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The Bush administration announces that it will no longer publish an annual report that details how much money each state receives from each federal program. The announcement coincides with heavily critical reports that federal budget cuts are creating huge shortfalls in state budgets. Without the annual report, it is now much harder to track how the budget cuts affect individual states. An administration spokesman says the information is still available, albeit in “a different mode,” from individual information releases from the separate agencies, but Congressional Democrats accuse the administration of trying to hide the damages caused by the budget cuts. [Savage, 2007, pp. 104-105]
Neoconservative and Defense Policy Board (DPB) member Richard Perle calls journalist Seymour Hersh a “terrorist” to a CNN audience. Hersh has published an article speculating that Perle’s investments in firms providing homeland security services put him in the position of profiting off of an invasion of Iraq, and subject to conflict of interest charges (see March 17, 2003). Perle retorts that Hersh is “the closest thing American journalism has to a terrorist.” Host Wolf Blitzer twice asks Perle why he calls Hersh a terrorist, giving Perle the chance to call Hersh “widely irresponsible” and say, “[T]he suggestion that my views are somehow related for the potential for investments in homeland defense is complete nonsense.” Perle continues, “[Hersh] sets out to do damage and he will do it by whatever innuendo, whatever distortion he can…” Blitzer concludes the interview by saying: “All right. We’re going to leave it right there.” [CNN, 3/9/2003; Unger, 2007, pp. 256] Later in the month, Perle will resign from the DPB over his conflicts of interest as detailed by Hersh (see March 27, 2003).
General Jay Garner, the head of the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance (ORHA—see January 2003), admits to reporters, “We started very slowly” in preparing for handling the reconstruction of post-Saddam Iraq. [Roberts, 2008, pp. 126]
Garner Knew Problems Would Arise - Garner will later say: “When I went to see [Defense Secretary] Rumsfeld at the end of January , I said, OK, I’ll do this for the next few months for you. I said, you know, Let me tell you something, Mr. Secretary. George Marshall started in 1942 working on a 1945 problem. You’re starting in February working on what’s probably a March or April problem. And he said, I know, but we have to do the best with the time that we have. So that kind of frames everything.”
'Never Recovered' - Sir Jeremy Greenstock, currently Britain’s special representative to Iraq, will add: “The administration of Iraq never recovered [from the failure to plan]. It was a vacuum in security that became irremediable, at least until the surge of 2007. And to that extent, four years were not only wasted but allowed to take on the most terrible cost because of that lack of planning, lack of resources put in on the ground. And I see that lack of planning as residing in the responsibility of the Pentagon, which had taken charge, the office of the secretary of defense, with the authority of the vice president and the president, obviously, standing over that department of government.” [Vanity Fair, 2/2009]
An outraged Richard Perle, the neoconservative chairman of the Pentagon’s Defense Policy Board (DPB), says he is suing journalist Seymour Hersh over an article Hersh wrote that implied Perle is using his position as a Pentagon adviser to profit from a US invasion of Iraq (see March 17, 2003).
Filing Planned for Britain - Interestingly, Perle plans to sue Hersh in British courts, not US courts, because the burden of proof on plaintiffs is far less in Britain than America. “I intend to launch legal action in the United Kingdom. I’m talking to Queen’s Counsel right now,” Perle says. Perle says of Hersh’s article, “It’s all lies, from beginning to end.”
Perle Defended - Stephen Bryen, a former deputy undersecretary of defense, defends Perle, saying: “It’s pretty outrageous for a leftwing columnist to make accusations like this with no factual basis. Most of the many hours he works each day are pro bono to help the administration with its policy on Iraq. He should get a medal of honor.”
Editor Defends Hersh - David Remnick, the editor of the New Yorker, the publisher of Hersh’s article, says his magazine stands by the story. “It went through serious reporting, with four members of the board talking to Sy [Hersh], and rigorous factchecking, legal-checking, and all the rest.” Remnick takes issue with Perle’s recent characterization of Hersh as a “terrorist” (see March 9, 2003), saying, “I would have thought after all this many years, Mr. Perle would be a bit more refined than that.” [New York Sun, 3/12/2003]
Journalists Defend Hersh - Many journalists defend Hersh, with one, Slate’s Jack Shafer, calling Perle a “grandstanding pantywaist,” “double-dar[ing]” him to sue Hersh, and accusing Perle of “venue-shopping” by planning to file the lawsuit in Britain. “As a public figure and government official,” Shafer explains, “Perle would be laughed out of court in the United States. If he got a settlement in the UK, he could raid the substantial British assets of the New Yorker’s parent company, Conde Nast.” [Slate, 3/13/2003]
Perle Resigns, Does Not File Lawsuit - Later in the month, Perle will resign from the DPB over his conflicts of interest (see March 27, 2003). A year later, after much blustering in the media and promises of “dossiers” and “revelations” about Hersh, Perle will decide not to sue Hersh after all, saying he cannot meet the burden of proof that a court would impose. [New York Sun, 3/12/2004] Months later, the dossiers and information Perle promised to release about Hersh remain unrevealed. [Slate, 6/17/2004]
Investigative reporter Seymour Hersh publishes a scathing portrayal of Defense Policy Board (DPB) chairman Richard Perle, who Hersh alleges is using his position in the Pentagon to profiteer on the upcoming Iraq war. Hersh does not accuse Perle of breaking any laws, but he does show that Perle is guilty of conflicts of interests. The article, which is released days before its official March 17 publication date, prompts outrage from Perle and his neoconservative defenders, with Perle saying any questions of his potential conflicts of interest would be “malicious,” calling Hersh a “terrorist” (see March 9, 2003), and threatening to sue Hersh, a lawsuit that is never filed (see March 12, 2003). Later in the month, Perle will resign from the DPB over his conflicts of interest as detailed by Hersh (see March 27, 2003).
Dealings with Corrupt Saudis in Violation of Federal Conduct Guidelines - Hersh provides readers with details of Perle’s business dealings with the notoriously corrupt Saudi businessman and arms dealer Adnan Khashoggi (perhaps most famous in the US for his involvement in Iran-Contra—see July 3, 1985) and his activities as a managing partner of the venture capital firm Trireme Partners LP. Trireme is involved in investments that will make large profits if the US actually invades Iraq. Perle, as chairman of the DPB, is subject to the Federal Code of Conduct that bars officials such as himself from participating in an official capacity in any matter in which he has a financial interest. A former government attorney who helped write the code says, “One of the general rules is that you don’t take advantage of your federal position to help yourself financially in any way.” The point is to “protect government processes from actual or apparent conflicts.”
'Off the Ethical Charts' - One DPB member says that he and his fellows had no idea about Perle’s involvement with either Trireme or Khashoggi, and exclaims: “Oh, get out of here. He’s the chairman!… Seems to me this is at the edge of or off the ethical charts. I think it would stink to high heaven.” The DPB member is equally disturbed that fellow board member Gerald Hillman, Perle’s partner in Trireme, was recently added to the board at Perle’s request. Hillman has virtually no senior policy or military experience in government before joining the board. Larry Noble, the executive director of the Washington-based Center for Responsive Politics, says of Perle’s Trireme involvement: “It’s not illegal, but it presents an appearance of a conflict. It’s enough to raise questions about the advice he’s giving to the Pentagon and why people in business are dealing with him.… The question is whether he’s trading off his advisory-committee relationship.”
Lining up Investors, Overthrowing Saddam - According to Khashoggi, Perle met with him in January 2003 to solicit his assistance in lining up wealthy Saudi investors for Trireme. “I was the intermediary,” Khashoggi says. Together with Saudi businessman Harb Zuhair, Perle hoped to put together a consortium of investors that would sink $100 million into his firm. “It was normal for us to see Perle,” Khashoggi says. “We in the Middle East are accustomed to politicians who use their offices for whatever business they want.” But Khashoggi says Perle wanted more than just money—he wanted to use his position in both Trireme and the DPB to, in Perle’s words, “get rid of Saddam” Hussein. Perle admits to meeting with Khashoggi and Zuhair, but says that money never came up in conversation, and as for Hussein, Perle says he was at the meeting to facilitate a surrender bargain between Hussein and the US.
Khashoggi Amused - Khashoggi is amused by Perle’s denials. “If there is no war, why is there a need for security? If there is a war, of course, billions of dollars will have to be spent.… You Americans blind yourself with your high integrity and your democratic morality against peddling influence, but they were peddling influence.” Hillman sent Zuhair several documents proposing a possible surrender, but Zuhair found them “absurd,” and Khashoggi describes them as silly. (Hillman says he drafted the peace proposals with the assistance of his daughter, a college student.) Perle denies any involvement in the proposals. When the proposals found their way into the Arabic press, Perle, not Hillman, was named as the author.
Blackmailing the Saudis? - Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the influential Saudi ambassador to the US and a close friend of the Bush family, says he was told that the meeting between Perle and the Saudi businessmen was purely business, but he does not believe the disclaimers. He says of Perle, who publicly is a vociferous critic of Saudi Arabia (see July 10, 2002): “There is a split personality to Perle. Here he is, on the one hand, trying to make a hundred-million-dollar deal, and, on the other hand, there were elements of the appearance of blackmail—‘If we get in business, he’ll back off on Saudi Arabia’—as I have been informed by participants in the meeting.” Iraq was never a serious topic of discussion, Bandar says: “There has to be deniability, and a cover story—a possible peace initiative in Iraq—is needed. I believe the Iraqi events are irrelevant. A business meeting took place.” [New Yorker, 3/17/2003]
As enthusiasm for the war in Iraq permeates the US business community as well as mainstream television news outlets (see March 19-20, 2003), billionaire Donald Trump predicts on Fox News that because of the war, “I think the market’s going to go up like a rocket!” [New York Times, 3/30/2003; Rich, 2006, pp. 75]
The State Department’s Oil and Energy Working Group, part of the Future of Iraq project, completes its formal policy recommendations for Iraq’s post-Saddam Hussein oil policy. The group comes out in strong favor of an oil policy that would rely on production sharing agreements to manage the relationship between Iraq and oil companies. It states: “Key attractions of production sharing agreements to private oil companies are that although the reserves are owned by the state, accounting procedures permit the companies to book the reserves in their accounts, but, other things being equal, the most important feature from the perspective of private oil companies is that the government take is defined in the terms of the [PSA] and the oil companies are therefore protected under a PSA from future adverse legislation.” The group further specifies that the terms of any PSAs signed with Iraq must be attractive to foreign capital. “PSAs can induce many billions of dollars of foreign direct investment into Iraq, but only with the right terms, conditions, regulatory framework, laws, oil industry structure and perceived attitude to foreign participation.” The Financial Times notes, “Production-sharing deals allow oil companies a favourable profit margin and, unlike royalty schemes, insulate them from losses incurred when the oil price drops. For years, big oil companies have been fighting for such agreements without success in countries such as Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.” [US Department of State, 4/2003; Financial Times, 4/7/2003; Muttitt, 2005]
At the request of the Coalition Provisional Authority, the Federal Reserve Bank sends the CPA $20 million in $1, $5, and $10 bills. The money is drawn from the Development Fund for Iraq (DFI) and special US Treasury accounts containing revenues from sales of Iraqi oil exports, surplus dollars from the UN-run oil-for-food program, and frozen assets that belonged to the government of Saddam Hussein. This is the first of several shipments, totaling some $12 billion, that will be made over the next 14 months. [US Congress, 2/6/2007 ]
KBR procurement manager Stephen Seamans gives his crony Shabbir Khan (see October 2002), of the Saudi conglomerate Tamimi Global Co, inside information that allows Tamimi to secure a $2 million KBR subcontract to establish a mess hall at a Baghdad palace. Seamans subsequently puts through change orders that inflate the subcontract to $4.7 million. This and other information about KBR war profiteering in Iraq comes from a federal investigation that will begin in late 2007 (see October 2006 and Beyond). [Chicago Tribune, 2/20/2008; Chicago Tribune, 2/21/2008]
The US Agency for International Development asks BearingPoint, Inc to bid on a sole-sourced contract for “economic governance” work in Iraq. The contract document, which USAID says will eventually be opened up to a select pool of additional companies, was written by Treasury Department officials and reviewed by financial consultants. The confidential 100-page request, titled “Moving The Iraqi Economy From Recovery to Sustainable Growth,” states that the contractor will help support “private sector involvement in strategic sectors, including privatization, asset sales, concessions, leases and management contracts, especially in the oil and supporting industries.” The bid request lays out a plan to, among other things, rapidly replace Iraq’s currency; identify industries for consolidation, liquidation, and privatization; “rationalize” and “modernize” Iraqi banking and financial sectors; develop taxation, legal, and regulatory regimes to compliment a new market-based economy; devise a plan to turn Iraq’s rudimentary stock market into a “world-class exchange” for trading the shares of newly privatized companies; and create a public relations campaign to promote these changes to the public. Summarizing US objectives for the economic reorganization, the document states, “It should be clearly understood that the efforts undertaken will be designed to establish the basic legal framework for a functioning market economy; taking appropriate advantages of the unique opportunity for rapid progress in this area presented by the current configuration of political circumstances.” [Wall Street Journal, 5/1/2003]
The US sends hundreds of economic advisers to Iraq to serve in the new government’s ministries. The advisers reportedly have a decisive say on most matters. [Inter Press Service, 12/24/2004]
Jay Hallen, a 24-year old Yale graduate, is bored with his job at a real-estate firm. He is fascinated with the Middle East, and has taken some Arabic classes and read some history books about the region. He contacts Reuben Jeffrey, an adviser to CPA head L. Paul Bremer whom Hallen had met in 2002 when trying to land a job at the White House, and asks if there is a job for him in Baghdad.
