Monthly Archives: November 2014

President Mubarak : Egypt court drops charges over 2011 uprising deaths

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An Egyptian court has dropped all charges against Hosni Mubarak in relation to ordering the killing of protesters during the January 25 revolution in 2011.

The Court also cleared former Minister of Interior Habib El-Adly and his six aides of all charges.

Meanwhile, Hosni Mubarak and his sons Gamal and Alaa Mubarak and businessman Hussein Salem were also cleared of all charges in relation to embezzlement and corrupt gas deals.

According to the Court, the charges had related to the deaths of 239 people and injuries of 1,588 across 11 governorates in Egypt. The Court added that of these deaths, 36 occurred in Egypt’s squares.

The Presiding judge urged the media and onlookers to consider the verdict, of which a 280 page summary will be uploaded online, before expressing either support or offence to the verdict.

In the last court session, the Court showed a video of the case’s evidence, which compromise 160,000 pages. The video was produced by private satellite channel Sada El-Balad, which has exclusive rights to broadcast the trial.

Mubarak, who ruled Egypt for thirty years, had been accused alongside Egypt’s former Minister of Interior Habib El-Adly and six others of involvement in the killing of protesters during the January 25 revolution that saw him resigning after 18 days of protests.

The Court of Cassation had overturned his initial life sentence over technical faults in the initial trial.

The former President had declared in the previous court session that had never ordered the killing of protesters who participated in the 2011 uprising.

“Mubarak, who stands in front of you, would never order the killing of protesters … or any Egyptian under any conditions,” he had said in August.

The former president had also denied he was behind the security vacuum during the 18 days of protests.

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Pope Francis meets Egyptian president on European trip

Pope Francis meets Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, at the Vatican, Monday, Nov. 24, 2014.

Pope Francis meets Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, at the Vatican, Monday, Nov. 24, 2014.

VATICAN CITY (AP) — The Vatican says Pope Francis emphasized Egypt’s role in establishing Middle East peace during a meeting with the country’s president.

Francis and Abdel Fattah al-Sisi met privately for about 20 minutes at the Vatican on al-Sisi’s first visit to Europe since taking office, exchanging gifts before parting: a papal medallion for al-Sisi and a silver box for Francis.

The Vatican said the pope emphasized the need for dialogue and negotiation to bring an end to regional conflicts.

Al-Sisi meets later with Italian Premier Matteo Renzi and then Tuesday with Italian and Egyptian entrepreneurs before continuing to Paris. Al-Sisi’s visit is expected to focus on investment, fighting terrorism and the flows of migrants from conflicts in the Middle East and Africa toward Europe, where Italy is often the first stop.

 

Secretary of Defense Hagel announces his resignation

President Obama speaks as Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and Vice President Biden look on during a press conference announcing Hagel’s resignation in the State Dining Room of the White House on Nov. 24, 2014.

WASHINGTON — President Obama announced the resignation of Chuck Hagel Monday, commending the secretary of defense for his “steady hand” through a period of transition for America’s military.

Obama suggested that it was Hagel’s decision to resign after less than two years in office, saying, “If there’s one thing I know about Chuck, it’s that he does not make this or any other decision lightly.”

The 68-year-old Hagel said he will say on the job “every day, every moment” until his successor is nominated and confirmed by the Senate. “It’s been the greatest privilege of my life to lead, and most importantly, to serve,” Hagel said in announcement from the White House Monday morning.

Hagel arrived at the Pentagon in February 2013 during a period of belt-tightening and disengagement for the military, but ended up leading the fight against new and different enemies — the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, and the Ebola outbreak in western Africa.

The announcement also comes shortly as Obama approves plans to give U.S. military commanders bigger roles alongside Afghanistan forces as they fight the Taliban following the end of the U.S. combat operation next month.

A White House official said Hagel began speaking with Obama about departing the administration beginning in October, noting that the midterm congressional elections provided a natural transition. Obama has also spoken to many top administration officials about whether they would stay on for the last two years of his presidency, the official said.

Administration officials said possibilities for Hagel’s job include Michèle A. Flournoy, a former under secretary of Defense for policy who was runner-up for the slot when Obama tapped Hagel in early 2013; Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., a defense specialist and a former officer with the Army’s 82nd Airborne; and Ashton B. Carter, a former deputy secretary of Defense.

Reed disavowed any interest. “Senator Reed loves his job and wants to continue serving the people of Rhode Island in the United States Senate,” said press secretary Chip Unruh.

There are conflicting accounts of whether Obama asked Hagel to step down or he resigned voluntarily.

