Terrorism and Migration: Part I                                                                      29 January 2017

by

Howard Adelman

Donald Trump is at it again. Why doesn’t he leave me alone? Why doesn’t he leave you alone? On Friday, 27 January 2017, the Office of the Press Secretary released Donald Trump’s executive order on migration, formally called, “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States.” Before we go to the text itself, look at all the worry and consternation Trump has already caused simply by the preliminary leaks. His own bombast on the subject on television set off verbal brush fires all over the place. The full text can be found of numerous sites around the world; s:https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/27/us/politics/refugee-muslim-executive-order-trump.html)

Many businesses with skilled workers from overseas employed by American companies are affected. Would the companies have to meet abroad so that these employees can attend? Would all international academic conferences have to be relocated outside the United States? What about students and faculty traveling back and forth? And consider all the private universities in the U.S. dependent on income from foreign students. There are over a million foreign students; though few come from the countries specifically boycotted, all would have to go through a rigid check system.

Look at the letter the Dean of Faculty of Princeton University felt impelled to send her colleagues this past Friday even before she could access  the full text of the new executive order. Simply based on the pre-publication media reports and the consternation they were already causing, she sent out the following letter to try to quiet the fears raging though her segment of academia.

We have received many messages from members of our community concerned about the impact of possible changes in immigration policies under the new administration in Washington. According to media reports, President Trump signed an executive order today. It has been reported that the order includes stricter immigration vetting measures and may include provisions that could impact non-immigrant visa holders as well as lawful U.S. permanent residents from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. At this stage, we do not know the content of the executive order or its impact.

We do, however, want to be prepared to support and advise our students, scholars, and others who might be affected by any changes, and to express our deep concern about any potential impact on the ability of this and other American universities to engage in teaching and research of the highest quality.

We have strongly advised students and scholars who might be affected and who have travel plans in the coming days to defer travel outside of the United States until there is some clarity and legal analysis of the situation or, if they must travel, to seek legal counsel before they do. We have also shared with potentially affected students and scholars the information we are receiving from a law firm that follows these matters closely and has advised members of our community in the past. More from Fragomen Worldwide Immigration Law Firm Alert January 25, 2017.

We wanted to share this information more broadly with all of you because many of your students or peers may be reaching out to you for information or support, and we are all affected when members of our community feel at risk. We take very seriously anything that could affect the ability of our students and scholars to engage in their scholarship. International students and scholars who have immigration questions or specific questions about their current situation should contact the Davis International Center (puvisa@princeton.edu), which is following the situation extremely closely and in the best position to provide advice or resources.

We will continue to keep you posted as we know more and we will work closely with our Princeton colleagues, peer institutions and the immigration law community to understand this and other immigration issues as they arise and to support members of our community who make essential contributions to research and teaching on this campus.

Does the new executive order include “stricter vetting procedures,” what Trump thunders as “extreme vetting”? Would the new policy impact on non-immigrant visa holders, such as individuals on student visas or teaching in the United States at universities on temporary work permits? Would the policy affect lawful U.S. permanent residents from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen who already hold permanent residence visas? Would the executive order affect teaching and research of the highest quality, or any quality for that matter? Though intended to express a concern about research in general, the effect of this quickly drafted open letter to the members of her community in the wording unintentionally suggested that Princeton was only concerned about the highest quality research? The fallout from the irrationality exuding from Washington even frazzles the minds of brilliant academics so they too misspeak.

Even more fundamentally, how does the executive order conform with existing law that in designating countries for exclusion, there must be an evaluation of the effects of such a designation “on the law enforcement and security interests in the United States (including the interest in enforcement of the immigration laws of the United States and the existence and effectiveness of its agreements and procedures for extraditing to the United States individuals, including its own nationals, who commit crimes that violate U.S. law.)” In other words, if countries are designated – as Syria as well as Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen are – without any evaluation on U.S. capacity for law enforcement or on U.S. security interests domestically and internationally and on extradition procedures, is the executive order illegal? It is noteworthy that the law firm commenting on the presidential executive order did not comment on the legality of some of its sections.

Further, though the President and the members of his cabinet are given wide discretion under existing legislation, they are all required to follow certain very clearly defined procedures in applying such a designation. And there is no evidence, and likely there is none given the very short period the Trump government has been in power, that those procedures have been followed. The issue is not only whether the ban is “inappropriate and ineffective in the fight against terror,” as the American Iranian Council has argued, but the executive order may also be illegal since there has been no effort to gather evidence to measure either the appropriateness or effectiveness in fighting terror.

What initial advice was offered? If you might be affected, do not travel. That is, you risk not being re-admitted to the United States. If you must travel and are in a situation that might be affected, get some legal advice. Immigration lawyers are about to do a booming business in the United States and around the world. Such are the affects of the blather coming out of the mouth of the most powerful individual in the world. America’s best and brightest, not any prospective terrorist, are discombobulated. This is the first paragraph of the legal advisory a top immigration law firm sent out:

President Donald J. Trump is expected to sign an executive order that will suspend the entry of foreign nationals from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen to the United States for a period of 30 days, according to a published draft of the order. {A report in the 26 January 2017 New York Times was cited.] The executive order is also expected to suspend a worldwide program that exempted certain visa renewal applicants from consular interviews. [See Section 8 (a)]

The focus of the panic attack was on foreign nationals from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen or on those who hold dual citizenship for the birth place may determine whether or not the person is deemed to be a national of one of those countries. Thus, even if the person is an American citizen, if a country such as Iran insists that the person is an Iranian national, under this presidential executive order, the person can be treated as an Iranian national.

Will residents in America who have strong ties to those countries be affected, since it is the foreign country’s laws that determine whether the United States deems the individual to be a member of that foreign nation? Does the ban apply to temporary visa holders (B-1, H1B and L-1) who are currently lawful permanent residents of the United States? If so, then you should be concerned about travelling back “home” if one of your parents becomes ill. The letter from this legal firm warned about long delays in processing visa applications as a result of the executive order, since the waiver for personal interviews was removed. All applicants would have to have a personal interview.

For a government determined to whittle down bureaucracy, this perhaps illegal cancellation of existing law under section 217 2/A (8 U.S.C. 1187) applicable to countries with very low non-immigrant refusal rates will just mean many more personnel required to deal with visa applications.

Now not one of these words of the law firm or the Princeton Dean of Faculty mentions refugees, the ostensible prime target of the executive order. The momentum of this America-First inspired policy almost forced institutions and professionals to attend first to self-centred needs, those of their own community members. Those most affected and those most in need of assistance, refugees, were ignored in both the letters of the law firm and the dean. This may be the most pernicious effect of the new regime.

Certainly, there is a danger of this in Canada where officials appear primarily focused on possible negative (and positive in the case of pipelines) effects on Canada of the new Trump regime. The Minister of Immigration, who was himself born in Somalia, if not carrying a Diplomatic passport, could possibly be barred from entry into the U.S. However, contrary to the ordinary meaning of Trump’s executive order, on Saturday, the U.S. State Department “clarified” that Canadians with dual citizenship from any of the seven nations would be denied entry for the next three months. Minister Ahmed Hussen evidently got an agreement from Washington reversing this decision and that not only Canadian citizens with dual citizenship from one of the seven countries designated in the ban, but also those with citizenship from one of the countries but only permanent residence in Canada, would NOT be barred from entry into the U.S. However, an Alberta biomedical engineer, Haji Reza, born in Iran with a Canadian permanent residence card, was banned from entry into the U.S.

Further, the Minister announced that Canada would step in to invite those refused entry into the U.S. to come to Canada on temporary permits. However, though Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had tweeted: “To those fleeing persecution, terror & war, Canadians will welcome you, regardless of your faith. Diversity is our strength #WelcomeToCanada,” However, Canada has not yet increased its targeted intake to make up, at least in part, for those refugees denied entry into the U.S.

There is anther side, however, a more tragic side. In Quebec especially, there has been a rise of Islamophobia, inspired in part by the French government ban on wearing items which communicate religious messages – kippas, large crosses but especially hijabs. A 2015 Quebec Human Rights Commission survey “found that 43 percent of Quebecers believe we should be suspicious of anyone who openly expresses their religion, with 49 per cent expressing some uneasiness around the sight of Muslim veils.” After a note had been posted the year before on the Centre Culturel Islamique de Québec reading: “Islam hors de chez moi,” (Islam out of my country), this past year during Ramadan, a pig’s head wrapped in cellophane and tied with a bow was left on the doorstep of the centre.

Yesterday evening events became much worse. A gunman opened fire on the 40 or so congregants at that Centre. There are at least six deaths and many injured. Will Trump put a ban on travel to the United States against right wing Islamophobic terrorists?

The reality is that Trump policy measures targeting Muslims, while insisting he does not target Muslims, is contagious. Trump’s linkage between terrorism and Muslim migrants and refugees is not only dangerous to the fundamental values of the United States, not to speak of its efficient functioning, but to other countries around the world.

To be continued

Fighting ISIL or ISIL or Daesh – to what end?