'I Don't Have a Finance Background' - Three weeks later, Hallen is in Baghdad, and meets with Thomas Foley, the CPA official in charge of privatizing Iraq’s state-owned enterprises. Foley, a former classmate of President Bush and a major Republican donor, says he is putting Hallen in charge of Baghdad’s stock exchange. Hallen is shocked. “Are you sure?” Hallen asks. “I don’t have a finance background.” No problem, Foley responds. He will be the project manager; his subordinates will do the actual work. Before the invasion, Baghdad’s stock exchange was primitive by American standards; author Rajiv Chandrasekaran will describe it as loud, boisterous, and, despite all appearances, quite functional. After the invasion it was looted to the bare walls and ignored by the first wave of US economic reconstruction specialists. But Iraqi brokers and businessmen want it reopened, so the CPA acquiesces.
Revamping the Exchange - Hallen launches an ambitious, if almost entirely ignorant, plan to modernize and upgrade the stock exchange to make it the most technologically sophisticated exchange in the Arab world. He also wants to implement a new securities law that would make the exchange independent of the Finance Ministry. The Iraqi brokers and businessmen who clamored for the exchange to reopen are horrified at Hallen’s plans. “People are broke and bewildered,” broker Talib Tabatabai—a graduate of Florida State’s business department—tells Hallen. “Why do you want to create enemies? Let us open the way we were.” Tabatabai, like other brokers, believes Hallen’s plan is ludicrously grandiose. “It was something so fancy, so great, that it couldn’t be accomplished,” he will later recall. But Hallen is unmoved.
Hallen's View - “Their laws and regulations were completely out of step with the modern world,” Hallen will later say. “There was just no transparency in anything. It was more of a place for Saddam and his friends to buy up private companies that they otherwise didn’t have a stake in.” To just reopen the exchange the way it was, Hallen will insist, “would have been irresponsible and short-sighted.” Hallen recruits a team of American volunteers, most with no more experience or knowledge of finance than he has, to rewrite the securities laws, train the brokers, and purchase the necessary computers. By the spring of 2004, CPA head Bremer approves the new laws and appoints nine Iraqis hand-picked by Hallen to become the exchange’s board of governors.
No CPA Role - The new exchange board names Tabatabai as its chairman. The new laws have no place for a CPA adviser as a decision-maker; immediately a conflict between Hallen and the board arises. Hallen wants to wait several more months for the new computer system to arrive and be installed; unwilling to wait, Tabatabai and the board members buy dozens of dry-erase boards for the exchange floor, and two days after Hallen’s tour ends, the exchange is open for business. Without CPA oversight, the exchange quickly begins functioning more or less as it did before the invasion. When asked what would have happened had Hallen not been assigned to reopen the exchange, Tabatabai will answer: “We would have opened months earlier. He had grand ideas, but those ideas did not materialize.… Those CPA people reminded me of Lawrence of Arabia.” [Washington Post, 9/17/2006]
The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund announce that they will send their economists to Iraq to assess needs for reconstruction as soon as it is safe to do so. The decision was made “with strong pressure from the United States,” the New York Times reports. [New York Times, 4/14/2004]
The US Agency for International Development (AID) announces that it has contracted California-based engineering firm Bechtel Corp to repair and rebuild Iraq’s infrastructure. The contract is worth $34.6 million initially, and up to $680 million over 18 months. Specifically, Bechtel will assess and repair power generation facilities, electrical grids, municipal water and sewage systems, and airport facilities. The company will also dredge, repair, and upgrade the Umm Qasr seaport. Additional projects may include rebuilding hospitals, schools, ministry buildings, major irrigation structures, and the country’s transportation infrastructure. [US Agency for International Development, 4/17/2003] Some experts believe that Bechtel’s contract could ultimately be worth as much as $20 billion. [New York Times, 5/21/2003] The bidding process draws criticism from various congressional Democrats and British companies who say that the process was overly secretive and limited. Only a small number of US-based construction companies were allowed to take part in the bidding. [New York Times, 4/18/2003] The company’s connections to the US government also brings about allegations of cronyism.
Bechtel’s CEO, Riley P. Bechtel, currently serves on the President’s Export Council, which advises the White House on how to create markets for American companies abroad. [New York Times, 4/18/2003]
The company’s senior vice president, Jack Sheehan, is a member of a Pentagon advisory group called the Defense Policy Board, whose members are directly approved by the Defense Secretary. [Guardian, 4/18/2003]
One of its board members is George Shultz, who served as secretary of state under the Reagan administration and who currently leads the advisory board of a pro-war group called the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq. [San Francisco Chronicle, 4/18/2003; Guardian, 4/18/2003]
Daniel Chao, a Bechtel senior vice president, serves on the advisory board of the US Export-Import Bank. [CorpWatch, 4/24/2003]
At the request of the Coalition Provisional Authority, the Federal Reserve Bank sends the CPA $179.3 million in cash during this month. The money is drawn from the Development Fund for Iraq (DFI) and special US Treasury accounts containing revenues from sales of Iraqi oil exports, surplus dollars from the UN-run oil-for-food program, and frozen assets that belonged to the government of Saddam Hussein. [US Congress, 2/6/2007 ]
CNN reports that despite US government prohibitions (see March 15, 1995 and May 6, 1995) banning US citizens and business from doing business with Iran, dozens of US companies are actively conducting business there, including Halliburton, ConocoPhillips and General Electric. The companies are using a complicated array of corporate loop-holes and off-shore accounts to maneuver around US laws. Michael Ledeen, interviewed by CNN, says these companies are aiding terrorism. “The oil companies are a wholly owned subsidiary of the government… the government is the primary sponsor of terrorism,” he says, additionally claiming that “they have separate organizations that are used to funnel oil profits and other profits into the terror network.” [CNN, 2/10/2003; CNN, 5/29/2003]
At the request of the Coalition Provisional Authority, the Federal Reserve Bank sends the CPA $465.9 million in cash during this month. The money is drawn from the Development Fund for Iraq (DFI) and special US Treasury accounts containing revenues from sales of Iraqi oil exports, surplus dollars from the UN-run oil-for-food program, and frozen assets that belonged to the government of Saddam Hussein. [US Congress, 2/6/2007 ]
A team of economists and officials from the World Bank, IMF, and UN meet in Iraq to consider a new economic policy for the country. Nicholas Krafft, one of the economists with the World Bank, says that Iraq’s economy would be more accurately described as a “socialist command economy” than a “post-conflict economy.” He says “a macro-economic framework for Iraq including budget, fiscal, and monetary issues” needs to be established as part of the country’s transition to a market economy. “The issues of subsidies, prices, and state enterprises will have to be dealt with,” he adds. Kraft also says “it is important to involve Iraqis in this decision and the coalition is increasingly doing that.” [Agence France-Presse, 6/10/2003]
KBR procurement managers Stephen Seamans and Jeff Mazon, who have between them already executed logistics subcontracts for the US military in Iraq worth $321 million, put together yet another deal for their business crony Shabbir Khan, of the Saudi conglomerate Tamimi Global Co (see October 2005, October 2002, and April 2003). However, this deal puts US soldiers at risk. According to KBR’s enormous LOGCAP contract with the Army, KBR is required to medically screen the thousands of kitchen workers subcontractors such as Tamimi import from poor villages in countries like Nepal, Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh. Instead of performing the required medical screenings, Khan gives falsified files on 550 Tamimi kitchen workers to the US Defense Department. KBR retests those 550 workers at a Kuwait City clinic and finds that 172 test positive for exposure to the hepatitis A virus. Khan tries to suppress the test results, telling the clinic that Tamimi would do no more business with his clinic if it informs KBR about the results. Further retests show that none of the 172 have contagious hepatitis A, and Khan’s attorneys will claim during a subsequent investigation (see October 2006 and Beyond) that no soldiers caught any diseases from any of Tamimi’s workers. Other firms besides Tamimi show similar problems, causing KBR to begin vaccinating the employees for a variety of diseases at the job sites. [Chicago Tribune, 2/20/2008; Chicago Tribune, 2/21/2008]
Yaqub Mirza. [Source: Publicity photo, via Byrd Business Review]Soliman Biheiri, the former head of BMI Inc., a New Jersey-based investment firm with ties to many suspected terrorism financiers (see 1986-October 1999), had left the US immediately after a raid of the SAAR network in March 2002 (see March 20, 2002). On this day, he returns to the US and is immediately arrested and interviewed by Customs agent David Kane. Biheiri tells Kane that he has longstanding ties to leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood, a radical Muslim group banned in Egypt. Agents are able to search his laptop computer, and discover ties with Hamas leader Mousa Abu Marzouk. He is also connected to two principals of the banned Al Taqwa Bank (see November 7, 2001), Youssef Nada and Ghaleb Himmat, when their addresses are discovered on his computer as well. Agents say there are “other indications” of connections between Al Taqwa and Biheiri’s company BMI, including financial transactions. [Forward, 10/17/2003; Wall Street Journal, 6/21/2004; Associated Press, 10/12/2004] An e-mail is also discovered showing Biheiri was involved in Saudi multimillionaire Yassin al-Qadi’s financial dealings with Yaqub Mirza, the director of the raided SAAR network. The US froze al-Qadi’s assets in late 2001 (see October 12, 2001). [Wall Street Journal, 9/15/2003] Biheiri will be convicted of immigration fraud in October 2003. He will be convicted again in 2004 for lying to Kane about his ties to Marzouk during his interview. [Wall Street Journal, 6/21/2004; Associated Press, 10/12/2004]
The US occupation begins a program called the Commander’s Emergency Response Program (CERP). CERP utilizes seized funds from the regime of Saddam Hussein to initiate rapid, small-scale reconstruction projects. It contrasts with the massive design-build reconstruction projects being done by large firms such as Bechtel because it results in immediate, visible improvements that create grassroots support for the US military. The program involves having US military commanders meet with local Iraqi leaders to assess potential projects aimed at alleviating community problems. One of the most welcomed contributions of the CERP are the thousands of jobs that it creates. Military commanders will later say that the “benefit received from CERP funds far outweighs the amount [of funds] provided” and that “funding minor efforts such as repairs to houses and buildings are helping to stabilize areas in Iraq.” The Iraq reconstruction inspector general will later claim in a recommendation for smaller scale reconstruction projects that CERP “and similar initiatives in Iraq proved the value of relatively small, rapidly executable projects that meet immediate local needs and thereby have the salutary effect of enhancing relations with local communities.” As of September 30, 2005, it will only have received about $1.4 billion in funding. [Bowen, 7/2006, pp. 82-88, 94 ] Analysts will later find that time periods when the CERP ran out of funds were fraught with surges in violence and US troop deaths. Bremer and the CPA will be criticized by nation-building experts for their neglect of the program and for putting free market ideology and a large-scale construction projects over simpler efforts to restore basic services to Iraqis at a quick pace. [Christian Science Monitor, 1/29/2004]
US intelligence has long suspected the Al-Rajhi Bank for supporting radical militant causes. However, the US has not acted overtly against the Saudi bank because it is so large and influential, with an estimated $26 billion in assets and yearly profits of almost $2 billion in 2006. In mid-2003, a new CIA report details linkages between the bank and militants (see Before September 11, 2001), and suggests that the owners of the bank are aware of these links and have an extremist agenda (see Mid-2003). The US begins to rethink the quiet diplomacy approach. Deputies from the CIA, National Security Council, Treasury and State departments meet to discuss the problem. They debate officially listing the bank as a supporter of terrorism. They also consider the possibility of covert operations against the bank, such as interfering with the bank’s internal operations. Another possibility is working with other countries for more scrutiny and regulatory action against the bank. But ultimately, the Bush administration decides against all these options and chooses merely to continue privately exerting pressure on the Saudi government in hopes that the Saudis will do something. [Wall Street Journal, 7/26/2007] In late 2004, Homeland Security Adviser Frances Townsend will make a secret visit to Saudi Arabia to put more pressure on the government to do something about the bank. [Wall Street Journal, 10/1/2004] What the US has done regarding the bank since that time is unknown. The bank denies any ties to Islamic militancy.