The New York Times, citing anonymous sources, reported that Obama asked Hagel to resign on Friday after two weeks of discussions about the U.S. strategy against the Islamic State. The Times first reported the resignation Monday.

Obama nominated Hagel in January, 2013 to succeed Leon Panetta. As a former senator from Nebraska who had forced a friendship with Obama in the Senate, Hagel became the only Republican on Obama’s national security team.

“We come from different parties, but in accepting this position, you sent a powerful message, especially to those in this city, that when it comes to our national security and our military families, our country always comes first,” Obama said Monday.

Hagel got off to a rocky start even before he was sworn in. His confirmation hearings before the Senate were contentious — even with former colleagues from his own Republican Party. Although relations with Capitol Hill improved over the last two years, Hagel still struggled to articulate Pentagon policies in briefings and speeches.

“Secretary Chuck Hagel and I have had our differences over many years, but I have always considered him a friend, a patriot, and a dedicated public servant who has always put our country first and the needs of our men and women in uniform above his own,” Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said in a statement.

He also said that Hagel was frustrated by the administration’s national security policy and decision-making process, and that defense secretaries have been micro-managed by the Obama White House.

The defense secretary had planned a trip to Asia, including a scheduled stop in Vietnam that had personal meaning for Hagel. When it was cancelled earlier this month, Pentagon sources said the change signaled trouble for Hagel’s tenure — but officials from the White House and Pentagon immediately denied that Hagel was considering or being pushed to step down.

Hagel was the first enlisted combat veteran to serve as Secretary of Defense — a quality that Obama said made him particularly attuned to the needs of service members and their families.

“He’s been in the dirt. He’s been in the mud,” Obama said. “He volunteered for Vietnam and still has the scars and shrapnel from the battled he has fought.”

Obama will be the first president since Harry Truman to have four defense secretaries during his time in office. The position was created during Truman’s tenure in 1947.

Egypt’s Sisi to visit France, Italy in first EU trip

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President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi visits France and Italy tomorrow in his first European trip since ousting his Islamist predecessor and overseeing a crackdown that damaged Egypt’s international standing.

The four-day tour, during which Sisi will meet the French and Italian heads of state, is aimed at coordinating a response to fighting between government-backed troops and militias in Libya, as well as boosting economic ties.

“Both sides will look at enhancing cooperation in all sectors,” presidential spokesman Alaa Youssef said.

The visit, which begins on Monday, comes at a time when Egypt’s military is battling its own militant insurgency in the Sinai peninsula, in which scores of policemen and soldiers have died.

Sisi met French President Francois Hollande on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in September, and received his foreign and defence ministers in Cairo.

The two are expected to discuss a response to a conflict in Libya pitting militias and their allies against a weak but internationally-backed government.

Both Egypt and France argue that the “terrorist threat” in Libya should merit the same attention as the Baghdadi militia, whose militants have captured parts of Iraq and Syria, winning a pledge of allegiance from militants in the Sinai.

“We will definitely discuss with the French side, and look at ways of helping the Libyan government to restore stability and peace in Libya,” Youssef said.

“France’s top concern in Libya is about the potential of the Libyan south becoming a refuge for terrorists, smugglers and radicals, especially for Mali,” where a French-led military operation ousted extremists last year, said the International Crisis Group’s Issandr El Amrani.

Sisi is also to meet with the head of France’s National Assembly, Claude Bartolone, on Wednesday.

In Italy, which he will visit first, Sisi will meet Pope Francis at the Vatican on Monday, religious news agency I.Media said, citing diplomatic sources. It will be the first visit to the Vatican by an Egyptian leader in eight years.

The talks are likely to address the relationship between the Roman Catholic Church and Islam’s main theological centre, Cairo’s famed Al Azhar University. Sisi also has talks slated with Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and business leaders, according to the Italian news agency Ansa.

They are expected to discuss investment, poverty reduction and counter-terror measures.

 

Kenya police : Al-Shabab militants kill 28 non-Muslims in bus

Prove you’re a Muslim — or die.

Islamic extremists hijacked a bus in Kenya on Saturday and singled out non-Muslim passengers who could not recite the Shahada, an Islamic creed that declares oneness with God. Those who failed to recite it correctly were forced to lie on the ground.

Two gunmen opened fire. One was firing from the left and the other blasting from the right. Twenty-eight people were killed — 19 men and nine women.

Miraculously, one man survived.

Douglas Ochwodho lay frozen, as the doomed victims — 17 of them teachers — were killed on either side of him. Ochwodho told The Associated Press that each of the gunmen mistakenly thought the other had shot him.