Corporealism XVIII: Body Politics in the Middle East

Fighting ISIL or ISIL or Daesh – to what end?

by

Howard Adelman

If I have characterized Daesh with reasonable accuracy, how should the West best fight this menace? Daesh is ensconced in eastern Syria and in western Iraq separated from the Turkish and Iranian borders by Kurdistan, the northern part of Iraq controlled by Iraqi Kurds and its Peshmerga forces. Daesh also has a presence in an oil rich small area of Libya. Daesh first captured Rojava after the Syrian army retreated in 2012. The great victory was the capture of Mosul that allowed ISIL to declare a caliphate established in the summer 2014.  This key victory included the defeat of the Iraqi army which literally turned tail.

Since then, ISIS has suffered setback after setback and the number of militants identified with its cause and fighting on the ground in Iraq and Syria is now estimated to have fallen from 31,500 to 25,000 altogether. (“The latest assessment about the number of fighters who are fighting on behalf of ISIL in Iraq and in Syria – based on an earlier assessment – was up to 31,500 fighters in that region of the world.  There’s a new assessment from our intelligence community that indicates that that number is now up to about 25,000 fighters.”  U.S. White House Press Secretary John Earnest 2 February 2016)

The key force that has limited the expansion of Daesh and that has itself expanded to fill the vacuum has been that of the Kurds of Northern Iraq and Syria who have won back Sinjar, Ramadi and Tikrit. Within Iraq, the Kurds now control disputed Kirkuk completely. In northern Syria, the Kurds much more than ISIS are being attacked by Turkish jets.

ISIS has been pushed back. The question is not its defeat but when and how and what part Canada and other countries in the West should play in its defeat. For the dilemma is a matter of “boots on the ground.” The West has relied on the Kurds with 120,000 experienced, battle-trained and determined fighters, largely equipped by the U.S. The other force countering Daesh has been a reconstituted Iraqi army, also trained and equipped by the U.S. and its allies. In the meanwhile, Russia and Iran are supporting Assad and his re-equipped army with Russian air support. Those forces have captured large swaths of territory from the American-supported Syrian rebels who lacked any air support or significant amounts of updated equipment.

In this multi-faceted war with multiple sides with some parties on the same side really engaged in supporting opposite strategies on the ground – the Turks and the Americans. The point is that the defeat of Daesh must be seen within a much larger context. The thirty million Kurds have been seeking an independent state since the end of World War I where, in the divvying up of the Middle East among the Great Powers, they were left divided between Turkey, Syria, Iraq and to a small extent, Iran. They now have de facto independence in northern Iraq and in parts of Syria. They are also the major boots on the ground responsible for the pushback of Daesh. But what is in it for them to combat Daesh in Mosul? It is not a Kurdish city. So the Allies are buying time to retrain and strengthen the Iraqi army. But a strengthened Iraqi army to the south of the Kurds endangers their quasi-independence. So if ISIL totally loses, they are likely to lose the strategic advantage they enjoy currently.

The other major concern is Turkey, which views the rise of the Kurds as the greatest threat they face, not Daesh. Turkey is involved in widescale bombing of Turkish Kurdish territories as well as Kurdish-controlled area in Syria under the guise of the war against ISIL. This is the paradox. The boots on the ground best able to defeat Daesh supplied by the Kurds and those supported by the Turks respectively, each for very opposite reasons, has no reason to destroy Daesh. At the same time, the Kurds in Syria have consistently ignored Turkey’s threats – such as when Turkey insisted that the red line of the Euphrates was not to be crossed by Kurdish People’s Protection Units in Syria. The Kurds, like the Russians subsequently, ignored Erdoğan’s bluster, even when they were attacked by Turkish jets. In fact, in the battle over the Menagh airbase, the Syrian Kurds defeated the al-Nusra Front, an al-Qaeda affiliate that has been a proxy on the ground for Turkey.

The problem is not the defeat of Daesh, but the political order that the allies want to emerge out of the wreck in Iraq and now the even much worse wreck in Syria. In Iraq, the Kurds are at their peak now. If the allies build up the Iraqi army now to defeat ISIL, then what will almost certainly follow eventually will be a war between the central government in Iraq and the Kurds. And the Kurds fear being abandoned once again by the West after they have done the main dirty work in stopping and pushing back Daesh.

If the Iraq situation were not complicated enough, the issue of the conflict between Turkey and the Kurds exponentially increases the problem. When the revolution in Syria broke out in 2011, Turkey envisioned extending its influence southward. But Turkey has been thwarted at every turn – the rise of the Kurds in power in key parts of Syria along half of the border between Turkey and Syria, the increasing weakness of the rebels against Assad, the Russian support for Assad that has brought the two powers close to war with Turkey effectively now breaching Turkish air space almost with impunity.

More on the Kurds. They are not natural allies of the West; they have been allies of convenience. Abdullah Ocalan, the head of the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK), may have been in jail since 1999, but he not only remains the titular head of the PKK in Turkey but the de facto head of the Democratic Union Party (PYD) based in Rojava, Syria and in Kobani, Syria where the Kurds delivered a resounding defeat to Daesh. The Kurds even captured Tal Abyad on the Turkish border and sent chills up the spine of President Erdoğan. Turkey may be an ally of the U.S. and a member of NATO, but the Kurdish boots on the ground fighting ISIS, whatever their skills, courage and determination, have been helped enormously by American air cover, the very air cover the Canadian CF-18s have now backed away from providing. Further, the main spotters have not been the aircraft that Canada and other coalition partners have left in the air – they mainly confirm reports from the ground that come virtually exclusively from the Kurds who then mop up after the fighter jets have destroyed the identified targets.

The Tories have been dead right. The air strikes against ISIS have been highly effective. It is estimated that in the battle for Kobani, air strikes, leaving aside injuries inflicted, killed over 10% of ISIL militants on the ground in the months of fighting for Kobani. But that does not mean that Canada should continue participating in the air strikes. Or, for that matter, even advising and training troops on the ground. It depends on what Canada envisions as the outcome it favours and whether there is a realistic prospect of bringing about its preferred outcome.

The key factor is the de facto new quasi alliance between Russia and the U.S., two world powers that seem to once again dividing up the Middle East as spheres of influence by either side. Will the cease fire they have organized bring peace to Syria and on what terms? Shades of the end of WWI and WWII! The situation will become even more destablized when, as I anticipate, Turkey implodes under all the competing pressures and the series of failures in Turkish foreign policy under Erdoğan, matched by even greater political and economic crises at home. Kurdistan, with its apparent stability, is also seething underneath in a general context of a recession instigated in good part by the dramatic decline in oil prices compounded by corruption and nepotism.

I could go on. But my purpose here is not to lay out a political-economic and military analysis of that part of the Middle East, but merely to point to three main themes:

  1. The defeat of Daesh is not the main problem – that will come; it is just a matter of when, where and how.
  2. The defeat is not a matter of destroying an insurgency in a battle for hearts and minds, but destroying the army of a quasi-state.
  3. The main problem is regional stability; right now it is a balagan, in Hebrew, an absolute and total mess.

Begin with the immediate problem, the coming battle over Mosul and even perhaps Raqqa, the presumptive capital of the Caliphate. It is no secret that the coalition forces will be attacking Mosul, likely in the spring and certainly by summer. Will Daesh stand and fight to the last man and woman? Hardly likely. They have not done so thus far. And their sending out signals that they will is but the first rule of warfare – deceive your enemies. When claiming that you will stand to the last militant, plan a careful retreat, first of the political leadership and then of the military leadership, and finally, whatever militants can be saved while leaving enough to sacrifice as many civilians as possible in Mosul. Evidently, the political leadership has already relocated to Libya in anticipation of the next defeat. For the second rule of warfare is, when you know you have a significantly inferior force, evade direct conflict with the enemy.

Whatever Daesh suffers on the moral front, they clearly understand the basic laws for conducting war. The fact that they are ethically challenged is not only revealed in their cutting off of heads and the severe repression they practice about dress and social behaviour, but also in the moral deterioration already underway as the leadership deserts and the militants resort to corruption and smuggling civilians out of Mosul for US$500 a person. Daesh will leave behind sleeper cells to work behind enemy lines. For they realize they are at the mercy of fighter jets in the air and have to avoid open battles lest their backs be broken by the jet-fueled falcons and hawks patrolling the skies that will break their backs if they appear openly. Hence the rapid decline in missions and the ability of the coalition to release Canada from its commitment to supply six CF-18s.

In the battle against Mosul, the coalition partners have much to learn from the Israeli battles in Gaza with roughly the same population. However, the coalition has one major advantage. It can conduct a pincer movement as Kagame did in 1994 in Rwanda and allow the enemy to escape. I am convinced the allies will follow this pattern otherwise the costs to civilian lives in Mosul will be too high. A third law of warfare is that the best victories are based on building a golden bridge to allow your enemy to retreat. When they cross that bridge, attack them from the air on the other side.

The problem, to repeat once again, will not be to defeat ISIS in battle, but to win the war. And I have not read anywhere what a victory at that level will look like.  Further, unless victory in the war is envisaged, the battle may be won, but the losses will be much greater as has been the pattern in so many American wars from Vietnam on. The key problem is not victory in the battle over Mosul, but victory in the war in the Middle East. And the wars fought there, whether under a Democratic or a Republican commander-in-chief, have been disastrous because battles are being fought, not wars.