Sulaiman Abdul Aziz al-Rajhi. [Source: Nadec]A CIA report strongly suggests that the Al-Rajhi Bank is being used to finance militants. The bank is one of the biggest in Saudi Arabia, with an estimated $26 billion in assets in 2006. The report states, “Islamic extremists have used Al-Rajhi Banking and Investment Corporation since at least the mid-1990s as a conduit for terrorist transactions… Senior al-Rajhi family members have long supported Islamic extremists and probably know that terrorists use their bank. Reporting indicates that senior al-Rajhi family members control the bank’s most important decisions and that [their] principal managers answer directly to Sulaiman [Abdul Aziz al-Rajhi]. The al-Rajhis know they are under scrutiny and have moved to conceal their activities from financial regulatory authorities.” It adds that in 2002, Sulaiman ordered the bank’s board “to explore financial instruments that would allow the bank’s charitable contributions to avoid official Saudi scrutiny.” US intelligence have extensive circumstantial evidence but no direct proof that bank managers knowingly support terrorism. For instance, the report says that in December 1998, Sulaiman and his brother Salah sent $4 million to Germany and Pakistan using “a unique computer code to send funds at regular intervals to unspecified recipients, suggesting they were trying to conceal the transactions and that the money may have been intended for illegitimate ends.” Islamist operatives in many countries have used the bank, including at least some al-Qaeda leaders and 9/11 hijackers (see Before September 11, 2001). In 1997, US investigators recovered the address book of al-Qaeda financier Wadih El-Hage, and discovered Salah al-Rajhi’s phone number in it (see Shortly After August 21, 1997). Salah is Sulaiman’s brother and co-owner of the bank. In 2002, the US will raid the SAAR Network, a collection of linked financial entities in the US suspected of funding militants. SAAR stands for Sulaiman Abdul Aziz al-Rajhi, and the network was founded and funded by him (see March 20, 2002). [Wall Street Journal, 7/26/2007; Wall Street Journal, 7/26/2007] The US government will subsequently consider taking overt action against the bank, but will ultimately decide against it (see Mid-2003). The bank continues to deny any links to Islamic militancy.
Riggs Bank in Washington, DC. [Source: Washington Post]In late 2002, US federal banking investigators began looking into transactions at Riggs Bank because of news reports that some money may have passed from the Saudi Arabian embassy in Washington through Riggs Bank to the associates of two 9/11 hijackers in San Diego (see December 4, 1999). But in July 2003, the probe expands as investigators discover irregularities involving tens of millions of dollars also connected to the Saudi embassy. The Wall Street Journal will later report, “Riggs repeatedly failed in 2001 and 2002 to file suspicious-activity reports related to cash transactions in the low tens of millions of dollars in Saudi accounts, said people familiar with the matter.” Riggs Bank “handles the bulk of [Washington’s] diplomatic accounts, a niche market that revolves around relationships and discretion.” [Wall Street Journal, 1/14/2004] Newsweek will later report that “investigators say the embassy accounts show a large commingling of funds with Islamic charities that have been the prime target of US probes.” In one instance, on July 10, 2001 the Saudi embassy sent $70,000 to two Saudis in Massachusetts. One of the Saudis wrote a $20,000 check that same day to a third Saudi who had listed the same address as Aafia Siddiqui, a microbiologist who is believed to have been a US-based operative for 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (see Late September 2001-March 2003). [Newsweek, 4/12/2004] The Wall Street Journal will later discover that Riggs Bank “has had a longstanding relationship with the Central Intelligence Agency, according to people familiar with Riggs operations and US government officials” (see December 31, 2004). The relationship included top Riggs executives receiving US government security clearances. Riggs also overlooked tens of millions of dollars in suspicious transactions by right wing dictators from Africa and South America such as former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet. [Wall Street Journal, 12/31/2004] A connection between the CIA and Riggs Bank goes back to at least the early 1960s. And in 1977, journalist Bob Woodward tied Riggs Bank to payments in a CIA operation in Iran. [Slate, 1/10/2005] The CIA tie leads to suspicions that the bank’s failure to disclose financial activity by Saudi diplomats and other foreign officials may have been implicitly authorized by parts of the US government. Some of the suspicious Saudi accounts belong to Saudi diplomats, including Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the Saudi ambassador to the US. Shortly after these irregularities are discovered, Prince Bandar meets with Treasury Secretary John Snow and details his work for the CIA. For instance, during the 1980s, Prince Bandar helped fund the anticommunist Nicaraguan Contra rebels at the request of the White House and CIA as part of what became known as the Iran-Contra affair, and he also helped the CIA support Afghan rebels fighting the Soviet Union. It is not known what was discussed but US intelligence officials suggest Prince Bandar disclosed his CIA connections “as an explanation for the prince’s large unexplained cash transactions at Riggs.” [Wall Street Journal, 12/31/2004] It will later come to light that for many years $30 million a month were being secretly deposited into a Riggs Bank account controlled by Prince Bandar. It has been alleged that major British arms contractor BAE Systems funneled up to $2 billion in bribes through this account over the years as part of an $80 billion weapons deal between Britain and Saudi Arabia. Riggs Bank never knew the source of the funds. After the probe uncovers these suspicious transactions, the bank cuts off all business with the Saudis. [Newsweek, 6/11/2007] The US Treasury will later impose unusually strict controls on Riggs Bank and fine the bank $25 million. [Wall Street Journal, 1/14/2004] The bank will also plead guilty to one felony count of failing to file suspicious activity reports and pay an additional fine of $16 million. [Washington Post, 1/28/2005]
At the request of the Coalition Provisional Authority, the Federal Reserve Bank sends the CPA $391.2 million in cash during this month. The money is drawn from the Development Fund for Iraq (DFI) and special US Treasury accounts containing revenues from sales of Iraqi oil exports, surplus dollars from the UN-run oil-for-food program, and frozen assets that belonged to the government of Saddam Hussein. [US Congress, 2/6/2007 ]
At a press briefing in Baghdad, Paul Bremer says that Iraq should consider privatizing its state-owned sectors and allowing foreign investment into its oil industry soon, even if that means doing so before Iraq has an elected government. He says that the soon-to-be-appointed Iraq Governing Council will need to reassure private investors by taking a friendly stance toward foreign capital. “Privatization is obviously something we have been giving a lot of thought to,” he says. “When we sit down with the governing council… it is going to be on the table. The governing council will be able to make statements that could be seen as more binding and the trick will be to figure out how we do this. Everybody knows we cannot wait until there is an elected government here to start economic reform.” [Reuters, 7/8/2003]
A senior Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) official announces plans to waive an existing Iraqi law requiring foreign investors in the telecommunications industry to subcontract at least 51 percent of their work to Iraqi companies. The CPA justifies the move saying that the waiver would encourage investment by reducing the risk for foreign telecom companies. The waiver will expire in two years. [Revenue Watch Institute, 2003, pp. 4 ; Financial Times, 7/18/2003]
John Pistole. [Source: Marshall Center]John S. Pistole, deputy assistant director of the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division, testifies before a Congressional committee. He states the 9/11 investigation “has traced the origin of the funding of 9/11 back to financial accounts in Pakistan, where high-ranking and well-known al-Qaeda operatives played a major role in moving the money forward, eventually into the hands of the hijackers located in the US.” [US Congress, 7/31/2003] Pistole does not reveal any further details, but in India it is noted that this is consistent with previous reports that Saeed Sheikh and ISI Director Lt. Gen. Mahmood Ahmed were behind the funding of 9/11. [Times of India, 8/1/2003; Pioneer, 8/7/2003] However, the FBI will tell the 9/11 Commission that when Pistole used the word “accounts”, he did not mean actual accounts with a bank, merely that 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, who was based in Pakistan, handled the money. [9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 144 ]
At the request of the Coalition Provisional Authority, the Federal Reserve Bank sends the CPA $808.2 million in cash during this month. The money is drawn from the Development Fund for Iraq (DFI) and special US Treasury accounts containing revenues from sales of Iraqi oil exports, surplus dollars from the UN-run oil-for-food program, and frozen assets that belonged to the government of Saddam Hussein. [US Congress, 2/6/2007 ]
President Bush appoints Thomas Foley to the new position of director of private-sector development for the interim US authority in Iraq. Foley, a corporate turnaround expert and multi-millionaire investor, attended Harvard Business School with President Bush and served as the Connecticut finance chairman for Bush’s 2000 campaign. Foley’s task will be to help open Iraq up to foreign investment and to privatize more than 200 state-owned industries, including mining, chemical, cement, and tobacco companies. Excluded from the privatization plan will be Iraq’s oil, utility, and insurance industries. [Financial Times, 8/8/2003; Washington Post, 10/2/2003] The targeted industries currently employ close to 500,000 workers, or three to four percent of the country’s total workforce. Many Iraqis are unhappy with the plan. They say only an elected Iraqi government should make such decisions. According to Fareed Yasseen, adviser to Governing Council member Adnan Pachachi, the assets will probably be sold off to foreign firms and Iraqi merchants who grew wealthy off their connections to Saddam Hussein’s regime, since they are the only ones who will be able to afford to make the purchases. He warns, “If you have a situation where state assets are sold to foreigners or result in large layoffs, this will lead to popular unrest.” [USA Today, 8/9/2007]
At the request of the Coalition Provisional Authority, the Federal Reserve Bank sends the CPA $400.0 million in cash during this month. The money is drawn from the Development Fund for Iraq (DFI) and special US Treasury accounts containing revenues from sales of Iraqi oil exports, surplus dollars from the UN-run oil-for-food program, and frozen assets that belonged to the government of Saddam Hussein. [US Congress, 2/6/2007 ]
Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) administrator L. Paul Bremer is under pressure to explain how he intends to transfer power in Iraq from the CPA and the hand-picked Iraqi Governing Council (IGC—see July 13, 2003), especially in light of Bremer’s recent, unilateral cancellation of national elections (see June 28, 2003). Bremer chooses an unusual venue to respond: the op-ed pages of the Washington Post. In a column entitled “Iraq’s Path to Sovereignty,” Bremer writes that national elections are “simply… not possible” at this time. Instead, the IGC will develop a plan for drafting and ratifying a new constitution. [Washington Post, 9/8/2003; Roberts, 2008, pp. 129-130] This will be followed by elections and, finally, complete transfer of the CPA’s powers to the new Iraqi government. Bremer gives no hint of a timetable, and implies that the process will not end quickly. Influential Iraqis, and US allies such as France and Germany, are disturbed by the prospect of an essentially indefinite occupation. Senior Bush officials, particularly National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, will later claim to have been blindsided by Bremer’s plan. New York Times columnist David Brooks, a conservative with excellent sources within the White House, will later write that Bremer “hadn’t cleared the [Post] piece with his higher-ups in the Pentagon or the White House” (see December 2003 and After). However, Bremer’s column is consistent with a Bush statement on Iraqi governance the day before, and with the text of a resolution the administration will try to push through the UN Security Council in October. It is unclear what, if any, authorization Bremer has for his decision, but there are manifest disagreements in the top ranks of White House officials as to the wisdom of Bremer’s planning (see November 15, 2003). [Roberts, 2008, pp. 129-130]
The Coalition Provisional Authority provides US Congress with a justification for a request of $20.3 billion for reconstruction projects in Iraq. The report—which leaves many questions unanswered—describes 115 projects. Less than 25 of them mention employing Iraqis or using Iraqi resources. [US Congress, 9/30/2003, pp. 2, 4-5 ]
At the annual World Bank/IMF meeting in Dubai, Iraq’s nominal finance minister Kamel al-Gailani announces Bremer’s shock therapy program of economic reforms. The announcement comes two days after Bremer signed a number of orders opening up Iraq’s economy to foreign investment (see September 19, 2003, September 19, 2003, and September 19, 2003). Collectively, the orders allow foreign investors to acquire 100 percent ownership of Iraqi assets in any sector except oil production and refining, give foreign investors equal legal standing with local firms, and allow them to repatriate all profits made in Iraq without any requirements for local re-investment. The laws also cap income and corporate taxes at 15 percent and slash tariffs down to 5 percent, with the exception of tariffs on food, drugs, books, and other humanitarian imports, which can be imported duty-free. Al-Gailani says these “measures will be implemented in the near future and represent important steps in advancing Iraq’s reconstruction effort.” As an article in Economist magazine will note, the changes, which “bear the signature of Paul Bremer… and the imprimatur of the American consultants it has hired to frame economic policies,” represent “a radical departure for Iraq.” The article—titled “Let’s all go to the yard sale”—calls these reforms “the kind of wish-list that foreign investors and donor agencies dream of for developing markets.” The caption of an image accompanying the article reads, “If it all works out, Iraq will be a capitalist’s dream.” But the magazine also acknowledges that there will be resistance to these reforms. “Given the shock and awe expressed by many Baghdad businessmen at the scale of the changes, it is not clear that such a future regime would be able to resist pressures to reimpose protectionism.” It also predicts that the rapid overlay of this legal framework over Iraq’s existing economic system will create disparities. “The instant discarding of 40 years of national-socialist commercial culture is likely to create serious distortions,” the magazine says. [New York Times, 9/21/2003; Daily Telegraph, 9/22/2003; Economist, 9/27/2003]