When the extremists left, Ochwodho, a non-Muslim head teacher of a private school who was heading home for Christmas vacation, ran back to the road and hitched a ride on a pickup truck to Mandera. He was later treated at a hospital for shock.

Al-Shabab, an Islamic gang of terrorists, claimed responsibility for the attack, which occurred around dawn in northeastern Kenya. The Al Qaeda-affiliated group said the mass slayings were in response to raids by Kenyan police on mosques last week.

“The Mujahedeen intercepted a bus, which had on board a group of Christians that enjoyed the killing and the maiming of Muslims,” Al-Shabab spokesman Sheikh Ali Mohamed Rageh said in a statement.

Sixty passengers were traveling to Nairobi before the bus was forced off a road, said Kenyan police chief David Kimaiyo.

Kenya’s military responded to the merciless killings by launching air strikes later Saturday, destroying the attackers’ camp in Somalia and killing 45 rebels.

The terrorists first tried to wave the bus down, but when it didn’t stop, they started firing at it, according to police. When spraying the bus with bullets didn’t work, they launched a rocket-propelled grenade at the vehicle.

kenya-attack

kenya-attack

Bernadette Meehan, a spokeswoman for the National Security Council, said the U.S. condemns the attack and offers sympathy to the victims and their families.

“We extend our deepest condolences to the families and loved ones of the 28 individuals killed,” Meehan said. “The United States stands with our Kenyan partners in the effort to counter the threat of terrorism and affirms our ongoing commitment to working with all Kenyans to combat these atrocities.”

In September, the International Crisis Group warned that Al-Shabab is becoming “more entrenched and a graver threat to Kenya.”

Since Kenya sent troops into Somalia in October 2011, authorities say there have been at least 135 attacks by Al-Shabab, including the 2013 Westgate Mall shooting that left 67 people dead.

 

Egypt investment prospects valued at $173 billion in 2015

JEDDAH — Investors both foreign and regional, have recently amped up their interest in investing in Egypt despite the current political situation, with several encouraging indicators of growth pointing towards a remarkable pick-up in economic development over the next two to three years. There are over $173 billion in un-awarded projects in Egypt as recently as September of this year, according to MEED Projects, the region’s leading projects tracker.

Profiling the investment opportunities, and understanding the full size of these possibilities post the recent elections, will be discussed at the upcoming “Invest in Egypt” Conference organized by MEED Events on Nov. 26-27, 2014 at the Jumeirah Etihad Towers, Abu Dhabi.

MEED’s ‘Invest in Egypt’ of which the opening address at the event will be delivered by Dr. Sultan Al Jaber, UAE Minister of State is a platform to learn about investment possibilities in the Egyptian infrastructure, banking, real estate, power, petrochemicals & manufacturing sectors.

The Conference is scheduled to provide an accurate and reliable assessment of the new political environment post the recent elections while detailing the investment frame- work for the country over the next 5-10 years.

Prominent speakers representing gulf and Egyptian stakeholders, plus international and regional investors will be in attendance to unwrap Egypt’s projects market and share developments with the delegates, as well as funding potential in all the major sectors.

The conference will also provide an assessment of the appetite of multi-lateral, international & regional lenders to invest in the Egyptian market, and review the markers of the country’s economic stability in order to assist investors in mitigating the issue of risk while creating a pro-investment environment.

These topics and others will be discussed at great length at the conference which will include sessions on the GCC investors’ perspective on the market and an update on the status of the Egyptian Private Public Partnership program, and how its development will be accelerated in the next 12-24 months with the announcement of the anticipated roll-out of projects that will be procured through PPP, key infrastructure ?nancing issues in Egypt in the power, renewable energy, transport and housing sectors with an introduction to the opportunities in these sectors from clients and project heads.

Foreign firms continue to maintain their presence in the country with an influx of investment continuously pouring into the country making it all the more attractive for foreign and regional banks and high net-worth individuals to continue to scout for new opportunities or to expand even as some of these banks scale back in nearby countries such as Lebanon.

While foreign direct investment and the real estate sector continue to grow exemplified by the recent purchase of a 5.1 percent stake in Egypt’s second-largest listed real estate developer Palm Hills by Aabar – a subsidiary of the UAE’ s sovereign wealth fund run by the government of Abu Dhabi – for 5.6 billion Egyptian pounds ($785 million) putting the value of the investment at around 285 million Egyptian pounds, according to Reuters calculations; the Egyptian government has begun to introduce new investment laws to help ease doing business in the country and to continue to woo investors in the hopes of sustaining the country’s stability.