Sometimes, as in the case of the Israelis, it may be impossible to fight a real war because of diplomatic and other considerations. But that does not seem to be the case with the Americans. Except they no longer recognize what war they are fighting and what they are fighting for. Stopping ISIL is the least of their worries. The problem is that the lack of clear direction from the Obama administration is certainly far better than the mass hysteria, currently being whipped up by the Republican Party front runner. And it is not just The Donald that is the problem. He is just the loudest barker by far in the current American political circus on the Republican side. After all, it was overwhelmingly Republican state governors who announced that they would not permit Muslim Syrian refugees to enter their states. It was these Governors who initially completely ignored the laws of the United States and the Constitution.

I wrote on Friday that a core of politics is not inflaming emotions and passions. On shabat, on the day dedicated to peace, the real purpose of fighting any war has been determined. Further, the precedent must be set for skill, understanding and judgment to rule the roost. Instead, all three appear to be totally invisible on the Republican side and just barely on the horizon in the case of the current American administration in spite of its enormous efforts to reign in the war hawks.

So the coalition lacks strong and wise leadership that allows us to discern the overall goals and strategy. The U.S. was correct to release Canada from its responsibilities to continue contributing CF-18s from the war in Iraq and Syria because those jets were, in fact, no longer what was really needed. But why train Iraqi soldiers unless we want Kurdistan in Iraq eventually to be significantly reduced in size and even eliminated, and, if the course as set continues to be followed, eventually ending the dream of an independent Kurdistan. The chance to redeem just one of the major errors from WWI will be lost.

Should Canada back the Kurds, not just opportunistically as the Americans currently appear to be doing, but long term? I do not know. I am, however, convinced that unless we answer that key question, we cannot have a judicious and intelligent foreign policy in the area backed up by the limited military forces we are able to contribute. What about Turkey? Should we continue backing our formal ally Turkey which, under Erdoğan has been practicing a vicious anti-democratic policy over the last few years and one even far more dictated by a combination of whim and hysteria than even the U.S. Republicans are promising.

ISIS may be a much bigger threat than either al-Nusra and al-Qaeda because it is driven by a war strategy and not an insurgency, and it has brought sabotage and not just terror to the home fronts of its enemies. So ISIS as an organization needs to be extinguished. But let us not exaggerate the threat as U.S. Air Force General Phillip M. Breedlove, the supreme allied commander in Europe who dubbed ISIS an existential threat. The real threat is that America may be in the process of blowing up whatever degree of sobriety there is left in America and setting off a really-out-of-control wildfire. Do not light matches at home on shabat if your eventual goal is peace.

On the other hand, ISIL terrorists are not just out-of-control testosterone driven thrill-seeking teenagers. Their average age is 26. They are dedicated and sober, even if truly psychopathic martyrs for their cause. But the West in warfare can take advantage of that wish to die a martyr by making it convenient for them, without sacrificing a sense of security and swaths of civilians in exchange. They have largely been nihilistic mass killers alienated from institutions of order and cool rational judgment who use Islam as justification for their heated madness and cold compassion.

What about the NDP’s proposals to concentrate on cutting off the financing of ISIS and acquiring more intelligence on the movements of volunteers for ISIS? The latter is declining anyway. On gathering intelligence overseas, Canada lacks and in-depth capacity. As for cutting off financing that has already been underway led by the Americans and Canada is a bit player in that game.

What about the push to increase humanitarian and development aid even further? The reality is that Canada under the Liberals by ratio to population already contributes roughly the highest amount in both categories compared to the $5.1 billion in total dollars committed by the U.S. to emergency aid, the $3.3 billion EU, $3.6 billion from Germany, $1.75 billlion from the U.K., etc. As my opening paragraph indicated, the replenishment of fighters has largely been effectively staunched and ISIL which is no longer able to replenish its losses. I think these NDP suggestions look more like panic in search of a policy and a strategy, though the NDP is the only party calling for a consistent policy within an overall plan.

The real larger issue is how to contain the enormous ambitions of Iran and Russia, which has already checked Turkey. Obama has been counting on diplomacy since he is unwilling to contribute more American troops on the ground to the fight. In the meanwhile, Assad’s forces, reinforced by Iranians and Hezbollah volunteers and resupplied by Russia and provided air cover by the Russian air force, has been able to recover control of a great deal of territory and even totally encircle Aleppo, which had been under the control of America’s Syrian allies according to a study by the Institute for the Study of War in its 5 February Report. In addition, the military pressure on Kuweires Airbase has been relieved and the threat along the Mediterranean coast to the Russian fleet has virtually been eliminated, at great cost to the Turkish strategic aim of bringing down the Assad regime. Russia has emerged as a “hero” against Turkish military intervention in Iraq. Thus, Turkey’s ambitions in Iraq have been set back considerably.

The Russians and their allies conducted a very strategic operation to suck the rebels and other militants from urban areas into the open and to destroy them there, indicating that the rebels were more committed to saving civilian lives at the cost of strategic advantage, especially in comparison to Daesh. The biggest winners over the past year have been Assad, the Russians and the Iranians, though the losses on the ground for both the Iranians (143 officers alone from the rank of captain up) and their cannon fodder from Hezbollah volunteers has been huge in addition to the huge cost in dollars, which Iran could ill afford at this time, estimated at $6-12 billion per year, after having lost $450-500 billion since the sanctions took effect and while costs rise for its support of the Houthis in Yemen as Saudi Arabia directly supports the other side.

In my estimation, the current “peace” efforts offer an opportunity for the Syrian regime and its Russian ally to recuperate and regroup from the recent strenuous efforts and unrestrained attacks on civilian populations, a justifiable concern that handicaps the West in the type of warfare being fought in Syria. There is clearly no comparable effort by the Western coalition to counter the Syrian-Iranian-Russian partnership and that coalition, not Daesh, has been the major victor over the last year of the war. The peace talks look to me more like a front to confer de facto victory to Assad and his backers.

So where does this put the various parties in the Canadian parliament, ignoring the separatist party in this assessment. The Tories appear to want to fight last year’s battles. The NDP seems determined to be irrelevant. And the Liberal policy may be the most delusionary since this is not a war for hearts and minds, but a typical power play by regional and international actors. If this assessment is anywhere near correct, how does it affect the development of an overall Canadian defence strategy and our deployment of troops in the Middle East? In the next blog, I will deal with the need for a revitalized defence policy and intervention policy for Syria and Iraq. Clearly it will be a sketch only since I have merely provided a caricature of what has been going on in Iraq and Syria rather than a detailed area by area analysis of this multi-sided competition for power and control in the region.

 

With the help of Alex Zisman

The Competition – Libya and its Fortune Hunters

The Competition – Libya and its Fortune Hunters

by

Howard Adelman

One source of competition for the Washington African Consulting Group (WACG) is the Malta-based Sam Serj (SS) company in Tripoli led by Taha Buishi. SS advertises itself as a Libyan and African marketing company active in dealing with large projects in the following fields: oil and gas trade, petrochemical products and raw material trading. SS also claims to provide oil and gas consulting services and consulting services for large construction projects in Libya. SS also purports to provide guidance for investing in Libya. SS declares that it can provide financing, legal advice and logistic services as well as sea communications to connect to Libya as well as connections to the rest of the world for internet and phone services. I write this after correcting all the grammar and spelling errors on its web site. Other than such a description, SS offers no record of any of the above activities and no contact persons other than the general manager Taha Buishi. The company is, however, listed under recycle.africa.net as a scrap metal dealer, a frequent cover for an arms dealer. Whatever SS is, it does not advertise itself as having expertise in asset recovery.

Nevertheless, SS claims that it was appointed by Ali Zeidan, former Prime Minister, as the only legitimate representative of the Libyan government with a mandate to locate the assets and return the wealth to the people of Libya. Given that SS is based in Tripoli, one might have expected SS to claim it was backed by the Islamist General National Congress (GNC) protected by Libya Dawn and in rivalry with the internationally-recognized government in Tobruk, the House of Representatives (HoR) and its Council of Deputies (CoD). But that is not the case. For Ali Zeidan was chosen as Prime Minister by the CoD, though before the second civil war broke out in June 2014 between the new GNC based in Tripoli and the CoD that had been forced to retreat to Tobruk. Buishi contends that the appointment of SS was confirmed by Zeidan’s successor, Abdullah al-Thani, on 11 March 2014, but there is no written record that has been published confirming such an appointment or one by Ali Zeidan. WACG has such a document trail signed by the head of the National Board, the proper internationally-recognized authority for seeking the recovery of the assets.

If SS is based in Tripoli, it would have to have the support of the new GNC. But the GNC is not internationally-recognized. The CoD is. So SS claims such authority. But it is probably not the proper formal authority that will determine the outcome, since neither WACG nor SS is working in cooperation with UNCAC. Goaied charges SS with using bribes and payoffs to South Africans to obtain control of the stolen assets. And there certainly seems plenty of evidence that SS is working in close cooperation with important people in the South African government.