National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, frustrated with Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) administrator L. Paul Bremer’s lack of cooperation and coordination with her office (see September 8, 2003 and December 2003 and After), forms the Iraq Stabilization Group (ISG) to oversee Bremer and settle disputes between the Defense and State Departments in governing Iraq. [Roberts, 2008, pp. 130] According to unnamed White House officials, the ISG originated with President Bush’s frustration at the lack of progress in both Iraq and Afghanistan. “The president knows his legacy, and maybe his re-election, depends on getting this right,” says an administration official. “This is as close as anyone will come to acknowledging that it’s not working.” Defense Department officials deny that the ISG is designed to take power away from Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld: “Don recognizes this is not what the Pentagon does best, and he is, in some ways, relieved to give up some of the authority here,” says one senior Pentagon official. In reality, both Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Colin Powell are giving up some control over the reconstruction efforts to the White House, specifically to the National Security Council. Rice will oversee four coordinating committees, on counterterrorism efforts, economic development, political affairs in Iraq and media messaging. One of her deputies will run each committee, assisted by undersecretaries from State, Defense, and the Treasury Department, as well as representatives from the CIA. The counterterrorism committee will be run by Frances Fragos Townsend; the economic committee by Gary Edson; the political affairs committee by Robert Blackwill; and the communications committee by Anna Perez. [New York Times, 10/6/2003] In May 2004, the Washington Post will report that the ISG is dysfunctional and ineffective almost from the outset; within months, all but Blackwill have been reassigned (Perez will leave Washington for a job with NBC), and a search of the White House Web site will find no mention of the ISG later than October 2003. [Washington Post, 5/18/2004]
Entity Tags: Iraq Stabilization Group, Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, Coalition Provisional Authority, Anna Perez, Frances Townsend, George W. Bush, US Department of Defense, US Department of State, Robert Blackwill, National Security Council, L. Paul Bremer, US Department of the Treasury, Gary Edson
Timeline Tags: Iraq under US Occupation
San Diego Business Address of North Star Consultants, Inc. [Source: NBC News]North Star Consultants, Inc. wins a $1.4 million contract to review the Coalition Provisional Authority’s internal controls for managing Iraq’s funds and provide the CPA with a written evaluation. The small firm is not a certified public accounting firm as is required by both UN Security Council Resolution 1483 (see May 22, 2003) and the CPA’s Regulation Number 2 (see June 10, 2003). [US Congress, 2/6/2007 ] The firm is so small that it operates out of a private home near San Diego. [MSNBC, 2/17/2005] A 2004 audit performed by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction will find that “North Star Consultants did not perform a review of internal controls as required by the contract. Consequently, internal controls over DFI disbursements were not evaluated. In addition, the Comptroller verbally modified the contract and employed the contractor to primarily perform accounting tasks in the Comptroller’s officer.” [Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, 7/28/2006, pp. 7 ] A single Northstar employee will reportedly use spreadsheets, not accounting software, to track the $20 billion that the CPA will spend on Iraq’s behalf between April 2003 and June 28, 2004. Of that amount, $12 billion is in cash (see June 25, 2004). [MSNBC, 2/17/2005]
At the request of the Coalition Provisional Authority, the Federal Reserve Bank sends the CPA $464.0 million in cash during this month. The money is drawn from the Development Fund for Iraq (DFI)and special US Treasury accounts containing revenues from sales of Iraqi oil exports, surplus dollars from the UN-run oil-for-food program, and frozen assets that belonged to the government of Saddam Hussein. [US Congress, 2/6/2007 ]
At the request of the Coalition Provisional Authority, the Federal Reserve Bank sends the CPA $500 million in cash during this month. The money is drawn from the Development Fund for Iraq (DFI)and special US Treasury accounts containing revenues from sales of Iraqi oil exports, surplus dollars from the UN-run oil-for-food program, and frozen assets that belonged to the government of Saddam Hussein. [US Congress, 2/6/2007 ]
Paul Bremer meets with President Bush in Washington for a private meeting. The Coalition Provision Authority’s effort to implement a number of structural changes to Iraq’s economy is failing, and Washington needs to rethink its strategy. Members of the US-backed Iraqi interim government oppose the changes, and corporate attorneys are advising their clients that Bremer’s orders opening up Iraq to foreign investment could be challenged by a future Iraqi government on the basis that the orders violated UN Resolution 1483 (see May 22, 2003). That resolution stated that the US and Britain were bound to the Hague Regulations of 1907, which bars occupying powers from changing the laws of the occupied country (see October 18, 1907). If corporations purchase Iraqi state assets, and a future elected government declares Bremer’s orders illegal, the companies could lose their investments, the lawyers warn. The risk is so great that not a single insurance company is willing to insure its corporate clients for the “political risk” of losing their investment to expropriation. Bremer returns to Iraq from Washington with a Plan B. On June 30, the Coalition Provisional Authority will be dissolved and the sovereignty of Iraq will be turned over to a US-backed transitional government. That government will be bound by an “interim constitution” (see March 8, 2004), which will contain a clause barring the transitional government from modifying any of Bremer’s laws. [Harper's, 9/24/2004]
Coalition Provisional Authority administrator L. Paul Bremer (see May 1, 2003) asserts his independence from US government oversight, a stance assisted by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Bremer is formally slated to report to Rumsfeld, but says Rumsfeld has no direct authority over him. Instead, Bremer insists, he reports directly to the White House. Rumsfeld, usually jealously protective of his bureaucratic prerogatives, tells National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice: “He doesn’t work for me. He works for you” (see Late September, 2003). But Bremer is not willing to report to either Rice or the National Security Council (NSC) either. The White House had already announced that it had no intention of playing a large role in guiding the reconstruction of Iraq, and the NSC’s Executive Steering Group, set up in 2002 to coordinate war efforts, has been dissolved. Finally, Bremer flatly refuses to submit to Rice’s oversight. As a result, Bremer has already made fundamental policy shifts on his own authority that are at odds with what Pentagon planners had intended (see May 16, 2003 and May 23, 2003), with what many feel will be—or already have caused—disastrous consequences. [Roberts, 2008, pp. 128-129]
“Brick” of $400,000 in U.S. Currency (4,000 $100 bills) [Source: Federal Reserve Bank of New York] (click image to enlarge)At the request of the Coalition Provisional Authority, the Federal Reserve Bank sends the CPA $1.5 billion in cash. The money is drawn from the Development Fund for Iraq (DFI) and special US Treasury accounts containing revenues from sales of Iraqi oil exports, surplus dollars from the UN-run oil-for-food program, and frozen assets that belonged to the government of Saddam Hussein. [US Congress, 2/6/2007 ; Reuters, 2/7/2007]
A United Nations report criticizes Switzerland for failing to prevent support from reaching al-Qaeda and the Taliban. UN observers claim there is weapons smuggling passing through Switzerland to Afghanistan. The report further claims that the leaders of the banned Al Taqwa Bank (see November 7, 2001) are continuing to do business with new and renamed financial entities. They continue to maintain commercial interests and properties in Italy and Switzerland, despite being on US and UN blacklists. Switzerland is also failing to enforce travel bans. For instance, Al Taqwa leader Youssef Nada was able to travel through Switzerland to Liechtenstein and back in January 2003. [Swissinfo, 12/16/2003] Salon noted in 2002 that, for many years, Al Taqwa has benefited from political connections in Switzerland. Al Taqwa directors have ties to some European far right wing politicians such as French politician Jean-Marie Le Pen, and even neo-Nazi groups (see 1988). [San Francisco Chronicle, 3/12/2002; Salon, 3/15/2002] Newsweek will later report that in 2004, the UN will not convince its members to plug loopholes in the sanctions against Al Taqwa related entities. Instead, the UN Security Council will abolish its own monitoring group. [Newsweek, 3/3/2004; Newsweek, 12/24/2004] In late 2004, the Washington Post will report that although Al Taqwa “was supposedly shut down, US and European officials say they still find Nada moving funds under new corporate names.” [Washington Post, 9/11/2004] Additional reports of entities connected to Al Taqwa directors continuing to do business will appear in 2005 (see June-October 2005).
General Electric does about $270 million in business in Iran through one of its foreign subsidiaries. The company has sold Iran hydroelectric equipment, medical equipment, and oil and gas equipment. Under current US law, companies are barred from doing business with nations that the US State Department has said are sponsors of terrorism. However the law does not prohibit a company’s foreign subsidiaries from engaging in such business. [Associated Press, 2/2/2005]
Iran, despite being OPEC’s second largest oil exporter, is forced to import a billion dollars worth of gasoline due to demand outstripping the country’s limited refining capacity. “We use 50 million liters of fuel each day, 10 percent more than just a year ago,” Seyyed Reza Kasaizadeh, planning director for the national refining and distribution company NIORDC, tells the Persian daily Khorasan. Roughly a quarter of that amount is purchased by the government on the open market, and then sold to the public at the same subsidized price as domestically refined fuel—roughly 35 cents per gallon. [Iran Daily, 12/12/2004] In addition to the subsidy program’s actual costs, the program also represents “a huge opportunity cost, because they could be selling that at world prices,” Ben Faulks, an analyst for the London-based Economist Intelligence Unit, tells the Washington Post in mid-2005. Iran hopes that its nuclear energy program will solve this problem by reducing the country’s industrial oil consumption needs. The country would then be able to sell more of its oil at market prices and substantially increase its revenue. [Washington Post, 7/4/2005]
$774,300 in cash being managed by the Coalition Provisional Authority is reported missing from a vault. [Bahrain, 9/2004 ]
Seventy wealthy Haitians and Haitian-Americans officially launch Haiti’s first investment bank, PromoCapital. The bank, a 50/50 joint-venture between Haitian and US shareholders, consists of two institutions: PromoCapital Haiti, SA—incorporated in Haiti as a “Societe Financiere de Developpement”
—and PromoCapital USA, Inc,—a corporation registered in the state of Delaware. [PromoCapital, 4/2/2004; USA Today, 4/29/2004] The bank’s headquarters are in Petionville, Haiti with representative offices in Washington, DC, and Aventura, Florida. [PromoCapital, 4/2/2004; USA Today, 4/29/2004] Its founder, Dumarsais Simeus, who owns a large food-processing business in Texas, says the bank’s investors hope to see annual returns on their investment in the mid- or high teens. He is also the chair of PromoCapital USA. Henri Deschamps, a prominent Port-au-Prince printing and media executive, is the chairman of PromoCapital Haiti. [PromoCapital, 4/2/2004; USA Today, 4/29/2004] Of the 70 names included on the list of PromoCapital shareholders, nine—Frederic Madsen, Gilbert Bigio, Gregory Brandt, Marc-Antoine Acra, Monique Bigio, Olivier Acra, Ronald Georges, Reuven Bigi, and Sebastien Acra—appear on a US Treasury Department list of people and organizations whose assets had been blocked by the US Department of Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control under the Clinton Administration, until 1994. [US Department of the Treasury, 1994] And one of them, Hans Tippenhauer, had told The Washington Post on February 23 that the Haitians had enthusiastically greeted the paramilitary rebel forces as “freedom fighters.” [Washington Post, 2/24/2004]
Entity Tags: Michael Gay Sr., Monique Bigio, Josseline Colimon-FÃ©thiÃ¨re, May Parisien, Olivier Acra, Nadege Tippenhauer, Marc-Antoine Acra, Laurence Bigio, Laurent Pierre-Philippe, Joelle Coupaud, Joseph Baptiste, Julio Bateau, Kimberly Simeus, Patrice Backer, Magdalah Silva, Patrick Delatour, PromoCapital, Patrick Tardieu, Steeve Handal, The Simeus Foundation, Vanessa Dickey, Yael Bigio-Garoute, Yves Joseph, Serge Pinard, Serge Parisien, Sebastien Acra, RÃ©gynald Heurtelou, Jerry Tardieu, Reginald Villard, Patrick Moynihan, Reuven Bigio, Rudolph BerrouÃ«t, Rudolph Moise, Ronald Georges, Jean-Robert Vertus, Jon Robertson, Jean-Marie Wolff, Elda James, Esq., Elisabeth Delatour, Emile Corneille, Emmanuel Francois, Florence Bellande Robertson, Jean-Pierre Saint-Victor, Frantz Bourget, Dimy Doresca, Daniel Silva, Albert Levy, Axan Abellard, Carlet Auguste, Caroline Racine, Daniel Rouzier, Daniele Jean-Pierre, Esq., Fred Tony, Dumarsais M. SimÃ©us, Fritz Fougy, Henri Deschamps, Hendrik Verwaay, Henry Paul, Jacques Deschamps Fils, Herve Francois, Jean-Henry CÃ©ant, Harriet Michel, Gregory Brandt, Gabrielle Alexis, Esq., Gary Jean-Baptiste, Hans Tippenhauer, Frederic Madsen, Gerd Pasquet, Gilbert Bigio, Georges J. Casimir