This includes amendments to the tax code to encourage the growth of small- and medium-sized enterprises, and legal requirements are under renewed consideration to find ways of doing businesses while improving efficiency.

In 2013, Egypt announced plans to implement a public infrastructure investment strategy to assist in funding new projects in the country through a two-tiered, two year multi-billion dollar stimulus package to fund the construction of more than 300 schools and 100 hospitals, renovating public housing and utilities and doubling the number of grain silos in the country, as well as paving new roads and building a new railway system to span across the country.

The infrastructure plans, combined with less apparent political risks and the large infrastructure stimulus funded by investors from the GCC has encouraged investors from Europe and America as well as international banks to become active players in the Egyptian economy.

The financial backing Egypt has received from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates has also been a main propagator of continued investor confidence with more than $20 billion in investments from the Gulf states in Egypt in the form of grants, loans and petroleum products since last year, with the UAE also funding an additional $8.7 billion in energy imports in the coming months.

These indicators and the continued investment in the energy, food, technology, infrastructure, finance, real estate and housing, and petrochemicals combined reinforce that there is a firm foundation of optimism for increasing the level of participation in the Egyptian economy.

“As Egypt turns the tide on the challenges of the past few years, the country is returning as a key investment hub for GCC and global investors alike — a development for which EFG Hermes is well-prepared and as a firm with strong Egyptian roots and a broad, established regional presence, EFG Hermes is uniquely positioned to facilitate intra-regional investment opportunities,” said EFG Hermes Co-Chief Executive Officer Karim Awad.

According to independent financial analysts, these smart investments will help boost GDP growth by 1.5 percent.  Additionally, official figures released last month, show the total investment in the fiscal year to the end of June was 12.9 per cent higher than the year before.

The HSBC Purchasing Managers’ Index, a measure of economic activity, reached a near-record 52.4 in September, signaling a further improvement in the health of Egypt’s non-oil private sector.

Commenting on the notable increase in business confidence, Ahmed Abdelaal, Regional Head of Corporate Banking & Structured Finance, HSBC Middle East and North Africa, said: “Egypt’s strategic geographic location and open trade hub continue to be key drivers for the economy going forward.

According to our latest Trade Confidence Index, businesses in Egypt are very confident about import and export trade over the next few months – ranking highest amongst all 23 countries surveyed across the globe.

This is a positive indicator of the Egypt’s anticipated economic growth and showcases country’s strong fundamentals and potentials. HSBC remains optimistic about Egypt’s long term potential and the country continues to feature as one of the Bank’s key markets for focus and investment.”

Despite major political, economic, and social transformations, the country has the basic foundations for the Egyptian economy to endure as a market with enormous potential.

To illustrate the above and to provide a comprehensive understanding of the opportunities and challenges of doing business in the reinvigorated Egyptian project market, the conference will be preceded by a Master-class on doing business in Egypt on Nov. 26.

Under the direction of an Egyptian business specialist, the session will give a step-by-step guide to entering the Egyptian market by presenting case studies and blueprints for project success. The session will also draw on examples from a number of relevant business sectors to meet the needs of attendees’ at the event.

The MEED Invest in Egypt Conference is scheduled on Nov. 26- at the Jumeirah Etihad Towers in Abu Dhabi. — SG

 

Qatar and Terror | The Counter Jihad Report

Qatar finances terrorists with one hand, while the other joins hands with the West. Above: U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry meets with Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani in New York City on September 25, 2014. (Image source: U.S. State Department)

Gatestone Institute, by Denis MacEoin, Nov. 22, 2014:

Although outwardly more liberal than the Saudis, the Qataris have surpassed them as financiers of extremism and terrorism.

U.S. officials reckon that Qatar has now replaced Saudi Arabia as the source of the largest private donations to the Islamic State and other al-Qaeda affiliates.

Qatar, the world’s wealthiest country per capita, also has the unsavory reputation for the mistreatment and effective slavery of much of its workforce.

Leaders of Western states threatened by jihadi advances are happy to sit down with the largest financiers of terrorism in the world, offer them help, take as much money as they can, and smile for the cameras.

There is a central weakness in the coalition against the Islamic State [IS] in Syria, as pointed out by Bryan Bender in the Boston Globe. There are 62 members of the coalition, some of which are Arab states: Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Bahrain, Iraq, and Qatar. The U.S., however, carries the greatest weight in the air campaign against the self-proclaimed Caliphate. America had carried out 3,589 sorties by August 8, its partners 8; between September 23 (when most partners joined in attacks) and November 3, U.S. sorties numbered a further 3,320, with 1,090 by other coalition members.