SS representatives met President Jacob Zuma of South Africa twice to discuss repatriation of the Libyan assets. On 7 December, 2014, Sam Serj sent a formal letter signed by Taha Buishi to both the ANC and South African president Zuma requesting that a task force directed by a bilateral Libyan-South African committee be set up to repatriate the funds. SS also requested support for a proposed US. $3-billion joint venture between Libya and South Africa as well as a claimed U.S. $270-million signed arms deal between the Libyan Ministry of Defense and SS.

It is important now to introduce another notorious character who may also keys to locating the stolen loot. Bashir Saleh Bashir (alias Bashir al-Shrkawi or al-Sharqawi), a former aide of and bagman for Gaddafi, was in charge of investments on behalf of the Gaddafi family in properties – primarily hotels (the Michelangelo Towers in Sandton, Johannesburg, the Centurion Lake Hotel in Pretoria, the Commodore and Portswood hotels in Cape Town, and the Kruger Park Lodge in Mpumalanga) – mineral resources and businesses as well as shares in other companies throughout Africa. Bashir Saleh made these investments as head of the Libyan African Portfolio, supposedly a Libyan sovereign wealth fund, but one solely under the personal control of Gaddafi. Bashir Saleh also served as Gaddafi’s go-between with France. Bashir Saleh should not be confused with Yemen’s former president Ali Abdullah Saleh who allegedly stole U.S. $32 to U.S.$60 billion during his 33 years in power.

On 25 February 2011, President Barack Obama signed Executive Order 13566 freezing all of Gaddafi’s assets, including the assets of the Gaddafi International Charity and Development Foundation and the Waatasemu Charity Association, because of the regime’s human rights abuses and use of violence against civilians. The freeze was intended to safeguard the assets of the people of Libya that the U.S. alleged had been expropriated by Gaddafi. As well, the U.S, asked Interpol to issue arrest warrants not only for Bashir Saleh, but also for: Ali Al-Mahmoudi al-Baghdadi, Prime Minister under Gaddafi; Khaled al-Tuhami, a Libyan General and Director of the Internal Security Office; Abd-Al-Hafid Mahmud al-Zulaytini, Secretary of the General People’s Committee for Planning and Finance, Finance Minister, Director and Deputy Chairman of the Libyan Investment Authority; Shukri Ghanem, Libyan Oil Minister and Chairman of the National Oil Company of Libya; and Abdul Hafid Zlitni, Secretary of the General People’s Committee for Finance and Planning, Finance Minister and Director and Deputy Chairman of the Libyan Investment Authority. On 8 April 2011, the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) added the above individuals to the Libya2 Specially Designated Nationals List. In addition to the senior government officials listed above, Gaddafi’s family members, including his son, Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, and his daughter, Aisha Gaddafi, were also designated for sanctions under E.O. 13566. Aside from these individuals and the enormous amount of other wealth hidden away, more than U.S. $34 billion in Government of Libya assets were frozen.

Though Saleh was captured in the first Libyan civil war, he escaped and was believed to have fled to France. The Sunday Times of Johannesburg also reported that Saleh had been seen several times in Johannesburg. Subsequently, Libyan authorities in Tobruk formally requested Saleh’s arrest and extradition from South Africa. Earlier, Interpol had issued a red notice against Saleh. In South Africa, the Justice Minister informed parliament that the Interpol Red Notice is not an international arrest warrant allowing immediate arrest. Instead, once a fugitive is detected, a provisional arrest warrant must be requested from Interpol along with proper original documentation to be shared between the competent authorities through diplomatic channels. Though such a request was made, confirming that Saleh had been spotted in South Africa, I have been unable to find out whether the arrest warrant was issued. In any case, an inspection of Interpol’s web site immediately indicates that a red notice required a prior arrest warrant and one was issued in the U.S. So South Africa already possesses the right to arrest Saleh.

The legal basis for a Red Notice is the arrest warrant (it must be based on a prior legal arrest warrant issued for a person wanted for prosecution) or a court order (issued for a person wanted to serve a sentence) issued by judicial authorities in the concerned country. The notice contains identification information about the subject person such as physical description, photographs and fingerprints if available, occupation, languages spoken and identity documents. The notice may also contain judicial information such as offense with which the person is charged, references to the relevant laws under which the charge is made or conviction was obtained, the maximum penalty that has been or can be imposed, the references of the arrest or of the sentence imposed by the court, and details of the countries from which the requesting country will seek the fugitive’s extradition.

Note that there is no extradition treaty in place between Libya and South Africa.

By following the activities of Bashir Saleh before the Libyan revolution, SS investigators claimed that Gaddafi stashed U.S $1 billion of the total stolen loot in cash, gold and diamonds in four South African banks and two security companies. – and that his bagman, Bashir Saleh, holds the core information for finding the loot. A key to SS contacts in South Africa was Tito Maleka. Maleka had once been the head of security at the headquarters in Johannesburg and in charge of the ANC’s intelligence and counter-intelligence gathering for several years. While undergoing a heart operation, he was dismissed after he started to assist SS and had been hauled before South Africa’s Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration. However, Maleka has appealed his dismissal before a labour arbitrator. SS acknowledged Maleka’s assistance but insisted that he “never asked anything from the Libyan government for his co-operation on the matter.”

There is a third competitor in the field. The al-Hassi government in Tripoli hired Ari Ben Menashe of Dickens and Madson to lobby with the American government on its behalf. Of all the rogues involved in the recovery of Libyan assets, Menashe is by far the most interesting. Even more intriguing is the fact that the Islamist government in Tripoli would hire not only a Jew and an Israeli, but a former member of Mossad to get back the Libyan billions or trillions. Except not quite the Tripoli government. Ibrahim Jadhran, a thirty-one-year-old militia leader who had helped overthrow Gaddafi and had been a supporter of the Islamist government in Tripoli, went off on his own and seized five oil terminals in eastern Libya. Jadhran said he did so because he had been frustrated by the slow rate of reform and the corruption he observed.

Jadhran invited Menashe to Benghazi, the seat of al-Qaeda power in Libya, to meet with representatives of the new government of Cyrenaica with an appointed Prime Minister and cabinet that claims to support a federal system where the “provinces” would control regional taxation, security, natural resources and education. Menashe signed a contract for U.S. $2 million to gain political recognition for the Cyrenaica government from the Russian Federation and to strengthen the government’s military forces by obtaining grants for military equipment and training from various governments. The contract registered with the American body in charge of overseeing lobbyists reads, “we shall strive to provide you with economic aid by soliciting buyers for your oil when the need arises as well as tankers for the transport of oil.” It says nothing about the retrieval of the stolen assets, but everyone knows that U.S. $2 million is a pittance for Menashe and that the real score is in the hidden billions.

However, it is always difficult to know who Menashe really represents. When Zimbabwean-opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, came to his Montreal office (Menashe is now a Canadian) for his assistance, Menashe was then working for Robert Mugabe, President of Zimbabwe, as a lobbyist with international organizations, governments and media “in order to influence the creation of favourable policies to the government of Zimbabwe and the elimination or prevention of policies and laws unfavourable to the government of Zimbabwe,” according to the requisite filings in Washington. Tsvangirai did not know that. Menashe taped the interview and turned the tapes over to Mugabe who had Tsvangirai arrested upon his return. Though held in jail for over a year on charges of treason, the Zimbabwe courts found him innocent and interpreted the use of the word “extermination” as not intended to connote violence.

Menashe worked with the now infamous Canadian, Arthur Porter, a Canadian physician born in Freetown, Sierra Leone with an MD from Western University with a subsequent specialty in radiation oncology, who also became a hospital administrator after earning an M.B.A. from the University of Tennessee and certificates in Management from Harvard and the University of Toronto. In 2004, he became Director General and CEO of the McGill University Health Centre in Montreal and then, in 2008, was appointed by Prime Minister Harper as a member of the Privy Council of Canada with full security clearance for his appointment as Chair of the Canadian Security Review Committee (SIRC) that oversees CSIS, Canada’s version of the CIA.

In 2010, Menashe signed a secret contract receiving a Can. $200,000 retainer from Porter to deliver a Russian development grant worth U.S. $120 million to Sierra Leone through Porter’s private company. The deal went sour. Immediately after, the Bank of Montreal canceled Menashe’s account. Then he received notice that the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC) was also giving notice that it no longer wished to do business with him. Two other banks followed suit. Menashe charged back with a suit against the banks alleging that they acted in concert and without due process, depriving him of the liquidity required to continue his business. Further, shortly after information came to light in The National Post that totally destroyed Arthur Porter’s career.

Porter resigned his position as Chief of the McGill University Health Centre and as chair of SIRC when he learned that he was being investigated for his involvement in a Can. $22.5 million kick-back scheme related to the construction of Montreal University Health Centre’s new Can. $1.3 billion hospital under the supervision of the SNC-Lavalin Group, the huge Quebec engineering firm that had been so deeply implicated in the Quebec construction scandal. On 27 May 2013, Porter was arrested in Panama on charges of fraud, conspiracy to commit government fraud, abuse of trust, secret commissions and laundering the proceeds of a crime based on an Interpol arrest warrant. Porter has been in jail for over two years, but has managed to avoid extradition on the grounds that he had not been informed of any charges within 60 days of his arrest as required under an Interpol arrest warrant. His wife Pamela Mattock Porter, however, returned to Canada and eventually offered a confession in return for time served.