Timeline Tags: Haiti Coup
In an opinion piece published by Middle East Economic Survey, Helmut Merklein, a former US assistant secretary of international energy affairs (1984 to 1990), argues that “the concept that Iraqi oil production should remain under exclusive Iraqi control should be anchored in the Iraqi constitution.” He reasons that because oil production accrues “huge rents,” those rents, “like all rents, belong in principle to the resource owner, the people of Iraq.” He says the best way for Iraqis to capture those rents is to leave the Iraq National Oil Company (INOC) in public hands and use utility contracts as the model for any agreements with the private sector. In utility-type agreements, the host governments, instead of the oil companies are the ones to benefit when profits exceed an agreed-upon rate of return. Merklein disputes the notion that Iraq would be unable to jump start the oil sector on its own. He says very little new development is needed and that the funds needed for investment “are dwarfed by the wealth represented by already proven but undeveloped reserves.… They certainly don’t need $10 billion, as projected by the Council of Foreign Relations, or $38 billion for ‘green field development’ (Deutsche Bank)…. If their objective were to restore production to their pre-Gulf-War quota of 3.14 million barrels per day, they would need a capital infusion of less than $1.0 billion. And they categorically do not need the multinationals to get access to that kind of investment. $1.0 billion is less than 0.1 percent of the value of Iraq’s currently proved reserve base. That would be like securing a $300 loan by pledging a fully paid-for $300,000 residence as collateral. With that kind of collateral, there will be no shortage of commercial or governmental (bilateral or multilateral) credit institutions eager to supply the required capital needed to rehabilitate oil production in Iraq.” The Iraqis do not need help from the international oil companies, he says, “The Iraqis have been producing oil for the last 31 years…. They are quite capable of boosting production without the help from international oil companies. They have the experience, they have a lot of practical know-how, and they are known to be inventive and flexible. Whatever they don’t have by way of technological advances, they can acquire through outsourcing in the open market, much like the multinationals do when they turn to seismic firms for exploration, drilling firms for drilling, logging firms for reserve definition, and reservoir engineering firms for production optimization.” Merklein also takes issue with claims that Iraq would be unable to produce more than three million barrels per day. “Just how ridiculous that claim is can be seen from a comparison of the US and Iraqi reserve bases and the production these bases are able to maintain. The US has at present 22.4 billion barrels of proved crude oil reserves; Iraq has 112 billion. The US produces 5.3 million barrels per day from that base. At five times our proven reserve base, Iraq can produce five times the US daily production rate, or some 23 million barrels per day. Without any additional exploration. These are proved reserves. The Iraqis have some 73 oil fields, 58 of them idle. All they have to do is drill them up.” [Middle East Economic Survey, 1/12/2005]
At the request of the Coalition Provisional Authority, the Federal Reserve Bank sends the CPA $750.4 million in cash during this month. Payments in the same amount will be made in March (see March 2004) and April (see April 2004). The money is drawn from the Development Fund for Iraq (DFI) and special US Treasury accounts containing revenues from sales of Iraqi oil exports, surplus dollars from the UN-run oil-for-food program, and frozen assets that belonged to the government of Saddam Hussein. [US Congress, 2/6/2007 ]
At the request of the Coalition Provisional Authority, the Federal Reserve Bank sends the CPA $750.4 million in cash during this month. Payments in the same amount are made in February (see February 2004) and April (see April 2004). The money is drawn from the Development Fund for Iraq (DFI)and special US Treasury accounts containing revenues from sales of Iraqi oil exports, surplus dollars from the UN-run oil-for-food program, and frozen assets that belonged to the government of Saddam Hussein. [US Congress, 2/6/2007 ]
At the request of the Coalition Provisional Authority, the Federal Reserve Bank sends the CPA $750.4 million in cash during this month. Payments in the same amount were made in February (see February 2004) and March (see March 2004). The money is drawn from the Development Fund for Iraq (DFI)and special US Treasury accounts containing revenues from sales of Iraqi oil exports, surplus dollars from the UN-run oil-for-food program, and frozen assets that belonged to the government of Saddam Hussein. [US Congress, 2/6/2007 ]
The New York Times reports that the Bush administration has recently spurned a request for 80 more investigators to track and disrupt the global financial networks of US-designated terrorist groups. The IRS requested the increase to their current staff of 150 investigators focused on terrorism, but the Bush administration cut the $12 million item in their final proposal to Congress. The New York Times says the value of the request “seems beyond dispute” and notes that the IRS is severely underfunded in general. [New York Times, 4/4/2004]
The Supreme Court convenes to hear arguments in Vice President Cheney’s appeal of a judicial order to reveal information about his secret energy task force (see December 15, 2003). Justice Antonin Scalia has recently returned from a duck hunting trip with Cheney; though critics demand he recuse himself to avoid charges of conflict of interest, Scalia refuses. The plaintiffs, conservative watchdog organization Judicial Watch and progressive environmental group Sierra Club, are heavily represented in the courtroom, and friends and supporters jam the courthouse steps. Solicitor General Theodore Olson, arguing for the government, posits that the White House enjoys a “constitutional immunity” that protects the executive branch from all requests for information unless the president himself is under criminal investigation. If the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) forces the president to make public any advice he or other White House officials have received, or even to make that information available to a judge (see August 2, 2002), FACA itself is unconstitutional, Olsen argues. “This is a case about separation of powers,” he says. Neither Congress nor the judiciary can force the president or his officials to disclose information to a judge, not even on a very limited basis to determine whether a lawsuit can proceed—a process called discovery. “We are submitting that the discovery itself violates the Constitution,” Olson asserts. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is taken aback by the sweep of his claim, which, if accepted, would gut the ability of the courts to review any civil lawsuit involving the executive branch. “All discovery?” she asks. “Yes,” Olson replies. Throughout the questioning, most of the justices seem sympathetic to the administration’s general constitutional concerns, but uncomfortable with siding entirely with the White House’s sweeping claims of inherent legal immunity from scrutiny. [Savage, 2007, pp. 166-167] The oral arguments will continue for weeks (see April 27, 2004).
An official with the Coalition Provisional Authority reports that the “CPA did not obtain the services of a certified public accounting firm as it was determined that these services were not those required.” UN Security Council Resolution 1483 (see May 22, 2003) required that the management of Iraq’s funds be “audited by independent public accountants approved by the International Advisory and Monitoring Board of the Development Fund for Iraq.” Similarly, the CPA’s Regulation Number 2 (see June 10, 2003) stated that it had to “obtain the services of an independent, certified public accounting firm.” Instead, the CPA hired North Star Consultants, Inc. (see October 2003), an obscure consulting firm, “to promote the effective administration of DFI Funds in a transparent manner for the benefit of the Iraqi people.” [US Congress, 2/6/2007 ]
At the request of the Coalition Provisional Authority, the Federal Reserve Bank sends the CPA $1 billion in cash during this month. The money is drawn from the Development Fund for Iraq (DFI) and special US Treasury accounts containing revenues from sales of Iraqi oil exports, surplus dollars from the UN-run oil-for-food program, and frozen assets that belonged to the government of Saddam Hussein. [US Congress, 2/6/2007 ]
Riggs Bank agrees to pay $25 million in civil penalties for failing to report hundreds of millions of dollars in suspicious financial transactions by foreign customers in violation of US anti-money-laundering laws. Most of the transactions concerned the embassies of Saudi Arabia and Equatorial Guinea. [Washington Post, 5/14/2004]
The Program Review Board—a panel of US, allied, and Iraqi officials responsible for allocating Iraqi budgetary resources under control of the Coalition Provisional Authority—approves the distribution of $2 billion for reconstruction projects in Iraq. It is one of the largest disbursements recorded. But the only record of how the funds are disbursed are the minutes of the meeting which list and describe which reconstruction sector the funds are being allocated to. They do not include any information about the actual recipients of the funds. The minutes show that a “[r]epresentative from [Britain] noted there was insufficient detail on some of the requests and there was no reference to recurring costs for operations and maintenance.” [Coalition Provisional Authority, 5/15/2004; US Congress, 2/6/2007, pp. 15 ]
The Guardian of London reports that Iran is preparing “to launch an oil trading market for Middle East and OPEC producers.” The Tehran oil bourse (French for “purse”, used to describe a financial transaction exchange system), to be opened in 2005, could give top oil producing nations in the region greater control of the oil trade, threatening the supremacy of world’s current major oil market exchanges, the London IPE and New York’s NYMEX. [Reuters, 5/15/2004; Guardian, 6/16/2004] Some observers believe oil at the new exchange would likely be traded in Euros. “From a purely economic and monetary perspective, a petroeuro system is a logical development given that the European Union imports more oil from OPEC producers than does the US, and the EU accounts for 45 percent of imports into the Middle East,” notes the Center for Research on Globalization. [Center for Research on Globalization, 10/27/2004]
[Source: WAMY]US agents raid the US branch of World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY), a large Saudi charity. The branch was founded in 1992 by Abdullah Awad bin Laden, a nephew of Osama, and he was still listed as president of the branch in a 2002 business listing. [Weekly Standard, 4/8/2002; Washington Post, 6/2/2004] In 1996, an FBI investigation into WAMY, Abdullah Awad, and his brother Omar, was closed down, apparently for political reasons (see February-September 11, 1996). At least two of the 9/11 hijackers lived about three blocks from WAMY’s office for much of 2001 (see March 2001 and After). A new investigation of WAMY was launched one week after 9/11 (see September 14-19, 2001). All of WAMY’s files and computer files are seized; one person is arrested on immigration charges. The raid appears to have taken place because WAMY came up in a terrorism investigation of the SAAR network (see March 20, 2002), located outside Washington and relatively close to the WAMY office. A federal affidavit alleges that WAMY has ties to Hamas. [Washington Post, 6/2/2004]
Pallets of US Currency Arriving in Iraq [Source: US Congress. House Committee on Government Reform] (click image to enlarge)At the request of the Coalition Provisional Authority, the Federal Reserve Bank sends the CPA $2.4 billion in cash. This is the largest cash pay-out of US
currency in Federal Reserve history. This shipment is quickly followed by another large shipment three days later (see June 25, 2004). The money is drawn from the Development Fund for Iraq (DFI)and special US Treasury accounts containing revenues from sales of Iraqi oil exports, surplus dollars from the UN-run oil-for-food program, and frozen assets that belonged to the government of Saddam Hussein. [US Congress, 2/6/2007 ; Reuters, 2/7/2007]
Cash shipments to Iraq by month [Source: US Congress. House Committee on Government Reform] (click image to enlarge)The US Federal Reserve sends the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) in Baghdad $1.6 billion on giant pallets aboard military C-130 cargo planes. This is the last of a series of several shipments that began in April 2003 (see April 2003). The money was drawn from the Development Fund for Iraq (DFI)and special US Treasury accounts containing revenues from sales of Iraqi oil exports, surplus dollars from the UN-run oil-for-food program, and frozen assets that belonged to the government of Saddam Hussein. Most shipments were under $1 billion, except for this one and two others, one in December, and one just three days before (see December 12, 2003 and June 22, 2004). Together these shipments amount to $12 billion, some 363 tons of palleted cash. This shipment and the other June shipment of $2.4 billion (see June 22, 2004) account for almost half of the total amount shipped to Iraq. There will be no more shipments to the CPA after this date because on June 28, authority to govern Iraq, and hence the authority to manage Iraq’s funds, will be transferred to Iraq’s new Interim Government (see June 28, 2004). [US Congress, 2/6/2007 ; Reuters, 2/7/2007]
It is reported that the Swiss government is investigate an unnamed Saudi businessman who is the former president of the Muwafaq Foundation, which is now defunct. Swiss investigators will say he is suspected of transferring tens of millions of dollars to “close al-Qaeda associates” from Swiss bank accounts. The Swiss will freeze $20 million of his bank accounts. This businessman denies any connection with terrorism (see September 19, 2005). [New York Times, 6/25/2004] The have been repeated allegations that Muwafaq funded radical militants in the Bosnian war (see 1991-1995) and had ties to bin Laden (see 1995-1998).