The U.S., therefore, flies over 75% of missions — an indication of American intent? It’s not quite that simple.

One of those partners, Qatar, seems to be committed to the mission in other ways. It hosts the largest U.S. military base in the Middle East, the regional headquarters of U.S. Central Command, and stations American and British aircraft and personnel at al-Udeid Air Base.

The U.S. Congress has authorized and appropriated many millions of dollars over the years in return for use and maintenance of this important base.[1]

Qatar is now prepared to pay in full for the U.S. military presence during the campaign in return for American protection.[2]

Except, as a recent headline in the New Republic put it: “Qatar Is a U.S. Ally. They Also Knowingly Abet Terrorism. What’s Going On?” Other views are harsher: “Qatar’s overall cooperation, however, is the worst in the region.”

Qatar is one of the world’s smallest states with a miniscule population. A Saudi prince once said that it is made up of “300 people and a TV Channel” (referring to Al Jazeera, based in the capital, Doha). Qatar has only 278,000 citizens and 1.5 million expatriates who make up 94% of the workforce. Qatar, the world’s wealthiest country per capita, also has an unsavory reputation for the mistreatment and effective slavery of much of its workforce.

Qatar is also imprisoning Matthew and Grace Huang, an American couple sentenced to three years in prison on charges of child endangerment, for allegedly murdering their adopted daughter, Gloria, 8, even though she apparently had health issues prior to the adoption. The Huangs continue to protest their innocence, and claim that the Qataris do not understand how an Asian couple could adopt three children, who happen to be black, from Africa.

Given Qatar’s economic and political clout, created by its sovereign wealth fund, its oil, and its ownership of the world’s third largest natural gas reserves, Qatar plays a role on the world stage and does much to enhance its public image. In a bid for international kudos, the emirate acted to ensure the award of the soccer World Cup for 2022, only to find itself mired in controversy.

In other spheres, Qatar is the single largest donor to the Brookings Institution, a major U.S. think tank. Payments included $14.8 million after the former U.S. Ambassador to Israel, Martin Indyk, blamed Israel for the failure of the latest round of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks; and it has given money to many universities in the U.S. and Europe.[3] Qatar also hosts eight international university campuses near Doha (Virginia Commonwealth, Weill Cornell, Texas A&M, Carnegie Mellon, Georgetown, Northwestern, HEC Paris, University College London, Calgary), and finances the RAND Policy Trust. It owns expensive properties in London, the Barcelona Football Club, and dabbles in other areas worldwide.

While all this increases Qatar’s influence, most of it seems to be for show, to present an amiable face to the world. Qatar is not all gleaming towers, bars for non-Muslims, and a modern approach to sexual relations. It remains the only other Wahhabi country in the world next to Saudi Arabia. The problem here is the Qatar paradox. Although outwardly more liberal than the Saudis, the Qataris have surpassed them as financiers of extremism and terrorism. As with its neighbor, it is traditional, devoted to a highly conservative form of Islam, and an underlying commitment to Islamic values.

Although praised for its liberalism in many areas, Freedom House reported in 2013 that “civil liberties and political rights are severely restricted for residents and citizens alike, foreign workers face especially repressive conditions.” Aside from a short period between 1976 and 1988, Qatar has remained categorized as “Not Free” since 1972, and has a particularly bad reputation for its brutal treatment of poor foreign workers.

Although non-Muslims are free to worship there, Qatari law bans any form of proselytization or outward show of faith (such as crosses on churches). There are severe laws against homosexuality, adultery (technically a capital crime, with provisions for flogging and stoning), and public criticism of the regime. As of 2011, the Democracy Index describes Qatar as an “authoritarian regime” with a score of 3.18 out of ten, and it ranks 138th out of the 167 countries covered.

Nowhere is this tendency clearer than in Qatar’s support for international networks of terrorist organizations. While U.S. planes bomb outposts of ISIS from their Qatar airbase, Qatar is reputed to be sending money to ISIS, Hamas, Libyan jihadists, and others. Of course, the Qataris deny this. Standing beside German Chancellor Angela Merkel on September 27, Qatar’s Emir Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani declared that, “What is happening in Iraq and Syria is extremism and such organizations are partly financed from abroad, but Qatar has never supported and will never support terrorist organizations”.

Clearly, al-Thani either knows little about the country he rules or is trying to put one over on the world. One is reminded of how, after Black September’s 1973 murders of three diplomats (two American and one Belgian) in Khartoum, the PLO “privately… threatened reprisal if the Sudanese continued to hold them [the killers] or put them on trial,” while publicly disavowing the killings.[4]

The fundamentalist anti-Semitic Islamic preacher, Shaykh Yusuf ‘Abd Allah al-Qaradawi, regarded by many as the leading scholar of the Muslim Brotherhood, has been living in Qatar on and off since the 1960s, while preaching a fundamentalist and often pro-terrorist message there through his website, Islam Online, and his Shari’a and Life television show on Al Jazeera. The Qatari government has never sought to rein him in.

