a hill of beans

November 14, 2010

False names, false flags, rapid changes in owners, managers, and operators—all of this is part of Iran’s effort to use IRISL, its shipping fleet, to evade international sanctions.  Iran doesn’t just sit down and take its medicine from the U.S., Europe, and the United Nations.  It does everything it can to move goods, supplies, weapons, and materials in and out of the world’s ports without detection.

Although the U.S. has already designated IRISL’s known ships, it took an additional step forward last month by designating 37 companies that own or control IRISL ships.  From Treasury’s press release:

The U.S. Department of the Treasury today announced the designation of 37 front companies based in Germany, Malta, and Cyprus and five Iranian individuals for being owned or controlled by, or acting for or on behalf of, the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines (IRISL) and its affiliates.  Today’s action…targets IRISL’s complex network of shipping and holding companies and executives and further exposes Iran’s use of its national maritime carrier to advance its illicit weapons of mass destruction (WMD) program and to carry military cargoes.

“We will continue to expose the elaborate structures and tactics Iran uses to shield its shipping line from international scrutiny so that it can continue to facilitate illicit commerce,” said Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Stuart Levey. “This pattern of obfuscation is leading the private sector around the world to refuse business with Iran rather than risk becoming involved in its nuclear and missile programs.”

Tighter sanctions are a plus, but there are always limits.  In an investigation into IRISL earlier this year, the New York Times found that Iran’s abilities to evade “goes well beyond the knowledge of even the Treasury Department” and that, “As difficult as it is to keep track of ships that are on the blacklist, ships that have never been listed present an even greater challenge.”  The New York Times suggests that no matter how many ships and companies Treasury designates, Iran will just keep finding ways around the sanctions. 

But when our leaders basically take military options off the table, and Iran writes-off diplomatic options, futile economic restrictions are about all that’s left.


Letter to Treasury

September 14, 2010

Dear Under Secretary Levey,

You have an important job.  It’s challenging work.  And most people agree that you do it well, or you probably wouldn’t have retained your position during both the Bush administration and the Obama administration.  Treasury has, by its own account at least, succeeded in restricting the financial activities of al Qaeda and has cracked down on entities that help Iran evade sanctions.

But we can all use an outsider perspective from time to time.  If you won’t invite anti-terror finance bloggers in for a rap session with you, sir, please at least consider the following constructive criticism and recommendations: 

  1. Stop letting the Saudis get away with lying to us about the continued transfer of funds overseas without SAMA approval.  The Hialeah, Florida, office of the International Islamic Relief Organization was incorporated under Saudi auspices without disclosing that information to the GAO.  As such, the feds should raid the office and seize its records for review by TFI.  All TFI assistant secretaries should be instructed to refrain immediately from painting a rosy picture of Saudi cooperation in the war against terror financing.
  2. Stop behaving like a charitable facilitator. Read the rest of this entry ?

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss

August 25, 2010
Sheikh Saeed al-Masri

Al Yazid, background by Weasel Zippers

When 9/11 money man Mustafa Abu al-Yazid, a.k.a. Sheik Saeed al Masri, died in May this year, national security analysts speculated on who would succeed him.

Now we know.  His name is محمد عبدالله حسن أبو الخير or Muhammad Abdallah Hasan Abu-al-Khayr or Abdallah al-Halabi.  Don’t you love how easy it is to understand Arabic naming conventions and terrorist aliases?  Let’s just stick with “Abu-al-Khayr.”

Abdallah al-Halabi

Abu-al-Khayr photo from Dar Al Hayat

In 1999, Abu-al-Khayr recruited terrorist Shadi Abdallah who was later put on trial in Germany.

At some point Abu-al-Khayr served as a body guard to Bin Laden and married into the Bin Laden family.  No press reports at the time this post was prepared indicated which one of Bin Laden’s 25 or 26 children Abu-al-Khayr has married.  Bin Laden has four wives, and since his fourth wife is 27 and Abu-al-Khayr is 35, that probably (and hopefully) rules her out as the mother-in-law.

Abu-al-Khayr appeared on Saudi Arabia’s 85 “most wanted” list in 2009.  As of yesterday, Abu-al-Khayr was designated as a terrorist financier by the U.S. Treasury Department and the United Nations.  This means that U.S. and other banks will freeze his assets, that Americans cannot do business with him, that he is banned from travel, and he is subject to an arms embargo from the U.N.

TFI Under Secretary Stuart Levey says the move “will help to ensure that that al-Qai’da remains in severe financial straits.”

Stuart Levey gesturing

Levey: I've gotta get my arms around this


Levey’s quandry

August 5, 2010

In an interview with National Public Radio yesterday, the Treasury Department’s under secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence explained the rationale behind the latest batch of sanctions against Iran.  Levey is a firm believer in the power of sanctions.