Staff members of the Coalition Provisional Authority are reportedly encouraged to spend Iraq’s cash quickly before power is transferred to the Iraq interim government. In the south-central region of Iraq, one official is given $6.75 million in cash on June 21, 2004 “with the expectation of disbursing the entire amount before the transfer of sovereignty.” [Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, 4/30/2005, pp. 8 ; Guardian, 5/6/2005]
Hours after the Coalition Provisional Authority hands over Iraqi sovereignty to an interim government (see June 28, 2004), the CPA sends requests to the Federal Reserve Bank in New York asking that an additional $1 billion be withdrawn from Iraq’s accounts at the Federal Reserve and be shipped to Iraq. The request is rejected on grounds that the CPA no longer has authority to manage Iraq’s assets. Since April, the Federal Reserve has shipped some $12 billion dollars to the CPA. Five billion of this was sent just within the last six days (see June 22, 2004 and June 25, 2004). A Federal Reserve document states that “effective as of the time AMB Bremer transferred authority (which is being reported in the press as 10:26 am in Baghdad), the CPA no longer had control over Iraq’s assets…. [S]ubsequent to transfer of sovereignty, COL Davis of the CPA sent us $200 million in payment orders to be executed today in New York. We have informed the Colonel that we are not in a position to honor these instructions. Second, also subsequent to the transfer of sovereignty, COL Davis sent us an instruction to transfer $800 million from the DFI main account into the new DFI subaccount, which we understand informally was created by AMB Bremer to hold funds that are ear marked internally within Iraq for payments connected to existing contracts. We have also informed COL Davis that we are not in a position to honor this instruction either (especially since it would require liquidating $1 billion worth of the CBI’s [Central Bank of Iraq] holdings of USG [US Government] securities.” [US Congress, 2/6/2007, pp. 9 ]
In a six-page letter to the congressional conference-committee charged with combining the House (see April 21, 2005) and Senate (see June 28, 2005) versions of the 2005 Energy Policy Act (HR 6), Energy Secretary Samuel W. Bodman expresses the Bush administration’s strong opposition to a provision that would grant coastal oil-producing states like Louisiana a share of the royalties from offshore oil and gas operations. Historically, the royalties have been paid exclusively to the federal government. [Houma Today, 7/21/2005; Houma Today, 7/23/2005; Salon, 9/1/2005] Bodman writes in his letter that “The administration strongly opposes” the new funding. “These provisions are inconsistent with the president’s 2006 budget and would have a significant impact on the budget deficit.” [Salon, 9/1/2005] The statement also says, “The administration recognizes that coastal Louisiana is an environmental resource of national significance and has worked closely with the state of Louisiana to produce a near-term coastal wetlands restoration plan to guide how the next phase of restoration projects in Louisiana will be identified, prioritized, and sequenced.” [Houma Today, 7/21/2005] Craig Stevens, the press secretary for the Department of Energy, later explains to Salon: “We didn’t object to the idea in principle. [Rather, we objected to] part of the way it was crafted.” [Salon, 9/1/2005] Bodman also takes issue with the House’s WRDA bill (see April 13, 2005). WRDA, or the Water Resources Development Act, provides federal authorization for water resources projects. The House bill would require the federal government to pay 65 percent of the cost of the Louisiana Coastal Area (LCA) restoration project, leaving the remaining 35 percent for state and local governments to pay. “The cost-share paid by the general taxpayer for the Everglades restoration effort is 50 percent, and this should likewise be the maximum federal contribution for the Upper Mississippi River and Illinois Waterway and coastal Louisiana restoration efforts.” If the Fed’s portion of the bill were 65 percent, the letter argues, it would “create expectations for future appropriations that cannot be met given competing spending priorities within the overall need for spending restraint, including deficit reduction.” Adam Sharp, spokesman for Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA), notes however that the 50-50 cost-share formula for the Everglades is an exception to the Corps’ practice, not the rule. Indeed, in January (see January 2005), the Corps recommended the 65-35 cost share formula in its report on the coastal plan to Congress saying that such a split would be “consistent with existing law and Corps policy.” [Houma Today, 7/21/2005]
The 9/11 Commission releases a report on terrorism financing. Its conclusions generally stand in complete contrast to a great body of material reported by the mainstream media, before and after this report. For instance, while the report does mention some terrorism-supporting organizations in great detail, such as the Global Relief Foundation or Al Barakaat, many seemingly important organizations are not mentioned a single time in either this report or the 9/11 Commission Final Report. The Commission fails to ever mention: BMI, Inc., Ptech, Al Taqwa Bank, Holy Land Foundation, InfoCom, International Islamic Relief Organization, Muslim World League, Muwafaq (Blessed Relief) Foundation, Quranic Literacy Institute, and the SAAR network or any entity within it. Additionally, important efforts to track terrorist financing such as Vulgar Betrayal and Operation Greenquest are not mentioned a single time. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 61; 9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 134-5 ] Some select quotes from the report:
“While the drug trade was an important source of income for the Taliban before 9/11, it did not serve the same purpose for al-Qaeda. Although there is some fragmentary reporting alleging that bin Laden may have been an investor, or even had an operational role, in drug trafficking before 9/11, this intelligence cannot be substantiated and the sourcing is probably suspect.” Additionally, there is “no evidence of [al-Qaeda] drug funding after 9/11.” [9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 22-23 ]
“[C]ontrary to some public reports, we have not seen substantial evidence that al-Qaeda shares a fund-raising infrastructure in the United States with Hamas, Hezbollah, or Palestinian Islamic Jihad.” [9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 24 ]
“The United States is not, and has not been, a substantial source of al-Qaeda funding, but some funds raised in the United States may have made their way to al-Qaeda and its affiliated groups. A murky US network of jihadist (holy war) supporters has plainly provided funds to foreign mujaheddin with al-Qaeda links. Still, there is little hard evidence of substantial funds from the United States actually going to al-Qaeda. A CIA expert on al-Qaeda financing believes that any money coming out of the United States for al-Qaeda is ‘minuscule.’” [9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 24 ]
The notion “that bin Laden was a financier with a fortune of several hundred million dollars” is an “urban legend.” “[S]ome within the government continued to cite the $300 million figure well after 9/11, and the general public still [incorrectly] gives credence to the notion of a ‘multimillionaire bin Laden.’” [9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 20, 34 ] (A few months after this report, it will be reported that in 2000 over $250 million passed through a bank account jointly controlled by bin Laden and another man (see 2000).)
“To date, the US government has not been able to determine the origin of the money used for the 9/11 attacks.… Ultimately the question of the origin of the funds is of little practical significance.” [9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 144 ]
“The US intelligence community has attacked the problem [of terrorist funding] with imagination and vigor” since 9/11. [New York Times, 8/22/2004]
According to the New York Times, the report “largely exonerate[s] the Saudi government and its senior officials of long-standing accusations that they were involved in financing al-Qaeda terrorists.” [New York Times, 8/22/2004] Author Douglas Farah comments on the Commission’s report, “The biggest hole is the complete lack of attention to the role the Muslim Brotherhood has played in the financing of al-Qaeda and other radical Islamist groups. While the ties are extensive on a personal level, they also pervade the financial structure of al-Qaeda.… According to sources who provided classified briefing to the Commission staff, most of the information that was provided was ignored.… [T]he Commission staff simply did not include any information that was at odds with the official line of different agencies.” [Farah, 8/27/2004]
Entity Tags: Muwafaq Foundation, Vulgar Betrayal, Operation Greenquest, Osama bin Laden, Saudi Arabia, Quranic Literacy Institute, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Muslim World League, SAAR Foundation, Muslim Brotherhood, Ptech Inc., InfoCom Corporation, Al-Qaeda, Al Taqwa Bank, 9/11 Commission, BMI Inc., Al Barakaat, Central Intelligence Agency, Douglas Farah, Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, International Islamic Relief Organization, Global Relief Foundation, Hamas
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
Britain’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office sends advisers to Iraq to work with the country’s oil ministry on “fiscal and regulatory” issues. [Muttitt, 2005] Foreign Office minister Kim Howells, describing the ministry’s role, will tell Parliament in July 2005, “We discuss with the Iraqi ministries their priorities on a regular basis.” [UK Parliament, 7/12/2005] But the office will never publish a formal policy statement and will refuse to comply with Freedom of Information requests for related documents. One of the exemptions the office will use to refuse a request is that its advice to the Iraqis is “voluminous.” [Muttitt, 2005]
Riggs Bank is added to the list of defendants in a 9/11 lawsuit filed on behalf of 9/11 victims’ relatives (see August 15, 2002). The amended lawsuit alleges, “Riggs’ constant failure to comply with banking oversight laws resulted in funds being forwarded from high risk Saudi Embassy accounts at Riggs Bank to at least two September 11 hijackers.” [Wall Street Journal, 9/13/2004] Riggs Bank is under investigation at the time and will later plead guilty to violating banking laws (see March 29, 2005). The bank also appears to have a long standing but murky relationship with the CIA (see July 2003 and December 31, 2004).
Sen. Mary L. Landrieu (D-LA) warns colleagues in Senate that US must invest in flood control projects in Louisiana in order to avert a major natural disaster in the event of a hurricane making landfall in Southern Louisiana. “I want to speak this morning about what we can do here in Washington a little better, with a little more energy, with a little more focus to help the people in Louisiana and throughout the gulf coast area. Not only do they deserve our help, but because of the energy industry and the economic benefits they bring to the whole country, they not only need our help, they deserve our help. They deserve our attention…. We are talking about severe devastation when a Category 3 or Category 4 or Category 5 hurricane pushes that water out of the gulf, out of Lake Pontchartrain into the tremendously populated areas around the gulf coast.… We are in Iraq, in an important battle, but part of our objective there is to secure an oil supply for the region and for the Nation and to use that for the betterment of the people of Iraq, for their growth and development and the security and stability of the world, as well as to fight for other issues. We are fighting to get 1 to 3 million barrels out of Iraq, and right here in the Gulf of Mexico, today, we have a facility that has virtually been shut down because of a hurricane. Nearly a million barrels is being imported in this country, and exported, a year.… My point is, I hope we will again use this opportunity to focus on the critical infrastructure needs necessary for Louisiana and the gulf coast of Mississippi and Alabama primarily to protect itself not just from homeland security threats from terrorists but real threats of weather.… Yet time and time again, when Louisiana comes to ask, ‘Could we please have just a portion of the revenue that we send?’—we are not asking for charity; we are asking for something we earned; we are happy to share with the rest of the country to help invest in infrastructure—we are told: We cannot do it this year. We do not have enough money. It is not a high enough priority.… Well, I do not know when it is going to get to be a high enough priority. I hate to say maybe it is going to take the loss thousands of lives on the Gulf Coast to make this country wake up and realize in what we are under-investing.… We also have a bill through the WRDA legislation, which is the traditional funding for the Corps of Engineers, the federal agency primarily responsible to keep the waterways dredged, to keep the levees up as high as possible, to work with our local flood control folks, particularly our levee boards in Louisiana, which are some of the most important public entities we have, that literally keep people dry from heavy rains and from floods and storms of this nature.… We need our federal government to understand that we are happy to share our resources and riches with the world, but we do deserve a greater portion of these revenues to keep our people safe, to keep our infrastructure intact, and, most certainly, to be respectful of what the people of Louisiana and the entire gulf coast contribute to our national well-being and security. .. [A]s a Senator representing the State of Louisiana, the chances of it happening sometime are pretty good. If we do not improve our transportation evacuation routes, invest in protecting this infrastructure, and focusing on reinvesting some of the tremendous wealth that has been taken from this area, and reinvesting it back, we will only have ourselves to blame.” [US Congress, 9/15/2004, pp. S9257-S9260]
Abdurahman Alamoudi. [Source: Wikipedia/ public domain]Muslim activist Abdurahman Alamoudi is sentenced to 23 years in prison in the US for illegal dealings with Libya. Charges include that he was involved in a complex plot to kill Crown Price Abdullah, the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia. Prosecutors successfully argued that Alamoudi served as a go-between Saudi dissidents and Libyan officials involved in the plot. Alamoudi admitted that he illegally moved money from Libya, taking nearly $1 million and using it to pay conspirators. The plot, thought to stem from a personality dispute between the leaders of Libya and Saudi Arabia, was ultimately foiled by the Saudi government. The Washington Post notes that Alamoudi was “one of America’s best-known Muslim activists—a former head of the American Muslim Council who met with senior Clinton and Bush administration officials in his efforts to bolster Muslim political prominence.” He was “once so prominent that his influence reached the highest levels of the US government.” Alamoudi is said to be cooperating with US investigators as part of the deal. It is believed that his testimony could be very useful to an ongoing probe of the SAAR network, since he was closely involved with that network (see March 20, 2002). [Washington Post, 10/16/2004]
Rich creditor nations in the Paris Club announce they have reached a deal with the US on the proposed forgiveness of the $38.9 billion owed to those countries. The US wanted 95 percent of the debt canceled while the Paris Club was initially only willing to forgive 50 percent. Under the agreement, the Paris Club agrees to forgive 80 percent. Thirty percent of this will be forgiven immediately, followed by another 30 percent when Iraq agrees on a reform program with the International Monetary Fund, which it is expected to do in 2005. The remaining 20 percent will be canceled in 2008, after Iraq has implemented the reforms. The creditor countries owed the largest sums of money are Japan (4.1 billion dollars), France (2.9 billion), Germany (2.4 billion), the United States (2.2 billion), Britain (900 million), and Russia (9 billion). [St. Petersburg Times, 11/22/2004; Inter Press Service, 11/23/2004] The deal is denounced in a resolution passed by the Iraqi National Assembly on November 30. The resolution states that “the Paris Club has no right to make decisions and impose IMF conditions on Iraq.” It also says that nearly all of the debt is odious and should be canceled. [Inter Press Service, 11/23/2004; Iraqi National Assembly, 11/30/2004]