Qatar’s major international charity, the Qatar Charitable Society (now simply Qatar Charity) has acted as a financier and agency for terrorist outfits in several countries. It has funded al-Qaeda in Chechnya, Mali and elsewhere, was a key player in the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, and funded Syria’s Ahfad al-Rasul Brigade. Qatar has also financed terrorists in northern Mali operations, including Ansar Dine, alleged to be linked to al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb [North Africa]; and it retains contacts with (and no doubt still funds) al-Qaeda.

According to David Blair and Richard Spencer, writing for London’s Daily Telegraph, four branches of the Qatari government handle relations with armed groups in Syria and Libya. These are the Foreign and Defense Ministries, the Intelligence Agency, and the personal office [al-Diwan al-Amiri], of the Emir, who, as we have seen, flatly denies financing terrorism. The Amiri Diwan, as in Kuwait, appears in the lists of government ministries and offices.[5] Of course, Qatar does nothing directly. It prefers to use middlemen and to permit private individuals to do the work for it. Large sums are passed to middlemen in Turkey (itself no stranger to support for terrorism), and this money is used for the purchase of weapons from other countries (notably Croatia). The weapons are then transferred to rebel groups in Syria. It has also been claimed that money owed to British companies operating in Qatar has been siphoned off to Islamic State. This may require some ingenious application of the dark arts of bookkeeping, but it does provide another means of evading condemnation of the state.

One of the most obvious examples of government support for jihadi groups is that the international base of the Gazan terrorist group Hamas has been located in Doha since 2012. Khaled Mashaal, Chairman of Hamas’s Political Bureau, is reportedly living an opulent lifestyle in a five-star hotel in Doha. Qatar has given generously to Hamas. In October, Ma’mun Abu Shahla, the Palestinian Authority’s Minister of Labor, stated that the government of Qatar had given $30 million to provide staff with their first salary payments in several months, a distribution of largesse that will give half of the former Hamas government employees in Gaza their unpaid wages. This payment was arranged with Qatar by Robert Serry, the UN special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, despite fears of a backlash from international donor countries, including the U.S., which considers Hamas a terrorist organization.

Apart from cash advances to terrorist entities, the Qatari government seems to be directly involved in other activities, notably the shipping of planeloads of arms to Libyan jihadists. These shipments include a C-17 cargo plane carrying weaponry to a militia loyal to a warlord who had fought alongside Osama bin Laden; arms supplies to the jihadist coalition that now controls Tripoli after the launch of Operation Libya Dawn, and some $3 billion and 70 planeloads of arms to rebel forces in Syria.

Private fundraisers who coordinate donations from individual or corporate donors in Qatar are never detained or subjected to restrictions in Qatar, a privilege that means the transfer of considerable sums to al-Qaeda, Islamic State, Hamas, Jabhat al-Nusra and other Syrian Islamist groups.

The U.S. Treasury has given details of terrorist financiers operating in Qatar. The best known is ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Nu’aymi, an academic and businessman who is a key link between Qatari donors and al-Qaeda in Iraq, the predecessor of today’s Islamic State. At one time, Nu’aymi transferred $2 million per month to the organization. He has also sent around $576,000 to Abu Khalid al-Suri, al-Qaeda’s Syrian representative, and $250,000 to the Somali jihadist group, al-Shabaab.

The U.S. Treasury Department has sanctioned Nu’aymi and other Qatari financiers in recent years. U.S. officials reckon that Qatar has now replaced Saudi Arabia as the source of the largest private donations to Islamic State and other al-Qaeda affiliates. The Qatari government has taken no steps to detain or punish al-Nu’aymi or anyone else, even though Islamist politics are, in theory, illegal in Qatar.

British Prime Minister David Cameron was warned by many people, before his meeting with the Emir of Qatar, that he had to tackle the issue of Qatar’s funding of terrorism. The two men met on October 29. Here is part of the official government news briefing on the meeting:

On international affairs, they discussed the role both countries are playing in the coalition to tackle ISIL, and the importance of all countries working to tackle extremism and support to terrorist organisations. The Prime Minister welcomed the recent legislation passed in Qatar to prevent terrorist funding and looked forward to the swift implementation of these new measures. They also agreed that both countries should do more to share information on groups of concern.