In another instance, in 2010, after initial introductions several years earlier were made by former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, Griffiths Energy International Inc. (GEI) of Calgary, after several meetings in the Ambassador’s Washington home with GEI’s founding partner, Naeem Tyab, and, on one occasion, Chad’s oil minister, GEI signed a U.S. $2-million consulting agreement with Nouracham Niam, the wife of Chad’s then-ambassador to the U.S. and Canada, Mahamoud Adam Bechir, to “open doors” for the company in Chad. Through her help, Griffiths had obtained two oil blocks in southern Chad, but negotiations with the Chad government to go ahead on the exploration to exploit those blocks bogged down. After an introduction through Jacques Bouchard of Heenan Blaikie LLP, a very prominent Canadian law firm to which Chrétien is counsel, GEI hired Menashe to intervene with President Idriss Deby of Chad. Not only was GEI stranded on a sandbar with a right to explore in Chad but no ability to do so, GEI’s payment to Niam violated Canada’s Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act. GEI was eventually fined Can. $10.3million. Menashe’s consulting firm pulled out of the agreement on the basis that Griffith failed in its obligations of full disclosure. Menashe returned the money. How the RCMP first received information on the payoff is not clear.

The bottom line, of the three questionable agents in the race to recover the stolen loot, Menashe is by far the most experienced. After his service to Mossad, he went on to help ensure the election of Ronald Reagan in the fight against Jimmy Carter. He traces his résumé back to the election of Ronald Reagan for he was the agent who went to Tehran to persuade the government to continued holding the American hostages until after the election, thereby ensuring that Carter continue to bear the Scarlet letter of his inability to get the hostages returned while Reagan would enjoy the glory as part of his inauguration. Menashe was central in the Iran-Contra scandal and earlier in the plot to abduct Mordechai Vanunu from London and have him returned to Israel where Venunu spent decades in prison. Menashe’s apparent biggest handicap is that he has ostensibly been employed by the nominal government in Benghazi associated with al-Qaeda and, other than IS, least acceptable to Egypt, Russia and the U.S.

Menashe, probably like SS and even the principals of WACG, makes his big money as an arms dealer more than simply as a lobbyist. In 2010, he signed a contract with then-president François Bozize of the Central African Republic (CAR) to arrange a “gift” from the Russian Federation of U.S. $50 million worth of munitions, including 12 KA50 helicopters, necessary maintenance supplies and training. Menashe’s connections with Russia are significant since Russia has a fleet in the Mediterranean that could be used to block the transport of oil in tankers controlled by any, several or all of the competing factions in Libya. Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry has already indicated that Egypt “would welcome contributions of any country that has abilities to provide such contributions,” and that “Russia plays an important role in this issue since it has a naval fleet in the Mediterranean.” The UN Security Council is considering whom to back and how. Should a naval blockade against Islamist militants in Libya be authorized? The participation of the Russian navy could be important. With Egypt’s backing, however, the Tobruk internationally-recognized government would seem to be in the front line for support.

A UNSC resolution endorsing a blockade would require both U.S. and Russian backing and partial lifting of the arms embargo. Thus far, the U.S., Spain and several other UN Security Council members are considering whom to back and how. As a result, the 9 March proposal set before the UNSC to supply the Libyan government in Tobruk with arms and impose the blockades has been delayed. Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, signaled that Moscow would support Security Council action proposed by Egypt “to increase the efforts to combat the terrorist threat coming from Libya.” Lavrov had vocally denounced the killing of the 21 Coptic Christians by IS and effectively supported Egypt’s retaliation.

Given Russian behaviour in the Ukraine, Washington seems reluctant to help enhance Russia’s naval power, but, as argued by Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi after meeting Putin in Moscow, “Russia’s role can be decisive.” “Without Russia it is much more complicated to find a point of equilibrium.” However, it is difficult to see how NATO-Russian naval cooperation could be restored at the present time, though Moscow’s past involvement in a multilateral counter-piracy task force in the Arabian Sea may serve as a precedent. However, just as Iraq is coordinating the implicit cooperation between the U.S. and Iran in combating IS, Egypt, with its own significant navy, could perform the same role with respect to Russia and Europe/U.S.

The bottom line is that which of the political contenders for ruling Libya and which agency gets the upper hand in the quest for Libyan’s stolen wealth, will depend to a great extent on Egypt and the major international power brokers. The HoR in Tobruk, though cornered, has the services of a very determined general, the best international connections that can supply arms, but seems to have hired the least able agent to work on its behalf to recover the monies. However, since WACG seems to have an inside track with the U.S. government, its total inexperience in this high stakes poker game may be irrelevant as would SS’s seeming inside track with South African officials, though the firing of Maleka may indicate that SS purported support by at least one of the governments in Libya may be irrelevant.

The Quest for Libya’s Assets

For this blog, I am very grateful to the New Libya Report that allowed me to use the vast array of documents they had collected.

 

Money, Money, Money Makes the World Go Round – The Quest for Libya’s Assets

by

Howard Adelman

Don’t believe a word of it. Money is important, but it does not make the world go around. The above may be the mantra of some winners, like Kevin O’Leary, Dragon Den’s former obnoxious panelist, who repeats it ad nauseam. Dragon Den’s former the obnoxious panelist on Dragon’s Den. Thankfully, the other panelists who have acquired wealth do not have the same belief. Of course it is the view of an even larger number of losers. Last night I watched Sidney Poitier in the film adaptation of Lorraine Hansberry’s prize-winning play, A Raisin in the Sun. He played Walter Younger. For Walter, to be somebody meant having money, lots of it. But he was a loser quite different than his sister, Beneatha, whom her Nigerian Yoruba boyfriend Asagai renamed Alaiyo – “one for whom bread is not enough.” Their mama was a God-fearing hardworking woman just wanting the best for her children. Walter’s wife just longed for a loving husband. It takes all kinds to make a world, but great wealth seems to attract the greedy ones, like honey does a hungry bear.

In following the money, most eyes focus on Libya’s oil reserves, refineries and port facilities for exporting oil. But, believe it or not, there is an even much larger and far more liquid immediate prize at stake than Libya’s oil assets. In December, it came to light that the prize was very much larger than had previously been estimated. Instead of merely billions of dollars, in South Africa alone, investigators claim to have identified almost two trillion in U.S. dollars as well as hundreds of tons of gold at almost U.S. $34 million a ton (from 6 to 10 billion) and six million carats of diamonds worth U.S. $200 hundred million uncut. (If cut, U.S. $6 billion) This is the largest stash of liquid assets in the world parked in heavily-guarded warehouses and does not even include the U.S. $32.5 billion (260 billion rand) held in four South African banks or in real estate assets, such as hotels in Johannesburg and Cape Town. And these tremendous sums do not include monies ferried to neighbouring countries from South Africa or held in the United States, Italy, Venezuela, Qatar, Switzerland or Tunisia. Perhaps the reports of this much wealth are exaggerated, but cut the amount by ten and it is still the largest amount of liquid assets around.

Why is South Africa the primary depository for Libyan assets? Following the friendship between Nelson Mandela and Muammar Gaddafi, the wealth was transferred for safe keeping to South Africa between 2000 and 2011 in 67 different flights flown by ex-special forces officers of the South African armed forces. Mandela’s friendship – more accurately, love – for his “brother leader” Colonel Gaddafi, whom Mandela called his guide, may surprise many of us who idealized Mandela as the twentieth century’s greatest statesman, but it is actually very understandable. Mandela had assured Gaddafi that South Africa would never turn its back on him. Why? When Mandela was in jail, and even before Western countries had begun to isolate South Africa for its apartheid policies, Gaddafi supported Mandela and the African National Congress with training, moral and financial support, including financial aid to South African blacks studying abroad.

In October 1997, heavy UN sanctions had been in place against Libya since 1992. When an air embargo prevented flights to Libya, Mandela, then President of South Africa, traveled from Tunisia by a motorcade from the border town of Ras Ajdir to Tripoli. Though Mandela traveled 100 miles to Libya soon after he was released from jail in 1990 and once again before he became president in 1994, the 1997 visit was his first official one as president. Mandela opposed the policies of Western governments determined to punish Gaddafi for not turning over two Libyan suspects for trial in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. Mandela lent his moral stature to his friend Gaddafi and supported the African Union policy advocating a trial in a third neutral country.

Only Sweden’s financial and political support for Africa could compare to Gaddafi’s, and it never even came close. Gaddafi paid for the entire African radio, television and telephone telecommunications and funded most of the cost of Africa’s first communication satellite through the Regional African Satellite Communication Organization. He started the African Investment Bank based in Sirte, Libya, the African Monetary Fund (AFM) based in Cameroon, and the African Central Bank in Abuja, Nigeria. Though considered a flake and a gadfly by Westerners, Gaddafi was respected and admired as a great benefactor by Africans. The problem now became how to get these funds back in Libyan hands. As Kenya learned in 2004 when Mwai Kibaki became president, identifying funds sent abroad illegally is one very hard task, but recovering those funds is so much harder. That was a situation when only U.S. $4 billion were missing. In the case of Libya, not only was there the question of who should be entrusted with the task. There was also the issue of which body was the legitimate authority to authorize recovery of the assets.