Citizens for a Sound Economy (CSE), an “astroturf” advocacy organization funded by the Koch brothers (see 1984 and After), is accused of breaking campaign laws to support the Bush re-election campaign. Oregon’s CSE branch had attempted to get consumer advocate Ralph Nader on the presidential ballot, in an attempt to dilute Democratic support for presidential candidate John Kerry (D-MA). Critics argue that it is illegal for a tax-exempt organization such as CSE to donate its services for partisan purposes. The Federal Election Commission (FEC) dismisses a complaint brought against the organization. [New Yorker, 8/30/2010]
Americans for Prosperity logo. [Source: Americans for Prosperity]After the 2004 presidential election, the “astroturf” organization Citizens for a Sound Economy (see Late 2004) splits due to internal dissension. Oil billionaire David Koch and Koch Industries lobbyist Richard Fink (see August 30, 2010) launch a new “astroturf” organization, Americans for Prosperity (AFP—see May 29, 2009)). They hire Tim Phillips to run the organization. Phillips (see August 6, 2009) is a veteran political operative who worked closely with Republican operative Ralph Reed; the two co-founded the political consulting firm Century Strategies. Phillips’s online biography will describe him as an expert in “grasstops” and “grassroots” political organizing. Conservative operative Grover Norquist will call Phillips “a grownup who can make things happen.” In 2009, Phillips will claim that AFP has “only” 800,000 members, but its Web site will claim “1.2 million activists.” A former employee of the Cato Institute, a Koch-founded libertarian think tank, will say that AFP is “micromanaged by the Kochs” (indicating involvement by both David and Charles Koch). [New Yorker, 8/30/2010]
Entity Tags: David Koch, Cato Institute, Americans for Prosperity, Century Strategies, Citizens for a Sound Economy, Koch Industries, Charles Koch, Tim Phillips, Ralph Reed, Richard Fink, Grover Norquist
Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda
Top Iraqi officials head to Washington for the second meeting of the Iraq-US Joint Economic Commission. The first meeting took place in September. At a press conference, Iraqi Finance Minister Adil Abdel Mahdi tells reporters that the new Iraqi government is implementing, or intends to implement, a number of major changes to the country’s economy. Some of the reforms he mentions would be part of a new oil law that will be “open to investment, to foreign investment downstream, maybe even upstream.” He explains that the law is being developed by a “high-ranked official from the Oil Ministry” in consultation with “his counterparts and with agencies here in the States.” Mahdi also says that Iraq will review the oil contracts that Saddam Hussein had inked with countries like France and Russia. “So I think this is very promising to the American investors and to American enterprises, certainly to oil companies,” he says. Mahdi also defends an agreement the Iraqi government recently made with the IMF to implement certain reforms, which included an end to food subsidies (see September 29, 2004). “I think this is a necessity for the Iraqi economy,” Mahdi says. “We really need to work on our subsidy side. Subsidies are taking almost 60 percent of our budget. So this is something we have to work on… Other measures really were a real necessity for the Iraqi economy before becoming conditions asked by the IMF.” But as Inter Press Service notes, Iraq’s food subsidies system “have kept millions of Iraqis from starvation under US and UK-pressed sanctions imposed by the United Nations after the 1991 Gulf War.… It is believed that many more Iraqis would have died if not for Hussein’s strong subsidies system that gave food to Iraqi families.” An issue that is apparently not discussed during the two-day meeting between US and Iraqi officials is the large amount of money that is known to have been defrauded from the CPA. In response to a reporter’s question, Mahdi says only, “No, this issue has not been discussed. We are interested to follow such issues, of course. Whatever concerns corruption or money, we are interested.” [US Department of State, 12/21/2004; Inter Press Service, 12/24/2004]
The US Treasury Department and UN designate Adel Batterjee a global terrorist. Batterjee is connected to the Benevolence International Foundation (BIF). The Treasury Department says that Batterjee “has ranked as one of the world’s foremost terrorist financiers” by helping to fund al-Qaeda. It is not explained why the US waited until this time to list him, but counterterrorism expert Rita Katz suggests that the Saudi government may have changed their stance due to increased al-Qaeda activity in Saudi Arabia. “I think they needed Saudi support, and now it seems to be in place.” However, there is no report of Batterjee being arrested or having his funds frozen in Saudi Arabia. [US Department of the Treasury, 12/21/2004; Chicago Tribune, 12/22/2004]
Speaking before his colleagues in the House of Representatives, Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-LA) expresses concern about what would happen if a large hurricane were to hit New Orleans. “What would have happened if last September, Hurricane Ivan had veered 40 miles to the west, devastating the city of New Orleans? One likely scenario would have had a tsunami-like 30-foot wall of water hitting the city, causing thousands of deaths and $100 billion in damage. The city has always been at risk because of its low-lying location, but that risk has been increased because of rising sea levels, groundwater pumping and the erosion of coastal Louisiana. Twenty-four square miles of wetland disappear every year, since the 1930s an area one and a half times the size of Rhode Island washed away. Considering the reaction of the American public to the loss of a dozen people in the recent mud slides in California, it is hard to imagine what would happen if a disaster of that magnitude hit the United States. The experience of [the December 2004 tsunami that hit] Southeast Asia should convince us all of the urgent need for congressional action to prevent wide-scale loss of life and economic destruction at home and abroad. Prevention and planning will pay off.” [US Congress, 1/26/2005]
General Electric (GE) follows Halliburton and ConocoPhillips, announcing that the company will no longer accept business from Iran (see May 29, 2003). “Because of uncertain conditions related to Iran, including concerns about meeting future customer commitments, we will not accept any new orders for business in Iran effective Feb. 1,” explains Gary Sheffer, a GE spokesman. “This moratorium on new orders will be re-evaluated as conditions relating to Iran change.” [Associated Press, 2/2/2005; Forbes, 2/2/2005] Under current US law, companies are barred from doing business with nations that the US State Department has said are sponsors of terrorism. However the law does not prohibit a company’s foreign subsidiaries from engaging in such business. [BBC, 7/20/2004; Associated Press, 2/2/2005]
Fox News senior anchor Brit Hume and Fox analyst William Bennett both make the false claim that former President Franklin D. Roosevelt wanted to replace Social Security with private accounts. In fact, Roosevelt, who implemented Social Security, was in favor of “voluntary contributory annunities” to supplement Social Security benefits, but never proposed replacing Social Security with private money. Hume and Bennett both support President Bush’s plan to partially “privatize” Social Security; Bush himself has asserted, equally falsely, that Roosevelt supported privatization. On Fox’s political talk show Hannity and Colmes, Bennett tells viewers: “Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the guy who established Social Security, said that it would be good to have it replaced by private investment over time. Private investment would be the way to really carry this thing through.” That same evening, Hume tells his audience: “In a written statement to Congress in 1935, Roosevelt said that any Social Security plans should include, quote, ‘Voluntary contributory annuities, by which individual initiative can increase the annual amounts received in old age,’ adding that government funding, quote, ‘ought to ultimately be supplanted by self-supporting annuity plans.’” Hume fails to point out that Roosevelt was not talking about “supplant[ing]” Social Security with any “self-supporting annuity plans,” but instead was talking about a different fund that provided pension benefits to Americans too old (in 1935) to contribute payroll taxes to Social Security. In 1935, Edwin Witte, the director of the Committee on Economic Security, told Congress flatly that voluntary accounts were intended as a “separate undertaking” meant to “supplement” the compulsory system, not replace it. [Media Matters, 2/4/2005] Days before the Fox broadcasts, Roosevelt’s grandson James Roosevelt Jr., a former Social Security associate commissioner, noted that “Bush invoked the name of my grandfather… as part of his campaign to privatize Social Security,” and added, “The implication that FDR would support privatization of America’s greatest national program is an attempt to deceive the American people and an outrage.” [Boston Globe, 1/31/2005] Liberal pundit Al Franken calls on Hume to resign over his historical distortions; MSNBC host Keith Olbermann calls Hume’s statements “premeditated, historical fraud,” and Roosevelt Jr. says that “outrageous distortion… calls for a retraction, an apology, maybe even a resignation.” [Media Matters, 2/18/2005] Influential conservative blogger Glenn Reynolds will acknowledge that Roosevelt was not advocating for the privatization of Social Security, instead noting that Roosevelt’s plan “would have involved, essentially, a sort of government-supplied 401k plan.” [Glenn Reynolds, 2/4/2005]
Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh signs a memorandum of understanding with his Indonesian counterpart Purnomo Yusgiantoro that Iran will build a $3 billion refinery in Indonesia. As part of the deal, Indonesia will receive 300,000 barrels per day of heavy crude and Tehran will get a 30 percent stake in PT Pertamina, Indonesia’s state oil company. National Iranian Oil Company and Pertamina will lead the four-year project, which Iran hopes will provide security for Iran’s market supply. [Islamic Republic News Agency, 3/16/2005; Bloomberg, 3/18/2005]
US District Judge Ricardo M. Urbina approves a plea agreement requiring Riggs Bank to pay a $16 million criminal fine for its failure to report suspicious transactions by former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet and leaders of Equatorial Guinea that occurred between 1994 and 2003. The judge calls the bank “a greedy corporate henchman of dictators and their corrupt regimes.” [Washington Post, 3/30/2005] Jonathan Bush, uncle to President Bush, has been a top executive at Riggs Bank since 2000, running their investment management division. [Washington Post, 5/15/2004] The plea agreement clears the way for Riggs Bank to be bought. It is dissolved into PNC Financial Services Group Inc. in May 2005. [Washington Post, 10/13/2005]
The headquarters of Nasco, the Nigerian company owned by Ahmed Idris Nasreddin, are actually located on Ahmed Nasreddin Road. [Source: NBC News]News reports indicate Al Taqwa bankers are able to conduct business globally with few restrictions, despite being on global terrorist financier lists (see November 7, 2001). For instance, Al Taqwa director Ahmed Idris Nasreddin is running a conglomerate in Nigeria that makes a range of goods such as breakfast cereal and beauty products. An MSNBC investigation shows a clear and easily discovered paper trail connecting Nasreddin to the Nigeria companies, and a Nigerian government spokesman says, “He is well known. He is actually the major shareholder” in the conglomerate. But Nigerian officials claim the US has never raised objections or asked Nigeria to take action. In 2003, news reports tied Nasreddin to a prominent hotel in Milan, Italy. Financial records indicate he still owns the hotel. [MSNBC, 6/30/2005] Author Douglas Farah notes that the Geneva, Switzerland, branch of the International Islamic Charitable Organization (IICO) has two Al Taqwa figures as directors. Youssef al Qardawi was a major Al Taqwa investor, and Ghaleb Himmat was a director in the bank. Both are officially designated terrorist financiers. The IICO also operated as part of the SAAR network, which was raided in March 2002 (see March 20, 2002). The IICO’s vice president is Saleh Ibn Abdul Rahman Hussayen, who was a SAAR network official and also stayed in the same hotel as three of the 9/11 hijackers the night before the attacks (see September 10, 2001). Farah comments that these examples show “how ineffective and toothless the international sanctions regime has become. Those on the UN [terrorist financier] list continue to operate freely, presiding over businesses and charities that give them continued access to millions of dollars. The organizations that hire them are not penalized and, in the end, neither are the individuals.” [Farah, 11/7/2005]
Youssef Nada’s office in Lugano, Italy. [Source: Keystone]It is announced that Swiss prosecutors have suspended a three-year investigation into Al Taqwa Bank. The US and UN formally designated Al Taqwa and its founder Youssef Nada as terrorist financiers in November 2001 (see November 7, 2001). The suspension of the Swiss probe has no effect on those designations. Nada is self-acknowledged leader of the militant Muslim Brotherhood movement, but claims no ties to terrorism. [Newsweek, 6/22/2005] Swiss investigators say that the Bahamas government failed to share information about the important Al Taqwa branch based in that country. They claim that was the decisive factor in not bringing a case. Additionally, Al Taqwa’s Swiss financial records were all shipped to Saudi Arabia, and the Saudi government has not been cooperative in getting them back. [Swissinfo, 6/2/2005]
A delegation from India visits Pakistan to discuss cooperation in the oil and gas sectors. The 11-person delegation is headed by Indian Minister for Petroleum and Natural Gas Mani Shankar Aiyar. The two countries agree to establish a working group to review the legal, technical, commercial, and financial parameters of the proposed Iran-India-Pakistan gas pipeline (see 1993 and January 27, 2003) that would transport natural gas 2,775 km from Iran to India via Pakistan. They plan to start the project by December 31, 2005. [Islamic Republic News Agency, 6/5/2005; Tribune (Chandigarh), 6/5/2005] At a press conference on June 6, Aiyar is asked about US concerns expressed by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in March (see March 19, 2005) that the pipeline would strengthen Iran. Aiyar responds that construction of the pipeline is contigent only upon an agreement being made between India and Pakistan. [Tribune (Chandigarh), 6/5/2005] India and Pakistan also discuss the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan (TAP) pipeline (see January 18, 2005), which they agree should extend to India. [Tribune (Chandigarh), 6/5/2005; Associated Press, 6/5/2005] The delegation also explores the possibility of exporting Indian diesel to Pakistan. [Islamic Republic News Agency, 6/5/2005]
In the years since the US declared Saudi multimillionaire Yassin al-Qadi a terrorism financier (see October 12, 2001), no criminal charges have been brought against him anywhere in the world. But on June 22, 2005, it is announced that Swiss prosecutors are pursuing a formal criminal case against him. The case focuses on a series of transactions made between February and August 1998 that were sent from one of al-Qadi’s companies to a firm owned by Saudi businessman Wael Hamza Julaidan. Julaidan reputedly associated with bin Laden in the 1980s. He was placed on US and UN terrorism financier lists in 2002. Over $1 million of the money in these transactions was sent to a Yemeni charity, but allegedly wound up funding al-Qaeda instead. Al-Qadi denies knowing that the money would go to al-Qaeda. [Newsweek, 6/22/2005] It is claimed that some of this money goes to support the 9/11 attacks. However, in December 2005, the Swiss apparently close the case. The Swiss court issues a statement, “Nothing in the file allows one to conclude with sufficient likelihood that Yassin al-Qadi knew or was able to know that the payments he made and for which he is implicated in the Swiss proceedings, could serve to specifically finance the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.” [Arab News, 12/25/2005]