Need one add that among the matters discussed by these world leaders was Qatar’s recent £20 billion investment in the U.K., and Cameron’s offer of British expertise in construction to assist the Emirate in building the 2022 World Cup events? Money talks, and in supine Western countries just coming out of a major recession, it talks very loudly. Al-Thani walked away from his meeting with Cameron covered in glory for his country’s supposed work to defeat Islamist terrorism worldwide.

Leaders of Western states threatened by jihadist advances are happy to sit down with the largest financiers of terrorism in the world, offer them help, take as much money as they can, and smile for the cameras. They then sell their publics for crumbs from oil-rich monarchs who watch, wreathed in smiles, as the West abases itself out of greed and a total lack of concern for the human rights issues that dog these sheikhdoms in almost everything they do. The Qataris have money, they have power and influence, and they have an abiding love for fundamentalist Islam. They know what they are doing and they wait for their day to come.

Denis MacEoin is a former lecturer in Arabic and Islamic Studies and a Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Gatestone Institute.


[1] Here is a short list of these payments: From FY2003 to FY2007, Congress authorized and appropriated $126 million for U.S. military construction activities in Qatar. The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008 (P.L. 110-181) authorized $81.7 million in FY2008 spending to build new Air Force and Special Operations facilities in Qatar. The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2009 (P.L. 110-417) authorizes $69.6 million in FY2009 spending to build new Air Force and Special Operations facilities. The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010 (P.L. 111-84) authorizes $117 million in FY2010 spending to build new Air Force recreational, dormitory, and other facilities at Al Udeid. The Administration’s FY2011 military construction request for Qatar was $64.3 million, for Air Force facilities and a National Security Agency warehouse. The FY2012 request includes $37 million to continue the dormitory and recreation facility project. See “Congress Appropriations and Authorizations”, in “Al-Udeid Air Base,” Wikipedia.

[2]Qatar says ready to pay ‘in full’ for US military presence: Amr Moussa,” Press TV, 1 December 2012 (accompanied by many condemnation of Qatar for doing so).

[3] For some details about its donations to the UK, see Robin Simcox, “A Degree of Influence“, London, The Centre for Social Cohesion, 2009.

[4] Joshua Muravchik, Making David into Goliath, New York, 2014, p. 49, citing David Korn.

[5] See also State of Qatar Ministry of Interior, “Ministries”.

via Qatar and Terror | The Counter Jihad Report.

Western sanctions are aimed at regime change in Russia – Lavrov

The ultimate goal of the anti-Russian sanctions imposed by some Western nations is to stir public protests and oust the government, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said.

“Western leaders publicly state that the sanctions must hurt [Russia’s] economy and stir up public protests. The West doesn’t want to change Russia’s policies. They want a regime change. Practically nobody denies that,” he told a leading think-tank in Moscow.

Lavrov said that the tensions between Russia and the West had been brewing for years before the Ukrainian crisis, adding that now the Europeans had decided to go for all-or-nothing and play chicken with Russia. But at least the positions have been made clear, Lavrov said.

‘Ideology blinds Europe’

Russia and the EU are having a moment of truth focused on Ukraine, Lavrov said, but stressed that Moscow would not be the one to break off ties with Europe. However, Russia won’t simply go back to how things were before the crisis hit, he said.

“The EU is our largest partner,” Lavrov said. “Nobody is going to shoot himself in the foot and reject cooperation with Europe, but everyone understands that it won’t be business as usual anymore.

“But we don’t need the kind of business we had. [That] was like ‘Russia must do this and must do that,’ and we want to cooperate as equals,” he added.

He laid the blame for the escalation on an “aggressive minority” among EU nations, who pursue ideologically-driven grabs of power in eastern Europe, including Ukraine, instead of focusing on the serious problems that Europe is facing due to the turmoil across the Mediterranean in North Africa and the Middle East.

“Exporting any kind of ideology, whether it is democratic or communist or any other kind, won’t do any good,” he warned.

Ideology blinds Europeans to some problems, which Russia believes need to be solved, Lavrov said. For example, EU officials are reluctant to speak about the persecution of Christians by Muslim militants in Iraq and Syria or elsewhere, because they fear that this would be perceived a is politically incorrect. Meanwhile there is a growing Christianophobia in the world, he said.

“Most of EU members avoid discussing this issue. They are ashamed to pronounce it as they were ashamed to put a phrase acknowledging the Christian roots of Europe into the EU Constitution,” Lavrov said. “If you don’t remember and don’t respect your own roots and traditions, how can you respect the traditions of other people?”