A state is not without precedents and expertise in this area. The United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC), in addition to its prevention, enforcement and international cooperation functions, has a very important fourth purpose, stolen asset recovery. The program is called the Stolen Asset Recovery Initiative (StAR) operating under articles 51-59 of its charter. As Article 51 of its charter reads, “The return of assets is a fundamental principle of this convention…” After the investigative stage, there are three key steps – freezing the assets, seizing the assets and, third, confiscation. The process must be initiated by a competent authority. That is, not only must the formal authority of the state be behind such a quest, but the actual agency carrying out the task must possess professional expertise. That expertise includes investigation, forensic accounting, international law – with a particular specialty in asset recovery and computer specialists. The World Bank and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime are cooperating agencies. The World Bank even helps fund asset recovery initiatives for states.

There are a number of reputable firms with the required expertise in this field that can be employed to carry out the actual work. They usually have years of experience in their field and employ experienced attorneys, forensic accountants, private investigators, computer forensic experts and forged document specialists. The International Asset Recovery Group (IARG) is but one example. A smaller firm in Barrie, Ontario in Canada, The Renwick Group, is another example. On the other hand, this is also a field littered with sketchy characters. Though it may be difficult to choose from among the highly specialized large firms in the business, it is fairly easy to discern questionable operations. Does the firm have a track record of success in the field? Does it have the depth of expertise or is the firm simply a one or two person operation? Is the firm skilled in overcoming barriers to identifying assets and recovering them? Does the firm have a network of international connections for this purpose? Finally, the firm should at least be literate and capable of writing proper English, the international language for such purposes.

One of the two competing firms hired to recover Libyan assets is the Texas-based Washington African Consulting Group (WACG), an overnight creation for this purpose led by Erik Magnus Iskander Goaied and incorporated on 8 August 2014. Erik is of Tunisian and Swedish background and is a Swedish citizen, though he boasts extensive South African connections and lists his position as Director of Darron international marketing of South Africa. It is probably through Darron that between 2012-2014 he worked for Denel, the South African defense company, as a technical adviser to the German/South African defense company Rheinmetall Denel Munition (Pty) Ltd. In other words, Erik was probably an arms salesman.

Darron appears to simply exist as a corporation for his personal business activities. He also indicates that he was Managing Director of Terre d’Ancêtres of Tunisia. Though the company has a logo and seems to be in the business of chartering private jets, it also advertises itself as an international advisory group (the wording in its web page sates: “advising international group”) operating in the North African market with a specialty in both “the management of petroleum companies networks” (I believe he meant to write “companies’ networks”) as well as the installation and management of farming projects. Yet there is no record I could find in his career of doing either. He also lists himself as the North African exclusive distributor for Levtrade International of South Africa. Levtrade is a medical manufacturer of Burnshield Emergency Burn Care and First Aid Kits. He also lists himself as a director of Socam Sarl in Tunisia which may have been involved in marble excavation. Before that he was evidently a consultant in the petroleum industry and the night manager of a Sheraton Hotel.

This is a very thin resumé but, in any case, demonstrates not one iota in any of the fields of expertise required for asset recovery. However, there may be a connection with his claim to being a pilot and his work for Levtrade which sells medical supplies to relief organizations. I recall an owner of an aircraft company when we were investigating the Rwanda genocide saying that he always knew that when he was not flying arms to belligerents in Africa, he would be supplying relief materials for the NGOs who followed. He claimed he was a one person early warning system for refugee flows. Could Erik have been an arms dealer?

Yet WACG in its incorporation papers lists its function as assisting the National Board for the Following-Up and Recovering of Libyan Looted and Disguised Funds and identifying and recovering Libyan assets in the United States and abroad, but not in Libya. Before I go into the role and nature of the National Board, let me elaborate further on WACG. One other founding director in addition to Erik, Douglas Keith Foree, is listed as the President and advertises himself as a “third generation oil and gas producer with over 30 years experience in exploration and development.”

Quite aside from Douglas Keith Foree’s inexperience in asset recovery, even his petroleum consulting may be questionable. Though he advertises himself as a third generation petroleum expert, the second generation seem to want nothing to do with him. In 2004, Douglas’ own father, R.L. Foree went to court to have his name removed as an officer of Mainland Energy Corp. because it was included by his son without his knowledge and permission. He only learned of his name being included as Vice-President when he went to make a change on one of the entities he controlled and was notified on 24 January 2004 of outstanding violations related to Mainland. R.L. Foree testified that he was estranged from his son and that his son took advantage and misused his name. Mr. Foree testified that Mainland had motive to use his name in that using it could achieve a smaller financial assurance fee by using his name and good history. The Commission allowed R.L. Foree’s name to be removed and fined Mainland U.S. $2,750 costs and a U.S. $4,500 penalty.

Douglas Foree may be an even bigger flake than Erik Goaied. Whatever their credentials in any other area, neither of the two founding directors has any of the requisite expertise in asset recovery. So why would the Libyan government, or, at least, one of its two governments, hire WACG? Another part of the documentary filing provides a clue. The company is listed as having paid $50,000 per month retainer over three months to the American lobbying firm The Ben Barnes Group headed by Ben Barnes, the former Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives and chief fundraiser for John Kerry.

  1. (a) DISBURSEMENT-MONIES During the period beginning 60 days prior to the date of your obligation to register to the time of filing this statement, did you spend or disburse any money in furtherance of or in connection with your activities on behalf of any foreign principal named in Item ?? Yes S No •

If yes, set forth below in the required detail and separately for each such foreign principal named including monies transmitted, if any, to each foreign principal.

Date To Whom Purpose Amount 09/15/14 Ben Barnes Group Retainer for Consulting Services $50,000.00 10/01/14 Ben Barnes Group Retainer for Consulting Services $50,000.00 11/03/14 Ben Barnes Group ‘ Retainer for Consulting Services  $50,000.00

Another piece of information is relevant. Forty-eight-year-old Erik Goaied had a practice of posting repeated supports for Gaddafi (“many Libyans want Qaddafi and the rebels (in which you have al qaeda fighters) do not represent the Libyan people.” He was also adamantly opposed to any form of Islamic government. However, WACG now claims support of Libyan Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thani. WACG was hired on the 22 August 2014 through a consultancy agreement with The National Board, more formally, The National Board for the Following-up and Recovering of the Libyan Looted and Disguised Funds.” WACG was designated as representing the Al-Thani government located in Tobruk defined as the internationally-recognized government of Libya chosen by the Libyan Parliament, the House of Representatives (HoR) on 25 June 2014.

FORMED BY DECREE OF THE COUNCIL OF MINISTERS OF LIBYA (‘the Council”) IN TERMS OF DECREE NUMBER 378 OF 2014 (“the Decree”) UNDER REFERENCE NUMBER 108/T/14 SIGNED ON 22 JANUARY 2014. The National Board herein represented by The National Board Members constituting MOHAMED BELGACEM TAG (“Tag”), Head of the Board, MOHAMED ABDULLAH EL BAKSHI (“El Bakshi”) and YOUSSEF ALI SIRIHEID (“Siriheid”)’

The agreement between the National Board and WACG provides for payment of U.S. $50,000 per month in consultancy payments until such time as all assets have been recovered as well as a 10% recovery fee of all assets recovered. The agreement can only be rescinded upon the agreement of both parties. However, the agreement requires expeditious performance by WACG, including identifying the assets within four months.

Though the UN adopted Resolution 438 requiring countries holding Libyan assets to return them, Goalied has insisted that the Libyan government does not want the assets stored in Libya but simply wanted legal control returned so funds could be used to support “development” projects; assets would be held in the U.S. but would be under the control of the Libyan government. According to an affidavit filed with the U.S. Justice Department on 22 August 2014, the assets would be kept within the U.S. In the meanwhile, both South Africa and Jacob Zuma himself have been under threat by the UN. Charges may be brought before the ICC for theft if the assets are not returned promptly.

Mohamed Belgacem Tag at age 62 became Chair of the National Board on 22 January 2014. Tag confirmed that WACG was the only company mandated by the Libyan government to act on its behalf. Tag and Goaied had a recent meeting with Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, South Africa’s Minister of Defence, with whom they discussed the purchase of South African weaponry with the Libyan funds. Mapisa-Nqakula provided a letter of introduction. (Since he had been a consultant to Denel for two years, the reason Goaied needed a letter of introduction can only be surmised as the government offering assurances that funds were indeed held in South Africa on behalf of Libya, funds sufficient to purchase the arms.) Tag and Goaied informed Denel that Libya was interested in purchasing  Mirage F1s, Mig 21s, Mig 29s, Rooivalk attack helicopters, G6 ­cannons, unmanned aerial vehicles, missiles,, various types of ammunition worth about 8 Billion Rand (over US700 million), a lifeline for that beleaguered company as well as the Tobruk government and General Haftar.