Several prominent former Louisiana politicians sign a letter urging President Bush to support the 2005 Energy Policy Act (HR 6)‘s provisions for revenue sharing (see April 21, 2005)
(see June 28, 2005). Endorsed by former Governors Mike Foster (R-LA), Buddy Roemer (R-LA), David Treen (R-LA) and former Senators John Breaux (D-LA) and J. Bennett Johnston (D-LA), the letter states: “Louisiana puts an average of $5 billion each year into the Federal treasury from revenues produced off its shore. Energy Bill provisions that would give a meaningful share of those revenues through direct payments to Louisiana and other coastal states that host so much of the nation’s energy production are critical.” [Associated Press, 7/22/2005; Louisiana, 7/22/2005]
Congress passes the Energy Policy Act (EPA) of 2005. The EPA is the product of the secret Cheney energy task force (see January 29, 2001 and May 16, 2001). The act provides $14.5 billion in tax breaks for corporate energy providers, primarily oil, coal, and nuclear power companies. It contains an array of odd and obscure provisions helping industrialists, many generated by the lobbyists and corporate executives who helped craft the bill (see May 10, 2005). It does nothing to discourage consumption by raising fuel efficiency standards, and does little to address the sharply rising price of oil. What it does, primarily, is give huge financial and regulatory breaks to the energy industry. [Savage, 2007, pp. 360]
A veteran FEMA official tells the Washington Post, “It’s such an irony I hate to say it, but we have less capability today than we did on September 11.” Another official tells the newspaper: “We are so much less than what we were in 2000. We’ve lost a lot of what we were able to do then.” Reprentative David E. Price (D-NC) says, “What we were afraid of, and what is coming to pass, is that FEMA has basically been destroyed as a coherent, fast-on-its-feet, independent agency.” [Washington Post, 9/4/2005] Similarly, Bill Waugh, an academic expert on emergency management at Georgia State University, tells the Wall Street Journal, “The events of the last week have shown is that over the last few years since 9/11 we have slowly disassembled our national emergency response system and put in its place something far inferior. We reinvented the wheel when we didn’t need to and now have something that doesn’t roll very well at all.” [Wall Street Journal, 9/6/2005]
The US freezes the assets of Abdul Latif Saleh, who is a citizen of both Jordan and Albania. Bin Laden allegedly gave Saleh $600,000 to create “extremist groups” in Albania, and Saleh is also said to be tied to the Islamic Jihad (which merged into al-Qaeda before 9/11). Saleh is also said to be associated with Saudi multimillionaire Yassin al-Qadi (see October 12, 2001). The Treasury Department claims, “Saleh and Qadi had entered into several business partnerships with one another, including a sugar importing business, a medical enterprise and a construction business. Saleh served as the general manager of all of Qadi’s businesses in Albania and reportedly holds 10 percent of the Qadi Group’s investments in Albania.” [Associated Press, 9/19/2005; US Department of the Treasury, 9/19/2005] In the middle of 2004, the Swiss government also froze bank accounts worth $20 million of an unnamed Saudi businessman who is the former president of the Muwafaq Foundation over alleged al-Qaeda ties (see June 25, 2004). Al-Qadi was the founder and main investor of Muwafaq (see 1995-1998). [New York Times, 6/25/2004]
Three war contractors for KBR, the firm supplying logistical support for US troops in Iraq and Kuwait, meet in a quiet lounge in London’s Cumberland Hotel. The three men are unaware that federal agents are tailing them. They spend the afternoon drinking and discussing the various bribes they have accepted as kickbacks as a routine part of doing business. KBR procurement manager Stephen Seamans, who, unbeknownst to his colleagues, is wearing a wire for the FBI, wonders whether or not he should return $65,000 in bribes his two fellows, executives from the Saudi conglomerate Tamimi Global Co, gave him. One of the two executives, Tamimi operations director Shabbir Khan, tells him to conceal the money by falsifying business records. “Just do the paperwork,” Khan advises. This and other information about KBR war profiteering in Iraq comes from a federal investigation that will begin in late 2007 (see October 2006 and Beyond). [Chicago Tribune, 2/20/2008; Chicago Tribune, 2/21/2008]
A report authored by Greg Muttitt of PLATFORM concludes that Iraq would not benefit from an oil policy based on production sharing agreements (PSAs). According to Muttitt, the PSAs would cost Iraq “hundreds of billions of dollars in potential revenue,” while oil company profits would see annual rates of return “ranging from 42 percent to 62 percent for a small field, or 98 percent to 162 percent for a large field.” Muttitt’s study also warns that PSAs would result in Iraqis forfeiting control of their oil industry to foreign oil companies. For example, Iraq would lose its ability to control the depletion rate of its own oil resources. “As an oil-dependent country, the depletion rate is absolutely key to Iraq’s development strategy, but would be largely out of the government’s control,” Muttitt notes. Furthermore, PSAs, which typically have fixed terms of between 25 and 40 years, often include “stabilization clauses” that grant oil companies immunity from all future laws, regulations, and government policies. If Iraq were to sign such PSAs, future Iraqi governments would be unable to change tax rates or laws regulating labor standards, workplace safety, or the environment. PSA agreements also tend to put the host government at a disadvantage when there is a dispute with the contracted oil company. Most PSAs stipulate that disputes must be resolved in international arbitration tribunals where they are generally presided over by corporate lawyers and trade negotiators who will only consider narrow commercial issues without regard to Iraqi public interest. Muttitt’s report argues that Iraq has several options for developing its oil industry that would be far more beneficial to Iraq than relying on PSAs. One option would be for Iraq to hire specialist companies under short-term technical service contracts to provide expertise only when native expertise is lacking. There is no reason, Muttitt notes, for Iraq to give oil companies full control over the industry when Iraq has a highly-skilled oil sector workforce that is fully capable of managing the country’s oil production. All that’s needed, he says, is for them to receive training on the latest technologies. Until that is achieved, Iraq would be adequately served with a policy based on short-term technical service contracts. Muttitt also argues that Iraq has several options for acquiring the needed capital to jump start the oil sector. Foreign investment is neither the only, nor the most attractive solution for Iraq. He argues that using Iraqi money or borrowing funds would save Iraq billions of dollars in the long term. [Muttitt, 2005]
Ahmed Chalabi, Iraqi deputy prime minister and former chair of the country’s Energy Council, says, “In order to make major quantum increases in oil, we need to have production sharing agreements, but that has to wait until after the formation of parliament.” [Reuters, 11/22/2005; Inter Press Service, 11/23/2005]
The IMF’s 24-member executive board approves a standby arrangement for a new $685 million loan for Iraq. The IMF previously provided the country with a $436.3 million emergency post-conflict loan in September 2004 (see September 29, 2004). The approval means that creditor nations will forgive an additional 30 percent of Iraq’s debt, all of which was incurred under the rule of Saddam Hussein. If Iraq fulfills the requirements in the standby arrangement, another 20 percent of its debt will be forgiven (see November 22, 2004). [Associated Press, 12/23/2005; Agence France-Presse, 12/23/2005] One of the reforms required by the stand-by arrangement is that Iraq work with the IMF on the drafting of an oil law to be implemented by the end of 2006. [Bretton Woods Project, 1/23/2006] The agreement states that Iraq needs to “draft a new petroleum law in line with the new constitution and international best practices, thereby defining the fiscal regime for oil and establishing the contractual framework for private investment in the sector.” It adds that IMF staff have underscored “the need to press ahead with structural fiscal reforms,” which include “the move forward toward the commercialization of oil-related state enterprises, and the drafting of a new petroleum law.” [International Monetary Fund, 12/7/2005, pp. 18 ]
KBR subcontractor Stephen Seamans and his business crony, Shabbir Khan of the Saudi Arabian conglomerate Tamimi Global Co, are arrested as part of the ongoing investigation into war profiteering by KBR and its subcontractors (see October 2006 and Beyond). Khan is convicted of lying to federal agents about the kickbacks he provided Seamans (see February 20, 2008, October 2005, October 2002, April 2003, and June 2003), and will serve 51 months in prison. Seamans pleads guilty to charges stemming from the same business deals, and serves a year and a day in prison. Seamans, an Air Force veteran, once taught ethics to junior KBR employees. In December, during his sentencing hearing, he says he is sorry for taking the bribes, “It is not the way that Americans do business.” [Chicago Tribune, 2/20/2008; Chicago Tribune, 2/21/2008]
It had been widely reported that the Saudi government began to crack down seriously on al-Qaeda and other radical militants after a 2003 al-Qaeda attack in Saudi Arabia (see May 12, 2003). However, the Los Angeles Times reports that US officials now claim that is not true. While Saudis have been very aggressive and cooperative in cracking down on militants within Saudi Arabia since that attack, they have done little outside the country. Millions of dollars continue to flow from wealthy Saudis through charity fronts to al-Qaeda and other suspected groups, and the Saudi government is doing next to nothing about it. In 2004, the Saudis promised to set up a government commission to police such groups, but they have yet to do so. The Saudi government has also done little to rein in influential radical religious leaders who openly encourage their followers to attack US interests in Iraq and elsewhere in the world. US officials claim that at least five organizations, including the Muslim World League (MWL), the International Islamic Relief Organization (IIRO), and the World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WML), “are headquartered in Saudi Arabia but continue to engage in highly suspect activity overseas.” A senior US counterterrorism official says that some known terrorist financiers continue to “operate and live comfortably in Saudi Arabia” despite US objections. [Los Angeles Times, 1/15/2006]
Nicaraguan presidential candidate Daniel Ortega says that if he wins the election on November 5, he will make sure that Nicaragua joins the Alternativa Bolivariana para la America (ALBA), or the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas. Initiated by Venezuelan and Cuba in 2005, ALBA is intended to counter Washington’s Free Trade Agreement of the Americas (FTAA). One of ALBA’s stated goals is to promote social and economic justice. [Christian Science Monitor, 5/5/2006]
Ghaith Pharon’s yacht, photographed in 2005. [Source: Yachtmati]The FBI and Italian paramilitary police raid a luxury yacht owned by Saudi multimillionaire Ghaith Pharaon, but do not find him. Since 1991, there has been an international arrest warrant for Pharaon due to his prominent role in the criminal BCCI bank. Shortly after 9/11, a French intelligence report linked him to Osama bin Laden (see October 10, 2001). Pharaon’s yacht was raided off the coast of Sicily. The yacht was not seized. Despite being wanted for 15 years, Pharaon has managed to continue to run a large business empire. The FBI describes Pharaon as extremely wealthy with “numerous contacts within governments around the world.” [ndependent, 8/16/2006] On August 10, 2006, the FBI puts out an all points bulletin for Pharaon. [ABC News, 8/10/2006] A Middle Eastern newspaper notes that, “In the past few years, Pharoan’s super yacht—which he named Le Pharaon after himself—has repeatedly been seen moored alongside luxury yachts of the rich and famous.” In June 2005, it was seen moored next to the personal yacht of Saudi King Abdullah in a Greek port. Two years earlier, it was seen parked next to another Saudi royal family super yacht near Beirut. [Khaleej Times, 6/13/2006] But there has been no reported word on him since, and the FBI has taken the webpage about him off their website.
The US sends Washington, DC lawyer Ronald Jonkers to Iraq to work with Iraqi officials on the drafting of a new law that would govern private sector involvement in the development of Iraq’s oil. Jonkers is an attorney with Hills Stern & Morley. From 1992 to 2003 he served as assistant general counsel for the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, a US agency that provides financing and political risk insurance to US businesses investing abroad. [American Lawyer, 4/26/2007]
A draft for a new Iraq oil law is completed. The proposed law was drawn up by three Iraqis—Tariq Shafiq, Farouk al-Qassem, and Thamir al-Ghadban—who have been working on it for three months. Shafiq is the director of the oil consultant firm Petrolog & Associates and was the founding director of Iraq’s National Oil Company in 1964. Ghadban recently served as the country’s oil minister (see June 2004). [United Press International, 5/2/2007] One provision in the draft law lists production sharing agreements (PSAs) as one type of contract that could be used to govern private sector involvement in the development of Iraq’s oil sector. Under PSAs, oil companies would claim up to 75 percent of all profits until they have recovered initial drilling costs, after which point they would collect about 20 percent. These terms are more favorable to investors than typical PSAs, which usually give about 40 percent to the company before costs are recovered and only 10 percent afterwards. Even when the price of oil was as low as $25 per barrel, the lower paying PSAs were profitable for companies. Critics say that the oil companies want to negotiate and sign the PSAs with Iraq before the country is stabilized so they can argue that the political risk of doing business in Iraq warrants higher profit shares. But then they would wait until after the situation has improved before moving in. Iraq would be the first Middle Eastern country with large oil reserves to use PSAs. Other countries have avoided PSAs because they are widely thought to give more control to companies than governments. James Paul of the Global Policy Forum will tell the Independent: “The US and [Britain] have been pressing hard on this. It’s pretty clear that this is one of their main goals in Iraq.” The Iraqi authorities, he says, are “a government under occupation, and it is highly influenced by that. The US has a lot of leverage… Iraq is in no condition right now to go ahead and do this.” Critics also suggest the companies’ shares of profits should be lower than typical PSAs, if anything, since Iraq’s oil is so accessible and cheap to extract. Paul explains: “It is relatively easy to get the oil in Iraq. It is nowhere near as complicated as the North Sea. There are super giant fields that are completely mapped, [and] there is absolutely no exploration cost and no risk. So the argument that these agreements are needed to hedge risk is specious.” [Independent, 1/7/2007] Immediately after this draft is completed, it is shared with the US government and oil companies (see July 2006). In September it will be reviewed by the International Monetary Fund (see September 2006). Iraqi lawmakers will not see the document until early 2007. The provision mentioning PSAs will be axed from the final draft due to Iraqi opposition (see February 15, 2007).
The US government and major oil companies are given the opportunity to review the latest draft of a new oil law for Iraq (see July 2006). The draft has yet to be seen by Iraqi lawmakers. [Independent, 1/7/2007]
Iraqi Oil Minister Hussein al-Shahristani tells the Financial Times that the drafting of a new oil law is underway and that Iraq’s parliament will hopefully pass it “by the end of the year.” He says the law “will open the door for the international companies to come and work in Iraq, and develop our new fields…. We have many, many fields that are waiting for development, (and) some of them are giant fields.” [Financial Times, 7/27/2007] Iraq’s legislators are apparently not involved in the drafting of the law. [Time, 2/28/2007]
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