‘Russia not anti-American’

Lavrov blamed the US for claiming global leadership at a time when both its resources and leadership skills are in decline. Particularly, he said, Washington is increasingly tuning its policies with electoral cycles, as long-term goals are sacrificed for short-term gains of popularity among voters.

“We cannot accept the position of those who tell us: ‘Put up with it. Everyone has to suffer from America having elections every two years, and nothing should be done about it. Relax and take it as a given’. This won’t do. We won’t take it because the stakes are too high,” Lavrov said.

He added that while some take Russia’s opposition to America’s global influence as anti-Americanism, this is not the case.

“It’s not about anti-Americanism or forming some sort of anti-American coalition. It’s about the natural desire of an increasing number of nations to ensure their vital interests and doing it in a way they see right, not the way they are being told by a foreign party,” he said.

If the US pursues leadership not out of a false perception that it has a God-given burden to take responsibility for everybody, but by developing the skill to form a consensus, Moscow would be the first to back Washington, Lavrov said.

But now Washington is bullying other nations into toeing their line, and few dare to object publicly out of fear of reprisal, while complaining in private, he added.

 

Tunisians go to polls for presidential election

Tunisia's Prime Minister Mehdi Jomaa (front, in blue tie) inspects Tunisian police standing guard on the eve of presidential elections, in Beja November 22, 2014.

Tunisia’s Prime Minister Mehdi Jomaa (front, in blue tie) inspects Tunisian police standing guard on the eve of presidential elections, in Beja November 22, 2014.

(Reuters) – Tunisians go to the polls on Sunday to vote for a new president in just the third free election since the 2011 revolution that ended the regime of autocrat Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali.

Nearly 30 candidates are running, but a race is emerging between a veteran ex-Ben Ali official and a rights activist who says the election is a chance to stop the return of old-regime stalwarts.

More than three years after the end of Ben Ali’s one-party rule, Tunisia has become a model of transition for the region by adopting a new constitution and avoiding the turmoil facing its neighbors.

Sunday’s vote follows an October general election when the main secular Nidaa Tounes party won the most seats in the parliament, besting the Islamist party Ennahda that won the first free poll in 2011.

Compromise between secular and Islamist rivals has become the byword for Tunisia’s political success, but the ascent of former regime officials is worrying critics who say they fear their return will be a setback for the 2011 revolution.

Nidaa Tounes leader, Beji Caid Essebsi, an 87-year-old former Ben Ali official, is emerging as a frontrunner along with main rival, current President Moncef Marzouki, who is warning against the rise of one-party era figures like Essebsi.

“The old regime wants to impose itself on these elections especially after they won the most seats in the parliament,” said bank employee Mohammed Souilmi.

“I will be voting to put a stop to that.”

Essebsi and other former Ben Ali era officials say they are not tainted by the corruption and abuse of the former regime. They present themselves as technocrats with the skills to help Tunisia.

“Tunisians just want a president who can help restore security and the economic situation, and return the prestige we have lost,” said hairdresser Sonia Ben Omar.

Most analysts believe neither Essebsi or Marzouki will win enough votes to avoid a second round of voting in December.

A new Nidaa Tounes-led government will be formed after the presidential ballot. But the narrow lead it holds over Ennahda in parliament will mean tough post-election negotiations over the new administration.

Ennahda has not put forward a candidate or backed anyone, so its supporters will be key to the outcome of the vote.

The new government will face a harsh agenda of politically sensitive economic reforms to boost growth and create jobs as well as tackling the Islamist militant threat that emerged after the 2011 revolt.

 

14 injured in gas explosion at London Hyatt Churchill hotel

A suspected gas explosion has shaken the Hyatt Regency Churchill hotel in London. The guests have been evacuated with at least fourteen people suffering injuries. Five people were taken to hospital.

The explosion reportedly rocked the basement of the building in the area of the hotel’s kitchen shortly before midnight Friday. “There was a gas explosion in the kitchen area of the hotel,” a Scotland Yard spokesman told The Telegraph, adding that there was a “small number” of injured.

London Ambulance confirmed that 12 people were injured, but later revised the figure to 14. None of the injuries were life threatening, but 5 people were taken to hospital while the rest were treated at the scene.

Police and fire brigades were deployed to the scene with a total of around 100 emergency personnel responding the distress. The area around the hotel was closed off with police reportedly treating it as a crime scene.

The hotel guests were evacuated and gathered in another hotel next door as gas engineers were making sure the site of the incident was safe for people to return.

The hotel management is “currently investigating further into the situation and working with the emergency response team,” Hyatt Churchill said in its official Twitter account.