In a nutshell, billions and perhaps trillions of U.S. dollars of purloined Libyan assets are hidden away in various countries, but primarily in South Africa.  The internationally-recognized government in Tobruk set up an assets recovery committee headed by Tag that contracted with an obscure Texas-based company with no known experience in asset recovery. WACG received funds and then passed those funds onto a very important lobby group with close connections to Secretary of State John Kerry. The U.S. would score a double gain, for the assets would be parked in the U.S., and, at the same time, the party most resistant to Islamists, more particularly General  Haftar, could buy the military equipment it needs to defeat the Islamicists.

TOMORROW: The Competition to Tobruk – Tripoli and its Fortune Hunters

Introduction to Contemporary Libya

An Introduction to Libya

by

Howard Adelman

Talk about centrifuges. Cascades of op-eds, criticisms, commentary, opinion pieces and informative articles have tumbled me about as if I was a container of both U-235 and U-238. The separation pressures to polarize positions have been much stronger than the centripetal forces in a centrifuge. Since I wrote my blog, articles have flowed into my computer in rapid succession. They have ranged from Talmudic exegesis of the Haman reference in Netanyahu’s speech to precise details about Iranian knowledge of the technical requirements, beyond enriched fuel, to make a usable atomic bomb. However, although the information may be massive and the opinions many, the contentious issue boils down to a choice between two isotopes akin to U-235 and U-238. Can one make a deal with Iran that will hold or is a much more stringent deal or no deal better?

So I am leaving the Iranian nuclear issue for now and will re-visit it at a later date. Instead of mounting complexity topping relatively simple choices, when we move to Libya we meet confusion head on. So I will have to clear the jungle before we get down to one single issue – wealth and lots of it. “Follow the Money,” This was the advice Deep Throat (Mark Felt) gave to Bob Woodward as the Watergate scandal unfolded. It certainly will apply to Libya in a myriad of ways. But in order to follow the money, you need to know who the main players are from whom you can choose the ones to follow, where they are now, where they have been and where they might be going. In addition to the pursuit of money, it also helps to know what else motivates the various players.

I begin with a brief reminder of the geography and history of Libya, a designation it only obtained in the twentieth century as part of Italy’s African colonization in 1911 as a revival of the ancient Greek name for the territorial coast, Λιβύη (Libúē), and modern Libyan Arabic, li;bjǣ, to replace the Ottoman Tripolitania. At the peak of Italian rule in 1939, 35% of Benghazi was Italian. It is easy to forget that Libya is the fourth largest country in Africa and the seventeenth largest in the world. Covering 700,000 square miles, Libya, on the southern shores of the Mediterranean Sea, about the middle of northern Africa, is located between Algeria to the west, Egypt to the east, and Chad and Niger to the direct south. If the Islamic State rebels in Libya hook up with Boko Haram in northeastern Nigeria through Chad and Niger, the northern part of Africa would be cut in two by radical Islamicists. More significantly, Islamic State would have access to the tenth largest oil reserve in the world in a country with a population of only six million.

Tripoli, Libya’s largest city (population over a million) and its capital, is located on the Mediterranean coast to the west. To the east on the eastern side of the Gulf of Sidra is Benghazi, Libya’s second largest city (population 700,000). The city was called the garden of Hesperides in the ancient world and mentioned by both Herodotus and Thucydides when the city was an outpost of civilization surrounded by hostile tribes and desert on three sides. The exception was the very fertile steppe of the mountains to the northeast with its treed ravines enjoying a substantial annual rainfall. Benghazi is also Libya’s second legislative capital.

Benghazi lost its joint capital status in 1969 when the so-called Free Officers under Muammar Gaddafi staged their coup d’état and overthrew King Idris I who had ruled Libya since its independence in 1951. The Sanussiya Sufi order that had been a backbone against Mussolini’s regime and the mainstay of support for King Idris I, were again pushed to the side when Gaddafi made Tripoli the sole capital of Libya. With his overthrow in 2011, Tripoli re-emerged as the executive capital, but with an eventual Islamic government. Benghazi was slated to re-emerge as the legislative capital but fell under control of even more radical al-Qaeda Islamists.

Benghazi, with its ethnic diversity of African, Greek, Egyptian and a very significant Berber minority, has a small Christian community of 4,000 located around the Roman Catholic Franciscan Church of the Immaculate Conception. Though Jews lived in Benghazi since the Roman Empire, the 1948 riots forced the exodus of this ancient Jewish community. There are no Jews in Benghazi today, or, for that matter, in all of Libya.

Benghazi houses the country’s parliament, the Majlis al Nuwab, and the national library. Benghazi is also a business centre hosting the headquarters of many small manufacturing companies and large corporations such as Libyan Airlines, the Libyan Bank of Commerce and Development, the National Oil Corporation, the Al-Brega Oil Marketing Company and the Arabian Oil Company. Contemporary Libya began in Benghazi when, during Arab Spring on 15 February 2011, an uprising against Muammar Gaddafi’s government took place and appeared victorious within a week. When the Libyan army counterattacked, Ali Zeidan, a Geneva-based Libyan human rights lawyer who returned from exile to become Libya’s envoy to France, persuaded President Sarkozy to intervene with the French Air Force backed by UNSC Res. 1973. That intervention supported the armed resistance on the ground.

But it was not the liberals who eventually emerged triumphant in Benghazi. By 31 July, Ansar al-Sharia (al-Qaeda) was in full control of the city and its environs and subsequently reinforced and strengthened puritanical Islam with a complete ban on alcohol. Increasing numbers of women wear black niqabs and many more men sport full beards. On the eleventh anniversary of the destruction of the twin towers in New York City, on 11 September 2012, a very well-armed group of 125-150 Ansar al-Sharia militants attacked the American embassy in Benghazi and killed Ambassador J. Christoper Stephens, Foreign Service Information Officer Sean Smith, and former Naval SEALS Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty. Since then, Benghazi has remained under the control of Ansar al-Sharia jihadist militants and has been the main centre of opposition to rule from Tripoli.

Libya’s National Transitional Council (NTC), the face of the political opposition to Gaddafi, on 8 August 2012 handed over power to the newly-elected General National Council (GNC) with a mandate to rule for eighteen months until 7 February 2014. The GNC was a coalition primarily of two major factions, the National Forces Alliance (NFA), a “liberal” party, and the Justice and Construction Party (JCP), a party affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood and dedicated to an Islamic state through democratic means. There were also a number of independents, for example, the Workers Group with 20 seats and the Southern Group with 31. On 7 July 2012, Zeidan was elected as an independent congressman for Jufra, He lost out as Speaker to his Ambassador boss in Delhi, Mohammed Magariaf. They had both defected in 1980 and together founded a political movement, the National Front for the Salvation of Libya (NFSL) that became the core of the NFA under the leadership of Mahmoud Jibril. Zeidan became the official spokesman of the Libyan League for Human Rights. After losing as Speaker in 2012, Zeidan resigned his seat and ran for Prime Minister against the JPT candidate, Mohammed sl-Harari. Parliament elected him Prime Minister-designate by a vote of 93 to 85. On 14 October 2012, Ali Zeidan was appointed Prime Minister by the GNC after he submitted his cabinet.

In the conflicted political terrain of Libya, his rule was rocky. Zeidan was kidnapped on 10 October 2013 in Tripoli by an al-Qaeda militant group that held him responsible for handing over Abu Anas al-Libi (Nazih Abdul Hamed Nabih al-Ruqai’i) to American authorities who wanted him for masterminding the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings. Zeidan was released the same day. The event that served as the catalyst of his downfall began when the GNC tried to extend its authority beyond the 7 February deadline until the end of 2014. Riots broke out across Libya. The sailing out of the rebel-held port of Sidra on 11 March 2014 of the rogue oil tanker Morning Glory that Zeidan had promised to prevent, seemed to seal Zeidan’s fate. It did not help that the State prosecutor, Abdel-Qader Radwan, had banned Zeidan from travelling abroad because he faced an investigation over the alleged financial irregularities. After a parliamentary committee voted no-confidence in Zeidan and removed him from office, he defied that travel ban and fled Libya on 14 March 2014.

Perhaps the military divisions were even more significant than the political ones. Khalifa Belqasim Haftar, a Libyan General who was part of the free officers’ coup in 1969, went into opposition when he was a captive in Chad in one of Gaddafi’s military interventions into a neighbouring country. Haftar ended up going into exile in the U.S. and became an American citizen. In 2011, he returned to Libya to take part in the revolution and took leadership of all the ground forces under General Abdul Fatah Younis, When Younis was assassinated in August, though Omar El-Hariri was second in command, Haftar assumed effective control of the armed forces opposed to Gaddafi. When the GNC initially appeared to be holding onto power past its deadline in February 2014, Haftar, with the support of fellow officers, built a secret army. Between May and August 2014, a second civil war broke out in Libya beginning on 16 May when Haftar launched Operation Dignity with a ground and air assault on the Muslim jihadists in Benghazi and the Libyan parliament. All Islamist parties, both democratic and jihadist, with the support of Qatar and Turkey united to form operation Fajr Libya (Libyan Dawn) on 13 July 2014. A second full civil war was underway.