Terrorism & Financial Intelligence top dog

Treasury Under Secretary Stuart Levey

The whole conversation is worth a listen or read, but a (50 sec.) highlight was Levey’s explanation of a fine line his office must walk…

Many of Treasury’s policies and statements deserve scrutiny and criticism.  But in all fairness, they do have a delicate balance to strike in a nerve racking line of work.


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.


Two more pro-terror charities

April 16, 2010

The U.S. Treasury Department has designated the leaders of two trusts (or waqf endowments, perhaps?) in Pakistan for financially supporting Al Qaeda and the Taliban.  From Agence France Presse on Apr. 15:

WASHINGTON — The US Treasury said Thursday it had imposed sanctions on two “high-profile” Pakistani trust fund chiefs allegedly linked to terrorism.

They were identified as Mohammed Mazhar, director of Al-Akhtar Trust, and Mufti Abdul Rahim, leader of Al-Rashid Trust, both Pakistani charities whose assets under US jurisdiction were frozen, the Treasury said in a statement.

Americans have also been prohibited from engaging in any transactions with them.

Mazhar was accused of supporting the Al-Qaeda terror network and the Taliban militant group while Rahim was charged with funding the Taliban.

“Today’s designation of these two high-profile financiers of Al-Qaeda and the Taliban, who are also leaders of Al-Akhtar Trust and Al-Rashid Trust, further exposes those organizations’ continuing support for terrorism under the guise of charitable activity,” said Treasury under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence Stuart Levey.

Mr. Levey, I know what you mean when you refer to the groups’ “continuing support for terrorism in the guise of charitable activity.”  I’ve used language like that myself.  But in the minds of Mr. Mazhar and Mr. Rahim, there is no guise.  Jihad is a perfectly legitimate purpose of zakat money in their eyes.  It’s all written out for them in their Koran and Hadith, which is also available for analysts at Treasury to read if they’re willing to confront the true motives of our jihadist foes.


Feckless asset freezes?

April 6, 2010

The Wall Street Journal ran an excellent article by Steve Stecklow yesterday on the teeny tiny amount of assets frozen under U.S. and international sanctions regimes against Iran.  The experts are saying that it’s not about the dollars, but the pressure—let’s hope they’re right.

In its latest proposed set of tougher United Nations sanctions on Iran, the U.S. is again relying on asset freezes as one tool to pressure the country not to build nuclear weapons.

But a close look at how much Iranian money has been frozen to date in the U.S. under existing sanctions shows that the total amount is surprisingly small, less than $43 million, or roughly a quarter of what Iran earns in oil revenue in a single day.

Other countries also haven’t frozen very much, despite freezes implemented by the European Union and the U.N., interviews show. Switzerland, for example, has frozen only about $1.4 million in Iranian assets—a tiny fraction of the $712 million Swiss companies exported to Iran last year.

“It’s peanuts,” says Jeremy P. Carver, a British attorney who has advised governments on implementing sanctions. “It’s not going to really change a thing.”

U.S. officials do not dispute that current amounts of frozen Iranian assets seem small. In some cases, Iran has shifted the money outside the U.S. or EU to avoid sanctions. The officials emphasize that their strategy is not to seize many assets, but to pressure Iran to change its ways by making it extremely difficult for it to do business.

“The strategy is not to freeze as many assets as we can,” says Stuart Levey, the Treasury Department official who has headed the U.S. sanctions initiative during both the Obama and Bush administrations. “That alone, without the full range of measures we can bring to bear, would be a failing strategy.”

The proposed new asset freezes come as an Iranian firm recently acquired hardware used to enrich uranium, circumventing current sanctions designed to prevent such purchases, The Wall Street Journal reported over the weekend. The International Atomic Energy Agency is investigating how the Iranian firm procured valves and vacuum gauges used in uranium enrichment that were made by a French company owned by Tyco International Ltd. until December. The French and U.S. companies have said they knew nothing about it.

Iran insists it is trying to develop civilian atomic power—not weapons. A spokesman for Iran’s U.N. mission in New York did not respond to requests for comment for this story.

Asset freezes remain part of the U.S. and its allies’ arsenal in trying to pressure Iran not to develop atomic weapons…

The full WSJ article is here.  My closing comment is that if I were one of the bankers required to report information on my customers all the time to the Treasury, I would be disappointed to hear that the heavy federal regulations on my industry hadn’t amounted to much.


Deconstructing Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps

February 13, 2010

The U.S. Treasury Department has designated construction company Khatam al-Anbiya as a supporter of Iran’s nuclear program.  Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) controls Khatam al-Anbiya.  The Iranian military general in charge of Khatam al-Anbiya was also designated personally, along with four Khatam al-Anbiya subsidiaries.

Khatam al-Anbiya is a threat because it generates income for the IRGC through its profitable engineering and construction projects.  Put plainly, IRGC is using those revenues to support Iran’s efforts to acquire a nuclear bomb.

Treasury Under Secretary Stuart Levey

Read the rest of this entry ?