In the GNC-scheduled new elections for 25 June 2014, the secularists scored a clear victory over parties with an Islamist agenda but with only 15% of eligible voters having cast ballots. The Council of Representatives (CoR) replaced the NTC on 4 August 2014. The new government under Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thani neither endorsed nor condemned Operation Dignity, but branded Islamic militants as terrorists. Did these include the members of the Justice and Construction Party (JCP) affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood who supported a democratically elected Islamic state? When al-Thani’s government tried to take possession of the parliament in Benghazi, they were repulsed by the local Islamic militants affiliated with al-Qaeda and were forced to flee to Tobruk, the port city of 120,000 near the Egyptian border and the site of many World War II battles as well as one of the initial places of the rebellion against the Gaddafi regime. Haftar himself, like Sisi in Egypt, determined to completely destroy not only the jihadists but the supporters of JCP as well.

The CoR set up a temporary seat of government, the Council of Deputies (CoD) and a House of Representatives (HoR). The GNC and the Islamicists rejected the legitimacy of the elections and the HoR. Further, the June 2014 elections were declared unconstitutional by the Libyan Supreme Court in November 2014. The cabinet of Abdulla al-Thani in Tobruk and its HoR seemed orphaned, but this past week formally appointed Haftar head of the armed forces.

Thus, an Islamist rival government rules from Tripoli as the legal continuation of the General National Congress (GNC) elected in July 2012 and reconvened after Islamists rejected the 2014 election results and formed the Council of Representatives (CoR). Dawn of Libya itself is divided among the Libya Central Shield Force (LCSR), the Libya Revolutionaries Operating Room (LROR), the Misrata Brigades and the Zawiya militias. Dawn of Libya was determined that their brand of Islam would not go the route of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt or the Ennahda Party in Tunisia. After seesaw battles, Dawn of Libya won control of the oil port of al-Sidra and finally the refinery in R’as Lanuf on the western side of the Gulf of Sidra opposite Benghazi. The CoR with this military support rules from Tripoli while CoD and HoD rule from Tobruk as the one internationally-recognized government of Libya. Benghazi and its district is governed by a third militant Islamic group identified with al-Qaeda.

If this were not complicated enough, a fourth seat of government arose in Derna, east of Benghazi on the Mediterranean coast with a population of about 150,000. Derna is Libya’s most religious city and hosts Libya’s most extremist jihadist radicals. It traces that radicalism back to at least the days of the Barbary pirates and the Battle of Derna in 1805 when American forces led by General  William Eaton in America’s first imperial victorious battle overseas captured Dema with 500 U.S. marines, mercenaries and 4-5,000 Barbary troops by marching 500 miles across the desert from Alexandria. In 2007 in Iraq, American troops found a list of foreign fighters in the Iraqi insurgency; 52 of the 112 Libyans on the list came from Derna. An estimated 800 volunteers from Derna had been fighting under the Islamic State banner in Syria.

On 18 February 2011, the rebellion broke out in Derna and the National Transitional Council took over even before a new government was established in Tripoli. In April 2014, 300 Libyan Islamic State militants from the Syrian al-Battar Brigade slipped back into Derna joining a force of 1,100 already there and increased their size further by bringing other radical groups under their flag. Last August, special forces from Egypt and the United Arab Emirates attacked Derna and destroyed a militant jihadist camp. On 5 October, the Islamic State militants struck. By the end of October 2014, local Islamicist rule was replaced when the more extreme jihadist radicals pledged allegiance to Islamic State.

What was surprising is that their military leader was a Yemeni militant from the Syrian Civil War, Mohammed Abdullah known as Abu al-Baraa al-Azdi. He was assisted by an aide to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, Abu Nabil al-Anbari, both veterans of the Iraqi conflict. Though opposed by rival locally-led radicals, such as the Abu Salim Martyrs Brigade, the Islamic State radicals took control of government buildings and security vehicles declaring the Derna district part of the caliphate. In public, they beheaded judges, civilian officials and others who refused to submit to their rule, enforced the separation of male and female students, and closed the law school. The Islamic Youth Shura Council flogged any who refused to follow their interpretation of sharia law. The beheaded bodies of two human rights activists in Derna, Mohammed Battu and Sirak Qath, abducted on 6 November, were found in December. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was named chief representing the caliph of the Islamic State to govern the district they designated as Wilayah Barqa. Abu al-Baraa al-Azdi was named a religious judge.

Islamic State used its base in Derna to organize a suicide bombing in Tobruk, the temporary seat of Libya’s internationally-recognized government, a car bombing outside Labraq air force base in al-Bayda, other suicide against Libyan security forces in and around Benghazi, and a car bomb attack outside both the Egyptian and UAE embassies in Tripoli. Islamic State fighters launched an attack on a luxury hotel in Tripoli used by journalists, visiting Westerners as well as leaders of the Islamist-backed provisional government killing eight, including a former marine, David Berry, working as an American security contractor. Islamic State lost only two fighters.

Islamic State declared that all other jihadist groups, including those affiliated with Al Qaeda, had to submit to their authority. Thus far, Ansar al-Sharia, the radical jihadist group that had attacked the American embassy in Benghazi and killed the ambassador on 11 September 2012, has refused to submit to Islamic State authority. However, the Benghazi Revolutionary Shura Council pledged allegiance to Baghdadi.

In February, Islamic State took control of Nofaliya and appointed Ali Al-Qarqaa as emir of the town. On a Libyan beach just over three weeks ago, on 15 February 2015, Islamic State militants dressed in black beheaded 21 handcuffed Egyptian Coptic Christian hostages wearing orange jumpsuits; they had been captured from Sirte in January. They released a video of the murders.

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi of Egypt threatened reprisals and the next day followed through by bombing Islamic State targets in Libya on the border and in Derna. Egypt claimed 50 militants had been killed. Egypt had become directly involved in the Libyan conflict and on 18 February 2015 launched ground attacks by special forces units in coordination with the Libyan army that already had recaptured villages and roads surrounding the city. As well as Egypt, Chad, Qatar, Sudan, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are providing arms to the different factions in direct contravention to a UN imposed arms embargo. For example, 35 aircraft from Qatar have been transferring weapons and ammunition in support of both the Islamic government in Tripoli as well as Islamic State centred in Derna. So why have Obama administration officials been negotiating with Qatar and why has Obama met with Qatar’s al-Thani?

The 15-nation Security Council 2011 imposed arms embargo on the Gaddafi regime in Libya has failed miserably. “The capacity of Libya to physically prevent (arms) transfers is almost nonexistent and there is no authorization to enforce the arms embargo on the high seas or in the air as there were during the 2011 revolution,” concluded an experts panel in its report to the UNSC that recommended UN naval intervention. When the UN gives exemptions to allow the internationally-recognized government to import arms to help fight the militants, the arms are diverted to the militants. For example, in 2013 the UNSC permitted Belarus to send 3,000 tons of ammunition to Libya. Militants seized the munitions and distributed the arms to independent radical militias. Further, not one ship exporting oil illegally has been seized. The Panel recommended a UN maritime blockade of Libya to control the inflow of arms to and the export of oil by radical jihadists.

Since civil war broke out nine months ago, at least a thousand Libyans have been killed and 7% of the population has been displaced. The International Crisis Group (ICG) believes that all the parties are competing for the ultimate prize, Libya’s oil infrastructure and financial institutions. I will suggest that the real prize is much larger in more immediate terms. Bernardino León, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative, has relentlessly pursued reconciliation and convened two rounds of talks in Geneva on 14-15 and 26-27 January 2015. The two main rival blocs in Tripoli and Tobruk tentatively agreed to a new framework, but on 23 February, the Tobruk-based HoR suspended its participation in the reconciliation talks. Since then, Algeria hosted secret meetings among 200 Libyan. Representatives of Libya’s rival parliaments held talks in Morocco to be followed by a second meeting in Brussels of municipal representatives from across Libya to work on confidence-building measures.

Libya, riven at the very least by four competing militarized political factions – two competing governments, one Islamic and one liberal, in two different cities, Tripoli and Tobruk – both assaulted by even more extremist Islamist militants in Benghazi and Dern, of which Islamic State is the most extreme and now has a foothold in the country with at least three distinct affiliated groups, one in each region of the country, Barqa in the east, Fezzan in the desert south, and Tripolitania in the west centred around Tripoli, the capital. Though it is simplistic, it helps if the factionalism is pictured as follows:

Tripoli – GNC backed by Salafi jihadists and supported by Turkey in rivalry with Dawn of Libya, a more radical group supported by Qatar

Benghazi – Ansar al-Saharia (al-Qaeda)

Tobruk – CoR or HoR, internationally recognized government dominated by “liberals”

Derna –Islamic State, also reputedly supported by Q,atar, supported by the Shura Council of Islamic Youth in Derna but not by the Islamist militants of the Abu Salim Martyrs Brigade

However, I opened by reminding readers of Deep Throat’s advice, “Follow the money.” That is what I will do tomorrow to suggest that behind all these ideological differences there is also a backstory about the quest to gain control over billions in Libyan wealth.